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Big Games Aren’t All That

Gamers are obsessed with size. I can understand why, there is a belief (which is probably correct but I can’t prove it with figures) that games have gotten considerably shorter as production costs have vastly increased. Therefore gamers love hearing a game is 80 hours long rather than the usual 20 – 30. The trouble is I’m not convinced this makes for better games.

Dragon Age: Inquisition has finally ground down my enthusiasm for the game to the point I can’t continue. In a way I had the same problem with Dragon Age: Origins, it was also too long, but I could turn down the difficulty towards the end and get through the slaughter fest between the point I was ready for the denouncement and the point it finally gave it to me.

Dragon Age II I quite liked. I liked the singular location. I liked the framed narrative looking back on events. Okay, you got a lot of environment repetition but I wasn’t overly concerned about this. I didn’t finish it, but I preferred it to what I am being offered in Inquisition. In a way, Dragon Age II felt a bit more like Mass Effect.

Inquisition is just too damned big and not in a good way. Even your base of operations, Skyhold is big, it takes forever to get around. People complain about the lift in the original Mass Effect running around Skyhold is twice as annoying as I remember Mass Effect being. You know something has gone wrong when your base of operations has fast travel points? Epic fail.

Then you have the way the game is constructed which continually opens up vast maps. True, they are pretty vast, which for some people is quite impressive, but I’d rather have something focused, based on a driving narrative. Instead you’re given endless, banal quests across these vast landscapes. You also have to open up camps. It just involves a lot of wondering around. Okay, the landscapes are pretty, but this soon gets boring and what the game lacks is interesting adventure environments like a castle, a dungeon, an ancient temples, etc, to do exciting stuff in.

It’s just all very banal.

There is just very little dramatic excitement.Possibly, there is a way to avoid all this, some sort of way to do the main quest and avoid this extreme MMO-like banality? I’ve not figured it out yet. This suggests, that if there is, it’s lost on the ‘bigness’ of the game, as I’m not going to bring myself to say epic. It is a bad sign if this is the future of game design and if this is what the wants of gamers has degenerated to: the equivalent of training the mouse by giving it cheese, it’s a sad indictment of the future.

I admit I am the wrong audience.

Personally, I want every Bioware game to follow a Mass Effect model rather than a Dragon Age model. Mass Effect always felt more immediate, more character driven, more focused and, while it had side-quests (which included the very epic, personally driven character ones) some sort of combination of it being an FPS and involving whizzing around in a spaceship meant it just all happened faster. Hell, Mass Effect 2 was like a story game character study all mixed up with a Magnificent Seven sort of vibe compared to Dragon Age. It was very clever.

I certainly don’t want my Bioware games to be more like Skyrim, which I also couldn’t get into.I find it increasingly depressing that ‘open world’ is the new hotness. Everything has to pursue it. It feels a bit like when the FPS genre hit the shelves and everything felt like it gravitated to being one of those. I don’t like ‘open worlds’, they lack focus. I don’t want 1001 things to do and it is my choice which incredibly average thing I should do. I want a focused narrative in which I can play a meaningful game with meaningful choices in while still seeing new and exciting vistas.

I want Arkham Asylum, not Arkham City.

I don’t want to explore a city finding interesting corners, or collecting crap. Arkham Asylum was fantastic, while Arkham City was okay, the greatness that was its predecessor sacrificed on the altar of being ‘longer’ and an ‘open world’.These things are rarely, truly longer in a good way, they just get filled with busy work and collectable contents that seem to appeal to a gaming mind-set that I abhor. All I can hope is the baffling success of Inquisition does not send a signal to Bioware that they need to pollute Mass Effect with the principles on which it is designed.

I very much doubt I am going to progress much further with Dragon Age: Inquisition. It’s really done my head in. If some way to fast tack the core experience of the game presents itself without experiencing scaling issues, etc, then I may try that. Possibly, as I’d then have to get over the fact the characters don’t speak as dramatic entities, they are really boring, the setting is banal, the combats are just button mashing, etc, etc. At the moment, I just can’t face it. I fully admit I just don’t get how people can see it as a great game.

It’s depressing.

About Ian O'Rourke

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