So, the tactical camera.The Worst Thing Ever by yang
I'm going to start this off with an interesting little tidbit (for those of you who care about me or trivial shit): I didn't use the tactical feature in Dragon Age: Origins at all, except for placing AoE attacks. And I beat it on Nightmare with a two-hand warrior. (Granted, I was playing as Morrigan or Wynne through most of Fort Drakon, but ol' Cousland was my main DPS.)
I used it extensively on Nightmare in Dragon Age 2. (But that was because a suboptimal party build in that game on that setting was a death sentence, and even an optimal one had little margin for error. It was shallow gameplay, but the challenging side of shallow instead of the unchallenging side, like Inquisition.)
Again, this was a matter of immersion. When I went to throw down an AoE effect, I knew exactly where I wanted it, but the game couldn't read my mind. Otherwise, I liked manually switching to other characters and passing out orders in the heat of glorious combat.Sorry, I just had to get Lactating Heavy out of my window.
So, combat in Inquisition. Lauded by a bunch of people for blahblahblah. It's shallow, too easy and the tactical camera is horrendous. Like I pointed out in the last journal: It is a blithering failure, at best amockery of Origins' tactical combat.
It's far too narrow in scope, the controls are just terrible, the commands you can issue are limited and you can't trust your companions to follow them. Hell, you can't even trust your Inquisitor to properly utilize his/her own skills sometimes. Sometimes they'll just stand there, or run in circles around the enemy. And that's just the beginning.
The skill selection is horrible. I only played a mage, but when I got the chance to specialize I was excited. They all sounded and looked cool from what I'd seen on my allies' fancy new skill trees. Unfortunately, the game specifically wouldn't allow you to learn from them, it insisted you go on a sidequest to get trainers, then another sidequest to unlock each given specialization. (Also, you only get one specialization now, and there are only three to choose from for each class, so that's actually the least
combat style customization of any of the games so far.)
These sidequests were fetch quests, with unclear or nonexistent instructions on where to find the needed materials. After reading all this and learning I could ONLY pick one, with no respec available, I went to check out the specs online.
Well, it turns out they're all viable enough, at first glance. But one's signature ability, to which half of its description is devoted, actually fucks with the game to the point that it prevents you from properly interacting with the environment for up to forty-five seconds after combat ends. (For reference, forty-five seconds is longer than most of the game's combat encounters actually last.) What's more, the description (for the Necromancer, I'm talking about the Necromancer because I've loved Necromancers since Diablo II and will love them forevermore) talks about reanimating your foes and sending them against their former allies!
What you actually get is, after an enormous investment, a chance at reanimating one foe at a time.
So I looked at Rift Mage, and that specialization is essentially a hodgepodge of spells they couldn't fit into the other trees, mostly rehashed and recycled spells from previous games reflavored to loosely fit a common theme. (Somehow shooting fist-sized boulders as a mage now requires rifts, instead of just your fist and your will like in Origins.) The overarching mechanical theme in the specialization is weakening, which reduces the damage enemies deal, which is great.
Except the specialization has more than one spell which does so, which is bad.
Because if you apply weakness on an enemy when they're already weakened, they become immune to weakening for twenty seconds. (A large portion of damn near every non-boss encounter in the game.) Now you still get all the fancy carrier effects. But there are a few other unspecified instances in which weakness simply doesn't apply. None of this stops the specialization from being game-breakingly powerful in encounters against common enemies. (Which I've never had even the remotest problem with.) But such a simple, obvious problem should've been detected in playtesting. (You know, like the rings that didn't work? Or the status effect that didn't work?)
The last spec, Knight-Enchanter, is actually the most appropriate for the character: I had no Arcane Warriors on my first playthrough, so I made her one on my second and it was great. It was also the first specialization (by about thirty hours) that I found all the materials to actually spec into. It was pretty boring overall, but served its purpose. Instead of easily winning encounters from thirty feet away, I could do it from melee range. It made dragons a bit easier, and is probably broken, but nothing you couldn't get Flashpointing Barrier with guard-on-hit gear and making well-timed Fade Steps. It's just easier.
But here's the thing: despite all this, I maxed out the first tree (Lightning) and more-or-less peaked my power and growth like seven levels into the game. You level up fast
until about level fifteen, so I basically peaked less than twenty hours into the game. The only times I had problems were when I tried taking out level 12 rifts when I was level 6. And even then I only barely failed to take out the second wave both times
. It was ludicrously easy. I thought about switching to Nightmare after Skyhold, when I realized the encounters in the big fight that everybody said was so hard (Corypheus marching on Haven) seemed virtually identical to every other encounter in difficulty.
I'm glad I didn't, because the game lasted another hundred or so hours.
Not that it would've been too hard.Hello.
That honor goes to the Sky Horror from Dragon Age 2.
No, because there was no reason to go to Nightmare.
The gameplay peaked less than twenty hours in because it is shallow as hell
. Sure, I switched from Lightning Cage to Fire Mine once I got Knight-Enchanter up and running, but that was because it was slightly faster.
And that's it.
Past the first few levels, there's no reward for refining your playstyle/build until you unlock a specialization. Then you get your spec, get used to it and the game's done. Sure, you can wank around as your companions. None of them lasted more than a couple fights before getting dull for me. Once you knock out a couple encounters, you've seen everything they have to offer. And that's important. Rewarding gameplay is essential to making a killer fucking game. (See Borderlands 2, Dark Souls, Dragon Age: Origins.)
There are no advanced tactics or strategy for boss fights, either, nothing more complicated than "keep the ranged DPS*
away from the big guy and stay out of the colored circles."
In all honesty, the Vinsomer dragon on Dragon Island is probably the most tactically engaging boss in the main game. And that's because it requires you to manually dispel the big lightning AoE on each character when it pops, or at least keep them away from each other so the damage doesn't stack (and all that's only because you can't program your companions to do it themselves like in Origins). And even then, it's only if you didn't bring some kind of lightning resistance. Other than that, it's the same as any other dragon fight, which is only moderately more challenging than the average boss fight.
There are a couple nice bosses in Jaws of Hakkon, but that expansion is literally just another area added on to the game. It doesn't do anything terribly new or revolutionary, and most of the new gear you get (the most worthwhile of which is schematics) looks and is shitty. It's not worth the current price, wait until it's $10 or included with the game if you don't already have it.
The biggest sin, combat-wise, is the complete absence of customizable tactical AI for your companions. You get some checkmarks: drink potion here, stop using mana/stamina here, use this ability first or not at all, but it's pathetic. And the default AI is even worse. Most fights were characterized by me standing back until my tank grabbed the big guy/designated enemy DPS (or I did it myself with Knight-Enchanter, which sped things up) and me DPS'ing. And my ranged companions would DPS, too! And then, after they finished nonsensically spamming their skills, they would run screaming into melee and take moderate-to-huge amounts of damage in what I can only assume is an attempt to make combat seem dangerous.
Eventually I got guard-on-hit gear for everybody, so the screaming moron fits ceased to become an issue in most fights. And then every fight once I got armor schematics for each class. The tactical combat is a farce, far and away the most shallow and least customizable of any Dragon Age game to date.
So, where does that leave us?At least they put effort into the graphics, right? Right?
You can't really Become the Inquisitor
with the dialogue options available to you; you can't Bond with Legends
; Exploring the Dragon Age
certainly doesn't lead you to an immersive living world; Changing the World
results in largely cosmetic differences, with your most important choices either almost immediately invalidated or their results based largely on consequences you can't logically connect to the choices at the time you make them (and that's all not to mention the repeated precedent they set in the game of destroying the impact of the prior games' choices, which compounds the lack of weight in this game's existing choices); and Playing Your Way
is a half-truth at best: I would've given up customizing armor in a heartbeat for anything resembling customizable companion AI.
I can confidently say BioWare failed to satisfactorily deliver on any one of these promises, much less all of them.BUT WAIT
The game is
definitely 18+ Mature. I can tell you from side-by-side comparison that elven nipples are the same color as human nipples.Not like we didn't already know that! (And I expect compensation for this free advertising,* Savegameonline.com!)
So, I think that more or less handles all the non-story flaws, I think...
Did I mention how stupid Samson's role is? He joins up with Cory regardless of how you treat him in Dragon Age 2 (the options for which amount to either killing him, or giving him the opportunity to rejoin the templar order and fight against red lyrium-crazed Meredith, both of which clearly can only result in him jumping onto the red lyrium bandwagon at Corypheus' obviously trustworthy and well-intentioned suggestion).
So why did they include him?
Whether or not he has a presence is dependent on one of the three "important" choices you can make (I didn't mention the middle one because it happens in the fun part of the game). If you go the other way, you get a "lieutenant-to-the-big-bad" villain named Calpernia, who actually looks and sounds pretty cool. She obviously had some thought and effort put into developing her character and making her a relatable, engaging antagonist.
Doing that twice apparently required too much effort, so for the other route they brought back one of the more popular (i.e. only notable and memorable) NPCs from Dragon Age 2, stripped away everything unique about him (not to mention the impact of the choices you made in regards to his fate, have I mentioned that enough times yet?), and gave him super armor.
Also, whilst you can convince Calpernia to abandon her master by pointing out how he's an evil, incompetent asshole who's just using her (presumably because they want to bring her back in a later game), doing the same for Samson has no effect on how his story plays out, except whether or not he expresses momentary regret at his friend's demise before gleefully falling back into semi-maniacal devotion to his dark master. Then you can use the macguffin you might've gotten earlier to shave some HP off of him before the fight starts.
In short, they took something popular from a prior game, stripped it of most/all of its meaning, most/all of the relevant consequence of your choices, and only did so to save themselves some time and effort on creating a compelling facet of story/gameplay. (That sentence is a summary of about half of what's wrong with the game.)
Also, the music is pretty blegh.
I mean, there's nothing wrong with it, but it doesn't feel very Dragon Age-y. It's fantasy game music, and is only really noticeable during the few scenes old Dragon Age music returns, or when something really dramatic happens. And the latter is quickly forgotten when the accompanying dramatic bits prove to be moronic/ham-handed/a huge disappointment.Also, some of the puzzles are just fucking terrible. They're just buggy as fuck.
Why is the music like this? I mean, Dragon Age has a composer who did a pretty damn good job on the first two games. Not Jesper Kyd-tier, but certainly successful in creating a memorable, appropriate score for the series. That would be the awesomely-named Inon Zur.
And the reason he didn't come back for Inquisition*
is because he out-and-out told the truth about Dragon Age 2: it was a hacked-together rush job put together to capitalize on the success of Dragon Age: Origins and make them some money, presumably to keep them going while they finished touching up Star Wars: The Old Republic. Totally worth it, right?
Now, all the "well it's not a bad game, it's just not what you were promised and paid good money for so stop thoughtfully criticizing it in the hopes we don't end up with more massive disappointments in the future" is utter horseshit. The game was enormously expensive and failed to revolutionize MMOs or even put a significant dent in WoW. Sure, it's making money now that they've done damage control, but don't kid yourself: this game's budget was estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, at this point it's just trying to make its money back. It's not a success.
"But you can't prove that concretely, Commas-"
Oh yes, I can, but that'll have to wait a little bit longer.
As for where the story really fails, because I only got up to Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts earlier, there's one more great big choice to make, and I won't spoil it because it involves Morrigan and is pretty good. I actually played through this part twice, and was thereafter confident I'd seen everything of note the game had to offer.
After they've finished preparing to set up for the next game, the devs seemed to give up entirely. The final mission starts off with Corypheus once more idiotically revealing his location and intentions, before he struggles to kill some regular old Inquisition scouts (the kind you see having trouble with wolves in the Hinterlands). You show up, his GODDAMN DRAGON APPEARS
Now, once again my choices seemed to make no difference here: I'd already killed ten dragons and a dragon-god at this point, having well-earned the Dragonslayer/Dragonhunter/Dragon's Bane whatever the fuck achievement/title. And yet, everybody seemed super concerned
about Corypheus' MIGHTY DRAGON
(that's also his weakness). So I got Morrigan the ability to turn into a dragon and she said she'd take care of it.
You start the fight, Corypheus is exactly as much of a pushover as you'd expect if you paid attention to anything he'd done up until this point. Then Morrigan, despite doing all sorts of fancy, cool-looking shit (seriously, the most epic thing in the game is about twelve seconds of watching her fight the red lyrium dragon) jobs out to Cory's pet lizard. It lands at half health, dies in a quarter of the time of any of the other dragons, you go back to Cory, he fails miserably for the final time, you steal his ORB OF DESTRUCTION
and defeat him by... sending him into the Fade!
Which was his goal.
The entire time.
So, with the miniscule, but still infuriatingly extant chance that unnecessary cutscene-induced railroaded stupidity gives him an opportunity to RETURN ONCE MORE TO MENACE
THE LANDS OF THEDAS WHEN THE WRITERS RUN OUT OF IDEAS FIFTEEN MINUTES INTO BRAINSTORMING A FUTURE GAME, you get a final sendoff that's much better than DA2's, much less satisfying than Origins' (seriously, most of the companions get like fifteen seconds of dialogue) and then...
THEY REVEAL THAT EVERYTHING IMPORTANT AND/OR REMOTELY INTERESTING THAT HAPPENED IS JUST SET-UP FOR THE NEXT GAME
Oh yes, my friends. This entire game was just a setup for the next one, just like DA2. Also, one of the franchise's most interesting characters suddenly and conveniently dies during this time for... uh, no reason except a half-assed dramatic ending.
I'm gonna leave off here for now, because I watched half of Daredevil on Netflix today and it was GOOD.So, after I finished the game this guy that I did a mission to acquire... uh, a hundred plus hours ago finally fell out of the sky* to tell me how happy he is to join the Inquisition. A little late there, buddy.
So, all that covers the How
of Dragon Age: Inquisition's failure. What about the Why
? He says, as if Dragon Age 2 and Dragon Age: Inquisition don't boil down to "The Story of Corypheus' Return and Possible Demise!" Vision
There's no doubt that Dragon Age 2 and Inquisition both lack a solid creative vision. These games really don't know what they want to be. Dragon Age 2 could
have been a satisfactory meshing of the action and tactical RPG subgenres, if they'd taken the time to do it right. But they didn't, so that vision never crystallized.
Inquisition has problems all its own. First of All, It Was Conceived As A "Not-MMO"
And I don't mean that in some sort of cutesy, avant-garde, "outside the box" MMO-that's-not-an-MMO way. I mean that they conceived the game as an MMO, and will more than likely strenuously deny that. Why is this game not an MMO, then? Remember me?!
"But Commas, you can't be sure
it was an MMO, that's-"
Hey, hey. Who said you could make a semi-reasonable point, strawman? Okay, maybe it wasn't conceived as an MMO. You know, despite the game in its current state overwhelmingly feeling and playing and looking like an MMO that's missing the "massively multiplayer online" part. To everybody.
Maybe they only ever intended it to be a(n incredibly shallow and unrewarding) four-player
Whatever the case, the game feels and plays and looks like an MMO that, after the upsetting near-total failure of its creator's current big-brand MMO, was hastily repurposed into some kind of other RPG game.
In this context the half-complete and terribly unsatisfying implementation of the action and tactical gameplay mechanics, lacking protagonist characterization, relatively shallow companions, fucked up quest structure and failed open world design all make perfect sense, actually.
"Oh but Commas, they never said
it was going to be open world
," says the shill, ignoring all the other perfectly valid points I've made so far to focus on the one thing he thinks he can make a cogent and unassailable argument against, "that's just something haters/the media/the moon lizards said
they said so they'd have something to complai-"
OH, BUT THAT IS WHERE YOU ARE WRONGSee it for yourself here.
"The open world
is larger than all of Dragon Age: Origins," says Laidlaw
"It was an opportunity to go open world
," Laidlaw told GamesBeat
"...we wanted to look at the open world
and make sure that everything feels purposeful," Laidlaw spake, in an act that would make even Peter Molyneux
stop and say, "'Alright, now you have to know at this point you're being more than a little dishonest.'"
Look at the date on that interview: June 2014. Is it okay for the game devs to change their stance on a major aspect of the game? Sure.
Is it okay to do so approximately four months before the game comes out, without really announcing it, and then quietly pretending they never said the thing they said in order to associate the game with a large, popular and well-selling aspect of a massively popular game in order to build hype? FUCK NO IT ISN'T
This is the problem with gaming right now: we keep letting them get away with this shit, and they keep doing it.
Inquisition isn't open-world, it has zones. Like an MMO.
And what's more, those huge zones drag the game down. That fucked-up quest structure? That didn't evolve organically or on purpose. It reeks of "shit, we need more story because we aren't making an MMO anymore, all that shit we made to fill up space and make those giant, empty zones look not-so-empty? Yeah, make those a requirement for the main story."
In effect, the side quests exist to justify the existence of the giant, admittedly beautiful*
zones they'd created. The story is fucked up because instead of having to make a good, complete, 40+ hour story, they could just tack all those worthless side quests to it to save themselves some time and effort. You know, like they did with Samson?
And what's up with the zones, anyway? Why is the Hissing Wastes, a place we've never heard of before, an enormous expanse of mostly featureless desert, while Val Royeaux, the shining jewel on the crown of Thedas, is smaller than Denerim? Or even the first fucking zone you find yourself in at the game's beginning?
Because it saves on time and effort!
This "open world" has a purpose, alright, and that purpose is to distract you from all the shit wrong with the game.This is a conversation between two people. Apparently those candles and those bottles. And that torch is eavesdropping. Let's take a moment to relax.
So, Inquisition isn't the game it was conceived as. It isn't the game people were looking forward to from some of the earlier videos.
And it sure as hell isn't the game we wanted.Do this again, but with better graphics, bigger maps, more refined and balanced gameplay, new characters and a different story, all of comparable quality to the first. Is that so hard?
There's only one conclusion we can come to, and that's-
"You just hate the game and want to see it fail and see BioWare fail and there never be another Dragon Age game ever!"
This is more or less what every debate I've seen about the game boils down to: people try to honestly and thoroughly point out its flaws. The fanboys refute and refute until even their addled minds can't deny logic any more, so they come to the conclusion that the critics just want to see the game fail solely out of spite.
And if that was the case, if I hated the game and didn't want to see another one, a good
sequel for once, would I have done all this?
Look at these journals and pictures, the links and research. That's a lot of effort. I'm certain it's more effort than any of you, the people who would make that accusation, have ever put into the series.
Did you pay attention to anything
I said about getting the game? About waiting six months to play it?
You know, I avoided every Dragon Age anything after I preordered Inquisition, because I wanted that experience
again. I wanted to go in blind, without any speculation about the story or the characters, without any chance of guessing anything important or hearing spoilers. I waited for that game for months
, and then waited another six months
after I got it to play it, so that any lingering bugs or clumsiness would have plenty of time to get hashed out, so the experience
would be as clean and pure as possible.
How many of you got the game, threw it in right away and blundered through the main quest, dipping briefly into each new zone when it showed up and ultimately finished it as fast as possible? How many of you, like me, bought into the hype?
How many of you still believe it? Still believe this game is a return to form, not just for Dragon Age, but for BioWare itself?*
If everything I've said until now isn't enough to convince you, then I leave you to it. 2014, a Great Year for Gaming
Aside from the fact that the article is lauding a mod that fixes one of the game's biggest failings, there's plenty else wrong with someone praising Inquisition, or 2014 as a "Great Year of Gaming." Maybe it was, if you weren't paying much attention.
Diablo III felt the same way to me three years ago: a game I'd been waiting for, for years, finally appeared and felt.... watered-down, held-back by adherence to an unnecessary online functionality and reeking of desperate cash grabs, while everybody raved about it.
You can say that Diablo III's online-only gameplay, MMO feel and unsatisfying endgame are subjective to my experience. I don't want to play a game that is so unsatisfying to its own developers they feel the need to multi-box. But the devs agreed with me on two of those points. And yes, that dev came from World of Warcraft
, like half the dev team. No wonder DIII felt like an MMO, where loot was all that mattered, and it was largely out of your control. And on the topic of cash grabs, one need look no further than the Real Money Auction House. That loot-focused gameplay that constrained my experience? It was a product of them building the game so that you would be encouraged to buy
what you wanted for your character with actual money.
After paying full price for the game.
Inquisition gives me that same feeling, as do a lot of other games from 2014.
See, the most disappointing games of the year, either by bugs or failure to deliver, were Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Thief, Assassin's Creed: Unity, WATCH_DOGS, Destiny, Elder Scrolls Online, DriveClub, Far Cry 4, Dead Rising 3 and Titanfall. Those are the most broadly agreed-upon, but I'd put Inquisition on this list as well.
These games were E3 darlings, long-awaited sequels or remakes and next-gen console titles with great potential that were supposed to define the new generation. And they failed.
Sure, you can say the Master Chief Collection was just a product of high expectations and unexpected problems, like all those listed games.
But here's the thing: if I want to just buy a game
, a momentary distraction, simple entertainment, I'd go buy goddamned Farmville, or Candy Crush Saga, or any of those other piddly little "let's play this here and there for five minutes to activate the reward center of my brain" diversions.
We don't come to beloved companies with engrossing stories and mind-boggling graphics for a diversion. We come for an experience
. We want something to talk with each other about, something to look forward to, to remember, something that sparks the fire in our imaginations and opens our minds to what could be.
And all these big overhyped games are where we're used to looking for that experience. You can't just say "well it's not what you wanted, too bad, judge it for what it is" because these games exist in a context: Inquisition is a sequel to Dragon Age, and it was advertised as one, as a "return to form." We were promised something, and we paid for it, and we didn't get it.
Let's put it this way: if Halo 1 is an FPS, then by the Dragon Age formula "Halo 2" would've been a hybrid FPS/platformer with half the guns (and the best missions would've been DLC). "Halo: The Ark" would've limited you to two preselected guns per character, with a third unlocked halfway through the story in the ten-hour campaign.
And that's mostly just the gameplay. Everything about the Dragon Age series' quality, except the graphics, has gone downhill.Hey, if even a fragment of Red Lyrium can drive you crazy, why the hell am I carrying all this around?
This game only succeeded because you needed
it to. It succeeded because 2014 was a year full of AAA disappointment, and you needed
one of those games to succeed, so you could look back and say "my favorite pastime was good this year, no, it was great
And that's it.We all knew it would end this way. The End
So, what does all this come to?
Inquisition sucks. We know how. We know why. What can we do to fix it?
I'm not sure.
Not buying the game would've been a start, but everybody did. Everybody bought it, and everybody keeps saying it's good. You're so engrossed by the hype and inflated reviews, the desperate need to have just one
big budget game from just one
of our favorite companies turn out the way it was supposed to,
that you gloss over its flaws.
We need to buy games because they're good. We need to hold critics and companies alike responsible for their failures. There are a lot of misconceptions about gaming right now.
But the only real truth is that if we don't like big companies half-assing games, gutting respected smaller companies
, lying to and burning or pushing out good developers
to replace them with cheaper or more investor-friendly labor, giving us less for our money and charging us more
, committing outright fraud for marketing purposes
and basically doing everything in their power to disrespect and destroy what we enjoy for the sake of their own profits, we have to stop buying their games.
There are plenty of other good games to play right now: besides Shadow of Mordor, Pillars of Eternity and Witcher 3, most of Nintendo's offerings are still above par. Swordcoast
is on the way, and looks like it's our only real hope for a successor to Dragon Age: Origins.*
Steam and GOG.com
have plenty of winners, as long as you can sift through the crap (and GoG eschews DRM to boot). Yes, it sucks that you have to wade through it because you can't trust gaming journalism to give an honest accounting, or trust game companies to make good games. And it sucks that the games you really
want to play probably aren't worth the price they're asking, much less the loss of the game that could have been if it was in the hands of someone more dedicated. But in the end it's better to give your money to the people doing it right than the people doing it wrong. You won't get the game you want either way, not today. But next year? Maybe.
As for Inquisition? Right now it is the industry's premier big-budget RPG,*
and will likely remain so until Witcher 3 comes out. It'll be great. Everyone will forget about Inquisition. BioWare will quietly release one more DLC and get back to making Dragon Age 4.
I will not be pre-ordering it.
Any comments? Leave them below, and good luck with your next game.