Laidlaw: Dragon Age 2 lowers the entry barriers to RPGs

Thursday, 24th February 2011 22:45 GMT By Brenna Hillier

BioWare’s Mike Laidlaw has said a significant number of Dragon Age: Origins players didn’t complete even an hour of the game, so Dragon Age 2 has a more forgiving learning curve.

“I think [Dragon Age II] sidesteps what I see as almost like traditions,” Laidlaw told Destructoid.

“Traditional weak points of the classic RPG are … they’re daunting. High barrier to entry. They’re hard to get into.

“… So our goal with 2, I think, is to strip away a lot of that barrier to entry to let you ease into the game.”

RPG’s are often criticised for almost requiring a play guide in order to succeed; Dragon Age instead uses increasing complexity and tutorials to let the player get a feel for it. Laidlaw cites early character progression, as seen in the game’s demo, as an example.

“I’m pretty sure I’d like to play as a rogue who is male,” he said. “And then I kind of ease into, ‘Ok, cool, these are my starting abilities and do I want to go more archery, do I want to dual-wield, or do I want to … use more bombs and poisons?’”

Getting nostalgic, Laidlaw recalled playing Ultima 3 and being offered three gender options – but having no idea if his choice would mean anything.

“It was kind of hard to parse what that meant,” he said. “What effect would that have? Would it change the game?”

Despite avoiding the trap of expert knowledge requirements, Laidlaw considers both Dragon Age games as traditional RPGs.

“To me, the hallmarks of a classic role-playing game would be: story-driven, stat-based, and to some lesser degree, there’s a bunch of ancillary baggage that comes with it. I have inventory, I have customization.

“I think Dragon Age II has all the hallmarks … and those elements were really critical to, I think, Origins’ success.”



  1. jacobvandy

    By removing barriers to entry (i.e. dumbing it down), you eventually end up with an action-adventure game, not an RPG. It’s the difference between Legend of Zelda and The Elder Scrolls; I love them both, but they’re different types of games and have reason to co-exist.

    #1 4 years ago
  2. DSB

    Spot on jacob.

    Which would be fine, if it wasn’t because pretty much every other developer had already gone that way.

    Fallout has become an FPS, D&D is an MMO, and Tolkien has pretty much been raped by the biz since the movies.

    I’m seriously disappointed in Bioware for going into standard fare console games instead of sticking with complex and engaging experiences. Dragon Age wasn’t the panultimate RPG or anything, but it was still the genuine article. It was a sight for sore eyes as far as I was concerned.

    If people just want to be spoonfed combat with a bit of inane chatter in between (like ME2) and a few points to distribute, then I don’t see how an RPG would appeal to them anyway.

    #2 4 years ago
  3. xxJPRACERxx

    Maybe the reasons people quit was because the game is really boring…

    #3 4 years ago
  4. The_Red

    First, Mass Effect changes from RPG to a Shooter. Now, Dragon Age goes from RPG to Action Adventure.

    #4 4 years ago
  5. Michael O’Connor

    Claiming that Dragon Age has suddenly become an action adventure has to be one of the most pompous and ridiculous things I’ve heard on here in a while.

    The core gameplay is almost exactly the same as the original Dragon Age. The only thing they’ve done is make the combat look flashier.

    What Laidlaw is referring to is the greater emphasis on tutorials, something that was heavily slipped over in the original game. There were a lot of mechanics that went unexplained in the original game, and well explained tutorials are simply good game design.

    Frankly, most of you just sound like elitist snobs.

    #5 4 years ago
  6. IL DUCE

    @1 & 2 I agree for the most part…there was no problems with Dragon Age: Origins yet they made such a big deal how it was getting this graphical overhaul but after playing through the demo twice I hardly notice it, yes the dark spawn look different and the graphics look a bit better I guess but not much else, actually the graphics are a littlesmoother but a lot more cartoonish, the swords don’t look nearly as epic as they did in Origins.

    And then I said to myself hey let me try being a rogue and my character hops around like a friggin jack rabbit whenever i attack targets using the duel wield load out and then I’m disappearing underground to backstab dark spawn but maybe that was just part of the over exaggerated story telling concept the beginning of the demo is based around (also don’t like that whole idea of narrative for the game in general), when I switched to archer it was cool, and then playing as the warrior was just kind of boring such as fighting the second ogre it was one swipe and run away in a circle and come back around and swipe again and rinse and repeat for about 10 minutes until he went down

    I’m going to enjoy the rest of my time playing through the rest of Awakening and Witch Hunt…Also the skill seem to be simplified and I don’t like that if I’m a rogue I can’t choose to use a sword and a shield, or if I’m a warrior I can’t decide to be an archer if I want to just to have those choices to use a bow every once and a while

    I don’t the game will be fun, and probably get good reviews, but I will definitely prefer the original over DA2 from what I’ve seen so far

    #6 4 years ago
  7. IL DUCE

    To clarify the last line I meant I’m sure the game will be fun

    #7 4 years ago

    Let’s the final product answers, not him (Laidlaw) or not us! :)

    #8 4 years ago
  9. DSB

    If by “exactly the same” you mean that it still has actionbars, then yeah, it’s exactly the same, Michael.

    There’s very little in the way of tactics, and much more in the way of your standard fare japanese-inspired hack and slash. Throughout the demo all I did was simply press random numbers since I didn’t really care enough to familiarize myself with the system, and everything seemed to die just fine, with me taking practically no damage.

    Dismissing peoples gripes with the game with personal insults is all well and good, but I’m gonna take the high road and not make up a name for someone who defends something showing a great deal of insecurity.

    Bioware has done it before, and if the demo is indeed representative, then they’ve done it again. The fact that Laidlaw actually tries this “It’s not like Dragon Age, but it is when you think about it” pitch, should really be transparent enough to anyone.

    I’m not saying it won’t make a perfectly fine hack and slash if you’re into that, Mass Effect 2 wasn’t worse than any other third person shooter, but it’s still way below what I’d expect from a developer like Bioware.

    #9 4 years ago
  10. RockTwist

    Don’t see the problem, personally. They’ve repeatedly said anyone looking for the DA:O experience should set the difficulty to hard and above which brings many of the things like friendly fire, non auto attack (there’ll be an option to turn this off anyway) and the tactics back.

    What’s the harm in allowing more people to play it? End of the day they’re a business and unfortunately or not nowadays most people can’t be bothered with overly complex games. I’d rather focus on the fact there’s a lot of good RPG’s this year and the genre has never looked stronger. The fanboyism for each game is strange quite frankly.

    As #5 said, accessibility is simply good design. I loved Baldur’s Gate 1 & 2, Neverwinter Nights, Divine Divinity, Beyond Divinity, Divinity 2, the original Fallouts etc. I also love these new RPG’s and loved the Dragon Age 2 demo. Perhaps looking at it as a new experience and story helps? Or perhaps i’m getting older and the ‘dumbing down’ helps my aging brain.

    #10 4 years ago
  11. RickyWicky

    I found it hard to get into DA:O, actually. I’ve never really been into BioWare’s traditional RPGs. I’d only played ME1 and 2. So I got Dragon Age thinking it would be kick-ass from the get go, but it wasn’t. It was hard and took me quite awhile to finally feel like I didn’t waste good money. And now I’m finally playing it for a third time as a rogue before DA 2 comes out.

    The combat is what really turned me off initially. I couldn’t figure it out when I had to kill my first…rats? (I can’t recall) as the human noble. But eventually it, and everything else about the game, grew on me. But see…that’s not what you want when you buy a game. You don’t want to hate it at first.

    #11 4 years ago
  12. Michael O’Connor

    @9 Good for you. Doesn’t change the fact that you’re still wrong.

    The gameplay *is* identical. You have your actionbars, with timers on your moves, plus your standard auto-attack inbetween. It doesn’t matter how flashy it looks, it’s still the *exact* same combat system as the original. The three classes has almost identical moves to the first one, with all the same class mechanics following through into the sequel. The skill trees have just been streamlined a lot more.

    You could randomly spam moves through the early parts of the first game as well, and there was also the “casual” difficulty option for people who didn’t want to bother with strategy at all, so your point of casualising the game is completely moot.

    Of course the beginning of the gene is going to be easier than the rest of the game. That’s just good design. A progressive difficult curve. And you’ll have the option of increasing the difficulty level of the game if its still not challenging enough for you, if you still feel it’s too easy.

    So yes, if progressive difficult and the ability to increase the difficulty level of the game isn’t enough for you, you *are* an elitist snob. Does everyone who plays football in the park with his mates have to be a professional footballer in order to enjoy the experience? No. Same goes for video games.

    I’m sorry that you can’t accept the fact that you’re wrong. The only one reeking of insecurities here is you, junior.

    #12 4 years ago
  13. Gadzooks!

    The gameplay of DA2 is very very similar to DA:O with respect to combat, skill/spell use, tactics slots, item use, levelling, skills and talents, but the combat seems to be sped up considerably and I think this is what gives it a more action-adventure feel, even though it really isnt an action-adventure game. It’s still basically the same RPG as DA:O.

    For the speed reason the DA2 demo didnt grab me as I hoped it would. I loved DA:O so much that I played it through 3 and a half times and intend to finish mining it for achievements, but I’m going to have to think about whether I want a similar experience but sped up.

    The older I get the more I want to spend time on tactics and the less I want twitch gaming and games that require fast reactions.

    I also found the story-within-a-story scenario to be a bit messy, but I’m sure that will be resolved within the greater narrative of the full game. After all, I thought DA:O started off very shallow and cliched but it played out wonderfully in the end, due mainly to the various character progressions.

    It’s a real shame as I think the engine has improved considerably. I dont care about effects or super high res or wtfbbqtextures, but the smooth frame rate is most welcome.

    I expect I’ll get it eventually, and most likely end up loving it in the same unhealthily obsessive way I love DA:O. It’s just not shouting ‘HAVE ME RIGHT NOW ON THE KITCHEN TABLE!’ like I was hoping it would.

    #13 4 years ago
  14. DSB

    I think we played different games in that case, Michael. I couldn’t get through the prologue of the game until I learned how to use the different characters I had. If I didn’t micromanage their abilities and their angles of attack, then I was cut to shreds, and that was hugely rewarding.

    The fact that you’ll actually claim that the gameplay is identical is just sad. New camera, waves of enemies, a wide array of ablities that strike several enemies, entirely new standard of cooldowns on abilities that means you’ll be using an ability every other second. It’s about as batshit insane as saying that Mass Effect 2 was exactly the same as Mass Effect.

    It’s pointless to argue against delusions though.

    #14 4 years ago
  15. MushroomStamp

    I couldn’t finish the first either, for one reason. The combat micromanagement was soooo tedious. I totallylove the DA2 demo though and for me it’s the right play for an RPG.

    #15 4 years ago
  16. TheWulf

    I don’t think the reason that people only played an hour of Dragon Age was down to the difficulty, but rather that the premise of the game has been beaten to death with a stick. It’s gritty LOTRO with more of a dragon focus.

    The thing is is that throughout the 80′s and 90′s we had lots of this stuff. In tabletop campaigns, films, and even games across various platforms including the PC, home computers, and various consoles and handheld devices. Eventually they just stopped selling. And as I’ve said elsewhere, this lead to developers asking themselves if the players might want more exotic scenarios, that perhaps they’re tired of just playing Muscular Guy & Revealing Lady Slay Dragons VI.

    This lead to games like Anachronox, Arcanum: Of Magicks and Steamworks Obscura, Fallout (and more importantly, 2), Planescape: Torment, Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, Mask of the Betrayer, Morrowind, and so on. In other words these were games that pushed the RPG envelope, and each one of them showed us something new and fantastic, the likes of which we hadn’t seen before.

    Then Dragon Age took us back to Muscular Guy & Revealing Lady Slay Dragons VI. The problem there though is that I think that many gamers haven’t gotten over how tired they are with this concept. And it’s boring, to be honest, there’s so much more you can do with dragons, even. As a case for what you can do with them, check out the Draic-kin in Istaria. Or dragons in just about any fantasy novel or series.

    For many of us, I think that Muscular Guy & Revealing Lady Slay Dragons VI is still really boring. I didn’t play more than an hour of Dragon Age either. Why? I was bored to tears after an hour of Dragon Age and I could only see it getting worse from there.

    I want my Planescape: Torment-like games back.

    #16 4 years ago
  17. TheWulf

    Er, I lost half a sentence there. I meant: the Draic-kin in the Longest Journey, or the dragons of Istaria.

    #17 4 years ago

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