Ok, so anybody who follows me knows that 90% of my dash is DA:I. That doesn’t mean though, that I’m completely enamoured of the game. I’d say I’m in love with the ideas peppered throughout DA:I. More then anything, I particularly adore the way the fans and my own imaginings expand on them.
All of that to say: I’m replaying DA:I for the 7th time or something at this point. I’ve got two completed runthroughs and a bunch that are in various stages of incompletion. I’m at the point where I just can’t deny that every bit of inanity present in the levels is completely justified in critique. I honestly don’t know how the game designers overlooked this or reviewers fail to remark on it. A rpg game should be a culmination of tasks that ultimately lead to, contribute to, or accomplish a larger goal. If they don’t, then they need to be relevant to exploring characters/the world. At the very least they should be entertaining and an addition to the ambience or feel of the game sprinkled into a pre-existing level with larger goals present in it. Even non-traditional games realize that your accomplishments need direction or a sense of purpose.
DA:I lacks some basic game logic, most importantly in the numerous zones and missions that have no relevance whatsoever to forwarding plot, affecting story outcomes, or even tying into the narrative on the most basic level. You can apply this to basically every zone in the game. Even levels that seem relevant initially are somehow completely unrelated when broken apart.
Using the Fallow Mire as an example we can ask some basic questions:
Question: Why am I rescuing these troops from the Fallow Mire?
Answer: Umm. I need to think about this more.
-To get a vital handful of scouts back? / No.
Yes, in theory, but there’s no impact on the game for rescuing them. No actual reason to ever rescue these scouts and no apparent need for rescuing them presented by your advisors beyond “they’re our men”. They’re not carrying sensitive information. You do not get a boost to morale for rescuing them, no scene where eventually they make the difference between success or failure, no slide at the end that, thanks to a culmination of selfless acts, says the Inquisition was known as a force of good.
-To confront and form an allegiance with the Avaar? / No.
In a confounding narrative that took me two playthroughs to completely understand because of the scattered information presented, the son of a tribal leader has gone rogue and kidnapped troops. His clan doesn’t totally approve. His father doesn’t even approve. This does not ultimately result in a chance to form an allegiance or make a new enemy. You just kill the son and all his followers. Beyond the judgement/possible wartable mission, the Avaar never show up again and make no impact on gathering intelligence from Tevinter should you exile them or use them to bolster your own forces.
-To demonstrate a relevant cultural group that has a direct impact on the narrative and the player’s understanding of the world? / No.
The Avaar have always been an interesting, if not completely tied in, group present in Thedas. The closest we came to relevance was in DA:A, but even then they were more of a backdrop/setting. With the release of Jaws of Hakkon, they’re pushing the Avaar connection more than ever without once explaining why. If they want to reveal something about early Thedas or Andraste, they haven’t actually made any attempts to do so in a relevant manner. As far as the entire narrative leads us to believe, the elves have more importance on anything in this game than a bunch of mountain warriors. I guess I might know more if Jaws of Hakkon was out on PS4, but, oh wait, it isn’t.
-To cure the plague and bring stability back to the region before it spreads or more lives are lost? / No.
Apparently only like 10 guys lived in this swamp and they are all dead. Even moreso, noone gives a shit and their deaths don’t affect the game at all. Nobody’s been in that castle for years. There’s not even a current noble there who could provide us support if we help her/him. There are literally no peasant survivors, only corpses, and if this was some part of Corypheus’ scheme (aka something of value was here) then it is literally never explained.
-To aquire a new agent for the Inquisition? / Yes!
Oh maker, we’ve done it. We’ve found a reason. Except…there’s one problem with this answer. We have to ask, what does getting a new agent in this game mean, exactly? What is the relevance or importance of this as a game mechanic?
—->To speed up wartable missions.
—->…but what impact do quick wartable missions have on the game?
—->But surely the character must come back later or be of some importance. Otherwise, why waste an entire level on this one reward?
He does not, and that’s a good question.
And there it is, in a nutshell.