Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Console Commands: The Gateway Drug

The developer's console is a great tool that allows you to play around with game mechanics. You can activate cheats like "god mode," manipulate settings in the environment like gravity, adjust your stats, or even fix broken content like a glitched NPC. It's fun just because it empowers you to control the game more. However, it still amounts to cheating in most cases, and isn't something that's really recommended on a first playthrough unless it's really essential. Because once you start using it for one, specific purpose, you can't stop yourself from fiddling with everything else.

In my current playthrough of Dragon Age, I discovered that one of my skills lied to me when I bought it. I thought it was a badass healing spell that would keep radiating minor heals at the cost of a lower total mana pool. After playing through several prolonged fights in a major dungeon, I noticed that my healer was constantly out of mana. Then I checked some forums and learned that the spell drains mana constantly while activated, when the description never mentioned anything about that. 

I'd been playing for several hours by the time I noticed this, so reloading an earlier save was out of the question. Especially since I probably overwrote any previous save. Normally I would've just cut my losses with a useless spell, but I felt deceived and wanted a do-over. So I activated the console in order to manually remove that spell and give myself a different one. Next thing I knew I was justifying removing other spells I didn't use in favor of new spells, trying to perfect my character build.

Then I got tired of constantly meta-gaming, formulating the optimum order to do things so that I can get the most efficient loot. Loot scales to your level, so it's better to wait until later to get it, but if you wait too long then you'll be stuck with low-level gear. If you wait too long then you're so near the end game that you don't get time to properly enjoy your gear. So then I looked up the script to give myself money so that I could just pay to upgrade my armor without the hassle of the run-around.

Naturally, this ruins the game balancing and detracts from the satisfaction of the challenge. It's pretty fun to be an overpowered god, but the thrill wears off quickly, so I'm trying not to go too far with the cheats. But at 63 hours and counting in this long, long game, I'm ready to be done with it, and that winds up as further justification to keep using the codes to help me get through it faster.

I find it interesting that I fell into this predicament just by the simple fact of activating the console. I did it for a specific, innocent purpose, and then the power corrupted me. 

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