Sunday, May 17, 2015

Dragon Age: Inquisition Now With More Dragons and Adventure!

Note to readers: This blog post will have  some spoilers, so if you have not played the game yet or you do not like spoilers, do not read until you have completed the game. Final warning, spoilers ahead! There is also some nudity, so you have been warned.

So our Xbox 360 died and I couldn't play Dragon Age Inquisition right away since I got the Deluxe Edition for the 360. I was bummed, but went on to other games for a bit. Ron and I were finally able to replace it and I was ecstatic about being able to play the game. I finished my first play through of Dragon Age: Inquisition and let me just say that it is an incredible game and I loved every minute of it. It really appears that Bioware took what the fans said to heart, really listened, and worked very hard to make an incredible game for everyone to enjoy. With side quests alone, you can rack up at least 100 hours of game play and with crafting added to the game, there's plenty to do. 

 You can't  import your saves from the first two Dragon Age games directly, but you can  use a browser based tool called Dragon Age Keep that lets you recreate all the choices you made and import them to your Inquisition game.  It also lets you create and save more than one world state which gives you a variety of interesting options. My first time playing, I went with a female Elven rogue. I know, but I love my Elven rogue characters. You can play as an Elf, Human, Dwarf, and a Qunari. That's right, you can play as a Qunari in this game. The character design choices do offer a variety, but not as much as the first two Dragon Age games. I was also a little disappointed to see that so many of the choices for female characters are bald or super short hair. Yes, there are a few shoulder length hair style designs, but no really long hair styles. I understand that it probably is difficult to do long hair right for a video game, but I would have liked to see at least one or two very long hair options rather than Ron Burgundy Anchorman mullet. I'm not even kidding. That's not a deal breaker for me and I'm not against bald women or short hair. I just personally prefer long hair and would have at least liked that option available. But enough about hair. The voices for your character are pretty good and with my starting of my second play through, my Qunari sounds a lot like Michael Dorn (Worf from Star Trek for you young kids) and I'm definitely okay with that!

It's mullet time!

 The story starts with you stumbling out of the Fade with a strange green glowing mark on your hand and you meet Cassandra and Varric (yay, my favorite dwarf after Oghren!) Leliana is there too, but she's not a playable character simply an advisor to you. This offers you an initial introduction to the game with a tutorial of the game controls which seem to have been streamlined to be more efficient. This brings me to the tactical camera. The tactical camera allows you to pause the game and position your party members where you want them and make it feel like a turn based game. I've been told this is necessary for Hard and Nightmare mode. However, I found that I HATED the tactical camera. There are times when you can't see around things because trees or rocks would get in the way. I really only used the tactical camera to check the level and stats of enemies my party was fighting. I personally preferred just having the flow of combat happen without the tactical camera and I was fine. Others may prefer to use it and that's perfectly alright. It is nice that I wasn't forced to use the tactical camera and it was an either/or option.

The tactical camera at work
 Once your introductory mission to the game is finished, you can start exploring the world of Thedas at your base of operations which starts out in Haven. The Hinterlands is your starting area so you can get used to combat and exploration. This is also where you can get the starting side quests that gain the Inquisition influence and you can recruit agents to your cause as well. With the influence points, every time your influence levels up, you get what are known as Inquisition  perks points which can be used to increase things such as your armed forces, equip better healing potions, and gain more experience with battles. You also get a mount for your Inquisitor here with a quest. Mounts are great and you get a variety of choices other than just a simple horse. When you're back at Haven, you can go into the chantry and go to the war room which gives you the summon your war council option. This brings your advisors which consist of Leliana, Cullen, (yes THAT Cullen from both Dragon Age games), and new character Josephine. You can bring up the war table map which has several markers that show a variety of tasks and quests that the Inquisition can do. You can direct your advisors to take care of certain tasks that pop up on the map and it shows you how much time each task will take. This is also where you can unlock new areas to explore for the main story and for more side quests. You can only do the ones located in Ferelden at first, but eventually you do get to expand your horizons to Orlais. I like the war table map, because it allows you to pick and choose which quests you want to do and it does let you know if a quest is going to lock you in (usually the story oriented ones) so you can not do anything else for a time.

War Table Map

For me, the big thing is the story and that's where Dragon Age: Inquisition really shines. You run into Corypheus from The Blood of the Hawke story line in Dragon Age 2 and he is the main villain in Inquisition and ready to destroy all of Thedas and bend everyone to his will. This is the big goal in the game, to stop Corypheus from becoming a God and destroying the world. On the way you need to close the rifts which are tears in the Veil and keep demons from pouring out of it. You seal the rifts with the mark in your hand which is now known as the Anchor. Of course, you need help from your friends and you get it in a variety of interesting characters ranging from warriors to mages. You also get a spiffy castle where you can run your campaign, Skyhold. Morrigan and Flemeth make an appearance that is pivotal to the story and this is where you get to see how the decisions you made in the previous Dragon Age games affects things. For example, if you did the ritual with Morrigan in Origins, she has a son named Kieran and you get to see how that has changed Morrigan and how it affects her and Flemeth.

Corypheus full of evil villainy
Of course you don't reach that point for quite a while as there is a lot to explore in the game. You even get to go to Orlais for some of the quests and it is a lot of fun to see. There is even a quest with a masquerade ball at the Winter Palace with the empress Celene. The environments are beautiful with great details that shows a lot of thought and effort went into this game. Of course it wouldn't be a Dragon Age game without dragons and there are a ton of dragons. There are wyverns, varghests, and the big bad high dragons. There is a quest where you hunt all 10 high dragons. Yes, there are 10 high dragons for you to take down for bragging rights. Even on the casual setting, these dragons are no joke. You have to plan out everything including having the right armor and weapons to ensure your victory or be chomped to bits by these gorgeous and incredibly ruthless creatures. The payoff is worth it however, because you can get some powerful armor pieces, weapons, and accessories for you and your party members.

One of the many dragons you can battle

There are romance options in Dragon Age: Inquisition as well and out of your 9 companions you have your pick of 6 to have a romantic relationship with. The dialogue does give you options to flirt and rack up approval from them. My first play through I went with Cullen and I really liked him a lot. Cullen's romantic interactions were definitely swoon worthy because he was very sweet and you got to see the softer side of him. Note: Only a female elf or human can romance Cullen. There are a lot of great cut scenes with him that just made me smile and say, "Awww, that's so sweet!" There's also something rather cute and charming about that happy little smirk he had every time he kissed my Inquisitior.  There is something for everyone romance wise. While I didn't romance the mage Dorian this time around (I couldn't anyway as a girl, Dorian is gay), I found I liked him a lot as a person. He was funny and sarcastic, yet had real moments of compassion that really made me respect him and want to know more about him. That's just a taste of some of the people you can romance and it definitely leads to some interesting places for the story. There are sexual scenes with the romances, but they are not lewd or raunchy. They're actually tastefully done and it gives you more insights into your romantic interest.

Oh, Cullen. Such a sweetheart!

Now, lets get to the things that aren't so great. Don't get me wrong, I love Dragon Age: Inquisition. However, there are a few flaws. My biggest complaint are the quest glitches. For as long as the game has been out, there's really no excuse for not fixing the quests the developers have been told repeatedly are bugged. Case in point, The Trouble with Darkspawn quest. In this quest you are supposed to talk to the mage Servis and either kill him or bring him back to Skyhold for judgement. The problem is there are three known bug issues with this quest. If you claim Echoback Fort before starting the quest Servis won't spawn, Servis may not spawn at all, or after judging Servis it will still be shown in your quest log as an active quest. I got the Servis doesn't spawn at all quest bug and while not the end of the world, for a completionist gamer like myself this was incredibly frustrating. The only solution is to do a hard save before starting the quest and if you do get the glitch, you have to reload and hope it works. To me, that is a ridiculous work around and frankly, it should be fixed.

 The weird choppy frame rates are insane. It doesn't happen often, but with a couple of the high dragon fights I noticed the frame rate becoming very stilted and choppy as well as the sound. That's not okay and that's downright aggravating when I'm trying to not die a horrible death by dragon. Another thing that didn't happen often, but was equally irritating were the game crashes. I would be in the middle of a quest or a cut scene and suddenly the entire game would freeze and I would have to reboot the game and start over. It's a good thing I stick to my mantra of save and save often, because that really was a nuisance.

 The fact that with some of the quests, none of your actions matter. With Origins, you had interactions with certain characters that could direct the story to a certain path and while you can do that in Inquisition, it's not as in depth the way Origins was. A lot of the quests are fetch this thing or kill that thing. Where are the quests that involve hey kill the kid so he doesn't become a demon or go into the Fade and kick the demon possessing him out? It's not a big deal, but I miss that aspect of the game.

I couldn't stand the use the Oculara, find the shard quests. I also couldn't stand the Astrarium puzzles. These things were an exercise in futility and aggravation for me. With the Oculara, you have to look through the skull telescope and scan the area for glints of light to find the shards. In certain areas like Emprise de Lion if the weather was bad with lots of snow and white, good luck finding anything. It took me several tries before I found that darn shard. With the Astrarium puzzles, you have to look at the stars through the device and you have to match the lines exactly without crossing over them twice to form constellations. I had to restart over so many times, I actually took breaks from it and went on to do other things until I felt less frustrated. With the Oculara quest you get some perks such as resistance to cold magic. With the Astrarium puzzles you get locations that lead to treasure. Granted, I know I didn't have to do these quests, but I wanted to get everything done in the game so I finished them, but I really didn't like them.

An Oculara, the bane of my Dragon Age existence

And the other object of my frustration, an Astrarium

 The lack of healing spells for mages with the exception of a specialization heal spell for Knight Enchanter is total crap. Look, I understand that the barrier spell and healing potions are the way to go in the game, but the Knight Enchanter heal spell is a joke and barely does its job. It barely works and barrier doesn't last that long. I realize this makes you plan out your strategies more carefully and really makes you go balls to the wall with your battles, but at least one sound healing spell that WORKS would have been great. I found all the schematics, recipes, and herbs I could just so I could upgrade my healing and regeneration potions to the maximum potential and have a fighting chance with the harder battles. Again, that's the dragon fights.

 Those flaws aside, Dragon Age: Inquisition is an amazing game and a noticeably vast improvement from Dragon Age II. It is beautifully crafted with brilliant characters, an intricate story, and a world that is definitely worth exploring. Most importantly, it's fun to play. I'm playing through a second time with a Qunari character and enjoying it just as much as my first play through.  Dragon Age: Inquisition is not only a game worth playing, it's a game you should be playing. If you are a fan of the Dragon Age games, if you love RPG games, and if you are ready for more dragons and adventure than you can shake a stick at, then Dragon Age: Inquisition is a wonderful choice.

No one expects the Inquisition!

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