Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Dragon Age Inquisition

Played on: Playstation 4
Release Date: November 18, 2014

I was late to the party on this one. Like a lot of people, I was incredibly bored with Dragon Age 2 and wasn't quite ready to come back to Ferelden until summer of 2015.

I was pulled in almost immediately. All the role playing systems and great Bioware writing was in tact.

There was a rich varied world that I wanted to explore, NPCs and party members that I wanted to learn more about, and so many codex's expertly written.

What I didn't like

Where the game suffers is in the padding. EA has done a phenomenal job of listening to the internet idiot club the past couple years and have really strived to give gamers what they want. Unfortunately, gamers calling for a massive RPG means EA had to find a way to make a ton of quests to keep you running around the hub areas.

Requisitions require you to find a certain amount of raw materials to build caravans or tents or geological surveys. Once I understood that these were infinite and I didn't need to go out of my way to fulfill them, these missions were fine. You just pick up raw materials as you play the game and every now and then you could trade them in for some experience and gold.

The Astrariums are nice little puzzles where you must complete a constellation by connecting dots to form whatever shape it's supposed to be. I didn't mind these at first, but as a completionist I felt like there were both too many and several were too hard to get to. I'd find myself walking a circle around a mountain trying to find a way up.

The worst padding quest was searching for shards. You would have to go into this view finder (oculara) and just sort of pan back and forth across the map looking for reflection of light off the shards. Then the shards were marked on your map and you have to walk over to pick them up.

Often times you would clear out an area of the map, find an oculara, and then have to go back to the empty part of the map to pick up shards. I didn't come near completing this quest line as I was bored.

And possibly the most damning part of this game were the glitches I experienced during the end game. I was playing the last mission, confronting the antagonist, the music was swelling... and all sound disappeared. Then after he spoke a few lines, all the subtitled dialogue stopped until I pressed the skip button.

Eventually all animations stopped, but I could keep skipping forward. And then when I got control of my party again, we were frozen in place, but the background assets kept moving.

I closed the game, re-opened, and everything worked fine on the second play-through.

Minor Spoiler: And like Mass Effect, there's a part at the end of the game where you walk around and talk to each of your party members and sort of get a "good-bye" from them. I like this idea in theory, but feel like it could happen more naturally during end game missions.

What was OK

RPG combat has been a source of debate for as long as I can remember. Are menu driven systems like JRPGs the way to go? Is Bethesda onto something with their bad FPS combat? Did KOTOR's pause and let you issue commands work best?

Dragon Age Inquisition follows a modified version of what KOTOR did. You have the option to pause anytime you go into combat and issue commands, but fights rarely required this. You and your party could take care of most enemies just by spamming buttons and healing at the right time.

Dragon Age seems to fall on the too simple side with the melee combat, the too weak side with the archers, and the too complicated with magic users.

I primarily played a melee sword and shield type. I unlocked most of the various moves I had early on and spent most the late game unlocking background numbers to make my guy just about invulnerable. Combat in this game consisted of me hitting one of two rush melee attacks to quickly get to the enemy and then watching the cool down on the various shield bashes and multi-sword slash moves.

The few times I took control of the arrow wielding characters, I found their moves mostly unsatisfying. However, as a support NCP, they were great. Most their arrows caused some sort of poison or hindrance to the enemy.

And any time I took control of a magic user, I felt overwhelmed. The magic users were the only ones I managed to fill every single move slot with something and besides the element that the magic used, I had no idea what spell they were about to fire off.

Basically, the combat was decent. There was enough strategy to it as a melee person and the other archetypes were great support characters to round out the party.

What I did like

The character writing in Dragon Age Inquisition was great. Really reminded me of the high notes of Mass Effect. You end up loving about half the party, hating half the party, but you know that there's a mission that would explain why someone acted out as a know-it-all or a jerk. You knew there was something that could redeem them.

Every character had at least 2 loyalty missions and an ungodly amount of dialogue trees you could go through.

The environment context conversations were great too. If you brought an elf with your to an ancient elven ruin, they'll talk about how you're mistreating ancient magic. You bring a Warden to fight some Dark Spawn, he'll cheer with glee.

Probably the strongest point of the game was the mission Wicked Eyes and Wicker Hearts where you have to navigate the Orlais leaders through mostly charisma checks and sneaking. It's interesting to see the game the nobles are playing against each other.

I wish that I knew what this mission entailed because I would've brought better party members. I built my party for combat using several members that don't have anything important to say.

Final Thoughts

I ended Dragon Age Inquisition at around 49 hours played at level 20. I felt fulfilled. Really, I would've traded in about 5 hours of fetch quests just to make the game a little tighter.

The ending is weird as it goes into some of the DLC involving one of the weaker characters in the game. Had I not felt a little burned out by the end of the game, I may have bought the DLC.

EA made good on most the things fans wanted. I had as much fun playing this as I had playing the original Dragon Age. Although the controller worked well for the PS4, this game still feels like a PC game at heart. If it wasn't for my stubborness with not downloading EA Origin because I don't want another wrapper on my computer, I probably would've played it there.

Rating: Buy It.

This is both a great game to delve into a deep story and a great game to put on some podcasts while you complete side quests.

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