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Dragon Age: Inquisition – the Bioware Bender Continues

After putting a paltry 150+ hours into two playthroughs of Inquisition, I think I just might be qualified to speak on the subject.


My two Inquisitors: Thrycera Cadash, and Zyrggrah Avaar, both Ladies of Kickassdom.

It. is. amazing.

There just might be a reason that the game has garnered numerous Game of the Year awards!

While someone is always going to disagree, here’s the time it won’t be me. Dragon Age: Inquisition is a sprawling RPG, harkening back to the days of big adventure and knee-deep questing. If you haven’t heard the latest news in Thedas…

A massive hole rains demons down from the sky. A Blight isn’t happening, but darkspawn ravage parts of the western world unchecked. The Grey Wardens have all disappeared. Who else is there, in all of Thedas, to save the day?

A lowly spy, sent to the Conclave meeting of leaders, which was headed by Divine Justinia.

The only survivor of a massive attack on the Conclave, you (in all your create-a-character glory) fall from said rift in the sky, a green, pulsing mark across one palm. Of course, Cassandra Pendaghast is there to verbally assault you as soon as you awaken. She’s really good at being up in everyone’s business, that crazy Seeker lady.

Of course, she berates and imprisons you, as is her way, and drags you to see the rest of her troupe. Here’s where everyone’s (least?) favorite Dwarf shows up– Varric– along with Solas, the shifty, esoteric Elf who happens to know a hell of a lot about your mark. And rifts. And other things that some random Elf might not actually know… *cough* *gag* *sputter~WATCHAFTERTHECREDITS*

Soon after, you’ll meet up with the ever-eye-color-changing Nightingale, Leliana, and a whole slew of people that will probably hate you and think you’re a heretic; because of the state you were found in, you are considered the “Herald of Andraste” by many, and a horrible monster by many more. Your affinity with said people is also affected by what race you’ve chosen– YAY FOR GETTING TO CHOOSE YOUR RACE AGAIN! I’m lookin’ at you, Hawke…

Anyway! With the Chantry, Seekers, and every other organization in Thedas in ruin, Cassandra declares that an Inquisition shall be started, to bring the world back to order and slave off the chaos that wracks the land. And since you have the only mark that can close a rift in the sky… SHE GUESSES YOU CAN JOIN THE CLUB.

*trumpet blare*

Cullen also joins you (I swear, I should have just killed him when I saw him the first time. I never liked Cullen.), along with spry-Lady Josephine, and this group becomes the council behind the Inquisition.

You will spend the bulk of your journey bolstering you troops, power and influence across Ferelden and Orlais, ultimately picking a side in the war that Anders started in Dragon Age II: Mages versus Templars.

(Side note: Everything versus Templars… “everything” else always wins in my book. Jack some Templars.)

After you’ve chosen your side, and done with them what you will (you can pick a side, and then bone them over in such awful ways), you find what your true enemy is:

OH HEY GUYS, SPOILERS, IF YOU DIDN’T THINK THEY WOULD BE HERE.

Corypheus, the bastard from II, and a Dragon posing as an Archdemon.

He will seriously jack up your day. And a few weeks. Maybe months of your life, but ultimately, you shall NOT PASS!

er, wait. Sorry. Got a little Gandalf-y.

A few faces from the past greet you later on in the story– one particular Witch is my favorite– and you will eventually come out triumphant, smashing Corypheshit (as my beloved Sera calls him) in his ugly face. There are some real heart-swelling moments (think Grinch and three sizes type swelling), and it’s just tops, yeah?

Now that the story is all squared away, here’s the rest of my pocket full o’change:

*** I questioned in my previous DA post whether or not Inquisition would tie all of our adventures together, and the answer is YES! YES! YES!

YOU get a story tie-in! And YOU get a story tie-in! EVERYBODY GETS STORY TIE-INS!

There are so many options from your Dragon Age journeys that determine who even shows up in the first place; one of them, ALISTAIR *swoon*, had an extensive showing in my Dragon Age, all because I kept him as a Grey Warden instead of making him King. (I will note here that several people complained about their lack/bits of Alistair, but they made him King or got him killed off, sooooooo~ yeah.) Morrigan appears. And if you made a certain choice between those two, a very special young boy shows up. Wowza.

If you romanced Alistair like I did, your Hero of Ferelden is referenced a lot, including their own War Table missions.

Oh, and I guess Hawke shows up. *cough* It’s awesome because you can re-create YOUR Hawke, but… it’s Hawke… and we all know how I feel about that.

You know where that screenshot is from? THE OFFICIAL TRAILER. I never even SAW them until after I beat the game and re-watched the trailers for…. no reason…. move along people I JUST LOVE IT OKAY?

*** THE WORLD IS HUGE. I’ll tell you- in 150+ hours and two (one Mage-sided, one Templar-sided) playthroughs, I have yet to complete every quest, or find every location in the game. I’d say sorry for it, but there’s no damned achievement for DOING IT ALL THIS TIME, and damn, the Hinterlands will kill you.

*** Companions are freaking AWESOME again. Sera, Iron Bull and Dorian make the BEST party, especially when playing Qunari. On my second (Dwarf) playthrough, I used Vivienne (who seemed to hate my Dwarf less than my Qunari… jerk.), Solas and Blackwall, and they are a freaking bummer together… that second playthrough was on Nightmare and I didn’t care about anyone giving me lip… but I digress. The point is that each character is radically different, and your opinions can really sway your entire interaction with them. Their quests can be boring, but the cutscenes are much more enriched than in Dragon Age II. Also, FRISKY BITS. My love is like WHOA. I romanced Sera as Qunari, and Blackwall as Dwarf, and all I can say is whoa. Mmmmmhmmm. Blackwall’s romance story is probably the best in the game as far as advancing the story, though I haven’t gotten down’ta business with the rest of them. Frisky bits.

*** Twists and turns that the story takes. My outcomes were entirely different between two playthroughs– from who becomes Divine, to what happens with different companions. I know that there is a canon story out there, illustrated by the novels, but I love to weave my own. (ALISTAIR STAY WITH ME BABEH.)

*** Glitchy: I didn’t have a massive amount of glitches or game-breaking shite happen, though two of my achievements glitched. One of them unlocked with my second playthrough (getting 10 agents), but the second still hasn’t unlocked, even though I HAVE KILLED TWENTY HIGH DRAGONS NOW, YOU JERKS. Otherwise, random jerky things happened, and that’s it.

*** Multiplayer is pretty cool. It’s one hell of a grind, but once you start unlocking new classes, it gets super fun.

SO.

Do I like it?

DO I LIKE IT?

SAY LIKE AGAIN, I DARE YOU.

I freaking love it. In fact, so much of my time has been spent on Dragon Age since it released that, uh, folks question me when I’m not on there. Like if I’m sick, or maybe dying, or I’ve become a Looper and thus have no time for games because I’m chasing myself through time.

Dragon Age: Inquisition gets all the stars. 7/7 Skull n bones. I CANNOT EVEN TAKE IT.

Oh, how I love it. Did ya hear that part already? Oh well.

Before I gurgle on, I’ll leave you with words from everyone’s favorite Witch of the Wilds:

“Now we are left with a scar in the sky to remind us of what almost was.”

“It tells us that a great victory against chaos was won, but left the world forever changed.”

Until next time~ you keep it classy, Thedas.

Late to the Plate Reviews: Dragon Age II

Ahh. Fresh on the heels of my BioWare Bender post comes my first Late to the Plate review, which happens to cover Dragon Age II.

Boy oh boy, was I excited to get on this one. Within a week of beating Dragon Age: Origins, I interrupted myself playing Bioshock to play Watch_Dogs… which I interrupted to play Dragon Age II. Brace yourselves; sarcasm AND SPOILERS are coming. In the words of Theresa (ala Fable COME ON GUYS), “And so our story begins:”

The Blight is running rampant through Ferelden. Your character, a child of the Hawke family, serves under the esteemed (and severely disliked by Loghain Mac Tir) King Cailan Theirin at Ostagar. As all hell breaks loose under the unheeded signals at the Tower of Ishal, Hawke’s army breaks rank and the soldiers begin to flee the lands, leaving their lives (and King) behind.

Soooooo here’s where we are- fleeing with our mother and twin siblings, running like maniacs through the desolate wastelands surrounding Ferelden. After meeting up with a doomed Templar and his (obnoxiously boring, personality like a piece of paper) wife, you make your way to Kirkwall, a city that will ultimately hate your damned Ferelden guts. An unfamiliar face (but familiar voice) interrupts your journey– a particular Dragon Woman that goes by the name of Asha’bellanar, or *cough* Flemeth. She looks nothing like her former incarnate, but she’s still awesome. You need to do her a favor, whose reasoning is never entirely explained to you (sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself), and in return for your promise to do random said-thing, she’ll make sure you get to Kirkwall safely.

Oh, I forgot to mention: in essence, you are dropped into the midst of a story that’s already over– the entire game is a retelling of your story, from the point of view of a future/past companion, Varric Tethras. So you know how your story ends before you even start; you know you’re alive, because the Seekers of Truth are hunting you, interrogating your X-Men: Days of Future Past-style friend a better part of a decade into the future. You know you become the mighty Champion of Kirkwall, because that’s the only way they really refer to you.

Anyway, back to our story. In this city, you’ll spend the first year of your life in indentured servitude, thanks to your awesome Uncle Skeevy Guy selling you out to get you in the gates. You’ll work for one of two groups- the Smugglers or Mercenaries- being their little errand boy. (Your allegiance makes zero story difference, by the way.) After a few quests, you get a cutscene that a year has gone by, and you, like a good little slave, have done your job. And ooooh gurl, you gettin’ famous!

Unfortunately, your servitude to this shithole never ends- the entire game takes place in Kirkwall, save walking outside a few times to dungeons and caves that share the exact same map every time. This is one of many marks that mar the pretty surface of this game.

You keep trucking, doing idle quests and making quasi-responsible choices; the system in place here is similar to that of Mass Effect, where you’ve got a Paragon/Cheeky/Renegade-style wheel that narrows your choices to that of being a total gimp, or a huge asshole, sometimes all within the same choice. The reason I say quasi-responsible? This game is like playing the Game of Thrones- everything is always screwed, no matter what choice you make.

At the onset of your adventure, you’re not entirely sure what your purpose is in the narrative. Hell, well into the final Act, you’re not entirely sure what your purpose is. You get really famous for pissing various people off, either choosing to side with the citizens of the Free Marches (read: Kirkwall and the surrounding areas), or the Qunari that have set up shop in their city; the Templars, who persecute Mages like cockroaches, or the Mages who, after severe treatment, retaliate with Blood Magic, resulting in most of them becoming abominations. “When you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die; there is no middle ground.”

By the end of your story, you’ll have chosen which sides you believe to be right, setting into motion the events of a game that doesn’t happen in the one you’re playing. That’s right- Dragon Age II is not a complete story within itself. Some people are cool with that- I personally am not such a fan. Let me explain: if you give me a ‘middle game,’ it should at least begin/conclude its own full story, all within a greater arc that continues into another game.

A good example of a middle game: Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood.
A bad example of a middle game: Final Fantasy XIII-2.

AC:Brotherhood has an entire story to itself, all while connecting the previous and following titles. Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a disjointed trainwreck of a game that doesn’t even finish its own story, leaving a “To Be Continued…” screen at the not-even-an-ending end. I know that the ending was supposed to be DLC, but it never happened that way, which left Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII to not only tell its own story, but to try and tie up loose ends left by the disaster between the first and third titles. I feel that it did a good job.

But back to Kirkwall! The game itself never fully explains why the Seekers of Truth are looking for you; what actually happened to you; why you did any of the things you did… it really was just a vehicle for your choice on the Magi vs. Templar. The entire adventure was bland and erratic; I wasn’t even sure why I was doing anything! “Hey, go here! Do this! Here’s a reward!” I zoned out on dozens upon dozens of quests, as the sense of mystery was gone. There is very little foreshadowing or building in the story, as everything is either explained up front, or not explained at all. You end up not caring or being invested in what is happening to those around you, save the few crucial moments that your narrative builds to.

That leads me into companions. In Dragon Age:Origins, I was quite invested in the majority of my companions– their stories were well-fleshed, and they seemed like real people, with real lives, that I could directly affect. If you read my BioWare bender post, you know that I moped for hours after making some decisions regarding Alistair and other companions. In Dragon Age II, your companions can come and go, depending on your choices, but you don’t ever truly care about most of them. Even when romancing a companion, their quests do little to further your stance on them (please don’t get me started on how FRUITLESS Merrill’s quests are. I spent so much of the fucking game doing useless things!) They’re just there– they buy into you ridiculously easily, they fall in love with you without you even trying, they act like you have a relationship that you’ve never even experienced, because the game skips ahead 1-to-3 years at a time. Some of them stand on one side of the line or the other– Anders, Fenris, and Aveline in particular are fierce about their beliefs– but in the end, it matters very little. Anders does set into motion some craaaaaaazy shit at the end, though, that finally fleshes him out as a character.

And if you were hoping to see your old beloved characters, you’re hoping too hard. Alistair showed up for like one minute and three sentences. That’s the extent.

Overall, where does Dragon Age II stand with me?

Three out of Seven on the Skull*N*Bones scale. I almost feel guilty giving it such a rating; I didn’t hate it, but at the same time, it did not deliver on its own. Honestly, it could have been an add-on to Origins– one hell of a massive add-on, but it did little to further the overall storyline, or complete one within itself, so an add-on it becomes. I felt little connection to my own character or those around her, spare a few moments that made a difference. Kirkwall was a bland setting, made even worse by the use of recycled maps and pointless locations. But it is still a Dragon Age title, and in that right, I still like it.

Oh, sequels, you lot are tricksy business.

BioWare Bender: Thralling and Indoctrinating

My ladies o'Bioware.

First off, yes, it’s been A WHOLE DAMNED YEAR since I wrote something here. Shame on ME. Pesky life and things happening that don’t involve controllers and consoles. Sheesh.

Bringing it back to you lovely folks of the interwebs, I wanted to talk openly and freely about my obsession with BioWare games. *deep breath* 

Hi, I’m the Samurai Cowgirl, Mel, and I’m addicted to BioWare.

(This is where you say, “Hi *insert jumble of which word you think you’re supposed to say from my name*, thank you for sharing.”)

Those fine, battle-hardened ladies gracing the top of your screen? My FemShep, imported throughout the entire series; my Dragon Age Origins Grey Warden, Akian; my Dragon Age II soldier, Troika. Aren’t they just marvelous? ♥ ♥ ♥

Ahhhhh.

My first foray into the BioWare universe was indeed Neverwinter Nights. Yep, I still have that giant ass GOLD COLLECTOR’S EDITION in my attic, in sparkly awesome condition. After installing and ogling over the damned thing, I enshrined it, keeping it fresh to show my children and future generations how we did PC. And yes, I played the hell out of it. Neverwinter is awesome! And all fine and good! But then… Mass Effect Happened.

My life was forever changed. Not only could I create my character, I could live her life. My choices were hers; her choices, my gameplay fate. It was fucking incredible. The story enthralled me. Indoctrinated me, even. Now yes, I played this way freaking late; Mass Effect 3 had just released when I beat ME1. The most excellent part of my late-bloomer status? I got to play all three Mass Effect games back to back. Thankfully, I didn’t lose a family member, nor did my house catch fire while I was utterly under the surface with Mass Effect. In a less than a month, I had conquered them all. And I’ll tell ya- I didn’t hate the story’s ending as much as the rest of the world.

I knew– I understood– there might not be some grand “everyone comes home yeehaw!” ending. I didn’t expect the hero’s ending, Paragon as I may be. I chose Destruction for my end choice; I had spent crazy amounts of hours fighting the Reapers, and I would not let it stand to simply walk away. I could not force the entire world to meld with technology, and I would not trust a single damned soul to control the Reapers. With my Effective Military Strength through the roof, I annihilated the bio-technology that had ravaged so many galaxies. My only regret? Legion. I’m sorry, buddy.

Ah, good times. And yep! Got that bonus little “*gasp* chest move” update, too. Sorry that BioWare brokeded your game, peeps.

Anyway!

After realizing the story-telling prowess of BioWare beyond my PC screen, I knew I had to play the Dragon Age series. For whatever reason, I started playing II. Then I thought, “Dubya-Tee-Eff, Mate? Why am I doing this? Who are you people? Why are you pretending to be familiar to me?!” Sooooooo~ I had to go back and rectify my whole bouquet of Oopsie Daisies. Origins came highly recommended to me by one of the most awesome chickies I know, so I was quick to bite. I binge-played Origins so hard. Toddler asleep? Origins. Eating? Origins. Seeing a castle overrun by Darkspawn down the street from my house? “Hey! There’s one of those in Dragon’s Age!”

It was tough. Toughly awesome. The game’s end choices had me really WTFing. At one point, I had chosen to make Alistair King, flying solo after hating on that Queen-ho. And guess what? My whole world crumbled. He left me all alone. He was unhappy. I was unhappy. The previous Queen was piiiiiiissed. I moped around my house for a good two hours before reverting my save. I had fought so hard to get the rightful King on the throne, and when he got there, I hated it. So we gave the Queen the throne, killed off her Daddy (biaaaaaaatch.) and went Grey Wardening all over Ferelden together.

Oh, and big shout out to Alistair for being my first hetero-lifemate in a BioWare game! *smooches* Liara was the only one for me all through Mass Effect. Yep, I’m missing the Paragon achievement for ME2 because I couldn’t romance her. I am no cheat.

I also made the REALLY fucked up choice to go along with Morrigan’s plan in my true playthrough. While I am normally quite selfless in a game– Dragon Age wasn’t it. The devastation of losing Alistair to the throne had ruined one night; I wouldn’t let either of us dying ruin another. So I was forced to watch that whackadoo scene where two of my favorite people have sex with not me. Blegh.

So, we saved the day, we both win, all good yay happiness things! Oh, and “This is War” by 30 Seconds to Mars as the end theme? I WAS ALL ON THAT JARED LETO – ALISTAIR HOOOOOOO!

Immediately after, I began Dragon Age II. I’ve started it twice now; one without importing my Origins, one with. Ohhh shenangians. Still working on that playthrough.

The WHOLE POINT OF THIS JOURNEY IS TO SAY, “Hey BioWare, gurl you fine.”

With E3 just passing last week, we got to see some incredible work from Dragon Age: Inquisition, and the new worlds from another Mass Effect title! If you missed it, hereyago:

Mass Effect shenanigans.

Aaaaaaand~

Dragon Age: Inquisition shenanigans.

While I don’t know what to think of Mass Effect 4, as there aren’t enough details to truly judge anything [DID YOU HEAR THAT, INTERNET?!], I will definitely play the next installment. Dragon Age: Inquistion? THROW ME ON THE WAGON AND DON’T EVER LET GO. I’m curious to see if either story legitimately ties in with its predecessors, or if it will be an instance of passing comments and side story, meant for when you click on an NPC way too many times.


“I’ve never seen a better hunter, but the nugs are still on loose.”

And these days, there are very few game publishers that I buy into, heart and soul– I’m not so trusting and naive as I once was. For many years, Square Enix owned a portion of my soul. Their grasp slipped a few times, over some real shady moves (Hey, SE? Yeah, I bought the Final Fantasy XIV Collector’s Edition the first time it came out, ‘kay?), but in general, I trust their gaming judgement. Ubisoft is another publisher that I am on *squee* level with; I am a bona fide BROTHERHOOD member, gitwhatImean? THE LIBERATION OF MY PANTS HAS BEGUN!

Oh Ezio, you know you liked that!

Watch_Dogs is currently melting my face with the astronomical amount of shite I can do right off the bat– at least in Assassin’s Creed, they limited how OCD I could get before forcing me to further the story. Unnngh. But so far, I think Ubisoft has delivered on this IP, too. When it comes to Borderlands, I totally trust 2K. Capcom is full of sneaky bastards who get me to repurchase their games by adding letters, numbers or words onto older titles… or when they re-release Resident Evil 4 again. And again. And again… Did I mention that I own four editions of that game? Moving on. Konami? You’re hit and miss sometimes, but Castlevania is on lockdown-good status; I don’t love them all, but you’ve managed to keep the IP alive for so damned long. Sega makes terrible decisions and good games.

But I hate EA. You hear me, BioWare? I HATE EA. But I love you, baby. For better or worse, sickness and in health, Alistair and licking lamp posts in winter, forever, I do.