Pointless Nonsense

Posted in video games by Bill on December 7, 2014

da-iDragon Age: Inquisition is the third game in the Dragon Age series, which I told myself I wasn’t going to play until it was cheap, but apparently I lied to myself and bought it with just enough time to download and activate it right at midnight for its release.

It’s really good, but I can’t imagine playing it without having played the first two. Three companions from the first one appear (or maybe two, if you played it differently), one from the second, plus the player character from the second. Lots of plot threads are continued, and I think a lot of the world history of templars and mages, grey wardens and darkspawn, archdemons and old gods, would make it all a bit much to just jump into.

It picks up from the framing device of DA2 with Cassandra teaming up with Leliana (with Varric in tow) to go do some stuff in response to the mage rebellion. The head of the chantry had a big meeting to try to settle some stuff between mages and templars, but someone tore a hole in the sky to blow her and most everyone there up. There’s now a giant tear in the universe and it’s causing more tears all over Thedas. You play a guy who has the unexplained ability to fix these tears, and Cassandra and company plan to use you to save the world and fix some problems with the chantry while they’re at it.

The story and characters are the strong suit. A few of the choices you have to make are kind of soul-crushing. And the voice actors are excellent. Except I don’t care for Freddie Prinze Jr as the Qunari dude, but I’m guessing he’s a nice guy and likes these games and if I was Bioware I’d put him in my games too (I’m sure he mentions them on his twitter or whatever and so his presence pays for itself). But he’s just not right for a Qunari. They’re kinda like Klingons. And that’s not really Freddie Prinze Jr to me at all.

The romance is the only thing I’d call a failure. Which is not to say it was poorly done, just that it failed, unlike the previous two games, to cater to my tastes. In the previous two games, I instantly knew my preferences. Morrigan and Isabella, no question. But in both cases, the other options grew on me eventually too (Leliana and Merrill), though not enough to change my mind. In this one, I went with Josephine, who is fine, but not very interesting, over Cassandra, who is also fine and not very interesting but I don’t like her accent. No regrets with my choice, except wishing I had better options. I’d have preferred scout Harding, arcanist Dagna, the elf girl who did creature research at Haven, Morrigan (even though she’s still in love with my dude from the first one), Leliana, or even Vivienne even though her opinions are abhorrent because her voice actor is awesome. I had no problems with the characters of Cassandra and Josephine in general, in fact I liked them both quite a bit, they just didn’t really make me want to have my character bang them.

Previous games had broken the world up into a series of zones, with small to medium size areas to explore in each zone. This one still breaks the world up into zones, but some of them are huge. The main one you unlock first, Bioware had to tell people “it’s ok to leave” on their twitter account because people were spending days just in that one zone, and then complaining that it was monotonous. The areas are so big that they feel a lot like the Bethesda games I’ve played (Fallout 3/NV, Skyrim). In some respects that’s good, but also that means a ton of time is spent trying to get up a mountain, either by running halfway up a slope only to find that it’s too steep to climb, or by circling around in 3/4 of the way to find the path up. I say forget realism, and just have the map point you to the right pathway up somehow.

The graphics were really impressive, for a minute. But seeing as how I haven’t upgraded my cpu, memory, or graphics card in almost four years, my desktop was basically right at the minimum system requirements. Despite the inferior video card, it turned out my laptop played the game more smoothly (though it lacks the SSD, which meant some lengthy load times). I still had to dial the graphics settings down quite a bit. Mental note to upgrade my desktop in time for the next Fallout or Mass Effect game, which I’m guessing one or the other will be out in 2016 or so?

The save import process is weird. I thought it would be much improved, and maybe it will be going forward. But for now, it gathers some information from your Bioware account, but mostly needs you to answer a bunch of questions about what you did in previous games. Which, it’s often hard to remember which option you chose for the little stuff. Also, the interface is terrible and I screwed it up the first time and I had to restart about 30 hours in when I was able to confirm that the world’s history didn’t match what I’d put on the thing. But with the game doing cloud saves to your Bioware/Origin account, I have to assume this won’t be a thing in the future. Since they can just import save games from their own servers. Though presumably the next Mass Effect game will have the same Q&A thing. Hopefully better designed, though.

The combat is very similar to DA:II. The focus is on a skill tree rather than stats (though of course there are stats), and your active skills are limited by both mana/stamina and a refresh time. The tooltips kept describing some sort of combo concept, but I never picked up on any indication that one had been successfully done. Still, the skill focus means you’re busy choosing which skill to activate when during combat, which makes it pretty entertaining. Having 10 different high dragons to find, if you’re willing to deviate from the main storyline a lot to buff up, was pretty cool. Especially since very early on, this game totally triggered my completionist instinct, and I ended up finishing just about every quest I got (I had one that was bugged, and then a couple things where you’re supposed to collect these things from all over the world, which either requires spending countless hours searching everywhere on in the world, or cheating and looking up the locations online and still spending a really long time).

There are some weird interface things. You can press a key to search the surroundings for items to interact with, and it plays a sound and highlights the item when there is one. Which sort of sounds nice in theory, less time spent poking into every corner looking for stuff. But what actually ends up happening is that you’re pressing that key every 2 seconds for the entire game. And you hear the sound and then stand in a circle spinning around trying to figure out what it is that triggered the sound. And the highlight is in a pale yellow, which didn’t offer much contrast in the desert or snowy areas.

Anyway, excellent game. It’s totally weird that in my gaming peak I played FPSes and RTSes almost exclusively, but now as a casual gamer it’s mostly these big story-driven RPGs.

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