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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.

dragon-age-inquisition-character-creation

– GamerDame

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Game Review: Loren The Amazon Princess

After much deliberation, during my vacation I finally decided to purchase a game that I’d had on my Steam wishlist for a while.  Loren The Amazon Princess.  An Indie RPG, it promised a deep & immersive, old-school experience for gamers who were tired of watered down RPGs.  As I found both the idea behind the game’s plot & the promises intriguing, I decided to check it out.

Is Loren really the best Amazon name they could think of?

Is Loren really the best Amazon name they could think of?

As the title suggests, our main hero is Loren, an Amazon princess who rushes off on a quest to find her mother, the Queen, who has disappeared.  What starts as a simple quest quickly becomes something bigger as Loren gets dragged into a war between elves & humans, stumbles across a blade that proclaims her as the gods’ chosen hero, & learns of a plot by an ancient demon.  However, you aren’t Loren.  You’re her servant.  A slave.  Either as Saren (a human male) or Elenor (an elf female), you follow Loren on her quest, protecting her from evil plots & her own naivety about the outside world.  And maybe even make your own path in the world.

Choose your hero

Choose your hero

Loren has been described as a mix of visual novel & RPG, which I think is an accurate way to describe the gameplay.  On the one hand, there are a lot role-playing opportunities.  In addition to selecting a basic character build, you get to choose your background & class.  There are also opportunities to pick responses that shape your character’s personality & influence romance options.  The combat is tactical turn-based.  The battlefield takes place on a 2×3 grid, where you can have up to six allies.  The front row is for melee fighters who deal the heaviest direct damage while also protecting the back row, where archers & mages work best by attacking at a distance.  Certain attacks can also incur status (like Weakened, Fear, Frozen) that can be taken advantage of.

If you’re unfamiliar with this form of combat, I recommend checking out the Armor Game “Monster Den,” which uses the same system.  It’s free, & you can see if this style works for you.

Narrative: It’s been a long time since I’ve found any story, let alone a game story, as compelling as this.  Originally, I was just going to test out the game for a bit, & six hours later I had to stop because I was getting a headache.  I really like the idea of you not actually playing as the “chosen one,” but being a hero in your own right.  It’s interesting to see the progression of relationships in the game.  You start as just a slave (a valued slave, but a slave nonetheless) & your interactions with Loren in the beginning reinforce that.  But things change throughout the story.  The same is true for your interactions with the other characters.  Everything progresses nicely.  I also liked that the game doesn’t begin with you trying to fight a demon, but rather builds up to it in a very natural way.  The other characters are predictable but intriguing in their own way, & offer a nice variety of personalities.  And even though the story is told primarily through dialogue boxes, it’s very well-written.  There was one point in particular near the end where I was glued to my screen, imagining the scene unfold before me.  I also thought the game did a good job of offering the player choices.  The story unfolds differently based on your decisions.  For example, in Act 1 there’s an option to distract the guards & escape to elven territory or try to escape from jail.  Whichever you picks alters the story greatly.  You also have a wide variety of romance options to suit everyone’s tastes.  That was another impressive aspect, that as your “Affection” with a character grows, you unlock extra scenes that show the growing relationship.  Overall, it’s a great story that has good pacing, good characters & good writing.  Score: 5

Combat isn't quite as dull as it looks

Combat isn’t quite as dull as it looks

Mechanics: Although the combat is slow, which is typical of turn-based games, I thought the added strategy of the grid system made it a bit more interesting.  You have to examine enemies’ weakness & use your allies skills accordingly.  This also makes it important to balance your party.  There were several portions where your party gets split up, so it’s important to vary your strategies & not leave one party member weaker than the others.  But really, other than the combat & narrative aspects, there isn’t much else to do in the game.  It’s very story-focused, which it claims to be.  You can travel to different areas as you please, but aside from advancing the story or gaining fame in a town (which lowers to cost of items), there isn’t anything to do.  Eventually the game offers character quests if you’ve talked to your party enough, but those still follow the same formula.  Score: 3

Some scenes warrant special stills

Some scenes warrant special stills

Aesthetics: Unfortunately, the music was mostly forgettable.  It wasn’t bad, but there were only a few pieces that really stuck out.  The combat music is the worst offender, with I think only two looping tracks.  The graphics are that of a visual novel, meaning most “cutscenes” involve reading dialogue boxes with the relevant character standing in their given pose with changing expressions to match the scene.  That being said, the visuals are quite nice.  But there are some scenes that have their own images, I just wish there were more for the major scenes.  However, I feel I have to emphasize the importance of the narrative & the player’s imagination.  Because there was one scene, where the romance was reaching its end, that even though all I had was some text & an image of a moonlit forest, I could “see” the scene as plain as day.  Also, I didn’t know this until I was doing some research, but apparently the Steam version is a censored version.  There’s a workaround if you buy from Steam, but the developer’s site has the uncensored version.  However, the developer has assured that no scenes were removed from the game.  The only difference between the versions is a bit more fan-service all around (i.e. more cleavage & bare chests on both genders).  Score: 4

Censored v. Uncensored version

Censored v. Uncensored version

Replay Value: High.  Between class choices, romance choices, story choices & dialogue choices, Loren has a high replay value.  It doesn’t hurt that beating the game for the first time unlocks a Cheat mode that lets you breeze through the combat to experience the story.  Score: 5

Breakdown

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Overall Score: 4

Final Word: If you’re looking for an RPG that’s story & character driven, & you don’t mind reading, Loren the Amazon Princess is a great game.  The visual novel style & slow combat might not appeal to everyone, however.

– GamerDame

Title: Loren the Amazon Princess
Console: PC, iOS & Android
Rating: M
Developer: Winter Wolves
Publisher: Winter Wolves
Release Date: April 30, 2012

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