As inevitable as the coming tide is Sarah writing a blog post about Dragon Age. I haven’t finished the game yet, but the time has come. I can no longer hold back the flood of fangirlish glee about this game, and anyone foolhardy enough to continue reading will be subject to adoration of the very highest order. Hyperbole, you say?
By Blackwall’s Glorious Beard, I am not even joking. I could go on for zarking days. But those are days I could be spending playing the game.
No really, it is that good. I should say, though it might be obvious, that I was always going to love this game. So my opinion might not hold much weight to some people because of that, but I am capable of recognizing faults even in my most favorite games. I loved Dragon Age 2, but I will admit it was a flawed game, its smallness being one of those flaws. I loved Morrowind even though the combat was ponderous and somewhat un-fun. My love is not blind, is what I am saying, but very accepting.
Let’s get started, shall we? The biggest complaint about DA2, one that I completely agree with, was the recycled environments. But it seems that Bioware took all those complaints and instead of sulking in a corner like a scolded ragamuffin fed them into an engine of creativity and industry that produced one of the largest and most fun worlds to explore I’ve seen since Skyrim or Fallout 3. That’s a comparison that’s been thrown around a lot on Twitter, and it's completely apt. I’ve said multiple times since I first played Knights of the Old Republic and Oblivion that if Bioware and Bethesda got together and had a baby the result would be a product of such awesome it would blow a hole in reality. Dragon Age Inquisition is probably as close as we’re ever going to get to that gleaming entity. Where in some hub-based games the environments are basically placeholders to further the story or receptacles for bad guys, DA:I brings to bear the full force of the Ooh, what’s over there effect. There’s so much stuff to find, gather, fight, climb, look at, and puzzle through. One of my favorite things are the Astrarium puzzles you come across every so often. There’s some valuable loot behind them, but the fun is more in figuring them out. I often find myself torn between exploration and advancing the story.
Which brings me to the next big awesome chunk - the story. When I first started the game, and for the first 20 hours or so (because, as I said… exploration and noodling around happened) I was having a great deal of fun but wasn’t blown away by the story. The beginning started off a little slow in my opinion and almost felt like an excuse to get players to mook around in the world for as long as possible. That may sound like criticism, but its really not. I don’t mind a slow buildup. I’m not all the way through the game, and I will avoid spoilers for the parts I have played. I can say that the first milestone section that really advances the story blew my damn mind. This was partially because of great stage direction, amazing dialogue, and a good bit of remembering events from the past games. For me It came about 20 hours into the game, and I was quite literally flooded with some brain chemical afterwards to the point where my hands were shaking a little. I’m absolutely aching to see what happens next, but I want to pace myself and make the experience last as long as possible. Also I don’t want to get into something too high level for me to take on. This has been a problem because the world is so open you might wander into an area with monsters that will murder you right in the face instantly at your current level. This happened to me a lot the first day and for a while I thought that either I was really bad at the game or it was punishingly hard. But the moment I switched areas I was once again happily sending demons back to the Fade where their janky asses belong.
Something about the story resonates with me as well that I didn’t really expect. In the series there is a religion based on the worship of the “Maker”, and its very analogous of Christianity. Some background on myself - because of various things in my past I find religious themes and discussions uncomfortable and off-putting for the most part. I’m just not a religious person, and I tend to avoid the topic when I can. But the way some of the characters were written is really driving home the power of faith in a way that I never really thought I would understand. Again without spoilers, your character is believed to be the chosen of the Maker by some people and you’re given the choice in your role-play to believe that or not. I decided to make my character a believer, just because I wondered what it would be like to be a faith-filled person. The characters from whom this faith springs did that, and the way they are written is incredibly powerful.
There is a lot of powerful writing in this game, especially in the characters. Each one has their own (quite deep) personality and set of motivations, which is brought to bear in the approval system. In the past games, you could see on a bar graph where you stood with each NPC but in this game that’s removed. The game tells you when someone approves or disapproves of an action, but there’s no visual representation of the change. I kind of welcome this because its closer to reality and helps me obsess less about maxing out approval ratings and treating conversations like mathematical equations. I find myself role-playing more, which makes me feel like my character is a real person. I do miss the Friendship/Rivalry system from DA2 a bit, but I can see why they moved away from it. I’m really afraid though that Cassandra is going to leave me, I keep saying things to piss her off. Plus I’m friends with Varric because who bloody isn’t friends with Varric?
This is getting pretty damn long so I’ll end it there. I would like to talk about some aspects of the game I don’t like as much, because there are some, but I will save that for another time. Suffice to say, if you haven’t bought the game yet, do yourself a favor and hie thee to Origin! Now excuse me while I go play chess with Cullen. Again and again and again.