Please be aware there will be spoilers… for a game almost a year old
There has been a vast emptiness on the front of Dragon Age: Inquisition, a game I was given as a gift for Christmas to go along with my newly-acquired Xbox 1 from Black Friday. There we two great causes to the silence. First, I was vigorously attacking the painting challenge I had in front of me – That of getting all of the Rasheth Tier list painted for Lock and Load, and that of a little bit of boredom.
Painting for Lock and Load was easily conquered, as the event is not in the past, and I can’t time travel. The list was finished, and I even got to use it in 5 50 point games and 8 35 point games. That obstacle conquered, I needed to have a solution to the second, and much more intense problem.
This is something I have butted up against time and again when playing the video games I enjoy, and each time it is harder and harder to break through the barrier. These games tend to be long, sprawling games that are intentionally left a little more open than the traditional game would be. This very openness I find so attractive is also the games generic downfall many times, as the game never lets you know where you stand in the story and the game. Instead the game lets you meander at your own pace, or race through to the end, and lets you make that decision.
This comes in conflict, for me, because I am a legacy RPG player who has developed a near-instinctual need to explore and complete every part of where I am before moving on to a new area. There may be loot, there, that is left behind when I go into a new zone, something I might never be able to recover if I am not the most diligent and through investigator of overturned rocks and hollow logs. This habit strongly, strongly, inhibits me when I go to wander through a zone for a bit. I can never, ever, just go somewhere the first time, and wreaks hell with my timing-immersion. I can never “hurry” to anywhere, regardless of how insistent the characters are.
This legacy of investigation, combined with the starting area of Dragon Age: Inquisition being the zone most packed with stupid side quests and wide open areas, lead to me stalling, very quickly, on the game. I wasn’t getting XP at a good clip from the random encounters and the standard quests, yet there were big, powerful demons in the zone that were beating my ass something fierce. I felt I was both too high, and too weak, for the zone. Reluctantly, I engaged the story-mode and moved forward to the new and extremely cool Skyhold for my base of operations instead of the base town of Haven that I thought I was stuck in forever.
Even that, though, was short lived. Each area I ventured into was another assault on my person, being loaded with side quests and collections and a bevy of other minor tasks to eat your time. Quickly, I grew irritated at the vast and sundry list of possible things to occupy my character – The world shakingly powerful Inquisitor! Things of epic importance and monumental consequence! Tasks like… put a note in a stump. Return a rabbit-creature. Guide a cow home.
I have my rules, though, and I stick to them. I was gonna finish this game, and no obstacle, not even fun, was going to stand in the way of my goal. So, I put my big boy pants on, and grabbed the first of the major quest lines I had been sitting on and dove right into it.
Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts was possibly the most surreal time I have had playing that game. I was without weapons, without powers and had to talk to people carefully or you would get booted from a party and loose the game. Though the conclusion was interesting, and I had a feeling the whole time that things weren’t what they seemed, I don’t feel that the three hours I spent trying to complete the quest was worth it. The boss fight was interesting, but I overpowered it by leaps and bounds, so it didn’t present any sort of challenge. It was, however, enjoyable. I moved the plot forward and found out a bit more about what is going on and why I, as a player and character, want to complete the game and save the world.
Immediately after the conclusion of Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts, I jumped into Here lies the Abyss. I spent the requisite Power and assaulted the Grey Wardens Adamant Fortress, determined to cleanse the demonic infestation. I know I’ll need the Gray Wardens at the end of the day, because Corphyus is the Blight Incarnate, and the Wardens are the hammer that shatters the Blight. Thankfully, the Fortress assault works exactly like I concieved it would, and I have a delightful time cutting my way through demons and making hard, harsh decisions throughout the mission. The end, when fighting Nightmare was hard enough to make me replay it once before taking him out, and then it was only by the skin of my teeth, with Cassandra and I almost dead with no potions to speak of.
After returning to Skyhold, I started, and for the life of me, I cannot remember why, to the playable party characters in Shyhold. Lo and behold, I run into cutscene after cut scene with meaningful character building, dialogue and cool quests to complete! I am re-energized to play the game, and feel fully vindicated in my decisions to shrug off all of the zone-based quests. If I wanted to play WoW, I would, and I’d run around every zone until I completed every quest there was. I do not have that drive, however. Instead, I want to create and build a team of like minded heroes that will stand against the Great Evil of Corephyus at all costs, and I want to feel that the characters are as real as videogame characters get.
Its why I sent Hawke to fight, and die, against Nightmare. Its what I would have done with my character, if it was possible. This instance, it was!