I am back from Staycation, LusiSideQuests! I would be hurt that I did not receive a welcome back party or even a welcome back mint, but I did not tell anybody I was “leaving”, not even Lusipurr. I have paid dearly for that decision. I am still paying dearly for that decision. Ouch. Ouch. Somebody save me.
Dragon Age: Inquisition
I managed to play over thirty hours of this game in just a few days because of Staycation and in true RPG form, I feel I have barely started. I was very curious about this game because of the way it was promising to start to atone for BioWare’s post-EA slip. While I have not completed the game and while I feel that distance and consideration should be included in a final judgement of a game, I have my first fully formed feelings about it.
There are things that I am particularly impressed with about the game. The most noticeable element is the way the environments are designed. Unlike a game like Kingdoms of Amalur or many other of its ilk, it is not possible to just crush the control stick in the direction of a waypoint and then end up in the desired location. The radar will point the player in the right direction, but it does not show a map layout and the Quest Map is more like a map from Dragon Quest in which it will give the player a sense of his surroundings, but will still force the player to explore. Such is the case with Inquisition. To complete quests and discover new areas of the map, actual exploration is required and it is the most exciting and satisfying feeling I have encountered in the game yet. There was one moment in particular I remember exploring an area, about to give up on finding anything else in that particular direction when I spotted a little pathway almost hidden from sight. I hurried in and traveled its twists until it opened up to a beautiful hidden paradise with lush greenery and a majestic waterfall. I had earned the view and it made it that much more satisfying. It helps that each area is given a distinctive feel, forcing players to modify their exploration style.
Another positive pertaining to exploration is the way Inquisition handles cave exploration. Without a map layout on the radar, BioWare decided to use the opportunity to make cave exploring, well, actually feel like exploring a cave. It gets dark down there and players have to balance out their faith in their battle abilities with their fear of giant spiders and long ladders that lead down into unknown blackness. I remember getting excited for the cave sections in Shadow of Mordor, fearing them, but looking forward for the opportunity to conquer my fear. It turns out that the caves are complete shit in that game, but it also turns out that Inquisition had me covered. They start extremely small, but are growing larger as I progress through the game. It is another thing that the game does well: foreshadowing. The caves are the best example, but the dragons are handled well also. There are moments to glimpse the dragons, but usually they must be avoided or watched at a distance as they take down a giant.
The game is also huge, with an incredible number of branching dialogue options and optional lore, text, and conversational explanations. Like the series in general, I think it is very strong how the characters develop relationships with each other when they are brought along with the party and how they react to what the player chooses to do and how there is not a binary good and evil decision-making process, but rather actions that different party members will react differently to. It is impossible to make everybody perfectly happy.
But after all this praise, the game still feels castrated. The music is garbage, and while I understand that the fantasy world of Dragon Age sits somewhere between the fantastical lands of Tolkien and the more below-the-surface magic of Martin, Inquisition strangely feels like it takes place in modern day. I mean, not really with all the swords and dragons, but there is not the sense that I am exploring another world. Sure there are complicated political and social matters to get caught up in, but that does not make Thedas feel like a distant land. I loved the first Dragon Age for its feeling of doom and dread. The world felt gravely serious, but wholly unique. It might just be because I was younger at the time, but I am not convinced of that theory. When I replayed the Mass Effect trilogy this year, the first game had that je ne sais quoi element to its world which I remembered it having before the next two games removed it in favour of a blockbuster feel. Inquisition feels the same way. It is not the insult that Dragon Age 2 was, but it is still a Hollywood-ified BioWare.
Perhaps I have expectations that are too high. Perhaps a studio that does good work should be enough and I should not expect them to do important work also. I suppose it is just discouraging to see such visions like Mass Effect and Dragon Age get turned into a machine. At least Inquisition is well-worth the price of admission, it is just important to know what to expect.
I was sent a code for the 3DS remake. I am not going to review it because it will essentially just be “this is Pokémon Ruby again”, but that is not a bad thing. It is just not worthy of a full review. I liked the GBA Pokémon games the least, but while I still do not love how early and often I am required to Surf around, it is nice to play a classically designed Pokémon game, no matter the presentation. In fact, the presentation is quite lovely. I hope this informs the next generational title.
Sure, I only talked about two games, but that is the majority of what I played this week. I forgot to mention, but the environmental exploration stuff in Dragon Age also gets me really excited for the Wii U Legend of Zelda. So many Zelda fans missed the great design in Skyward Sword because of the motion controls which is an understandable reason, but it also means that many did not see the auspicious omens present in the design of that game. It has been a while since my optimism for the series was dampened with Twilight Princess, but my hopes are high again. But we will see what E3 2015 tells us. Until next time, LusiFarts.