Dragon Age Inquisition
Tea: Black Assam Tea
After what seemed like an eternity I finally managed to finish the main questline in Dragon Age Inquisition. I can spoil one thing right off the bat: it is not short. I never actually played a Dragon Age game before, but after lots of shoving and pushing I sat down with this one. How did this monstrous colossus of a game fare? Is it the next step in the evolution of western RPGs or just another copy-paste affair like the million other derivatives of this genre?
Since I was completely new to this game series world I did a bit of preparatory research and found out that there is a website that shows all your decisions in the past games. These can be modified to create a unique scenario for Inquisition. Problem is I don’t know any of these character or political parties so this feature is only attractive for people who have already played the game and want to start with a specific setting. So I settled for the default world scenario and for the record I played a female Qunari mage. A choice I don’t regret, since it gets away from the classic elf, human, dwarf origins you find in every RPG.
The story revolves around your generated character who is at the wrong place at the wrong time and gets a glowing green hand after shaking hands with a celestial being. Sounds kind of gross when you put it like that… Also there is a huge explosion that kills a lot of people and an evil guy that was apparently believed to be dead in the previous games returns. After that you become the inquisitor. A boy/girl with the power over an army of soldiers, spies, and people with connections to rid the world of evil, but not before you pick a huge load of flowers and collect several mines worth of metals. If there is one aspect that is most prevalent in DAI it is collecting. You press L3 (L3 of all things!) to scan the area and everything you can and should loot is highlighted. Basically the game boils down to wandering through nice or less nice scenery and collecting every petty flower there is. Since for some reason these people of the inquisition can’t build a tower without some flowers. Wood and stone is only needed in small quantities, but flowers must be wheeled in by the tons. Maybe these people have to smoke a lot to come with some of these upgrades, I don’t know.
Aside from picking flowers there is also combat should any enemy get in the way of your flower picking. The mage I played uses a bad pole-dance choreography to fling little bits of fire/ice/lighting at the enemy. And I couldn’t help but feel like I am not doing any decent damage. The attacks lack impact and there is no connection between damage numbers and actual feeling of inflicted damage. Example: I could call down a meteor storm that looks somewhat awesome and do a fair bit of damage. But the magic I used could be spent far better with a small stone fist I can shoot at enemies. That thing messes people up. All the while I am chugging little flames at the enemies to wait for my mana to recharge to shoot another stone fist of god. However, you can switch your character and play as one of your companions if you feel like it. Then you can get a feeling for the other classes and wonder why you didn’t pick that one, then play it for five minutes and switch back to your mage, because at least they have a small bit of variety. Don’t get me wrong the mage was fun to play, but there is so little to do that it feel stale near the end. You level up slowly and new skills don’t really feel like progress, only more tools to get the job done, but not in any exciting way. There is also a tactical mode that stops the time and you can switch between every individual team member and give orders to them directly. This mode is designed for all those with a more strategic approach to combat and the ones that want to pad out the length by about 75%. For me the direct commands did just fine. I am fast enough at reacting to attacks and switching between my party members on the fly. But I suppose it is nice for the game to pause itself, if you happen be 80 years or older and can’t handle a bit of face paced fighting. What I don’t like is not initial dodge button, all you can do to avoid at attacks is walk in a snail’s pace while you’re in combat mode and awkwardly jump around. Once you get the dodge move it is just like every other spell and needs to recharge. Therefore the game becomes more about being able to sustain damage, rather than tactically evade it. Which is sad, because it basically means you cannot engage higher level enemies simply because you and your mates have no effective way of avoiding their attacks.
Speaking of teammates it is probably worth mentioning that most of the time for the game was sunk into that aspect. And it actually turned out rather well. You cast of companions is lively and colourful at its high, but also has some lows. Some characters simply did not click with me and also lacked a bit of inspiration. There is the rough tough guy with a beard that I have never seen before. A bald elf that looks like his hair did not properly load in. A tough warrior girl with a really girly hobby. Not the peak of creative characters, but there should be one for everyone. I can’t expect to be best friends with everyone as some of them are so different you simply cannot sympathise with all of them at once. A fact the game tells you openly. Every choice you make is followed by a little indication of how every one of your teammates views your decision. And while the Iron Bull seemed to agree with all my decision, the bald elf never did. Can’t please everyone, can you. In the end my inquisitor ended up with the elf not-so-elvish lesbian rogue Sera.
There is a managing game aspect where you can send agents to complete different task in the world or open up new areas. To do that you need power, an aspect I am not entirely comfortable with. Power is gained by completing arbitrary task in a region, like closing rifts that spawn demons. I am not entirely sure how this grants the inquisition more power, but never mind. To progress the main story you always need a certain amount of power. The constant need for more power invites you to explore some regions and I’d say that is where the game is at its strongest. Wandering through a new region and exploring with your party while listening to their conversations. But the entire concept seems really awkwardly implemented. I don’t quite grasp what power represents and how it influences my ability to discover new regions. So I close a rift and thus am now able to go to a new zone?
The environments range from pretty and colourful to desolate and lacking. There are some really visually stunning areas, but there are enough desert-type areas with not much in it to bring it down again. Sometimes the game will expect some sick parkour skills from you, not remembering that the jumping mechanic is really lacking. So you need to awkwardly move your way up a mountain, by using dodge magic at the right angle or something along those lines. Let it just be said that this is not good design. The biggest problem, however, is that the enemies never change. No matter what area you are in, the only enemies seem to be bandits and demons. An exceptions are the dragons, they are in the title of the game after all. All in all there are ten dragons in the game. The dragons I did run into posed a nice challenge without being too steep of a climb to handle. The only critique I have is that they feel the same, all ten of them (or rather seven of them I fought so far). They breathe different things, but move and behave very similar if not identical. The locations and colour of their scales vary, but that is about it.
So what is my final verdict for Dragon Age Inquisition? I honestly have a hard time deciding. The game managed to capture me for over 40 hours, but there was nothing that made me go “wow, this is exceptional”. Everything is functional, aside from a few bugs. There is enough to do, arguably too much even. The conversations with your companions are fun if you can get into it, but there is also so much unnecessary dialogue. I feel like I need to read up on a thousand pages of back-lore to fully grasp this game, but the anticlimactic final boss made it all the harder for me to do that. Then there is the fact that the cliff-hanger at the end sets you up for DLC, a part that might as well have been in the main game. Then again I had a lot of fun running around and exploring. My all-time favourite crew was entertaining and fun to be around. DAI is definitely not a game you can just sit down for 30 minutes to play, you must invest in it. If your investment pays off depends entirely on the fact whether you can sympathise with your team members. For every part I liked there was a part I didn’t feel really comfortable with, but in the end I would still recommend DAI to all those who played the previous ones (a needless recommendation I know) and all those who look for a somewhat expansive RPG, but with a tighter focus than the games like Skyrim. At the end of the day, DAI is only as good as you allow it to capture you. If you can accept its flaws there is an exciting world waiting for you, full of demons, dragon, political intrigue, and a massive amount of flowers to pick.
Image sources in order of appearance:
- http://www.cravingtech.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Dragon-Age-Elfroot.jpg (Last date of access: 23.09.2015)
- http://www.google.de/imgres?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fvignette2.wikia.nocookie.net%2Fdragonage%2Fimages%2Fd%2Fdd%2FRiftmage-StoneFist.png%2Frevision%2Flatest%2Fscale-to-width-down%2F270%253Fcb%253D20150330182152&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fdragonage.wikia.com%2Fwiki%2FStonefist_%28Inquisition%29&h=188&w=270&tbnid=mhWZjrIAMyKDuM%3A&docid=lmqSM-TlNgLXvM&ei=DFMCVrqXFsv2UMzqoXg&tbm=isch&iact=rc&uact=3&dur=375&page=1&start=0&ndsp=15&ved=0CCAQrQMwAGoVChMIus3dvc-MyAIVSzsUCh1MdQgP (Last date of access: 23.09.2015)
- http://www.thelittlegamergirl.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/DA-inquisition-1.jpg (Last date of access: 23.09.2015)
- http://www.vgfaq.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Dragon-Age-Inquisition-Kaltenzahn.jpg (Last date of access: 23.09.2015)