Recently at the 2018 Game Awards they revealed a trailer for a new Dragon Age- along with the hashtag #TheDreadWolfRises - which re-sparked my interest in the series. I had basically dropped BioWare games entirely after 2017’s abysmal entry to a different BioWare series, Mass Effect Andromeda. When I did play through the Original Mass Effect last year, it only rubbed salt into the wounds left by that awful game. But due to the recent announcement, I decided I would retry BioWare’s Dragon Age: Inquisition. A game I had not picked up in four years.
I had fun with my experience, getting to experience the parts I enjoyed again, but, as I progressed through the first act of the game, all of the terrible bits also became increasingly clear to me. After playing for several hours and enjoying several play sessions I tried to take a look at my old review. I had written of Dragon Age: Inquisition right after it came out. I could not find it, but I do recall some of what I said. And currently I do not agree with everything I said. The six main points I will be focusing on include Setting, Plot, and Quests; Characters; Graphics; Soundtrack and Score; Gameplay and Mechanics; and Controls. Oh and a fair warning - Spoilers Ahead.
I. Setting, Plot, and Quests
The Dragon Age Setting, or Thedas, as the writers call it (Yes it an acronym) can be briefly summed up as a Dark Fantasy World. In Thedas there are Demons and all sorts of foul creatures. Magic is dangerous, and Mages are treated as second-class citizens. The Chantry (Church) is overbearing and often corrupt. I like this setting; I have played the first and second entries into the series a few times each. This is an interesting setting. The plot on the other hand is where this category is going to lose out on some points.
The Mage-Templar War is set up during the climax of Dragon Age II, and has come to a head during the opening of Inquisition. The game opens with a massive explosion, making you the sole survivor of a tragic event. The Prologue is actually fairly paced and offers much In terms of story value. The first act sets up everything it should, your motivation, the big bad, taking a side in the war, fighting the war. This offers great progression in terms of Characters and Story. The Quests here feel big, you are trying to acquire materials to essentially assist one side in a war. The “fetch” quests here serve a purpose which is not typical of the Open-World RPG. Each mission you take on helps move the plot as all the companion characters are gathered together by the end of the first act. The characters you interact with grow as you help them with their personal journey and take time to get to know them and their motivations.
Then act one finishes, and the game immediately takes a nose dive in coherency and overall is a big letdown. The Mage-Templar war, which has been hyped up the entirety of two games ends at the first act’s climax. The “big bad” they set up was really not that big of a deal, as there is a bigger badder baddie to deal with that comes out of nowhere during the second act. The second act is inherently worse than the first act. The story becomes disjointed, wandering from large open world area to the next, to the next, with no real reason to do any of it, no satisfying motivation for your protagonist, (none of it). The Quests become nothing more than chores that are a slog and a grind to get through. I find myself having to force myself to play the game so I could get further in it, even if I didn’t want to.
Although the real icing on the cake is that there was an entire section, an entire questline that was gutted from the game. A section Bioware was all too eager to show off during E3 and other conventions. In this quest line, you would have to choose to either save an entire village, allowing your stronghold to get captured, ultimately sacrificing your soldiers, or protecting the stronghold and sacrificing the village. The village would have side quests, merchants and a whole bunch of content for you to experience, should you choose to save it. The village is gone. That whole section was reduced to securing your hold on the region and investigating the fate of the village. This was a total let down. This is an adept description for the entirety of the second act.
The bigger badder baddie at the end of the game was revealed to be a character that you had already dealt with in the previous game, Corypheus. Honestly, the reveal is major letdown and the fight against him was as well (according to watching gameplay videos, as I never finished the game). Another reveal is then made that one of your companions, Solas, is actually an Elvhen (ancient Elvish) Deity by the name of Fen’Harel the Dread Wolf, a god of Trickery. He was the one who caused all the mess of the game’s intro to happen in the first place. I actually found this revelation about Solas to be pretty awesome; but it is a bummer that so much “meh” surrounds the reveal that it gets lost.
Dragon Age: Inquisition earns high marks for its stellar opening, excellent first act, and tremendous setting. Its second act drops it down to only average marks with a -1 penalty for inconsistent storytelling, and a -1 penalty for cut content shown at a convention. It does earn a +1 Bonus for setting and World Development.
The characters in this game are (with a few exceptions) pretty memorable, many of them have depth and are well written. Varric makes a return from Dragon Age II and along with his crossbow Bianca to join your crew. Varric’s witty banter and exaggerated stories make him a personal favorite for me. Iron Bull is probably the best written of the crew. Each of the party members (with 3 exceptions) is a compelling character. They have their own motivations, thoughts, and quirks and their personality makes you want to help them along with their own goals.
Take Cassandra for example, she has a deep hidden love for the stories written by Varric, even though she and Varric butt heads all the time. Her favorite series of his is an erotic novel series, featuring a character from a previous Dragon Age game. She asks you to secretly convince Varric to finish the final entry in the series. Varric takes the opportunity to really tease her about her reading habits. It is an extremely awesome scene and I loved every second of it. I died with laughter and marveled at the chemistry the crew has because of these interludes.
The Character line-up is probably the strongest part of Inquisition. There are So many relate-able Characters and because of the depth of each one you wouldn’t mind taking a whole side mission just to help one of them find something or other whether it be equipment, artifacts, secrets, etc. This earns Dragon Age: Inquisition high marks with a +1 Bonus for Character Interaction.
Dragon Age: Inquisition has a highly stylized art style that I personally find very enjoyable and pleasant. It has aged reasonably well the past four years. However, there is an abundance of animation glitches and several of the characters (Josephine and Cassandra in particular) have weird facial animations. Overall, the facial animations are fairly lackluster at best and below par at worst. The environment is probably where most of the attention went to, as it is beautiful and colorful. This is a stark contrast to the tone of the series, but it complements the game instead of detracting from it. This is a commendable achievement.
Performance-wise, it does make my computer run pretty hot, but seeing as my Computer is over 5 years old that is not a surprise. However, at the time of release, many people did complain about performance optimization as it came to playing the game on PC. Its performance was rough on my computer at release, even if I ran at medium graphics settings (I have a laptop, and not a gaming rig). By contrast it did run Dragon Age II and Mass Effect 3 on High to Ultra settings with little effort. With all this taken into account, Dragon Age: Inquisition earns above average marks. It also earns a +1 for stylization. Dragon Age: Inquisition takes a -1 penalty for its lackluster facial animation and for its performance.
IV. Soundtrack and Score
The Soundtrack of Dragon Age: Inquisition is amazing. Trevor Morris is a Genius. Honestly, it is probably the most enjoyable portion of the game. I could not help but hum along or dance with my feet as I was playing the game concentrating on boss fights, crafting loot and doing various other things. Inon Zur is the composer that had worked with Dragon Age in the past, and as much as I loved his work, Inquisition probably has the best soundtrack as a whole with very few notable exceptions from the previous titles. Even the ambiance noises and other environmental features are beautiful to listen to. This is real reason to buy the Digital Deluxe Edition; the other content is kind of irrelevant. I love the Soundtrack and commonly play it as music to listen to around the house. Trevor Morris brings home extremely high marks to the Dragon Age team for his musical genius.
V. Gameplay and Mechanics
Dragon Age: Inquisition feels light on the actual RPG mechanics that put the series on the map to begin with. Gone are skill points and several of the specializations that the Series is known for including the Blood Mage, Bard, Assassin, and even the Spirit Healer. Instead of the four specialization choices for each class that Origins and II had, Inquisition only has three (The Awakening Expansion had 6). The Spirit Healer was my jam in the first game. It really sucks that the Mages in Inquisition have been relegated to a DPS role exclusively. In fact there is no way to heal your party outside of using Health potions- which have been mapped to the “9” slot on your hotbar. Slots 1-8 are the only slots you have for abilities which feels very limiting. “0,-, and =” have all been assigned other uses as well. There are also less Armor slots (only Armor and Helmet) as opposed to Chest, Legs, Arms, and Helmet from the previous games. Skill Points have been removed and skills are now boosted through equipment and passive abilities you take when leveling up.
The Tactical Camera makes a comeback in this installment. It is useless indoors (literally unusable) and basically useless outdoors (clunky, but usable). Even interacting with objects has been made more difficult by a combination of the controls and mechanics of the game. You have to be facing the exact proper angle in order to loot, something that should be a breeze in an RPG. To top it all off there is no area loot mechanic like in the two previous games/installments
There is a nice addition to the newly revamped crafting system. It allows essentially full customization of your party’s equipment. Everything can be adjusted to your preference: from the color, to extra abilities, the type of damage, stats and more. The crafting system is pretty extensive. It is easily the best of the mechanics that have been changed from previous installments.
Combat is pretty mediocre to be honest. Most of the encounters are uninspired and somewhat dull. The limited options for character progression and abilities make many encounters feel same-y. Really the only saving grace keeping the combat from being just like the rest is the tactical approach that essentially every boss fight has. The Dragon Fights are super cool and really well done. Being able to target the different parts of a Dragon is a neat change. You can focus of the wings or a leg to weaken the Dragon before bringing it down, Each Dragon Fight utilizes different tactics so that is nice.
Nearly everything in Dragon Age: Inquisition has been “streamlined” which is another way of saying removed and striped out of a previously excellent RPG experience. The Limiting of Character Progression choices and combat bums me out. With the removal and simplification of mechanics Inquisition earns below average marks from me. The Crafting system is once again a nice touch, and does snag a +1 bonus.
The PC controls of Dragon Age: Inquisition are resoundingly mediocre. It is extremely obvious that it is port from consoles to PC, which is highly unfortunate. There are several mechanics that suffer from the poor controls., The most notable being the Tactical Camera. As previously mentioned, it is useless indoors as it is next to impossible to control properly. The camera gets stuck on everything from tiny rocks, to enemies, to even your own characters. The camera controls in this mode makes the Tactical Camera essentially useless as a mechanic. Some other mechanics that suffer are the Explorations, Combat and Quick Slots, and numerous other “RPG staples.”
When I returned to the game I had hoped that the issues with the terrible controls would be addressed. They were not. The same awful control system present at launch was still in the game and was still just as atrocious. Dragon Age: Inquisition earns a below average mark with a -2 penalty for sheer dreadfulness in controls.
With the #TheDreadWolfRises Trailer and a new Dragon Age announced, it is time to discuss how to improve upon the Dragon Age Formula and how to not make the same mistakes that were made with Inquisition (and DA2) again. First up: Focus on the strong points of Dragon Age. Spend more time writing characters, interactions, and enthralling story threads instead of trying to haphazardly implement multiplayer and “open world” content. If I wanted to play an Open World Game, I would play Witcher 3 or Final Fantasy XV instead of Dragon Age. Simply Focus on Characters and Stories. Second: Open up Character Progression and Hotbars (especially for PC). Limiting Character Progression in the way that Inquisition did felt like they were taking a step backwards. Open it up, put the Role-Playing back in the Role-Playing Game. Allowing players to have quick access to their abilities on a Hotbar (not limited to 8 Slots) would allow players to enjoy their experience in their own way - without artificially being forced to play a certain way. And Lastly: Make sure to make the Controls at least decent on every system the game is released. This should be a no-brainer.
And now for the Scoring:
- Setting, Plot, and Quests. C+(2.9) Dragon Age: Inquisition takes a -1 penalty for the poor payoff plot wise, and a second one for cut story content. It does earn a +1 Bonus for its theme and setting.
- Characters. A(3.7). DA:I brings home a +1 Bonus for its stellar Character Arcs.
- Graphics. B(3.3). Inquisition earns a +1 bonus for stylization, but takes a -1 penalty for its technical issues.
- Soundtrack and Score. A+(4.0). No bonuses or penalties awarded.
- Gameplay and Mechanics. C-(2.6). With a +1 bonus for a neat Crafting System.
- Controls. D(2.2). Dragon Age: Inquisition is penalized with a -2 for Tear Inducing Controls.
- Totals. C(3.0). In the end Dragon Age: Inquisition is nothing more than an Average experience, in a Stellar series, from once excellent developers. As much as I struggled to enjoy my play through of this installment, I hope BioWare can turn things around before the Release of Dragon Age #TheDreadWolfRises.
I am a fan of many things, from Bionicle to Pokémon; from RWBY to Harry Potter; from Lord of the Rings to Star Wars; and many other insanely awesome things. Even though it took a while for me to finally get into, Final Fantasy is one of those things that I love.
Final Fantasy is a Digital Japanese Role-Playing Game Franchise. The first installment was released in 1987. At the time, it was a last ditch effort from game designer, Hironobu Sakaguchi, in the gaming Industry. Should the game have been a failure he would have returned to university, Final Fantasy was not a failure. It was more successful than he thought possible. Because of this, the second installment was immediately put into development. Unlike other series, each Final Fantasy installment features a new cast of characters, a new setting, and a revised battle-system. Each installment maintains thematic aspects from the previous installments such as the use of Crystal in nearly every installment.
I love playing the games and talking about them with others who enjoy them. Even after mediocre games, Final Fantasy still has a way of endearing itself to me. Even when the stories are ridiculous, I still fawn all over each new installment. Even when parts of the game are forgettable, I still enjoy it. There is some part of each title that calls to me. I shall briefly explain my connection to each of the titles I have played, and why I feel drawn to the ones I have not.
I had only played the first installment of this much beloved series after trying out some of the other entries of the series. My reaction to Final Fantasy is that I see how it became so successful at the time, and I can see how far the series has come by this point.
Final Fantasy III
Final Fantasy III can sometimes be confused. At first North America did not receive Final Fantasy II, III, or V. When Final Fantasy VI came out on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), the North American release was subject to a name change to Final Fantasy III. This has been sorted out by now, and Final Fantasy III (not VI) was actually first released in North America on the Nintendo DS. It is a great game and very enjoyable to play and witness the story as it unfolds.
Final Fantasy V
Final Fantasy V did not make it the United States until the PlayStation One era. The game’s story is mostly forgettable; although, the gameplay makes grinding at least a little bit more enjoyable and collecting items in this game is always fun. Out of the Entries that I have played, I have enjoyed this one the least.
Final Fantasy VI
I actually have not played much of this installment. I enjoy how emotional the story feels. Without giving everything away, there is a plot point of the game that has a Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back sort of Vibe. It is heartbreaking; yet, an enjoyable experience that leaves one with a desire for more.
Final Fantasy VII
I had not played Final Fantasy VII until I was already grown, but I enjoyed it immensely. I acknowledge the praise and criticism for this title. However, I feel as though Final Fantasy VII has had perhaps the greatest impact of series to date. That being said, the mechanics and graphics that were praised at the time feel greatly dated and are far surpassed by the other Final Fantasy Titles released later on in the PlayStation One’s lifecycle.
Final Fantasy VIII
Truth be told, I have not played much of this one, but what I have played of it makes it stand out as a great experience and one worth revisiting should I get the urge. The opening sequence remains among the best ever put into a game and one of the most intense pieces of music ever made.
Final Fantasy IX
Final Fantasy IX is my personal favorite title, though not the one I have spent the most time on. By this stage, Square had mastered their technique of production on the PlayStation console, and it shows. The game is gorgeous, and the FMV though dated still looks amazing and holds up to later entries in the series. I love the multi-faceted story in this title, switching between multiple sets of characters is incredibly enjoyable and shows a mastery in storytelling that can sometimes be absent from games. The comedic and tragic are both present within the framing of Final Fantasy IX. While we wait for the next big Final Fantasy title, I am waiting for my Final Fantasy IX remaster or remake or port or what have you. To put it simply, this is Final Fantasy game that everyone should play.
Final Fantasy X
Don’t get me wrong, Final Fantasy X is a good game, and many people truly enjoy it. I find the summoning in this entry of the series to be the most prominent. Even with the HD Remaster on the PlayStation 4, the game’s visuals are just not that great. Many of the cut scenes in the game are gorgeous, and showcase the work of Square well. Some of the cut scenes feel dated and are plagued with clichés and tropes now worn thin. This is not my favorite entry, but not my least favorite either. The super sweet love story is nice though.
Final Fantasy XIII
Final Fantasy XIII is despised by many fans of the series. I see where they are coming from, I really do. The game does take a departure from the rest of the series; replacing the turn-based combat with action based combat with characters that are semi-relatable at best and offensive at worst. I have heard the full gambit of responses towards this game. I like it. It is a rather enjoyable game. The story takes center-stage and does not let you forget it. I find the characters to be inspired by other Final Fantasy characters from previous titles. The majority of the characters seem oddly similar to Characters from Final Fantasy VII, one of the most beloved titles in the series. Lightning the Main Character of the games seems like a female version of fan favorite Cloud.
Final Fantasy XIII-2
Ah, Final Fantasy XIII-2, my first Final Fantasy game ever! This was the game that got me hooked on the whole series. I highly enjoyed my first play through. I had such fun with the fast-paced battling, and the lore was so rich to me at the time. Many argue that this game is one of the worst titles of the Final Fantasy series. I disagree. If it caught a first-timer in its grasp and kept them to experience other games in the same series, it is a worthy entry. While I do not play this entry a whole lot at the moment, it still holds a fond place in my heart.
Final Fantasy XIV (A Realm Reborn)
One of the two Final Fantasy games I experienced recently. It is a solid MMO, let alone a solid Final Fantasy title. Lots of fun to play with friends and tackle dungeons together; otherwise, one would be better off trying some of the other Final Fantasy titles.
Final Fantasy XV
This is one that I have really mixed feelings about. Final Fantasy XV took the series into the Open-World realm of gaming. I wish that Square had not done that. The story told in Final Fantasy XV suffers from not being urgent enough to cause one to sacrifice side questing and exploring. I enjoy the fresh combat. I see it as a title that I am likely to pick up and play as I feel like it instead of it being a binging type game. I see Final Fantasy XV as an average entry into the series.
That sums up all of my interactions with the main series of the Final Fantasy franchise. Countless spinoffs and spiritual successors have been spawned and have left an impact on my little world. Regardless of your opinion of the games or gaming; in general, these games have had a large impact on my life and have allowed me to further expand my storytelling and ideas. Many of the games have served me for stress relief and relaxation. The series as a whole has been one of the most influential in gaming history. Many of the staples in modern RPGs were established in within the confines of this venerable series. The legacy of this marvelous franchise will be felt for a long time to come. Regardless of how many screw-ups and false promises Square Enix makes, I will be a fan of Final Fantasy and continue to support their work.
The Pokémon Franchise has been around for over 20 years, and every few years a new game in the much beloved franchise gets released and sees many happy players across the world. It is developed largely by GameFreak and Published by Nintendo. The Original Red and Blue Versions were released in Japan in 1996. With a few tweaks and an update, it arrived in the States in 1998. Since then, we have seen more than 900 creatures known as Pokémon in various digital forms.
I have been a fan of the series for nearly a decade. I have purchased games at launch, games a few months later, and some I have yet to acquire. I have a deep respect for Nintendo, their practices, and a love for the Pokémon series as a whole. I want to see Pokémon in the best light possible, and my hope is to share my vision of what I would like to see done with this wonderful and timeless series. Part of my idea also includes what I believe is the best move Nintendo can make to give the Pokémon Series and their consoles the best possible treatment.
I want to see the continuing success of Nintendo and Pokémon as well as the renewing and revitalizing the series with a vigor that can sustain it for many more years. The central concept to my idea is mastery. I want GameFreak and Nintendo to demonstrate what they have learned with the Pokémon Franchise as a whole and with the consoles that those games are on. The Golden Treatment is the name that fits best with my idea - my vision of what can be (not necessarily what will actually be). The logistics of my idea contains three phases: the Swansong, the Legacy, and the Rebirth.
The first phase of my idea involves a remake of the “generation four” games - Pokémon Diamond and Pearl. Now these were my first Pokémon Games that I had on my own. I still enjoy whipping out my copy of Pearl just to have a good time occasionally. I try not to be biased towards it. I have numerous complaints regarding the game especially now that it has been out for nearly a decade. The Swansong name of this phase is in reference to the six year old hardware known as the Nintendo 3DS.
Here is my vision of the spring of 2018, during which a final set Pokémon games are released on the 3DS. The games would be the remakes of the Diamond and Pearl games. These remakes would improve upon and maintain the original spirit of the games. The graphical engine would be updated and the irritating number of moves needed for exploration would be removed, instead replaced with the more manageable system from Pokémon Sun and Moon. Other improvements would be combining the Pokémon center and store into one building, as is the current system and adding additional improvements or elements to the overall narrative to enhance it. This could be in the form of a story arc after the end of the main game, perhaps having challenging opponent that upon defeat can give you the special Z-Crystals (equipment that unlocks powerful one use moves in battles). GameFreak could give the Sinnoh (the region name in the game) starter Pokémon mega evolutions and find that balance between the old mechanics and the new mechanics. Add a little extra polish and care to the games; make them represent everything that Nintendo and GameFreak have learned in making a good Pokémon game.
GameFreak should use the majority of the features that the 3DS system boasts to show mastery over both Pokémon and console. Make the safari zone feel more like Pokémon Snap. It could use the motion camera to truly capture the feel of being on a safari, looking for Pokémon to capture. Implement the pedometer into the functions of the game by assisting with the breeding mechanics or another training feature. Streetpass and Spotpass features should be used to send powerful teams to your friends, so they can prepare for battle against you, get help beating a challenging trainer, or even as a way to send friends items. The overall effect of the game design, narrative, and game features should blow people away in awe and provide them a reason to hang on to their system.
The second phase of my plan involves the very first Pokémon games, Red and Blue. Pokémon Red and Blue versions were already remade in 2004 as FireRed and LeafGreen. I enjoy the original games and the remakes as they are still fun if a bit outdated, especially coming from other more recent Pokémon titles, they can feel sluggish in gameplay and old graphically by comparison. That is why I propose the Re-Remake of the Generation One games on Nintendo’s new system the Nintendo Switch.
The Switch came out earlier this year. It has been hitting record sales for several months now, practically flying off the shelves. This is why I propose waiting until late 2019, possibly launching Black Friday, a trio of games with custom systems as bundles; AquaBlue HD, FireRed HD, and LeafGreen HD, each game launching with matching hardware. For AquaBlue - make the JoyCons (the side controllers) a slightly translucent blue, the Switch Console itself a solid medium blue, and the dock for the system a dark blue. FireRed’s Switch would be a solid red with slightly translucent JoyCons, and a dark red dock. LeafGreen gets a dark green dock with a leafy green system, and again slightly translucent JoyCons. This custom hardware is to increase the variety of the systems as well as give a slight edge to the Pokémon games released at the same time. This hardware is really only one part of the whole for this phase.
Waiting until late 2019 gives GameFreak time to get their feet under them with the new system and to produce a game that will run smoothly and on the given system. Since the Switch has power and can be mobile, it could be wise to produce a Pokémon game with stunning visuals and gameplay. The games must give off an air of being the legacy of the series - gym battles are challenging, the soundtrack is awesome, the Pokémon themselves are memorable. These games would basically be the first home console appearance of the Kanto region (the in game area). As such, they should demonstrate the full power of the console while maintaining its handheld feel. The Switch as a Hybrid Handhand-Console System is the perfect system to try this out on.
Perhaps in this remake, the Seveii Islands (small portion of FireRed and LeafGreen’s map) are kept and are still part of the story. Perhaps the Johto region is partially added (Johto being the neighboring area in the game). The Battles could potentially be more mobile and have a Stadium/Battle Revolution feel to them, but without the whole arena feel. There are a great many things that GameFreak could do to make a full HD Pokémon experience. The original Pokémon game of Red and Blue are the way to create both a memorable experience for the younger players and a way to reinvigorate the original audience. I have no doubt that if Red and Blue were given this treatment that the Nintendo Switch would sell many more units, and the Pokémon Franchise would also sell incredibly well.
The third and final phase in my master plan for Pokémon is to release a new generation of games onto the switch sometime during mid-2021 potentially sometime later for that matter. It should be a good chunk of time to create some concrete concepts and create a truly next generation game. Perhaps this could be a direct sequel to X and Y versions in a similar vein as Pokémon Gold and Silver were sequels to the original Red and Blue. Possibly, even the Black and White games. Give us a new region to explore in full 3D. Perhaps, these new games no longer have an isometric view, but in an over-the-shoulder type way. Also, give us something familiar to see in the best possible way. Let GameFreak stretch their muscles and demonstrate a love and care for this series in the way they would want to. Begin implantation of features from the Nintendo Switch system and show that Pokémon is still well loved by both developers and players alike. This phase is designed to finalize the transition of Pokémon from the 3DS and to a larger extent the Nintendo portable system line to a more powerful machine capable of producing the type of game we all want to see. Let GameFreak decide how to proceed from here.