Monday, November 24, 2014

Dragon Age Inquisition

Dragon Age Inquisition was recently released.  I haven't played it a hell of a lot yet, but I want to jot down my initial impressions before I forget. One of the very first things I experienced was frustration.  I didn't feel like the noob zone provided me with enough opportunity to learn and fully grasp the fighting mechanics of my class, the user interface (especially tactical mode), and just generally feeling competent enough to face a boss fight.  There wasn't a lot of explanation about switching to and controlling the various party members either.  A lot of times the interfaces weren't intuitive and I was sit there struggling to figure out how to make a selection and get to the next stage.  I think part of the problem is that the UI may have been developed for the console and just retrofitted for the PC.  My husband has played the console and PC versions and said the console controller lends itself to way more intuitive game play for this specific game. I did try his controller and have to agree.

The character create engine is pretty amazing.  The amount of control you have in the facial structure is incredible.  I struggled quite a bit to make an attractive looking female but it is totally possible with some effort (we're not all 3d character artists like my husband!).  Some things that were misses were the hair styles for women were limited in terms of aesthetics, there were few long hair options, and a lot of really butch looking stuff, and no black hair color (the closest you could get was a dark gray or dark brown). Most of the eyebrow options were down right laughable. The specularity of the hair on the PC is totally jacked too, looking like all the hair is slicked with vaseline or made of shiny plastic. Pretty bizarre and distracting in-game.  This isn't an issue on the console either, just the pc version.

Another odd thing I noticed is that the females have a pretty exaggerate side to side hip swing when they walk/run combined with a running animation where the rib-cage/upper-body rotates like a clothes washing machine which makes for a really odd looking animation.  On top of that, the cut scenes show other (NPC) female characters with the pronounced hip wag walking along side my female player character which is walking rigid like a dude instead of a chick...maybe they hooked up the wrong walk animation for female player characters for cut-scenes or it's hid under the armor?  Or it could just be my imagination too.  lol

We tried to play the co-op which was what I was most excited about.  I play a little solo (but unless it's as good as Borderlands, I'll lose interest and go do something more productive like "real" crafting before I get really invested into it) but mostly I just want to have time with my husband where we play together at night and on weekends.  I was pretty frustrated with the multiplayer option of this game. With the single player game, you have so much you can do, the world is vast, the options for class progression are wide open, you have 3 NPCs in your party to augment your skills, there's character progression based on player chosen responses to dialogue interactions with NPC scripts where you gain/lose approval from your NPC support team,  you have crafting (potions/armor/weapons/augmentations) and self-directed questing (you pick where you go and what you do) and lots of loot (that you can wear, sell or equip on your NPC team members) and a bunch of other cool stuff like the war table (gaining favor, power and inquisition points), and travel/map and collections.  It's great.

If only I could just get something as rich and immersive as that single-player game that allowed two players.  I'd even be happy playing a non-custom (one of the 3 NPCs) character in my husband's game.  I just don't like to play by myself and prefer playing together with Jason.  But the multiplayer for this game is really meant for 4 players and doesn't allow two players to augment with 2 NPC team members, and you can't get through all barriers with two people because you need a mage to cast spells to open some, a rogue to pick locks for others, and a tank to smash down the rest.  So you have to take the long way around or just bypass those areas not accessible to you.  Then you don't get ANY tutorial for how the game differs from single player which was bad enough with its own lack of tutorials, but this mode gave you literally NO tutorial.

There's no crafting, no quest picking, limited class customization (abilities), no character create.  It's got a great level design that changes with each attempt at the first mission so you aren't doing the same thing over and over but we never did get through the first event...I think the best we did was 3 of 5 or maybe 4 of 5 before we'd run out of potions and our health doesn't regen so you just keep widdling down until one of you dies and then it's not long before the other goes. You can only be incapacitated 3 times before you are stuck watching the rest of the event as a fade spectator.  You only get two potions per slot and only one slot for healing potions, mtx doesn't allow you to buy specific potions except for a basic heal, you can't buy class-specific chests (so if you're a mage you could spend plat on a big chest and get gear for tanks and rogues and nothing you can actually use), you don't realize that you share all your dropped gear/weapons across all your multiplayer characters so if you break it down for salvage before you figure this out, too bad for you!

There are leader boards and kill comparisons at the end of each event and it's always nice from my perspective to see some analytics data so I appreciated that where my hubby wasn't so keen on that (he does twice the kills I do on average so I'm not sure why except that I'm sure he just doesn't want me to get discouraged).  He's a nice guy :)

Another thing I notes was that they have MTX for multiplayer but not for single player. Sure I can make potions in single player, but it just seems like microtransactions could have been made available in both.  I would have spent real money in single player to have a horse earlier, or to get potions I can't yet make, or to buy recipes, or get prettier looking gear/horses/cool weapon effects.  Yes, I'm susceptible to vanity items!  I'm a MTX marketers dream player, way more money that good sense when it comes to having cool stuff when I'm playing, even by myself. lol  And it's kinda sad when players like me wish we could spend money in-game and can't.  Missed opportunity there guys!

So, I spent the entire day Sunday playing.  We started out playing multiplayer but I can't figure out how to play a tank in this game.  I can't move and attack at the same time like a Rogue can.  The Bull rush takes me out into that back 40 instead of stopping at the first NPC I ram into.  The tab targeting option is completely disabled for multiplayer so I don't feel like I can play FPS style nor can I play MMORPG style, at least as I am used playing them.  It's frustration time 10.  So we ended up going back to single player.  I created a mage this time (since the tank class was not working for me) and I had a LOT more fun with that and felt  way more effective even though I still couldn't tab target effective for some reason.

Will I keep playing?  Yes, in single player mode only because the game just has too much to offer to give it up.  But I feel like there are a lot of areas where missed opportunities abound. The fact that I'm so excited about how it "could" have been means they did a whole hell of a lot right with the single player game.  I know it probably doesn't sound like it from my rant here, but it's a great game already with just the little I've played it.  I just wish someone would put a bit more effort into a co-op version besides Borderlands IP producers.

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