Dragon Age Inquisition

DAI

Part I

So the time has finally come for me to talk about Dragon Age, Inquisition.  Oh, yes…and I have lots to say, so let’s just call this Part I in a series, aka The Introduction.  Let me start off with this, I love it!  It’s beautiful, it’s vast, there’s plenty to do and see, and there’s lots of content to keep you occupied.  I finished it a little over a week ago, and immediately felt this void…I was sad to say goodbye.  I had spent so many hours with my merry band of misfits, and I was conflicted about whether or not to start a new character or do the responsible thing and do all the “grown up” things I had been putting off since it arrived.

There is this odd side effect to game playing – a sense of accomplishment.  You have a list of quests or things to find, etc. and as you complete each one, you can feel the satisfaction that you did something with your day.  Don’t judge.  It is satisfying, especially when in real life it usually takes much longer to see the fruits of your labor.  And when things aren’t going according to plan, you can spend a few hours slaying demons, saving the world, and finding romance.

My excitement at its release enabled me to talk two of my coworkers into playing, and found myself a walking encyclopedia of information for their game play.  It felt nice.  Neither had played DA2 and because I was able to share a bit of the history and interesting points, I turned them toward playing that one as well.  I’m sinister like that.

If you’re interested in playing, you can find a plethora of articles, videos, and the like pretty much anywhere to garner more information, but why spoil the fun?  It was extremely difficult to avoid all the spoilers that continued to inundate my feeds, but as I’m always behind in my tv watching and anything else relevant in the world, I just averted my eyes and continued to scroll.

DATapestry

So for today, I’ll only talk about the Dragon Age Keep.  Even if you haven’t played the first two games, you can develop a back story that is unique to your new world by utilizing the Keep to answer a series of questions relevant to the first two games.  This will then carry over into the history, comments made, cameos, etc.  It makes each play through a different experience.  In Origins did you make Alistair king?  Did you romance Morrigan?  In DA2 did you fight the Arishok?  Did you become Viscount?  It’s these big decisions and many smaller ones that will determine your play through…it’s so much fun!

This is also a fascinating tactic to employ as we are able to see how the choices we make do indeed affect the world around us.  The other thing I like about this idea is that as storytellers, we can see how many of these events are connected, and how important world building truly is.  I’ll end on this note, it’s a whole lot of fun, and hopefully as I move forward in this series if you didn’t want to play before…you now will!:)

~

Part II

So, it’s time to continue the obsession saga series known as Dragon Age. I present to you Part 2: Creating your Character aka The Protagonist.

As I mentioned in the first part, I will discuss topics in the order they are encountered, so this post will deal with character creation and we’ll move on from there.

Character creation is one of my favorite things to do in games. If I could get paid to make characters all day, I totally would. Some games do this better than others, and I had really high hopes for this option in Inquisition given the previous games, and from early game footage we knew the graphics were going to be amazing, and for the most part it is really good, but it has its downsides.

InquisitionCharactersIn Origins (game 1) you were given a choice of 6 different origin stories to play through as an elf, a human, or a dwarf. Comments made in game play, and how NPC characters treated you, etc. were all based on this choice. In 2 you could only play as a human, Hawke, which many people didn’t care for (in addition to a number of other factors – we won’t go into that here – I still liked the game). There was also a DLC called the Black Emporium that allowed you to change your character’s features at no extra cost, i.e. gold or favor anytime you wished. Inquisition returns to the original format of different races and includes a fourth option, the Qunari; a race of large beings with horns, usually. You do not have an option to change features*, but Bioware did try to have the character creator mirror actual game play, and it is very close.  What this means is what you see is what you get, pretty much.

The character creator allows for multiple interesting features to incorporate such as unnatural eye colors (pink, yellow, what-have-you or a combination of any along the color wheel), scars, tattoos, and even a broken nose. You could easily spend hours creating just the right eye size, nose shape, chin depth, even the height of the ears, and that’s all great, except…

Here are the downsides. There are no distinctions in hair options for male and female characters. They removed a number of the good ones from previous games (where did my cute bob with the braids go?!) and instead added 13 bald-ish options. You can go completely bald, have stubble, have stubble with a round head, or stubble with a slightly cone head, and the list goes on for 13 different options…gracious.

And let’s talk about beard options for male characters – there are like 40. C’mon now. I realize there are so many other things going on in character creation, especially having 4 races, but you took away multiple choices for one of the most essential features – hair to include all those others?

Side note, here’s a link to a video about some of the ugliest characters created, but be forewarned for explicit language. I found it hilarious!

One feature some gamers didn’t like was the lack of choice in body type. Elves are small framed, dwarves are short, Qunari are tall, and humans are well, human. There is no choice in making any character taller or shorter, heavier or thinner. You cannot create the rare tall elf, or the randomly short Qunari.

So after painstakingly creating your perfect character, choosing a voice of which there are only two across the board for any race of male and female characters, and a name which no one will ever use in game play because gaming is not quite that advanced yet, you start your game.

image (12)Depending on your race, whether you’re female or male, and depending on your class especially in this game, you will be treated accordingly in this world. Elves are second-class citizens, dwarves are generally not surface dwellers, Qunari are from a foreign land and in previous games have been referred to as an invading force trying to convert the world to their beliefs, and then there is the “ruling” class, the humans. In Inquisition, regardless of your class, you will be from a noble family, although if you are a mage, you will have come from a circle; a place where mages are kept locked away for the protection of the people.

This is the driving storyline of Inquisition due to events started in DA:2. We’ll talk about story in another post.

*Update: The Black Emporium was added with the DLCs so you now have the option to alter your character’s appearance post initial creation.

~

Part III

I’ve decided to write Part III on the companions, the merry band of misfits you recruit to join your cause.  I was trying to go in order of how one might proceed through the game, so perhaps this one should be about story, but Dragon Age is currently amidst a March Madness-type narrowing down of favorite characters to create The Dragon Age InquistionPosterUltimate Party, so I felt this was appropriate.  My choices, just FYI, are The Warden from Origins as the leader along with Alistair for the warrior, Varric from DA2 for the rogue, and Dorian from Inquisition for the mage.  #DAUltimateParty

So before I discuss the companions, of which I won’t go into too much, because “Spoilers”.  Any Doctor Who fans out there?😉  Here are a few of the pros and cons.  In the two previous games certain actions were only available after a character “liked” you enough.  Their approval allowed for romance options and loyalty.  There was gift giving available and specific tokens for individuals, in addition to personal quests that would garner favor.  A bar on their character profile page gave you some indication of your friendship with them, but that disappeared in Inquisition.  At first it really bothered me, because how am I supposed to know if someone likes me enough?!  But this is more true to life.  The “so-and-so approves” or “greatly disapproves” text still pops up, so your only indication of character favor is based on how many times you’ve seen your favorite agree or disagree with your choices.

Also out for the majority of conversations is the positive, negative, or sarcastic indicator that allows you to choose how you would like to respond.  The Sis saves before every. single. conversation. which allows her to see the results of each conversation option and its effects.  She wastes a lot of time doing this, but she also probably has a better understanding overall.  I will, on the other hand, play the first time through just as I want.  As I always play “nice” when a character’s morality is measured, it’s fairly easy for me to distinguish what my character would say.  In all of the games, this wins favor with some while others find my do-gooder behavior tiresome.

In keeping with the idea of conversation, there’s lots of it!  This is something I truly appreciate, and Dragon Age as a series has never failed in this.  You can make quite a bit of conversation while in camp, but one of the best additions was the added supplementary conversations while you’re just walking around.  I became rather partial to who I kept in my party because of this; Dorian, Blackwall, and Sera seemed to be the most talkative and some of the things they talked about…so much fun!

I’ve started playing the Mass Effect series, also from Bioware, and with the confirmation of a game 4 due out next year, I’m hoping they take a cue from Dragon Age in regards to the romances; conversations, scenes, options.  With Inquisition, Bioware raised the bar.  Romance options are not only based on race, but also sexual orientation.  In the previous games, there were characters that could be romanced specifically by either a male or female lead, some by both, but this time around, there were more lines drawn.  Dorian is gay, as is Sera.  Solas can only be romanced by a female elf.  Commander Cullen, an NPC, is (luckily) a romance option who can only be wooed by a female human or elf.  This approach, in addition to creating a transgendered character found in Iron Bull’s party, has garnered Bioware a great deal of praise and plenty of accolades including a Special InquisitionPartyRecognition Award from GLAAD.

Here is the lineup: Your advisors are Leliana, Josephine, and Cullen, all NPCs, but of which two are romance options.  I would include Cassandra, a warrior, as well since she’s with you from the very start and initiates the Inquisition.  Along your travels you can recruit the following: Varric – a dwarven rogue, Solas – an elven mage, Blackwall – a human warrior, Iron Bull – a Qunari warrior, Dorian – a human mage, Sera – an elven rogue, Vivienne – a human mage, and Cole…he’s a bit of a complicated rogue.

What you’ll realize is that these characters are 3-dimensional, and this is a great lesson for us storytellers!  There is diversity, and passion, and spirit, and those make for good characters in any medium.

As I’ve rambled, yet again, I’ll wrap it up.  Goodness, I almost need to do another post on this topic alone.  The politics in the game surround a mage/templar conflict.  The companions you recruit all have their own backstory and ideas on how this problem should be resolved.  Because of this conflict, I chose to play my first time through as a female human mage.  Most characters and even NPCs will have their viewpoints and will treat you accordingly until you “win” them over.  There’s fear and skepticism, conflicting religious ideology, political intrigue, and so much more.  As you move forward, making decisions, and influencing the people around you, you will find that this is a fully fleshed out world where your choices have consequences and can shape the world around you.  Again I say, “It is so much fun!”

If you decide to play and want to know your romance options, here’s a guide from IGN.

~

Part IV

As I’ve now finished a second playthrough of Dragon Age: Inquisition, I felt it was time to wrap up this series of posts.  I am unable to discuss any of the DLCs because after the first one was released, Bioware decided not to release any others on the XBox 360, so I haven’t purchased any of them.

The anger I have about the gaming industry’s ploys to wrangle more money out of their gamers is real.  I was not ready to fork out $400 for a new gaming console, but if I want to know the rest of the story, that is exactly what I’ll have to do, and because you all know I’m passionate about this story, I’m going to do it…very, very soon.  ARGH!  As this post is not a rant on that, I’ll save that for fuel for another day.

This post is about the grand scale of the story of the world of Dragon Age.  Inquisition is part three and a culmination of the events in the previous two games where story lines and characters come together.

Origins-WardenShieldIn Origins, game one, your protagonist is from one of six “origin” stories (2 human story lines, 2 elf, and 2 dwarf)  in which each avenue ends with you becoming a Grey Warden, an old order of warriors chosen to fight a specific evil known as darkspawn and their archdemon, an old god twisted by their tainted blood.  They live underground and are rather hideous, similar to Tolkien’s orcs.  The presence of an archdemon is a time referred to as a Blight and when the Grey Wardens are needed most, as they are the only real solution to ending a Blight.  In this first game, there are a number of obstacles to overcome while you try to unite the country against the impending threat, and there is treachery around every corner as the Wardens are declared traitors after an initial battle against the darkspawn.

There are a number of characters who you meet in game one that will progress forward through each game, some of them taking on major roles in Inquisition.  Same can be said of characters from game two.  Fun fact: if you’re game one character is a human mage, you will be related to the protagonist in game two.

DA2In game two, you are a human whose family has escaped the Blight and traveled across the sea in search of a safe haven.  The entire game takes place in and around the city of Kirkwall.  Although many people didn’t care for this game, especially in comparison to Origins – you could only play as a human, there was a lot of repetition in the floor plans, and the primary single location of the city as the backdrop – this is where game three is setup; the conflict between the mages and the Templars.  Without giving too much away, one of your allies takes drastic action that incites a war between the mages, who are considered dangerous and are required to live in prison-like societies called Circles, and their captors/overseers, the Templars.

Fun fact: there is a Dragon Age 2 DLC that introduces you to a powerful darkspawn named Corypheus.  It was Hawke’s father, a mage, and the Grey Wardens who imprisoned him.

DAIGame three begins 10 years after the events of game one.  Your protagonist is found as the sole survivor of a terrible, cataclysmic tragedy where a resolution to the Mage-Templar War was supposed to transpire.  A conclave was called at the Temple of Sacred Ashes in Haven, a village you will have discovered in game one.  With no memories of what happened and a strange mark upon your hand, you are considered responsible for a number of the current problems, including a giant hole in the sky; a Breach in the veil, the line between reality and the spirit world, is the source of a demon invasion.  An old form of justice, an inquisition, is formed to solve the many problems that the world now faces.

Everything you’ve learned from the past two games will pay off as you make your way through Inquisition.  The things you know about the Wardens are relevant.  A relic you found in game two has resurfaced with a vengeance.  You will see old, familiar faces (Hello, Flemeth) and meet interesting, new ones (Well, hellooo Solas).  The world of Dragon Age is vast and all encompassing, and you will discover how well it’s constructed.  I instantly became devoted to the series because it combined things I love such as fantasy, medieval times, old world orders, magic, dragons, romance, and adventure, and then went above and beyond to make it a fully fleshed out universe.

As I’ve tried to end each of these posts with some relevance to writing, you will find, if you choose to play, how key world building is and character development.  It’s key to think multiple steps ahead, whether you’re writing a single story or a series.  How do people know one another?  This may reflect in how supposed strangers speak to one another upon meeting – there may be a history there.  What is their religious affiliation?  How do they feel about the history of their people?  Their government?  What consequences do their actions have later?  This is a good one to consider, especially in a serial.  Actions taken by a character may have unforeseen consequences that may be fun to explore later.  Think of the domino effect.

Consider epic tales like Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones.  I would count Dragon Age among them.  There is so much more going on than the happenings of one person, and you get to live it first hand, well, vicariously through your character.  Your decisions have bearing on the world around you and shape it.  You become a leader in each game; you build loyalty and friendships or enemies.  You get to save the world, and maybe the boy too.  😉

~

Part V

DA3CUsword&rings

I am so thankful for having such generous friends, like “D”, who let me borrow his XBox One in order to complete the Dragon Age Inquisition story line. *See previous post about the gaming industry scam.

Needless to say, the DA:I extras did not disappoint and playing on the One was superior; the graphics are amazing, the details crisp, the subtitles and codex much easier to read.  I had one concern, moving over my character from the 360 to the One.  I read a number of articles that all said the same thing, but they were all incorrect.  I tried a variety of tactics to import the data, but they all failed, so if you’re like me, behind the times, let me give you a tip I received after talking directly with EA.

*If you started your game on the 360, you need to download the free version of The Black Emporium on the 360 before you can advance.  If you have all the DLCs for the One, you will obtain The Black Emporium in the pack.  Using the character you want to continue playing with, visit the emporium and create a new save.  On the screen there will be an option for exporting via the emporium to the One.  Nowhere did I ever find this information; most sites suggested using the cloud which, according to EA and my own findings, is incorrect.

You do need to have XBox Live in order to save this information to your account which is how the One will find it when you load it.  Now, on the One, under Extras there is the “Import from 360” option.  Character info will pop-up to ensure it’s the correct import and…Voila!  I wasted hours trying everything else.  Footnote, your character won’t import exactly, although it is pretty close, so I had to make a few changes which is why it’s good you start in the Black Emporium.

DAI JoHThe first DLC is Jaws of Hakkon, a new region to explore in the Frostback Basin.  There are a number of missions to complete while you search for the remains of the last Inquisitor, who is believed to have died in the area hundreds of years ago.  You will learn a great deal of history during this time with tales of the Avvars, the creation of the Seekers, and the previous Inquisitor and his political ties, lineage, and reasons for being in such a remote location.  The map is a bit confusing, as it is a place of peaks and valleys, so travelling from one location to another sometimes takes a little effort finding that one path.

With the new DLCs, you obtain new weapons and armor, but if you play these after the initial game, the armor ratings will be much lower than anything you currently have equipped, so use the schematics to build yourself something new, although most items remained of a lesser value than my current stock.  My favorites were both of the Qunari armors; they show a little skin and really are nice looking on your female Inquisitor in particular, and Dorian, because everything looks good on Dorian.

There are a lot of things to fight, so I think I ranked up twice before leaving the area (one might have been a carry over from Descent which I played first, because so much fighting), and there are loads of crafting items to utilize.  There are also more ocularum shards to find that will open a specific door in the area, useful before the boss fight.  Lastly, instead of runes, there are now sigils that have both positive and negative effects.  I didn’t use any, not yet anyway.

DAI DescentDLC number two is The Descent which takes place in the Deep Roads.  If you’ve played the previous two games, you’re probably like me and sort of huff at the thought of traipsing through the Deep Roads yet again, just as the Wardens must.  Wink wink.  Those blasted darkspawn!  And there are just. so. many and it is difficult.  Even at my high rank, I had to drop down from hard to normal in some areas because the enemies were just relentless and never ending.  I’m having nightmarish flashbacks just typing that.

I played Descent first, I’m not sure why, but if you’re early on in the game play, I would suggest visiting this area sooner than later because there is a ton of money to be made.  I think I ended up with 100,000 gold in addition to some great new armor and weapons.  You do have to be in Skyhold to access this mission from the war table, so you have a little time to rank up beforehand.

The Descent is a long, winding mission to solve the mystery of these random earthquakes that have started affecting the area.  This is of great importance because the dwarves mine lyrium, the whole of their economy, which both mages and Templars rely on.  You end up travelling further than anyone has before, and the landscape is quite beautiful and a little reminiscent of Blackreach in Skyrim.

Trespasser

The final DLC is Trespasser.  This is the one I couldn’t wait to get to – the end.  You cannot go back to anything unfinished once you begin, and you will receive a little pop-up at the war table with this warning.  The story takes place two years after you have defeated Corypheus, having been summoned by the council to the Winter Palace to defend whether there is still a need for the Inquisition.  After the events, you will have the opportunity to make this decision.

All of your friends have returned and you can interact with each, so make sure you talk to them multiple times to instigate cut scenes.  I played first as my female mage who romanced Cullen.  Great cut scene, fyi.  There is also a great scene with Dorian, as well as a couple of fun things with Vivienne and Josie.  There are dog treats to find which you will give to the mabari Cullen has taken a liking to that add perks such as cunning and magic, etc. but as this is the last DLC, I was confused as to why this was necessary.  Your rank will be high, your armor and weapons will be top notch, and you will have so many abilities you won’t know which ones to choose from most of the time.  This is one thing I wish they would have included from the previous two games, the ability to open the wheel of choices for all those abilities you have acquired so you can actually use everything in your arsenal.

This DLC is a great story for a number of reasons, one of them being that it continues to tie together other topics from the previous games.  The eluvians, the elven mirrors that have played a role in each game, are your means of travel in Trespasser while you try to stop a pretty big threat.  I won’t give anything away, but will only say that this paves the way for a great Dragon Age 4, which is years away, if at all, since it hasn’t been announced yet, and the creator of the series left Bioware a little while ago.😦  So, wait, there’s a job opening?!  Bioware, please announce at least the promise of a new game…there are still so many story lines that require closure!

I freely admit it that I will play these DLCs at least two more times with my other characters I’ve created so I can see the endings for each, or at least until my friend asks for his XBox back.  This is the same friend I was able to encourage to play the game in the first place because of my (great) interest in the series.  For gamers who like RPGs, start at the beginning with Dragon Age Origins, forgive Bioware for Dragon Age II, but still enjoy it, and then find your way to Inquisition where all these stories converge.  You won’t be disappointed.

Game on!

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