Pubblicata: 11 dicembre
It’s not easy always being at the cutting edge, and that’s why I’ve decided to review this Dragon Age game, and not the new one which people are currently interested in.
DA:O is a few years old now, but it has taken a few attempts for me to actually stick with it, and it with me. Hence, tardy review. But, let me be clear, right off the bat. It’s as good as everybody said it was, all those years ago! Sure, it has a somewhat off-putting generic fantasy shell, and the designers needn’t have limited themselves to just four colours (brown, grey, green, and reddish-brown) when they were painting this grand adventure. You might say it’s more realistic but sod realism, this is a fantasy game, and it’s all a bit too “trad”, at least at first blush.
However, I can only speak personally. There are many people who adore trad fantasy and all its trappings, and who don’t like change. More power to them, but for me, at first glance, there doesn’t seem to a lot of originality here, in setting or theme. I persisted, peeled back those crusty brownish-grey outer layers, and found something truly engrossing. This game has a lot of humour, and a lot of heart.
When it was first released, there was a lot of buzz about DA:O being a spiritual successor to the Baldur’s Gate games, which meant there would be swords, dragons, magic, derring-do and loads of fighting. This is all true of DA:O. There was also a lot of hype for the “Origins” system, proudly displayed in the title, which meant that instead of having one single starting sequence (location, npcs, events) you’d have a different one based on your race and class. You might find yourself a poor elf in an alienage, forced to get by on your wits and the point of a knife, or a stalwart dwarven noble in a monumental underground palace, and all the intrigue that entails. Where you come from also affects how you’ll be perceived by party members and other important characters in the game. It was supposed to make you feel more of a connection to your character, and I think it really works and actually helps give the game a decent amount of replayability.
From my own experience the balance of the game is probably weighted about 60/40 in favour of combat over conversation, which is okay. It’s not great: there have been times when I’ve been exploring a temple or an underground cavern and become completely fatigued with having to fight the same enemies again and again, with the only difference being that this time it’s archers instead of mages standing at the back. It hasn’t happened often, though, and because the game is relatively free-form, you can always go and do something else. If you’re the type of player that prefers diplomacy over fistcuffery, beware: more often than not, quests end in big fights.
Combat takes place in real-time, but you can pause the game to issue commands, and watch them play out when you unpause. There are tons of spells and skills, so you’ll want to make sure to use the right ones at the right times. I’d say that on any difficulty above Easy, you will need to pause quite regularly and be prepared to micro-manage to some degree. The other option is setting up tactics for each party member, which are like little scripts for them to follow. You might set up your tank to immediately engage the strongest enemy, or tell your mage to cast an AoE if enemies are standing near to each other. This takes time to organise, and tactics which work for one fight may not do so well in another, but generally this feature will reduce busywork and it can be satisfying to spectate as your team dismantles the enemy without you lifting a finger.
Fights can get quite busy. You will almost always be assaulted by many foes, some up close and some at range, and there will be bursts of fire and magic bolts flying. It can be hard to keep track, so it’s a good thing the devs included a tactical camera. You can flick the mousewheel to pull the camera back into the ceiling, just far enough that you can see who is who and where people are positioned. It’s pretty useful, and entirely missing from the console versions. Pat yourself on the back for owning a PC.
I mentioned before that I’ve bounced off this game, and this has been because of difficulty spikes. Depending on in which order you choose to approach the three (or four, I forget) “main” quests in the game, you may find yourself running up against enemies which are too tough for you, or battles which seem to go on forever, where enemy waves continuously spawn. Case in point, Redcliffe, which Alistair, a party member, specifically advises you to tackle first of all. This questline is good fun, but very combat heavy and has a one particular fight where waves of enemies just keep on spawning, so you need to keep party members safe all the way through the fight. From a storytelling point of view it makes sense: Alistair cares for the Arl of Redcliffe, and can’t have known about the danger before telling you to go there. But as a player, it’s a harsh lesson to learn at an early point in the game. As I said, don’t be afraid to go and do something else if you keep getting hammered.
Will wrap up with the most positive points. The writing is frequently excellent, particularly with regards to the banter between party members. The lore is deep, and the in-game codex completely overflows with interesting entries to read about the history of the land, the people and the places. It looks good! Faces are a bit “uncanny valley” at times, but mostly well animated and believable.
If you’re in the market for a deep and fairly complex RPG to sink your teeth into, then get Dragon Age: Inquisition. But, if you’re poor like me, get this one.