Hello! I'm Tom. I designed a game called Gunpoint, about rewiring things and punching people, and now I'm working on a new one called Heat Signature, about sneaking aboard randomly generated spaceships. Here's some more info on all the games I've worked on, here's the podcast I do, here are the videos I make on YouTube, here are some of the articles I wrote for PC Gamer, and here are two short stories I wrote for the Machine of Death collections.
We discuss DA:I on the latest Crate and Crowbar podcast, and since it’s also up on YouTube, I can embed specific bits. The Invisible Inc chat at the start overlaps a lot with my post here, so let’s skip straight to Dragon Age, which I played for about 30-40 hours over the break.
I have thoughts on why the combat still feels murky after all this time, my experience switching from Casual to Hard, my lesbian Inquisitor trying to seduce the only two straight women in Thedas, the difference between this and Mass Effect, and the one great thing that’s the same.
As before it’s Tom Senior you hear first, I’m the one who pipes up at 44m55s.
A random dude: Any spoilers at all? Haven't played it yet :/
Karthik: (Note: The below has very minor narrative spoilers for Inquisition. Nothing surprising if you've played a Biogame before.)
I've played Dragon Age: Inquisition for about 70 hours(!) now. It's a large and complex thing, and I don't have a single concise opinion about it all. And the good stuff is good indeed. But man, it is disappointing to see Bioware make the same mistakes over and over.
Their idea of player choice is still about choosing things off a menu instead of doing stuff. Most choices are still loop-arounds to an ordained plot. This would be okay if it let you express yourself, but you still cannot actually roleplay a specific kind of person, unless the entirety of that person is limited to being sassy and vacuous. The narrative is still completely disconnected from every other mechanic in jarring ways. In fact, the other abstractions are weirdly connected, such as the Power mechanic: finding someone's lost goat in the Hinterlands is effectively helping you gain an invitation to a royal party in Orlais. The combat is still too noisy, entirely attritional and a chore. Enemies in combat still live by different rules. There's even fewer options to set up and script companion combat tactics now.
It also fails to show-don't-tell. Bioware's never been great at this, but I'm tired of hearing how powerful the Inquisition has become when there is little evidence to show for it but random NPC chatter.
Some of these are undoubtedly tradeoffs for the ever-rising production values of their games, but I believe most of their design is in dire need of a complete overhaul. Everything, in fact, that does not have to do with companions and their character arcs. Pouring even more stuff into the mix, as Dragon Age Inquisition does, does not help.
Damien: I just platinum'd the game on the PS4 and I did not find the same issues as you Tom with the combat. Perhaps you have an innate skill with such games but I did not find myself dying to just the one hit kills. I think you, or someone else on the crate and crowbar, had mentioned about the limited potions slots in the game and how this is a suitable solution to the problem that any difficulty is made trivial as long as you stock enough health potions. I had to use the old trick of saving before each battle in the event that I used too many potions and would not have ample supply for the inevitable boss battles.
Through careful mitigation (certainly not relying 100% on the AI) of barriers and which enemy my rogue chooses to engage over my shield warrior most of the NPC's would not be able to actually break into my health bars. However, ignoring the use of the tactical display (used mostly do apply barriers and dodge big attacks) even running around as a level 22 group saw level 15 NPCs take out half my party before I realised what was going on. The noise of the battle is certainly not that noisy when the fight was paused 5-10 seconds to reissue commands and the situations assessed. A longer fight? Certianly was; it took me 40 min to take out my first dragon. But it was nightmare difficulty and the dragon was one level above me. That was one of the greatest feelings of triumph I have felt in a game.
Game of the (last) year!