First Impressions: Dragon Age Inquisition

I swear I must be getting psychic or something, because I had just gone online to check the status of my Dragon Age: Inquisition order & saw that it was on a UPS truck to be delivered when the UPS man pulled up in my driveway.  My thought process went, “Oh, I should get it today,” then hearing a door shut outside & thinking, “I bet that’s them.”  Weird, but in a good way.  So I spent the better part of the evening messing around with the character customization & playing through the opening section of the game.

Inquisition picks up not long after the events of Dragon Age 2.  Due to the events at the end of the previous game, the Chantry & mages are at war.  The supreme authority for the Chantry calls a Conclave, a meeting between both side to negotiate peace.  However, something goes horribly wrong, resulting in a Breach — a massive tear in the Veil that separates the world of the living from the world of spirits.  Only the Inquisitor survives thanks to the help of a mysterious being of light.  But they don’t escape unscathed, as they now possess a Mark that allows them to close rifts & seal the Veil.

I found the game’s opening rather odd.  It just sort of dropped me into the thick of it, leaving me confused.  But as the Inquisitor is also confused, I suppose it does a good job of evoking the feelings your character’s having.  In the previous two games we at least got a little opening speech to recap what’s going on.  Not this time around.  The scene at the start menu is the opening.  You press start, you wake up in the Fade, make your character & go.

While we’re on the subject of making your character, I have to say that the character customization is fairly impressive.  First of all, BioWare brought back the ability to choose your Inquisitor’s race.  So not only can you choose to be a human, elf or dwarf, but you can also be a Qunari this time around.  Your class will somewhat affect the Inquisitor’s background.  For my first playthrough, I chose to be a female Dalish archer, who ended up looking remarkably like myself unintentionally (I typically make a character that I like as opposed to trying to make someone who looks like me).  But the customization options are far improved over the previous games… or most games in general.  You can adjust the size & position of every facial feature, have sliders to make innumerable color choices for eyes & tattoos, & can even adjust how pronounced their scars are.  You even get to choose between two voices for your character.  Hell, you can even customize your eyelash color!

As for the gameplay aspects so far, a lot of the time it felt like I was playing a completely different game.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m still adjusting to using a PS4 or if BioWare really changed a lot.  For one, the game is more open than before.  While I haven’t gotten to the “open-world” part, the first level was definitely larger than the areas in the previous titles.  While there’s still a clearly defined path, there are also areas off the beaten path to check out.  Another change was bringing back the tactical camera during combat.  Combat in general is still action-oriented, but feels less button-mashy than DA2.  But now you can pause to go into tactical view, which gives an overhead view of the battlefield & strategize, making use of your team’s skills.  While more strategy-minded players might not like how the default is action, I prefer it this way.  I tend to use the one-on-one mode most, occasionally going into tactical view to keep tabs on the battle or to ensure all of my teammates are fighting efficiently.

Another change I noticed from the previous game is with the dialogue tree.  While it still has the dialogue wheel gamers who’ve playing Mass Effect or DA2 will recognize, it seems BioWare has worked to given the player more choices.  Although in general you still have the three main choices to advance dialogue (peaceful, neutral & aggressive), I’ve had more choices to really flesh out my character.  The game calls these emotional choices.  For example, at one point I could choose to express sorrow at the death of those in the Conclave, confusion about the situation, or anger at being accused of being responsible.  I like that the game doesn’t say that any of these choices are “right” or “wrong” but merely how you want to shape your character.  I also had the opportunity to respond to some of the chatter that goes on when you’re wandering with your team.  Early on, Solas, an apostate elf, made a comment about my character being Dalish, & I noticed a semi-transparent dialogue wheel pop up.  I nearly missed it.  So that was interesting.

Speaking of teammates, I was glad to see a combination of old & new faces.  I’m looking forward to see how everyone interacts.  Part of the fun from the previous games was the random chatter & camaraderie (or clashes) between personalities.  I hope the new characters have as distinct personalities as the old ones.

As I’m only about two hours into the game, there are still a lot of aspects I don’t understand or haven’t come across:

  • crafting
  • influence
  • Inquisitor “powers”
  • companion approval
  • building the Order
  • The Keep

But at the very least I’m looking forward to learning about them & seeing what this game has to offer.

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- GamerDame

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First Impressions: Never Alone

What’s this?  Two posts in two weeks?  Yes, now that I’ve almost got all my internship hours in, I can finally start cutting back on the number of days I’m at my site.  That means I actually have time to do things when I’m at home other than sleep.  It’s amazing!  So I’ve picked back up where my gaming left off, hoping to finish Assassin’s Creed 2 before my copy of Dragon Age: Inquisition comes in.  But I also noticed a few indie games have come out on the Playstation Network.  The first one I tried my hand at earlier this evening was Never Alone.

Never Alone is a puzzle game about a girl from an indigenous Alaskan tribe named Nuna.  When her village is besieged by a harsh, never-ending blizzard, Nuna sets out to find the cause.  During her search, she’s attacked by a polar bear.  Thankfully, an arctic fox comes to Nuna’s rescue & joins her on her journey.  But when they return to Nuna’s village, they discovered an evil man has destroyed it.  He chases after Nuna when he discovers she’s carrying the weapon he was searching for, & the duo manage to escape on an ice flow.

The game can be played alone or in co-op, with each player controlling either Nuna or the fox.  The puzzles revolve around utilizing the characters’ abilities to overcome obstacles.  Nuna can use her Bola, a throwing weapon, to break barriers, while the fox can climb walls & see helpful spirits.  The puzzles started out pretty easy, with things like having the fox climb the cliff & knock a rope down for Nuna to climb.  But they’ve been getting more elaborate.  At one point I had to use the fox to lure a polar bear to the opposite side of a cave then wall climb out of the way, then have Nuna hit the bear with her Bola before jumping out of reach, making the bear smash his head against the wall & crumble a piece of the environment.  I think it’d be interesting to play in co-op, since you wouldn’t need to switch between the two characters.  The puzzles require a bit of trial & error, but so far haven’t been too difficult.

The story is based on indigenous folklore, which I find to be fairly interesting.  Living in the mid-eastern part of the US, I obviously haven’t had any experience with traditional Alaskan culture, so the stories the game is based around are completely new to me.  You can unlock cultural vignettes to explain some of the references, but for the most part it hasn’t been anything that I haven’t been able to follow.  The overall feel of the game actually sort of reminds me of Limbo, except not as dark… for the most part.  I’ve died plenty of times from missing jumps or getting caught by the polar bear.  It makes me feel sad with the fox chirps sadly when Nuna dies, or when the game camera felt the need to show the polar bear killing my fox.  There’s no blood, but it was still pretty violent.

I also have to say I find the presentation rather stark.  Being set in the frozen tundra, the majority of the screen is white, with Nuna being the only spot of color.  But this just serves to make the colors stand out vividly.  If you can overlook the whiteness, I think it can be a very pretty game at times.  I like the art style, especially for the spirits.  They have this ethereal quality to them.

I’m looking forward to seeing what else Nuna & her fox have to go through to end this eternal blizzard.  I just hope the fox doesn’t die in the end.  Maybe I’ve just become jaded by the recent trend in games of having bittersweet endings, but there’s no way they’d give me such a cute companion if they weren’t going to pull at my heartstrings later.

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- GamerDame

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