Dragon Age: Inquisiton – Interim musings

Well interim is somewhat disingenuous. I’m forty-five hours into the single player and I’ve also put about twenty hours into the multiplayer. If I’d one thing to say it would be, buy this game. It’s a great, though not flawless game, in its own right and it really redeems Bioware after the lacklustre Dragon Age 2 and the debacle that was Mass Effect 3. So why am I writing this then, why not wait till I finish and do a proper review? Well, it’s because I’ve run into a problem, largely of my own making.

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So I wont really be talking about the game at length here, I’ll be focusing on the aforementioned problem.

Modern Bioware games, starting with Mass Effect, have used a continuous personalised narrative as one of their key selling points. During the course of a game you can make choices and these choices/saves will be imported and affect later games. Now to be honest the promise has proved more alluring than the frequently flawed implementation. Whether it was Dragon Age 2 largely sidestepping your choices by totally changing the location and focus of the game, or Mass Effect 2 being written with zero consideration for how it would tie into a sequel, Bioware have never got it quite right. Until now I think its fair to say.

Your choices from Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age 2 have a marked effect in Dragon Age: Inquisition. They’re also worked in quite organically and avoid the “Cameo by contractual obligation” that earlier games suffered from. Bioware also came up with an excellent way of handling importing earlier decisions, which may have been made on previous generation consoles or entirely different platforms. Their answer to this was The Keep. This site will import your DA:O and DA2 game states from your old Bioware Social or Origin account. Then you can select one of these saves, or create an entirely new world state. You can go through each game and edit every single major (or often minor) decision about how you changed the world. You can then save this, have it played back to you with a nice voiceover, and most importantly, import it into Dragon Age: Inquisition.

All of this feeds into the central point I want to make here, your decisions in the Dragon Age games have a weight beyond their immediate effect on the game at hand. I was listening to NPC’s last night talk about actions my first Dragon Age character took almost five (real world) years ago. Considering that the franchise isnt ending here who you play as and what you do has more importance than it would in a standalone game.

So that’s the first thing to keep in mind, your character and their decisions matter.

A slight tangent here, one failing for the game, and it’s not really a major issue. Is that your character can feel a little bit like a cypher. They have a shallow (two to three line) history determined by race and class choice and that’s more or less the only times its addressed. Your decisions characterise the Inquisitor but the game focuses more on plot decisions rather than moral ones. After playing my character for forty five hours I realised I don’t have a great grasp on “who” they are.

So that’s the second thing to keep in mind, shallow characterisation.

Romanceable NPC’s is also another selling point of the modern Bioware RPG. I think Dragon Age 2 handled it best, all NPC romance options were bisexual. I don’t want to play through a game again just to romance a character, and to date havent don’t so, but it annoyed me that my male Grey Warden couldnt romance Alistair in Dragon Age: Origins and its annoying here that my female Inquisitor can’t romance Cassandra. While I find most of the companions interesting as characters the romance options in this one seem strictly worse than the other Dragon Age (and Mass Effect for that matter) games.

This leads me onto my next point, my taste in creating characters has changed. In short, while I have no problems with the gender of an established or set character (I don’t mind playing Geralt of Rivia in The Witcher just as I’ve no problems playing Lara Croft in Tomb Raider) if given the choice these days I’ll generally create a female character. No particular reason behind it, and if I have a stronger image in mind for a male character I’ll go with that, but all other things being equal I’ll make a female character. Which generally doesn’t matter as in most games its purely cosmetic. But in Dragon Age: Inquisition it affects potential romance characters. In this case, Cassandra, I don’t even know why I want to get into a romance option with her. But knowing I can’t pisses me off.

So my current Inquisitor is a female Quanari Mage. It’s a running joke that I’m basically incapable of creating anything other than a magic user if given the option so there wasnt a lot I could do there. Similarly I was always going to start with a female character. Finally I decided on a Quanari because the Arishok was the coolest looking thing about Dragon Age 2. I think they dropped the ball a bit with Quanari PC’s in this game. They just look like elongated purple humans, they lack that element of “otherness” that DA2 Quanari had. Though at least they don’t look as shit as Sten (the Quanari party member in Dragon Age: Origins, god I hated that fucker). So I find that as things progressed I was more and more dissatisfied with how my Inquisitor looked in comparison to the rest of the games population. The lacklustre amount of variation in armour sets doesn’t help with this, the game falls down a bit on armour variety. Being a Quanari makes that even worse as they can’t wear helmets and instead have stupid face paint that is just terrible looking (most helmets are done purely, I’ve had them turned off all game) and they seem to have less armour variation as well.

All of this came to a head this evening when I reached the penultimate story line mission. The game is fucking massive, there are areas (and each area is huge) that I literally havent even visited. Theres literally tens of hours of content I could do before I push on with the main storyline. But do I want to do that if Im not going to stick with this Inquisitor? Do I want future games to be shackled to my female quanari mage inquisitor? I can’t decide and that indecision is why I’m writing this instead of banging through the games ending. Should I finish the game with a character who wont end up being my “real” Inquisitor? An inquisitor that I’ve very little idea of who they are and one whom I’m not particularly pleased with the look off?

Or should I restart now and try to barrel through the game to get back to where I am before pushing on and finishing? If so who would I use, I’ve a few characters I played through the prologue with I could load up (a great weapon using female elven warrior, a female human dual wield rogue and finally a male human archer). If I’m going to do that I don’t want to play as a mage again, but then for “posterity” do I want my inquisitor to be a mage? Similarly I feel I should play a male character so I can try the Cassandra romance route which is apparently awesome, but do I want my Inquisitor to be male in future games?

Well, writing that out helped, I’m going to finish the game tomorrow with my current character. But I’m not going to do any of the areas I havent explored (or the huge body of personal quests and side quests I havent done). Then when they realise a substantial bit of DLC I’ll do a second play through as a male human rogue, whom I shall write a suitable background for before hand, and that will be my “real” Inquisitor.

As the internet would say, srzbznz

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