Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Dragon Age Inquisition: The World is Your Burrito.

Dragon age is a relatively young series, but it is among the more unique experiences out there. Containing a story the deeply explores religion, and socio-politics, and characters that make themselves easy to love, or hate, it contains one of the more expansive story lines in modern RPGs. Best of all, the game’s story is entirely responsive to your choices. Dragon Age becomes the perfect game for discussion around the water cooler at work, because no two people are going to have exactly the same experience. Not unlike Mass Effect, the game lets you carry your decisions over from one game to the next, either by sharing your save files directly, or through the Dragon Age Keep (https://dragonagekeep.com) which cannot carry over all of your customizations, but does the best it can. Sadly, if you are playing on the PS4 or Xbox One the Keep is the only way to maintain your story.

   The Story of Dragon Age Inquisition is, perhaps, the shortest of the trilogy. It was disappointing in that regard, but there are more than enough side quests to make up for it. All total, I clocked in at 92 hours before I beat this game. It’s no Skyrim, with its 200 + hours to complete, but the story that is there is deep, rich, and satisfying.
   You start by creating your character. Then you are revealed to be the sole survivor of a terrorist attack on the Chantry (This world’s largest religion.) At first you are the sole suspect, but then you are quickly cleared of any wrong doing, when it is revealed that a celestial being of some kind pulled you out of the fade (hell) and delivered you back to the world. Soon, whispers run rampant that you are the Herald of Andraste (this game’s equivalent to a savior figure), chosen by the Maker to deliver the world from evil.
   As with previous games in the series, whether or not you accept or reject religion is up to you. The game confirms to you. You win some friends, you lose some, but either way, the game is not anti-religious, unless you are, the reverse is also true.
   In the midst of all of this is an ongoing civil war between mages, and the Templars who regulate their magics. The ideologically lazy thing to do is to side with the mages, against their horrible oppressors…  However, there are some uncomfortable truths that many may over look doing so:

1     1)      Unregulated mages (apostates) can become malefacarum (blood mages) and in doing so, can, and do, become possessed by demons, becoming monsters, and dangerous ones at that. 

2     2)      In the first game, the temple of Andraste reveals several indisputable truths. The events which caused the Chantry to emerge in the world happened. There was a group of mages that made it to the fade, and invaded the Holy City (heaven) at the other end of the Fade. They came back the monstrous Dark Spawn.

3     3)      Because of 1 and 2, the need to regulate mages is indisputable. The degree of regulation is, in my mind, subject to debate.

   In Dragon Age 1 and 2 I did the best I could to keep the peace between the two factions. Even won a trophy for my diplomacy in Part 2… but then one of the characters (Anders) back stabbed me, and everyone, by blowing up the Kirkwall Chantry. A lot of people died in the attack, and I put Anders down like the dog he turned out to be. But now the war is waging, and I am in the role of the Herald of Andraste, having to navigate these difficult political waters.

   Honestly, I thought that eventually I would have to side with the mages, but I ended up siding with the Templars, simply because I started conversing with mages, like Vivienne, who felt that the Chantry and Templars were a net good, and that unregulated Mages would become a blight unto themselves. Although, I wish the game let you broker a peace deal, as I was about to in Part 2 before Anders attacked the Chantry.

   Still, the game’s story is entirely dependent upon the choices you make. This is what makes this game series so great. My character, in this entry, embraced his role as the Herald of Andraste, and even when (spoiler alert) it was revealed that he was not rescued by Andraste herself, he maintained that it had to have happened for a reason. He used his position to rebuild the Chantry, and re-shape it, as an instrument of helping the needy, and aiding the afflicted. He even helped to get someone elected Divine (pope) that would accomplish his ends (Cassandra, for me.) But you might not want that outcome. Perhaps you buy into the Occupy Mage Circles mantra, and side with them, and tear down the Chantry… The world is your burrito, make it the way that you want it!

On the downside, for as much boasting as Bioware did that this game could never be done on Wii-U because of the power of the Frostbite Game engine, this game could have been done on Wii-U. For as good as it looks, this was clearly a game built for PS3 and Xbox 360, with some modest tweaks for the PS4. The draw distance is not terribly far back, there is still an unacceptable amount of frame rate dips and clipping (when objects or characters fall through each other), as well as some other obnoxious glitches. Got a custom Hawke from Dragon Age 2? Prepare to say good bye, because not all of the customizations present in part 2 are there, and if you decide to do the best that you can with what is there, and your Inquisitor isn’t using his (or her) default voice option, he will be after you customize Hawke… I decided that keeping the American accent was more important than customizing Hawke. The game does take place 10 years later, so maybe his red hair had turned black?

   Then there are those moments where the game locks up completely, only to unlock itself and you have no sound. Thankfully, this only happened once, but framerate dips and clipping and poor collision detection make some aspects of this game frustrating.  It’s hard to believe that Bioware would publish a game this incomplete. They are doing patches, some of the more severe problems have already been fixed, but this should not happen again, as great as the game was over all, it’s glitches give the game an overall feeling of being incomplete.

   That said, I still recommend buying it because the game is still very good, and the story is phenomenal, if a bit short. Just be aware that Bioware does not assume that all of their fans are straight white males. As such, there is some content that, while avoidable, some may find objectionable. Just know that your story does not have to include it, if you do not actively seek it.

3.5/5 Stars: A great game, marred by annoying technical problems, which should be purchased in spite of those problems. 

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