Monday, February 2, 2015

The Bioware formula and why it keeps on working. (Spoilers for Dragon Age Inquisition.)

Long time no write! Usually life gets in the way, but no more. Thanks to/despite a spot of health issues (nothing life threatening, no worries!) I suddenly have a lot of time for reflection. And what better to reflect upon then games, more specific, Bioware games.

I recently finished Dragon Age Inquisition and man alive, I LOVE this game. Love in all caps, because that's just how much I love it. It may not be a perfect game. There are some glitches and it took me a while to adjust to the User interface and different controls. Combat is a bit different from Dragon Age Origins and DA2.
Honestly though, those little irksome details can not spoil the fun there is to be had for me. The characters are so well written that boundaries seem to fall away. You know they are fictional characters, but you can't help but get a serious lump in your throat if something bad happens to them.

It also follows what I like to call the Bioware formula. Of course, I can only apply this to the Bioware RPG's that I played. Knights of the Old Republic, the Mass Effect trilogy and the Dragon Age trilogy.

This is not a pic of my game, but this is 'my' Revan tho :D

The formula goes as follows.
Something bad happens. You are the Nobody who happens to be very talented and just right for the job at hand. You meet a lot of colorful characters along the way who have interesting back stories. Depending on your gender and preference, you can even romance one. Sometimes it's nice and fluffy, sometimes they break your virtual heart.

Most of them have issues, like Carth Onasi from Knights of the Old Republic (henceforth abbreviated as KOTOR) He was brutally betrayed by his old mentor, losing his wife in the process. That's why he doesn't trust anybody. At first at least.

The complexity of the characters has also increased during the years. For instance, in Mass Effect 3 there are openly gay characters and the best thing about it is, it's not regarded or treated as anything out of the ordinary. In Dragon Age Inquisition there is even a very clear transgender present. Krem is a man, who was born a woman. Discriminated in his homeland of Tervinter, but accepted by his captain for who he is. I'm a big supporter of everyone being and being with whomever they like.

In Dragon Age, being gay is a bit more sensitive, much like in the real world, but there is dialogue about it.
The biggest plus however, is that you can play as a man or a woman and it has next to zero effect on the storyline. My M.O. in these things is, I don't mind what gender the protagonist is, if it fits in the story. Given a choice however, my immersion rises sharply when I can guide a female Revan, Shepard, Warden, Hawke and Inquisitor to glory or certain doom.
There has been a lot, in my eyes, unwarranted consternation about it lately. Female characters, gamers that happen to be female. Sigh. I ain't touching that with a twenty foot pole and am happy to escape into Thedas, not giving a single thought to what others think and how it might affect their own immersion.

Here's some pics of my most recent Mass Effect 2 play through.

That's my Shep! Voiced by the excellent Jennifer Hale. Makes me love this character even more!

So yes, the Bioware formula works. For me. Beautifully executed yet again in Dragon Age Inquisition.
Oh man, where to start!

I didn't let myself get spoiled, I didn't watch any previews or trailers whatsoever. So for me the big surprise started in the load screen, when I pressed new game. The two neat rows of mages and Templars got quite a shocker as the building they were going towards exploded with a load of green smoke.

After a short intro, you go to the creation screen. The tools are quite intuitive  and you can customize to a great extent. This is my favorite Inquisitor so far!

Some options are a bit more questionable. She might be the savior of this world, but please, get the girl a pair of tweezers!

The world is plunged into chaos. Rifts in the Fade open willy nilly and have demons pour out of them. Of course, you have a mysterious mark on your hand. The only thing that can close said Rifts.

One of the first characters you meet is Cassandra Pentaghast. If you played DA II, you will remember her as the Seeker that interrogated Varric about Hawke, the champion of Kirkwall.

At first she seems like a staightforward character. Warrior, indomitable, linear. As you play on and manage not to piss her off too much at least, you get the best cut-scene (to me at least) in the game!

Here's the resolution to that situation.

The game is full of characters that aren't just black and white like this. To me, that's the beauty of it. Even some of the bad guys come from a troubled background.

Another thing that blew me away are the locations. My favorite location must be the Winter  Palace, Halamshiral. Also non-accidentally the place where my favorite mission takes place!
A grand Ball with a great soundtrack. Murder, intrigue and dancing. Sounds like the perfect night out! :D

Best Easter Egg ever!

The only thing that irked me is that my Inquisitor couldn't wear one of the beautiful dresses the other guests were wearing! I do understand why however. There is a scene where you dance with the Grand Duchess. Two poofy dresses would have gotten in the way of smooth animation I reckon.

The rest of the time, between big missions, you spend a lot of time doing side quests, gathering materials, crafting and talking to your team mates. Which is great, cause you get to know them better. They all have a personal quest too. Some of them, like the Iron Bull's, leave you with a gut-wrenching choice. Do you let his company of mercs go to their untimely deaths and save the Qunari dreadnaught  or vice versa. Knowing that the latter choice makes a Tal Vashot, aka outcast, of Iron Bull. One of the things he hates the most.
He's such a cool drinking buddy too! :D

Another great part is the party banter! I recommend taking the three Mages along. They could not be of greater opposites of the mage spectrum. Their conversations sometimes lets you wish for cold water to apply to the burns...

The material gathering can get a bit tiresome, but I just can't walk past when yet another Embrium or Elfroot blip on my radar. I could start my own Flower shop in game for sure.

I could go on and on! I do recommend before starting, that you play the Legacy DLC in DA II. That's where you'll meet this game's Biggest Bad for the first time. If you haven't and Varric tells you about the encounter he had, together with Hawke. You have a bit of a "Who the What?" moment. At least I had.

That's my two cents, I could write a lot more, but I don't want to spoil everything for you!

1 comment:

Tell me what you think! :D