Nocturnal Lives

Musings from the mind of Amanda S. Green – Mother, writer, and possessed by cats

Category: Gaming (Page 2 of 2)

Bioware brings Dragon Age Inquisition to an end

I have a confession to make. It’s not a new one. Anyone who has followed me here or on Mad Genius Club knows my secret. I’m a gamer. It started innocently enough. When my son was young and all his friends had Playstations and Xboxes, he wanted one too. I relented, finally, when prices came down to something resembling reasonable. The only caveat I put on his gaming was that I had to play the game first. It was the same rule I had for movies. He was young enough that I wanted to know what he was going to see or play so I could talk with him about it if he had questions or comments.

Checking out games to make sure they were appropriate for him soon turned into a bonding exercise between the two of us. We gamed together. As he got older, we discussed games, and gaming systems. Which game was better on what system. Then we got into gaming on our PCs and that added a whole new level of discussion. Was it better to game on a system or on the PC? What needed to be done to upgrade the PC to play the latest generation of games? Yes, we became a gaming and techie household.

Well, my son is an adult now and we are both still gaming and talking about what games we play, what platform we play them on and what games are coming out. I don’t remember if I turned my son onto Dragon Age Inquisition (Deluxe Edition) – PC when it came out or if he turned me onto it. Not that it matters. What does is that Bioware redeemed itself in my eyes after the debacle that was the ending of Mass Effect 3 Digital Deluxe Version [Download]. (No, I don’t think the ending of ME3 was as bad as some of the fans do, but I will admit it could have been handled better. After all, it basically did away with the decisions we had made through three games. That didn’t sit well with many of the fans.)

For those of you unfamiliar with Bioware games, one of the strength of those games has always been the story. From Jade Empire to Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic to the Mass Effect Trilogy to the three Dragon Age games, story and characters have kept gamers returning and, more importantly, demanding more. All you have to do is look at the discussions that have gone on since the ME3 was released and speculation about what the next Mass Effect game might be.  Yes, I am one of those anxiously awaiting Mass Effect: Andromeda and hoping that Bioware continues building on the legacy of Mass Effect and doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel.

Anyway, back to DA:I.

If you aren’t familiar with DA:I, this is how Bioware describes it:

A cataclysmic event plunges the land of Thedas into turmoil. Dragons darken the sky, casting a shadow over lands on the brink of chaos. Mages break into all-out war against the oppressive templars. Nations rise against one another. It falls to you and your allies to restore order as you lead the Inquisition and hunt down the agents of chaos.

Explore, lead, and battle: Tough choices define your experience, and even one decision can change the course of what’s to come.

It’s fun. The combat can be challenging and it has, in my opinion, a high replay value because of the different classes you can play as as well as the different choices you can make during the game.

Even without the DLC packs, DA:I is a game that can keep you busy for tens, if not hundreds, of hours in a single playthrough. You can simply do the main mission quests or you can do all the side quests. Then there are all the “collectibles” you can go after. Yes, some of it does come down to simply grinding as you try to find the right group of bad guys to beat so you get the valuable you need to finish this side quest or that but, unlike so many games, grinding isn’t required to progress through the game.

There are three single player DLC missions for the game. The first,Dragon Age: Inquisition – Jaws of Hakkon [Online Game Code], was an interesting mission, taking players to new areas and giving them some challenges battles. The mini-boss near the end of the DLC was, to me, more difficult to defeat than the final boss. As with the main game, there are storyline missions, side missions and grinding if you want. Overall, I enjoyed Jaws of Hakkon and found it challenging enough to keep me interested.

The second DLC, Dragon Age: Inquisition – Jaws of Hakkon [Online Game Code], was less satisfying to me. Yes, it introduced a couple of new characters, non-playable but companions during the quest. Yes, we got to return to the Deep Roads, one of the more interesting areas we’ve visited in the Dragon Age universe. But the plot was only meh, in my opinion, and it felt too linear and felt like one big grinding exercise. No, that’s not quite right. It felt rushed. Yes, when I finally go back to do another playthrough of DA:I, I will play this DLC, not for the plot but for the items you can grab along the way.

The final DLC, Dragon Age: Inquisition – Trespasser, was released yesterday. It isn’t as long as the previous DLCs and that could be seen as a detriment since it costs the same as the others. However, I didn’t care. This DLC did exactly what Bioware promised. It brought DA:I to a close and it set the stage for the next Dragon Age game (please let there be another one).

trespasser

Trespasser takes place two years after the end of the events of DA:I. It is your chance to find out what happened after the breach was sealed and peace came to Thedas (Of course, peace is never long-lived in that world). The basic starting point is that the Inquisition, which had been welcomed for its help in closing the breach and driving off the bad guys, is now seen as a danger. It is too big, too independent and too well armed. So a conclave has been called to determine what is to become of the Inquisition now.

Once again, you play as the Inquisitor. You have the chance to interact once again with your companions from the main game. But trouble is afoot. That becomes clear very quickly. So, while you leave your advisors to deal with the icky political aspect of what is happening, you and your companions go haring off to some new and some familiar locations in an attempt to track down not only who is behind the trouble but learn why they are doing it.

No, I’m not going to give spoilers here. Just know that this DLC, which I played through in about 4 hours, answers a lot of questions left from the main game and other DLCs. Heck, it even answers a few questions from the first two games. While it does give closure to the game — and you get to choose what will happen to the Inquisition and see the near future consequences of that decision — it also leaves questions open, questions that could be the seeds of the next Dragon Age game. It left me wanting to play the next game when it comes out because there is no doubt Thedas will soon be facing its greatest threat yet.

As I write this, part of me is sad to see the game come to an end. While we might not have seen the backstory of our Inquisitor like we did with Hawke in Dragon Age 2, the Inquistor and companions in DA:I are characters I want to see more of. Perhaps they will make appearances in the next game. But, that is not guaranteed. One character that has been with us since the first Dragon Age game is talking about retirement. Another, one we’ve known since the second game, has been — much to my surprise — raised to a position of political power. A third, who we were also introduced to in the second game, may or may not be the new Divine, depending on decisions you made during the main DA:I game.

Yet, sad that I am to have DA:I over, I have to applaud Bioware for how the did it. The decisions I made during the main game and other DLCs mattered and had an impact on the decisions and outcome of this final DLC. Because of that, and because of the quality of the not only the plot and lore in this last DLC but also the graphics, I give Dragon Age: Inquisition – Trespasser a thumbs up. It is a must for every fan of the game.

One last thing, watch through the credits for what very well may be a hint about where the next Dragon Age game will take place.

I can hardly wait

For years, Bioware has been one of my favorite game developers when it comes to RPGs. There are a number of reasons why but it all really comes down to one main thing — the story. The first Bioware game I remember playing is Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. That was quickly followed by Jade Empire. Later came the Mass Effect trilogy and the three Dragon Age games. I have played these games across platforms and, for a few, have them for both console and PC.

I’m not one of those who demands that the main playable character be female just because I am. Nor do I worry about what their race or sexual orientation might be. What I worry about are gameplay mechanics and story. Both are integral for my enjoyment of a game but, in an RPG, story takes on even more importance than it does in any other sort of video game.

It’s been a year or more since I’ve put any real game time into playing the Mass Effect games. Instead, I’d been immersed in games like the three Borderlands games, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Tomb Raider and more. I’d revisited games like the Ratchet and Clank games on PS3 (and PS2). Let’s not forget Jax and Daxter as well. All are fun and all for different reasons.

E3 2015 has been going on this week. For those not familiar with it, E3 is sort of like Disneyland for gamers. It is when the major studios and developers announce their upcoming games. Sometimes we get to see in-game play. Other times, we get in-game cinematics. Among the most dramatic announcements this year was the upcoming Fallout 4 and the upcoming release of Final Fantasy VII for Xbox One. For me, one of the highlights was seeing the video from Mass Effect: Andromeda, the long awaited next game in the Mass Effect galaxy.

Bioware hasn’t said much about ME: Andromeda yet. It has said this:

[T]his game is very much a new adventure, taking place far away from and long after the events of the original trilogy. You will play a human, male or female, though that’s actually not the character you saw in the trailer (more on that later). You’ll be exploring an all-new galaxy, Andromeda, and piloting the new and improved Mako you saw. And through it all, you will have a new team of adventurers to work with, learn from, fight alongside of, and fall in love with.

That last sentence is the essence of much of the philosophy surrounding Bioware games. They want a game the gamer can become fully immersed in. There is more to the game than running escort missions or hunter-gather missions. You can develop relationships with the non-playable characters. You can romance them, if you want. If Bioware follows past history, and I know of no reason why it won’t, those romances can be hetero or gay. It doesn’t matter. You choose the path you take, and that includes celibacy.

For now, ME: Andromeda is scheduled to drop during the holiday season of 2016. That is a long time away. Next year’s E3 will give us more, hopefully some gameplay footage as well as an actual release date. Until then, I will play the original Mass Effect trilogy again, maybe more than once since it has been awhile since I last played it. For now, here is the trailer for the upcoming game.

 

 

Revisiting an Old Friend

I love video games. I’ve never made a secret of that. They are what I do in the evening when watching TV with my mother. (Frankly, it is the only way to keep my sanity when she wants to watch her reality TV.) I sit on the sofa with my laptop and am able to do something I enjoy while keeping her company. That’s very important now that she is getting older. Anyway, I digress.

Because of various reasons, I wound up doing a clean install of my gaming laptop a couple of weeks ago. Yes, I backed up my saved game files. But, as I reinstalled some of my favorite games, it gave me the chance to consider whether I wanted to throw those save files onto the HD or start anew. With a couple of games, like Dragon Age: Inquisition where I am still working for 100% completion, and Borderlands 2, I opted not to do so. I still have the files backed up but, if I wanted to play the games again, why not start off clean?

And that brings me around to the reason for this post. Earlier this week, I started replaying the Mass Effect games, starting with the original. Yes, I’ve already played them all several times. Yes, I know the so-called problems with the ending of ME3. I don’t care. Bioware did something very right with this series, something that lets me return to it from time to time and still enjoy playing it.

It cared enough to give us a story we can lose ourselves in. That is why so many people screamed and yelled and pitched a fit over the way ME3 ended. We had lived and breathed as Commander Shepherd, metaphorically speaking, for so long, we couldn’t accept the way the trilogy ended. Even when Bioware issued the “fix”, it wasn’t enough. It was better but, damn it, we wanted Shepherd to live and be reunited with her crew and her love.

Yes, her. That is something else Bioware did right, as it often does. It allowed you to spec out Shepherd to be male or female, gay or straight, good or bad. It let you become invested in a character you would spend hours and hours with over the course of the three games and the various DLCs. I played the games as male and as female. I’ve played as gay, straight and who-gives-a-damn. I’ve played it as good and bad.

So I’ve returned to the Mass Effect universe. This time, I’m playing as a female Shepherd. It’s still too early into ME to decide if I’m going to be good or bad, much less to decide who I’m going to romance — if I romance anyone. And you know what, it doesn’t matter. I’m enjoying myself and that’s all that matters.

I’ll admit, sitting down with ME1 is a little frustrating. The graphics aren’t as sharp as newer games and the gameplay is a bit dodgy at times. But it doesn’t really impact my enjoyment of the game. That’s especially true because I hadn’t played the original Mass Effect in something close to three years. That means I don’t remember where everything is and there are times things happen that surprise me. So my decisions won’t be the same as the last time I played it.

I’ll admit something else as well. ME1 is probably my least favorite of the series. But that’s okay, I still enjoyed it. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be replaying it now. In my opinion, the game suffers from the same issues many first entries in a series — book or film or game — often do. It has to build the history and foundation for the series. Bioware does a pretty good job with that part of it. With newer game engines for ME2 and ME3, the gameplay became more fun.

Of the games, ME2 is my favorite. More on that when I start replaying it. Until then, there are Reapers to defeat and plots to uncover. Who knows, there might even be a romance or two to enjoy along the way.

wallpaper-021-femshep-p

 

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