You know how they say “time flies when you’re having fun?” I suppose it really is true, because I was pretty astounded when I checked my Dragon Age: Inquisition completion time stamp.
This currently marks a personal best. Previously it was Xenoblade Chronicles, in which I sunk 96 hours. And boy, those were a damn looooooong 96 hours. With Inquisition, the hours, which include all three of the games DLC campaigns, seemed to fly by. Looking back, I don’t know where I found the time, but I’m glad that I did.
To offer a quick recap, last year I decided to re-sink my teeth into the Dragon Age games. I had a great time in Dragon Age: Origins and and even better time in Dragon Age II. What really made the difference in both cases was paying attention to the story, which I sold short the first time I played both games. (Also, I was really not nice to DAII. I am sorry now.) When I started up Inquisition, therefore, one of my goals was to pay close attention to the story in order to better understand the lore of the entire series. Because I think it’s the carefully crafted and detailed lore than helps Dragon Age excel slightly over Mass Effect.
But even with that noble goal in mind, I still had one major obstacle to overcome in Inquisition — its open world. When Inquisition first came out, I failed at my first attempt at playing (I didn’t like the character I had created), and I somewhat succeeded with the second. And by that I mean I completed the game’s main story, and that’s about it. I enjoyed the game well enough, but doing tons of open-world exploring just didn’t appeal to me. As such, I ignored most but not all of the sidequests. I didn’t unlock all the regions, or find all the goddamn shards, or kill all (or any?) the dragons. I did a fair amount of interacting with my teammates, but not enough to open up any of their personal quests, save for Cole. I tried my hand at romance and got decently far with Cullen…but a desicion I made turned the romance back into a friendship, and I got an admirable “thank you for being a friend” speech. Woo.
This time with the game, my aim was to be more engaged, and I was heartily rewarded. Well…mostly.
It’s true that I was worried about open-world boredom. But at the same time, after DA:O and DAII, a small part of my gaming heart was looking forward to some casual exploration. Something about it just felt more “right” than it did when I first played the game. Upon starting things up — it was so good to hear Inquisition’s theme song again! — I set to making my character. As I had been doing, I stuck with being a mage, only this time a female Qunari mage who would be both fierce and kind. Though the game does not offer distinctly “good” and “bad” paths, I sought to be sympathetic in most of my choices. With that, I was off to save end a demonic breach that was set to tear the world asunder.
Before moving on, let me throw out a handful of some of the major choice I made during the game. They are, in no particular order:
- Aided soldiers on the route to the Temple of Sacred Ashes
- Allied with the mages
- Fought to stop Corypheus (Inquisitor’s Lead)
- Allied with the Gray Wardens
- Chose Briala to rule Orlais
- Romanced Blackwall/Thom Ranier
- Sacrificed Alistair in the fade
- The Inquisitor drank from the Well of Sorrows
- Chose Leliana as the next Divine
It’s kind of funny because reading these choices now, they don’t quite carry the weight I felt with the ones I made in the previous games. Could be because there’s no Dragon Age 4…yet. 🙂
Besides making the hard decisions for all of Thedas, I’m pretty sure that most of my 113 hours was spent exploring and working on sidequests, which included, oh yes, finding all the stupid, stupid, s-t-u-p-i-d shards. I’ll just say now that when I decide to play Inquisition again, shard-finding will NOT happen. In fact, the whole row will be rightly fucking ignored. The “reward” of stat boosts for doing so was nowhere near worth the fucking time it took to find all the damn things. No. Just NO! SAY NO TO MOTHERFUCKING SHARDS!
As you can see, I’m still bent out of shape over the shards.
Never before has a single scene in a single movie rung so true.
Also…YAY THE DARK CRYSTAL ON NETFLIX!!!
Collectibles-that-shall-not-be-named aside, I do have to say that the vast majority of the game’s sidequests felt pointless. Not only that, but the rewards for completing them were pitful — from herbs that I didn’t need, to unusable Inquisition “points” (seriously, I had nearly 300 by the end, and with little means to use them), to mediocre weapons, accessories, and armor. This isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy the game’s quieter moments of exploration that accompanied most of the sidequesting, which I did, because at the very least, Inquisition is a beautiful game. (I played on PC this time round [Xbox One first time], and I’m so very glad that I did.) It’s just unfortunate that there’s nothing in place to make the exploration feel more meaningful than simply ticking off a to-do list.
If there’s one exception to this, it’s the companions’ sidequests. I managed to complete everyone’s except Sera’s and Iron Bull’s (Actually…does Solas have one? If so, I didn’t do his either.), and each one added a little welcome humanness, relatively speaking, to your teammates.
And speaking of companions, thanks to my choice to keep Alistair both alive and still a member of Gray Wardens at the end of DA:O, I was treated to spending a full main story quest with him – the one involving Hawke and the fade. As I already said in my choices list, Alistair’s time ended with that quest. It was not an easy decision, but I couldn’t bear the thought of Varric losing his friend. Still, it sure was good seeing Alistair again.
The option to engage more fully with the game paid off in other surprising ways. I don’t recall being moved when the gang made the harsh trek from Haven to Skyhold. This time, I definitely welled up when they all started singing. I also developed a minor addiction to, of all things, crafting! Every time I gather up a new crafting material, I had to get myself to a crafting table to see what new armor or weapon I could create. I spent a lot of time (too much, probably) at the war tables in both Haven and Skyhold delegating tasks to my advisors. I also spent much more time getting to know them personally, while also frequently mixing up my team to enjoy different banter while exploring. (If BioWare does one thing really well, it’s small talk.) If anything came of all this, it’s that by the end of the game, my Inquisitor felt like an involved and caring leader rather than just another “video game protagonist.”
If anyone cares, ahead lies SPOILERS of Inquisition’s DLC.
So what of the aftermath: all that sweet, sweet DLC? Look, I know this is a damn long post already, and Inquisition is old news, so I won’t dwell too much on the details. For one, I accidentally embarked on both The Descent and the Jaws of Hakkon before I realized it. After I figured things out, I moved back to the main game, and then completed both afterwards. Also, I had the ending of Trespasser spoiled long ago, so I basically knew what to expect with Solas. In short, all three campaigns offered up some gorgeous new territories to explore, but only Trespasser delivered story-wise.
The Descent brought the Inquisitor into the dwarven ruins of the Deep Roads in order to uncover the source of some deadly seismic activity affecting the region’s ability to deliver Lyrium to the surface. Aside from traveling through massive caverns and dealing with one of the most affectingly unpleasant boss fights I think I’ve ever experienced in a game, the most memorable thing here was Shaper Valta, a new character who accompanied the Inquisitor for most of the campaign. And that’s only because she was voiced by the same actor who voiced Liara T’soni! Actually, maybe that was more distracting than anything, but Valta was still a great character who offered up some interesting insights into dwarven history.
In the Jaws of Hakkon, The Inquisitor and companions headed into the pretty, pretty wilds of the Frostback Basin to deal with a renegade group of Aavar hunters, while also learning a bit about the history of the Gray Wardens, the Tevinter Imperium, and oh, there’s a dragon. And more rifts to close. And, yes, more goddamn fucking shards. Goddammit. Most hilarious was how bored the Aavar leader looked each time I went to talk to her. Man if she didn’t look like she wanted to be “anywhere but here.” That’s kind of how I felt by the time the campaign was over.
And finally, there’s Trespasser. The one big takeaway for me concerning this campaign was that I need to brush up on my elven mythology! (Is there a site out there that contains all of DA’s codex entries, like from all three games?) In sum, at the end of Inquisition, your elven companion Solas is revealed to be something of a badass with questionable intentions during a strange meetup with, of all people, Flemeth. The key to the scene, besides how it all ends, if that at one point Flemeth calls Solas the “Dread Wolf.” While this reference was completely lost on me when I first played the game, this time round, particularly with the recent events of Dragon Age II in mind — namely a number of conversations with Merrill — the reference made sense, as did what I already knew about Trespasser: Solas was, or housed, the elven god Fen’Harel. The events of Trespasser lead the Inquisitor to this twist, but not before being betrayed by Iron Bull. Oh yeah, most of the campaign revolved around the Qunari, and at one point, for reasons that are not well-explained, Iron Bull, who just happened to be one of my companions at the time, turned on everyone. To bad, that, because I think we really would have enjoyed fighting the dragon Ataashi (even though I chose to free her). Trespasser was, by far, the meatiest and best DLC of the lot.
So, what next? Well, I think it’s time to set aside all things Dragon Age for the moment…even if I kinda don’t want to. I know that some folks find it easy to move from game to game without any hangups; but for me, with a series like Dragon Age, there exists a churning desire to experience and understand, namely because there are simply so many what-ifs. Granted, I could easily spend the rest of the year playing through the series again and again just to uncover all the different scenarios, but would it really be worth all the time and effort, not to mention the ignoring-the-growing-backlog factor? Ah, le sigh. Maybe I just need to get my ass onto the Internet to find all those codex entries. They’ve got to be somewhere, right? All neatly arranged in one place to make for easy reading? I mean, if there can be sites out there devoted to knitting leg warmers for dogs, then surely just copying a bunch of text onto a page is easy as pie?!
Dammit. I really gotta move on. Perhaps perpetrating some promiscuous pandemonium in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas will be properly perfect.
Now, where’s my M4…?