Apologies for the long wait on the follow up, but the holiday season is always a busy one. You can blame Bioware for launching so late in November. Next week will see me returning to a more normal schedule and regular updates. My next article will be about three scenes in Inquisition that suggest the game was originally supposed to be a much better game, but for now, read about all these other problems the game had.
Inquisition Needed a Beginning
The whole pace of Inquisition just didn’t feel right, I think most of that has to do with open world and MMORPG feel of the game’s mechanics, but the pacing is off from the start. The beginning of Inquisition doesn’t feel like a beginning and there’s no buildup to the giant explosion, you enter the game after the inciting incident of the game: the destruction of the Conclave. Now in media res is a common literary technique and works great, but starting the story after the most important invent in the game is such a stupid move. That’s like starting Skyrim during Alduin’s attack and asking us to choose our race and appearance while fires burn in the background or starting Mass Effect after the attack on Eden Prime, the whole pace of the beginning section would be wrecked. There’s in media res and then there’s just starting at a random point in the story because fuck the pacing, amirite?
The inciting incident is a pivotal part of any story, it’s literally what sets the story in motion and propels the characters into the unknown world. The only stories I can think of that successfully start after the inciting incident are the ones occur in reverse order, like Memento or Irreversible. Having such an important part of the story occur off-camera is just a silly, amateurish mistake to make. That’s writing 101 stuff right there. And no, seeing the explosion on the main menu when we press play doesn’t count! Nor does the beginning narration. Dragon Age: Origins didn’t start at the Battle of Ostagar with a narration of why the Ferelden army was meeting there, and Dragon Age: Inquisition shouldn’t have started after the single most important event in the story.
What would have been nice is if we’d arrived a few days before the explosion, and then instead of a 75 word description of our character’s background on the menu screen, we could have been properly introduced. Explain why we’re going to the conclave with some actual dialogue and coherent exposition. Have it start with the Dwarf character meeting with his Carta Boss in the deep roads and receiving orders to contact the Mages or the Paladins about supplying them with lyrium, or the Elf character talking with her Keeper about monitoring the talks at the Conclave to see if the Mage-Templar war will threaten the Clan. Perhaps we even arrived with some companions, so that we could play off of them and add some history and backstory to our characters. We could also have gotten a bit of exposition about the Mage rebellion for those of us who didn’t play Dragon Age 2 and had no idea that war had broken out. Then there could have been a section where the player character starts to realize something is happening, a conspiracy looming in the shadows and tries to unravel it. And fails.
The player obtains the anchor but Corypheus still causes the conclave to explode, killing everyone, including the friends you arrived with. That way Corypheus get’s his moment of victory, albeit robbed of his ultimate goal, and he would have taken something from us (our companions) and giving our character a reason to be pissed off. Sure, this would have meant that the story wouldn’t have been able to do the whole “Elder One” mystery, but frankly Corypheus was such a disappointing reveal that I don’t think that would have been a huge loss.
Dragon Age Inquisition is just… Dumber
Dragon Age Inquisition reminds me of the new Star Trek Movies; it’s a fine game in its own right, but its more of a summer popcorn film than it is like the thought provoking game that came before it. Inquisition is very much like Star Trek Into Darkness, it’s beautiful to look at, has some great characters and wonderful moments, but it has a plot that barely holds together and a stupid ending. They’re both good, but hardly grand, and you probably won’t remember them in a few weeks. So why does Inquisition just feel dumber than Origins? Or any previous game in the Bioware line up?
I think the dumbness of the game is best on display at the Winter Palace when the Inquisitor is attending the ball. About 90% of this quest is absolutely terrific. You spend your time speaking with foreign dignitaries trying to keep your Court Approval rating up, while stealing away for a few minutes at a time to sneak around the palace looking for clues as to who Corypheus’s secret accomplice is. It’s a real Game of Thrones moment, and it keeps you guessing as to where everyone’s loyalties really lie. It was almost about to be my favorite quest in the game…
And then the Grand Duchess Florianne waltz in, announces that she was the traitor the whole time, and then waltz out to let her minions kill you.
My jaw literally dropped.
She wasn’t even on my list of suspects. But that’s not why my jaw dropped. It dropped because I couldn’t believe how stupid that whole thing scene was. Not only did she give herself away when she wasn’t even on the list of suspects, but then she acts like fucking Megatron and leaves to let her lesser minions to kill the hero? How cliched can we possibly get here? I half expected the next scene to be her cussing out Starscream for fucking up again.
For the first and only time in the game I was really feeling like an inquisitor, investigating to see who among the Orlesian nobles were traitors, relying on wits instead of swords. I had to sift through lies, half-truths and planted evidence to somehow arrive at the truth; and right up until that unmasking I felt like there was a real possibility I might get it wrong. There was a good chance I might fail and arrest the wrong person, and that’s what made it such a tense mission: the possibility of failure.
It was great, it could have continued to be great. Then for reasons I still can’t fathom, Bioware just chucks the whole thing out the window and makes the villain wear a neon sign around her neck.
That is why this game is dumber… because it assumes you’re dumb. It’s as if someone looked at this mission and thought it would be too much effort for players to figure out who the bad guy was, we better just let the villain unmask herself like a Scooby-Doo villain. No, I take that back. At least the Scooby gang got to unmask the villains themselves, we didn’t even get that much.
The bigger reason I think this game is dumber than Origins is that…it’s really not about anything. As a commenter pointed out in my last article, there’s no theme, no central idea behind the game. The Mass Effect Games were all about fate and self-determination, the definition of life, the importance of cooperation and trust. Things that people can relate to. Origins explored the idea of pragmatism, and what you would be willing to sacrifice in order to save the world. Even the new JJ Abrams Star Treks have themes, simple things like self-confidence versus arrogance and the importance of family, but at least they’re there.
Inquisition feels more like The Expendables…it’s just there. It’s exists simply to exist.
There was a great quote from Varric in the game, and while I can’t remember it verbatim, it went like this:
“People write stories to figure out why things are the way they are.”
It’s absolutely true, most of the time. The only time this doesn’t ring true is when the story is being told specifically to turn a profit. No writer worth his salt writes his story based on what will sell well, we write what we love and know. What we’re passionate about. Of course we all hope that our stories make us rich and famous, we all want that Pulitzer Prize, but we don’t sit down and figure out what kind of story will sell the best, we simply start writing what’s in our hearts and hope someone finds that interesting enough to buy. The only stories that are written and designed for the sole purpose of profit are those you find at the grocery store. In the gaming world, these are the Call of Duty titles [Note: I haven’t played the newest one which I’ve heard has an okay story], and the increasingly convoluted Assassin’s Creed. Dragon Age: Inquisition is another one. If there was a grander story or greater theme hidden somewhere in this story, it was obviously left on the cutting room floor because I sure as hell can’t find it.
They didn’t make this game to tell a story, they made the game and hastily slapped a story on top of it. Which is how most games are made unfortunately, but most games don’t market themselves as amazing storytelling adventures with choices that affect the story.
It’s an Open World MMORPG
Without the MM
Or the RP
Or the Open World
I’ve never gotten into MMORPGS, or online gaming in general for that matter. It might be because I’m a heartless, hopeless misanthrope that hates interacting with other humans even over the internet. But more likely it’s because MMORPGS and multiplayer-only games don’t have stories, or if they do, they’re god awful. I tried playing Final Fantasy 11, World of Warcraft, Age of Conan and a half-dozen other titles but each time I couldn’t be bothered to do the endless grinding required to move on. Within a month I usually quit.
Interestingly the only MMO I ever enjoyed playing was Bioware’s The Old Republic, because it had such a heavy story focus. But even then some of the character storylines start to wear a bit thin, if only because they’re forced to stretch them out over 60 levels of content.
So I guess it’s really no surprise that I ended up hating Dragon Age: Inquisition since everything from the collectible mounts and thrones to the endless fetch quests (Get 10 ram meat!) just screams MMORPG. And even comparing it to other MMORPGS, like the Old Republic, it’s still not a very good MMORPG either. I can take more than 8 abilities in The Old Republic, and I don’t have stupid respawning health bottles that run out at critical moments in the game either. The combat is more fluid in The Old Republic, the enemies more diverse, the challenges more interesting, the bosses more cunning. A boss in any typical MMO will summon minions to his aid, spawn protective shields, sometimes he’ll even have powers that affect the room you’re standing in, things that force you to change and adapt to the shifting conditions of the battle. The closest we get to boss fights in DA:I is the Envy Demon and the High Dragons, who repeat the same 3 tactics in an infinite loop. The Envy Demon attacks, burrows and erupts like a standard Nightmare. The Dragons will do [insert element here] breath, tail swipe and then take off to do a little aerial show for you before landing again and repeating it. A few of them will cover themselves with armor, like that fucking dragon in the Hissing Wastes, but all that really does is make the fight last twice as long as it should.
MMORPGs are a pyschological experiment that would have given Pavlov a science boner. They’ve tapped into the reward center of the human brain so well that people will literally pay money so they can work a second job in a fictional universe. I’ve never been able to get into those games though, and all my attempts to do so were motivated by my wanting to play with my online friends. For me, a good story is the reward, and so I was never satisfied. But I can see why endless piles of loot and clearing an epic dungeon with a guild of friends, could be a reward in and of itself. If Dragon Age: Inquisition was attempting to replicate those triumphs though, they failed. Perhaps, since I don’t like MMORPGs, I’m not someone who can make such a claim credibly, but again comparing this game to others in the genre it seems to fall pitifully short.
You know what I wanted most in the whole wide world while playing DA:I? A fucking sword. That’s all, just a sword that looked good on my sword/shield warrior, you’d think in a high fantasy setting I’d be tripping over swords left and right. Instead all I found were axes and maces and about a billion unique daggers despite fact that the dual-wield rogue is the worst class in game. The highest sword I found was like 130 DPS, and it didn’t even look good. You want armor? Great, but all the epic unique armor you’re going to find is going to be inferior to the crafted stuff…and it won’t even look different aside from a pallette swap. As for leveling? Making my way down the skill tree in every other RPG is a pleasure, figuring out which abilities I want and seeing my character become more powerful is a great feeling. Making my way down Dragon Age: Inquisition’s skill tree is more like a skill twig, tiny and completely unexciting. I had already started unlocking two branches of skills before even getting to the specialty unlock quest.
Of course none of that really undermined the story, but it didn’t exactly help hide the flaws in the story either. The more I think about this game, the more baffling its Game of the Year award becomes. I know this year’s games have all been pretty blah, but surely there was something worthier of the title?
The bigger issue with Dragon Age: Inquisition was that it secretly wanted to by Skyrim. All the promises of an open world and exploration that were delivered before release were clearly aimed at the huge amount of people who buried Bethesda in money in exchange for Dragon Genocide Simulator Skyrim.
Now I love Skyrim, I have hundreds of hours logged in that game and it was single-handedly responsible for ruining one of my National Novel Writing Month runs by coming out in November. That said, Skyrim’s story is dull and uninteresting at best. A big evil Dragon has come to eat the world, you have to stop him by shouting at him real loud, the end. And you know I can’t say I blame them, writing a story that can run independent to the player character’s actions during the story must be incredibly difficult. You can leave the smoking ruins of Alduin’s rampage and never touch the story again if you so choose, which again, is terrific but it’s a game type that doesn’t exactly lend itself to powerful epic stories that draw you in. I think Rockstar’s games are an excellent example of why the very nature of an Open World is such a difficult medium for good storytelling.
When I was playing Red Dead Redemption, the game kept trying to sell me Marston as this former bandit remorseful of the things he’d done in life and trying to find redemption by bringing down his former gang. Unfortunately the only reason I’m going to play a western is so I can live out my secret fantasy of being Robert Redford’s Sundance Kid. So I was quickly robbing banks, trains and frightened old ladies whenever the game let me off the leash. At one point I had an entire army of US Rangers chasing me down, whom I quickly led into a canyon and commenced racking up a body count that made The Little Big Horn seem like a dinner party. So while the game was struggling to tell me the story of this bandit with the heart of gold, I kept playing the character as a wanton psychopath waging a one man war against the United States AND Mexico at the same time.
And for that reason I kind of ruined the story for myself. I’ve talked to fans of the game who really loved Red Dead Redemption’s story, some even admit to crying over the finale, but because I played my Marston as the almost polar opposite of the one the game was trying to show me, the ending didn’t work for. Why can’t I shoot these guys that have come after my family? I wiped out enough US Marshals to fill Arlington to capacity three times over, you’re telling me a half dozen guys with pistols are gonna end me?
Marston’s death at the end of the game felt completely arbitrary, because I had turned into a god made flesh during my playthrough. Even going back and trying to play it straight as a good guy, I couldn’t get the image of him as a sociopathic killer out of my mind. I’ve permanently ruined that story for myself. And you know what? That’s fine actually, because Red Dead Redemption is still a lot of fun and I had a ball with it because it actually had an open world. Like any world it had borders, but you could move anywhere within those borders, allowing you to have some really cool encounters that lend themselves to emergent storytelling. I still remember getting ambushed by some Marshals while crossing a river, who shot the horse out from under me and I had to make a suicide charge to try and get to some rocks on the other side.
Dragon Age Inquisition however, is not an open world. It pretends to be, just like the anthology of stories it tells pretends to be part of a seamless tapestry, but it’s not. The closest it gets to being open world is at the Hinterlands, but even then the range of things you can do is limited and quite frankly its still so small that actually using your mount seems pointless (especially since it robs you of the party banter, one of the few bright spots of writing in the game.) I can’t fight a dragon on a rocky cliff side and watch as it flings me over the edge with some great sweep of its tail, like I can in Skyrim. There are no unexpected battles because you can see all the enemies doing their standard MMO patrol from miles away, robbing you of the chance for anything really interesting happening. And once you leave the hinterlands, the open world illusion falls apart completely.
The Fallow Mire? Tiniest map in the game with a single path that branches off in only two places if you want to follow two utterly pointless minor quests. Or take the Empris Du Lion, which is just a couple of narrow trails that cut through impassable obstacles. The Hinterlands is the only thing that comes even close to resembling an open world, and even it is filled with corridors and hallways disguised as forests and cliffs.
Basically Bioware gave us all the negative features of an open world, the screwed up pacing and lack of urgency in the main quest, while giving us none of the positive traits like experiencing battles in unexpected places or the thrill of finding a lost Dwemer ruin. It also gave us the worst parts of MMOs, the endless grinding and a tidal wave of epic loot, while denying us the pleasures of leveling up (what’s the point in all these abilities if I can only use 8?) or wearing the epic gear we find (Who else found the Legion of the Dead armor and were pissed to find out that the only character who is able to wear it is a Dwarf Warrior?)
I can see why a game maker would want to use an Open World MMORPG as a basis for their singleplayer game. The MMORPG brings with it the Pavlovian response of gamers to commit to an endless and ultimately meaningless grind, and the open world gives players an unprecedented amount of freedom. It’s seems like Bioware wanted to take the best parts of World of Warcraft and Skyrim and Frankenstein them together into the best game ever made. Much like Frankenstein’s monster though, the end result was just an abomination that only gave us the worst of both worlds.
Had Bioware focused on giving us a great story instead of an open world, which they failed to deliver, we may have had a great game. Had they gotten rid of the stupid magic healing bottles and given us a proper magic/potion healing system, maybe they could have focused on making the combat more interesting (and avoided frustrating level restarts because they didn’t put enough potion refills in the fucking Templar keep.) And if Bioware would stop making the same mistakes as a student in a highschool creative writing class, I wouldn’t have to keep telling them they’re terrible at their jobs.
But they do.
So I guess I’ll just have to keep telling them.
I wish they would give writers like you a chance to critique and perhaps improve their stories before they go to market so that we might get games more like KOTOR and Mass Effect 1 rather than these last 2 major disappointments. Kaidan still deserves a better ending!
Oh I’ve offered my services to several game companies to do just that. Unfortunately no one’s taken me up on my offer yet. Still hoping though!
So, I’ve been posting here alot, and I must say I really like these series of reviews. I am actually writing a review myself now, although mine is more gameplay and mechanics focused. I’d love for you to go over it before I try to find someone to publish it.
For this game I agree with the argument: the game needed to start earlier. The catalyst is not present in Dragon Age’s story (so, I guess I got what I wanted? harhar). Not in all stories. Technically, Planescape Torment’s starts a LONG time before the game starts, but the point of Planescape is to find out who you were (and in the process, the Nameless One finds out who he is).
The big question I kept asking myself (beside, when is this going to be an Inquisition) is: why Amnesia? I know it’s a common way for games to allow you to have a blank slate character, but in this game you get a background with your choice of race. So why Amnesia? You don’t learn stuff about yourself during gameplay (like in the Witcher) and it doesn’t have anything to do with any sort of theme (eg: what can change the nature of a man). There, as a human, at least, is even a mission where I TALK TO MY FAMILY TO GAIN THEIR SUPPORT BECAUSE THEY’RE A NOBLE HOUSE! If I had amnesia, then how do you even know who my family is?! (nerd rage over)
Glad you’re enjoying my reviews! Always love going reading other people’s thoughts on games, I’d be happy to look it over. My email is email@example.com. Or you could just post it here if it’s a shorter one (the comment section has a habit of breaking if it’s a really long post, about 1500+ words).
And yeah, the character had very selective amnesia. Supposedly it was only his memories of the events just before the explosion he can’t recall, but still even that was only so they could continue to milk the “Who is the Elder One Mystery?!” mystery that was a total waste of time. It was in no way necessary to the story.
I’m one of (hopefully) many readers that simply never comment. I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy reading what you have to say. I started following you when I found your work on the ME3 ending. At the time, I was in such shock that I was looking for anything and everything about it.
Anyhow, nothing much to say.. I can’t contribute here as I haven’t played the game. I loved DA:O, couldn’t get into DA2, and didn’t bother with DA:I.
Have a great year.
Now I’m sure I already wrote this SOMEWHERE and I apologize for that, but I couldn’t read this without thinking, that DAI actually had barely any story. Or, at the very least, no story of its own. The whole plot is about Corypheus, who only does what he already announced to do in the Dragon Age II DLC Legacy. So it’s a REPEAT. It’s literally just a repeat of a story that was already done. The story in DAI is like the copied level maps in Dragon Age II. I couldn’t believe my eyes, the second “the elder one” was revealed to be none other than previously beaten Corypheus. I was sure that this could only be an element for the next story mission or two (or maybe someone only masquerading as Corypheus), never would I have thought this to be the whole main story for the entire game. With this decision, they reduced DAI automatically to nothing but an epilogue or afterthought to a Dragon Age II DLC… They seriously never did that before. It wouldn’t have been a good idea for another (short) DLC, but it’s an even worse one for a major title. Those are typically supposed to have their own adventure and story. Why even introduce a new main character, if this one only mops up after Hawke?
The whole campaign feels as if it was supposed to be the plot for the cancelled Dragon Age II Expansion (http://www.gamespot.com/articles/dragon-age-ii-exalted-march-expansion-canceled/1100-6367086/), but when that was scrapped they recycled it for Inquisition and changed a few minor things like the main character. The story for an expansion couldn’t have been thinner as the stuff they declared a full sequel here. Awakening, the full-fledged expansion for Dragon Age: Origins, had surely twice as much going on.
“(Who else found the Legion of the Dead armor and were pissed to find out that the only character who is able to wear it is a Dwarf Warrior?)”
Me, me, me! 😀 I’m glad I couldn’t see my face when I realized no one in the game could wear my freshly crafted armor, because the only dwarf in the party is a rogue and my PC was an elf. It took the whole joy out of completing that quest, which had been entirely pointless now.
*It’s like BioWare saying, well no one bought the Legacy DLC after Dragon Age II got all this negative press, but we can’t allow this awesome story to go to waste, no Sir!”. I remember them also giving players the finger, when they added the new refusal ending (you can’t have another ending, take the one you got or die!!! :P) with the Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut. 🙂
Just discovered you tonight after having finished inquisition yesterday evening. You sir, are quite fabulous! 😀
For me the closest the game got to being what it should have been, what it wanted to be, (so fatally where I realized that it’d never live up to origins) was the siege of adamant fortress. “Ok Bioware! I’ve been a very good little boy, helping out everyone and building an army, show me what it was for!” When you see that the response is a 15s cut-scene after all that build up … (granted you get the fear demon at the end).
I realize now, this game is such a tease! I knew whilst playing that Bioware had to have something, I was liking some of the characters (Sera and Cole just didn’t click for me, but Dorian, Blackwall as well as the advisers were fantastic), the set pieces seemed to be coming together, it was going to be mass effect 2 all over again! But then … The penultimate mission … The well of sorrows was disappointment personified for me : Epic clash of armies? Dragon fight? Nope! Origins had several fight scenes the likes of which inquisition can only dream of. And god was Corypheus anti-climactic!
I can only think that Bioware’s writers are too far removed from the fundamental decisions about the game, they obviously write good secondary arcs and great characters. Its when it has to be tied to the game that there’s some sort of problem.
This is not far off (for me) form the problems of mass effect 3. I mean we get the whole “Lyrium is alive!” once, and no one makes a big deal of it, I mean this is something that’s been used for millennia by mages and hundreds of years by templars! NO ONE KNEW?
And then there’s the scene after the credits …
This game only makes me sigh and play origins again …
It does genuinely make me cross which is amusing I suppose, but I guess that’s what should be worrying for Bioware, when the people who care are angry.
(And I’m not even talking about the direction the gameplay has taken since origins ugh)
I need to stop ranting now, this post started as a mere congratulation 😛
Anyway, I like reading your stuff, good job! RSS’d with a smile ^^
I was absolutely dumbfounded at how much wasted potential this game had. Clearly either it had a very troubled production history or they clearly didn’t give a shit about the overarching plot. Outside of lore expansion, the actual story itself is pretty undernourished. You know things are bad with the storytelling if RPGs made over 20 years told longer, more fulfilling stories while also providing a wealth of quality gameplay content (Suikoden, anyone?)
I mean the lack of meaningful decisions was just unforgivable. The only other significant one you missed was related to Leliana in which seemingly innocuous choices made earlier in the game (whether or not to stop her from killing a presumed traitor in Haven) determined whether the more merciful side of her nature could be salvaged at a crucial moment.
Other than that, the game is definitely fragmented with several character vignettes that have almost no bearing on the main story whatsoever. Unless you choose to kick a few of them out, they’ll still stick around for the finale whether they love you or hate you.
Lastly, the “inciting indecent” you refer to is definitely more commonly skipped early on in most “noir” type stories where the incident itself is also the mystery that needs to be unraveled commonly told in flashback up to the present. Kinda cliched now, but still a very effecting method of storytelling when done well. DA:I kinda does it with that Andraste/Justinia tease but far less effectively considering the memory wasn’t even cast into doubt up and “memory loss” pretty much ignored up until it suddenly became relevant again in the Fade when the game casually decides to act like it was something the game was building up to.
After finishing Inqusition, I was really surprised to read that there are no single player DLCs planned in the near future. While this may at least counter the argument a bit that the plot was intentionally cut and thinned out to allow further expansions (we’ll see about that when “near future” is over according to Bioware), to be honest I’d have most likely appreciated them. They always cause criticism about Bioware/EA milking gamer’s wallets with little effort, but I really enjoyed most of them for the previous Bioware games (even the ones for DA2 which I actually found more entertaining than the main game).
Bioware really shines when it’s telling small character pieces or subplots that are loosely connected but not really intertwined with the larger story arc. These were also the moments I enjoyed most while playing Inquisition: The short, funny or emotional cutscenes with each of the NPCs, or the main story missions ignoring their global context. I’d have loved to explore more of the dark alternate future when doing the mage quest, or exploring more of the elven temple. However, none of them really had a fully fleshed out conclusion because the main plot immediately had to jump to another, often pretty unrelated topic in it’s fruitless attempts to find at least a bit of epicness. DLCs could be a good chance to enhance the lore of Dragon Age (which still amazes me with every new game) by using Bioware’s strengths without the pressure to be keep up with Origins, which is probably impossible if they don’t spend at least four years in development.
Of course there are DLCs planned, they just haven’t announced them yet. Maybe they have made bad experiences with too many players not buying the game right away, if they already announce too many DLCs prior to the release of the game… So now they just wait 1-2 months with that!
I pre-ordered the game, but had I known what I would get for my money, I wouldn’t have bought it at all. Every article I had read deceived me and lied about the game. I liked and enjoyed Dragon Age II a lot more than this.
Very much agree with this review.
Essentially EA have found the one way to bork Bioware – previously known for making RPG’s with reasonably complex strategy and good stories and characterisation – without having the fans set fire to the internet. And that is to have them make action oriented, single-player MMORPG’s.
And players have just lapped it up. Game of the year! Reviewers going out of their way to stress that it’s not really an MMORPG. Terrific story.
No, it isn’t.
Hi, I think your blog might be having browser compatibility issues.
When I look at your website in Chrome, it looks fine but
when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping.
I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, very good blog!
Thank you for this commiseration its made me feel better after finding so much praise for the game(a lot of it by DA2 lovers which is crazy, the story in that game is amazing when put up to DAI),
The game for me just felt so bleh with the story and though npc companions do change and progress in some was it feels like the inquisitor is kind of bland even more so then some voiceless heros…….I mean the voice acting is great but no personality ever comes to light. With Shep I felt like I had created several people and with snarky hawk(and some times olive branch hawk) I felt like he had a real personality that I could get along with.
The inquisitor feels so bland and trying to be snarky I found the options jump around or sometimes just come off as rude or angry, the love intreasts feel less deep then with merrill as in yeah they are fun and all but they never carry over into the reast of the game or go any place after a point(sera though has a good one wish she was bi as her being a lesbian is irrelevent and iron bull is on and on about the ladies yet bi?).
but yeah the rest you have summed up great, I mean it really is the same feeling of “hey this will look/seem cool, how do we make it into a story” mass effect 3 had, it also has the feeling of an ending left tell last and rushed……except for the dlc/sequal bait they put in of course.
I fear Bioware has become a breeding ground for “its not broke let me fix it” thinking and a lack of the deeply needed new titles they should be releasing, if you wanna make an mmorpg then make one or if you wanna make a skyrim knock off make on, just stoo dragging you exsisting titles through the mudd to try out new things then bring the things that work over.
Yeah, I’m thinking my next article will probably be about the romances in the game. A lot of missed opportunities, and while it did do somethings right, it didn’t do enough.
And yes the inquisitor was just a complete cipher, for a Roleplaying game there was very little opporunity to play a role. The inquisitor was the most boring character in the whole thing, and that’s saying something considering how boring Corypheus ended up being.
I think Dragon Age Inquisition has an amazing world and a lot of great historical insight. But I do agree that the story was underwhelming, the villain underdeveloped, and the choices inconsequential. Dragon Age Origins (and even Dragon Age II) had more in-depth stories that drew you in; it is pretty bad when the game has to warn you that you are nearing the end of it, as if to say, “Hey, wake up or you’ll miss the credits!” It could have been so much more, but I did enjoy what it was even though it was not what it could have been.
I enjoyed your article and along with the ending one, it puts words to my feelings about the game. The weird thing is, I enjoyed Dragon Age Inquisition. I played for over 100 hours and had a good time. But I was still utterly disappointed. I wanted more from my team mates (Dragon Age II had faults, but I liked the bonds you formed with your followers over the years). I wanted more from the quests. And I certainly wanted more from the ending. It’s almost like they got bored with making the game and decided to just suddenly wrap it up. I was shocked that the two final quests weren’t even an hour of game play combined. Especially for a game that prides itself on the length
I just finished the game, not even an hour ago, and naturally wandered around the internet asking “is this it?”, which led me to your page. It helped me clarify a lot of the feelings of it, because the slideshow ending at the end made me feel worse about the game, and reminded me of all the choices I made that until that cutscene, had no effect.
I do try to give credit, as interactive storytelling is hard, and I have the benefit of seeing what didn’t work after so much gameplay-clearly there’s a lens you don’t have when you’re elbow deep in the story and have been cutting and editing and can’t really see the totality of it while making these changes. I suspect a lot of storyboarding was done by committee and not by a strong central planner.
You mentioned above that the Inquisitor is a pretty bland character, and while I don’t disagree, I think that’s not a fault of writing. In fact, that’s how most of my RPG characters have been, including Commander Shephard. The main character has to be a canvas you can fill-but the problem here was not that the character was boring, but the complete lack of consequence-the lack of real consequence detached me from the story, and as such I didn’t feel as if I was playing a role so much as simply narrating endless exposition. If I choose a side in a civil war in ME, I wipe out a whole race, and lose a close companion, and those effects follow me to the game’s climax. Here, if I make a choice between Templars and mages, I just do one mission later.
I went out of my way to do every side mission before advancing the story, because I wrongly assumed at some point down the line it would be relevant, in much the same way that so much of the Mass Effect series made all these choices relevant. After awhile I became so bored of making choices I simply picked arbitrarily, and nothing changed.
I began to question whether the fault was in my expectations. Was I spoiled? Was interactive story and having cause and effect of your actions a thing that simply was so new and difficult that it could only be done rarely and would require so much dialogue/recording that the production costs would go through the roof?
Then I thought about Maniac Mansion. It ran on a Commodore 64 and is nearly 30 years old. Sure, I wasn’t drawn into the story of MM and definitely didn’t have the bond with the characters so much, but in terms of the effects of actual gameplay, it actually had more choices affecting the narration of the game than DA:I. What does that say about DA:I?
I don’t know about anyone else, but Grand Duchess Florianne was my #1 suspect from the moment she introduced herself. Maybe it was because every character tried so hard to get me to suspect someone else that I was looking for someone else with a motive. I agree with your other comments, though.
Thank you for helping me with the massive disappointment delivered with the ending. This is about 80 hours of my life which I was enjoying with their characters and story until Bioware bonked me on the noggin for wasting 80 hours. Huh? I feel like they came in one day, ran out of money and flipped the off switch and went home – but before they left the room the writers shrunk the mighty Corypheus down to wee little battle figure before running credits. What happened to Bioware? These are the people who created Morigan, Logain, Nathaniel, Varic, Fenris, Blackwall, Iron Bull and Cassandra – and took snark, story, characters, worlds, music and all that is Video to the level of a fine Italian Opera on the stage of Dragon Age Origins. In DAI, all promise in romance, plot, equipment, passion, NPCs, allies – is wasted. Thank you for your writing, I feel better and will proceed more carefully before investing that much again. But, oh! Such an epic fail after such an epic promise!
So this is a little late in the day to say this, but having read all of what you’ve said I really feel like you should give Dragon Age 2 another go. It’s lacking a lot gameplay and environment-wise, and there’s a lot of fair criticism that can be made about it, but it’s practically unique among its kind in that rather than being a game with a story, the game IS the story. It’s got the most well-integrated plot of any comparable RPG I can think of, and honestly for its sins it’s got great ideas. I’d say that between how well the game handles its narrative, Hawke’s own personality and voice acting, and the characters and interactions of the companions, those things carry the rest of the game on their own merit.
(Try snarky fem!Hawke. Each of the personality dialogue options is a pretty well developed character in and of themselves even before you start to mix and match, which is something I’ve never seen much elsewhere, but snarky Hawke is particularly interesting in being able to convey an entire complex personality, complete with strengths, flaws, and insecurities, in dialogue responses alone. And Jo Wyatt’s voice acting for female Hawke is splendid.
Also, try these mods to improve the awful graphics:
Ultimate HD by Aegrus at http://www.mediafire.com/download/fwef3m8aw8z25fx/Pack+One+Normal.zip
Unique Face Textures for Companions by Ellise at http://www.nexusmods.com/dragonage2/mods/3930/?
That should help some. If Anders still looks weird to you, I made my own HD face texture which is more true to his Awakening appearance and I can provide it if you want it.)
Hey, I wanted to say that I really enjoy reading your reviews and was wondering if you would consider doing one for Elder Scrolls Online? I know it’s an MMORPG but it has a pretty decent story in my opinion, and I feel like you might enjoy it- at least more than other MMORPG’s. (The storyline if you play as the Daggerfall Covenant doesn’t seem to be quite as great though). Anyway, whatever you decide, you’re awesome and I look forward to your next revieew xDD
Hi Emily, thanks for the kind words! It means the world to me. MMOs are a bit harder to review given the time required to play through them to completion. Tried looking into doing an Old Republic review, but after spending 30 hours and only getting part way through the story I had to admit it just wasn’t feasible. Also subscription fees are a factor too, is Elder Scrolls free to play?
I’ll look into it though, see how long it took other people to complete. Thanks again for writing in!
Alright, thank you :))) And no problem xD
There’s an initial fee but you don’t need a subscription or anything; you can probably find that out via google/steam or something though. Even if you don’t end up writing it, thanks for looking into it :))))
Well that was funny to read, I agree DAI really lacked story, which is a massive shame as Origins had such a strong one, my personal thought is that the main issue with inquisition is at no point do you fear the world is gonna fall apart, as you got a big army. In Origins you literally got to watch the world fall apart and it felt really grim, but even the grim parts of inquisition felt way to bright and happy (this may be to do with the shiny charizard graphics.) They tell you about lots of great stories but you don’t get to actually play them… like the whole Dread Wolf reveal, why not just let me play as dread wolf after the end of inquisition, now that’d be an epic story and a half, with all the moral choices thrown up about whether what you’re doing is right or not. Coryphy-tit was a total let down, especially after the whole massive build up with awakening, you think OMG this next one (timeline wise, 2 was just… no words) is gonna be like all hell breaks loose and all the darkspawn and misery and apocalypse and stuff. Instead all we get is a tiny side quest where a few darkspawn popped up out of holes, block holes with mage, job done.
IF IT’S THAT EASY WHY DID I BOTHER WITH ALL THAT FUSS IN ORIGINS??????
So yeah, nice review I enjoyed that, the only thing I don’t agree with is the dual wielder being the worst class, I’m not sure how you were using it but in my game I was unequipping my companions weapons for fun and perhaps doing about a quarter less damage, add in the odd thousand cuts and you just get a hilarious scene of instant death.
Just gotta keep on keeping on until the next gem of a story comes my way, looking at you Ellie and Joel.
Thanks Samson, and yes, Inquisition gave you so many resources and so little challenge that you never feel like there’s any real danger. The Darkspawn were totally neutered in Inquisition, part of the reason I sent the Grey Wardens into exile was the fact that the Darkspawn just didn’t seem threatening anymore.
Yeah it’s entirely possible I’m wrong on the dual-wield. I’m actually not very good at games. My main character also wasn’t a dual wielder, so my impressions were based on the ghost-spirit dude (I think?) I can’t even remember which one was the rogue. lol
Haha neutered is definitely the right word, darkspawn were such a huge threat before and so much went into making them even scarier with the expansion. Such a shame all that went down the drain, I’m not suprised you got rid of them, I kept them and it made not the slightest bit of difference to anything, really takes the purpose out of a replay.
Cole is his name, I think that may possibly be another problem with the game actually, your teammates are largely useless unless you control them, in fact the controls are just broken in general, they never function as they should. There is a command to make them stay still but they never do!
Normally I have to admit I stay silent on this stuff, occasionally read a review to see if anyone else noticed the gaping flaws in games or films for that matter, but I literally just completed the last dlc trespasser and just thought eh??? That’s it???????? Waiting for such a long time to have something meaningful happen and then finding out you’ve already finished. Just too sad not to add my voice to the disgruntled players.
There is a real working Hold function but it’s not at all clearly explained. You need to go into Tactics then double-click on the spot you want them to go to and hold. Unlike just pressing the Hold key, they really will stay there.
If you want them to take an action then move to a point and hold, you do it in the specific order of first double-clicking their spot, then telling them to cast/use an action. Useful if you want a mage to, say, cast Barrier and then run out of danger.
I really recommend reading The Masked Empire and Asunder though. They’ll give you so much more context on Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts and the whole mage/templar business that the game rushed over.
I know this is almost 4 years after the fact but I still have not gotten over just how completely awful every single aspect of Dragon Age: Inquisition is and your review hit on a lot of the major points.
Hello there, I found your article because I’m currently replaying DA:I after a long time and have since learned a lot about writing & storytelling (working on my own fantasy novel), so I’m playing it with a whole new set of eyes. While the characters are still amazing, they no longer overshine the glaring narrative deficits for me.
Just wondering whether you ever played the Trespasser DLC as it was the true, albeit clumsily attached ending to the story – at least as far as I remember, not there yet with my current playthrough. Packing that kind of massive epilogue into a DLC felt like a really weird choice. Maybe they wrote it afterwards because people were so unsatisfied with DA:I’s ending.
Would love to hear your thoughts on it 🙂