Monday, 29 December 2014

The Clayton Awards 2014

Game of the Year 2014 - Alien Isolation


‘Alien: Isolation initially struggled to win me over, but when it did, I was completely hooked. It’s an incredible piece of work and in many ways, it’s amazing it was made at all, given how risk-adverse AAA games have become. Isolation certainly isn’t going to be a game for everyone but I think a lot of people will come to adore it, despite its imperfections.’

Most Disappointing Game of 2014 - Burial at Sea (DLC)


‘Overall, Burial at Sea, even if you’re a fan, like me, of the core game, is simply best avoided. It adds nothing to the experience or to the characters. If anything it ruins aspects of both Infinite and the original Bioshock. I’ll concede it has a few nice moments (the torture scene was very well done) but not enough to save it. With a poorly paced and ill-conceived plot, combined with badly executed and dull gameplay, Burial at Sea is simply not worth your time. Let it sink to the bottom.’ (Full Review)

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Now Playing: Bloodlines

Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines is a RPG originally released back in 2004. I actually bought it on release, but the game was plagued by various technical issues and bugs and as a result, I never progressed very far before giving up on the title. Years later, however, I decided to give Bloodlines another shot, this time using an unofficial fan patch. Despite its flaws, Bloodlines developed a strong cult following and it’s not hard to see why.

You play as a fledgling – a newly ‘born’ vampire. You have the choice of belonging to one of seven vampire clans. This choice primarily determines your appearance and certain special abilities, but can also affect how you play and approach various missions in the game. For example, playing as a Nosferatu vampire offers a very different gameplay experience than playing as a Ventrue.


You can play the game in either third or first person. Although linear in terms of story (at least until towards the very end), you may progress and develop your character at your own pace. You gain access to four main hub areas (in addition to several mission specific locations) each of which contain various side quests to discover and complete for experience.

The game has rudimentary stealth and combat systems, both of which are tied to specific skills and stats which you can increase by spending experience points. You have ‘core’ stats relating to strength, dexterity and stamina, and then sub-stats relating to specific skills such as security (lock picking), firearms, computer (hacking) as well as various speech related skills – seduction, intimidation and persuasion.

The story follows your character as he or she moves through vampire society, interacting with various factions and characters both human and not. The plot revolves primarily around the discovery of an ancient sarcophagus which some believe heralds the apocalypse. As a fledgling, you’re seen as more of a tool to be used by those in power, all of whom have their own agenda. As you play through the various missions you’ll choose how you want to interact with these factions and who you want to support, if you wish to support any of them at all.


Missions can generally be completed in various ways. For example, you may use your speech skills to talk your way past a guard, or you may sneak around back and use a lock pick. Violence is always an option, of course, but there are certain rules you must adhere to as a member of vampire society. This is what they call ‘the masquerade’. The world doesn’t know about the existence of your kind (or various other supernatural creatures) and it’s your job to keep it that way.

I honestly couldn’t describe the gameplay as more than ‘serviceable’ though. Stealth and combat (whether melee or ranged), are both pretty basic, although you do get access to a decent and varied selection of weapons. That said, the melee combat feels lightweight and guns aren’t exactly satisfying to use. Enemies are mostly forgettable fodder with dumb AI.

Lock picking and hacking are also very basic. Everything does its job, but it’s really not why you want to keep playing Bloodlines. It’s important to note, however, that all of these skills are tied to the stats system, so some (such as melee combat) can feel rather useless and ineffective until you’ve pumped some experience points into them.


And although I said you can complete missions in various ways, that’s unfortunately not always true. There are times when the game forces combat upon you, which means if you’ve neglected to upgrade such skills you’ll be in for a rough time. Even though this was my third time playing, I still forgot to put any points in combat skills before a certain quest early on in which you can neither talk nor sneak your way out of a fight. I ended up using some rather cheese tactics combined with my vampire abilities to get through it.

There’s another section later on in the game where you’re trudging through sewers and you’ll really be f**ked without any combat skills. The ending missions in particular are very heavily combat focused. It’s certainly something to keep in mind as you progress.

So Bloodlines does have issues with certain missions in terms of not catering to varied approaches. It’s gameplay can also feel rather clunky and dated, especially in terms of combat. The final run of missions also feel rushed and lazily designed, relying far too much on just throwing a lot of bad guys at the player to fight. That said, Bloodlines is still a great game, and this is largely down to how it handles the story, setting and characters.

The way the game slowly introduces and builds the world around the player is fantastic. It’s a fascinating world to explore, full of intriguing and varied characters and creatures. The story holds your attention as you’re sent scurrying from one location to the next on a hunt for this mysterious sarcophagus. Along the way you’ll meet all kinds of great, memorable characters. Bloodlines has a fantastic cast with excellent VA, and it gives the player a limited degree of freedom in how you respond and interact with them.


The game is also sprinkled with a lot of humour, either through various things in the world (such as e-mails you can read, or radio shows you can listen to) but also through your dialogue options. The conversations in Bloodlines are handled brilliantly. It’s rare for conversations in RPGs to feel so ‘natural’. In the recently released Inquisition, for example, conversations can feel rather flat and monotonous as you exhaust all your options and characters just rattle off long winded monologues full of dry exposition. But in Bloodlines, dialogue is kept snappy and to the point. They feel real, like you’re interacting with real people who don’t have the time or patience for your endless questions and bullshit. There’s a flow to them that feels very natural. I really wish more RPGs would take a similar approach to dialogue and speech interactions.

I think I’ll wrap this up because I really don’t want to get into any more specifics and risk spoiling things regarding Bloodlines. It’s a great game, one which I think any fan of RPGs should play. Yes, the actual gameplay may feel a bit dated, but once you start boosting your various skills, things aren’t so bad and you soon grow accustomed to it.

The game holds up fairly well graphically, offering a nice variety of locations and environments. It has a good story, but it’s the world and characters where Bloodlines truly excels. As far as I’m concerned, it’s simply one of the best games ever made in regard to these elements. I’d actually rate it better than similar titles such as Deus Ex or System Shock 2 in those areas. It’s just a shame the ‘game’ part of Bloodlines is what lets it down a little. Recommended.

8/10

Friday, 19 December 2014

The Hatred Controversy

What is Hatred?

Hatred first came to my attention through a series of articles in the games media, the majority of which, to one degree or the other, condemned the game for literally being THE DEVIL. The trailer apparently demonstrated an extreme/unacceptable/uncomfortable (take your pick) level of violence based around an unpleasant premise – a murder-spree.

I was naturally intrigued. Could a game really be so shocking? We’ve seen such moral outrage many times throughout the history of this medium, but to see such condemnation from the games media itself was surprising.

So I watched the trailer. My response? I began to laugh. The trailer opens with a hilariously terrible monologue delivered by the growling, trench coat clad ‘antagonist’ (which is how the developer’s refer to the player character). I wasn’t sure if this was intended to be a joke or not, given how over the top and silly it was.

The trailer then transitions into gameplay footage, revealing an isometric twin stick shooter in a black and white world, where the only other colour you’ll see in abundance is the red of the blood of your victims. This isn’t the first game to employ such a stylised colour clash – MadWorld, released on the Wii of all platforms, had a strikingly similar aesthetic.

You are a spree-killer on a mission to kill as many people as possible before you die - ‘Only brutality and destruction can clear this land. Only the killing spree will make you die spectacularly and go to hell.

Charming.

Before we continue, it should be noted that we only have a minute or so of spliced together gameplay footage to base our assumptions upon. Please keep that in mind. It’s amazing how much has been written about a game of which we still know so little.

Violence

Whilst the subject matter of Hatred may be described as ‘distasteful’ to say the least, I considered the actual violence on display in the trailer to be rather tame considering the media reaction. There have been many games released which are just as violent, graphic and brutal – if not more so! – than Hatred.

This year a game was released to exceptional critical acclaim – Shadow of Mordor. When I reviewed the title I described it as ‘Orc Murder Simulator 2014’. It’s a game primarily based around a combat system which allows you to kill your opponents in an increasingly brutal and violent manner. You dismember and decapitate your foes, the camera zooming in and switching to slow motion ‘execution’ scenes. Oh, and you can also make their heads explode.

You may argue that Mordor has a context that Hatred lacks. In Mordor you butcher (and enslave) orcs, not people! I’ll talk more about context later, but for now, I just want to make the point that the violence we’ve seen thus far in Hatred, on a purely mechanical level, is no worse than one of the top selling and critically received titles of the year. If anything, it’s tame by comparison.

Virtual Things

So why is such violence acceptable against orcs, but not people? This is purely my own personal take on the matter, but to me, I see no difference. I’m not slaughtering orcs or people. I’m slaughtering virtual things. They are not orcs, nor people, in the same way they are neither ‘good’ ‘bad’ or ‘innocent’ because a collection of polygons/pixels can be none of these.

If Hatred was another zombie shooter, there would be no controversy. Likewise, if you were fighting demons (in human form) or ‘terrorists’. I’m beginning to stray into the ‘context’ discussion so I’ll try to wrap this point up. On a core level (and this applies to many games) you are not shooting ‘innocent’ people in Hatred. You are not shooting ‘people’ at all. You are shooting virtual things. Yes, this is essentially the ‘it’s not real’ argument. But I think it’s a valid point to make.

The importance of context

From what I’ve seen, Hatred, on a mechanical level, is no more violent than many other games. But as many people have pointed out, Hatred apparently lacks a context for said violence. It doesn’t appear to be satirical in the same manner as GTA or Postal 2 (a game in which you can murder someone and piss on their corpse). And whilst you can embark on a murderous spree against unarmed civilians in those titles (as you may in many others, usually of the open world variety), it’s the player’s choice to do so.

Many games use combat as a way to test and challenge the player. Hatred claims it does the same - ‘You will also run, you will need to think, you will need to hide and fight back when armored forces will come to take you down.’ Because you’re not just killing unarmed civilians in Hatred. You, perhaps in a similar manner to a GTA spree, face off against the police and ‘stronger forces’ yet to be revealed.

Many games are violent. Some needlessly so. I criticised the Tomb Raider reboot for this very reason. It was a game which I felt strayed too far into silly, over the top (not to mention tedious) shoot-outs as Lara gunned down hundreds of dudes. But the game told us that these were ‘bad’ guys, so that made it okay, right?

When I played Watch_Dogs earlier this year, the game gave me the option of preventing criminal acts – a mugging, for example. It allowed me to chase and execute the mugger without penalty. The context, one may argue, is that the mugger was ‘bad’. But does that justify murder?

As I see it, the context for committing extreme violence in many games may be described as ‘flimsy’ at best. And Hatred is not the first game to offer little to no context to said violence. DEFCON comes to mind, a game in which you murder ‘innocent’ people by the MILLIONS and you are given no context for doing so.

A typical game will see civilian casualties numbering in the millions (megadeaths)’. ‘Players' scores are determined according to one of three schemes: Default (gain 2 points for 1 megadeath caused, lose 1 point for 1 megadeath suffered), Survivor (gain 1 point per million survivors in your territory) or Genocide (gain 1 point for each megadeath caused)

Nice.

But here’s the thing, Hatred does provide a context. The developer describes it as a ‘Mad journey into the Antagonist's hateful mind.’ There is a context to the violence, whether you agree that context is acceptable or not.

An artistic medium

I see video games as an artistic medium, no different to literature or film. And in many ways, I’d argue that video games can illicit a far wider range of emotional reactions given their interactive nature. But if you accept the notion that games have artistic value (to a debatable degree depending on title) then I think it’s important to be willing to accept games like Hatred. Just as a film like Boyhood can be produced alongside The Human Centipede, Hatred has a right to exist alongside titles such as the recently announced Life Is Strange.

It may not have been the developer’s intention, (who have quite happily profited by such a wave of negative publicity) to explore any meaningful themes. They may not even see their own title as having any artistic value. However, the game has enabled a fascinating debate regarding violence and context in this medium. It’s an important debate to have, and it’s important for titles like Hatred to push these boundaries.

I want games to challenge, not just on a mechanical level. I want a variety of experiences which explore and enable emotional reactions both good and bad. Hatred may turn out to be no more than a mediocre ‘shock’ game designed to sell on controversy. But so what? We’ll quickly forget it, and move on.

I know people are worried about ‘outside’ perceptions when a game like Hatred appears. Just as literature, music, comics and film before it, video games are the scapegoat of choice for sensationalist media. And a game like Hatred is like dangling a juicy steak above them. But let’s face it, when even a game like Microsoft Flight Simulator can be accused of enabling terrorism who the f**k cares what they say or think? If it’s not Hatred, it would only be something else.

In Britain concerns about Microsoft Flight Simulator being used as a tool to teach terrorists caused two major retailers, Virgin Megastores and Woolworths, to remove the software from their shelves.

(http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-357006/The-flight-software-trains-terrorists.html)

Ha!

Grow up!

As I said at the start, the reaction of game media itself has surprised me. Perhaps it shouldn’t. I’ve avoided visiting such sites for many years now for various reasons I won’t go into here. Certainly people are entitled to their opinions, but some articles (written as ‘news’ pieces apparently) do little more than make snide, or flat out rude remarks about the Hatred development team or those who may wish to play the title. See this piece in particular - http://www.pcgamer.com/hatred-reinstated-on-steam-greenlight/

Is this really the direction we want for game media? To attack game developers because they disagree with their content? To deride their own audience? More disturbingly, it feels like there is a push for a smear campaign against the Hatred development team - http://www.polygon.com/2014/12/18/7417045/hatred-free-speech-and-one-developers-connections-with-polands-far

Would another developer come under such heavy scrutiny? Is it now considered acceptable to dig into the personal life of a developer? If I recall correctly, many game media sites condemned such a practice not so long ago and considered it a form of harassment.

But game media itself has come under a similar level of scrutiny recently, so perhaps this is simply the reaction. By lining up to condemn and belittle Hatred, those who developed it and those who would support it, these articles have only served to a create a situation whereby voting for Hatred on Steam Greenlight now appears to be more of a vote against such regressive attitudes as it does for the game itself.

You may accuse the game of being immature and abhorrent, but to print such tenuous connections between a developer and particular political views in an attempt to discredit them is even more so. Especially when Hatred does not seem to espouse any political viewpoint. Indeed, it revels in the fact that there is little point to it at all!

And that’s totally fine.

I don’t know if I’ll play Hatred. I will if I think it will be an interesting experience, just as I played Gone Home, The Stanley Parable, Papers, Please! or the upcoming Life Is Strange. I voted for Hatred because it’s important, whether the developers intended it to be or not. The last thing we need is a return to the ‘ban this sick filth!’ campaigns of the past, especially not one fuelled by game media itself.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Now Playing: Dragon Age Inquisition

Dragon Age: Origins was a great game. Dragon Age 2, on the other hand, felt like an alpha build shat out in about 6 months. Which is a shame, because there are elements of DA 2 I enjoyed in terms of story, setting and characters. In some ways, I’d argue that the story of DA 2 is more interesting than in Origins. The story of Origins kept it simple – you are the chosen hero sent to slay the big, bad dragon. DA 2 broke free of this rather generic fantasy plot.

Unfortunately, Inquisition chooses to play it safe, returning to a more simple formula. You are the chosen hero, sent to slay the big, bad guy (plus his pet dragon). It has some good moments, but on the whole, it’s not as good as either Origins or 2. I’m going to try to keep this review as spoiler free as I can in terms of story, but I will get into a few specifics here and there as we go.

You custom build your character from a choice of four races, although sadly the choice of race has little impact on the plot or character interactions. This is something Origins did quite well, with each choice providing not only a unique prologue chapter, but various insights and decisions in relation to the main plot. In Inquisition, the choice of race and background is largely cosmetic.


Your character is the Inquisitor – the hero people believe was sent to save them from an army of invading demons. There are some interesting moments where the game explores whether you really are some kind of ‘chosen’ hero, or whether you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, but like I said, Inquisition generally plays it safe. If you’re looking for more depth, nuance or shades of grey, you won’t really find it here. Origins also had a darker tone to it, a little more grit, which applied not only to the story and characters, but also to combat. Inquisition feels far more sanitised by comparison in all of these areas.

So you have your main Story quests and I can’t honestly say that many of them are particularly memorable or interesting, at least in terms of gameplay (there was one story mission which revolved more around the political side of things, which I thought might be very cool, but ultimately it resulted in a lot of tedious running about searching for hidden objects). There are, however, a fantastic series of missions about a quarter of the way into the game. Unfortunately, these represent the high point of the story and everything which follows feels like something of an anticlimax.

Throughout the game you’ll spend time building your organisation – The Inquisition – into a major political and military power. But ultimately, very little of this preparation comes into play in any meaningful way. As a result, all of your efforts towards building the Inquisition feels rather wasted and worthless. As you complete missions in the game you earn ‘Power’ which represents the strength of the Inquisition, but finishing the game with 0 Power or 200 doesn’t make the slightest difference.

For example, you gain the ability to upgrade your stronghold. I expected these improvements to be more than simply cosmetic – something like the upgrades to the Normandy in Mass Effect 2, perhaps resulting in a siege battle where what upgrades you’ve chosen and allies you’ve gained each play their part in shaping the experience. But there’s nothing so dynamic or bold in Inquisition. Choices, large or small, are all largely cosmetic and have little to no impact on the story.


There’s also a serious lack of meaningful consequences to your decisions. At one point you must decide the fate of one of your companions. I chose an option which suggested the Inquisition would incur certain penalties, yet this never occurred. This is a problem with a lot of the decisions in Inquisition. I suppose it stems from not wanting the player to feel penalised for making certain choices, but this results in all of the decisions feeling rather pointless. Like I said, Inquisition can feel sanitised compared to the original. Everything is just a little too neat and tidy for the player.

Even when I had a flurry of ‘X character greatly disapproves’ messages flood my screen after a certain choice, one of those characters then stepped up and simply agreed my decision was for the best. It’s not possible to make the ‘wrong’ choice in Inquisition, or even a ‘bad’ choice in terms of outcome. I really want to see consequences for our choices both good and bad which impact our evolving experience. And seriously, can we cut out the ‘approval’ messages entirely? Let me know if people agree with me by how they act or by what they say, by their expression and tone. It’s distracting and irritating seeing this shit pop up, even for characters who aren’t bloody present.

As for the Story missions in general, they are decent overall, but I never felt as invested in the narrative as I would have liked, although I think this is also due to the way the main quests are structured, which I’ll discuss more in a moment. I should also say that if you take the main story missions alone, there’s not actually very many of them and they don’t last very long. Overall though, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy the story of Inquisition, but I was left feeling rather disappointed by it in the end.

I preferred the way the Story quests were structured in the original game. In Origins you had 5 or so main locations each with a single main quest. Side quests would generally all branch from this main quest in the local area. As a result, you always felt you were progressing through the main story as you moved from one area to the next. But in Inquisition, main story quests are only tied to a handful of the large, explorable zones and are mostly played out in mission specific locations you only visit once.


This means that several of the zones play no part in advancing the main story. As a result, working through them, though fun, feels like a bit of a waste of time because you’re not progressing towards your primary goal. They just feel like zones to grind quests and experience in so you can level up for the next Story mission. For the majority of your time, you’ll be grinding through barely (if at all) connected side quests. These make up the bulk of the content and they shift the player’s focus away from the main story far too often and for far too long.

In addition to the Story quests you also have Companion quests, Side quests, Collection quests and what I like to call ‘Chore’ quests. Companion quests tend to vary from good to rather poor – some companions get quite elaborate missions with multiple stages, multiple locations and even unique, one-shot locations, whilst others just get a shitty ‘go kill X of these’ type quests. Side quests are equally a mixed bag but are decent in general. Then we have the Collection quests which I actually quite liked, as they encourage exploration of the game’s large, varied maps and can lead to lots of cool hidden stuff.

The Chore quests are the most basic ones – go kill 10 of these, go collect X of these type stuff with minimal dialogue or motivation. There’s a lot of these and at times it can almost feel like you’re playing an MMO. However, if you find this extra side content repetitive and dull, you can easily skip most of it. In fact, there’s so much content here you can easily complete the game beyond the recommended level (I’m not sure if there’s a cap, but I was level 22) and not even visit a couple of the major zones. If you’re the completionist type, there’s enough content here to keep you busy for quite some time.

So let’s talk about the game’s zones. These are easily the best thing about Inquisition. There are about 10 major zones in all, not including smaller, mission specific areas. These open world zones are massive and full of content, quests, puzzles and hidden areas. Exploration in Inquisition is very rewarding as every area feels hand crafted with tons of details and little touches. The variety is also excellent as you travel from grassy fields, to mountainous areas, to deserts, to coasts, to forests, to marshes and frosty peaks. I really can’t fault Inquisition when it comes to environments. They’re fantastic.


In terms of companion characters, Inquisition does a decent job, but sadly none of them quite live up to those of the Original. There are nine in all, not including your three advisers. If anything, I’d actually argue there are too many and I’d have preferred six companions – two of each class. Why? Well, because there are so many, you’ll barely use some of them, especially those of your own chosen class. You may argue that the number of companions is comparable to Origins, but that’s only if you include the dog and forget about the advisers. Origins also did a far better job of introducing them into the game. I prefer it when companions are recruited as you progress, their arrival tied in some way to the main plot.

But in Inquisition, some companions, even characters I liked such as Iron Bull or Vivienne, just feel like they’re joining you to make up the numbers. Some of them also get very few scenes or interactions with other characters compared to others, not to mention some rather lame companion quests. It feels like a case of quantity over quality, and this is sadly a criticism which you can apply to the game in general. I’d have preferred less companions, but companions with more purpose, more interactions and more depth.

Aside from your party companions you also have three advisers based around military, political and spying. Each has their own little side quest and scenes, some more than certain companion characters, in fact. You can send these advisers onto their own missions to secure resources, unlock new areas and build your power base. It’s a neat little mechanic that gives you the feeling that the Inquisition is a power influencing things beyond your own actions.

Inquisition has far more character and companion customisation than in DA 2 and in some areas than in Origins. You have light, medium and heavy armours, many of which can be enhanced using resources or runes or certain upgrades. These also have a cosmetic effect in terms of colour, although I must say I would have much preferred the cosmetic customisation to be a separate option not tied to stats. Weapons can also be modified in a similar fashion.

Inquisition also features a pretty decent crafting system for weapons and armour, and recipes can be found or bought in the world. It allows you to craft customised, stat specific items (based on what materials you use) which you can then name. This is a great addition but sadly a rather unnecessary one. The majority of the recipes you’ll find are trash compared to gear you’ll pick up on your way. Even some of the high end crafting recipes aren’t much better than dropped gear and not really necessary when it comes to making a difference in combat. So it’s a good system, just a little pointless.


As I mentioned, your base of operation can also be customised but this only really relates to cosmetic stuff like what sort of windows or curtains your prefer. You can also upgrade your potions, tonics and grenades but it’s not something I found really necessary either. You’re very limited by what each character can carry in terms of these items, so you’ll probably just stick with the one or two you prefer and ignore the rest.

So how does Inquisition actually play? Well, it follows DA 2 in the more ‘flashy’ type of combat. As a result, I feel it lacks the impact and weight of Origins. It’s not bad or anything, but that MMO feeling does creep in at times. I can’t say I particularly like the class ability options either as they feel more restrictive than they did in Origins. For example, in Origins I could build a dual wield warrior with a secondary focus on ranged combat and switch between two weapon sets on the fly. That’s in addition to the shield focused tank or two hander DPS role. And then you have four further class specialisations to choose from.

In Inquisition I’m either a sword and board tank or a two hand DPS. Even if I split my skill points between trees, I’m unable to switch gear in combat. A few class specific specialisations spice things up later in the game but it’s definitely not as extensive as the original. Playing as a mage, I also never felt like I had the same amount of tactical options open to me in terms of class and cross-class combos as I did in Origins. It just feels a little more stripped back. There’s also a strange absence of healing magic, although I can’t say it bothered me all that much.

Inquisition has a ‘tactical’ view but it’s bloody terrible and frustrating to use regardless of if you’re using a mouse and keyboard or a gamepad. I totally ignored it and just stuck with pausing the game and issuing specific commands where necessary. Your companions have a decent enough AI in terms of using abilities and positioning, but the companion specific tactics that you could really dig into and customise in Origins are also totally stripped back in Inquisition to a very limited set of ‘behaviours’. Once again, I just didn’t bother with it, whereas in Origins I spent ages setting up dozens of specific triggers for every character.

In general though, the mouse and keyboard controls for Inquisition are okay and you get used to their quirks (no ‘walk’ toggle for example? Why?). That said, I was playing as a ranged character, and I found switching to a melee focused companion very strange and clumsy to control. There’s no auto-attack or automatic move to target so you have to position manually with the keys. You get used to it, but I think if I wanted to play as a warrior or melee rogue I’d probably play with a gamepad, although I’d then probably get irritated by the radial menus and limited ability slots. They really need to improve the mouse and keyboard experience.

In terms of difficulty, Inquisition isn’t very challenging, at least not on Normal. I think I’ll bump it up for my next run. Playing as a mage with the Knight-Enchanter specialisation though, it feels like I pretty much broke the game towards the end as nothing could touch me and I ended up soloing a dragon with relative ease. Speaking of dragons, the dragon fights in this game are great and by far the most interesting battles you’ll have, probably because they’re a little more slow paced so you get to spend more time managing the fight.


What else? The horses are a bit shit, but I think that’s another issue of control. I’d probably enjoy them more with a control pad. You also have a nice variety of mounts to choose from. As you explore the world you’ll establish new camps and even take over entire fortresses. It’s nice to do, but like so much of building up your forces, rather worthless in the end. In terms of bugs, Inquisition has a few, but nothing too terrible, although I did experience several crashes whilst playing, but over 75 hours that’s not too bad.

As for performance in general, Inquisition could certainly do better. I initially ran everything on Ultra and although I could hit 60FPS in some areas, in others it tanked to 20-30. I eventually knocked everything down to High and got a pretty consistent 60 with that aside from a few areas. Annoyingly, you can’t switch and experiment with different options on the fly and have to keep quitting out the game to test stuff. Monitoring my system, Inquisition never really seemed to be pushing it that hard even on Ultra, so I’m not sure what was causing the FPS drop.

Honestly though, even on High, Inquisition is a good looking game with some nice character models, great environments and effects. It’s just a shame some of the character animations, especially in cut-scenes, are so damn bad. They can be very stiff and awkward and it’s something they really need to improve. VA is of a high quality so no complaints there, but the switch to the dialogue wheel still bothers me. I can live with it, I just wish they’d include the option of having the specific line attached to each dialogue choice so I know in advance exactly what my character will say. My other complaint, though a minor one, is not being able to save custom heads in the character creator.

Inquisition also features a multiplayer mode, but I can’t say I was at all interested in playing it. Plus it has f**king micro-transactions. What the f**k? I can understand that shit in free to play titles, but not in AAA full price releases. I’m not going to let this knock my score of the game but they seriously need to cut this shit out.

Wow, this has gone on for a bit, but that’s because there’s so much packed into Inquisition it would be a shame not to try to cover it all. A lot of this sounds more negative than positive, but you know when I write so much about a game it’s usually because it’s a game I like, but I just feel it has a lot of issues holding it back from being great.

Inquisition is a good game and it feels like a real return to form after the terrible Dragon Age 2. It has an almost ridiculous amount of content and though a lot of it may be rather shallow and forgettable, there’s also a lot of really great stuff mixed in there too. No, it’s not as good as Origins, but it does do a few things better and it’s a massive improvement over DA 2. If you want an enjoyable RPG you can sink a ton of hours into I think you’ll find a lot to keep you happy here.

6/10