Commitment Issues, How Risk of Rain Helped Me Play Dragon Age

I started Dragon Age Origins on the 27th of September. Now, three months later on the eve of Christmas, I’ve logged 54 hours in the game (who knows how long of that was just it sitting on pause) and I still haven’t finished it. Three months is a long time to be occupied with any game and although Bioware’s RPGs are renowned for their length, the reasons why Dragon Age Origins has lurked around me for so long goes beyond the sheer dearth of content in it. Any long form medium can be conquered promptly if engaged with persistently. A random passerby may gawk at the ambitious reader who takes on a 1,200 page tome but if that reader consistently sits down with it each night for an hour or two, she’ll be finished with it well before the month is through. Such it is with games. Gamers are used to much longer experiences than other consumers of media. While most people can start and finish a movie in 2 hours, listen to the entirety of an album in an hour or contemplate a painting for 15 minutes, gamers routinely spend 20 hours to consume a title and devour them at an alarming rate. The reason for that is we come back to it night after night. And this is why Dragon Age: Origins has proven itself to be an actual everlasting gobstopper of a video game.

One time when I booted up the game for a session in October, I saw it had been an entire month since the last time I played it. There were certainly moments of free time in October that I could of played Dragon Age and I did want to play it but still it took a month for me to return to it. It had to do with the nature of the game. Dragon Age Origins doesn’t lend itself well to short play sessions. While I may have had a few hours here or there throughout October, if I wasn’t willing to sit down for several hours at once to play, it didn’t feel worthwhile to start. If I only had half an hour to play, I might have enough time to reorganize my inventory and have a conversation or two with some of the companions at base camp before my time was up. These are elements of the game that I enjoy but by themselves do not make for a very satisfying experience. When I did play Dragon Age, I would devour the thing. It would consume the entire day as I dove deeper and deeper into the politics of Fereldin, the tragic childhoods of Alistar and Morrigan and the wilderness of its world. But the opportunities to invest so much time at once in the game were hard to come by.

While I slaved over Dragon Age, I was hesitant to start other titles. I was worried that if it was taking me so long at this rate, I’d never finish it if I got distracted with something else. But as long as I made Dragon Age the focus of my gaming habits, I wasn’t going to be doing much gaming. That’s when I decided to finally bite the bullet. I installed Risk of Rain.

If I was going to play a second game while I worked on Dragon Age, it had to fit a certain profile. It had to be suited for short play sessions. It had to scratch a different itch than Dragon Age.  Preferably it would be action oriented and not require a big commitment. Risk of Rain fit the profile perfectly.

Risk of Rain is a rogue-like shooter, a genre defined by its impermanence. A rogue-like’s emphasis on permadeath and randomized levels made it perfect for single session gaming. And honestly, I don’t think I could bare it for much longer than an hour if I wanted to. I’m not in love with the game but I do find it interesting. At first the tiny scale of everything put me off a little but the art style grew on me and helps sell how big the environments and threats are. Its soundtrack elicits a sense of mystery and, if I dare say, wonder, which compliments the mechanics of exploration and discovery that are core to the rogue-like experience. You slowly unlock new items and characters that will appear on subsequent runs as you play which encourage you to keep coming back to it as well. Overall, I’d say Risk of Rain is just alright. I’m not blown away by it but I still enjoy it. What’s important is the need it fills. While I might not stick with it for too long, I think from this point on I’ll always try to have a less involved game on me as a side arm. Playing great games shouldn’t have to mean playing less games.

Do you usually play multiple games at once? Have any recommendations for side games? Let me know down in the comments


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