I’m A Naughty Boy: Respecs In Dragon Age

By Alec Meer on November 23rd, 2009 at 7:44 pm.

I rather painfully hit a wall in Dragon Age a couple of weeks back, finding my enjoyment stymied by the twin tediums of getting killed far too much and getting bored of wandering endless dwarven caverns and elven forests that required an absurd amount of backtracking through narrow, empty corridors. (Really, would it be so wrong to turn on the instant map travel system in major areas once they’ve been cleared of enemies?) Finding myself with some free time, I headed back in today, only for the former problem to re-rear its annoying head. I knew what was causing it – I didn’t have a good healer. As well as that, my main character, a mage, was a mess of mixed abilities, lacking a core function, horribly prone to inflicting friendly fire with his more powerful attacks and running out of mana horrifyingly quickly to boot. He was screw-up, in short – a liability in every fight.

I’d chosen the wrong skills towards the start of the game, unsure what my build was going to be, no idea what abilities future party members might have (presuming there’d be a dedicated healer along soon; I didn’t go to the mage’s tower, where one can be found, before Elfland and Dwarftown and so ended up with a crapload of melee types in my roster), and naively hungry to make this character capable of everything. I’d tried to shape him into a crowd control type later on, but those misspent early points meant he was still a few levels off being anything like effective. My only options were to press on, suffering an infuriating degree of death and reloading, not to mention burning all my gold on health potions, or to start afresh with a new character. Whichever I picked, I knew the result would be the same: my time with Dragon Age would be as good as over. I hasten to add that I’m quite sure I would have been able to continue with this borked character, eventually levelling my way out of the problem I’d gotten myself into: but I didn’t want to. I wanted to have more fun, not a slog.

So I cheated. Or did I?

I’ve tried to rationalise it to myself, with endless variations upon the theme of the intro above, but I know there’s no escaping that I have cheated. I have pulled the game’s skin away to reveal the endoskeleton below, have performed decisive and powerful surgery that the game did not intend me to, and then pulled the skin back over. Everything looks neat and normal and as it should be, but I have broken the rules, as set by Bioware. My immortal gaming soul is befouled. I know, you can barely stand to look at me.

The exact nature of my cheating, incidentally, is this. I have removed three spells – Inferno, Drain Life and Winter’s Grasp. I have replaced them with Heal, Heal Party and Revive (the latter two from the Spirit Healer specialisation skill tree which, before you point and judge further, I had already unlocked in the game, by purchasing a training manual for 12 gold). Less crucially, and rather more tinkering for tinkering’s sake, I also replaced my character’s two tiers of the Steal skill, because the Rogue in my party has them already, with two tiers of the Survival skill (which turned out to be all kinds of useless. Oh well).

So nothing was added – only swapped, and only swapped for abilities my character could naturally access at his current level. I haven’t given myself an unfair advantage, or anything beyond what the game allows. I’ve just refined my character by creating an alternate universe in which I made better decisions in those early hours of the game. I have, most certainly, irked the purists. At the same time I haven’t created a situation in which I am constantly breaking the game’s rules – and I will remain on the straight narrow now that I’ve gotten onto a straight and narrow that I’m happy with.

Did I do wrong? Did I cheat? Does it matter? It’s an impossibly mild moral dilemma – improving my own experience vs respecting the rules of the games. I’ll admit it troubles me slightly, most especially because the ease with which I’m now blitzing through fights that were formerly incredibly difficult is now almost risible. The group heal and revive powers absolutely change the nature of battles. I pity anyone who plays without them. And now, I am The Best. Go me.

I do feel that Bioware might have been wise to build some official respec feature – say, for a frightening amount of gold, or the loss of a level – into the game, as it does expect you to make some fairly far-reaching choices long before you’ve become au fait with the combat and know what your party setup will be. But then again, there’s something proud and wonderful about making your own organic progress through the game, living with those bad decisions and surviving despite them. That’s how we used to do it, right? But I suppose I’ve become inured to respecification of my RPG characters after all these years of playing MMOs. Once you’ve flown first class, it’s doubly unpleasant to fly cattle class again, and all that. The net result is that I’m enjoying the game more, and so surely my cheating-or-was-it means the game is now better serving its intended purpose. Others will enjoy the struggle against adversity more. I don’t – I’m a hedonist in this regard, prizing my own enjoyment over Doing It Right No Matter What. That niggle, that strange, pointless guilt will likely never quite fade from me as I play, though. I know I’ve rewritten history. What would you do, gentle reader?

Oh, and if you’re taken with the idea of respeccing, let me kindly/maliciously reveal how. EDIT- helpful sorts below reveal this is a much easier alternative. Haven’t tried it myself, but it sounds pretty great.

There is a way to do it with console commands, but I couldn’t get it to work. Instead, I downloaded the 500Mb Dragon Age toolset (you need to register your copy of DA to get it, which requires inputting your CD key again). A click upon File then Open, followed by a browse to my most recent savegame directory (C:\Users\Your Windows Username\Documents\BioWare\Dragon Age\Characters\your Dragon Age Character Name\Saves\Quicksave_1),and then a doubleclick upon savegame.das. Das is gut, ja? Oh, and be sure to take a backup of your savegame folder first, just in case of DATAPOCALYPSE.

In the fugly window that opens, browse to SAVEGAME_PLAYERCHAR. Click the little + to the left of it, then the one next to SAVEGAME_PLAYERCHAR_CHAR, then the one next to SAVEGAME_CREATURE_STATS, then the one next to either SAVEGAME_SPELLLIST (if you’re a mage), SAVEGAME_TALENTLIST (if you’re a rogue or warrior) or SAVEGAME_SKILLLIST (if you want to change skills e.g. herbalism and traps rather than combat abilities).

If you then look for the abilities you have on this page, you’ll spot their identity codes. Replace the ones for those skills you don’t want with ones for those you do want. That’s it, basically, but expect to hit problems if you try to give your guy skills beyond what his level/stats allow. Plus, hey, that really would be cheating.

If you want to do this with a party member rather than your main guy, start at SAVEGAME_PARTYLIST, delve down into SAVEGAME_PARTYPOOLMEMBERS, then under 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4 etc you’ll see another instance of SAVEGAME_CREATURE_STATS, and can follow the above process. You big, dirty great cheat, you.

, , , .

199 Comments »

  1. Alexander Norris says:

    Of note: using the toolset may fuck up your game. Instead, use the really well-done and non-buggy Raven respec mod: http://social.bioware.com/project/469/ It refunds all talent/spell, skill and stat points, even taking into account those gained from a certain quest or from manuals.

    Anyway, the Dragon Age combat system is needlessly obscure and not at all well-explained. Given that mistakes made during character level up are more likely than not due to the system not being explained to you, I don’t see how respecialising could be considered cheating. If anything, it’s one of those rare good things to have count out of MMORPGs and deserving of being applied to other types of RPGs.

    It might become cheating if you use it constantly in order to tailor your party to every fight in the game, but as long as you use it to undo mistakes made because the system is badly explained, it shouldn’t be considered cheating. In fact, I don’t see why you couldn’t make a game based around tailoring your characters’ abilities to every fight individually.

    • Matt W says:

      This. If a game is giving you a decision where a) the consequences aren’t at all clear, b) it has lasting repercussions and c) it’s irreversible then, all other things being equal, it’s badly designed.

      Given that Bioware created an entirely new RPG system from scratch for this game, and given the ridiculous difficulty spikes which I’m assuming are a result non-optimized character builds, they’ve done a really bad job of explaining how not to fuck up your characters.

  2. jsutcliffe says:

    The only person you can cheat in a single-player game is yourself. If your conscience is clean I’d say you didn’t cheat.
    Apparently there’s a respec mod available for those who don’t want to open up the toolkit and fall prey to temptation.
    One thing I’m curious about, however, is whether you can adjust the appearance of your character with the toolset — I picked up the game knowing as little as I could about the characters and story, and managed to basically create a dwarven Leliana (she’s a rogue too, though with a different specialization) — being able to make her look a bit more different would be handy.

  3. Jacques says:

    I don’t think it is unreasonable. Games very often expect you to have either read a great deal on the subject before making your build, or expect you to go in blind, both of which are quite silly.
    Anything that makes the game more enjoyable should be seen as a good thing, even if it involves breaking a few rules.

  4. Garg says:

    You could have done this without cheating. If you had gone to the mage tower you would have picked up a healer type mage for your party. I hope I’ve undermined your justification for cheating and now cause you to tremble and weep. Although it is annoying that there is absolutely no way to rechoose spells, for instance at level up like in Neverwinter Nights.

    • whalleywhat says:

      Agreed. Also, you’re a weak baby and I look down on you and laugh about you behind your back and in your face cause ur bad at games and need to learn2play. Ownage.

  5. Devenger says:

    I don’t blame you at all. Hitting a wall with RPGs is horridly painful, and whilst the lack of grinding in BioWare games is a positive because it results in less repetitive/plotless play, it does make it more difficult/impossible to just out-level difficulty spikes and continue with the fun. I’m reminded of MULTIPLE parts of KoTOR where it was impossible for my support role character to survive some battles (especially in cases where Solo Mode was forced), and the only way I could continue with the plot paths I wanted to pursue was exploiting flaws in the combat system (taking your turn then disengaging and running away, for example).

    The problem of other party members intruding so successfully on your chosen skill set, as you say with the Rogue, is a serious one I think BioWare have yet to find a good solution to. Not that I can think of one…

  6. EBass says:

    I’ll probably respec Morrigan on my next playthrough as her core skillset she comes with can’t be more badly optimised.

    • Jesse says:

      I know! I like the character and want her in the party, but hexing and shapechanging skills don’t cut the mustard. Replacing her with what’s her name, the healer, in the mage tower made a huge difference in my party’s fighting ability, but I’d rather hang out with digi-Claudia Black than old granny mage, you know what I mean?

    • Kanamit says:

      All she really needs is cone of cold.

    • Tei says:

      I have finished the game mostly with morringan and 2 spells: heal and that one that is like a enormeous fire tornado. Oh.. and fireball. Put a fireball in a group of archers, and the firetornado on the others. And then send your mele guys/rogue to the center. That way is easy to finish a group of 20 enemys same-level really fast.

    • Garg says:

      Tei that also sounds like a way of burning your melee in a fire inferno really fast, unless you’re playing on easy in which case you can face+keyboard your way through most of it. Fireball and heal are both great, but cone of cold is the best.

  7. Lightbulb says:

    You can’t cheat yourself. Its really that simple.

    You play games for enjoyment (or in your case because you’re paid to do it but anyway!), respeccing increased your enjoyment, end of story.

    In fact its a design oversight to allow you to make what it sounds like is a broken character.

  8. Kadayi says:

    Fair dues. A lot less painful and time consuming than restarting from scratch. I restarted 3 times (albeit I wasn’t massively far in on one) until I was happy that the direction I was going in with respect to levelling up. As games go DA:O really does require you to read the manual more than most when it comes to what skills do what and how to spend your precious attribute points (my D&D addled brain translated Willpower as akin to Wisdom initially, which it quite clearly isn’t and that caused me no end of problems as I was pumping points into anything but that for my combat classes), as well as clearly understand the relative strengths and weaknesses of your team mates, and knowing what there is little point in putting effort into.

    Digital manual here, for any other Digital buyers like myself, who might be struggling: -

    http://store.steampowered.com/manual/17450/

  9. Mistmanov says:

    I personally enjoy finishing games with flawed characters, and then starting a new game with a new and improved build. If finishing the game requires lowering the difficulty mid-game, it’s unfortunate, but the lesser evil. If changing the difficulty is impossible, then I’d probably sooner just start over with a new character than respec.

    Exceptions would be when you create a flawed character due to incorrect/misleading information. I don’t mind it if my brilliant idea of a katana-halberd dual-weilding rogue-paladin-sorcerer is totally underpowered in a specific game, but if some description of spell X suggests that it will be totally awesome (while it is in fact totally crap), then I might be tempted to use some outside means to change my loadout..

    (and when respeccing is an accepted part of the gamplay (e.g. Titan’s Quest), I certainly respec all the time.)

  10. Alastayr says:

    Alexander Norris already brought the guns to the table. Get this mod. It’s like a modern day Shadowkeeper, without the Charisma bug!
    And the cheating, of course. So it’s not like Shadowkeeper at all.

    But there’s really nothing wrong with this. I constantly respecced my characters in the Baldur’s Gate Trilogy and my NWN characters… their life expectancy was between zero and two chapters. Incidentally, that’s why the limited class choices in DA:O grew on me so fast. It takes away the restrictive choices.

    I think I can still navigate the Irenicus Dungeon blind. Just name a class. (Disclaimer: I played BG II before the first)

  11. Po0py says:

    I would think that having a respec option would only invite critics to make assumptions that the game can get horribly imbalanced at times. Couldnt care less, personally. I’m happy with the way my Dwarve Common Warrior is coming along.

  12. ZZZZZZZ says:

    You have cheated and therefore failed in the game.
    But you had the idea of cheatin and the resolve and resources to do so, so you won this Level of the great metagame Life. Congrats. But i doubt you broke the highscore….

  13. Igor Hardy says:

    That reminds me of how Kirk cheated and won that simulated no-win situation when he was still in the Academy, but later on Spock kept claiming he actually did win that situation through an ingenious strategy. Which probably only shows the Star Trek II screenwriter had too much admiration for hacking skills.

    In other words. don’t let Dragon Age waste your time, cheat as much as necessary.

  14. Lacero says:

    I had to cheat to complete the dwarf section of the main plot. You know the bit I mean.
    I was already in easy mode, and my party choice was totally gimped due to me wanting specific characters around that didn’t work well together. I ran with the debug console enabled and continually healed my party until I won.

    I felt the need to join in and confess. Don’t judge me too harshly.

    (and I agree the combat system is extremely obscure. Breaking the standard D+D rules of light / medium / heavy armour is all very well, but you need to explain what you’ve done. The rules are too ingrained now to just throw them away and expect people to notice what you’ve done)

    • Atalanta says:

      Oh man, the first time I got to that fight it took me changing the difficulty, spamming health poultices, and at one point getting up and walking away from my computer so I wouldn’t chuck the monitor out the window to beat it.

      The second time I chose my party specifically for that fight and blitzed through it, no trouble at all. So incredibly satisfying.

  15. Lilliput King says:

    Hmm. I’m a purist, playing the game through on hard with no respeccing or kerjiggery of any kind, but I don’t see the problem if others want to respec.

    You’re certainly right about the game asking for a rather daunting degree of character design decision making from the player early on, before they have themselves sorted. This is mostly prevalent on mages though – you can’t really go far wrong with the other classes as long as you stick to their area of the weapon specs.

    As others have said, it comes down to whether you’re happy with it, as these things always do with single player. I would have no qualms, personally, if I thought my character was so pants that his presence in the party resulted in a catastrophic failure in most fights. Because, well, losing all the time ruins the game.

    On the other hand, if he was anywhere above the so-bad-it’s-not-even-funny-anymore level, I’d probably keep him as he is, partly because there’s something about saving the world with a character incapable of doing up his own shoelaces that inspires a kind of manic glee, and partly because there’s a hefty conceit involved. It would bug me, more than a little, in the same way that following a level-up guide for an MMO or a build queue for an RTS bugs me. The characters/play styles are no longer really personal to you. They’re a midwich cuckoo influence in your character’s world, replacing him/her with something alien and different which isn’t really yours, and I’d always know it didn’t belong.

  16. UK_John says:

    I agree with some above. Live with your mistakes or go to a new area and a new quest and hope for new spells, new team mates, etc to deal with the wall. I had to do this with my rogue character, and so got past the wall.

  17. Dante says:

    I’m curious about this here toolset can you use it to add items to your inventory?

    The reason being that I’ve accidentally left a quest item behind in a inaccessible area.While it’s a non-vital sidequest, having it still open really irritates me, and I did do everything required, I just failed to pick up the item.

  18. Primar says:

    I half like the idea of it being a “proper” RPG, where choices are meaningful and permanent and can’t be undone.

    On the other hand, I’m well aware that stuff can go wrong through no real fault of my own, and there’s no way I’m willing (due to time constraints) to restart the game anew. Examples would be spells/talents that sound great but are actually rubbish, or – in my specific case – putting points into Herbalism or whatever, not realising that NPC party members /also/ had the same skills, making them effectively worthless. Stuff like that irks me, since it’s two wasted skill points I could put to better use. Yes, I’ll know for the next playthrough, but honestly I have 30 hours invested in this character, and I’ve (apparently) barely scratched the surface of the game.

    On a related note – am I the only one who finds crafting immensely irritating, in that you can’t use the crafting skills of your party members when in the camp, despite them having more advanced levels of it, or crafting skills your PC doesn’t have? I keep having to buy all my reagents, shuffle my party, leave the camp, make stuff, then go back to camp to reshuffle my party again. Is there a better way I don’t know about?

  19. Mr.Bigglesworth says:

    What’s up with that snorty German comment ?!

  20. Noc says:

    Dragon Age: COMPLEX ETHICAL DILEMMAS.

  21. Heliocentric says:

    if a game is broken, or a character broken I’ll happily dip into a hex editor. The only place I hold anything against cheating is when its multi player. Then you are screwing up someone else’s experience.

  22. Monty says:

    You may want to reconsider Winter’s Grasp, it does some decent damage and is a prereq for cone of cold which was essential for my playthrough. I don’t think I’d would have made it through on normal without it and paralyze and force field for crowd control. I had a similar problem with a lack of a healer till about half through my game, and those were the spells that pulled me through.

  23. Lobotomist says:

    As previous posters already said, there is perfectly good respec mod.

    And no its not cheating.

    Game not having respec option has only one reason , and thats: To artificially force you to replay the game again.

    Its the oldest trick in the book (since diablo) And since you are a buisy guy, and have no time to play same game twice. Respec is perfectly OK

  24. Yunny says:

    I do feel that Bioware might have been wise to build some official respec feature – say, for a frightening amount of gold, or the loss of a level – into the game, as it does expect you to make some fairly far-reaching choices long before you’ve become au fait with the combat and know what your party setup will be.

    I do feel that Bioware might have been wise to playtest this game more thoroughly and identify the fact that it’s so unbalanced for any melee-oriented parties, or parties without healers, or rather, any party that isn’t the optimal meat-grinding machine that their designers had intended for you to use.

    • Lilliput King says:

      Are you playing it on Nightmare?

      I played it on hard with me (2 handed warrior) Sten (2 handed warrior) Alistair (sword ‘n’ board warrior) and Morrigan.

      Morrigan had the first level of the Heal spell, and no other buff-based abilities.

      Didn’t find it that bad, hit any walls or any such nonsense.

    • Garg says:

      It sounds like you’re saying that Bioware should have made it so you could mulch on through with any old hodge podge of a party: surely it’s patently obvious to anyone who doesn’t want to play it on easy that you’ll need a way of healing in battles?

      Look if you want to go for your all fist+shield party go for it, but don’t expect Bioware to balance for it.

    • Yunny says:

      It’s funny when I say that the game is poorly balanced, people like to infer that I lack the proper skill to play this game. I was able to figure out the mechanic pretty quickly and adjusted my party to fit the “intended” party composition so that a playthrough requires decent strategy without being frustrating. But it’s patently obvious that you’ll have a much easier time getting through 80% of the game’s encounters, where crowd control is key, when you have more mages in your party. For a more melee-centric party, especially early game where your damage output is limited, you are forced to “pull” enemies, as if playing some sort of MMO. It’s a tired and un-immersive mechanic that should be employed sparingly, but in this game has become almost a necessity.

      One of the starts I created as a rogue, I find myself constantly being ambushed by triggers and dialogues, upon the completion of which my party automatically teleports into a cluster so everyone in my party can get AE stunned by the mages. Pops me out of stealth, too. “Well, that’s silly,” I thought, when it happened the first time. But this happens again and again. If my character’s chief weapon is surprise (surprise and fear; fear AND SURPRISE!), I would hope the game is designed so that I can take advantage of it.

      I have played plenty of RPGs and have gone through almost every RPG offering from Bioware / Black Isle / Interplay. I would argue that, having designed the ruleset from scratch, Bioware is a little too aggressive creating their encounters when the ruleset itself is vague and lacks fine-tuning. Comparing this game to Mass Effect, for example, where almost every NPC available to you would have a place and can pull their weight in your party, Dragon Age leaves much to be desired: for such a combat-heavy game, archers and woefully underpowered; rogues are marginally useful (lack of crowd control or the ability to quickly mow down a target, unless that rogue is your main character with massive stat boosts); and why have Leilana or Zevran or your War Dog in your party when you can have Alistair/Sten, Wynne, and Morrigan in your party?

      The game isn’t too difficulty, it’s just not balanced enough for you to have fun unless you have an optimal party (or your idea of fun is meticulously micro-manage every encounter, with no action queues, no less, of which there are easily a dozen or more in each “dungeon”).

  25. Lobotomist says:

    And by the way…

    Play with two mages. One for damage and second for healing and protection.

    • Funky Badger says:

      Morrigan and Wynne get shit dead. For real.

      not sure its worth the loss of Zevran though, useless tart that he is.

  26. Eplekongen says:

    I have often found myself doing this in most SP-RPG’s I’ve played, and I’ve never felt unjustified. Because I followed the rules you yourself also seem to use. Only change to something that you could have been, had you made different choices. Not story choices, mind you, stats, talents, spells and the like.

    For example, I messed up the specializations on my warrior, and wanted to change my Champion to Berzerker, through console, but waited until I had actually unlocked Berzerker before then getting it. It’s not that tricky a line really. Ans as jsutcliffe said, in an SP game, your conscience decides what is cheating, and what is not.

    Also, remember Risen? Major possibility to completely mess up your character, and therefore the game. You don’t even have any party members to even out anything you messed up.

  27. Clovis says:

    Just so we know, what difficulty level are you playing at, Alec? I don’t even know if the game has them. Can you change mid-game? I don’t understand how many games still don’t allow you to change your difficulty at will.

    Also, I’m surprised at the comments so far. I know in the forum that some users will find what you did to be absolutely horrible. You’ve ruined the game by doing this. It is only by struggling through your ridiculous situation and overcoming it that you will see the true greatness of the game and such. You sir, are a carebear, and are the reason RPGs suck nowadays. I tried to claim that RPG’s should be a little more informative to avoid the problem you descibe and was told I should stick to playing Fable.

    • Premium User Badge

      skalpadda says:

      You can change difficulties whenever you want. On normal you’ll sometimes end up with enemies that can kill non-tank party members with one hit or have some very nasty crowd control and area of effect abilities. If you don’t have a character who can counter those specific things you’re screwed if you don’t get lucky or aren’t very good at microing. I consider that the only balance problem with the game, and it’s hard to know if and how often certain spells will be useful so it’s easy to neglect going for a spell that could be extremely useful later on, by which time it’s too hard to get to it in the skill tree.

      Dropping the difficulty to easy if you run into something you can’t manage will make it a lot easier to get by though, and the very difficult encounters are pretty far between in my experience.

  28. leeder_krenon says:

    you bloody cheat, you should be drummed out of gaming for this! i am never reading the site again. this is worse than thierry henry.

  29. Andrew Barrett says:

    There are plenty (well a couple) of arcane tomes you can pick up to give you some extra spells. By the time you can really afford them, you should know what you’re doing and choose the spells that will help you.

  30. Premium User Badge

    skalpadda says:

    Um-hum, hum. I only skimmed the comments above, so someone may have mentioned it already, but you can actually fast travel to most locations, either by just finding the nearest exit and clicking where you want to go or by returning to camp. At the end of the deep roads stuff in the Orzammar main quest you can talk to… dwarf.. dude.. sorry can’t remember the name right now, anyway, you’ll have the option to port back instantly.

    I knew what was causing it – I didn’t have a healer.

    While I don’t think respecs aren’t a bad idea, since many skills aren’t well explained, the need to have someone with some healing powers in your party should be pretty obvious early on. I’ve been going through the game on Normal, got one zone left and haven’t had any major problems with just the basic heal (one skill point) on Morrigan and poultice spam when needed.

  31. cjlr says:

    I think it’s probably justified. I was lucky with my choices so far, and I’m not too gimped, but you really can screw yourself, especially on a first playthrough, when you literally do not know what will be any good before you try it, nor do you know what potential party members are out there to round things out. It’s nice to be able to fix that without writing off part/all of the time you’ve invested up to that point.

  32. Magnus says:

    I’ve gone for the scattergun approach to mage-creation myself.

    however, on easy (with no friendly fire) my damage spells get me through the sticky parts.

    I do wonder how useful all of the primal spells would be if I had FF on. I can imagine the area effect ones wouldn’t do me much good, especially given the often rather small combat areas.

    • Jeremy says:

      I will on the occasion straight up freeze my own characters, or burn them, if the good outweighs the bad. Sometimes, freezing an ogre who has Sten in his hands, and is about to chomp his face, is only beneficial for both.

    • Premium User Badge

      skalpadda says:

      I don’t have a lot of area of effect attacks that deal friendly fire, but if my tank is the only one in the danger zone I won’t hesitate to use them, since she has so much health now that anything that isn’t a boss monster takes ages to kill her and I’ll have plenty of time to heal away any splash damage. I think friendly fire only does half damage on normal as well, so I can imagine you’d want to be more careful on higher difficulties.

    • Taillefer says:

      Area of effect spells don’t need a line of sight. I cast them through walls into other parts of the map. Blizzard will stun and damage an entire room. Cast Tempest in there too for extra damage and mana drain. (Inferno does less damage if they’re frozen).

  33. Fumarole says:

    It’s not cheating in a singleplayer game. This is one reason why PC gaming is so great, afterall.

    • Fumarole says:

      That being said, this is not something I would do. Part of the joy for me in RPGs is to deal with the consequences of choices made, for goof or for ill. Dragon Age presents these choices/consequences so much better than most other RPGs.

      But make of it what you will, better to play the game how you want than not at all.

  34. Jeremy says:

    Not a cheat I say, a person should be able to change some things as needed in a single player game, it’s only a reasonable expectation. I’m sort of a planner myself, so I didn’t really run into this problem except for maybe a few poor spell choices such as Earthquake which sounds awesome but is completely useless, didn’t end the game for me though.

    I’m on my second play through right now, trying a different strategy and I’ve pretty much found this out about the fighting in the game. Either you need a healer or incredibly high damage / crowd control. Healing allows a little bit more variety in the fights I think as you can sort of “undo” bad decisions by healing or reviving a player, although generally, if you’re losing 2 characters you’re probably going to lose the fight (I have had my fair share of 1 character w/ 10 hp left scrapes). If you’re playing damage / crowd control then you really have to be more on top of your game and be ready to drink those pasty poultices down. My only wish is that there was some kind of Stamina potion, unless I’ve somehow missed a crucial facet to this game.

    Anyone else ever been filled with an unending rage when a character seems to somehow lose all their health in between your 1 second pauses? Happened a couple times, and it reminds me of the good ol days of Nintendo rage :)

  35. Tei says:

    I quickly realized in the Flash game ( I forget the name ), than having a healer/mage on the group was crucial. So I speced morrigan based on that.

  36. toro says:

    You, dear sir, are a failure! :)

    I was in the same situation, but you need just 3 lvls to repair the situation. Anyway, the potions should not be bought, that’s why there is alchemy in the game.

    ps. just joking… damn cheater.

  37. suibhne says:

    Spell selections are difficult to make in DA, for two main reasons – the opacity of spell combos which are deliberately undocumented, left for discovery by the player, and the paucity of helpful information in the spell descriptions. The former is forgivable and maybe even interesting, but the latter is downright irritating. I’ve been playing through on Hard, with only a few battles requiring reloading (and some of those requiring more than one reload…), but I really avoided committing my Mage characters (mostly Wynne with a little Morrigan sprinkled in) to any new directions until I’d read a lot of forum posts on the different spells and their synergies.

  38. Vandell says:

    Want to break DAO legitamately? Make a dual wield duelist rogue w/ 20 base strength, use Morrigan as control (GET CRUSHING PRISON) and have fun. No healer required.

  39. Ben L. says:

    “This. If a game is giving you a decision where a) the consequences aren’t at all clear, b) it has lasting repercussions and c) it’s irreversible then, all other things being equal, it’s badly designed.”

    It’s also a lot like life. Not very gamey, not very forgiving, not very mainstream, but bad design? I’d say just different, perhaps unpopular design.

    What’s the alternative? All choices have clearly defined outcomes, have no major repercussions, and are all reversible? That’s a poor way to design a CRPG that attempts non-linearity as well.

    • Ben L. says:

      Argh, meant to reply to Matt W above…

    • Alexander Norris says:

      In terms of gameplay, all choices should have clearly-defined outcomes. We’re not talking about plot, morality or a living world, here; we’re talking about an entirely arbitrary set of mechanics. The player should always make every mechanical choice fully-informed.

    • Matt W says:

      The intent behind that is that all three requirements have to apply simultaneously for it to be considered “bad design”. If it’s irreversible and unexplained but meaningless it has no impact; if it’s irreversible and meaningful but clearly explained it’s enabling player agency, which is a good thing usually; and if it’s meaningful and unexplained but reversible, the player can correct their mistake.

      If it’s all three, however, then you’re essentially telling the player to roll a die, and (in this case) telling them five hours later that the number they rolled was wrong and now they’re fucked. If used carefully in a role-playing decision-making context (the eventuality the “all other things being equal” clause is there for), then it can be an extremely powerful tool. If used carelessly in a character advancement system – particularly in a long-format game where the combat encounters can effectively block progress completely if the player guesses wrong – there’s really no justification I can see for it.

      (Also, I’d have been a lot more forgiving of the whole thing if, when making a mistake in build or execution, the game gave you some kind of clue as to why you can – for example – take an ogre and a dozen darkspawn without breaking a sweat, but get shredded by a pack of wolves in a random encounter. At that point it’s very clearly telling you that you’re doing something wrong, but gives absolutely no indication [that I've managed to find] as to what exactly you’re screwing the pooch on.)

    • Ben L. says:

      Thanks for the clarification, I mostly agree with that.

  40. medwards says:

    I’m playing on hard and have made a few poor decisions but am managing. Does that mean I don’t want to respec? Hell no, I want to respec so bad, but I’m so close to finishing without respeccing that I can’t bring myself to do it. But some fights are just too damned crazy. I also don’t like the division that no-respecs generate. On the one side you have the people who weren’t informed enough to make a good decision, and its a raw deal for them, then you got all the elitist pricks who lucked out and ended up with good builds (no it was not planning, you either have played once, or you lucked into a good build. The information provided is so shitty that thats just the way it is) who are busy preening themselves over how much more amazing they are then these other people. It’s kind of an asshole thing to pull off (and a similar thing happened to me in Mass Effect), so I’m hoping they learn from it soon. Basically you’re punishing the casual crowd to make the elitist crowd feel better about themselves. It’s not a good enough reason for as punishing a game design decision as this.

  41. We Fly Spitfires says:

    I don’t think that’s cheating. In fact, I think it’s something that should be available in game… when I first read this article’s title, I thought that it was.

  42. Tony says:

    Yay for the respec mod.

    I spent some of my mages valuable attribute points on Cunning just so I could get top level talking skills. Then 10 minutes later I do a quest that provides large permanent increases to most stats, so those points in cunning were wasted.

    Yes its not gamebreaking. But for me alot of the attraction of an RPG is min-maxing my character. If I’d known these stat boosts were coming I wouldn’t have spent my points the same way.

  43. Pace says:

    I agree that lots of combat details and level-up decisions weren’t explained nearly well enough. (Biggest flaw in an otherwise great game.)

    Still. Pussy.

  44. FRIENDLYUNIT says:

    The only crime you may have committed is robbing yourself of some of the enjoyment of a second play though.

  45. Premium User Badge

    Wisq says:

    Frankly, I’m already playing through using a dual-wielder with an artificially boosted strength (via the toolset). Why? Because it’s the only possible way to play a dex-based fighter and not end up with horribly nerfed damage due to the dexterity bug, in which daggers are supposed to be 50% STR and 50% DEX but are 100% STR instead.

    And yeah, I used console commands at the start to remove and replace useless skills given to me by the game without asking. Like assuming that a city elf will be a melee fighter and a Dalish elf will be a ranged fighter. Um, no thanks. Isn’t the whole point of role-playing games to come up with and play our own role?

    • Premium User Badge

      Wisq says:

      I should add that you don’t actually need a mod or the toolset to do a (legal) respec.

      The console lets you add and remove skills/spells/talents, although it requires either touch-typing or very careful hunting-and-pecking since you can’t see what you’re typing.

      The stats bug lets you readjust your stats to your heart’s content. Increase a stat by 3, hit reset, and you can now decrease it by 3. Increase it by 3 again, reset, and you can now decrease it by 6. Etc.

      The toolset is still your only option if you want to change the sum of your stats, though.

    • Funky Badger says:

      Way to miss the point of roleplaying in general, dude.

    • Premium User Badge

      Wisq says:

      Excuse me? I don’t even know which part you’re referring to, here.

      If it’s a response to my editing the stats: Yes, I know the difference between role-playing and roll-playing. But the role I wanted to play was that of a young, talented warrior who fights with finesse, not with strength. (And that’s only the combat aspects. The personality is defined separately in my head but is in keeping with that style.) The game supposedly supports that, via dual-weapon combat with daggers, yet due to the non-dexterity-daggers bug, the only way to be a melee fighter is to focus on strength. So I worked around it specifically to support my character concept.

      If instead you’re referring to my distaste for the game forcing you into a certain role (a la Dalish as hunters or city elves as cutpurses) — yes, I recognise the background is going to have an effect on the average character from that background. Yet in being the main character of this adventure, your character stands out specifically because he or she is unusual. Why, then, should I settle for the roles the game has laid out for me rather than choosing my own, even if it differs from the typical one? (Besides, you may note that although the Dalish storyline equips you with a bow to start, your second weapon set is a pair of elven daggers.)

      In either case, to say that I miss the point of roleplaying because I’d like the game to not arbitrarily ban my character concept (either by mechanics or by game world assumptions) is rather silly (and rude).

      I should point out that my background prior to computer RPGs was MUSHes where characters were designed and played in free-form, with no statistics to optimise or refer to, merely good consensual roleplaying where your character concept and your imagination were all you had. So yes, I do take a little offence in the notion that I have “missed the point”.

  46. Pantsman says:

    Have I cheated by reading this before playing the game and thus learning in advance what are important spells to get?

  47. castle says:

    Though I honestly doubt that a majority of players are having this sort of problem, there are some things Bioware could have done better here. What stands out to me the most is this: not only are you denied access to a healing mage until well into the game (and if you take Jim’s route, more than halfway), you are given no inkling that you’ll have access to one at all. I’d imagine this leads many to send Morrigan in less-than-ideal directions. As far as I understand it, the basic best-bet party (not going into anything too advanced) is a crowd control mage, a healing mage, a rogue, and a tank. 3 of these things you are given more or less immediately; 1 you are not. It’s a baffling decision on the part of Bioware.

    That said, even though I spent some skill and ability points in less-than-ideal ways, I’ve still been playing on hard without much difficulty. Honestly, you don’t need perfectly-spec’ed characters so much as you need a few key abilities (minor spoilers ahead):
    - A warrior with taunt, high strength/con, and some shield abilities like Shield Wall
    - A rogue with some offensive abilities like dual wield and backstab-related stuff (probably not so essential, but good to have)
    - A mage with effective crowd control spells. Putting more points into Ice and Spirit (Force Field/Crushing Prison), which Morrigan is already started on, works well, but there’s other options.
    - A mage with healing spells, and preferably spirit healer specialization

    Honestly, if you work with the above 4 characters, they don’t have to be perfectly spec’ed at all. They just need a few specific abilities to get by–you certainly don’t need to plan it all out from the first level. Your tank will taunt enemies to him and absorb damage, and can be buffed/healed by your healer. Your mage will control large groups. And your rogue will dish out the damage. Of course, if you’re trying to play with a different setup, such as using only a single mage, leveling well becomes much more important.

    The real problem, as I said, is that you don’t get the final piece of the puzzle until you’re well into the game. Before I found Wynne I was scraping by on hard, draining potions and trying battles over and over. After adding her (luckily for me pretty early), I’ve had little problem.

    What would be the best answer to this on Bioware’s part? Funneling players to the Circle/Wynne somehow? It’s too bad they couldn’t have engineered the plot in such a way as to place her in your party sooner.

    • Premium User Badge

      Wisq says:

      It’s also very unfortunate that the basic effective party requires these four roles, but that your party is also limited to four including the main character. If your character doesn’t fit any of those roles (e.g. a non-tanking DPS warrior), you’re deadweight in your own party. And even if your main character covers one of the roles, you’re stuck either avoiding a certain NPC party member (and all the fun of having them along) or nerfing the party as a whole. Frankly, I miss the days of the six-character parties back in the Baldur’s Gate series.

      But on that note, why does there even need to be a specific limit? Sure, it made sense back in the BG days, when there were exactly six slots along the side of the screen for the six party members. But it’s not like there’s ever been a good in-game justification for why you can’t run a small army, provided you can find the people to recruit.

      Besides, there’s still a limited number of NPCs in the game, after all. Wouldn’t it be much more natural to impose a “soft” rather than “hard” limit by having certain people refuse to work together for in-game, in-character reasons? You could achieve the same effect without breaking the immersion.

    • Taillefer says:

      It tries to send you to The Circle as part of the Redcliffe quest. Although, I didn’t use that option. The Circle was the last thing I did before the Urn and Denerim instead. I went to the Dalish first (not something I recommend, irk).

  48. Spacegirl says:

    I have stopped playing DAO because I am getting crushed by two bugs. Massive graphical artifacting and crashing (happens basically every 45 mins and generally requires a computer restart to fix) and the Crazy Shale Bug. I want to use Shale in my party but don’t want some1 in my party where after a giant hard fight, i accidently click on them when trying to loot and it effectively crashes the game.

    However, I played a fair bit of the game before I stopped and definitely felt some crazy spikey difficulty. Archery was a massive (imo) bust on Leliana and I didn’t go to the place where you get a Healer early, so my party of Me (2-Handed Warrior), Alistair (Sword and Board), Leliana (Archery) and Morrigan (Jack of all Trades Mage) was just NOT very effective. I got Shale and the healer and things were looking up, but I just go too tired of the bugs and decided I’d play some of the other sweet games coming out around now and wait for some fixes to come in.

    What I am saying is I can totally understand the possibility of Crushing Difficulty due to Dumb Luck in regards to what kind of character you make, where you choose to go early on and where you choose to put some of your early points.

    I don’t think at all what Alec Meer did was bad. This game has screwy difficulty, it’s basically the #1 complaint about it I’ve seen (outside of these bugs that I have.) He changed a few small things and was able to enjoy the game much better!

    • Taillefer says:

      Hmm, my party was generally Sten (2-handed warrior), Morrigan, Leliana and myself (sword and board) and was effective enough to play through Hard (turned it to normal for two battles, though). I’m pretty sure I’d have had a much harder time if Morrigan had no cold spells though.

  49. Taillefer says:

    How long does it take to realise you made a bad decision? You can completely turn a mage character around in a few levels. Maybe you could have gone to a different area to level up (and read what the spells do)?

    I’ve come to the conclusion that using the tactics is weakening people overall, especially if friendly fire is a problem. Blizzard was possibly my most used spell in the game (along with cone of cold), although that’s down to the cheap tactic of casting it through a wall, or from a large distance away, into a room full of enemies before they even know I’m there. If you’re casting an area of effect spell into combat where your own people are… that’s generally a bad tactic, surprisingly.

    Anyway, your reputation is soiled! I shall now assume you cheat in everything you ever do, ever, for the rest of your life, ever.