I Have Pledged my Life to The Inquisition

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

I'm drowning in Dragon Age. At 45+ hours in, I'm not even halfway through the story and have barely completed all the quests in one area (those lovely Hinterlands). I visit my war table every morning before leaving for work and every evening before going to bed. I'm full to bursting with things to do and people to talk to. Dragon Age is a franchise that I've loved since it began and I'm so thrilled that Inquisition has so much to offer. There are so many little things to complete that some have gone so far as to say there are too many options in the game.

I'll say upfront that I'm not capable of offering a measured response to that criticism. I'm a played that has always loved the minutiae of expansive games. Part of it is a completionist tic I've had since the original X-COM. I cannot bring myself to finish a game before I've researched every possible thing, unlocked every customizable trinket and equipped the most powerful weapons and armor available.  Inquisition has given me carte blanche to pursue an ocean of little tasks, quests and collectibles, but it's been done in the best possible way.

The War Table allows me to assign tasks to my advisers that unlock new areas, quests and information.
So many games offer collectibles and sundry quests as simple filler. I'm still happy to complete the tasks, but when the only reward is a bit of gold, a paragraph of rough backstory or an achievement it's hard not to feel a bit hollow afterwards. I'm looking at you, Assassin's Creed. Bioware has tied almost every quest and task into the story in some way. Either through gaining more power and influence or providing my Inquisition with valuable agents with unique benefits, even the most tiresome fetch quest has purpose.

My driving purpose in games as massive as Inquisition is story and lore. I've already admitted to neglecting the principle story in favor of the little things so what story could possibly be sustaining this supposed need? Put simply; the companions. My allies have deep backstories and quest lines all their own that weave in and out of the larger narrative lines. It's beautifully executed storytelling that conveys a far more organic set of characters than any Bioware game in recent memory. As I talk to each one more and learn more about them, I build a relationship that bears real weight. The actions I take in the game have bearing on their thoughts and opinions which they make known. If I prove myself a loyal friend, some begin to trust me enough to ask for help on their own quests, the results of which have as much impact on the Inquisition as on their characters and my own.

Varric was a most welcome familiar face. My single favorite companion from Dragon Age II is my Inquisitor's best ally.

In previous games, the relationships felt more like a mini-game; tracking down trinkets that each companion would like and being ever so careful about the choices made in conversation to get the most movement from the "I like you" bar. The end result/goal was almost always sex or an item and once it was done, you and that character had very little else to discuss. At the time I thought the characters of Origins were deep and thoughtfully meshed into the story and they were, but Inquisition trumps it ten fold.  

The companions and allies of Inquisition aren't all interested in getting freaky with me and it's a fact that I really appreciate. It's a far more realistic decision for the game and serves to deepen characters' motivations and believability. I'm also relieved that I can build on my friendships without having to fight off the advances of every single companion I gain. With that many major figures in the game, it would only be a matter of time before I accidentally flirted with someone I didn't intend to, and there's no way I could explain it to Josephine.

A small sample of Inquisition's incredible art. I want these cards so badly...
Those characters whose personal quests I've completed are no longer silent afterwards. They still offer opinions on matters and events in the story or offer advice in some matters. I'm sure there is some limit to the conversations branches with my companions but I've yet to reach that point. Dragon Age: Inquisition has effectively broken through the expectations and fears that I had for it. There are plenty of questions that I'm still holding onto from previous games. Though I know she's out there, I've yet to see or hear anything about Morrigan. Her story was arguably the biggest enigma of Origins and I'm nail-bitingly anxious to see how Bioware dealt with it.

Whenever it is that I do finish up, I'll have a full report on the experience. For now, I've got Varric begging to play Wicked Grace, Leliana has reports from her latest operation and Iron Bull wants to drink again. My plate, cup and hands are full and I couldn't be happier about it.