About this post(and others)
I planned a long winded boring post on Dragon Age Inquisition and after reading the draft I deleted the draft and decided to redo it in a more fun style. So I let my two Nekos chat about Dragon Age. I had to bribe them with ice-cream because Jenney Penney doesn’t play games much, but only reads books and stuff like that and Krisp doesn’t like hurting things so she only plays games like Tetris, the Sims or Lollipop Chainsaw.) Because we need a level of supposed professionalism I will throw in the occasional remark.
Here are my two nekos so you get an idea of where this is going.
“Why is it called Dragon Age?” Krisp said while she was drinking a cup of mint tea very slowly cause it was hot.
“Cause it got a lot of dragons?” Jenney she shifted her glasses and bowed towards the screen because she was trying to get her party of heroes to deal with a huge lizard like creature.
“Won’t be any left after we are through.. We are going to kill like a whole lot of them and then we get to be called Dragon Hunter! Look.. we just need eight more.”
“Poor dragons. Whatever did they do to earn such treatment?”
“Well, eh.. it is part of a quest. Kill ten dragons and you did the quest! Like the quest to gather ten elfroots so the healer can heal people. Not that they seem to bother anyone.. except maybe for that first dragon that has scared off some dwarves who were operating a mine. And maybe those three in the Emprise who are nesting in human buildings.”
(Merit: it seems that standing in the way of free enterprise gets dragons killed.)
“Maybe people get a bit nervous when there are big flying creatures about that can eat them. I would be!”
“Some of these big creatures live in remote desert places..Not that it saves them from being done in by my band of marauding heroes! I got to finish this quest don’t I? Can’t have a 9 out of 10 score! Can’t be an almost-got-them-all-dragon-hunter. It is all or nothing!”
“Sounds more like a dragon exterminator than a dragon hunter to me.. doesn’t it?”
“.. And after we are done they have to change the title of the series from Dragon Age to.. eh…Undragon Age? Hurlock Age?”
“Whatever species is next in line to be exterminated.”
“Anyway, after we done with the dragons we are going to save the world.”
“Or die trying,” Krisp giggles.
“And then reload to try again.” Jenney said.
“So what did you like about the game so far?”
“I like the lookies. Look at the nice landscapes. And with the sounds and effects they are nice.”
“I like some of the art. Like those cards. I like the style,” Jenney said. It is different from the rest of the game. Cannot say why. ”
“And this creepy statue^^.”
“Yes.. very creepy. Reminds me of this artist Giger.The prettiest I think is the card from Leliana, the red hair with the black raven and the white skin. Very pretty combination.””
“And I like these little games.. with the stars and such!” Krisp made signs in the air as if she drawing lines.
“Oh the constellation games. Yes.. those are funny.”
“A bit of a break in the constant killing that makes up for most of the game. Nobody dies from drawing lines between stars on a map of the sky.”
“Uhm… not directly, although they lead to hidden treasure that basically is made up out of items you can use to kill better.”
“Kill..Kill… Kill! A short chat, then more killing. Turn in some thingies. More killing after that.”
“It is that kind of game.”
“There are games that don’t have constant killing as entertainment. Like beyond Good and Evil or The Cat Lady or This war of mine or The Walking Dead..”
“But it is that kind of game.”
“I know.. but there is so much of it that it is no longer exciting.”
“Hmmm. It gets tedious after a while, even if they change your opponents. It has a tendency to become a grind.”
“But to remain positive: I liked the characters such as Cassandra.”
“Yes, lets’ have some screenies of the most awesome character in Dragon Age Inquisition: Cassandra.”
“Well. In my opinion, because she has a lot of background story and interaction with the main character so she is seems more real than most. Also she seems pretty normal so it is easier to feel a connection with her.”
“And who would be the least awesome?”
“Uh,, I dunno, but that might be Cole, although I felt the most disappointed about Blackwall. He has a great background story.. but they make a… let’s keep that for later. So the least awesome to me would be Cole or Iron Bull.”
“I think Sera is the most awesome,” Krisp giggles.
“Yes.. I love her silly remarks. She is a brat!”
“She is a teen: unpredictable, bratty, opinionated, childish and untamed. She speaks before she thinks. She is very hard to please as you have no idea how her reaction will. She is almost the opposite in character of Cassandra, who is dependable and sturdy, although she has her uncertain moments and doubts in areas she feels out of her dept and their interaction is funny. She is also certainly the opposite of Vivienne, who is a proponent of everything Sera hates: a high society lady full of herself who is also a magic-user. It amazes me that there isn’t a kind of clash between the two as they were made to be enemies.”
“So let us recap. The good: the mood of the game, the various art and the characters and the occasional mini games.”
“And now the bad!”
“Do we have to?”
“You don’t, because I know you don’t like that. So I just do it myself with a little bit of help from Dreary.”
“There is much you can say against Dragon Age Inquisition gamewise.. People moaned about the fetch quests, and they groaned at the hampered pc controls. But you know… you can live with those. Even the controls you get used to eventually. So it is all cool…” Dreary lighted her smoke and coughed.
“… but for the bad story. Oh geez, how the storyline sucks. They made a whopping big game. A Titanic of a game.. and it hits the iceberg of bad writing. Dragon Age Inquistion has by far the worst story of all the three installments. It’s not just a crappy story in itself, it is just really badly told as well.”
“Uhm,,, wish to elaborate?”
“Well, a good story needs a few key ingredients. Let’s hold this game against the checklist of good story elements. Just Google for key story elements and you get something like this: the best stories have a strong theme, a fascinating plot, a fitting structure, unforgettable characters, a well-chosen setting, and an appealing style.”
“Okay. let’s check them,” Jenney smiled.
“One: strong theme… Care to figure what theme they got?”
“Good guys overcome evil?”
“Yeah, that is about it. It is like. Let’s have them beat evil once more. Nothing my mam can’t come up with!”
“But Dreary, almost all games are like that… with the exception of a few.”
“Well, true.. but this is just step one. Not very original.. Let’s get to step two: fascinating plot.”
“So? Is it fascinating?”
“The plot? I think it comes down to: evil threatens the overwhelm world while the world is busy with their petty disputes, but a hero comes and unites the world to face the evil.”
“And the hero is you.”
“Sounds like dragon age I.”
“Yeah.. archdemon threathens Ferelden, while the continent is busy with petty disputes and internal strife, but a hero comes and unites Ferelden to fight the evil. Just need to swap out Ferelden for Thedas and the war with that traitor is like the war between the templars and the wizards. Same story, same plot, different names.”
“It is not orginal.”
“Nope.. and it gets worse, for we are not there yet. I would want to discuss structure later because it is the single most badly executed element of the whole, so we keep that for last. Let’s get to element four: unforgetable characters. So.. care to recall any of the characters?”
“I think Krisp and me liked Cassandra and Sera. I think Leliana, Jospehine and Cullen spring to mind because you interact a lot with them. I liked especially Cullen’s background story. Of course Morrigan makes an impression as always.. although she has doesn’t appear much in the story. And Flemeth has a very strong personality but she only appears for a very short moment.”
“Well.. who do you recall, Dreary?”
“I recall that obnoxious git Dorian, and that arrogant <censored> Vivienne because they are full of themselves. And of the adversaries: Lord Lucius and Samson. I can’t even recall the name of the main villain. I call him Sicko, cause his name was something like Cyco. Oh and that Tevinter guy in that funny suit that looked like a clown outfit who takes over the control of the wizards at Redcliffe… But by far the worst thing I recall is the background story of Blackwall.”
“Let’s discuss the Blackwall story.. as I found it rather farfetched myself and it showed so much potential.”
<for those who do not like spoilers, please skip this bit<spoiler> and continue after when you see <spoiler end>
“So the background story of Blackwall in a nutshell is that he is actually a mercenary captain called Thom Rainier and he assumed Blackwalls identity after Blackwall got killed by some Hurlocks and just after Blackwall recruited Rainier. Rainier is therefore not a grey warden, but a poser twicefold. In addition Rainier is responsible for a massacre of a group of innocent people for which his men now pay the bloody price. Rainier feels guilty and confesses when he sees one of his men about to be executed.”
“Okay.. so what is wrong with this, you might ask? Well for one. Why did the original Blackwall recruit Rainier? Remember that grey wardens recruit new grey wardens when they show certain abilities and have the potential to survive their test. So why would Blackwall recruit this former mercenary captain that was lying low because he was one the run? At what point did he figure Rainier for a grey warden? He must have gotten an idea of the potential of this man, but at what time did he have to time to do so? It is not told. But then the assuming of Blackwall’s identity. It is utter stupidity. Now anyone familiar with Blackwall would be a danger to Thom, including anyone who knew the old Rainier. So he now runs two kinds of dangers. What a strange thing to do.
But then comes the last bit that makes the whole so unbelievable. Blackwall strikes me as a stable levelheaded guy with a strong moral code. My god, he is even carving wood statues. He so dependable and levelheaded that he is boring. Am I to belief that this guy is supposed to be a soldier who killed innocent people for money, then suddenly saw the light and turned away from his former live and made a major shift in his character to fit the new Blackwall identity? It requires some good writing to explain that change. And there is nothing. It is just: well I felt bad about killing people and I got the opportunity to pretend to be a grey warden, so I took it. Nothing during the whole story line leads up to this. Nobody comes along and says: hey you look like this Rainier chap. Or someone who knew Blackwall saying: oh hey.. you don’t look like him at all. In fact Rainier doesn’t even try to avoid other grey wardens.”
“This strange handling of characters pops up at every corner. Take Leliana for instance. At some point you go with her to a small temple. At this temple is a sister who turns out to be a spy for someone who is against Leliana becoming the new pope.”
“I think it was not the pope.. it was something like the Divine, ” Jenney said.
“Whatever… So at some moment Leliana turns on this woman and slits her throat even though you try to talk her out of it. It not only shows her to be a cold hearted <censored>, but it seems totally out of character. She is a spymaster willing to kill if necessary, but at no time, not in any other moment she strikes you as a cold hearted killer of unarmed people. In fact in DA1 she tells you that she opted out of this killing business because she hated it. But now she changes and does in this unarmed woman and tells you that she will deal with all her opponents in the same way because that is how you deal with them. In fact.. when the game ends she gets to be elected the new Divine and you get told how her reign is quite bloody. And you see it coming, but you get no say in this, even though the game suggest that you have a say in supporting who becomes the divine.”
“But without a doubt the worst character handling in the whole DA series is Flemeth who made the journey from an evil witch in DA1 who kills people to extend her lifespan, to helpful scary woman in DA2 who somehow survived her death in DA1, to finally morph into good Elven goddess in DA3 without any explanation or story line to illustrate this change. It makes no sense. It doesn’t follow from what went before and it isn’t explained or made visible during the games. It just gets dropped on you: oh by the way, you know that Flemeth person? The evil witch that kills people? She is a goddess of Justice!”
“But probably the worst handling of a character of DA3 is the main villain Sicko(Merit: Dreary means Corypheus) . He is just so run of the mill that you totally feel nothing when you kill him. He’s a flat uninspired generic baddie with no characteristic at all. He has nothing of the epic badguys that have at least some background and unique personality to them that gets revealed during the game. Even better: he should reveals a flaw in his being that eventually can be exploited by the hero. Instead he is just the disappointing endpoint of a series of bosses of which he is no doubt the worst in character and in a fight he is actually easy to beat. All the other badguys have more personality, more depth and more storyline. Sicko has nothing of the sarcasm of Irenicus from Baldur’s Gate two. He has nothing of the irony and mirth Zinyak from Saints Row IV. He holds no candle to cold calculating superiority of Sovereign from Masseffect 1(when you get to speak to him the first time this is such a great moment.) or the Saren, who at the end, when you confront him seems almost to come over, but then cries out that he can’t resist the reaper.. A main villain should hang over the game like a sword of damocles. If he is to be the ultimate scare, he should not be revealed until the last moment, if he is to be the obvious opponent he should gleefully mock the hero during setbacks. When he traps the hero, he should be arrogant and leave the room, saying something like: finish this maggot, showing his disdain for the hero by turning his back to him or her and leaving him or her to be finished by an underling. He should get under the skin of the player and be in his every thought. The player should either hate him or pity him. He should invoke a profound feeling for this ultimate enemy. But you feel nothing for Sicko.”
“That is my opinion,” Dreary smiled mirthlessly.
“Alright.. I think we can skip the well-chosen setting and an appealing style for most of it has been addressed above and the post is getting long, ” Jenney said.
“Okay. Let’s get to structure.”
“How about the structure?”
“Isn’t that more of a your thing.”
“Alright. I think on a basic level it is okay.. but it never shines. Most of the structure in the story is pretty fixed even thought there is an illusion of freedom. The story simply follows a straight line that runs from: an evil appears to the evil gets defeated. There is a nice moment somewhere at the start that has a twist and I wished they had more of those, but in hindsight it seems almost as if it was just an excuse to give you a cool castle.”
“But this one nice twist is offset by a bad one: the Halamshiral episode. This is the one where you visit the court of Orlais to settle who will become the ruler of Orlais as Orlais is made impotent by a civil war and you have to put the power of the Inquisition behind one of the contenders to force a decision, have peace in Orlais and gain a powerful ally. On the face of it you are introduced into a game of intrigue. The intent seems to be that you gather information to figure out who is who and who is playing who for a fool. In fact.. it is a kind of detective story in which you have to find the clues(and proof?) that shows you who is plotting against who and then you use this to your own advantage.”
“There is even a mechanism to do this. You have a time constraint that goes up and down depending on how much clout you have with the nobility of Orlais. If your influence drops to zero you get removed from court. So you get to work to gather evidence and while you do so you have to hold off the persistent attempts of the game to force you to make a decision. And then at the end all that work is pointless as the bad person just drops the guise and reveals herself by attacking you. So the next thing you do is just to reveal this bad person in a classic detective showdown where you just spout some accusations and the villain breaks down and confesses. It doesn’t require any effort on your part. It is just shown in cut scenes and the outcome is fixed. The whole plot and gathering of evidence is a total waste of time as it never gets used in any fashion. Afterwards you get to choose who of the contenders becomes the ruler in a totally silly ending in which apparently the side that looses just throws in the towel merely because you tell them to.”
“It is silly.”
“It is silly and garbled.”
“A masterpiece of nonsense.”
“And that is about it really. It is trite, incoherent, the characters are badly made and the structure rambles. ”
“Yet is is hugely popular…”
“Because it offers a lot of other things. You don’t really need a good storyline to make a buck. It just has to be a good game.”
“As a story it is therefore not very great.”
Dragon Age is a mediocre tale that has a few gems to make it shine but these are offset by awful moments. Overall the story rambles, is illogical or nonsensical. Characters can shine, such as Cassandra, but others are bland, such as Cole or Iron Bull, or handled in a strange manner, such as Leliana and Blackwall. Also it seems few decisions make for a different story. The story just follows the same line, perhaps with a few detours. This makes it less interesting to do a second or a third throughplay.
However, despite the mediocre tale, the game keeps being epic just because of it’s size, it’s gorgeous landscapes, the many small details of artistry.
I will try to collect links to other people writing about the stories of Dragon Age. If you have any of yourself, let me know or email..
This is: http://johnswritersblock.com/2014/12/02/ending-dragonage-inquisition/
The Problem with Dragon Age