Age of Gaming E02 - Dragon Age Inquisition First Impressions

Starwalker Studios presents Age of Gaming your podcast dedicated to video games present and future and celebrating the journey of gamer culture from your mom’s basement to the mainstream. Today I’ll be giving my first impressions of Dragon Age Inquisition.

Dragon Age Inquisition

Buy Dragon Age Inquisition on Amazon & support the show.

Available on PC, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360.

I’m playing on PS4.

I talked about last week how games on the seventh and eighth generation consoles tend to not offer any more on the eighth than they do on the seventh. Unfortunately, Dragon Age is no exception to this.

Character creation

You get a lot of options to try to make your character look the way you want. It may, however, be too many options for you. Also, it seems a bit overdone considering the character graphics for this game aren’t really that great.

Only two voices to choose from.

Seems over-complicated considering the level of graphics.

Takes a long time, and there’s no way to save a look you like in case you decide to go back later and play a different class.

The options aren’t “intelligent”. It’s very easy to end up with a very deformed looking character. Make sure to check from all angles often.

Despite the seeming large number of options, they’re actually quite limited in variety, instead there are a lot of versions of the same thing.

Eg. there aren’t many hair styles, and the skin colors are actually quite limited if you’re going for a specific, realistic skin color.

Visuals

Environment graphics & detail is pretty good.

Character graphics are not very good. Character animations are subpar, and motion capture is minimal to the point that I wonder if it was even used. Watching people talk, it feels more like a ps2 game or a PC game from 10+ years ago. I feel like Uncharted 3 on ps3, for instance, had far better character graphics than this.

There are f2p MMOs with better character graphics than this.

People’s teeth are really screwed up. Don’t look at them while they’re talking, or you’ll regret it.

The fabrics aren’t rendered well. They don’t look real. Look more like plastic than fabric.

Don’t even get me started on peoples’ hair.

Content

There is a lot to do in this game. It will keep you busy for a long time, especially if you’re a completionist.

Lots of side quests. It works out quite nicely. You can just explore if you want and do things along the way, or you can focus on one area at a time and get everything done.

I like the complexity of the game. There’s a lot to do. You can either just handle what you come across, or you can be more strategic.

There seems to be a lot that has been established in the previous games. As someone who didn’t play them, it’s pretty confusing. You’re plopped in the middle of a story with no idea what’s going on. Then you’re forced to make dialogue choices with no frame of reference or idea what choice you should make.

Also, as is common in all Bioware games I’ve played, the dialogue choices listed and what your character says once you actually choose one are almost always very different. I’ve yet to determine if the choices really matter much at all. So far they don’t seem to.

Game Play

You can choose between third person and tactical combat modes. This way you can get into the nitty gritty when you need or want to (difficult encounters) or play it fast and loose when that’s what you want (easier encounters).

I like the variety of builds for the different classes, the number of ability trees. However this can be a bit overwhelming when new to the game. You can, however, respec, by going to the vender pole at the armorer in Haven. It’s only 1 gold the first time, and then around 350 the next time.

The leveling feels about right for me. A lot of MMOs and RPGs have you leveling way too fast.

I like the Power mechanic. It gives an in-world reason and justification for doing side quests. It also gives you a feeling of progression above and beyond experience and leveling.

I also like the Influence mechanic and Inquisition ranks. Again another way to progress other than leveling.

I like that you can map your abilities how you want.

Neither the third person nor the tactical combat are done very well. The game would’ve been better with just one done well, as opposed to having both, but they’re mediocre.

Third person doesn’t feel quite right. The movement and positioning is kind of clunky.

In tactical mode, you can’t control the zoom of the camera. It’s awkward and often hard to see what you want to see.

Dragon Age is trying to please two very different types of players here, but in the end will probably not please either.

You can’t see relationship scores with NPCs

Moving about the world, jumping over and climbing terrain feels buggy. Again par for the course with Bioware games.

Gameplay seems overly complex with having to control and advance 4 characters. I’d much rather play a game with one character. Now you can let the AI handle the other characters’ actions and advancement, but I’m not sure how well you’ll do in the game doing this. You basically have to learn all the classes and specialties in order to make the most of your group. Again, I’d rather focus on one character.

Also makes your choice of character pretty irrelevant except for cut scenes and when you’re in Haven. It’s more about making a character that fits well with the group you will play, as opposed to making a character you want to play. This is more of a party simulation game than an RPG to me. Jury is still out for me if the party mechanics will be an annoyance to me or a deal breaker in the end, but I definitely don’t see it as a plus.

The religion in the game gets really tiresome, but that’s fantasy, I guess. The whole “chosen one” thing is so cliché it’s a real turn off. A little originality with the plot would’ve gone a long way. It’s bad enough to have all the religion in the game, but your character’s nose is always shoved into it. You can’t get away from it.

Bugs

Graphic and animation bugs galore. This seems to be a staple of every Bioware game I’ve ever played. They just don’t seem to have good character artists, and their animations are subpar. They also don’t seem able or willing to produce a game that isn’t filled with animation bugs.

Bugs include people’s feet being inside the terrain instead of on top of it, NPCs disappearing and reappearing, or pathing errors with NPCs pathing in “fast motion”.

There are also conversation bugs, where you’ll enter a conversation and the game will either freeze, or there will be no audio in the conversation. These both require restarting the game, and perhaps leaving progress as you can’t save before restarting.

Sometimes you will lose sound in combat. Sometimes it will eventually come back, sometimes it won’t.

Maybe some of these bugs will be fixed in patches, but considering this is Bioware, I doubt it. I recently played SWTOR and there are still animation and graphic bugs we complained about in the beta, and that’s a PC MMO, which is much easier to fix than a console game. Bioware just doesn’t seem to care about the quality of their character animations; that or they just really aren’t very good at it.

Verdict

For me, the jury’s still out on this game. There is a lot to do, and a lot to keep you busy. However the story is very cliché and unoriginal, and seems very shallow. I’m not sure if it will keep my interest throughout the game.

The awkwardness of the combat may also end up being more or less of an issue. Only time will tell if it’s something that I eventually get tired of dealing with, or if I decide the other aspects of the game make it worthwhile.

The appearance of having options in conversations with NPCs is appealing, however it’s yet to be seen if they really matter. So far the game is very linear, even with these options.

Although the graphics and animation bugs don’t keep me from enjoying the game, they are an annoyance. The quality of graphics and animations come nowhere near that of The Last of Us Remastered, Infamous Second Son or Destiny. I do feel like I’m playing a sixth generation game on an eighth generation console.

I suspect I’ll finish the game, and it will get me through quite a few winter weeks, but I don’t think it will be one of my favorites on the PS4.

Tips

Consider playing a rogue or warrior. You start out with a  sword & board warrior, archer rogue and mage as NPCs in your party.

If you get the game at Target, you get a free strategy guide (or you did when I bought it) which is very helpful. I avoid the spoilers though, but great for looking at class abilities, etc.

Buy the disc. Always buy the disc! That way you can share the game, and you can resell it!

More on Dragon Age in the future

I’m sure I’ll be playing this game for a while, so I’ll probably bring it up on the show again in the future, maybe after I’ve beat the game. I think Nikki will play it to, so I’ll have her on to get her thoughts at some point.

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