Secret Writings of the Ash Ock

Aequam memento rebus in arduis servare mentem

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Dragon Age Inquisition
So, yeah, I've finally been playing the single-player campaign. I started it last November and never got around to finishing it. A month or two ago, I started playing the multiplayer with a friend of mine and we were quite enjoying it. I took the knowledge I'd learned from the multiplayer and picked a better class to play in single player. And now I'm hooked into the story.

I'll have a few pluses and minuses to list here, but the short review would be: Buy this game, it is probably the best RPG Bioware has done in 5 years. The last time I had this much fun was probably Mass Effect 2.

The pluses:

Great graphics and visual effects: All of the locations get a tremendous amount of atmosphere from the improvements in graphics. I'm on Xbox One, YMMV on other platforms. But it adds to the story telling.

Great storyline: I'm not sure how much the storyline is actually branching in a way that matters, but the appearance of making decisions that matter is actually there on this first play through. Actions and decisions have consequences. You lock some things out with your decisions.

Great characterization: All of the NPCs in your party are interesting, interact with each other more deeply, and have backstories.

Great tie-in to the lore: If you played Dragon Age and Dragon Age II, there are both deep tie-ins to what's happened before in those games and also to the backstory and lore of the setting. There was a point about 12-15 hours in where I wished that Dragon Age Origins was available on Xbox One so I could just slap the disk in and watch the OPENING CREDITS. I did find my old "ultimate" strategy guide with the 100 pages or so of setting lore. I feel like the story is deeply invested in the lore (even if I still skim the codex entries....)

I've found myself digging deeper into stuff that's been published about the setting, and wanting to know more about the world, something I felt during Dragon Age Origins, and totally didn't feel in Dragon Age II.

In particular, I would say they've managed to make the Chantry and religious side of the setting a bit more interesting. I've been RPing most of my character's responses as a devout person, and there's a fulfilling arc to that.

Deep mechanics: Comboing within the game is still a thing, like DA:O. Knowing how to spec your characters makes a huge difference. My core party of 4 is now just a threshing machine of AOE damage.

Great dragons: Every time I discover a high dragon, my heart usually skips a beat, because it is unexpected and dramatic.

Reasonably good AI for party members: Most of the party seems to use their abilities semi-intelligently. I don't have to micromanage a lot of fights.

The negatives:

Slow load times: This is true of almost any Xbox One game. There are so many media files to load, and it never seems to be quick.

Find the pixel: Every major zone in the game has at least four different "hunt the pixel" quest lines. Find the zones, fine the markers to claim, find the crystal shards, find the mosaic tiles. Outside of having a strategy guide, the chance of finding everything is vanishingly small. I still haven't finished a mosaic.

Different mechanics in Multiplayer: While they share some things, there's a lot of differences in how you purchase abilities in single player. Crafting is also very different. In particular, single player appears to force you to "waste" more points on the skill trees to get to the abilities you really are interested in.

(An opposing view: you also get access to MORE abilities in single player, meaning you can, say, make a mage character who has combos that aren't possible in SP).

Opaque mechanics: While in places the mechanics are deep, this game also suffers from the problem many of these games have, in that they throw a bunch of numbers at you without giving you all the numbers or showing you enough information to really assess whether something is an improvement or not.

Sameness to the fights: Outside of major boss fights, I'm just clearing out the trash, in the MMO sense. Most of the time, I don't take any damage now. Ho hum.

A gigantic f-ing world: All of the zones are just gigantic. While this gives the game a great sense of scope, and lets them do interesting zone design, it also means this game is probably twice as long as any of the Mass Effect games, but not with twice the story. More, twice the pixel hunting.

Little need to switch between party members: Once I got my party of 4 where I like it, I've almost never switched. Frankly, it is a pain to find or equip gear on the other 6 or so party members, so I usually just don't bother. It also means that I really have to make a dedicated effort to go back and talk to these characters for backstory.

Big-ass world: Did I mention that this game world is huge? Seriously, I didn't need to hunt for pixels in a world this big.

I figure I will finish this play through, with some minor looking at strategy guides for the locations of mosaic pieces. Then I will dig deep into a strategy walkthrough and decide if I want to play a second character through it this summer.


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