Time flies. It’s been over a month since I posted my “first impressions” review of Dragon Age Inquisition, and I’m still playing it! Granted, I haven’t been playing it non-stop. Work, writing, blogging, reading, sleep, and the necessity of interacting with other human beings have to get some time, too. Yet I’ve logged over 80 hours with my human archer (ROGUE) known as Hobbes, so it’s time to say how the game holds up after my initial look.
Clearly I’m enjoying it. I’m not the sort to spend 80 hours on a leisure activity that I hate. Yet it’s not without its flaws. I’d planned to cover both the bad and the good in this post, but there’s so much to talk about that I’ve decided to do this review in two parts. I’ll start with the things I dislike, then finish on a more positive note tomorrow in part two, because there’s plenty to be positive about in DAI as well. So, the bad…
Control Scheme & Combat
DAI’s combat is much more akin to DA2 than DA. Yes, the tactical view option is there, but the camera doesn’t pull back nearly enough, and combat in general feels heavy on button-mashing. While I still enjoy such fast-paced action, I do wish it was more focused on tactical control. You’re not really tactically controlling a party so much as you’re inhabiting a single character while a bunch of tag-alongs do their thing. The behavior options for each character, which you use to tell the computer how to control them when you’re not, are very limited, possibly even more so than in DA2.
Your mileage may vary here, of course. If I had my way, it’d be closer to Baldur’s Gate 2, but my tastes are formed from the 90s era of PC gaming.
Big World, Yes, But…
There’s a lot to do in DAI. Maps are huge and beautiful (more on that in part two). There’s none of the copy/pasting that plagued DA2. Still, I can’t help but notice that there’s a lot of sameness after a while. One example: Scattered about most regions are shards, which you can collect after locating them via magical skulls erected about the area. After a while, collecting them, which allow you to open some doors in one particular region which give a bit of elemental resistance, just doesn’t seem to be worth the trouble.
Along these lines, there are lots of quests around that involve piecing other things together (items, bits of information, or ritual components). I like quests like this, but only if the payoff when you complete it is actually interesting. So often it just seems to be a few random magic items that you may or may not want in the first place. Which leads me to…
The Magic Items
A talking sword. Armor that grants the ability to dispel magic. A cloak that reflects spells. These are all examples of magic items from RPGs of the past. They were special items that you quested to get, meant something, and you actually agonized over getting rid of when (or if) you found something better. There is, I’m sorry to say, nothing that I’ve found of this type in DAI. While there are plenty of items to find–and to craft yourself if you’re so inclined–the only thing that seems to distinguish them are small differences in numerical bonuses. Do you want a sword that gives a 2% bonus to damage, or one that gives a 4% bonus against darkspawn? A helmet that boosts stat A by 2 points, or another that boosts stats B & C by 1 point?
Such tiny variations take the magic out of discovering magic items and turn it more into an exercise in accounting. (Yes, there was some of this in older games too, but it wasn’t the only element.) To put it another way, an RPG’s magic items should–at least sometimes–make the player go, “Ooooh!” once in a while. DAI’s items don’t do this. Granted, this seems to be a trend in games lately in general, so I can’t put the blame solely on DAI.
“Well, since you asked, I would like to register a complaint. I want to kill a dragon. Right now. Go find one and kill it. That would be SO cool.”
–Lilarcor the talking sword, Baldur’s Gate 2
But perhaps that’s a blog topic for another day.
Killin’ Interesting Stuff
Lastly I would have liked to have seen just a little more variety in enemies. I debated whether or not to mention this at all. At its heart, DAI is about dealing with the demons that spawn due to the big ugly green sky-vortex, and the…other things which develop later in the plot. And along those lines, there does seem to be a decent bit of variety in the enemies you face. Yes, they all fall into similar categories that mostly just go up in difficulty levels as you do, but it works.
But in the other parts of the game, when you’re wandering through old ruins or caves just facing general monsters, the variety isn’t fantastic. Going into a cave? You’re gonna see spiders. Again, this is a minor nitpick brought on by the grander variety of games in the past (and yes, I’m thinking of Baldur’s Gate 2 again; I’m sorry but that game spoiled me). Would I like to see more variety here? Sure. Does the lack of it ruin the game for me at all? Heck no!