Battling Ghosts

From the blogs I read, it seems like BioWare is rarely praised for the intuitiveness of their systems. While I never praise them, I also rarely seem to encounter too many problems (had some complaints about the skill bar in Dragon Age). That is, until Jade Empire; as it is an older game, I imagine BioWare learned a lot about interacting in 3D space with close-combat encounters. This is not really tactical RPG combat, being much more action oriented.

Therefore, it has become increasingly annoying when I run into invisible walls during battle. The first few times this actually resulted in dying, reloading, and scratching my head as to why when I did a back roll, I didn’t go to the place intended, but seemed to hang in the air.

Invisible walls.

I wish to first present a picture of a combat I recently encountered:

A battle scene, my character being at the bottom of the screen, Sky chanting in the upper right, and a ghost preparing a spell in front of my character. We're in an amphitheater shaped space that's actually part of a cemetery.

A battle scene, my character being at the bottom of the screen, Sky chanting in the upper right, and a ghost preparing a spell in front of my character. We're in an amphitheater shaped space that's actually part of a cemetery.

In this picture, the battleground is fairly well indicated. There is a clear demarcation for where the battle’s boundaries lie, and where I cannot go. Instead of having the encounter be part of the actual world, as soon as battle starts, there are boundaries set in place which I cannot cross. Seeing as this is supposed to be about martial arts and close-combat, I can see why they would wish to do such. It is also likely because of limitations in the system itself.

However, when in combat in a field, or a path, having my character run into an invisible wall is not only jarring, but creates problems of actually knowing what my battle situation is. My first thought, upon realizing this was what I was facing, was wondering why they didn’t just have a line that told me where these walls were located. Since battle happens in some fairly open spaces, I don’t expect to have each battleground be as above, where I can clearly understand based on physical objects.

An argument I could see is that it might ruin a sense of immersion, and considering BioWare’s obsession with the ‘cinematic,’ I would not place that too far off what might be possible (though I cannot speak for them, obviously). In opposition, having my character bump into invisible walls, when no such magic spells exist, is even more immersion-breaking. Beyond such, I really fail to understand how this slipped past anyone who played the game, unless they were expecting everyone to constantly be fighting, and never goading opponents and reassessing situations.

In general, the combat in this game feels a bit weak. It may well be just because I’m playing the PC version, but the camera has some rather egregious issues as well. I’ve found myself circling an opponent to suddenly have the camera stuck behind a wall, or hanging lantern, which creates all manner of panicked reactions depending on my health and the position in which I last saw the opponents.

As for the skills themselves? It’s been an amusing time figuring out what works against which opponents (it helps to read the scrolls littered about the world, which give you information as regards such), however, once I figure it out, the difficulty seems to have stopped scaling, leading me to consider them the least interesting part of the game (outside of the schmup mini-game).

There are things I truly do enjoy about the game, however, and I’ll be discussing those in another post (and on other blogs).

About Denis Farr

Writer interested in intersectionality, games, comics, nerdy stuff in general, theater, and how it all mixes. Graduate of Wabash College, with studies in Theater, English, German, and Gender Studies.
This entry was posted in Camera, Combat, Design and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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