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What is it about role-playing games that drives us to passion? It seems more than any other genre we have RPG players and developers wear their hearts on their sleeves with ease, to the point of toxic levels of anger when something goes awry. It is especially true when it comes to certain styles of RPGs, most notably the isometric resurgence we have seen in the past few years.

Pillars of Eternity, Divinity: Original Sin, Shadowrun Returns– all of these titles have flaws both minor and major that shackle them to their niche, but all of them were able to do the impossible; they were able to bring the classic, isometric style into 2016. If nothing else, we can’t take away that bragging right from the new crop of titles gracing PC monitors these days. Likewise, it should have been an easy sell for a studio like Beamdog to push a DLC for their enhanced edition version of the BioWare classic, Baldur’s Gate, offering a new story, and content, for a nearly twenty year old game.

Emphasis on should have been. The hurricane of criticism against that expansion, Siege of Dragonspear, is a major indication of unique problems that only an RPG can really have. Dragonspear was always facing an uphill battle to reach any form of acceptance by the RPG community, in part because of its place amongst an important lineage in role-playing history. It’s a shame to, as Siege of Dragonspear is a pretty good expansion to the Baldur’s Gate canon, despite some major flaws that ultimately plague the title.

The campaign, set weeks after the defeat of Sarevok from the original game, pits you, the hero of Baldur’s Gate and the Bhaalspawn, against the Shining Lady Caelar Argent, and her crusade from the North. The goal is simple, after Argent makes an attempt on your life, you lead the Flaming Fist and other followers to put an end to her crusade, and to meet her in battle at her stronghold, Dragonspear Castle.

Scenes like this emphasize the old school design with new technical prowess.

Scenes like this emphasize the old school design with new technical prowess.

In some respects Beamdog does attempt to streamline Siege of Dragonspear as much as possible, offering the same degree of options as other isometric titles. You now have a new class, new weapons and spells, and even selectable difficulties, allowing for players to either sit back and enjoy the story, or go for a hardcore, tactical challenge. These additions are great in adding more content without changing much of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons system, which Dragonspear adheres to.

The differences are pronounced in other ways. The original Baldur’s Gate gave players the illusion of an open world,  while Dragonspear offers a more straightforward, linear experience, despite optional side quests and dungeon delves in between. Events and characters seem to be written to serve as connecting tissue between the two Baldur’s Gate titles with many ultimately feeling shoehorned in the game. For the unprepared, this difference in tone and presentation can be an unusual experience in its own right, but not a detrimental one; think of it as a GM switching gears, offering a more controlled, yet still choice-dependent, storyline to follow despite railroading to an unavoidable conclusion.

That nostalgic feeling of a new expansion, which requires the Enhanced Edition to play, is the double-edged sword that really drives many of the problems with Dragonspear. Despite the more overt linear structure in the game, it actually follows a lot of the beats of the original Baldur’s Gate, to the point where Dragonspear could have been released in the late 1990s. Much of the DLC feels anachronistic right off the bat; there is a very rough UI and the poor in-game graphics have a flat, muddy look with thick character outlines and blocky movements. The additions made through new items and classes feel like an expansion adding options, and the basic structure of dungeon-delving, resting, and party management is intact, complete without modern mechanics to streamline the monotony of your actions, a major sticking point in old isometric games. 

Old is old again in Dragonspear, a problem that is unique to this DLC. See, in serving a player base looking for a classic Baldur’s Gate experience, Dragonspear becomes mired in the game’s original flaws, leading to the overall product feeling worse for wear. What adds to this is that any changes actually made stand out as the game’s weaknesses begin to pile up, leading to a less memorable experience when those said changes themselves suffer from problems. Perhaps the most obvious example of this is the writing in Dragonspear, one of the most criticized aspects of the game since the controversy surrounding the title began.

Dialogue is very hit and miss in Dragonspear.

Dialogue is very hit and miss in Dragonspear, boiling down to some conversations being brilliant exchanges, and others shallow info dumps.

Despite what you might have heard, the game does not push an agenda on its players. Accusations of a “social justice” slant are misinformed or subjective at best, or purposely misleading at worst, not because of the personal politics of the developer, but because of uneven writing. Even then, the complaints about the game’s writing, while founded in some truth, have also been grossly exaggerated in some cases. The character of Mizhena is the most famous example, but other characters that people neglect to mention include major and minor NPCs found throughout Dragonspear with the same problems as Mizhena, such as the quartermaster on your march, Belegarm, or even the likes of Jon Irenicus (which is not a spoiler, you know he is involved early on in the adventure) who has some rather cringe-worthy lines to contend with.

The problem with these characters, along with the all-encompassing negative complaints regarding the writing, is their interactions are short and lack the expected depth and polish you would hope from an RPG. Of course, this is a problem that is shared with the original Baldur’s Gate. That game did not have stellar writing, especially when compared to Baldur’s Gate II, which contained more in-depth characterization and tighter story progression. Other RPGs in the same vein, both classic and modern, make Dragonspear pale in comparison due to sheer content or cohesiveness of their script. Beamdog sadly loses a lot of points for writing that is ultimately jarring to the experience, be it due to budget constraints or just simply hit or miss editing, while simultaneously trying to add their own stamp with several established characters. Much like everything else, it is wildly uneven; Edwin, Minsc and Daneyhir are major positive standouts, while others such as Skie, Khalid and Safana fall victim to mediocre writing.

It is that uneven tone that has many fans upset, but at the same time it is also reflective of how far RPGs have come since Baldur’s Gate. The original title was never a masterpiece, but it is important to the development of modern role-playing games, especially at a time when RPG’s on the PC at least were dead. Any deviation to that original game will no doubt be scrutinized, and any changes magnified for being different. We see the fanbases’ desire is to see something fondly remembered remain untarnished by this new take, yet this puts Beamdog in a catch-22; do they emulate the Baldur’s Gate style fully, complete with flat characterization, and brief writing, or do they embrace a more modern treatment and give them characterizations that deviate from their source? It is an issue that Beamdog tried to balance, but was ultimately unsuccessful in their execution. 

Despite all of these problems, there are moments where the games’ writing simply shines beyond the complaints towards it. The character of Caelar Argent has much complexity towards her; one moment she sends assassins to kill you, the next she pens letters to the families of her fallen followers. She is charismatic, introspective, and makes a good adversary because her goals are not inherently evil, the perfect storm for a dynamic antagonist. Save for some odd, uneven moments, mostly stemming from late-game revelations, Argent is perhaps a more dynamic and complex villain than Jon Irenicus ever was.

New companions also have some good moments attached to them. The skirt-chasing Skald Voghiln and the sarcastic Halfling Glint are not too bad, but feel a bit muted compared to the other two additions. The first is the controversial single mother Corwin, another member of the cast accused of pushing a social justice agenda. However, Corwin has depth and layers to her character that make her both flawed yet compelling, she is somewhat cold and prejudiced, but has moments of introspection that give her dynamics I did not expect. The real standout however is the Goblin shaman M’Khiin; her characterization is so pitch perfect the game; through both story and mechanics it reflects her role as a “monster amongst men” stereotype while not softballing issues of prejudice. She becomes, in my mind, a character arguably on the same level as the likes of Edwin and Minsc in terms of being memorable.

Battles like this are an interesting addition, but ultimately push Dragonspear beyond it's limits.

Battles like this are an interesting addition, but ultimately push Dragonspear to the limits of what the game is capable of. It is a messy addition that ultimately doesn’t pay off.

Other positives also come in the vein of new cut-scenes with Beamdog trying to offer something different in Dragonspear. We see large crowds and rousing speeches, both by the player and Argent, that give the story gravitas and an exciting push to keep playing. Some quests have you actually making a moral choice against monster characters, giving them personality and a chance for actual role-playing over being a simple murderhobo. In fact, the game features quite a few quests or even options that involve conversation and charisma over combat and magic, which is something the original Baldur’s Gate lacked at times. 

Other new additions in this near thirty hour experience are more of a misstep than a success. Twice in the campaign you get involved in mass battles which can have more than forty characters on-screen. These moments certainly push the game to its limits; frame rates dropped on occasion while my army met the crusaders, and ultimately they were moments of chaos that didn’t feel as epic as they should have been. This is another example of Beamdog trying something different from the main game, it just doesn’t work as intended. Even the titular siege of Dragonspear Castle is also ultimately disappointing due to these frame rate issues and some writing snags, as is the epilogue to the whole campaign which forces a situation upon the player they have no chance of getting out of.

There is truthfully a lot of good to find in Dragonspear, the problem is it’s mostly buried behind some nagging issues, bugs, or mediocre writing. Starting the DLC fresh locks you in at level seven, while an imported character from Baldur’s Gate could have better equipment and levels, provided importing even works. While Beamdog is hoping to iron out many of the bugs currently plaguing the expansion, some notable big bugs can occur, including the import bug, a difficulty lowering bug (which can’t be changed if this occurs) and other game-breaking problems and in-game crashes. Multiplayer however fares much worse, to the point where it is not only completely broken, but Beamdog specifically made an announcement to try to fix it up as soon as possible. In my own experience, I didn’t encounter any bugs except attempting an import, which failed, so players should indeed play at their own risk. 

Other problems come from nitpicks mostly; the lack of a run or double speed option is notably absent, and the clunky UI still adheres to the design limitations in the original Baldur’s Gate. The game shows its age graphically, and even the sound design is uneven. Beamdog tried to get as many voice actors from the original game to come back, and some do fantastic, most notably Jim Cummings and Jennifer Hale. Heidi Shannon, the voice of Jaheria, is notably absent, so instead of recasting the role, all of her dialogue is mute, leading to a very jarring contrast between characters with voice-overs, and characters without them.

This can sum up the experience in a nutshell for Siege of Dragonspear, unintentionally jarring. It is not a bad game by any stretch of the word, and for those familiar with the Baldur’s Gate setting, combat system, or simply want to play a “modern” add-on to an old-school RPG, it should at least be considered for a purchase despite the problems plaguing the title. Passion may drive us to be ardently against something that attempts something new, but that new experience may surprise you if you let it. 

Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonsphere was reviewed on PC via GOG with a copy purchased by the reviewer and played for over twenty-five hours. 

6.0
 

Good

Summary

A good game plagued by many issues, Siege of Dragonspear is an uneven RPG in terms of writing and presentation; a trait it shares with the original Baldur's Gate.


Robert Grosso

Staff Writer

A game playing, college teaching, erudite-minded scholar who happens to write some articles every so often. Have worked as a journalist, critic, educator and blogger for over five years now, with articles published (as user editorials) on Game Revolution and Giant Bomb as well as a contributor for the websites Angry Bananas and Blistered Thumbs. Now making TechRaptor my home.



  • Galbador

    So they left Safana like this and not like in the old Baldur’s Gate? No buy here. I’m not supporting this at all. Its like you meet with an old friend, only to find out, that this one was brainwashed and hates you now. Beamdog, keep your game and thank you for ruining this for me.

  • Mark Andrew Edwards

    Thanks for the review. I’ll pass, the story doesn’t appeal to me.

  • SomeCollegeStudent

    Hit or miss writing in an RPG? I’m gonna have to pass on this.

  • Robert Grosso

    depends on what you mean by “like this” though.

    Is she different compared to Baldur’s Gate? Yes, although she is not the only character affected by some changes. In Safana’s case, it’s mediocre characterization with an already one-dimensional character and it’s a bit more pronounced because she gets the weakest treatment.

    The attempt at characterization is there. It’s just not good, trading one stereotype for another.

  • Galbador

    I actually never saw her and “one-dimensional”. For me, she was a cool companion for my team. I liked the way she was and how she was such a free mind. But no, this is not okay. People… no, women, have to be all the same. No place for different natures or mind sets. Other than that, it is misogynistic.

    Honestly, I’m so sick and tired of this crap, I makes me stop playing games at all.

  • Bitterbear

    I’m discovering the fact that arguing on the internet is much more entertaining that actually playing video games.

  • Scootinfroodie

    Is the difficulty selection in some way different from the one found already within the classic BG games?
    Additionally, I’m not sure that “Well a game from 1998 had inconsistent writing” (paraphrasing, of course) is a fair defense for a company that not only boasts a core team of industry vets, but also thinks quite highly of their own writing.
    Finally, I seem to recall one of the writers blatantly admitting to applying a social justice lens to their writing. Was that statement retracted, or that screencap doctored? If not, then there was a quite literal “social justice” influence to the writing. It may be something you don’t feel had much of an effect, but it’s factually incorrect to ignore a writer’s statements based on your own opinion

  • Robert Grosso

    The writer’s statements has no real point in this review, it has nothing to do with the product I played because ultimately the opinions of the writers or whatever their influence is, is insignificant to the final product. Mentioning that just adds unnecessary politics to a critique of a game- it focuses on the developers more so as a criticism, versus the game itself.

    As far as I know that statement was not retracted though.

    Difficulty section added Story Mode, Throne of Bhaal mode (hardcore mode basically) and Core Rules, which is a cut above normal as far as I know. They have a decent amount of modes for all players at this point, and the selection menu does tell you what the effects were.

    Also, it’s not really a defense of Dragonspear, it’s ultimately its problem, being in the shadow of Baldur’s Gate. Ultimately the point I think is Beamdog was damned if they do, damned if they don’t in this case; they change too much, massive backlash, they change too little, massive backlash for a bunch of different reasons. It’s a weird position to be in.

  • Koolz

    The writer is a feminist. Her psychology was created from he childhood. She isn’t the Playboy Model who attracted Men, she is the nerdy girl with glasses that loved DnD. maybe she got sick of Men ignoring her. All Feminists have some sort of Complex from when they were teens.

    Psychology of Men and Women: Man go out and attract fertile females. We look at hot women and want sex.
    Hot Women need to look for strong men that can protect there children etc, they know men look and want to have sex, so they look for the strongest Man.

    Feminist…think a strong female is someone that doesn’t need a man , there idiots.
    A women who has used her looks to attract a strong man, has raised her kids, has been a mom etc is just as if not stronger then any feminist women.

    In fact a Hot women that has tons of guys checking her out all the time asking her for dates for something even more stupid is stronger then any feminist that is ignored by Man.

  • Robert Grosso

    I always had an issue with the writing in the first Baldur’s Gate title. For me all of the characters were more or less one-dimensional characters with personality, but no characterization. Cool maybe, but flat.

    It was always a weakness in that game, one that they rectified in Baldur’s Gate II a whole lot. Thats me though.

  • Galbador

    We both have different tastes and that is okay. It would have been a difference if Beamdog would have made their own game, but since they took on Baldur’s Gate, it was a painful punch into the guts (especially for me).

    You have to see it like this; You play a game and find a character you like pretty much on how this one acts. You find out that there is another game with this character and you enjoy it to the fullest. Now, several years, after you played this game, you hear that a new part of this game with your character comes out, but this time, a different team is doing the game. To see the character again and old memories from the older game are coming back. You can wait to play with this character and have another adventure… expect that the character you like is completely alienated to you. This one speaks differently, acts not like in the old days. A complete different personality.

    This was the feeling I had with Safana when it comes to Siege of Dragonspear. Someone came and said “I don’t like this character and I don’t give a damn about what she was earlier. I’m the author now and I will change her as I want”. It made me mad and gave me the feeling as if someone gave her a brainwash to be like this. Safana was maybe not a prefect character with a brilliant personality, but that was the personality the original designer gave her. It is almost like you meet a person on the street and you don’t like his/her attitute and personality. Now surely, you can say “I don’t like the way you talk or act” but you would never force him/her to act like you want them because a real person would say “Have a problem with me, tough luck.”

    But Safana can’t do this, she is a fictional character and someone hate her for what she was, so they used her for their agenda. This is disgusting and shows how little respect this author has to the original game. Yes, Safana was maybe a character who used all of her ways to get what she wanted, but that was her personality. That was what she was. I could call you at least 5 people, which were the same and they would stand to you with no doubt. But sadly, we live in an age, where we have to be careful what we say so that no one gets “offenced” by it. People create such characters for a reason; to provoke people; to make people think why they act like they act, but people like this author, who believe she is entitled to cripple a character people liked, are the poison for the video game market in my eyes and how this could crash the market a second time.

    So yeah, we both have different ways to see it and that is okay as I said. But I never ask for perfection in video games or movies. Sometimes, less is better than a prizewinning wrtiting. At least, that is my opinion.

  • Scootinfroodie

    The writer’s statement matters because they are the operating agent. If the admission is that they pushed X, then X was pushed. To say definitively that there was no agenda pushed is factually incorrect. To state that the agenda of the writer doesn’t make a difference in the end product is a statement that can be taken on opinion, but that’s not what the piece states

    Re: difficulty. Pretty sure Core Rules was always in. ToB and Story are new for sure, though I question the need for an even easier mode when I had little trouble playing BG2 (before I got blocked by a critical path bug twice) in elementary school. I suppose BG1 has more “lol u died XD” moments but those should presumably be absent in the expansion

    As far as BG goes, I agree to an extent, but there’s definitely things they could have done to improve their chances:
    1. Not try to prioritize politics over good writing
    2. Not try to shoehorn in already dated references
    3. Not try to tackle a complex social issue in a 3 node throwaway conversation
    4. Keep the continuity and characters intact. From what I hear there’s some weird inconsistent stuff with the end of the expansion, and there’s at least one character that was re-written

    It’s simply a matter of scope. You only have X number of lines, so make them count. Don’t waste the user’s time, and try to hit at least BG2’s low points in terms of quality. Fewer people will rag on a genuine effort with a few missteps, but you’ll get no mercy if you start rewriting to fix the “problems” of a beloved franchise and then double down when criticized

    Mind you, I didn’t expect much from Beamdog after checking out their digital distribution client and seeing the additions they made to EE

  • Robert Grosso

    I played the game and saw no agenda, so yes, that is an opinion, and all reviews are more or less, subjective opinions. That’s why it’s a critique in the end.

    If I were to discuss Scott and what she said, it would dominate the review of the game more than it should. The story would become less about the merits or flaws of the game itself, and more about perceived notions of politics and a vague threat of an agenda. That is not a good critique of the game, that is editorialization and, in all honestly, missing the point of a good review.

    It is also sometimes bothersome because it feels like folks tend to pick and choose what they go after. The authorial intent of the writers or developers is rarely respected by players to begin with, but when it comes to personal politics I noticed how some fans tend to shoot down games they otherwise enjoy because they don’t like the opinions of someone on the dev team, while praising others for pandering or defending political agendas they agree with, regardless of the quality of the product.

    To me, that’s very short-sighted. The opinions thereof of the developers, be it writers, programmers, production managers, and so forth, are not what is being critiqued in a review. You may be right it’s a fact that what Scott said pissed off people- but this is a review of the game, not a review of Scott and her politics.So I will not drag that into this. Editorial, sure, that’s where it belongs if you ask me, and we have hundreds of them out there already, but not here.

    I honestly don’t remember Core Rules that much from the original Baldur’s Gate, it could have been an EE add-on long ago. I always presumed Normal was the default and you can put it on hard and easy as you see fit. It’s honestly been a while since I played the non-EE version.

    I should point out that all the characters were re-written. The curious thing is, only three of them, Safana, Khalid and Dynaheir, had a re-characterization because they had little to go on for them; the rest were cast members new to the expansion, or BG2 carry-overs. Now, of those three only Dynaheir felt really good to me, while Safana and Khalid were a bit off in comparison, but for the rest of the companions at least it was average to quite good in quality. So continuity was more or less intact for the majority.

    Also, are dated references really a problem? I mean, all fairness to Beamdog on this one, but BioWare continues to do that to this day and it’s become part of the levity of the games; kind of like how a GM throws in an in-joke for their players but just moves on. Quality of writing is not affected insomuch by that; the game takes its material seriously, but not itself seriously, and it makes i in theory, more fun at the very least.

  • Scootinfroodie

    That’s not the statement you made in the article. The statement you made was that the game does not push an agenda, when it factually does. If you had stated something about the assertion that the writer’s politics had a significant/damaging effect on the game and left it at that, then that would be another thing entirely and more in line with your reply

    This also kind of addresses your later points to an extent, as a position being pushed is purely a question of authorial intent.

    Regarding the whole authorial intent not mattering trend, I can’t speak for other people obviously but I feel it’s kinda bunk. Creative intent needn’t command your own personal interpretation but its something that should be acknowledged and taken into account. For instance I think the Deckard Replicant thing in Blade Runner is the biggest load of horseshit, and that feeling only intensified after reading the book the movie is based on, but that doesn’t change the fact that Ridely Scott wanted that idea to be pushed by the film and is one of the states reasons for the unicorn scene

    I’m actually kinda disappointed to hear that there were rewrites that extensive. You’d think the goal of acquiring a classic IP driven by party based interaction and combat wouldn’t try to mess too hard with the way things handle, but I guess we live in the age of the reboot (or, as is the case with Magnificent Seven, a remake of an adaptation)

    Re: outdated references
    When I say outdated I mean things people are tired of. Many pro, neutral and even anti gg folks are tired of rehashing a 2 year old internet slap fight. The “its actually about ethics” line wore out its welcome pretty quickly. It’s the equivalent of trying to get Minsc to say “swag” or banepost. Actual in-jokes (Rare style) and references to classics would, I should think, go by unmolested.

  • Dindu Nuffin

    Kind of like how Ashley Williams was cautious of alien races, yet hated the “Earth first!” zealots in the original Mass Effect. Only to end up as an outright racist in Mass Effect 3.

    Such a drastic character change is what you get when a different writer takes over. They write how “they” think the characters are, not how they’re actually created in canon.

    I’m still annoyed by that, even today.

  • Galbador

    This is always one of my concerns when I play a continuation of a game, where a beloved character returns… and yes, MEN was a big kick into the balls of all fans.

  • Robert Grosso

    If you can give me one concrete example of an agenda being pushed in-game, we can talk about that as to why you think so. In truth I just don’t see it.

    I also have two of problems with that stance. The first I more or less addressed, where it has nothing to do with the game, and the second is we don’t really know what parts Scott wrote, we can only presume based on interviews and such.

    Like, it’s presumed she wrote Safana, who people don’t like in Dragonspear, including myself, because of weak characterization. What they did was simple, turned her from a cocksure slut character to a sexual attention seeker, which was pretty bad.

    But that’s not pushing an agenda. That’s just bad writing. Can’t it simply be bad writing?

    Look, here is the ultimate point, it’s foolish to presume that the game pushes an agenda based on the beliefs of the person behind it, especially when there is no definitive proof that the game itself does. Do Christian Metal bands push an agenda every time they perform a song, or do they just perform how they see fit, their faith and beliefs not really part of their music in the sense of preaching.

    The point is the assertions of the author or developers in this case have nothing to do with the overall review of the games own merits. Creative intent becomes very convenient in that case when a game is designed; for example the creative intent behind say Hatred is to make a nihilistic shooter that’s “pure.” That has nothing to do with the game’s quality, which is excessively mediocre at best, but people defend Hatred by stating its authorial intent.

    Conversely, people shit on a game like Her Story, where the authorial intent was to be a throwback to classic FMV games and create a mystery based around a single character. Some have used that to dismiss the game as being not a game, along with complaints about the interactivity and narrative and all that.

    The majority of those arguments eventually fall down to mechanics or interpretation, but taking authorial intent into account it also colors the perception of the games. I hate that personally, it has no place in a review. It should be considered sure, but only for editorialization and discussing the themes and intent of the work itself. You know, scholarly stuff.

    For a review, it should be bare.

  • Robert Grosso

    Wait…I don’t recall Ashley Williams being outright racist in Mass Effect 3. When did that happen?

  • Scootinfroodie

    You’ve been given concrete examples, you just don’t accept them

    Additionally, it’s presumed she rewrote that character because she outlined a specific and personal complaint, and said it was the reason the character was re-written. That reason was based on her personal agenda as a self proclaimed SJW. She’s literally stated that she writes from that perspective and doesn’t care if other people feel it’s forced. She literally stated it was their goal to re-write those characters because, in the instance we’re talking about, the character in question was apparently a “sex object”. Either she’s lying for basically no personal gain, and the company has stood by her lying, or she influenced the handling of an established character to match her personal agenda

    If a Christian Metal Band re-purposed say… a Bad Religion song, and basically went “Well we decided to take this song and rewrite it because it wasn’t Christian enough”, and a band member explicitly stated that he likes to preach to people, would you consider that end product to be proselytizing (ignoring the fact that a major part of many Christian Metal bands is honestly preaching)? If a Christian band said they were preaching and didn’t care of people didn’t like it, and the end result included preaching, then why is it bad if I say their goal was to preach? Why would it be okay to say “Well the creator’s intent means nothing, and I didn’t see any preaching, so it actually doesn’t exist and people are just lying about it”

    To again, go over that last statement, your statement wasn’t about the game’s specific merits, it was a statement of fact concerning the creator’s intent. “I didn’t see any preaching” is a subjective statement “There is no preaching” is a statement of fact. When you get into statements of fact you get into the author and the evidence that currently exists

    Hatred’s intent is pretty obvious when you see how needlessly “edgy” it is. Additionally, most people just wanted to play another dark and edgy twin-stick, which is a niche that hasn’t been touched by many companies outside of RWS. Most people I’ve run into agree that it’s pretty mediocre but still enjoyed it (people will also try to defend things from a qualitative standpoint based on their personal preferences as well, and then get confused when I say something I like is qualitatively bad).

    As far as the whole games/not games thing (which is a whole ‘nother can of worms), as much as I hate when people do shit like link Extra Credits as a summary of their opinion, I’m pretty in-line with the Action Points video on the matter. That said, I know pretty much nothing about Her Story as I’m not a fan of FMV games and a number of people whose tastes are almost diametrically opposed to mine seemed to like it

  • Robert Grosso

    Once again, you have provided no counterpoint examples in-game to sway me. I don’t give a damn what Scott said, because in-game Safana didn’t come across as pushing an agenda, and that is one example that is commonly complained about.

    Provide an example in-game at this point, burden of proof and all that which people throw around, and make a case as to why it is pushing an agenda by Scott. Her words or intent mean nothing if the direct results do not translate.

    Otherwise, your semantics argument is simply wasting our time now. I think Scott made a mistake in being so abrasive in interviews, but I don’t think the product suffered because of an agenda.

    That is people trying to push their own narrative in the end.

    And to answer the Christian Band part, no I wouldn’t. Art and all of that is always subjective. If I know the band is writing songs that are trying to preach to people, but if the song is good, why does intent matter when I enjoy the song? Likewise if it’s a bad song, why does intent matter there when I don’t have to listen to it.

    That being said, re-writing songs is copyright, so what you propose is a bad example that is not a one-to-one here with Dragonspear. Beamdog didn’t re-write Safana in the first game, the re-wrote her in a DLC; they also re-wrote everyone in-game in that DLC mind you, and only about half a dozen characters came out rough for wear. A better equivalent would be saying a band wants to make a sequel to a Bad Religion song, and adding their own themes to it.

    Is that ok? Honestly it again depends on quality like I said above. If it’s a good song it’s a good song, and the re-writes being a tribute or openly saying we want to fix the song or whatever doesn’t change the fact it’s a good song. It seems to only change that fact, in the perception of others at least, when it’s a bad song.

    So yes, it would be ok to say their intent doesn’t matter.

  • Scootinfroodie

    Pushing an agenda is not a matter of quality (1984 pushes an agenda, Bad Religion’s music pushes an agenda, I think both of these things are good, but accept that an agenda is being pushed)

    Pushing an agenda isn’t a matter of efficacy (I think Lord of the Flies did a poor job at expressing Golding’s views, but it still expresses the author’s views, the same goes for agendas people want to push)

    You don’t get to just complain about “semantics” whenever definitions don’t work out for you if you’re interested in honest discussion

    Transformative works are a real thing, and IP can be bought. If you seriously think nobody has ever done “their own version” of a song before, you must live under a rock

    You don’t get to just “nuh uh” evidence and still be taken seriously
    Please keep the goalposts in their initial positions

  • Robert Grosso

    Oh they are in the initial position. Like I said, burden of proof at this point is on you. I have been fairly consistent with my argument thus far as to why there is no agenda in the game.

    And yes, I can complain about semantics when that is the only card you have played thus far. Your argument is frankly weak, because it’s predicated on presumption and semantics in the first place to support conclusions you have made. Any evidence given is mostly insubstantial or besides the point, which again is the problem with this discussion- disregard what Scott said and find me an example in-game of Scott’s words.

    You have not provided anything substantial yet with that mandate. Get back to me when you do and i’ll be happy to discuss it of course.

  • Scootinfroodie

    I don’t understand how you can simply not get this. Definitive statements about whether or not a game pushes an agenda are issues of authorial intent. LotR, for example, does not push an agenda, as pushing personal views and prosthelytizing was distinctly not the objective of Tolkien. By making a statement that assumes athorial intent and then demanding that I not use examples of a writer’s statements, you’re arguing from a place devoid of intellectual honesty.

  • Robert Grosso

    Except I made no statement about assuming authorial intent at all, I made a statement that was declarative of the evidence based upon what is in the game. Authorial intent of Scott’s statements does not matter here. Simple as that.

    See, it’s separating the beliefs of the author for a critique of a product, based on the merits of the product itself and not external factors. A lot of good reviews do that in the end; they don’t play to passions or politics, they have parts that are subjective, parts that aren’t, and maybe a bit of poetic waxing thrown in to spice it up, but they spell out for you what issues there really are without worrying about the beliefs of the creators.

    What Scott said sucked frankly, and it’s frustrating because it’s misguided. But what Beamdog made as a product is not some propaganda piece everyone makes it out to be, nor is it agenda pushing in anything but trying to be a video game. If separating those two things are not intellectually honest, well…I don’t know what to say there honestly. Just seems like the only one here with a problem is yourself for looking for some confirmation of their beliefs and not getting it.

    A good review is impartial, a good editorial is a well-reasoned bias that you are working to argue.

    ETA: Look, ultimately this conversation is going to circle in the end. If you really feel I am being dishonest in some way here, I don’t what to tell you in the end other than sorry and that’s that.

  • Scootinfroodie

    This conversation has already gone in circles, as my initial criticism already outlined this. The initial line I called out was one concerning the game definitively not pushing an agenda. Whether or not a work pushes an agenda is a matter of authorial intent. Like I said in my first post, to suggest that there is definitively no agenda being pushed is false, because a writer expressly stated otherwise. Unless you feel that the original comments do not outline an agenda, or that the writer was being misleading, dishonest, or was unaware of her own position, this is simply factual information. To state that the impact of said writer, or the impact of said agenda, is minimal, is a perfectly subjective statement.

    An especially good example of a game that poorly pushes an agenda, by the way, would be Far Cry 3. If the writer’s own statements are to be believed. Far Cry 3 is meant to be commentary on the nature of modern, violent action games. Almost nobody picked up on this, but it’s still a message they’re trying to push on the player. Oddly enough they remedied this by beating the player over the head with their message in Blood Dragon, wherein a single turret sequence is already more than enough to get the point

    To elaborate on the flip side, if I read Lord of the Rings and I get a Pro-Mormon vibe from it, that doesn’t mean LotR has a pro-Mormon agenda. If J.R.R. Tolkien came out and (uncharacteristically) stated that Sauron was representative of Stalin, or that he wanted Lord of the Rings to reflect an anti-Communist message, then he would be pushing an agenda. To extend this a little bit, if his son was a huge Marxist and decided to openly skew one of the characters in The Silmarillion to be a sympathetic Communist Ubermensch, then that is an agenda being pushed by the work, but the entire work does not have to be Communist propaganda. It is still up to the reader how much they want to read into that message, and how much it affects the story for them, but the work having or pushing an agenda is up to whichever Tolkien wrote it. What I find dishonest is the attempt to remove the author’s own statements and views from a statement (game X does or does not push an agenda) that expressly deals with authorial intent.

    What I find frustrating is that this is a really straightforward concept, and has erupted into a week-long essay-length debate
    It’s not a critique of your analysis of the agenda being driven, or of the writing, or how much one affects the other. It’s not a question of quality, what percent of the game is agenda driven, or what other portions of the game were changed and for what reason. It is simply a critique of the definitive statement that there is no agenda, and by extension, the labeling of critics as misleading, misinformed or uncharitably reading into the writing.

    I’ll just leave it at that. I see nothing productive out of either of us attempting to continue the discussion

  • Robert Grosso

    I’ll be honest, after playing the game I think those critics are mislabeling the writing, and I think it’s a case of people buying into the belief that an agenda is being pushed, over the fact that there is none in-game to be had.

    As a definitive statement it should stand I feel, because as I have said, intent should not matter in a review of the product. Tolkien can’t control those folks who argue it’s a communist piece, or an environmental message, or an allegory to World War 2. Tolkien said that all of that is not important himself, and the intent was to offer the readers a historical narrative (which it sort of reads like one sometimes) and nothing more. A lot of that authorial intent came later, and is what is discussed in editorials mostly, not in a critique of the whole work. If we were to critique Lord of the Rings its not really a good book series, but it’s still important because of what it did, and in an editorializing sense, how it captured everyone’s imagination.

    That all being said, you make a fair point as to why intent comes up, and I can name a few games at least where the intent of the game’s mechanics or story does match the intent of the game developers, and without that perspective those games are not as good or may be confusing.

    I can see what value it has, for what its worth, and I will do my best to be a bit more aware of that in the future if that helps any. I still see no value in it as a critique of the work at hand, but I can admit that I may have made a mistake here in some form.