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Apr 21 2017

Late Dragon Age Inquisition Review

As with DA2, Inquisition isn’t quite like its predecessors with plenty of jarring differences but at least amazing graphics. You’d be best off thinking of this as a 60 hour dating sim in which you’re going to experience a lot of rejection, increasing the protagonist’s blue balls bursting stat.

The best part of this game starts from the initial moments you boot up the game. Your first greeted by a beautifully rich menu screen of a frozen mountain landscape consisting of an elegant cathedral perched on the edge of a cliff as ranks of soldiers march underneath dappled in sunlight and surrounded by trees. After a quick dabble in the graphics department to set everything to ultra with Nvidia technologies turned off, which the SLI 970s handled perfectly, you click the new game button having gorged on the view and are instantly blinded by a bright green light that comes crashing down from the sky, leaving a crater in the ground where the cathedral had just stood. After a quick change of underwear, you’re ready to play the intro.

The intro shows a scene containing the protagonist being led by a glowing woman in an alternate dimension, jumping into a bright light to escape the monsters. When you emerge from the portal, you collapse and are seized by soldiers on the scene. Waking up, you find yourself interrogated by the serious striking woman who interrogated Varric in Dragon Age 2. She asks you what you had to do with the explosion of the Temple of Andraste, which of course you’re pretty sure you had nothing to do with, but find that somehow you’ve acquired a glowing green scar along the palm of your left hand. Cassandra thinks you’ll be more good to her trying to find a solution to seal up the large rift that has opened up in the sky, as a prisoner in her party than chained up in the dungeons.

As you leave the building you were locked in with Cassandra, you are hit by the absolute stunning graphics of the outside world. Lighting and shadows are in perfect harmony as the HD textures make everything appear seamlessly realistic.

If your playing using keyboard and mouse, you’ll realise that something is already off and that the game doesn’t control like the previous games. The game has been adapted to work better with controllers, but from my k&m perspective who tried and failed with controllers multiple of times in the previous installments, wasn’t going to mess around going down this route and also wanted to have ultimate control on interaction and commands, with no room for error.

After some customisation of the controls, it was on with the rest of the intro, as you progress up the mountain and come across some new characters to join the party against the monsters spawning from the rift. One of these faces is the recognisable Varric, who makes his return as a smart mouthed dwarf who’s now on the better side of Cassandra than shown in Dragon Age 2 and a new face, Solas, an elf who offers his magic abilities towards preventing the impending doom threatened by the rift, even in a time when mages are chastised for being too dangerous and powerful.

Since the events that transpired at the end of DA2, the templar order is no longer under control of the Chantry, and are now on a crusade to rid all rogue mages and abominations, aswell as any mages caught in the crossfire. At some point in Inquisition, you will be made to choose to ally with either sides in the war, with decisions also made at later revelations that will affect the future of the templar and mage factions.

From tackling the rift, you discover that there is a greater threat as to the future of the world, a being who has lived for over a thousand years that wants to bring carnage on the world as he rules from the Maker’s Golden City in the Fade. Having disrupted his plans, he’s not too pleased, bringing down his army to deal with you and the paltry group of volunteers you’ve raised in what is to be now known as the Inquisition, a faction that has not been seen for the past 500 years, with it now reformed to deal with the dangers that threaten to engulf the world. As you battle his army cleverly using your siege weaponry, you barely manage to escape from the monster’s grip and upon making your way back to your group in the mountains, are then led by Solas, making a pilgrimage across the dense snow covered mountains for days until you come upon an abandoned fortress, the Skyhold which will hold the armies of the Inquisition and where you are officially deemed the Inquisitor, the sole man who has been tasked with closing the rifts and ridding the world of the imminent threat of the magistrate.

Throughout the campaign, you will meet many more companions for your party of new and old, see what effect any of your decisions in the previous installments have in had in your own mold of the world, learn that combat is no longer as straight forward as before and try to get your leg over anything that moves yet being constantly rebuffed by all.

Just a word on the romance options, it does tend to appear at the end of story driven dialogue, as you all of a sudden become a Casanova from having just been on a killing spree, sorting out political and serious issues to then just become a great big sop, trying to see that fabled legendary unfiltered nipple shot. Nothing like the old days were you could just flash some cash, buy a tonne of gifts and be in there in no time. You’re only allowed one partner unlike Origins, and whilst you cast the net out on them all, I finally managed to rope in Cassandra after 60 hours of gag inducing comments, being able to see her in all her glory, which is the first time I’ve seen the act that detailed in a game, so don’t blink or you’ll miss it.

Old characters tend to lack being entertaining or interesting to the story, not really offering a fresh take on the world as they make way for new characters to shine in the lime light. Many only make a brief appearance, just to show us how they now looked after being altered for the umpteenth time by the developers. Of all the appearances, I believe Flemeth has the shortest of screen time, popping up to throw a spanner in the works before disappearing again, though atleast she offers an interesting spin in the story that has only been open to interpretation in the previous games and books. Qunari are yet again unrecognisable, but atleast you finally get to have one to join the party (unless of course you chose to be that race at the character selection process).

You’ll also come across stuff that was never mentioned in the previous games, as new lore comes out the woodwork, some new enemies including giants that were a big surprise considering I don’t know how you can miss something like that, but managed to be amiss from any prior npc conversations and the hundred of books I’d collected.

Conversations suffer slightly, as the type of response given by the protagonist no longer contain icons as to whether they are going to be sympathising, humourous or serious with their tone. Even then, most of the options just lead towards the same outcome, Bioware’s ability to create the illusion that we’re in control of the story. The voice acting is also lacking for the protagonist unless a cutscene is concerned, as the actor must have known the thousand of lines they had yet to recite, saving themselves for the important ones. Any conversations between companions in the backgrounds are still interesting and humourous to listen in on, though does get repetitive towards the end.

Exploration has really opened out, being an entire sandbox experience in which you can explore a massive array of landscapes, each with a unique beautiful theme that is pleasure for the eyes. Whilst DA:O and DA2 both had certain open landscapes you could explore, you could probably run a ring around the perimeter in about 10 minutes. In Inquisition, it would probably take near enough an hour to run round on foot, which is why it’s a good thing that you can now call upon a stead to half that time. Though it’s a shame that each of these locations aren’t all stitched together like say in Ocarina Of Time, the fast travel does its job and can take us from the barren deserts to the stormy coast up to the frozen mountains and home again, all in time for tea.

Jumping is now a new mechanic that allows you to climb steep edges and find paths not yet trodden. It can work at times for evading some attacks, and fail at others, but adds a layer of frustration having to find the perfect sweet spot to jump on to reach a collectible, only to miss and have to spam the jump button all the way back up again. Also new is using a scan ability that will show nearby lootable objects, whilst it can help uncover something in the undergrowth that your eyes missed, it’s probably the most annoying function in the game, having to constantly hit the button every five steps to see if anything comes up on the radar. They had it right in the previous games by just having anything that was lootable have glittering sparkles above it, with the choice to be able to display words above it to help catch your eye. My little finger is all jacked up now having had a constant workout for the last month.

Many spells and abilities that were in the previous game have gone the way of the dodo. Skill trees are much more limited, with more emphasis on upgrading old skills and acquiring passive skills. As the game took me 160 hours to complete, I sorely missed being able to cast Haste and speed up exploration and fights. Whilst a stead can be called for exploring, it’s not the most nimble to handle, can’t follow you into dungeons or certain maps and it’s cumbersome constantly getting off and on as you recklessly jump into every fight going.

Also many of the minor decisions you made in the previous games are nothing more than a passing comment from an old companion or a side mission on the war table. It’s a shame that there’s no real interaction with previous characters over these decisions, apart from having to take on the annoying Branka to be your resident enchanter, even though she can’t cast an ounce of magic and raises the question of why I need a weapon smith any longer, when she’s a dwarf. Some of the decisions made will also be reversed by Bioware, or explained in a way that favours their version of events rather than yours. I can’t exactly remember now if any of these had occurred to my decisions, but one that is blatantly obvious as it stands in front of you, is that Leliana is alive and well. In my version of events in Origins, she was part of the team that took down the Archdemon, but there is a part where you can corrupt the Ashes of Andraste with dragon blood (which I would be curious as to learn what effect this would have had in Inquisition), at which point Leliana would turn against you. I did toy with this before I loaded up a save, having slain her but she manages to come back from the dead, apparently as she was next to ashes, she manages to come back round, but still, for those players out there that had chosen this option, their decision was thrown back in their face and all they received for it was one less party member to help fight in the end-game battle of Origins.

What I was really hoping for from the game was being able to meet the Hero of Ferelden again. I wanted to meet my old self who had been the one to defeat the archdemon with nothing but some pieces of paper and whom had pulled me into liking the Dragon Age series in the first place. This guy was an exact reflection of the real me, and I wanted to see my virtual self again, the guy that both Hawke and the Inquisitor were also based on, back to back, they would have appeared as triplets, all with the face of a hero. Having not played through Origins with any other character, I had miraculously chosen the path I would have wanted to take if someone had told me the outcomes, a human character of noble birth, who would go on to sire a demonic old god baby with Morrigan, who would become King (prince-in-waiting, whatever) of Fereldan, taking revenge for my dead parents and go on to the lead the Grey Wardens, until leaving all that behind to be with Morrigan and raise his son in the Fade. Who doesn’t want to meet this guy. But sadly DA:Inquisition couldn’t come up with anything better than having Morrigan say that he was far away on a mission to save the Grey Wardens and couldn’t make it back to help in the battle to save the world. Okay then. I get that he doesn’t have a voice other than being able to say “Can I get you a ladder so that you can get off my back” (which rears its head in this game as an easter egg) and that the character is supposed to die in the canon version of the story, but you can’t bring Hawke back (which is a sore subject I’ll expand on later) and not bring the original hero back, it’s not like his data isn’t stored in the Dragon Keep servers for them to use to make his appearance. I guess that they wanted to give the Inquisitor his limelight than be stolen by the Hero, but by god do I wish that I can have all three of these guys and the inevitable new guy as a team in the fourth iteration.

Well I just happened to do some research on DA4, and from a tweet by one of the directors, apparently it’s not looking good for the Hero of Fereldan, due to half of the end game choices of Origins, he does die which is too much work for Bioware to work around to bring him back, and that the writer is apparently adamant that they just don’t want the Warden back. I guess it’s like when director James Cameron remarked in an interview about Jack in Titanic, even if there were possible ways that he could have been saved from the cold at the end of the film, if Cameron wants him dead, then he’s dead. Pain in the arse really considering there’s an outcry from fans for the Warden to come back, and considering Inquisition wasn’t the hit that Origins was, I’d consider fulfilling our request and seeing that they’re now throwing about ‘Old Gods’ that can inhabit human bodies, why the fuck can’t he come back as one! (Sorry for the rant but it does really need to be said if Bioware want a best seller that will live on as Origins does rather than a repeat of DA2).

 

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Back on topic, as mentioned before, the graphics really do pop out of the screen. The game looks as though it has finally achieved what all Skyrim modders have been striving towards, realistic outdoor environments and extremely detailed textures, a world that I would be happy to live in. You can literally just stand in a spot for hours and examine everything on screen, making out the wood grain of a dining table, the glistening jewels on a goblet and the nicks in the stone floor from when the stone had been mined from the quarry. There was only a very few times in which a few low res textures would stand out of place, usually anything that was supposed to represent canvas, but easily overlooked as the whoring volumetric lighting distracts you from whatever you were looking at.

The lighting really comes into play for setting the atmosphere of the environment. On the Hinterlands, the scene is crisp and clear, allowing for far views of the horizon connected by a bridge of bright colours from the flowers and terrain. Arriving at the Stormy Coast, your smothered by a bleak and eerie rolling fog whilst the turbulent sea is now cast in a grey hue, thrashing against the glistening pebbles of the shore as rain and thunder pelts from above. Genuinely makes you feel that your actually cold and wet to the bone. The deserts are just a heat wave, as shimmers of air a few feet away distorts your visions of the miles of shifting sands. With no shade, the light is so strong it comes through the monitor to tan your face. The differences between all these environments are so stark that you can’t help but be awed every time you visit. Thanks to the leap of next-gen graphics (even though this was launched on the previous gen), this game has pushed the bar even higher. In the Fade is where it all really comes together, a place that doesn’t have to reflect real life or even appear realistic in that sense, yet manages to capture a surreal and disturbing altered vision of swirling light trials, distorted objects and a certain amount of green that becomes ingrained in the back of your eye. It’s so easy to take your mind off your task at hand, and just become lost in colour.

The only gripe I had about the graphics was during the cutscenes, which I guess are the most crucial to the game. The framerate would drop down to a paltry 30fps, very noticeable having just been at a locked 60 and movements look jittery. The motion capture during these scenes also didn’t keep up with those during gameplay, with any facial movements and body language that was supposed to be expressed lost to a lack of sensitive capturing.

The one area I believe this game really does deserve credit on in the sound department. I was only playing this on the rubbish in-built speakers of my monitor, yet the high-quality gutteral roar of a dragon never before sounded so realistic. How do you actually create the sound of a dragon roar when it’s not even something that you can actually record. I think they really pulled out all the stops for this, with great 3D sounds that again, just set the atmosphere. The clashing of swords, whilst sending up a flash of sparks, has such an authentic metallic tang that resonates right down to a low hum, even dropping a used potion vial is impressive as you hear the initial thud and then it rolling away through the undergrowth. Really did help to reinforce the immersion.

And that’s about it for anything good to say about the game. Everything else from this point is just me moaning and bitching about bugs and mechanics that honestly ruined the game for me. The simple summary is that if this game had been a bit more like Origins, it would have won me over, but there are too many changes and issues which just don’t work in the game’s favour and made most of the 160 hours of gameplay a grind to complete. So onwards with the negativity.

Combat is absolutely atrocious.

This game has been the worst out of the series for being able to handle a combat situation. Not a single fighting class in this game that is either fun or useable, plus the fact that your party run around like headless chickens.

I will never play a RPG twice, which means that when it comes to choosing a class, I have to choose one that straight away feels comfortable to use for a 100+ hour campaign, as I’m not going to restart the game 10 hours in just to switch, I’d rather grin and bear it. Luckily in this game, you can’t make a bad choice of class, as they’re all vaguely boring in their own ways, with many nuances yet probably some trick you can take advantage of, making pretty much all battles dead easy, whatever difficulty you’re on.

I tend to prefer to unleash high damage whilst protecting party members, usually as I can’t rely on the AI to effectively pull an enemy away from endangered teammates, which this game just so happened to prove countless times. In Origins, I had gone sword and shield, bashing faces in and practically untouchable with buffs on. In DA2, I decided to switch it up with two handed as I had experienced in the intro how fast and damaging this class had been, with still a high defense rating. In Inquisition, having seen a minute of online footage of someone else playing two handed, decided that I would stick with that class as it did appear to play exactly from DA2, how wrong I was.

The game initially didn’t have an auto attack button set as in previous games, so it was set to the middle button on the mouse and that was it, press that button and the game completes itself. I say that in the sense that in most combat, all you ever did was activate auto attack on the nearest enemy, then just watch the computer take over as it lined your character up with the enemy, then break out into a volley of swings whilst you sat there waiting to activate one of four skills on cue. God forbid you ever took manual control of your character and tried to land a blow yourself, it was near-on impossible. The problem was that small obstacles, team mates and your character’s ability to judge swinging distance usually resulted in your character missing their swing, so you would reposition your character after having waited for them to complete the attack you told them to perform 10 minutes prior which you can’t cancel, then attempt a slug again only for the enemy to have shifted, and so it was a continuous chase of moving, swinging and missing, getting worked up about it and finally leaving it to the computer to show you how it’s supposed to be done, taking me entirely out of the game. The results are not much better even if you’re a ranged character, once on auto attack, your character just stands there, shooting projectiles off, outside of the main action whilst you’re doing the heavy work of pressing 1 to 4 on the keyboard.

One of the other problems of auto attack was that your character wouldn’t just run in a straight line upto the enemy, or even try to flank around them, instead, they made sure to stand right in front of the enemy, hitting against the enemy’s armour whilst you’re taking damage instead of your tank, who’s also blocked off from doing any damage. Any hope you have of trying to position your team mates into a strategic flanking attack is out the question, as soon as they arrive at their positions, they break formation and rush to the front of the enemy again.

Though not all is lost, a way around this is to switch into Tactical mode, which resembles how pausing used to work in the previous games, yet these now operate separately so that you can unpause the action whilst remaining in tactical mode. This mode allows you to position the camera anywhere on the battlefield, rather than being stuck to a character like the previous games, and gives you detailed information on the enemies and the actions you’ll be casting. Any repositioning you do with your party will visually show the path along the ground they will take, which can be altered to allow your members to take advantage of cover from ranged fire. But I found I rarely activated Tactical mode as it slowed down combat to a snail’s pace. I never needed to consult the tactics screen for enemy health or weaknesses as you can find them out easy enough just by hitting creatures you’re going to be facing a thousand times over and I want to play this game from an action standpoint in which I can jump in at a moments notice to take control of my character rather than watching from above as ants duel it out.

To appease console and controller players, combat has now been limited to eight skills. Eight space scrutinising skill placeholders that has to include both your combat and passive abilities. I remember in Origins I could have an action bar onscreen as long as my arm, now the bar is no bigger than my little finger. So having chosen your crucial passive abilities aswell as using one slot up for your focus skill, which is a special move unique to each character that is only ever activated once in a blue moon, your left with about four spaces for regular combat skills. Nothing has ever been more mind-numbing, using the same four skills in the thousands of encounters over a 160 hour campaign, just watching the bottom of the screen for a skill to cooldown to then be used over, and over, and over again. It’s Fallout 4 again, having found the only useful gun 30 hours into the game, with 200 yet to go.

The other problem of having a limited set of skills in the action bar, is that these are the only skills your AI party members are allowed to use. You can set whether these skills are to be favoured in combat or not used at all, that’s it. In other words, being able to set tactics for your party members is no longer possible.

Let me just repeat, you can no longer set tactics in a tactical rpg.

Gone are the days when you would spend hours examining your tactics roster for each character, setting exact conditions for when you wanted certain abilities and spells to be activated, whether that was to take out as many enemies as quickly and efficiently as possible, or ensuring everyone was defending against a sticky situation or even dealing with that menacing rogue archer that was poisoning your team one by one. Your team would be an extension of yourself, knowing how to survive through anything the game had to throw at them. If they were strong enough, I would be reassured knowing that I could leave them to battling a boss if I was to have my tea, now, it’s nothing more than a cluster fuck of party members getting in the way of each other, and casting abilities only when they feel like it. I shouldn’t have to chase my team mates up, scrolling through them to check that they’ve been activating the abilities and not just standing there. Too often I’ve had to fight this game through four perspective rather than just being able focus on the main character and leave the rest of the work to AI. What is the point of having the 3 additional members in a party if I can’t tell them in advance how I want them to battle, I’m the leader, surely I’ll know best how to ensure victory for us. If they don’t want my advice, then they can fuck off and I’ll just continue on my own, and play this game as though it’s Skyrim, looking after only myself and taking all the experience points to level up even faster. Party combat has really been dumbed down to ensure that this game appeases to a larger market, pissing off veteran players as it is no longer tactics focused but neither does it excel in real-time action, so everyone’s lost out.

And whilst I’m now playing ‘Skyrim’, give me a first person perspective that I prefer to have in games. I want to experience greater immersion by seeing the detailing and any action up close, plus also not feel that I’m cheating by using the 3rd person perspective to peek around corners and spot enemies.

It’s not like they didn’t already integrate the jump feature, similar to Skyrim having to use it to scale up mountains, and whilst it can be used to evade certain enemy attacks, what it can’t be used for is to your advantage of jumping from a ledge onto an oppenent, bringing your sword down on their heads, it will just result in a miss and you losing health.

But whether you don’t manage to jump out the way in time or are just caught in an area attack, the most that will happen to the character is that they are only ever knocked down. Gone are the interaction and animations with enemies in which a dragon would pick you up in the grip of its teeth, taking you noticeably out of combat whilst your comrades hurried to rescue you, or an ogre that would swing you around and spiders now refraining from jumping on top of you, having used to pin you down to the ground. Combat is now nothing more than taking turns, exchanging blows.

So, so far we’ve mentioned that combat is dire and tactics no longer exist. Surely there isn’t anything that’s going to finish off your weak heart, sadly there is and you’re not going to live much longer – literally. Healing spells are out, checkpoints are in.

With the vast exploration zones, camps have been installed every so often that act as a checkpoint allowing for fast travelling, a respawn location in case of death, alter party gear, restore the party’s health, and replenish potions. Potions are the only other form of healing in the game (well there is one other way that I’ll get to). For all the mages you could have in your party, being able to cast the largest of ice walls and the hottest infernos, between them, they simply struggle to be able to cast a simple heal. Everyone in the party relies on the only 8 health potions (which can be later upgraded to 12) for everything from exploration to boss fights. The maths should work out 2 each, but when you’re falling off cliffs and being backstabbed by invisible assassins, they tend to go pretty quickly. It’s quite difficult to grasp that I can carry upto 90 weapons in my inventory, yet limited to just 12 potions. Not quite the way around I would want it. You can equip 3 of another type of potions to each character, so can also carry offensive and other type of healing potions such as regenerative healing, but these have to be refilled manually unlike healing potions that are automatically refilled when checking in at a camp. Again, what good are your party to you when they can no longer follow tactics or now save you from the brink of death. It used to be in Origins that I could focus on the onscreen action, and leave any low health issues for my mage to sort out. Now all I’m doing is alternating between checking the health bars in the top left and the skill bar at the bottom of the screen, missing out on the action inbetween. The only time a party member can heal you, is when your essentially dead. Only when a character is knocked out can you request for another member to go over and revive them, restoring the smallest of health. A mage can also revive remotely, but uses up a tonne of mana. The other problem with healing potions, is that they can only be upgraded so much before they become ineffective at restoring any health, so later in the game, between enemy encounters, your constantly running back and forward to camps to resupply, which takes away from the challenge of being able to push on when things go to shit and if need be, I could always fallback on F5/F9.

I played this game on Hard difficulty, which was a piece of piss and only refrained from going upto Nightmare difficulty due to the lack of tactics and abilities to heal. I know I personally could have handled the enemies on nightmare, but not being able to rely on the rest of the party would mean having to babysit for every single encounter, which would have dragged the 160 hour playthrough out even longer. I also don’t want to be raging during times bullet sponge enemies (or is it technically sword-sponge in this case?) attack with instant KO critical hits with no means to effectively evade or block, whilst my team run around as headless chickens with no party healing spells insight. So instead I decided to opt for the Trials.

One way of making combat very slightly difficult, you can activate Trials which are a bunch of in-game modifiers that can be toggled on and off. These can increase the overall difficulty of enemies plus give certain enemies an extra boost and also add some extra challenges like resetting your focus bar whenever you rest, which is pointless considering how long it would take for the bar to fill anyway, so if reset, you effectively just made an entire part of the game redundant as you’d never get round to activating a character’s unique focus skill. From the beginning of the game, I had the trial on which bumped up an enemy’s level to always atleast match the players, so that when re-entering a lower level portion of the game after having ranked up, the enemies would have leveled up with you, to make those rematches that slightly more difficult than before, but one of THE biggest issues in this game is that there is a level cap at 27 which I hit at about three quarters into the game! And whilst I was equipped with the best armour and weapons in the game, I was untouchable. This really showed when I easily handled 3 dragons with only two members in my party, with no rest inbetween. It wasn’t until the final expansion, The Trespasser, that enemy difficulty finally rose a notch to keep me on my feet. Trials is supposed to reward you with rare equipment every few hours, but the gear is all low level. It would have made sense for the gear to also level up with the player alongside the enemies. So at this point, I lack the inspiration to engage enemies with the lack of reward in the form of experience and loot, making the game even more of a drag than it’s already been.

As mentioned prior, with each class, there’s always a trick you can take advantage of in combat. For two handed, it’s using the spin attack. Being fully upgraded, this attack will pull all surrounding enemies into a void as you unload a barrage of fast hitting blows over and over. The move will regenerate stamina on hit and so will go for a long time until stamina is finally depleted. Having all the enemies in one spot helps to keep team mates save from harm whilst their own hits are now hitting multiple enemies at a time, you can even slowly walk in a direction whilst still encapturing enemies in a hurricane around you. The move is also great for rotating large enemies like dragons to face towards you rather than letting them unleash their fire breath on your archer who would have been in range.

In a way, the spin attack is much like the game and this review, the blows just keep on coming to the player. Away from combat, we are now introduced to all the new lore this game has manufactured since the previous installment. Now the one that really got my goat was Giants. What stone have they been hiding under? I liked ogres, even though there weren’t many in this game, but to now have a new large enemy is a bit farfetched. The idea behind ogres are that these are created by broodmothers when they rape the fuck out of a qunari, how come the giants were never bred with, they could have made a force to not be reckoned with. I imagine that Bioware are just trying to rip off Skyrim and its success at this point, which actually had kick ass giants that would send you flying. I remember my first encounter with a giant in Skyrim, having just spent an hour to climb over a mountain, to finally reach some plains on the other side. I see the giant and curiously walk up to it, only for the fucker to chase me down, and with no chance of escape, he brought his club down and sent me into the clouds. Those are moments that define games, and probably what hooked me to continue playing Skyrim all those years ago. The giants in Inquisition on the other hand, are nothing but pussies, even when juiced up on red lyrium, but I think they probably carry the best loot compared to the other enemies.

Carrying on the Skyrim theme, there are more dragons in this game than in previous installments, with upto 11 to take down. Depending on level, the first few can be a bit tough, but once you’ve nailed your strategy, the rest are easy. Though the series is named Dragon Age, dragons in the games have only ever felt like nothing more than an afterthought, with one or two cropping up in the games as optional tough bosses to take on apart from of course the archdemon, but still, Skyrim kicks ass on having a tonne of dragon lore, being able to use dragon shouts, punch a dragon in the face and also the ability to ride a fucking dragon. How does it manage to beat a game which has dragon in the title?

I’ve not got a fucking clue what’s going on with the codex entries. You come across a lot of really pointless and boring notes and letters that make no sense to the missions or the local area. It’s Bioware’s attempt at trying to create the impression that npcs do have a life in the game, with random thoughts and flutterings that they feel they have to write down, but helps in no way with lore considering all the reading I’ve done on that upto this point, and nowhere near on par with Origins’ or Skyrim’s ability to ensnare me to read an essay of lore that had been lying around intact in a mouldy, dank cavern. It’s stunts like these in Inquisition that makes you switch off and miss the times when something worthwhile does actually happen. Also trying to navigate through codex entries is a joke, no organisation and no labeling, nothing even when you hover your mouse over the rows of icons.

But the waffling doesn’t just stop with the codex entries, the npcs are full of it too. Granted, a conversation doesn’t always have to be quest related, but it can atleast be more engaging to listen to, especially when some of these dialogues can go on for half an hour. Most of them aren’t shy about telling me their name, their entire family history and what they had for tea. No thanks. If I wanted to have an uncomfortable chat with a random stranger, I would put down this game and actually go out into daylight to socialize. I was glad when Iron Bull’s companion died so that I didn’t have to pretend any longer that I was interested in her/his transgender lifestyle. She would just go on and on and on… Where was the dialogue option for the Inquisitor to say “I’ve got a world that needs saving from the brink of destruction here, I’m sure this conversation can wait until after then”.

As for the bugs that I encountered whilst play the game, one of them would be a strange phenomena in which my character would glitch back to a spot he’d just been at 5 seconds prior. This would happen often enough when I was either exploring or even in combat, where I would experience what appeared to be network lag even though of course I’m playing locally on my PC, and have to run back into combat which my team mates are still engaged in. Also every time I booted up the game, I had to reassign the controls that I had assigned to the mouse’s forward and back buttons, not sure why it had difficulty saving these two options yet could save the rest of my customisations to controls (which apart from direction keys, I had to remap every single button for ease of use and common sense).

 

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Wasn’t sure what effect approval/disapproval really had on team mates. In Origins, a high approval rate would result in a boost to stats, if they disapproved of your actions too often then they would leave the crew. DA2, a benefit was seen on either side of the scale, you just had to make sure a teammate wasn’t neutral in their feelings. In Inquisition, apart from helping romance options and to keep anyone from leaving, couldn’t tell what effect approval had apart from a very few dialogue choices that depended upon the rating. I saw no effect whatsoever in combat, which is quite the waste having had kept them in the back of my mind whilst making choices, which now not only causes a reaction from the members in your current party, but also with the remaining members back at Skyhold.

Exploration was quite difficult at times when not referring to the map. The HUD is terrible for navigation, as it only contains a radar in the bottom left to be used for locating nearby loot when the scan function is used, otherwise no navigational information is offered as in previous games, so you have to refer to the map page, which isn’t the best either, not being able to clearly mark out hills and cliff edges, which means you would arrive just below your destination with no way up and have to backtrack to find a way around.

The worst part of exploration is collecting every single flower you come across and chasing animals down for their hide. With the ability to craft and upgrade weapons, armour and potions, you need a lot of supplies at hand to be able to do any of this off the cuff, which means that unless you can find a shop that sells it, your going to be out for hours mining. I’ve not had to do this much foraging for upgrades since Zelda for the Wii. It’s a bit of a joke really, considering I’m supposed to be the Inquisitor, a man in charge of vast armies yet can’t somehow manage to delegate the task of flower collecting to a page-boy or something. As a tip for anyone who wants to upgrade all the potions in the game, wait until the Jaws of Hakkon DLC, as there’s a shop that contains all the recipes and items needed for the upgrades, probably saving you around 10 hours of meandering the meadows unlike some idiot who’s currently typing this review.

There are many filler quests at each location, such as having to close rifts or finding shards dotted about that becomes repetitive fairly quickly. When closing a rift, you tend to face up against the same old lineup of enemies again and again, after which you point your hand up to the rift from where chains appear to seal it. I think they missed a trick with the animation of the rift sealing, if it could have contained something like a large snarling green demonic head trying to breakthrough, squealing before sealed in, that would have looked really cool. I also didn’t like the cycler missions at repository points, using up valuable crafting resources for very little gain. The only saving grace of the many fetching quests is that you don’t have to return to the original quest giver for the reward.

Having completed the game, I found that I probably spent about 50% of the game engaged in conversation with npcs, 20% exploring areas, 20% fighting and 10% customising gear. To be honest, I found that I spent too much time on the customisations considering that you can no longer build these alongside tactics anymore. If I’ve no tactics to fiddle with, than I’d rather just equip my party members with upgrades similar to those in DA2.

A big time waster is lighting fire sconces in dungeons. In a way, going back to the graphics atleast being beautifully atmospheric, there are many dungeons and caves that are absolutely pitch black. This was actually one of my gripes about Skyrim, which even though you could carry a torch and cast various light emitting spells, they were never needed as the dungeons would always be well-lit. In Inquisition, there certainly is a need to carry around a torch, but no reason to light the sconces that lines the walls. Though there are actually a very few that may activate the opening of a door, the other 95% that I lit did nothing more than light up that certain part of corridor which I would never visit again. The torches are supposed to keep monsters from spawning, but if you’re not returning there, than what’s the point and in some way, you may want the monsters to spawn as to acquire experience points, depending if your just rushing through the game to complete the story which is what I recommend to do, don’t hang about.

Did come across the Plants Vs Zombies blatant easter egg, can’t say I’m a fan of that game or easter eggs in general, but atleast it’s not having to shoot a bottle at three different locations on a map, then shoot three weathervanes just to see a house floating.

Now the biggest waste of time is Skyhold. The base that is home to all your operations, you will spend hours running from one side to the other and having to scour the entire fortress to find a companion for a chat. Fast travel within Skyhold is a pain, with none of the travel stones in actual relevant locations like either the armoury or next to the war room which you’re visiting every 10 minutes. Instead you have to spawn and load the entire throne room before being able to get to where you want. Also I shouldn’t have to keep returning to Skyhold just to access the war table. I should be allowed to send missives from remote locations, just like any king and commander was able to do in olden times, essentially at the checkpoints, considering they give me enough tables for potion creating and armour creation. Assassin’s Creed allows for access to Kenway’s Fleet from either his ship that travels with him around the world or at his base location. Also there should be a way to check progression of war table missions remotely, rather than having to travel all the way back to Skyhold just to check, considering that some of these missions can take over 24 hours and you want to get on with the next one as soon as possible.

Due to the filler content and repeating events we’ve experienced many times in the previous games, the chase for skirt and revelations that aren’t actually that surprising, the game resembles more like abysmal tv soap, with its pointless daily episodes with only the end of the week episode contributing to the overall story. It may have its good points at times, but the story doesn’t actually move anywhere, or atleast at a compelling enough rate. More questions are raised than answered, and a new bad guy will eventually rise to fill the void of their predecessor, somehow always a greater threat to the world than before, but does the hero still save the world if no one’s playing?

I don’t know what it is but I seem to have a knack for making decisions in the game that result in the most emotional and engaging outcomes in the game and story. As mentioned with Origins, I can’t believe how I got the ultimate result with my human male character on my only playthrough, and due to the combinations of my decisions made from Origins, DA2 and Inquisition, I now had to face the ultimate decision. As expanded upon in this article, the probability of actually having the right combination of decisions for this to be possible is absolutely slim, yet somehow I managed it. There’s a point, after saving the Grey Wardens I believe, in which you have to open up a rift to the Fade to save your party from dying from a fall from a collapsing building. You progress through the Fade, learning of how you came about to gain the anchor and become the Inquisitor. When you try to escape from the Fade though, a demon referred to as Nightmare threatens to wipe out your whole party. The only way is for someone to distract the monster whilst everyone else makes a run for it. Having had Hawke and Alistair accompany me into the Fade, they both volunteered to stay behind, resulting in you having to make the decision between who will make the ultimate sacrifice. How on earth do you choose between the hero you nurtured in DA2 and Alistair, a companion from the beginning who should really be the one to lead the Grey Wardens. After 10 minutes of just staring at the screen, my mind scrambling about how fucked up this situation was, I couldn’t understand why there wasn’t a third option in which we all stayed and fought, I’m pretty sure I could have handled this but after a bit of research which resulted in finding the article above, I finally settled with a wretched heart on leaving Hawke behind, only because this character’s whole ethos throughout DA2 was that he could survive any situation, no matter how the odds were stacked against him. Even though you run through the portal, with only a glance over your shoulder of Hawke charging towards the monster, I was sure that if anyone could survive being locked in the Fade with the meanest of monsters, I would eventually see him again. And if not, seriously fuck Bioware for making me play DA2 and now only being stuck with Varric, give us the heroes we deserve!

Getting onto the expansion packs, each introduce new areas to explore. The first, Jaws Of Hakkon focuses on the Inquisitor finding some documentation on the first Inquisitor from 500 hundreds ago, to help with the situation of the Seekers. Bit of a pointless chase, but you go along with it and will eventually be rewarded with a boss battle with mechanics that I didn’t get to experience as I beat the boss too quickly and a new dragon fight, which is probably the hardest out of the lot. The new area is an overgrown forest, with trees that overgrow high above and platforms between the trees that you can walk on. You come across some new tribes, one noticeably trying to replicate the wildlings from Game of Thrones with their northern speech, you do what you do and then move on.

The Deeps Road DLC is much more enjoyable. Being the only mission that accesses the old underground roads of the Dwarves, I was actually completing this halfway through the main game not realising it was actually DLC. The further down the roads you go, the higher the difficulty of the enemies. You’re here to explore what is causing the tremors that threatens to bring down land above. An interesting storyline which doesn’t have any relation to the main campaign, and there are many secret areas to discover that provide a tonne of loot and armour.

The final expansion, The Trespasser is the largest of the pack, which I think can take upto an extra 10 hours to complete. The events transpire two years after having saved the world, as the Inquisitor though much respected, is embroiled in the politics of the future of the Inquisition. Whilst sorting out these boring affairs which Josephine has done a shit job of handling (she has been the worst secretary ever and of all the companions, she’s the only one I wanted to kick out, but of course I’m stuck with her, using the Inquisition solely for her personal gain), you uncover a plot for the entire council to be mass assassinated. Keeping this secret to only your order, you go undercover to find out who is pulling the strings, revealing that this sinister movement has been moving in and out of the palace using eluvians.

Before we get onto the eluvians, I want to mention how annoying the ‘politics’ in the game. Again, a massive rip off from Game of Thrones, everyone refers to underhand methods as ‘The Game’ and fucking mention it blatantly out in the open every 5 fucking minutes, telling me that I need to play ‘The Game’ better etc. Not a word of a lie, it’s mentioned about 200 times, which actually undermines entirely what ‘The Game’ is about, but Bioware have to try to show that they can do intrigue (horribly failing at of course) like prime time tv. But I don’t want to play in this ‘Game’ of politics, especially when I’m limited in my choices, I can think up a few ways of being underhanded to absolute assholes and if I actually had any interest in politics, I would have voted in Brexit and not be trying to decipher an AI’s plot. Gets old listening to characters speaking in whimsical cold passages that are such a cliché.

I’m absolutely gutted that Eluvian lore has been defiled, all of a sudden a tool that everyone has access to in the DLC even though the mirrors are supposed to be extremely rare to come by, nevermind being difficult to operate. In Origins, you only just about come across one in Witches Hunt DLC by exploring a load of dungeons that unlocked a skill that would eventually point towards a mirror that Morrigan is going to disappear through. In DA2, you spend the entire time helping Daisy to rebuild a mirror using blood magic, yet you still never actually get to activate or even use this mirror, so for Inquisition to suddenly pull out a million mirrors, which every man and his dog simply knows how to use these ‘long lost elven artifacts’, is a joke. The locations these mirrors take you to are interesting, but I was hoping that they could take you eventually somewhere ‘even further and greater’. Will have to see where DA4 goes.

The anchor and focus ability finally comes into its own in The Trespasser, yet far too late in the game’s lifecycle. You acquire new anchor skills such as the discharge ability that now also charges the focus bar over time rather than only depending on ally actions, allowing for more frequent uses than once an hour as before. It also now offers invulnerability for a brief time, perfect for tight spots and would have convinced me to finally tackle the Nightmare difficulty, now less scared of receiving K.O. critical hits. The discharge skill can also be used as a brief torch, which would have helped with the previous issue of constantly having to light sconces for no real benefit. If this had been implemented from the beginning of the game, it would have changed everything.

My final gripe/praise that is worthy of a mention, which I think I’m the only person on the Internet to make this deduction, is that the Trespasser DLC is far too much like Final Fantasy IX. There are many references, one of them being the telescopes which are scattered around the palace. As in FF9, there’s a telescope on top of Alexandria Castle that can be used to view the landscape, seeing forest and towns in the distance. In Inquisition, there’s not really much to see in the telescopes apart from what looks like a face of Flemeth in the clouds but more importantly, a windmill and a small village sitting on the side of a hill, reminiscent of Dali village and the windmill that was involved in the manufacturing of black mages. Also if you visit the area of the telescope during night, you can activate the hidden firework mini game which I still can’t believe I stumbled across. In the minigame, you have to explode the fireworks at their peak height to provide the largest explosion to impress the nobles below, much like the sword fight scene at the beginning of FF9, having to time button presses correctly for a better reward from the noble audience – Vamo’ Alla Flamenco! Also the Fade now resembles much more like Memoria from FF9, a broken up castle held by magic that is all topsy turvy.

And now we have finally reached the end. I know it’s been an effort to read through all this waffling, but a long, boring game deserves a long, boring review. The graphics in the game absolutely shine through, and if you’re one of those gamers to only play a game for a few hours before moving onto the next one, then you’ll get to experience everything this game has to offer in those few hours. For everyone else who plays through the entirety of the game and veterans of the series, than you’re going to be severely disappointed and wondering why you dropped so many hours into this rubbish. I really hope Dragon Age 4 is finally the sequel we’ve all been hoping for since Origins.

 

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