Monday, 24 November 2014

Dragon Age (without an) Inquisition


Having hacked my way through giant spiders and tiny velociraptors, my journey through the pitch black cave is finally at an end. I step out of the mouth and the light, though dim, blinds me for a moment and in that moment I feel the earth shake and a roar rips through the air deafening the storm that rages around the coast.

As my vision clears I see the rocks and pebbles of the beach still being battered by the unrelenting waves. Rain hammers down all around painting the world in grim grey hues and lightning flashes somewhere on the endless ocean horizon.

Something huge rushes into view, crossing from above the cliffs to my right and soaring down towards the ground. It passes behind some of the gargantuan pillars of rock that climb out of the sea floor and comes to land somewhere across the bay, shaking the ground as it touches down.

With reckless abandon and child-like grin on my face I charge across the stony beach, slipping on rocks and ignoring the grasping plants. I catch another glimpse of the mammoth beast and its head whips out, its teeth bared. It appears to be attacking something.

As I get closer I hear another roar, this one different from before; deeper but not as loud. I move around the last of the stone pillars and crouch down behind a fallen tree so the beasts don't see me and I look up to see a dragon, near filling my vision, trading blows with a tusked giant.

I forget myself and stand, my mouth hanging open at the sight of the spectacle, just as the giant lands a vicious blow to the dragon's head. The winged monstrosity shakes off the attack and launches into the air, flapping its giant wings and fleeing the battle. The giant bellows out a victory cheer and turns towards me, its beady eyes focusing on me...

Dramatic no?


So I've been playing Dragon Age Inquisition (DA:I) and I'm about 20 hours in (fairly impressive in just two days of play but helped by a near terminal case of man-flu... honest) and my first impressions are that I'm loving it. The grand spectacle of it is what's hitting me most at this point. The passage above actually happened! Yes I added a bit more flair to it but good games shouldn't spoon feed us everything, they should tell us where we are and what we're doing but our own imaginations should make the events more real and that's what DA:I is doing for me.

This wasn't actually my first encounter with a dragon in DA:I but the first was a bit different and can be summed up like this.

“Vicki, come and look and the screen. LOOK! A dragon. I just walked out here and it took off and... damnit now my face is on fire.”

It didn't go so well.

Anyway the game starts a bit slow, as most grand RPGs do these days. Choose character class, create character, watch a bunch of cinematics, set the scene, spend 30 minutes learning how to play the game despite already knowing that pushing up on the thumbstick will walk my character forward (don't you just love tutorials). The game doesn't take long in throwing you out into the first of its locations and it's an impressively big one. I've spent the majority of my 20 hours of gameplay in the first zone of the Hinterlands and I've still got plenty of quests to do and a fire-breathing dragon to bitch slap.

As with most games of the ilk you have the option of dancing to the developers' tune and following the story or spending hours upon hours gathering herbs and making potions... or gathering metals and making armour/weapons... or gathering... I'll stop. You pick up party additions quickly and most are instantly memorable though maybe not for the right reasons (I honestly can't understand one elven lass, her language is almost as bad as one my own characters).

The storyline... well only being 20 hours in it's hard to say for sure but: big hole in sky, out pours demons, some big bad wants to take over/enslave the world. Main character has to convince the inhabitants of the world to band together under an Inquisition to beat back the big bad. That's about all I've got so far and I've got a couple of issues: 

First is that this is the plot from Mass Effect 3. If my character has to choose between a) sacrificing himself to save the world, b) sacrificing himself to save the world, or c) sacrificing himself to save the world at the end I will not be pleased.

Second is that I do believe they've misunderstood the point of an Inquisition. Historically the Inquisition (both in our world and the Dragon Age world) was a group of zealots given authoritative power by a religious institution to hunt down, question, and judge those who practice 'heretical' beliefs. In DA:I the Inquisition seems to be a bunch of folk brought together by a common enemy with the express purpose of saving the world. From now on I think I will call the game Dragon Age: Fellowship of the Ring.
Cue dramatic landscape panning.

But these issues aren't stopping me from having fun, from enjoying the game, from wanting to drop my editing in the 'to do' list and jump back on it, and from trying to sex up as many of the characters as possible (anyone who has ever played a Dragon Age or Mass Effect game will get what I mean).

The grandeur of the game is undeniable. It's beautiful from sunlit rolling fields and mountains, to storm-ravaged coasts, to sparsely populated cities where nobody ever moves more than a few feet (one day games devs will get cities right). And it's wonderful to see dragons done well for a change. I loved Skyrim but when I can kill a dragon with 2 arrows and then scoff down its soul... it just doesn't really feel like a dragon to me. They need to be huge and powerful and I should run in terror when I see one.
This is how soul eating should look.

So 20 hours in and I can highly recommend DA:FotR. It's fun, it's grand, and it's so steeped in lore and back story that you can spend hours just learning about the governmental politicking of Tevinter, trust me.


Oh and my character is wearing this hat!