I Like That Dragon Age: Inquisition Doesn't Respect My Time

I Like That Dragon Age: Inquisition Doesn't Respect My Time

Dragon Age: Inquisition is enormous. In addition to a great main story, it has a lot of filler-y side quests that slurp up time like it's drowning in delicious alfredo sauce. Patricia's not super into them, and Patrick went so far as to say the game disrespected his time. Me, though? I love the side quests.

That's not to say I disagree with the main premise of what Patricia and Patrick were saying: Dragon Age is definitely loaded with content that — if you were to toss a pebble at its glittering armour — would ring pretty hollow. A lot of games these days are. I especially dislike it when a quest gives me some awesome setup — tales of love and loss, people putting flowers on graves, political tensions between mages and templars, some crazy Fade vision from Solas — and then resolves it with a limp one-note battle or collect-a-thon. "That could've been soooooo good," I think to myself, pouring out a small trickle of sweetened tea for all the wasted potential. And that, friends, is why I have an ant problem.

I Like That Dragon Age: Inquisition Doesn't Respect My Time

But then a funny thing happens: I realise that I'm having fun anyway. A different kind of fun. In Patrick's piece, he argued against bloated games for this reason:

"As I've gotten older and personal responsibilities mount up, I have less time to spend with my favourite hobby. It means I've come to value shorter, efficient experiences."

And again, I agree, but I've also adapted to age and mounting responsibilities by taking a different tact with longer games — one I've really come to enjoy. I don't really marathon games anymore, unless I'm reviewing them. These days I tend to play all games over pretty long spans of time, chipping away at them bit by bit. This can last weeks, sometimes months.

I Like That Dragon Age: Inquisition Doesn't Respect My Time

It's really fun for me, treating games like I do good novels or long-running TV shows I'm Netflixing. They go from being weekend time-sinks — bleary eyed midnight blurs that I hardly remember months later — to entrenched parts of my life. When the real world gets too stressful or dumb or overwhelming, I've got this consistent, reliable place to escape into, to displace emotion into, to learn from. Games like Dragon Age start to feel like home. Colourful, interesting characters greet me, and they chatter away as we collect stupid rocks and slay magical fantasy elk together. They're my friends. The game is my friend.

Maybe it all sounds a little sad, and maybe you're thinking, "Nathan, why don't you just play an MMO, if that's what you want?" Certainly, games like Destiny fill that hole for me from time-to-time, but in games like Dragon Age there's something to be said for how little is actually out of my control. I know exactly what to expect, whereas in an MMO or MOBA or what have you, an obnoxious player might ruin my fun, or lag might have me calling out strategies through gritted, grinding teeth.

Games like Dragon Age let me shut down — disarm all my natural defenses against a hostile, unpredictable world — and immerse myself in a place. And as I said, I can do this 30 minutes or an hour at a time for months. Playing becomes a series of mini-vacations, breaths of fresh air from an adulthood polluted by payments and debt and social obligations and health problems and fears about my own mortality and the fact that I still don't own a dog and have to live vicariously through random people in parks instead.

I Like That Dragon Age: Inquisition Doesn't Respect My Time

Dragon Age's so-called busywork is especially conducive to this style of play because there's just enough going on that it does feel like each play session is organic, new, and interesting. In Patrick's piece, he made the following complaint:

"Despite all my time in Thedas, it seems like I barely got to know my companions. Their quests were over in the blink of an eye, and few were as revealing as, say, the truth of Dorian's past. It seems so odd to have invested so much and come away knowing so little, but it accurately reflects the game's prioritization of content as king. Not all content is made equal, however."

I don't entirely agree. Reason being, I feel like "filler" quests have in some cases helped me get to know my companions even better than elaborate character-specific missions. Again, it goes back to all the background chatter — little exchanges between folks like Dorian and Sera and Iron Bull, some of which I can even participate in — that reveal layers upon layers to their personalities. I like hearing Cassandra and Solas find a strange sort of common ground despite their opposing backgrounds. I like hearing people ask Varric about his goofy, overwrought novels. I like pretty much everything that Sera says, even when I adamantly disagree. Sometimes because I disagree.

I Like That Dragon Age: Inquisition Doesn't Respect My Time

These moments just sort of happen while I'm adventuring around, killing nobodies and collecting hunks of sweet, sweet nothing. Sometimes they correspond really well to what's happening on screen, other times they kinda come out of nowhere. But it's nice. It's like a good book that doesn't end until I want it to. These characters aren't gonna suddenly go away forever because I flipped all the pages, and they will keep revealing little pieces of themselves at a pace that fits my play experience pretty well.

The progression feels more natural a series of stilted character missions, too. Or rather, it supplements them in a really organic way. It's not just, "Hey, we barely know each other, hey you did that thing for me that one time, hey now we're having awkward, adorable sex." We've been through so much, seen so many things, shared so many secrets.

A quick aside: I don't like codexes quite as much, but good ones serve as literal mini-novels to accompany my novel-like way of digesting the game, so I can't say I loathe them as much as some people (HINT: IT IS STEPHEN) do.

I Like That Dragon Age: Inquisition Doesn't Respect My Time

To be honest, I do think that, in a lot of cases, Dragon Age doesn't really respect players' time, but I still enjoy that component of the game. I like mindless side questing, collecting, and codex perusing, even though I wish a fair number of interesting side quest characters and prompts weren't just treated as throwaways. Could Dragon Age offer a better balance on that front? Yeah, I think so.

But as is, low-impact, commitment-free adventures can be nice from time-to-time, especially when you've got a great cast of characters along for the ride. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go do a thing for some guy. I don't really care about the particulars right now. I'm just happy I'll get to see my friends.


Comments

    Agree completely. Too many people seem to set themselves time limits on when games should rightly be finished. Why the rush?

    Even if you don't have alot of gaming time, a game that you can spend months or hell even a year chipping away at without having to replay the same stuff ten times over is more then welcome in my book.

    Hell most people will rush to finish a game especially and RPG and then it'll never be played again.

    Take your time, enjoy. And stop telling yourself you must take X long and be done.

    Enjoy the experience a game provides. Don't feel like it is a race to churn through every bit of content within the game. Be mindful when playing and take time to stop and smell the roses a little bit every now and then. As has already been mentioned, become absorbed in the experience and maybe play games like DA:I over the span of several months. I feel like many people play games too procedurally and mechanically without becoming invested or immersing themselves in any way just because they feel like they have to stay up to date with all the new releases and big titles.

    Everyone gave Patrick a lot of unwarranted flack for posting his personal opinion, and very few people (everyone but @fistfullofflour) actually backed up their defense of the games filler with much more than "DEN PLAY SUMTHIN ELSE!". So it is nice to have a fellow employee write a constructed reason the games filler has merits.

    But I still agree with Patrick ;P

    Last edited 08/01/15 2:32 pm

    I think part of the reason is when we were growing up, we have maybe one or two games that hold our full time attention, vs huge backlog waiting for our attention now. So we end up being "pressured" into finishing our backlog.

    Ugh, yes! This entire article, so much. Someone gets it!

    Last edited 08/01/15 2:40 pm

    If this were a topic in GameFAQS, I'd be grabbing popcorn right about now.

    ... No, wait. GameFAQS is terrible.

    Thank you for this article! the previous article, I was completely disagree with it and I just simply enjoy the long world of Dragon Age Inquisition! clocking 60 hours ingame (with few hours afk) and I havent done much of main quest.. which make it all SO MUCH FUN!

    I loved Dragon Age Origins to death, and didn't mind DA2, but I hate Inquisition with a burning passion. Never has so much second rate MMO time wasting tarnished a otherwise decent story-driven game and sucked so many credulous gamers into believing it was worthwhile content. If this is the direction the franchise is going, I'm done with it.

    Downvote me, fanboys!

      While I didn't get far enough in to it to make that kind of judgement, that was certainly the impression that I got for the 15 hours I played (before I got a refund). Same thoughts on DA1/2.

      I feel like the argument the author is making, is a bit of strawman. As I see it, it's (1) RPGs like DA offer escapism/a well realized world you can impact (I agree) ... which somehow (2) justifies it having filler over more concentrated character oriented story. Why not both?

      I thought ME2 struck a great balance. There was side questing, but the bulk of the story was following through your companion story lines, which were all deep and interesting. You didn't have to bumble through side quests to get to them, they were pretty quickly served up.

      I wish DA:O had followed more the ME2 route. Instead (in my opinion) they veered way too far into the 'must create open world full of endless quests to stumble into' with a lower standard of overall detail and quality.

        I'd love to see Bioware make some smaller dragon age games that focus on just a few characters and their stories, without to much of an overall story that affected the overall world. Almost like how the Wolverine movie did after the xmen movies - explaining back story and learning more about the particular characters.

        Hell, playing as bull in his time before the inquisition would be awesome.

        I suppose I loved all the DA games, so what I think is pretty moot, because I'm probably going to love anything DA haha :P

    I think the main problem with DA:I's side-missions is that they have no bearing on NPC relationship progression. You could be adventuring with your companions for months, yet they'll continue to act like strangers until you move the main quest along.

    Instead, new dialogue options should be partially linked to the amount of time you've sunk into the game. This would really help to give the side missions more weight in terms of the overall story.

    I completely agree with this article. I got through about 15 hours in the first 3 days, but since then I've been just taking 1-2 hour bites of this game every couple of days and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. I did the same thing with Skyrim, got through about 20 hours in the first week and then just took small bites of it for the next 3 months or so. Perhaps that’s the key here, too much too quickly. Perhaps the side quests don't bother me because I’m only doing an hour or 2 of them at a time, at the end of every session I return to the home town, talk to everyone that will talk to me and exit game happy with my progression. I can however appreciate that if I sat down for a 5-6 hour session and spent 80% of that time doing side quests that it could get quite tedious and even irritating.
    So I guess as mentioned many times above, DA:I is not a game to be chugged down like a yard glass of cheap beer at a graduation party, rather sipped and enjoyed like a fine single malt whisky whilst sitting on your high rise balcony watching the sunset.

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