Dragon Age: Inquisition Has A Filler Problem

Dragon Age: Inquisition Has A Filler Problem

Leave the Hinterlands. I've heard it time and time again following the release of Dragon Age Inquisition: don't stick around in the starting area. We gave you this advice. Bioware encouraged the same thing. Our readers seem to agree: leave the Hinterlands.

As you might know, The Hinterlands — the first large area accessible to you in Dragon Age: Inquisition — is full of stuff to do. Lots of missions, lots of collectables, rifts to close, dungeons to forge through, and loot to pick up. Some players have reportedly spent dozens of hours in the Hinterlands doing all these side quests, never actually advancing Dragon Age's story or really getting to know the cast of the Inquisition — both of which are probably the real reasons anyone would pick up a Bioware game in the first place. Players everywhere are telling each other to stop spending so much time in the Hinterlands, so they can see what else the game has to offer. The claim is that Dragon Age has way better stuff inside of it.

It's largely true — to a degree. But I've found that, in the 50+ hours I've spent in Dragon Age, nearly every area is like the Hinterlands. Every area has lots of meaningless quests that don't really capture what Dragon Age or Bioware games are about. Let's break the down the type of missions, so you can see what I mean.

There are capital Q quests, which move the story forward — maybe you have to find out what happened to the Wardens, or you have to get the Templars on your side. These types of missions, I have no problem with. There are also missions that are region-specific — like one where you deal with a dragon that has been terrorising an area, or one where you solve an area's dungeon. These aren't as compelling as the Big Quests, but they can still be enjoyable. Then you have completely silly missions, like "this random NPC wants you to put a flower on his deceased wife's grave" and "herd all the Druffalo!" And underneath that is the filler, which revolves around item collection, and killing certain types of baddies (sometimes in specific numbers.)

Many Bioware games provide diversions that are less "meaty" than the main game — you can scan planets in Mass Effect, for example, as a means of collecting resources. But Dragon Age has fallen prey to a plague normally reserved for open world games: an overabundance of fluff. Collect X amount of Y item. Kill X number of enemies. Find X number of Y. Sometimes these types of missions a narrative twist, but you're still left with an unfulfilling checklist that counts down how many of X you collected, or how many of Z you killed.

Dragon Age: Inquisition Has A Filler Problem

Last night a character in Inquisition tasked me with finding five of a certain type of herb. The character told me her clan was having a tough time trying to survive and needed this herb to make the situation better. I thought to myself, OK, this isn't the most interesting side quest, but if I see this herb along the way, I'll collect it. Why not? I then took approximately ten steps away from this character, and noticed five of said herb growing right there, in front of the person that gave me the quest. I was incredulous. And no, I was not in the Hinterlands.

It doesn't matter if you're in the Hinterlands. Dragon Age is full of stuff that isn't very interesting to do. We get to travel all around lush, huge locations with the sort of variety that would make Dragon Age 2 weep, but to some degree all the game is doing is changing the scenery. The bulk of what these areas have you do is very similar. You know that, when you get somewhere, you'll always have the same core types of missions waiting for you in Inquisition. Close the rifts, collect the shards, and so on.

I don't want to make it sound as if the new Dragon Age is devoid of meaningful things to do. In addition to Stuff™, there are also many fantastic quests, major and sidequest alike, which give you insight into the rich, complex world of Thedas. Heck, that same area with the herb quest also hosts two important personal missions that the Inquisitor's companions sent me on. Those are sidequests too. They're not all bad! If I sound annoyed, it's because it worries me that Inquisition's creators felt the need to populate such a big world with so much extraneous stuff that nobody is going to remember fondly if they spend dozens of hours playing through it.

Smart, little things are what I'll cherish about this game. I might think about a conversation with a party member for days — last night I was freaking out about meeting a son I fathered at the end of Origins. The conversation lasted maybe 15 seconds, and it's going to stay with me forever. I'm also amused by clever missions such as the one where Dragon Age asks you to go to a masquerade ball to dance, charm the court of Orlais and uncover the secret plot surrounding empress Celene. It's stuff like that that keeps me playing Dragon Age — not the fact that, thanks to places like the Hinterlands, the back of the Dragon Age box might as well boast about how it has OVER 100 HOURS OF GAMEPLAY!

Despite my misgivings about the game's filler, I've found some value in it. Many of the mundane missions that make up the bulk of Inquisition provide good buffers between intense missions packed with heavy subjects and difficult decisions. I can chew on stuff while I dungeon-crawl in a temple I found hidden in the Storm Coast. The dungeon — which is optional — doesn't have to provide me with any new insight about the chantry, or the tensions between Ferelden and Orlais. It just has to give me something to do.

I can't deny it: I'm playing through many of the sidequests inside of Inquisition. But that's because it's hard to fight the compulsion to be a completionist, not because I always think the mission design is good. On the contrary: much of the filler flattens the world of Thedas — the juicy conflict between mages and templars will get reduced to a mission where I have to kill a certain number of either factions, likely both, while roaming around whatever map I find myself on. Filler is disappointing in Dragon Age because it detracts from the richness that normally defines Dragon Age.

You can try to leave the Hinterlands. You can visit the swamps of Fallow Mire, the sands of the Forbidden Oasis, the waters of the Storm Coast. But depending on how you play, it might not make any difference.


Comments

    So, ignore those missions? That's all I do.
    They are pretty bland but there is enough to do that you will still clock 50+ hours if you skip all the collect-all-the-things quests.
    And if you're a hardcore completionist who wants to spend as much time in the world as possible? Well, there's plenty to keep you occupied.

      I've found that I can complete a lot of the collect X or Y quests just by wandering around a bit, picking up any old stuff as I go. I don't spend a lot of time purposefully doing them. Maybe the last thing or two.

      Are you sure about that? From what I have read on the Bioware forums, its possible to zerg the main story in 15 to 20 hours if you do the absolute minimum required. Quite a few people have complained that the main story is pretty short and that the game is mostly side quests and grinding.

        Mmm, I'd say that if you are trying to finish a game as fast as possible then you can't complain too much if it's over quickly.

          That's a pretty thin argument. Padding out the game with repetitive sidequests hardly adds depth.
          It would be a bit like saying Destiny has an infinite amount of content because there are always new daily/weekly missions.

    I am currently 20 hours into my second play through. First lasted roughly 70. The only reason I skipped a lot in the first was that I realised I was nearing the end and figured I would catch the rest on my second (and third) times around.

    I am not a deliberate completionist, I believe that more accurately, I simply can't help myself. See quest, do quest. This has become a problem at times as I found myself incredibly bored within a game that I love, revolving around a universe that will never get old for me. There are too many little 'filler' quests for my liking, but I still think that if you ignored those, there is over 100 hours of sheer enjoyment to be had. This is especially true if you listen to conversations, rather than skipping over them as I often find myself guilty of within other games.

    Finished the story and pretty much everything apart from a few of the mosaic pieces and clocked in at 111 hours. Loved every minute of it. Now have spent another 30+ in multiplayer and am having a ball with that as well.

    I am having the same problem.

    At the start i found myself impressed with the amount of world, but the amount of fluff has my left missing the old confines of Kirkwall. Everything felt connected questing in a city, I know much of it was side quest in it FELT like i was doing 1main then 1side and so on.
    Plus, I liked the game being contained within one area in the past 2 games (with minor variations such as Elven Forrest in origins).

    This game has become very grindy now as I am playing on expert, I am simply not allowed to continue on main quest line, I have to do dumb shit to lvl up to the same level of the monsters I will be fighting. DONT PLAY ON EXPERT. Too much influence from Elder Scrolls: Infinite shit to do, but less reason and shit rewards.

    Took down my first Dragon last night, so tasty, and the Looty goodness was amazing!!! They should share their loot system with Bungie as I believe Destiny's loot system is pretty broken. How those chests can be referred to as "Loot Chests" is beyond me.....1 spinmetal and 30 glimmer...............I mean come on........
    I think the questing in DA:I is robust and it's really up to individuals how they want to Roleplay. Me personally, I just go exploring and finish whatever strikes my fancy. The only thing I would refine would be the UI for managing your inventory - otherwise the game is brilliant!

    I spent 6 hours in the Hinterlands before realising I had to go back to Haven to continue the main story. Kept doing side missions thinking that's the way to open Redcliffe area.

    Well I completed The Hinterlands first before I went everywhere else. I'm nearly 40 hours in, and when I come across really large area's like The Hinterlands, I tried to avoid them and find the smaller, compact areas.

    The big areas are just tedious and I'll go back to them once I've finished the main quest line or if I'm feeling a bit adventurous.

    >people expecting something with the ubisoft logo on it to have substance in 2014

    I mean ea, same thing though both companies release empty game after empty game stop getting surprised do you people spaz when the traffic light changes color too oh didn't know it was gonna turn red wow now ti's green wait yellow wowwww this is new

    Well, whatever any of us may think of it, Bioware's design approach has been vindicated since they just won Game of the Year at the Game Awards.

      Yeah Game Awards vindication..... self congratulatory bollocks

        I agree, but being able to put "Game of the Year" on the box will boost sales and that is success as far they are concerned.

          It's been out for what? 2 weeks?

          GAMEZ OF DER YEER!!!

            It has been a pretty bad year for games overall. If you look at the games it was up against, there really wasn't a massive amount of competition. The nominees were Bayonetta 2, Dark Souls 2, Hearthstone, Shadow of Mordor, and Dragon Age. All good games, but none of the were a GTA V or the The Last of Us in terms of significance.

    Have played through Origins 8 times.... Played through DA2 0 times..... Haven't left the Hinterlands... DA3 is full of fluff.....

    Disappointing that we call this gameplay these days...

      I've done Origins 16 times and DA2 five times, and I'm in the same situation. Inquisition just feels bloated and lacking in direction. Plus, the combat is shallow and the controls suck.

    Dreadful loot, dreadful filler, decent story. The combat is boring as shit and brokenly easy if you run with 3x mages. After completing I've bumped my score down to 6/10.

    I don't think skipping side quests is possible on Hard difficulty. (I've always played all Dragon Age games on Hard difficulty, anything less is a cake walk and just not as fulfilling or meaningful).

    With this in mind, I don't think you can beat the game without looting all the side quest dungeons for loot that you need to survive the big encounters. In fact I found it difficult to beat some of the rift monsters in Hinterlands in general, only coming back much later with big gear to be able to clear it.

    I think it's part and parcel of the game. If you want to breeze through in 50 hours, go for it on "cake" difficulty. If you're more a die hard then try it on Hard difficulty, I doubt you can breeze through in 50 hours without doing ANY side quests...

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