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Sunday, January 18, 2015

(Spoiler-Free) Thoughts on Dragon Age: Inquisition (and how they relate to writing)

I'm nearing the end of my second playthrough of Dragon Age: Inquisition. This time, obviously, I've been taking my time and not blazing through to get to the end, letting the game consume every moment of my free time. Also (and I'll elaborate on this throughout), I was able to almost halve the number of hours spent on this playthrough, and not all of that was due to efficiency.

First, I need to preface this with my overall, general feelings: The game is excellent. I feel like the designers took the best parts of the two previous games without necessarily favoring one over the other. Perhaps most importantly for a game, it's fun, and I look forward to replaying it. HOWEVER (we all knew that was coming), there were definitely aspects that could have been better. A lot better. I'm not going to say I was disappointed, because I wasn't, and paying for the pre-order and immersing myself in the game as soon as possible was worthwhile. But it's not perfect.

Boobulon, who hasn't played yet, summed up my feelings perfectly when I told him of my impressions after I first beat the game. It's a short game, but very wide. Now at first, that statement may sound a little ridiculous - I spent over 100 hours (111 to be exact) just playing through the game once. How can that possibly be a short game?

Without going into too much detail about the mechanics, there are certain mandatory plot points you have to hit. While there's an order to them (except for two which are available simultaneously), you can pretty much do them whenever you want. As is typical for Bioware games, there are a crapload of side quests and companion quests available, along with many areas to explore. (For those of you familiar with the first Mass Effect, it's structured similarly.)

Ultimately, I think it's that lack of set pacing that drags the game down a little. And unfortunately, most of those little side quests did nothing to enhance the overall plot, in my opinion. Also unfortunately, it made me feel like a lot of the game was filler and the designers were having fun playing around with the new game engine while not focusing enough on tying all the elements together.

Gorgeous, right? I didn't even bother coming here the second time through, because it was unnecessary.

The actual plot stuff? EXCELLENT. FANTASTIC. LOVED. Like, "shit, it's 1:00 in the morning but I have to know what happens next but it's 1:00 in the morning but I have to know what happens next!" There just wasn't enough of it, and I was left wanting more. So for me, that's my biggest qualm. Yes, the world was incredibly detailed and amazing and expansive, but some of the storytelling was lacking.

So I'm going to use that to segue into talking about writing. (Smooth, right?) We all know by now that style is subjective and readers are often picky about the prose they enjoy. There are writers out there who use their words to paint pictures and spend pages and pages describing scenes in achingly beautiful detail. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

But it's not me. I don't like to write that way, and I don't particularly like reading that style either. I prefer well-developed characters who do and feel, which again, isn't everyone's cup of tea. There's no one method of telling a story that's better than the others, and it really does just come down to personal preference. And I personally would have preferred more characters doing and feeling in those initial 111 hours, but hey, you can't make everyone happy all the time.

I could probably write another novel about my feelings on the game, but I'll leave off here. Also on the topic of my own writing, I just miiiiight have a cover to reveal soon-ish, so stay tuned!

1 comment:

  1. I haven't finished my first playthrough yet. I like completing a game like this, and so I keep doing some main quest, then going to clear a map, doing some main quest, etc. etc. My disappointments come from things like limited equipment options (oh, they show you a lot, but the range of equipment relevant to your levels? Kind of narrow, after a point), and the "open world" not really being so. I mean sure,I can tailblaze off through the maps and see all manner of things....but those places I need to get to? Yeah, I can't unless I'm following that path.

    There are a lot of hard choices in Inquisition, which I like. And that extended loaded screen after, to make you think about what you've done adds to it.