Posted by : Wendy B Monday, 15 December 2014

I’m finally finished with Dragon Age: Inquisition (see my adventures in my "Inquisition Diaries" at WWAC) and frankly, I’m feeling pretty meh about it. There were many things the game did right or tried to do right, but ultimately, the main story and character ended up being a letdown. I feel like BioWare tried really hard to answer all the questions while still leaving themselves loopholes, but the end result is a lot of inconsistency that requires assumptions and headcanon to make everything work. A lot of people are quite happy with the story and perhaps even with their Inquisitor, but I suspect those people have not invested so much into the Dragon Age lore. I don’t profess to be an expert on the lore, but there are things that really stand out for me that make me wonder if the writers forgot to check the wiki, cross-reference each other’s work, or worse, tried to sneak in some retcons.

I think my biggest disappointment is that this was a story that placed so much emphasis on elves and elfy things. From Solas involvement, to the ancient elven ruins everywhere. Yet, as a dalish elf, I had little opportunity to explore that and was basically just an ignorant character who knew nothing and learned little more. For a non-elf, I imagine this has even less meaning, especially when it comes to interactions with Solas.

Perhaps opting to have different playable characters was the wrong decision. I think both the story and the character would have been much more powerful had elves been the only choice. Then the dialogue options could more readily help mould the character. The different race options in Origins were interesting because they had actual stories that were entwined into the game. The opening sequence for each character was unique and really helped shape the roleplaying possibilities. I originally started as a mage, and when Duncan presented an opportunity to escape the Circle, I leapt on it. But when I switched to a dalish, I found myself playing a character that hated humans, and despite the risk, refused to join the Wardens, forcing Duncan to conscript her against her will.

In Inquisition, everyone starts on the same ground, with little to their ‘origins’ as a kossith mercenary, a noble human, a dalish spy, or a Carta dwarf. There’s nothing to base the character on, as with Origins, and the dialogue options are so bland that they don’t allow for much shaping of a personality, as with Hawke (or Shepard). Buuut I am sure there would be far more people complaining about being stuck playing a tattooed knife-ear savage.

SPOILERS BEYOND

This was Hawke’s fight

Players came to accept that our Warden was mysteriously missing when it came to DA2. Hawke took up the torch and did a fantastic job of becoming an endearing new protagonist for the series. The Inquisitor? Not so much.

Not to mention the fact that the game wants to tell me that my Warden and Hawke were negligent for not following up on their respective issues of darkspawn and mage/templar wars. I appreciate that Cassandra sort of addresses this in her table flipping rant about the fact that she had actually been in Kirkwall hoping to convince Hawke to lead the Inquisition. But the Warden’s letter basically just says “Was researching ancient darkspawn. Found nothing. Sorry.” (As far as my headcanon goes, my Warden was busy running around Antiva with Zevran and then becoming Keeper of her dalish clan, among other things. At least that’s a better excuse for being absent and useless.)

So instead, we get the Inquisitor, who basically just got lost at the conclave while searching for the bathroom, and stumbled onto Corypheus’ ritual. Then goes on to become the Mary Sue messiah. Other than some Chantry complaints and of course the bad guy, there’s very little opposition to the Inquisitor. No challenge that she can’t talk down with a few simple dialogue options. Everyone loves the Inquisitor means very little drama and conflict outside of fighting bad guys.

Old God Soul or Bust

We still don’t really have an answer to the importance of Old Gods to the Witches of the Wilds. If there is no dark Ritual Kieran, then there’s no Old God soul, and nothing for Flemeth to be interested in.

Special Snowflake Cory

As the first darkspawn, he’s allowed to have extra and unknown powers, sure, but he just started making them up along the way, with someone conveniently calling them out and explaining them without anything but assumption to go on, until the voices from the Well of Sorrows to confirm the theories. For example, when Cory is exploded at the temple, he pops out of a dead Grey Warden and Morrigan quickly theorizes that he must be able to do this with blighted bodies, including darkspawn. Presumably this is to explain how he escapes after Hawke kills him. And yet, we learn later that he’s only able to do this because he is horcruxing the not-archdemon (which Morrigan also conveniently identifies in that scene, as does Dorian in random party chatter).

“Oops” -Solas

With Solas being all shifty and flakey all the time with my elf, his greater involvement was suspected early on. My friend jokingly called the Dread Wolf reveal, and was shocked to find that she was right. The after credits scene certainly leaves a lot of interesting questions. But it also leaves a lot of WTF questions. As in, Solas, baby, how did you wake up and think it was okay to hand your Orb of Destruction to the guy who wants to be a god? But hey, he’s here to make amends now for the sake of his people, and he’s so impressed with how well my Inquisitor dalishes, so I’m sure interesting things will come in DA4: Elf Upliftification, when all the elven lore won't be a disorganized mess of vagueries and maybes, and dalish won't be quite so ignorant.

Timey Whimey Things

Go after the mages and you end up tossed a year into the future where Corypheus has taken over and the world is shit. The key factor? Corypheus orchestrating the assassination of Empress Celene of Orlais. When the Inquisitor returns, we basically learn that the whole point of traveling in time is to find out about this assassination. Because there was no other way or reason to head over to Orlais for support? How about: we need Orlais’ support, especially with the whole Chantry falling apart business. So head over to the party to talk to the empress, then get caught up in an assassination plot that may or may not have something to do with Corypheus. The end result of stopping the assassination and dealing with their throne issue? An Orlesian alliance. No weak and lazy time travel plot device required.

The War Table

Mass Effect 3’s war table and assets were useless. They were just numbers on a chart and then a few cutscenes during the final battle. I love the interactivity with the DAI war table as well as the ongoing contribution of the agents and allies we gather. And actually having them there in the battle, actually doing something? Stellar.

Cerberus Rogue Faction Syndrome

I will forgive the entire concept of resurrecting a bad guy – even the fact that said bad guy is from DLC that many players might not have played. The Keep provided an excellent opportunity to sneak Corypheus back in without giving away BioWare’s plans. But why do we need a cult of evil to be his minions? Corypheus can mimic the Calling and bring Grey Wardens in to do his bidding. There was ample opportunity to expand on that (thereby providing greater opportunity for the player’s Warden to do more).

Frankly, we could just have had more Tevinter in general. If they found a way to appease the Qunari with, say, a treaty (which seems to have worked with all the other nations), then the Imperium could turn their eyes to Orlais who would then be in need of support (see above re: better reasons to go to an Orlesian party). Tevinter would love a chance to return to its original state of glory and Corypheus whispering promises of such would be perfect motivation for many of them, rather than just a handful of fanatics. The fall of the Thedas Chantry would also be an excellent opportunity for the Black Divine to pounce, plus the displaced and disgruntled mages, as shown in the game, would be enticed by the prospect of going to a land where mages are respected and allowed to live freely.
I don’t hate the idea of the Venatori, per se, but much like all the Cerberus rogue faction missions in Mass Effect 3, it was a poorly implemented plot device that quickly becomes an annoyance, rather than a a well-thought out addition to the story as a whole.

Companions

Always the highlight of BioWare games. I love the depth given to the supporting cast – and to minor characters as well. Krem and Harding were instant favourites for me, but I also took the time to visit with Sutherland and his crew, Your Trainer, and Mother Giselle (who should have been Divine… How the hell did I get Leliana??). Cassandra surprised me most of all.

And while I’m unhappy that I didn’t get to have Fade sex with Solas, I really liked the way the relationship was worked into the story as a whole and hope that he and my Inquisitor can work things out.

But as the game proceeded, I realized that there actually wasn't a lot of depth to these characters and their stories. They had strong backgrounds that you could read up on in the codex and interesting personalities and interactions, but their companion missions had little follow through, and like the rest of the story, ended up feeling like it all ended too soon.

***

Am I being nitpicky? Of course I am. But as someone who knows a reasonable amount of the lore and will look up that which I do not know, plotholes, retcons, and inconsistencies disappoint me. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for writers who create such an incredible world to pay attention to details – because in this case, I know that the BioWare writers do pay attention to the smallest detail. But it seems that in focusing too much on one, they get carried away and miss the others. I spent over 100 hours in the game, with plans to return for more, but the more is generally outside of the story. That is to say, BioWare put too much into creating this incredible open world, failing to balance that with the story and characters.

On the positive side, the lack of depth in the story and the blandness of the Inquisitor just means I’ll have to work that much harder to fill in the blanks with my headcanon.

WHAT IS THIS?

This is my mindspill. Mostly about comics, books, video games, movies of the science fiction and fantasy leanings. Sometimes recipes and parenting stuff will sneak in, along with a real world rant or two.

I also write about geek culture at Women Write About Comics, and I review genre fiction at The BiblioSanctum.

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