Dragon Age Journeys Live, And Rather Good

By John Walker on October 24th, 2009 at 12:47 am.

I wish I could get a better action pic.

So Dragon Age Journeys is live, and… blimey, it’s good stuff. EA 2D’s free project designed to promote and link into Dragon Age: Origins is a 2D browser based RPG, letting you pick a character from the regular Dragon Age selection and then go exploring in the Dwarven Deep Roads. I wasn’t sure exactly how they’d do it, presuming something very simple, hack-n-slashy, but fun all the same. I wasn’t expecting a fully-fledged RPG with a unique combat mechanic.

I’ve only played briefly so far, but I’m already really pleased with what’s on offer. In fact, so much of it directly reflects the full game, from the content to the screen furniture. Even the tutorial pop-ups are the same. You’ve got an inventory, weapons and armour along with weapons and armour stats (using the very appreciated super-simple window pop-ups for comparing with what you’ve got equipped that’s in the main game). In fact it’s also got the two weapon setup, letting you switch between them during combat. There’s your character’s own stats, with the full range of skills available to pick from as you level up. There’s towns to explore, quests to pick up, merchants to trade with, party members to gather, and plenty of dialogue. I really wasn’t expecting this.

The combat is distinct from DA:O. Here it goes for a super-traditional hex-floored turn-based system, letting you take advantage of flanking moves, a combination of ranged and melee combat, and party tactics. Progress you make, achievements earned, and special quests completed are saved to your EA account (which is increasingly worth having, with this and Burnout Paradise), and then can be applied to the main game with it comes out 3rd November – certain goals will unlock useful items for the daddy game, which is a really splendid way of linking them together.

Like I say, I’ve not got far yet, but far enough to save (!) and come here to tell you about it. I strongly recommend heading to the game’s site and giving it a go – it takes a while to load at the start, but then is swift and smooth, and of course it’s completely free. There are teething problems, but the team seem to be working non-stop, and are fixing bugs within minutes of their being reported. You can follow the progress of this on the game’s Twitter, where they’ll alert you to potential issues and then the resulting fixes.

I’m going back to kill more darkspawn now.

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71 Comments »

  1. Lemming says:

    Im stuck at the 2nd fight with the glowing emissary, not because its too hard, but because whenever i beat him the game freezes. Which is annoying because I was enjoying it up until then.

    • John Walker says:

      From their Twitter feed (seriously, follow it):

      “For everyone experiencing freezes after the Emissary battle in the diamond mine, please save your game then refresh your browser.”

  2. Railick says:

    I have to agree this was actaully pretty good however I did not allow myself to be sucked into it knowing that A) I will not be able to play Dragon AGe because my computer is to old and B ) I would not be willing to pay for any more flash chapters so I'll never know how the story turns out.

    This is probably the best Flash RPG I've ever played however.

  3. FP says:

    It has a decent amount of content too, think it took me 3-4 hours to complete (though that probably says more about my obsessive level clearing habits and/or general incompetence).

  4. Markoff Chaney says:

    Really a quite enjoyable game. I’ve only got a level in, but with me as a warrior and my new found healer friend I expect to do more delving tomorrow.

  5. TCM says:

    It is a very fun game. The combat system is well done, the levelling is nice, the exploration is okay. It’s got achievements that unlock content in the game proper, which is certainly a cool idea.

  6. Whiskey Jak says:

    Dammit! On top of having Borderlands, OF:DR, Brutal Legend, NFS Shift and Bloodbowl, EA2D just had to release this excellent flash game! Sometimes, having too many choices feels almost as bad as having no choices.

  7. Jody Macgregor says:

    I appreciate how easy it is to change your mind about where you’re moving in combat.

  8. IncredibleBulk92 says:

    Isn’t Dragon Age: Origins actually out on the 6th of November here in the UK? I wish it was out on the 3rd, that would give me an entire week with it before Modern Warfare 2 stops me playing any other games, ever. Why do publishers stagger releases like this? It makes me sad :(

  9. Bronte says:

    Not to mention the three in-game items you lock in the flash game, you get to keep in the actual game itself. I put together a giant post, Se7en reasons to look forward to Dragon Age: Origins. Take a look at the link below.

    http://arewenewatthis.wordpress.com/2009/10/24/dragon-age-origins-se7en-reasons-to-get-excited-or-youd-be-an-idiot-not-to/

    • Wulf says:

      Of course, there might be rather intellectually bright reasons for not being that interested that you hadn’t considered.

      Tangent time!

      I read Freefall, it’s a nice webcomic, I enjoy it, others might not. In one installment, Florence Ambrose, a synthetic biological lifeform, was investigating the recent surge of sentience in the robot population, and one of her defining parameters of sentience is being able to perceive the World outside of their personal programming. Funnily enough, that’s also one of the indicators I seek.

      Long and boring explanations involving factories off-world versus a couple of haphazard on-World factories that were set up not according to spec since humans are pretty prone to botching things they’ve never done before, regardless of good planning, there were robots imported and then there were the local colony robots. Florence asked a simple question to two robots.

      What does my name smell like?

      The first robot simply assumed she was mentally unbalanced because the robot could not — within his limited personal programming, that only had definitions for the small reality he existed in — find a logical reason for why one might ask that question, or a logical answer. He told her this and went about his business. He gave his answer, and from his perspective that was the only answer that existed, and that was the end of it. That robot was an imported model. Then she asked one of the locally manufactured robots, the ones that seem to be displaying levels of sentience.

      First this robot assumed that it was a trick, since a synthetic life form was asking him what their name smelled like. He quickly moved on to ask if this was some sort of test, like the Turing Test. Florence pointed out that on the positive side, the robot figured out that he was being tested, but on the negative side the robot still hadn’t answered the question.

      After some reflection, the robot came to the conclusion that if someone were to ask what a name smelled like, then it’s quite possible that that person has heightened olfactory senses to the point where they might have names assigned to smells, akin to asking a person to visualise a human named Bob. He then went on to reason that whilst he could comprehend this scenario, due to a lack of olfactory capability, he wouldn’t be able to answer the question.

      Therefore, his only recourse would be to ask Florence what her name smelled like.

      Florence was taken aback by this, as one might expect, reeling from the realisation that this mechanical man had seen the question from her perspective, and more, had the capacity for imagination to conceive her scenario as real, as opposed to simply assuming she was crazy.

      I have picked up others on this before, for doing just what you’ve done here; operating on the assumption that merely because someone (or indeed a group of people) has a different opinion, they must therefore be invalid for not having the same opinion as yours, which must then therefore be the only valid opinion that exists. And if a person doesn’t have a valid opinion, your opinion, then that person must be an idiot, or indeed, that group of people if there’s more than one.

      That’s exactly what you did, too, it was rather transparent in your article as well, considering how insulting your tone was towards people who might not be as excited about Bioware as you are. Yes, I know, it’s the Internet, freedom to say what’s on your mind and all that (within reason), but there’s also the freedom for people to openly and vocally disagree with you. I hope you can accept that, but then again, you probably won’t, because I don’t share your sole valid opinion, and must therefore be an idiot.

      I’ll share my opposing viewpoint with you anyway I suppose, just to see what happens…

      I feel I’ve outgrown Bioware, to be honest. From all that I’ve seen, all that I’ve read (including John’s review), I was left uninspired. I saw no culture or storyline that might challenge me intellectually or emotionally. Just once I’d love to see Bioware put together something like the D’ni. I saw nothing like Gann of Dreams from Mask of the Betrayer, which is probably the closest I’ve ever gotten to being completely smitten with a videogame character, and the setting? Religion, Knights, World of Darkness, Evil Hordes, AD&D planes, blah blah blah (I’ll come back to this). I saw nothing like in Risen, where the morality is not at all clear cut, where both sides seemed to have their unscrupulous elements and redeeming values, where I had to think long and hard on which side would least chafe against my sense of ethics. For example: It’d be far more interesting if you could side with the Janeway-Witchdragon rather than having to kill her, but as far as I can tell Dragon Age doesn’t offer that choice.

      These things all challenged me on some level, but I’ve never once been challenged by a Bioware game. Bioware games are comfortable, and that’s the problem for me, I suppose. I want them to show me things I might not have been able to imagine myself. But Mass Effect was Star Trek reskinned, with a morality bar. And their fantasy efforts have been very bland and two-tone.

      I haven’t seen anything that’s changed my opinions of that, yet, and not even your article made me reconsider. I saw a bunch of fancy names and standard fantasy fluff to pad out ‘lore’, and I also saw a bunch of ideas shamelessly lifted from various fantasy authors and, unsurprisingly, AD&D. I’m actually surprised you mentioned the Fade, since AD&D has something very much like it, and indeed, something very much like all of Dragon Age. But that’s why I fell out of love with AD&D, too. If Dragon Age was going to rip something off, I wish it hadn’t just been just a less politically correct version of AD&D. But anyway…

      So for me, this is just another unimaginative, unchallenging, uncreative, albeit comfortable and familiar Bioware game. I’ll play the demo to be sure, but it’ll probably be just that. Not a single truly unique thing to call its name, just humans, with cultures lifted from either Earth or well noted fantasy sources, with black and white morality, in a pastiche fantasy setting that any third-rate hack of a fantasy author could’ve thought up.

      But this is all from my personal perspective, and I understand that some people might want a comfortable RPG, one they can just slip into, with familiar races and settings, so that they can discover the subtleties that lie beyond that. And one thing I’ll grant anyone is that Bioware is usually often about subtlety, the little things that make one smile.

      All I’m saying though is that I wouldn’t have the patience to slog through this kind of game to find them, when there are other games which make me smile for different reasons, but all the more often, because they surprise me, they’re exotic, and I find that exotic nature alluring.

      So as you can see, I have valid reasons for not being impressed. And for thinking that one might be an idiot for simply not seeing everything as you do, then you Sir… you fail to meet my standards for human sentience, and probably Ms. Ambrose’s, too.

      Maybe in the future, you can just list seven (or however many) reasons for why you’re personally excited about Dragon Age whilst also accepting that there are billions of people out there whose thought processes are different than yours, but just as valid.

      Footnote: Where did this ‘se7en’ stuff come from, anyway?

    • TheSombreroKid says:

      @Wulf lolzors no offense mate, but someone who reads pseudo intellectual web comics hasn’t outgrown bioware, ohh no you di’n't, oh yes i did.

    • Markoff Chaney says:

      Considering the depth Bioware used to be able to create, even if it was only the perception of depth afforded to my more stunted intellectual development at the time, I’m willing to give them the benefit of one more doubt this time around. Even though twice disappointed by Jade Empire and Mass Effect, I still harbor hope that things may have gotten better and, with the eponymous Wardens, that they may start understanding shades of Gray instead of the world being relegated to naught but binary concepts.

      Of course, in a digital world, even shades of color are only made up of 0s and 1s, the ultimate expression of binary existence. It is only the interpretation of the binary that leads toward our perception of their being shades of gray or color. The underlying structure is still the same either/or construct, simply deeper programming.

  10. Magnus says:

    It may have a few flaws here and there, but it is a good showing of what can be accomplished in a browser game.

    I guess it shows how far the industry has come, when a game like this is a free prequel to a major release.

    I’m assuming EA will be making more of these sorts of things for their upcoming games (perhaps a ME2 one?), they made a Mirrors Edge one as well didn’t they?

    Anyway, it’s great marketing (and a hell of a lot better than “the new shit” videos!).

  11. merc says:

    Good stuff. Anyone beaten it on hard yet? Hard seems properly hard.

  12. Dead Fish says:

    I’ve played it for a while during the last two days, it’s a really great flash game! The finish-as-all-three-classes achievement sounds like it’s stretching it a little bit, though… (Or is it possible to get during the first time?)

    And the synergy with the main game is really quite nice! More PR efforts like this. :)

  13. moo says:

    I’m hearing the 2nd and 3rd episodes will require the exchange of microfunds — I’m hesitant to start episode one and be itching for the crack-cocaine of episodes two and three.

    • Snidesworth says:

      The 3rd and final survey you take after you complete the game certainly indicates that. Journeys is very enjoyable, but I doubt that people would pay money for it. I certainly wouldn’t.

  14. Ted says:

    This really is quite fun.

  15. Tom Davidson says:

    It’s fun, but be warned: the difficulty ramps up rather amazingly on the last quest, so if you haven’t built your characters properly (i.e. to survive long-haul battles against foes with high hit points and serious area-effect damage), you’ll have major issues in the endgame.

  16. spinks says:

    Really impressed with this! I wasn’t expecting a fully featured party based RPG with several hours of play in it! If the next chapters are anything like this, it doesn’t strike me as bad at all if they want to ask for micropayments.

  17. Tony says:

    Just finished it. It becomes more fun once you get 2 more party members because then theres more room for tactics (eg flanking).

  18. frags says:

    I’ve been pleasantly surprised by this little flash game that could. It is very good.

  19. Heliosicle says:

    congrats EA 2D! You made me lose a few hours…

  20. Lobotomist says:

    Love it!

  21. Demiath says:

    Yes, Dragon Age Journeys is surprisingly good (if only DA:O was turn-based too!). For an interesting (and somewhat amusing) take on the browser game from a writer more familiar with JRPGs, see 1UP’s post:

  22. Demiath says:

    Sorry about the XHTML Fail, here’s the link:
    http://www.1up.com/1upblogs/5/1ups_rpg_blog

    • mootpoint says:

      Is the amusing part where he calls X-Com an RPG?

    • Alastayr says:

      I think the amusing thing is how she’s trying to shoehorn the whole western-meets-eastern concept into DA:J when games like Kings Bounty have the exact same mechanisms and indeed, the whole gameplay is nothing more than a partially realtime Heroes of Might and Magic spawn that abandons armies in favour of customizable Diablo-style heroes.

  23. Duncanthrax says:

    The dialogue in this game mainly follows BioWare’s default good-neutral-evil template:

    NPC: “Bring me $AMOUNT $ITEMS”

    Option #1: “Yes! At once! For the honor!”
    Option #2: “What’s in for me?”
    Option #3: “F*** off and die!”

    Yawn. If this is any indication of the main game’s dialogue I already regret my purchase …

    • leederkrenon says:

      why are you even considering a comparison of a free web game with the full product you haven’t played yet?

    • Duncanthrax says:

      Because the same unsubtle style was present in previous games from the same company, and I still hope that it changes for the better in DA:O.

    • Lars Westergren says:

      @Duncanthrax
      It isn’t Bioware who are making Dragon Age Journeys though, so you can’t blame them for this.

  24. lhzr says:

    i agree, the dialogue was boring and got me pretty fast to start skipping through it. chances of DA being the same seem pretty high to me.

  25. Jockie says:

    I seriously doubt the dialogue in the free browser game was crafted with anywhere near as much care and attention as the full game. I actually thought having branching dialogue in this was quite a nice little touch, even if it’s completely superficial.

    Good way to waste an hour or so.

  26. TCM says:

    To even say that the dialogue of a flash game with a completely different combat system from the normal game, and a fairly superficial story, will be similar to the final product is laughable at best, track record or no. Mass Effect was fairly different from the so-called “standard bioware dialogue”, and every indication is that Dragon Age will be even greyer.

    TBH, people should be happy to have branching dialogue at all in modern games. It’s surprisingly hard to find choices that aren’t superficial at best.

  27. SirKicksalot says:

    Origins isn’t made by the same developers. This is from EA 2D, an internal studio.

  28. Lambchops says:

    i agree that the dialogue was naff but I wasn’t expecting anything else in a flash game.

    An enjoyable diversion for a few hours. Plus although unlocking items for the main game is almost entirely worthless it’s strangely satisfying!

  29. Dean says:

    The very fact we’re debating the quality of dialogue in a Flash game speaks volumes…

  30. Dingo says:

    How do you get the Bard to join your party?

  31. Shalrath says:

    if I could offer some advice, DON’T use a Rogue. They are utter garbage. You’re like a warrior that does 10% more damage, has half health, half armour, and a basically useless stealth. The only way to ‘backstab’ is to stealth, move all of 2 squares at a time (and I’m pumping points into improved stealth) and then you get 1 single 150% damage attack. Yay…

    The mage, however, is ridiculous, especially early on. You can absorb massive amounts of damage by just standing there healing yourself, and your staff is a ranged attack that does 4 times what my rogues arrows do, requires no mana, has a long range…

    If I could, I’d play with the Warrior, Mage, and Bard instead.

    • TCM says:

      I actually picked rogue, and stealth really isn’t as bad as you make it out to be. You can flick it on post movement, so I tend to move to about 3 spaces away from the enemy and flick it on to backstab. 150% damage is quite a bit.

  32. TheSombreroKid says:

    rouges are good archers but the bards better at that, i found the easiest time i had of it was to go the mage and focus on agressive spells and have the other mage focus on healing spells, make the warrior good for soaking damage and dishing it out and you’re sorted!

    BUGS:theres a saving bug that cost me a whole play session, if you get disconnected from the server it’ll become impossilbe to save the game you’ll know because it’ll sit on the overwrite screen as if nothing happened and then if you o out & back in it’ll look like it saved, but it didn’t, the only solution is to save regularly!
    when taking the survey at the end don’t press the red x or it wont count
    you may loose unlocks and achievemets and such

  33. Rane2k says:

    Regarding the dialogue in this and Mass Effect:

    I actually quite enjoy these, even if all the dialogue choices you make have the same outcome. You can at least give a bit of a personal touch to the character you´re playing. It is a role-playing game after all.

  34. Michael A. says:

    Two mages with the Psychic Blast skill (or whatever its called), plus the Warrior to tank up front rule the game completely. If you’re full on mana, you can pretty much remove 1-2 of the toughest enemy units from the fight for the entire battle, allowing your warrior to hack and slash the opposition to pieces at his leisure. This tactic becomes especially powerful once the warrior gains the “Threatening” ability, making all enemy units focus on her.

  35. manveruppd says:

    Is this basically Dragon Age: The Moria Rip-off?

  36. We Fly Spitfires says:

    Sweet. Thanks for the heads up. Gonna go check it out now.

  37. Huggster says:

    Lots of Dragon age looks like its got ideas from LoTR mythology – the full game basically has something like Moria in it from what I can see., before it went “pear shaped”.

  38. TheSombreroKid says:

    dragon age is hugley influenced by the lord of the rings but that’s no bad thing.

    • TCM says:

      Pretty much every high fantasy universe ever, except those that strive to be very different, has been influence by The Lord of the Rings.

  39. malkav11 says:

    If you’re familiar with the Monster’s Den flash games, this is by the same people. or at least involves some of the same people, I’m not 100% clear on that.

  40. Magos says:

    @Wulf:

    1. If you already have a blog, please never link to it. If you don’t, please don’t start one. Your incredibly long, waffling introductions might inspire people to suicide.

    2. You seem to have missed the point of the ‘Se7en Reasons’ blog post. Yes it’s not that funny, yes it’s a little silly, but I think that’s the point. It’s purpose certainly isn’t for folk to write rambling comment posts about how it’s mildly offensive.

    3. Your views on Dragon Age are a little half-cocked. It is certainly pretty derivative: it seems to have stolen from pretty much every ‘edgy’ fantasy novel I’ve read in the last five years. However, ninety percent of any plot experience in in the presentation of the characters and the world they live in. To claim that the game is too derivative of ‘Earth cultures’ is absurd. I’d say it’s intellectually impossible to base a fictional cultural form on anything but an ‘Earth culture’, because that is the only point of reference. Except maybe the Clangers.

    At the end of the day, who cares if Dragon Age is similar to all previous Bioware games? People have been playing Wolfenstein 3D for the past seventeen years in various iterations – with little innovation. All genres riff off the same basic internal design for that genre (or else they wouldn’t be of that genre.) Taking RPGs as an example, even the original Fallouts were derivative. After all, your first ‘quest’ involves killing giant rats to escape from a tunnel. The are celebrayed for their presentation of the RPG cliche.

    To claim that Dragon Age is to be missed because of its derivative nature is to miss the point entirely. As Mr. Walker states in his review, it brings a richly presented culture and solid combat mechanics to the table, and is presented in a unique way. This can only add to the so far successful Bioware RPG formula.

    Maybe in the future you can present a solid argument, backed up with evidence, and a little less verbal cruft and pointless linking.

    Cheers!

  41. Andthensobecause says:

    Here in America at 3am, I find myself truly interested in the psycho-social environmental factors that both directly and indirectly lead to the posting of Wulf’s essay. Though the internet prevents me from expressing honesty as something that could not possibly be misconstrued as bitter, pointed, sarcasm, I truly am interested in how this post gestated over months or years and the specific conditions of it’s birth. I will say that this post was engaging and enjoyable. This post has made me happy at 3am in America.

  42. Andthensobecause says:

    Was pretty sure I replied to Bronte on this. Extremely disappointed in the results.

  43. TwoDaemon says:

    Personally, I found this rather underwhelming. Good for the average amateur flash game, I suppose, but I expected something more from an actual developer. I can’t complain too strongly, since it’s free, but I was disappointed.

    The so-called ‘tactical’ nature of it seemed fairly empty, particularly with regards to the hexes, which served surprisingly little purpose. A mere three units on your side limits greatly the advantage you can actually get from manoeuvring, particularly since every enemy unit has a movement vastly greater than yours. The tactical options from the different disabling or limiting moves are nice, but reduced to that alone it has little greater tactical complexity than the combat of a JRPG (harsh, I know). Astoundingly, the repetitive combat bored me to the point that I couldn’t be bothered to unlock more than one of the items, or beat the game.

    Incidentally, and a truly minor point, does anyone else hate that damn first-rank fire spell? Fires only horizontally, utterly negating the purpose of a hex grid in the first place. Bizarre. That one’s nitpicking, though.

  44. Rhygadon says:

    Warning: I had the same experience that SombreroKid described — an entire session’s worth of progress was wiped out the next time I logged in. Bizarre, since I was able to save and load just fine *within* that session, which lasted over an hour. So it seems that the saves are initially kept locally, for eventual (and unreliable) synchronization with the master server.
    The missing session was under a different OS than the first one, for what that’s worth. But now the saves from that missing session aren’t there under either OS.
    The worst thing is, it’s not even clear how you could confirm that the saves are actually taking. Log out and log back in? But then your *current* session wouldn’t be verified …

  45. MadMatty says:

    I basically agree with Wulf´s post, although i usually wrap it in soft wording. Ive played computer games for 20 years now, and ive played enough of them, to have seen both hex based combat and general fantasy mush done do death. Elves are no longer exciting for me- but i guess if youre young enough not too have seen it before, it could well be. I stopped playing the flash game after about 15 mins, coz it seemed dull, but atleast its free.
    I dont think ill be playing Dragon Age Origins either, but Bioware might surprise me with some good combat mechanics and some skillfully balanced gameplay… that´d be something.
    Am currently playing World of Warcraft… not super original story either, but atleast it does kindof take the piss, and the graphics are nicely done, with the colouring and all (a bit blocky but what the hell- runs silky smooth in hi-res) … and the core gameplay is pretty smooth now its been patched 7 million times

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  48. battery for dell inspiron 9300 laptop says:

    You seem to have missed the point of the ‘Se7en Reasons’ blog post. Yes it’s not that funny, yes it’s a little silly, but I think that’s the point. It’s purpose certainly isn’t for folk to write rambling comment posts about how it’s mildly offensive.

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