Wednesday, 24 February 2010

A Farewell To Dragons Review

I'm currently playing Dragon Age: Origins, so when I was summoned to the Game-Debate Ivory Tower, I accepted my quest to review A Farewell to Dragons. Being partial to the RPG genre I was convinced that it would be impossible for me to become fed up with them. The good news is that this is still the case and I'm still enjoying my time in Ferelden. Unfortunately AFTD's land of Midworld isn't nearly as gripping... or good looking, nor does it have much personality. A Farewell to Dragons, is a rather generic experience that you probably won't remember for long after completing the game.

The introduction to AFTD is somewhat promising. Your character, a Doctor from our world called Victor, narrates a story which sees an injured girl called Telle turn up on his doorstep. He takes her in for the night (No, not like that! Although the accompanying images are a little... questionable) and agrees to escort her home the following day. Somewhere along the way the two of them fall into some mysterious portal into a new world, the aforementioned Midworld, of whichTelle seems very familiar. AFTD then quickly deteriorates into a confusing, text-based tale which will leave you struggling to figure out the plot.

Without the rich, deep story that provides vital support for a typical RPG, AFTD is left somewhat limp. It's the equivalent of playing a strategy game where the enemy A.I. is your toaster, or a shooter with only one gun and ammo type. Midworld is a clich├ęd fantasy RPG universe with everything you'd expect from the genre: elves, dwarves, the undead, magic and so on. Except this time unlike Dragon Age: Origins or even Divinity II the game world doesn't provide a unique experience. Yes, the blurb on the back of the box says AFTD contains a ‘Superb blend of fantasy and steampunk settings' but what this means in reality is all of the generic towns have train stations and electric lights.

The locations you visit are all rather bland and aren't exactly helped by the fairly primitive graphics. This extends beyond the towns; you will spend hours walking through repetitive forests as you take on quests for plot development or side quests, and spend a hell of a lot time of wandering around and killing things in an effort to level up. That's right, AFTD is a level grinder. I discovered this early on in the game when my party got their arses handed to them in the first boss encounter. My group of four characters between levels 3 and 5 were no match for a level 10 boss with his group of minions between the levels of 5 and 8. Perhaps there would be less fights here in the real world if people had their level displayed above their head as in AFTD, you certainly wouldn't want to argue with someone who spilled your drink if they had ‘Level 27' displayed above their head... unless you were level 28 or above of course.

But I digress from the point, which is that in order to progress through AFTD you'll have to spend ages wandering around murdering innocent wildlife in order to level up your party. I spent hours in a forest gratuitously harming boars, a rather dull and laborious task. (Eagle-eyed readers will of course notice boar is in the middle of laborious... if you read it out loud anyway. Don't look at me like that, it's a very witty pun!) If the combat in AFTD was exciting this may have been bearable, but: well, it isn't. You point, you click, and you watch your party perform repetitive attacks in the least exciting RPG battles of recent years. It doesn't help that your allies' A.I is questionable at best. I often found Telle, AFTD's equivalent of a White Mage, rushing into hand-to-hand combat if I wasn't carefully pausing battles every three seconds to issue commands. Very frustrating.

On a more positive note, AFTD will be particularly appealing to anyone who's a massive stats enthusiast - if they can put up with the actual process of gaining levels in battle. As your party levels up you're in complete control of upgrading stats and adding skills and the wealth of equipment and weapons available means there are infinite ways to customise your characters which is a good thing, seeing as they aren't exactly defined by outstanding personalities. Like everything in AFTD they're all just a bit generic. Even the good doctor Victor is a bit boring. He may have an exciting personality somewhere but if he does it's lost in the swathes of text you'll have to read. Of course some of the best games have been text based, The Secret of Monkey Island and Baldurs Gate II are two prominent examples, because they had excellent dialogue. Unfortunately ploughing through the pages of text within AFTD feels more like a chore than a pleasure and like many aspects of the game, it's just a bit dull.

And that's the main problem with AFTD; it's all rather dull and generic. The story and characters aren't up to much and the need for grinding through lacklustre combat is just boring. The well implemented levelling up mechanics would be far more interesting if they were reflected in exciting battles, but they just aren't. I know I am beating on about negative points but I have to sayA Farewell to Dragons isn't really a bad game, it’s just come at a time when the competition is stiff, and it isn't a good enough game to compete with Dragon Age: Origins for your attention. Heck, Baldurs Gate II is better than AFTD and its 10 years old! (And also made by Bioware. Coincidence? I think not!) A Farewell to Dragons is average, middling, nothing special and definitely not worth the £29.95 it costs to buy. With so many other, much better, RPG's on the market right now it's unlikely you'll want to say hello to this one, let alone see it all the way through to the goodbye.

5/10

(Originally written for Game-Debate)

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