I am now nearing the end of what seems like an eternal wait. Dragon Age: Inquisition is released in the EU this Friday! In the run up to the release I have been doing my due diligence and looking back at the first two games, preparing, getting everything ready and myself in the right mindset so I can step back into the lands of Thedas once again with ease.
This is going to be a lengthy piece so get a cup of tea before you go any further!
Like all of Bioware’s franchises Dragon Age is special to me. I initially struggled with Dragon Age: Origins past the Origins point and gave up on it. I figured that while it was a good RPG it just was not the right one for me. I had enjoyed it a lot but I was getting bogged down in the game’s clumsy UI and the various bugs made it a jarring experience at times. I put it to one side and added it to my eternal pile of shame. Then half a year or so later I decided to give it another go. (Mainly at the urging of the members of what used to the be the NowGamer Forums, we are now The Checkpoint, go check it out!)
This time I chose a different origin, Human Noble, and got stuck in. Finally the game gelled with me and I knew what mistakes to avoid in the early game. Also the UI while still terrible was at least usable by me now. Many hours, the Awakening Expansion and all the DLC later and I had seen and done everything that the game had to offer. I even took the time to check out the other origin stories. I embraced the setting, characters and lore. It was a game that taught me a valuable lesson, sometimes you just have to give things some distance and then give them a second try. Dragon Age was “this close” to being a franchise I was going to pass on and now it is one of my favourite IPs.
The choices in the game have weight to them, the characters are three dimensional and have their own problems outside of your main quest. Then there is the story itself which is a grand epic of twists, turns, betrayal, love and loss. The combat is very tactical and you have to really plan out what you are doing. It truly is a superb RPG. (One that really needs a next-gen Remastered Edition!)
Then came Dragon Age II…
The internet is a strange beast, Dragon Age II is a good game. It is not as good as its predecessor but it is still a damn fine, but very limited RPG. When it came out it got good to great reviews (Metacritic link for those who are interested in such things) and it tried to take the franchise to its next logical evolution. Sadly the internet is a highly negative space and if you say the words, “Dragon Age II is a good game.” People will get very, very, very angry.
The main flaw of Dragon Age II is that the play space given to the player is very small compared to the first game and that due to a compressed development schedule every asset, map and mechanic is reused constantly. You will travel through the same twenty or so maps many, many times throughout the game. You will walk the same streets over and over again. You will look at the city of Kirkwall and want to explore the lands beyond it but be unable to do so. Lots of things in the game are limited to a fraction of what you could do in Dragon Age: Origins. Yes it is a shame but it does not make up the sole experience that is Dragon Age II.
The restrictions placed on the game end up being quite interesting. The limited scope means that you are given a much more personal story set in one city over several years. There is a sense of time passing and things reaching the huge boiling point that closes the game make sense because you have lived the events that have lead up to it. The characters around your hero, Hawke, grow and change with him/her and you see a penniless refugee rise to become champion of the land in true fantasy fashion.
I enjoyed Dragon Age II a lot because I looked past the flaws and saw the wonderful core of a game made with love under the worst of circumstances for a developer. Once again the story was engaging and full of twists and turns. The story is also told in an interesting way being related to Cassandra (an Inquisition party member) by Varric the Dwarven rogue. The results of which can be both fun and interesting as he embellishes the story around your actions.
The cast is perhaps one of Bioware’s best giving you a true band of misfits to interact with and fight along side. The more action orientated focus to the combat was also good to a point. It got very damage sponge intensive after a while but overall it was more to my tastes. I got to hit things in the face in relative real-time and they reacted accordingly. It is was a lot more engaging than watching numbers pop up on the screen. The game also took cues from Bioware’s other big franchise, Mass Effect and gave the player a voiced character and a conversation wheel. Which personally is my preferred approach to these kinds of games. Also once again I explored everything the game had to offer and played through all the DLC.
But hey people are under the impression that everyone in the world thinks it is the worst game ever committed to disc so I doubt my opinion will change things…
I will say this though, if you truly think it is such a bad game why did you finish it? Every time I end up arguing with people about Dragon Age II it turns out that 70-80% of people have finished it. If everything the game does makes it the worst thing in the world why did you play it for up to 80+ hours to reach the end credits? There had to be something in there keeping you invested in the game.
Anyway controversial opinions to one side, Dragon Age: Inquisition is nearly upon us and after looking back at the first two games I began to prepare.
My first stop was to brush up on the game’s setting a lore, it has been a few years and my knowledge of Thedas (The Dragon Age Setting) had gotten a bit rusty. Thankfully the internet is the infinite well of all information and I scoured a few wikis and read a lot of retrospectives. It brought back a lot of good memories and made me remember the smaller and more incidental parts of the game. If you want a good place to start I recommend Kirk Hamilton’s A Beginner’s Guide To All Things Dragon Age over on Kotaku.
Bioware and EA have also been pushing Dragon Age in front of me at any given opportunity. With a steady stream of videos, streams and previews smattered around the place. There are two initiatives in particular that really got me engrossed back in the setting and the franchise. Adding to my excitement levels to the point where they are now at a fever pitch!
One is Dragon Age: The Keep and the other is Dragon Age: The Last Court which is a sub section of The Keep.
The Keep is a wonderful web based app that allows you to craft your Dragon Age world state before heading into Inquisition. It is an elegant solution to the problem of Dragon Age save data not being compatible across platforms and hardware generations. It pulls what data it can from Bioware’s social servers and then presents you with all the possible choices you can make in both Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II.
So while it does not directly import your save data it turns out to be a positive because you end up pouring over each entry and even looking up a couple of the obscure ones on wiki’s. You can also play your selected choices out via a video narrated by Dragon Age’s resident story teller, Varric.
I have spent far to much time tweaking and changing every decision in my chosen world state. Right now it is narrowed down to having all the big choices match the ones I originally made and then the smaller ones being a mix of what I can remember and what feels right. Pouring over my achievement lists and obtained DLC lists for both games also helped narrow things down a bit more.
It is such a simple way of doing things that has a big impact. I can see two whole games worth of choices laid out before me and I cannot wait to see how and when they will turn up in Inquisition. It plays to the strength of Bioware’s games, the choices are always personal to the player no matter what the outcome is.
If you have yet to experience The Keep do yourself a favour and head over to DragonAgeKeep.com right now and begin crafting your world.
The Last Court is a recent addition to The Keep that comes to you from Failbetter Games. It is a web based text adventure built on the StoryNexus engine. With the action playing out in the same way as Failbetter’s other game, Fallen London.
The premise is simple, you are the Marquis of Serault (either the female Huntress or the male Scholar) and you have a task to complete. You must gain favour with Divine Justinia V and restore Serault to its former glory after your ancestor shamed it with his more….unorthodox rule of the land. Being set in the Orlais region of Thedas means that there is lots of intrigue and deception at play as you make your way through the game.
The way the game plays out is fun and does not require to much of your time. You have seven days (as in actual days) to gather as many resources as possible to earn Justinia’s favour. You can do this via various means and there is the typical freemium timers and cool down which can be sped up or bypassed with real money. I did not put a lot of energy into the game at first, mainly seeing it as a good time waster to play in bed or on my lunch at work. Then three days in it clicked and suddenly loads of story threads where happening all at the same time. I carried on playing fairly frequently, usually 3-4 times a day and ended up with a good ending that I am happy with.
Everything you do is also logged in The Keep for it to presumably be added to your Inquisition world state at some point. At the moment it says that it is saving choices and actions but you cannot see them in The Keep itself.
Still it is a great little game that is far better at filling in time than the usual crap I play on my phone when I am waiting for things to happen.
The other part of my prep is deciding on which race, gender and class I will be playing as. At the moment I am set on either a Male Qunari Mage or a Female Elf Rogue. I think I will end up going for the mage option seeing as I have yet to play as a Mage in any Dragon Age game. Inquisition is also the first time players can play as a Qunari. (Though understandably a Tal-Vashoth Qunari so that you don’t get bogged down in the law of the Qun dictating things). So it will be something new for me on both fronts.
I am also toying with the idea of being a bit looser with the choices I make. In all of BioWare’s games I tend to always pick the “good” option over anything else. This is in part due to my nature and also due to my need to see the apparent best ending for games like this. This time though I am going to go against my nature and try my hardest to play as my actual character in true RPG fashion. Included in this decision is my approach to romance options. I am going to let that play out as organically as possible rather than making a predetermined choice, that usually happens when I see the character I personally find most attractive and playing towards that. I want to get back to that feeling I had when I played Knight of the Old Republic many, many, many years ago were after many hours of arguing and bickering with her both me and my Revan realised we had feelings for her.
In the run up I have also watched a few review videos and previews to wet my appetite but I am starting to stray into potential spoiler territory. So from now until Friday I am in full on Dragon Age black out mode. Especially considering that those pesky Americans get access to the game on Tuesday! Staggered game releases in this day and age! I know! It truly is a real first world problem!
The final thing about my gearing up for Dragon Age: Inquisition is of course choosing which version out of the many of the game to buy. In this instance I am throwing caution to the wind and throwing my money down the overpriced Collector’s Edition Well of Publisher Profits and buying the Inquisitor’s Edition for PS4.
Just look at it:
It is a pretty cool pack and has a bunch of things in it that I am actually planning on using while I play through the game. (More on this another time) I am a sucker for these things especially when they are presented to you as semi in-game like objects. I find it helps with the immersion and is a great way to kick off your experience with any game.
So that is my feeling on and prep for Dragon Age Inquisition. Friday cannot come soon enough.