Finishing my adventure in Inquisition, and thinking back on Dragon Age.

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Marokai

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Edited By Marokai
The mark isn't even on the Inquisitor's right hand. What the fuck.
The mark isn't even on the Inquisitor's right hand. What the fuck.

Disclaimer: I spoil everything because that's how I roll. If you want to read my experiences with Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age 2, you can check here and here.

I don't know why I find myself so incensed by the Dragon Age series, sometimes.

I've never viewed Dragon Age: Origins as if it were perfect; as if it were Bioware's magnum opus, as so many do. I was never a hard-as-balls PC-style fantasy RPG guy at pretty much any time in my life. Yet I find myself personally invested in Dragon Age, and watching as it has evolved since 2009. Is it because Bioware's identity crisis has been so sad to watch? That has to be why. Watching as the spirit and the structure of the series has so radically evolved from where it started years ago is almost the easiest way to see why so many people have fallen off the Bioware bandwagon, particular since the EA acquisition.

I remember Dragon Age: Origins as something flawed, that I loved perhaps more than it deserves in much the same way I feel about the original Mass Effect. There's issues, a section or two of the game that is a horrible slog (The Fade comes to mind) but overall it is a wonderful introduction to a dark fantasy universe, with a great style, mood, and lore that could be built on in a very similar way to the Mass Effect series over time. But then Dragon Age 2. Never have I personally experienced such a steep decline in a video game series after such a promising first entry. Short, sloppy, and copy-pasted, where each side of the conflict is a psychopath, a creator's pet that doesn't get called out like he deserves, and encounter designs far below its predecessor. Dragon Age went from being this hopeful, awesome thing to being a tragic example of how executive meddling and trying to play to a larger audience can completely tank your series in an instant.

Inquisition was meant to be the make-good. The game where, after Dragon Age 2 and Mass Effect 3, Bioware realized it had one last shot to prove to their long-time fans and supporters, as well as the critical establishment, that they could still bring their A-game. That they had style, grace, and gave good face. It being my first meaty new-console experience on the PS4, I had high hopes.

Beautiful zones don't make up for the fact that they're mostly populated by busywork.

All the areas in Inquisition look super nice.
All the areas in Inquisition look super nice.

The first thing you recognize when you enter the open world is that Dragon Age: Inquisition is gorgeous. Even if nothing more than an a first introduction to a new console, there is worth in Inquisition. Zones, character models, battle effects - from top to bottom Inquisition is one of the better looking games I've seen so far. Who says consoles are shitty? The Emerald Graves in particular is one of the best looking areas I've probably ever seen in a video game period.

All of this wore off within a few hours, though, when I realized how little there was to do of worth in these areas. Most sidequests consist of collecting notes to go read more notes. Reading notes to go kill bandits. Eavesdropping on someone to discover something that's upsetting them so you can go off and be problem-solver-man completely unbeknownst to them ala Mass Effect 3. Fade rifts are an Oblivion-gate level of monotonous, and generally just serve as something that gets in your way. For example, in the Hinterlands, one of the earliest missions in the game is to go talk to a stablemaster so you can procure a supply of horses for the Inquisition. Right by that person's farm is a fade rift surrounded by level 12 monsters that basically make doing a couple of quests in the area almost impossible.

The bland design of the zones continues though. There are very few caves or proper dungeons to be found. Almost no NPCs exist in the world that you can just happen across. There aren't really any dynamic events in the zones to speak of at all, really. Each zone only really has one "major" questline to be done there - mainly serving as your justification for unlocking the area to begin with - but there is so little production value associated with these quests Inquisition does a very poor job selling the events as all that serious. With very few conversations, and 90% of the exposition given in text boxes, it's hard to form much of an attachment to the conflicts. Most of what takes up space on any given map that isn't directly related to the main story are these three things: Closing fade rifts. Collecting shards. Setting up camps. Aside from those, most areas are pretty much empty.

You can send your advisers off on missions, but these are blatant padding.
You can send your advisers off on missions, but these are blatant padding.

What is especially frustrating about the lack of in-depth things to do in the overworld, however, is the fact that there are so many great ideas for sidequest plots on the War Table back at your base. Between Josephine, Leliana, and Cullen, you can send your operatives off on missions to collect resources, build influence, solve disputes, etc, but this is only presented as a text box and a timer. That's it. Instead of collecting shards in the Hinterlands, why not make "Track down the remaining Seekers" a thing that I actually do myself and have any agency in beyond watching a clock tick down.

Even Operations like "Collect resources in the Hinterlands" would've been more useful as a sidequest you get yourself from, I don't know, the alchemist that has his own building at the Inquisition base? You know, the guy that does basically nothing?

Toward the end of the game, I was doing my best to get as many companion quests as possible because, as you do in a Bioware game, you want to get to know your party members and see their personal stories. Cole asks me to obtain an amulet for him that can protect him from mages that seek to do him harm, and after that short cutscene "Operation: Obtain Amulet For Cole available at the table in the War Room" pops up. I'm fucked, because I have hours (!) left on my advisers being all tied up in various operations already. Because there is no personal agency in these sidequests for your own companions beyond initiating a timer in the War Room, I am left with the decision of continuing on to see the ending segments of the game, go waste my time doing busywork I don't want to do just so I can pass the time, or put the game down. That should never be the case.

I was later informed I can skip through the Operation timers by adjusting the PS4's system clock. Shame I didn't know then.

Okay sure, but what about the story?

Corypheus isn't a great villain, and you barely interact with him at all.
Corypheus isn't a great villain, and you barely interact with him at all.

The setup for Inquisition is more or less the fallout of the events of Dragon Age 2. The Templars and Mages conflict has escalated to outright war, and to avoid tearing multiple countries apart, the head of the Chantry, Divine Justinia, gathers a huge peace talk conference in the hope of ending the war and restoring order. Then the whole thing gets blown up, various chains of command are thrown into chaos, and there's a huge rift in the sky. You're the only one with the power to close the rifts that have formed, and you're tasked with figuring out who did this and why, with the hopes of restoring peace to Thedas as Divine Justinia had hoped.

As a premise it's fine. Before long, you run into an ancient Tevinter magister named Corypheus, who seeks to physically enter the Fade with the goal of becoming a God to guide the world into a new, orderly future, as he traveled for ages before realizing all of the Gods have seemingly left us behind. He is the reason a massive rift opened in the sky, and why you have the mark on your hand, and needs to eliminate you for getting in the way.

Here's the rub: Corypheus is boring. Your initial confrontation with him during the destruction of Haven is more or less all you'll get from him throughout Inquisition's runtime, and things never really escalate from there. Final Fantasy XIII gives more screentime to its villains than Inquisition. After this point, you actually spend most of the game easily foiling his plans time and time again. Corypheus isn't exactly a particularly threatening or effective villain to pin your game's main story on. There's honestly so little to say about him because the game does almost nothing with him beyond his stated goals from the beginning.

This camera angle during one of the exposition dumps was unfortunate...
This camera angle during one of the exposition dumps was unfortunate...

Eventually you uncover that he has discovered the secret for effective immortality, but this reveal doesn't really have much weight to it considering that he's been swiftly defeated at every turn and more or less the entire world is against him.

One of the tragedies of this is that once Corypheus enters the picture, the tension on the Mage vs. Templar story gets completely thrown out. All of the build-up - which was the only true highlight of Dragon Age 2 - is thrown under the bus for yet another generic villain who wants to be God. Don't misunderstand me, I'm not one of those "tropes are bad" people, but Corypheus is never fleshed out, and his plan remains roughly the same regardless of all the times the Inquisition beats him. By the end, Corypheus' arc ends with a whimper. The Templar and Mage conflict had real nuance and tension set up for it over the course of two games, but the book is closed on this pretty early in the game.

Companions remain interesting characters and fun to talk to though, in true Bioware style, even if they suffer more here due to the presentation. Determining your affinity with them is vague (this is the frustrating result of all those people that whined about the affection meter from Origins) and it's difficult to determine when they actually have something worthwhile to say - a problem that Mass Effect 2 solved years ago. When they're finally ready to entrust you with a companion mission, these are usually given in the form of War Room Operations as opposed to something you actively go and do with them, with few exceptions. It's a very detached and impersonal way to approach what is supposed to be the culmination of the trust you have built up with these people after your adventure, and I think it would be difficult to spin this as anything other than an inferior approach than Bioware's previous games.

Have all the edges been rounded off Dragon Age over time?

I like Dorian a lot, even if aspects of his character are a little heavy-handed.
I like Dorian a lot, even if aspects of his character are a little heavy-handed.

I noticed something early on during my time with Inquisition: Noticeably less cursing and generally foul language. Then I started thinking "There has been way less blood than I remember. This world is a lot brighter and colorful than I remember Dragon Age being, too. What's up with that?"

It's hard to believe at this point, but back in 2009, Dragon Age: Origins was being advertised with trailers set to Marilyn Manson music and they were playing up how this was going to be a return to dark, dirty fantasy. The crapsack world of Origins largely reflects this, with liberal use of cursing and blood, plain-looking characters who look like they've seen some shit, sprinkled to taste with betrayal. Hostility with your party members was a much bigger deal. Dragon Age at that time was never meant to be pleasant, and definitely not meant to have whimsy.

@oldirtybearon, who I consider a friend of mine on these forums, when we were talking about Inquisition elsewhere, said that he felt like Dragon Age in general has been "Disney-fied." I don't know if I'd go that far with it, but I see why he thinks that. A lot of the shit and mud has been sort of bred out of the series with time. The world is more bright and filled with color, the art-style has undergone a lot of changes since Origins to make everyone look generally prettier, and even though things like "persistent gore" remain an option in the settings, there's not much need for it. Even Morrigan's power-hungry hostility has been tamed to where she's now just kind of a snarky MILF has opposed to being cut-throat. Dragon Age has undergone a serious attitude adjustment since Origins.

These days though, I look back on that Manson trailer, and boy it's fucking cringey. Like, it would make me laugh if a publisher released something like it today beccause it's so over the top and silly sounding - complete with sexy Morrigan to tick all the boxes - that, yes, I see why I wouldn't want to go back. But it is for this reason among others that I can see why a lot of people that probably comprised the core of the Dragon Age fandom in its early days have jumped ship to The Witcher. I'm not entirely unsympathetic. I agree that a lot of the rough edges of this series don't seem to be there anymore, probably out of a desire to chase The Wider Audience, but regardless of the cause it has made the series' personality a bit more generic.

Here's the last thing I'll say about this: Bioware has this thing where they love including some form of social commentary, even if their attempts at this are never, uh, subtle. I liked Dorian just fine in Inquisition, and he was my romantic interest of choice, but Zevran from Origins has always been my favorite character in Dragon Age as a whole because of how matter-of-factly his sexual desires are framed in his introductory conversations:

Zevran: I grew up amongst Antivan whores, men and women both. My introduction to the subject of sex was, shall we say, rather practical.

Clean, easy, adult, all business. When it comes to sex there's no melodrama about his identity. Bioware isn't very good about this most of the time when it comes to the male/male relationships. Kaidan in Mass Effect 3 is the sappiest romance story that young adult literature would say is too cheesy, and the less said about Cortez from the same game, defined almost entirely by weeping over his husband, the better. Dorian runs into this similar issue when you eventually find out his family was literally going to attempt gay conversion therapy via blood magic. It's the sort of thing that elicits "Oh come on, seriously?" In the end Dorian remains a really good character who I hope is in the next game (considering the likelihood of it taking place in Tevinter) but I'd like Bioware to make their gay romances a little less "coming out story."

In the end I genuinely ask: Why do *you* like Dragon Age: Inquisition?

Knight-Enchanter was fun, if OP.
Knight-Enchanter was fun, if OP.

Dragon Age: Inquisition is fine.

In the immediate aftermath of finishing it, I actually thought I was going to say "Yeah, that's a solid 4/5 I guess." After I started thinking about how I would put those thoughts in writing, however, I began to realize that I couldn't possibly justify that. Each time I would tell myself I liked something, a nagging voice in my head would lay out the argument for why it wasn't as good as I thought it was. My boyfriend suggests that makes me too hard on things, and maybe he's right.

Look, Inquisition is technically competent and lovely to look at. The voice acting is some of the best of the series. There is still pleasure in chatting with all your companions, exploring dialogue options, and diving deeper into the Dragon Age universe. This game is at its best when you properly feel like a leader, sitting on your throne judging criminals, solving disputes. Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts - the section wherein you play cloak and dagger at a grand ball in Orlais - is a fantastic segment of this game that I love. I think, in general, the combat of this game isn't as bad as people make it out to be, and let's face it, the combat in Origins wasn't perfect either. Despite the failings of the tactical camera, I began to see what other people see in playing on a higher difficulty. A lot of those fights can be fun, with the right abilities. I think Inquisition is, on the whole, better than Dragon Age 2.

But still, when I think of the main story, I remember a villain that you barely interacted with, and whose agency is utterly undermined by the twist post-credits scene that goes on to render Corypheus as nothing but a pawn on Solas' chessboard. I remember huge open areas filled with sub-MMO-tier side content, most of whom were completely detached from the main narrative. I remember thinking "Man, all of these plots on the War Table that could've been amazing sidequests instead." From any other series, and any other developer, this game might have been a pleasant surprise, but as a flagship game from Bioware, it's fine.

So this is where I ask: Why do a lot of people like this game as much as they do? What am I not seeing? Inquisition won Game of the Year from multiple places, including Polygon, Game Informer (their endorsement includes the line "Everything you do contributes to your progression" like this is a novel concept), and The Game Awards. The PS4 version sits at an 89 on Metacritic. I don't understand. I don't ask this to be snarky, I mean it sincerely, what about the story impressed people? What about the combat impressed people? Was it literally just that it was a chill open-world to run around in that also happened to look really good? Was 2014 that bad, and I've just forgotten? I honestly hope I haven't become this out of touch.

I'm still looking forward to the next Mass Effect. I love that series as a whole too much to let this get me down.

If-I-Had-To-Give-It-A-Rating-I-Guess: 3 / 5 Total Playtime: 50-ish Hours

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StarvingGamer

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#1  Edited By StarvingGamer

Hi, it's me, the guy who took Witcher 3 off his GotY top 10 list because he played all the DA:I DLC in one go then tried jumping back into The Witcher 3 to try and play their DLC. Oof.

Honestly, it's the world and characters more than anything. I'm a weird sort of player. I love lore but often don't have the patience to read codices and the like so DA is fantastic for me because so much of that information is disseminated through your companions. That single design element makes the Bioware games feel so much more lived in than most anything else I've played. Yeah the environments are sorta hokey, but I've been playing RPGs for a long fucking time so I'm used to thinking of them as abstracts rather than actual representations of anything. It might have a lot to do with my theater background, but game worlds are basically stages to me so I'm right there with my suspension of disbelief ready to see the intent before the reality.

I'll admit that the DA series is edging towards having the "dark" tag removed from its fantasy genre classification, at least in terms of presentation, but that doesn't invalidate all those elements that were more explicitly on display in DA:O. They're still there, just more often hinted at rather than bandied about in front of the player. I can buy that because hey, it's a big world and maybe the Inquisitor just didn't rub up against as much of it as the Warden, what with her focus being on commanding an army while sequestered in an isolated mountain castle. I do hope that the next game dirties it up again because Tevinter sounds like a fucking fucked place to live.

Which brings me back to the lore. I am fucking EXCITED to play the next DA game because shit is NUTS. A dwarf that can use magic? Lyrium is actually the blood of unfathomably large creatures living in the earth? Solas is gonna fuck the world to fix the elves? What does it mean that my Inquisitor will be less susceptible to corruption but less effective in fighting Solas because she disbanded the Inquisition? What is Divine Victoria née Leliana going to do to unfuck the Chantry while secretly working with the Inquisitor? WE'RE GOING TO TEVINTER!

Also I'm a weirdo that enjoys MMO-style cooldown-management combat so hey, another plus for me. I wouldn't mind a return to the much more tactical style of DA:O but I wonder if that might not become tiresome in environments as large as they were in DA:I.

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IVDAMKE

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#2  Edited By IVDAMKE

Good write up, your opinion from what I've seen reflects the general consensus of a lot of forum goers both here at GB and on other boards.

It's good you enjoyed the other characters though, because I certainly as hell didn't. I thought the only interesting and non-obnoxious character was Dorian he had sass, every other character felt like they were drawn from a series of bullet points. I always had trouble deciding what other characters to take along with me it was always Dorian and "2 other people that fill RPG stat/skill roles." This resulted in me for the first time ever in an RPG actually dismissing characters and ignoring their quests entirely. I actually told Cole to fuck off because he was such a lame character I just simply didn't want him in my game. I've never done that before, I've never had an experience where I thought a character was so bad that I would deny myself content of the game because of it.

Your point about the War Table missions was interesting though. I never really thought about that myself and haven't seen it expressed before. It's actually a fantastic idea and now that you've said that it makes me even more disappointed with the pseudo-open world, because they could've just kept the structure like Origins and used those missions from the war table as actual quests like you said. That would've been a far better game.

And to address your question "Why do a lot of people like this game as much as they do?." I'll say what I think is the biggest culprit, 2014 was a terrible year for video games. People just wanted to like something that year and the flashy visuals and grand scope of the game was just enough to convince them. There were standouts in my view that were much better games but one of them was a Wii U exclusive and the other was disregarded because of a visual downgrade. I'll also add there's a section of the Bioware fandom that is much like the Blizzard fandom, a group of people that will only play games by that company and refuse to even try anything else. They sing their games praises all the time without having even experienced what else the industry has to offer.

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ArbitraryWater

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#3  Edited By ArbitraryWater

A quality write-up, if I do say so myself!

I'm one of those people who really likes Dragon Age Origins, to the point where I'd say it's Bioware's second best game of the modern era behind Mass Effect 2. It's not without flaws, and I bet parts of it don't hold up as well when compared to some more recent CRPG throwbacks (Pillars of Eternity, for example) but that game came out at the right time in the right place for me and I still hold it as a classic of the last decade. And then Dragon Age II came out and was this stripped-down, consolized thing that I sort of like because of how weird it is but don't think is actually a good game.

That leads me to Dragon Age Inquisition. I haven't finished it. Not even close. It's sort of... well, it's basically everything I hate about modern RPG design. I'll save the rant for my own inevitable blog when I force myself to go back, but I feel like everything in DA: I is a focus-tested checklist of "What is currently hot with the kids right now? Open Worlds? Okay, we'll put an open world in our game. What do we put in that open world?" and then sort of stopped there before wondering if most of the content in their game was actually any fun to play. I'm not going to make a ton of broad, sweeping generalizations for why I think it did well with critics (and audiences, apparently!), but I will say that my opinion is seemingly not-uncommon among the communities that tend to back kickstarters for "Old School" RPG throwbacks.

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Humanity

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I never really understood the "busywork" "MMO" quest argument. I feel like most if not all RPG games have those very same quests, they just do a slightly better job at dressing them up to hide the bones underneath. Inquisition just cut out the middleman. You get quests from people, you satisfy the requirements and you get rewarded instantly upon completion without the needless drudgery of the typical back and forth legwork. I preferred that to the long preamble associated with even the most benign quests in other games and the need to go back to the quest giver so you can have several more lines of dialog about the importance of the 5 herbs you just handed in to an NPC you will never interact with again.

Sure that preamble is largely what RPGs are all about. It's about building the world and character relations, but I never really got much of that from those throwaway sidequests.

I completed Origins and thought it was ok. A very oldschool type of game where the difficulty curve was terribly lopsided and imbalanced, and the storytelling very hit or miss depending on your attachments to the setting. I only mention this in passing to say I played "the best one" and found it a decent game. Similarly to your feelings about Inquisition I just didn't understand how some people might have thought it was an amazing game with the amount of pretty bad quests and pacing mixed in with the good. So as a person that really did enjoy Inquisition quite a bit, why did I think it was good? Well because it flowed. There was a very good RPG-ish gameplay loop present of constantly upgrading your character, your equipment and progressing your various quests.There were plenty of side systems to engage with that I actually enjoyed. The personal companion side quests were really good at fleshing our the backstories of these people who are supposed to mean something to you, and by the end of the game in various degrees they all did. When out in the world it felt like there was always one more thing to do, one more piece of ore to get so I can craft that new staff that I really want for my mage. As a person that simply gets lost in virtual dress-up, Inquisition was like the perfect drug. I'm not sure how many actual in-game hours I spent customizing the looks and gear of all my companions - and I loved it.

The combat was different sure. I missed doing some of my favorite spell combos from Origins. Freezing one enemy and then bashing them with a power hit from my warrior to see them shatter into tiny pieces was always incredibly satisfying and it also meant an instant kill in a game that didn't play around with overwhelming odds. In comparison Inquisition was fairly weak in that regard. There were spell/skill crossover combos that I used but they felt weak and awkward to actually setup. That said, I dunno, after a while I grew to enjoy the weird new rhythm it took on. Busting down enemy armor so I can utilize my spells was fun. Fighting the dragons was exciting if only for the spectacle. I can see how hardcore RPG buffs were put off by this new direction. Personally I loved the combat in Mass Effect 1 and was severly disappointed by the direction it took in Mass Effect 2. I still thought ME2 was a great game though. Similarly I think Inquisition is also a really fun game. Maybe it's not exactly what I wanted, maybe not everything worked as well as it could, but in it's own right I still had a blast with it. In the same way people say they spent 100 hours in Skyrim or Fallout 3 and I think to myself "how..? and why?" I spent nearly as much time decorating my keep, doing side quests, crafting like a maniac and exploring the past of my companions in Inquisition.

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Jimbo

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It made Dragon Age 2 seem a lot better. That's the nicest thing I can say about Inquisition.

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takayamasama

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@jimbo: I feel the exact same.

By the time I finished DA:I, I was thanking all the Deities that it was over. While it has a solid few opening hours, by hour 10 I just felt bored, uninterested in the story, and disliked most all the characters. It made me wish I was playing DA2 instead, and that game had it's issues, but dang did DA:I make it's own batch of problems, most of which I felt were worse.

Personally I think the story of the Dragon Age games since you figure out it will be a big Mage/Templar showdown in DA2 is bad. I don't think that the conflict between those two factions is very interesting, and while some stuff happens due to the conflict, I think DA:O's overarching story of giant evil demon army was better, and then the inner politics being stuff you dive deeper into at your own pace feels better.

Also DA:I has one of the worst villains in a game I've played in a good long time. From the first moment he shows up, to the moment you kill him, I had didn't give a damn about anything involving him. I also felt the combat was the worst of the 3 games.

Dragon Age makes me sad, as I loved Origins so very much. I kind of hope this was the last DA game, so they don't risk soiling it deeper, but something else will probably come along bearing it's name and world. I prey it's good, but I have no hope that it will be.

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militantfreudian

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#7  Edited By militantfreudian

Even though DA2 was such a disappointment at the time, this game bums me out even more, despite being better overall. This game is filled with questionable design choices, both on a small- and large-scale. I mean, DA2 had a short development cycle, I don't know what is this game's excuse for being largely mediocre.

I'm really interested to see how much the new Mass Effect will be similar to this, and where the Dragone Age franchise goes from here, especially now that David Gaider has left Bioware.

Edit: I forgot to say that I enjoyed reading the blog, like I did the one you've written on DA2.

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Anonymous_Jesse

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So for me DAO is a masterpiece. I first found it too hard but then once I mastered the combat I set it to harder and harder difficulties and it was more and more enjoyable. The story and world was super interesting and I was so invested that for me my anticipation for DA2 was as much as my anticipation for Mass Effect 3.

DA2 disappointed me a lot when it first came out. My biggest problem was the story. I despised that it all boiled down to evil magic and a stupid evil red rock. Out the time I was disappointed by the combat and the same three dungeons has made me give up ever playing it again.

DA3 is without a doubt the worst Dragon Age game. The combat and quest design is a fucking poorly designed MMO. Every enemy just takes too long. The team AI is abysmal when fighting a dragon and you never feel like your fighting as a team. The story begins great but it goes no where. If this game had really stuck to it's guns with the prophet angle and went deeper with it instead of revealing a certain characters importance I felt like it would have transcended the awful combat and zone design.

I love the lore but I can't play another bad Dragon Age game. I have read books, played all the side games and love the wiki but I will not bang my head against the wall for the gem underneath.

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SpaceInsomniac

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Why did I enjoy DA: I? Because it was the first truly "next gen" epic adventure game of the current console generation, because it was set in a world that I was already somewhat invested in, and because I had yet to play The Witcher 3.

I could never go back and enjoy it again, however. I also hated quite a few things about the game, even as I was playing it. I don't think I've ever played a game with so many unlikable supporting characters before or after, and the main quest was pretty awful.

Although after Mass Effect 3, I think my biggest disappointment in DA: I was that I didn't enjoy the multiplayer. I spent SO many hours playing ME3 multiplayer, and I was really hoping for a similar experience. It didn't happen.

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Tennmuerti

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I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on Inquisition and a lot of them do echo mine. Tho I would have probably not been as nice nor level headed.

As far as your last question goes, if you take notice there is a significant divide between the critical reception of the game the actual audience reception. So the question is not really why so many people love Inquisition. I'd say most people are in fact lukewarm or average feeling on it. As far as the critical reception goes, lets just say I don't really trust print like Game Informer with early reviews of games on their covers, and hey Polygon, am I right. Even if their voices are sincere in every way they are nowhere near in touch with what I woulds consider critique applicable to me. And yes 2014 was pretty bad, personally I could not come up with 10 games that deserved to be on a feel good list.

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Everyone I know personally has loved Dragon Age: inquisition. I get why people like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt more than Dragon Age but I'm not one of them. I enjoyed exploring the world of Dragon Age and definitely loved the banter of my party members and having loved both Origins and Two I'm fully invested in this world. Alternatively I avoided doing any side stuff in the Witcher. I think that a lot of this stems from in Bioware games I get to define who my character is and the choices feel my own. In the Witcher, Geralt is a predefined character with his own motivations and personality. Yes you do have choices you can make but they are based on a predetermined set rules defined about who Geralt is and his motivations. This lead to tons of decisions in the Witcher that I would go "wtf that isn't how I read that" and immediately have to reload.

@spaceinsomniac: I completely agree with you on the Multiplayer aspects of the games. ME3 is one of my favorite multiplayer games of all times and even to do this day still jump in to play a few sessions here and there.

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I really enjoyed DA:I at the time though I could hardly tell you why. It was the first solid, next-gen RPG with interesting world and characters. I was never a Dragon Age fan but Inquisition had flashes of the old Bioware brilliance in it, even if it's not perfect.

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ArtisanBreads

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#13  Edited By ArtisanBreads

You go into a lot in this write up. Maybe I will write more but just as to one aspect regarding the style and general tone of Dragon Age.

I loved Origins. Not my favorite Bioware game (I like KOTOR, Mass Effect 1 the more) but I found it really huge and well done in general. Good tactical combat and some big and surprising decisions to be made over the course of that game. However, I never much cared for the general style of Dragon Age. I like Dark Fantasy quite a bit but theirs was always a goofy version and the people covered in blood having casual conversations thing was always silly. Some of it was fine but some really stuck out, like the armor. The giant pointy shoulder pads with big swinging hinges design was so over the top. I think 2 added a better art style at least with everything moving more in that direction in a comic booky way that matched stuff like that but even that wasn't great for me. I do agree by Inquisition it is looking samey to other fantasy but I don't think it's worse than Dragon Age has been in the past as far as that goes.

Of course this is all subjective. I just include the below examples of I think ugly crappy design in DA. Yeah it isn't generic but I don't like what it's doing. The Witcher is a good example of a great original take. The Souls series and Dragons Dogma do a lot better in more restrained designs and when they get more complex.

Bioware has done a great job with this in other games. KOTOR, Jade Empire, Mass Effect all have cool designs. I just have never liked the Dragon Age look and have liked the games in spite of that part of them.

I liked this game more than many it seems but I'd also probably rate it a 4/5. I agree with a general feeling that there was some good companions in there and the general plot was weak. But that is a thing I would say about Mass Effect 2 and 3. I have found that to be the case for Bioware for a while now. A good thing about this one was they chose to have a central villain, which some of their games had failed to do as much since ME 1, but they did a real bad job with him and he was not interesting. He even had a pretty lame design. DA: Inquisition was still my GOTY that year which says a lot about that year. Witcher 3 is so much better that it kills it by comparison, even if both are different.

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Marokai

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@starvinggamer:I really enjoyed reading up on all the DLC reveals, but it does frustrate me, about Solas especially, that that shit was not just in the main game instead. Trespasser includes a great set-up to the next game but it also kind of trivializes the base game's main story even more by making all that stuff the small potatoes. It only highlights for me how weak the main villain actually is, now that I know the intention all along was that he was just someone elses' pawn. Had that been the third act, I would look back on the story of Inquisition much differently.

@baronsamedi: I enjoyed many of the characters (and actually Cole was among my favorites) but not all of them clicked with me. I never spoke with Sera. Nothing about her was appealing to me in the least. It was actually a lot more of a commitment for me to keep up with all the companion conversations when you have no idea if they actually have anything worthwhile to say or not. I believe I said this in the main write-up, but this is a problem Bioware has solved before multiple times.

@humanity: Is it mean of me to say that a lot of that sounds... superficial? I guess that word is out there now, so I'll live with it, but talking about crafting items, cutting out the middle man of actually talking to people, and playing fantasy dress-up all sound like things that are carefully crafted and tuned by focus groups to keep as many people as possible playing for the least effort. To hook in a lot of the people that just like watching flashy animations and bars go up. It's also not the sort of thing I think a lot of people would associate with what once was a series that aspired to be a return of the hardcore dark fantasy RPG. I guess I'm only surprised because you and I are usually not far off but on this I feel very differently.

Killing dragons was fun at first before they felt like grinds. Cassandra had a set-up where she was basically unkillable and my Knight-Enchanter build was also too survivable to off very quickly, so each dragon battle ended up being Cassandra tanking the dragon endlessly while I ran around reviving Solas and Cole over and over again and sloowwwwwly chipping away at it. This is one of those situations where I found the potion limit more annoying than anything else.

As for the MMO busywork thing, I dunno man. I feel like it's impossible to look at the bulk of things you do on any given zone map and think that it's very meaty, satisfying gameplay. Not everything has to be the deepest shit, but it feels pretty obvious to me that a lot of that stuff is there just to take time. It wouldn't be as frustrating to me if the core of the game's structure wasn't built around requiring you to do the side content to accrue enough power to progress in a story that already has problems.

@jimbo: I enjoyed reading back on your posts about this game around the time of release.

@spaceinsomniac: I feel like in the end "It was 2014 and people just really wanted a big next-gen RPG" is the best answer to why Inquisition caught on to the extent that it did with the critical establishment. Not to downplay what successes are in Inquisition, but I feel like if this game had come out after Witcher 3 this would be a very different conversation.

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Good blog! I think I liked the game more than you did, but I'd be the first to admit that it wasn't particularly memorable after I put it aside. I'm also rarely one to criticize a game for having too much content, but I wound up just skipping a couple of zones just because I didn't feel particularly compelled to explore them.

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#16  Edited By Humanity

@marokai: Sure a lot of that stuff definitely is superficial. You did talk to NPC's though, only you did so at the beginning of quests and very often weren't required to do a return visit. There were some good side quests mixed in with your typical collectathons present in most games. The haunted mansion stands out as a rather fun side story if you bother to read all the tidbits of info along the way. Also I completely agree that it wasn't a return to the classic, oldschool RPG, but I don't think it was meant to be. For better and worse, those games are gone and we're not going back to them unless it's through a kickstarter. I grew up on the 1997 Fallout's and Planescape Torments, and I really enjoyed them back in those days. To be honest though, I don't really want to go back to that, which is where our opinions diverge I suppose. Despite being an enormous Fallout fan (you know, the real Fallout) I never really felt tempted to pick up Wasteland 2, or Pillars of Eternity for that matter. Those games to me feel too dated, too much like something pulled out of 1998. I've grown complacent and I suppose a bit lazy in my age and Inquisition slotted in perfectly with what I wanted out of an RPG at the time. This doesn't mean I never want to play a more complex story driven game of course, it just means that it was the right game at the right time in a year that was short on great games overall. I will say that Inquisition gets a lot more flack thrown at it than it deserves. Much of what is said about it can be just as easily applied to Origins in various ways. In Origins when I crossed the halfway point my party of mages and 2 handed warriors was able to pretty much utilize the same set of sleep/mass paralysis tricks to take out 95% of mobs within the first few seconds of the encounter. I also remember doing incredibly tedious quests like checking every single book case for a specific tome in the tower of mages. It's been a while so I can't really get much more specific than that, but to say Inquisition has filler quests while Origins was replete with meaningful, rich sidequests would be sugar coating the situation in the very least. (Of course I'm also not trying to say that Origins wasn't the narratively superior title.)

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#17  Edited By Yummylee

I think Inquisition is BioWare's worst game, that is to say modern 2007+ BioWare anywhoo. Like, I had my problems with DA2 and ME3 certainly, but DA2 had some intriguing ideas in play that was hampered by an insanely tight release schedule, and ME3's gameplay at least is still pretty great. Inquisition on the other hand is just a woefully boring and bloated single-player MMORPG with a crappy story, crappy side stuff (of which, as you pointed out, is mandatory to a certain degree), weak and completely consequence-free 'decision' making, and far too much combat - of which also lacks the party customisation potential of both prior DA games.

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Regarding the "Disney-fication" of Dragon Age, I guess I would agree in the sense that, since Origins, the story and characters got pushed out of any sort of true moral grey area and too far into either a false-grey or black-white/good-evil dichotomy.

For example, I really loved the way the mage-templar conflict was handled in Origins. That was a good example of what I would call true grey. Obviously, on a theoretical level most people would be sympathetic to the mages, since most of them seem like good people and you shouldn't lock up an entire class of people for things only a few of them did. But then you're presented with the practical consequences of mages going bad in the form of an entire demon infested tower. And the Templar urging you to kill everyone isn't doing it out of mindless bloodlust or prejudice, but just out of solid military necessity (At least some mages are possessed --> Even one demon could completely wreck the countryside if it escapes--> We have no way to tell the difference between possessed vs. non-possessed mages --> Utilitarian best option is therefore to kill everyone). I think most people probably chose to save the mages anyway, but you could still make a solid case for killing them.

My major problem with Dragon Age II was that the true grey of the original was replaced by a false-grey fallacy. In other words, BioWare presented you with two extremes and you were supposed to assume that the "truth" was somewhere in the middle and therefore grey. Except that it wasn't. The way they set things up, all the Templars were jack-booted fascists while all the mages were demon-possessed psychopaths. Both were terrible in their own way and neither one could claim the moral high ground. No matter which side you pick, you're always in a sense picking to side with the "bad guys." That doesn't necessarily not work, but you have to give me a reason why I need to pick between them, or at least why not getting involved is a valid choice. That was something I thought the game never did.

DA:I suffered a similar problem in that the game was very black and white. Inquisition good. Demons bad. No middle ground. While I found that a little more satisfying than the shitshow of DAII, I still thought it was a major step back from the more realistic choices you had to make in DA:O.

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I stopped playing Inquisition after a dozen or so hours, I think I was at the Storm Coast when I left it. To me, I felt the combat dragged the game down for me, after having played RPGs like The Witcher 2, I wanted the combat to feel more direct, action-based instead of this half-tactical, half-real time action system they've slowly been building up from the past two games. I love the lore of Dragon Age and the characters (mostly the companions) are really interesting that I get emotionally attached to, but because of how unengaged I feel with the combat, I don't want to waste time with it in order to get to that lore stuff. In the end I just read what happens from the DA Wiki and the end stuff sounded really cool.

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@marokai: I guess I think of it more in terms of things like the Avengers movies. Like I know Thanos is the big fucker out there and that's real exciting, but that doesn't prevent me from enjoying Avengers 1 and 2 for what they are, even if Loki and Ultron were fairly unremarkable. Honestly, I think I just really enjoy ensemble stuff.

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I could try to explain but I'm not very good with words. I just know that I could never play more than the first few hours of Skyrim but I had finished Inquisition twice before the end of that year, so they must have done something right.

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Fredchuckdave

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Origins is terrible, Inquisition is alright, never played two.

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Dragon Age: Origins is one of the best RPG's ever made. I had trouble even finishing Inquisition. DA2 in retrospect to Inquisition and Origins is not even that bad. For all it's variation in terrain, Inquisition was incredibly repetitious.

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#24  Edited By extintor

2014 was one of the poorest years in video games in the last decade and DA:I's general reception as as 'good game' is largely a reflection of how mediocre the releases that year generally were.

It also had an epic narrative and the scale of it was massive (rivalling a bethesda sized gameworld). These things were impressive, even if the gameplay and some of the plot and characters were a bit lacking.

Perhaps most importantly, it was finished, relatively stable, and it wasn't a remaster. For 2014, that was enough to make it shine. I liked the game and considered it to be a top 10 game for that year but I haven't gone back to it for DLC and I doubt I'd ever replay it.

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