|Dragon Age Journeys|
|Genre||Spin-off flash role-playing|
|MtAMinutes to Action||6|
|Keep Playing?||As a time waster|
EA and Bioware are pushing Dragon Age as the next big fantasy franchise. Even the name of the core game should give you a hint. They are practically calling the main game "Dragon Age: The First One." In addition to two novels and a tabletop RPG, EA 2D developed the flash title Dragon Age Journeys, and episodic adventure that can unlock items in Dragon Age: Origins. The first chapter is free, but gamers will have to pay for subsequent chapters. I knock out the first hour of the first chapter, "The Deep Roads."
(minutes are in bold)
00 - The game starts off with a cutscene filled with still images talking about a bunch of fantasy stuff like dwarves and Blight and a lot of other things I don’t understand yet.
02 - Next up is the character creator. Not quite as deep as previous Bioware games, but it does have quite a few options in all categories. I can choose between a human, elf or dwarf for my race, and a warrior, mage, or rogue for my class. I can also choose a variety of different looks including skin color and facial hair. My favorite is changing the armor color. I’m a pretty generic guy when it comes to character creation, so I just created a human warrior. Not exciting, but it gets the job done.
04 - After I make my boring-looking guy, I’m thrust into a conversation with my father. He explains that we have to clear a trade path for the dwarves. In true Bioware fashion, I am given a few options for dialogue, but they don’t seem to differ that much. I don’t think I will be turning pale based on my decisions any time soon.
05 - Since this is an RPG, the next logical step is to fiddle with the menus. I try to find out where everything is, but it’s nothing special considering all I have is a few healing items. Some pop-ups detail what the menus do, but this isn’t the first time I’ve equipped some armor so I ignore them.
06 - I head towards the Dwarven city of Orzammar. I’m put into my first battle against some monster that looks like a mix of a troll, orc, and Moblin from Zelda. The battlefield is made up of a hexagonal grid, and the combatants move across the board and try to get into range for attacks. I don’t have a variety of attacks, so I just slash him until he dies.
07 - Cutscene time! My dad and his party come across a glowing Hurlock Emissary who is accompanied by a giant monster. A battle ensues, and the giant monster crushes my dad after dealing a devastating 24 damage.
08 - I keep heading to Orzammar and find out that I managed to somehow level up. I use my skill points on a passive technique called Powerful (guess what that does) and a special attack called Precise Striking, which improves my accuracy and damage but costs me some stamina (think of it as MP for warriors). I keep hearing scary growling sounds, but don’t see any enemies yet.
09 - I find some healing items and gold on the ground, well it’s mine now. I keep on trekking through the Deep Roads.
10 - Time for another battle. I decide to use Precise Striking, and it pays off big time as the enemy goes down in two hits. I get very little experience points for my trouble.
11 - These roads just don’t end. I decide to fiddle around with my inventory. It’s basic RPG stuff, and I can’t really do much since I don’t have too many items.
12 - I find some new armor called Nimble Reinforced Leather Hide. It’s mildly better than the default armor, so I put it on. Surprisingly, my character’s appearance changes. I am impressed by the amount of detail they put into the game (there are some console games that don’t even have this feature), but what was the point of picking the color of my armor if I was just going to change it ten minutes later?
13 - My character’s legs are probably tired, but fortunately I run into a spring that can heal me. I’m not really that injured so I save it for later. I see a new enemy on the horizon, maybe this guy will give me a challenge.
14 - The new enemy is called a Hurlock Runt. This time the battlefield is littered with rocks, so everyone has to maneuver around them. The runt hits me and gives me the status effect called "deep wounds" where I lose health after each turn. I strike and hit him with a "glancing hit" that did little damage. After several attacks he goes down and I continue my walking adventure. My character is always shown in profile view, so when he walks to the south part of the screen it kind of looks like he’s walking sideways.
16 - I finally get to the Dwarven city of Orzammar. Sure enough, there are dwarves here. Apparently I passed out and they saved me. Thanks I guess? Was all that walking really that detrimental to my character? How is he going to save the world if he can’t make it to the nearest town? A dwarf informs me about a missing Grey Warden. I’m not sure what that is, but it’s mentioned in the Dragon Age Origins commercial so I assume it’s important. I receive an achievement for my hard work (yes, a flash game has achievements) and I’m also given a new mission to find the Grey Warden. At this time I also figure out I can switch my weapon set from swords to bows. Swords are way better though so I just stick with that.
17 - I explore the town, but the layout is kind of confusing and I run into many a dead end. I come across another dwarf named Dwif. It kind of looks like a female dwarf, but I’m too embarrassed to ask.
18 - Dwif is apparently the local arms dealer. I take a look at armor and weapons, but most is too expensive. I only have 77 silver and many items cost several gold. The dagger is affordable, but a better sword is just a few silver away.
20 - I find a Dwarven innkeeper, but I’m already pretty well rested. Across the way I see a human who introduces himself as Ryanth, the bard. I try to talk to him, but he doesn’t want any part of me. How spoony of him.
21 - Next to Ryanth is Ardum, a mage. He was the one who healed me after I lost consciousness, how nice of him. He joins my party, and I’d much rather have a mage than a bard. I head out of the town and go look for the missing person.
22 - Out in the field I find mushrooms that can restore mana. I don’t need that right now, so I decide to skip them and check out my mage’s stats. Nothing too impressive, but at least I won’t have to fight solo anymore.
23 - My first battle with another party member is against an archer and a swordsman. I inch closer for the attack, but the enemy throws an item at me that lower my accuracy. My mage has a pretty powerful lightning attack with great range, so I use it on the soldier. It does about as much damage as a precise striking attack. The archer keeps trying to peg my mage, but misses every time. My team takes down the swordsman and then the archer for the victory.
26 - I guess those mushrooms are good for something. I head back to the mushrooms use them to heal my stamina and mana. I’m a bit weak from the battle, so I use one of my healing items I still have from the beginning of the game. My party keeps on walking and finds something called an elfroot, but I’m all healed up so I just skip it.
27 - This area seems to be a bit more maze-like with many branching paths. I find some enemies, but decide to go an alternate route to see if I can pick up some new items. However, I run into more enemies, so I go a different way, where I am also greeted by more enemies. Oh well. I head back to the first batch to take them on.
28 - I finally notice the name of the generic monster grunts: Genlock. I take on three Genlocks, two soldiers and one archer. The top enemy pulls out a shield. Ignoring it, I go in for the hit, but it does little damage. I guess that thing works. The enemy at the bottom plants some sort of trap on the bottom of the map, but I’m not dumb enough to go down there. I take on the two soldiers with my party, finally taking one down.
31 - Afterwards, the archer goes down quickly. My mage runs out of mana after lighting attacks. At this moment I find out that my mage can do a standard attack that requires no mana, but he must be several tiles away. I take down the last soldier and collect my spoils, which are very little.
32 - The enemies were guarding some items, including a new weapon called Wicked Morningstar. However, it’s weaker than the default weapon, what a waste.
33 - I decide to take on the second batch of enemies, one Genlock and one huge monster. I heal up and charge forward.
34 - The big monster is called a Hurlock, and this one seems to be an archer. I’m not sure why such a huge monster would want to be an archer, but whatever. I decide to go after the Genlock first to get it out of the way. The Hurlock isn’t as tough as expected, but for some reason my mage can’t attack it. I take down both enemies and get a staff as my post-battle reward. As a side note, I notice that the blood sprayed after each attack stays on the battlefield, nice touch.
37 - Near the corpses is a treasure chest that houses a marginally better sword, but also a much better shield. I equip the shield, and sure enough the graphics for the shield I’m carrying change as well.
38 - The last batch of enemies I find in this area are two Hurlocks. Although the last Hurlock was pretty easy, I heal up and make some equipment adjustments to prepare for the upcoming battle.
39 - There are many rocks blocking movement in this area, so the battle is a bit more frustrating due to movement. The Hurlocks dish out some heavy damage, so I have to heal up and restore mana in the battle just to stay alive. My team manages to take them down, and I get a new axe for my troubles.
42 - I always liked swords more than axes, but the stats for this axe are too good to pass up so I equip it. I venture deeper and find some weird dinosaur things on the horizon. I once again heal my party and rush into battle.
43 - The dinosaur monsters are called Deep Stalkers and spray pink blood when hit. Think of a mix between a velociraptor and Barney. They are no match for my generic fantasy archetypes, and I’m rewarded with a Wicked Ornate Greataxe. Why is everything in this game wicked?
45 - The new axe is a two-handed weapon, so goodbye shield. I pick up some cash off the ground and bump into some baddies.
46 - My party vs. a Hurlock warrior and a Genlock archer. They hit me with deep wounds early, so I bleed throughout the skirmish. My new axe is pretty strong, so they go down without too much trouble. After the battle I get quite a lot of cash, about time.
48 - Next to the dead ‘locks are some healing items and a treasure chest containing Enhanced Linens. The new threads increase magic, but the description for the default robe on my mage says it protects against missiles. I’m not sure how missiles are in this game, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
49 - The next battle is against two Hurlocks. I take a lot of damage, but a few standard attacks knock them out.
51 - After a bit of exploration I run into some Genlocks, who start the battle by throwing items that lower my accuracy. Nevertheless I nail every attack and they go down eventually. A bit annoying though and it took longer than I expected.
54 - I run into a dead end, but at least there’s a healing spring.
55 - More dinosaurs! I beat them easily and get a rather weak staff after the battle. When can I get some missiles?
57 - I pack my bag with a few more healing items I find scattered along the way. Two Genlocks are blocking a narrow passage, how unexpected.
60 - Genlocks are child’s play at this point. I deal with them easily and go deeper into the cavern/roads/wherever I am. I bump into another Genlock and Hurlock, but the hour’s up.
Minutes to Action: 6
The Good: Dragon Age Journeys has impressive presentation for a flash game. Most flash games are made by indie game developers or teenagers with a lot of free time, but it’s pretty amazing what can happen when you have EA backing you.
The game mechanics are also surprisingly deep. True, there are many RPGs these days with far more innovate and interesting gameplay, but the battles took a bit of thinking and force you to plan out your attacks instead of mashing the attack button randomly. The heroes and bad guys have a large variety of different attacks and I was constantly surprised.
Dragon Age Journeys may turn into the most epic flash game of all time. I played an hour of it and still didn’t beat the first chapter. How many flash games do you know that even last ten minutes? EA plans on releasing more chapters, so this could turn out to be anywhere from 10-20 hour adventure, perhaps even more.
The Bad: The battles are a bit too long and repetitive. There were a few challenging moments, but the majority of the enemies went down after a few attacks and barely dealt any damage to me. I mentioned how dynamic the battles are earlier, but sometimes when you’re fighting the same enemy for the twentieth time you just want to one-hit KO him and move on to a new area.
Exploration is also unrewarding. You basically just go down a random path and hope you stumble across some items, or fight enemies who are blocking some loot. There are no puzzles either, so you’re basically just winding down the same ugly looking caves hoping you’ll bump into something interesting.
The Ugly: Only the first chapter of Dragon Age Journeys will be free, and you will have to pay for the rest. Why would anyone want to pay for a flash game? Well, you can unlock items to use in the console or PC versions of Dragon Age: Origins. Dragon Age: Origins has one of the most convoluted DLC plans in the history of gaming, and you really have to wonder when it will just be too much.
Keep Playing? Games can be saved via your online EA account, so people can log in, fight a couple of Genlocks, and then quit for the day. I can see the appeal of that, but the game hasn’t really captured me thus far as the story has been really barebones and dank caves aren’t exactly the most exciting locals to explore. It is one of the more competent flash RPGs, but when EA starts charging, you might be better off buying some classic RPGs for a few bucks on one of the consoles’ digital download service. But for now, it serves as a solid timewaster for the RPG-hungry.