Ooh, Shiny!

My first impressions of Dragon Age: Inquisition, spoiler free.

About every two years a game costs just a bit more than the cover price. A new video card is required, or your power supply conks out, or you need a new fan…or, in the case of Dragon Age: Inquisition, a new motherboard, processor (DA:I requires a quad core) and, sure, let’s grab some more memory while my wallet is open. So I had to wait a couple of weeks to throw myself back into the world of Thedas. During those two and a half weeks, I successfully avoided all spoilers but one. I kept reading about shiny hair. Apparently, despite the fact the WORLD IS IN PERIL, everyone has had time to apply product to their hair.

A devout role player, I selected a skull trim for my first Insquisitor. I often play nearly bald male characters because the choices of hair are always awful, not to mention the fact ponytails never stir in the breeze and a more elaborate ‘do just isn’t practical when the WORLD IS IN PERIL. So Maxwell Trevelyan entered Thedas with a smattering of freckles, deep blue eyes and a pleasing lack of shiny hair—only to confront Cassandra, whose hair reflected the light of a thousand suns. Andraste’s flaming sword, her hair was so shiny, it cast a glow upon Maxwell’s lips.

I soon realised that his lips would always glisten, regardless of available light.

The Frostback Mountains are cold. There is snow everywhere. Frozen lakes groan beneath the rime. I would have cautioned Max against licking his lips in such temperatures, but I never actually saw his tongue swipe his glossy mouth. Something else was making his lips shine. Sensibly, I could assume he carried a tub of rendered animal fat (no cherry Chapsticks in Thedas). He was rather a pretty boy and obviously preferred not to let his lips chap. But I was going for realism here. I couldn’t have Max halting the Inquisition to reapply his lip gloss.

In a desperate attempt to adjust the lumen rating of everyone’s hair, I turned to the ‘net for advice and stumbled across a very good, spoiler free article on Kotaku, Tips For Playing Dragon Age: Inquisition. There I learned how to adjust the mesh setting, thus stealing the blinding highlights from everyone’s hair. Unfortunately, the only fix for Max’s lips was to abandon him in Haven and start afresh. Seeing as I had spent two hours swearing at the combat system “improvements”—why, oh why do developers need to tweak the combat in each and every installment of the game?—I happily returned to the drawing board. Sorry, Max.

Say hello to Felix.

Felix Ingesson Trevelyan
Felix Ingesson Trevelyan

I dialed the “lip shine”—really, BioWare?—down to zero, chose a hair style that didn’t suck, dotted his face with freckles, because he’s kind of a ginger and that just happens, tweaked the inner and outer iris colour to achieve a green that’s probably not really possible in real life, and then played with his nose and chin until they looked no different from when I had started. Honestly, you could spend hours in the character creation section. BUT, to my dismay, you are given very little choice regarding class.

One of my favourite aspects of Dragon Age: Origins was the dual wield warrior. A DW warrior is the perfect example of why the DA:O character creation was so awesome. I generally like to play a rogue, with daggers, please. DA:O not only allowed you to train your rogue in a mind boggling number of ways, but you could also play a warrior who functioned very much like a rogue—less tricky, but with more hit points, which could be handy if you were the only man standing near the end of a fight. You could design a true scrapper, and that’s a role I relished through my umpteen playthroughs.

Leveling involved spending points—as it does in Inquisition—but those points could be spread over a number of skills that further specialised your character. You could make a stealthy/sneaky rogue. A persuasive warrior. A pickpocket and thief. Add enough points to dexterity and you could master dual swords. Two swords! Throw enough willpower behind a warrior and they refused to be knocked down in a fight.

The new system of character creation and leveling is easier, I suppose…

Combat has been tweaked again. I had a hard time maneuvering Max during combat, so much so that my party kept dying in the first boss fight, which occurs before they even splash the title of the game across the screen. Ridiculous, right? Now and again in my gaming career I have come across that one fight that stalls my progress for days. I’ve even had to abandon a couple of games there, knowing that I’ll never get beyond that point. To have that happen before a game truly got started was a little disheartening (no, I did not want to turn the difficulty down, generally I enjoy challenging combat).

I figured out the problem. The A and D keys on the mouse have been mapped so that your character looks from side to side. To actually move side to side, you need to click and hold with the mouse. Doing so while using a mouse button during combat is…hard. I’m forty-six, and I’ve just never been that coordinated. You can strafe using the Q and E keys, but teaching my fingers to dive up and to the side when they’ve been trained to WASD for years is beyond me. So, I remapped my keyboard. I now strafe using A and D and if I am struck with the urge to actually look side to side, I can use Q and E for that.

The difference is amazing. Felix suffered no more than a flesh wound up until four and a half hours into the game when I approached a rift I wasn’t quite ready for. My party died a horrible death. I did try to follow the on screen prompts for resurrection with the last remaining party members, then I tried to run. I was cut down without mercy.

I have yet to play with the party combat tactics. That’s next on my “to do” list as I start to engage in battles that require a little more than pointing and clicking. Then I’ll continue exploring this gorgeous new world.

Now that I’ve stumbled through the first couple of hours, I have very few expectations for the game. I’d like to see the story started in Origins brought to a convincing close, and that’s about it. I know Inquisiton will be fun because it’s a BioWare game and I usually find them both playable and entertaining. I’m delighted by the return to Ferelden, even though it makes me nostalgic for characters I role played on a forum four years. My writing partner, Jenn, and I talked about what our boys might be doing now, some elven years after the Fifth Blight. We decided they are happily retired and blissfully unaware of current events. Some characters deserve a happy ever after, don’t they? Speaking of which, Felix takes his name from my hero in our upcoming book Chaos Station (Carina Press, March 2, 2015). When I showed him to Jenn, she created his counterpart, Zander, who is her hero in our book.

Zander Damainos Anatolius Trevelyan
Zander Damainos Anatolius Trevelyan

These characters owe their inception to Dragon Age: Origins and the years of role play we participated in afterwards, so it seems only fitting that my first proper playthrough pays homage to that heritage.

Story: The Hope Chest

Without truly knowing Siorus Cadigan’s history, this story might not carry the same impact for the casual reader. Still, it is one of my favourites and a defining moment in his life. In reading it over, I think it details more of his ‘story’ than most of what I write for him.

Siorus is a character I role play. I like writing stories for him–he doesn’t like me sharing them. Tough luck, Rus, this one is heading out there.

Thedas belongs to BioWare. Siorus and Lostwhithiel belong to me. Sol belongs to Jenn Burke. She and I share all the other characters mentioned. Picture credit: Rolling Grape Vines

Rolling

((1 Harvestmere, 33 Dragon. Lostwhithiel Castle))

A shadow flickered across the ground at the periphery of Siorus’ vision. He spun, shield raised, and caught the edge of a blade. Steel rang against steel, sharp in the quiet of early morning. A dagger poked between shield and sword and Siorus twisted into the strike, knocking the slender blade aside. Then he twisted back again, shield ready to catch the sword. A boot connected with his shin, the force of the kick nearly enough to tip his balance. He would wear a bruise for a week or more and the mark would be well deserved and familiar.

Skipping back a step, Siorus paused long enough to gather his will, then leapt forward, shield leading his charge. His opponent ducked and sidestepped with unnatural agility and Siorus stopped to breathe. The flat of a blade delivered a stinging blow to the back of his hip. Turning into the strike, Siorus swept his shield across, spun and followed with his sword. He missed. Sidestepping, he tried again.

Continue reading “Story: The Hope Chest”

Story: Lost Socks

Andy, or Ser Andrew Banvard, is a character I play at Warden’s Vigil. I write a lot of short stories for Andy. He’s one of the most insistent voices in my head and such a patient little fellow. I enjoy writing him and I enjoy sharing his adventures.

In the following story, Andy has returned home after a shift with the guard. He is supposed to be looking after a cat for his friend, Iain. His wife, Blythe (Bit), is next door with her sister, Evelyn, helping Evelyn pack for a trip overseas. Andy is in a bit of a broody mood. He’s just seen Iain off on a quest, his wife is due to give birth any day and his dear friend, Evelyn, will be leaving soon after. Losing Iain’s cat will make a trying day even less memorable and Andy would prefer not to let down a friend.

((29 Bloomingtide, Evening. Highever))

The house had a foreboding look. Pausing at the gate, Andy frowned at the darkened windows and shadowed doorway. From the street, his house appeared unoccupied. From the perspective of an active imagination, his house might be haunted. Lips twisting in a pensive manner, Andy attempted to talk himself down; yes, haunted houses existed outside of stories and, yes, he had been taunting himself with the idea a rift in the Fade wandered Highever, ready to part at whim, spewing demons and the shade of every fish, rabbit and chicken he’d ever eaten onto the cobblestoned streets. But, to imagine the convergence of three such fantasies in one place…

That took talent.

Continue reading “Story: Lost Socks”