Dénouement 2014: Part 1

By Shamus Posted Friday Jan 9, 2015

Filed under: Industry Events 136 comments

I called 2012 “The Year we pretended to choose things“. And last year was the year of the indies. I guess this is the year of… “Meh”? My usual criteria for putting games on my end-of-year list is that the game has some sort of lasting message, theme, mechanic, or idea. This lets me filter out disposable big-budget titles that are serviceable as entertainment but aren’t really worth analyzing or talking about once you’re done with them. This is supposed to be a list that lets us get a last few words on whatever titles got us talking.

The thing is, I’m just not feeling it this year. Up until recently I thought it was just me. I thought maybe I just wasn’t in a gaming mood? Maybe I’m getting old and the magic is gone?

But no. Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks this way. Chris and I both decided to call this year “meh” before we’d even talked about it. It’s not that games were terrible this year. It’s that there wasn’t anything really remarkable. (Although, for a contrary point of view, check out SuperBunnyHop’s year-end video, which is pretty good. )

The Losers

With an intro like that, I guess I need to head off a few objections along the lines of, “But Shamus! How could you not like X? It was great!” So here is a list of X, where X is a popular game that didn’t make my “best of 2014” list:

WATCH_DOGS was thematically disjointed, morally reprehensible, relentlessly derivative, visually boring, plodding, patronizing, and mechanically dull. All this, and it also managed to be both shallow and pretentious. It’s a stupid mess with no identity. It’s a game designed by a marketing committee of artless empty suits.

Dragon Age: Inquisition was… cold? Empty? I don’t know. Aside from the glitches, I can’t point to any one thing the game did wrong. But I never felt invested in the world or the characters. Has the magic left BioWare, or am I just tired of their shtick? I don’t know. My play-through stalled about eight hours in, and I don’t even care. I don’t care about my character, or the world. I guess the companion characters are pretty fun, but they’re not enough to carry the game for me and their input is too rare. This feels like an MMO: I spent hours wandering around in the wilderness, mindlessly killing stuff by myselfYes, my companions help, but they’re like your pet in World of Warcraft. They don’t have anything to say. to complete a quest for some barely-characterized peasant.

I’m sure lots of people enjoyed Inquisition, but I don’t think it had the same impact as earlier BioWare titles. In the past we had Garrus memes, Mako jokes, or endless HK47 quotes. Nobody is discussing the ending. Nothing resonated with the culture as a whole. I realize it’s a bit unfair to condemn a game for not being culturally resonant. But I’m not really condemning it. I’m just saying this game hasn’t left as big an impact as its predecessors.

Ian Holm and Tom Skerritt as polygonal Ian Holm and Tom Skerritt from 1979.

Alien Isolation was more annoying than scary. The one thing I liked about the game was the way they had lovingly re-created the original cast and ship, even going so far as to get the original actors to reprise their roles. But that entire section was locked away in a pre-order bonus and not part of the main game. So screw SegaThis isn’t sour grapes on my part. I have the bonus content. I just hate that some people don’t.. That was a dick move and I’m not going to shower them with honorsFor the purposes of this slight, we’re pretending that making my list is an honor that publishers care about. for that sort of behavior. This is a horrible trend that’s bad for consumers and I’m not going to encourage it. Jerks.

The Wolf Among Us is really good. Or at least, that’s what people keep telling me. I own it, but I haven’t played it yet. The Telltale episode model actually runs against my gaming habits. I don’t want to play the game as each episode comes out, because I hate waiting weeks or months for cliffhanger endings to be resolved. The long breaks between chapters just lets my head fill up with other games. By the time the next episode arrives I’ll have lost my connection to the world and forgotten half the characters. I’d prefer to binge on a game when I can. But then once all the episodes are out it feels like everyone else is done with the game and the conversation is over. So there’s never a good time to play.

The Walking Dead, Season 2 has all the same problems as Wolf Among Us: Everyone says its good but it never feels like a good time to play.

Grand Theft Auto V couldn’t be bothered to come out on the PC in 2014. Whatever. I probably would have waited for it to go on sale anyway.

Honorable Mention: Assassins Creed: Unity. Yeah, it wasn’t actually successful enough to make the list of losers. Maybe if they patch out all the bugs it will be good enough to make my list of “Games of 2014 that are maybe okay but I didn’t care about anyway”.

But Whatever…

Dragon Age: Inquisition. My goodness. What happened to the artists that made Jade Empire?
Dragon Age: Inquisition. My goodness. What happened to the artists that made Jade Empire?

So that’s the list of games that didn’t make the cut. Although, aside from WATCH_DOGS there’s nothing there that I really hated. Dragon Age: Inquisition and Alien Isolation are basically fine games that pretty much do what it says on the tin. They’re not bad. They’re just not games that I want to play, and I don’t have anything interesting to say about them.

But maybe calling this the year of “meh” is unfair. Like Chris pointed out in his year-end Errant Signal, there were an awful lot of interesting games. It’s possible that we’re not lacking quality, but consensus. I didn’t play Valiant Hearts, Child of Light, Transistor, or This War of Mine. I own all of those. I just haven’t found time to play them yet. There are good games out there. It’s just that there are too many too play and too few of them rose far enough above the crowd to become universally acclaimed.

Next time we’ll talk about my favorites. The list this year is both padded and short.



[1] Yes, my companions help, but they’re like your pet in World of Warcraft. They don’t have anything to say.

[2] This isn’t sour grapes on my part. I have the bonus content. I just hate that some people don’t.

[3] For the purposes of this slight, we’re pretending that making my list is an honor that publishers care about.

From The Archives:

136 thoughts on “Dénouement 2014: Part 1

  1. I attribute a lot of the “meh” in 2014 to two major factors:

    1. TWO NEW CONSOLES CAME OUT: There’s nothing like the words “next gen” to wreck game development, I think. The concentration immediately goes to how a game looks and not how it plays, since it seems nobody notices how well-designed a game is from a standpoint of mechanics or innovative concepts. No, the concentration is on how cinematic you can make the trailer and how much like a movie the visuals are. Further, the Glorious PC Master Race already outstrips the new consoles in many ways, so it was probably quite unrealistic to expect games that blew players away with their new entertainment boxes. Much like the difference between Oblivion and Skyrim, I figure we’ll someday see XBone and PS4 games that DO amaze players with their ability to use the hardware, but not at launch. Further, this (I think) made a lot of companies push back their cross-platform titles until after the dust had settled and they actually knew how to develop for these new consoles (it’s my pet theory as to why there hasn’t been news of a Fallout 4).

    2. GAMES ARE DECLARED HITS BEFORE THEY’RE DONE AND THEY SHIP HALF-DONE. I don’t just mean the games need patches or mods to work. I mean they start with a concept, they work at it to get it outlined and half-made, but the dev cycle demands that it go forward even if to all involved the game sucks. Mostly this happens on the narrative side of things where adventures don’t make sense, character acting is awful, or you can kind of tell the first 2/3 of a game was decently planned and the last third was cranked out like a term paper at 4AM on the day it was due. It’s worse when you have a game like Destiny or Dragon Age Inquisition where the hype machine has already declared them to be awesomesauce, but design flaws in the product’s makeup (either in the code or in the attempt to tell a story) can’t be given the time needed for editing and fixing. We wind up with pretty games that have stuff like “That wizard came from the moon!”

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Yeah,#2 has become a serious problem.And a huge part of that problem is preordering.Seriously people,stop preordering stuff*!Its bad for you.

      *Says he who has preordered far cry 4,then ended up pirating the game anyway because far cry hates dual core,and pirates fixed that faster than the developers.Im a hypocrite,sue me.

      1. Bropocalypse says:

        That’s kind of amazing, in a way. I wonder if any game developers have considered hiring pirates as consultants to make sure this sort of thing happens.

        1. swenson says:

          Game companies seem pathologically incapable of dealing with pirates in any sensible fashion, so I’d guess not.

        2. Here’s a curious question: Could the game companies claim the patch and distribute it as their own, claiming it as fruit of a criminal act in some sense?

          It’d be kind of like a movie studio claiming a pirated copy of their movie that had been re-edited to make it better, but so long as it gives a better product to the consumer…

          I dunno? Any Hoodlum Lawyers in the house?

          1. Rob says:

            It’s happened before. A few years back there was a minor scandal when a game’s official patch was just a cracked version, to the point where the pirate group’s name was still embedded in the hex code of the executable.

            Edit: it was Ubisoft and Rainbow Six: Vegas 2.

            1. MichaelGC says:

              That’s hilarious. (Amongst other things.) Just a shame it wasn’t Black Flag

      2. Funny you should say that. I wanted to reinstall Fallout 3 to try out a few mods I’d heard good things about, when the game started crashing all over the place. It turns out that if you have anything beyond a dual core processor, you have to muck about with the INI file(s) to make the game not try to use more than two cores, or it’s crash-to-desktop for the Capital Wasteland.

        The threads I read griped that Bethsoft and/or Steam weren’t going to bother fixing it since it’s such an old game, so it’s odd to see a fairly new title have the same problem.

        1. HeroOfHyla says:

          I don’t think the core problem is universal, as I put dozens of hours (maybe hundreds, it’s not a steam version so I can’t check playtime) into it on a quad core AMD.

    2. MrGuy says:

      Related to 1, developers know that the new console generation is coming, which they build into their development schedules.

      Nobody really wants to launch a heavily promoted, AAA game for the PS3 2 months before the PS4 launches, because while games have a huge initial sales spike, the “tail” of your word of mouth sales gets cannibalized by your target market moving to the new console (because backwards compatibility is a thing of the past). So the games for the old console slow to a crawl.

      Meanwhile, when the new console launches, it has a really thin lineup. Sure, the manufacturers are courting the developers to please, please build something for the new platform to be a “launch title,” but a.) those are hard to make because you have to redo all your existing tooling and will probably have bugs, and b.) not everyone will buy the new console at launch day, and so the massive “day one” revenue stream developers count on is a lot smaller because the market is smaller. Every developer wants the new console to have a compelling lineup so customers will buy it so you have a good revenue base, but no one wants to risk THEIR dollars making the killer game that gets everyone to buy in.

      In theory, this would make it be a good time to be a PC developer, since YOUR target market isn’t caught up waiting for customers to buy a new hardware generation. But many PC devs are multi-platform devs, and they don’t want to “waste” their launch momentum coming out for PC-only when I really want a PC, XBox, PSx launch.

      Not that no one released any games, but a lot of wind was taken out of a lot of sails by people waiting out the console changeover.

      1. Eruanno says:

        I’m not so sure they’re “waiting out” the console changeover so much as making new game engines/systems (or retooling their old ones) and planning their future stuff to make sure they work on the new platforms.

    3. NotDog says:

      What’s wrong with moon wizards? :/

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        They are nazis.

      2. To be fair, I think it was the delivery of the line by a floating Peter Dinklage robot that made it jarringly ludicrous, not the actual presence of wizards on the moon.

      3. spelley says:

        It’s funny mostly because it makes perfect sense in context for him to say that line. It just sounds ridiculous when said aloud. By a somewhat less annoying Navi stand-in Peter Dinklage robot.

        Note that I enjoy Destiny enough to both play it and stream it, but have to admit some of the stuff is kind of loopy.

        1. NotDog says:

          I imagine something can be said about criticism of the execution of a concept versus criticism of the concept itself.

          A talking raccoon and a tree man voiced by Vin Diesel who are space mercenaries sounds silly (of the bad kind) on paper and without context, right?

          1. It depends on delivery.

            My favorite example: Nearly everyone likes the Dojo sequence in the first “Matrix” movie, where Morpheus encourages Neo to “stop trying to hit me and hit me!”

            After re-watching that scene, go back and read the script. A lot of the dialog Morpheus gives is fortune cookie woo-woo, but Lawrence Fishburne is a good enough actor to sell it. If I had read his dialog in a novel, I probably would have had to stop or my eyes would be in danger of rolling out of my head.

    4. MadTinkerer says:

      But why would someone budget millions of dollars to develop and advertise a game that was going to be anything but a hit? And why wouldn’t a game be complete when all of the milestones set by the publisher are met? Your reasoning makes no Marketing sense whatsoever.

      Don’t you realize that Marketing is the ultimate purpose of all commercial video games?

  2. By the way, did anyone at BioWare explain why everyone in Dragon Age looks like they live on a planet where half the atmosphere is made up of vegetable oil?

    1. MichaelGC says:

      I don’t think so, but I’m wondering if it’s just that they’re optimising (or just aiming at) eyewateringly high-end systems. I tried it out on full-ultra-everything-no-really, and the waxworks actually began to look vaguely human. (This meant I was getting framerates in the single digits, of course, but the resulting slideshow was at least a good-looking slideshow…)

      1. Ventus says:

        What I don’t understand is why “Model Quality” would make the hair go from reasonable at high to shiny plastic on medium… surely that would be a material quality change rather than a model specific one? Because it looks like they are using a PBR system for the materials which means to get shiny hair like that you would have to change the material property from either “not-metal” to “metal” or from “rough” to “not-rough”… both of which are controlled by textures or occasionally (in UE4 at least, which is what I use) actual variables stored in the material. Could anyone explain to me why this might possibly be happening??

        1. Zagzag says:

          The hair being super shiny was actually a bug where the graphics you selected on the options screen weren’t being correctly applied to the game (for certain selections), so you ended up with a strange combination of settings that weren’t intended to be used together.

          I found the super shiny hair less ridiculous than the super shiny rough wooden floors and walls. There were a few places where an entire room was practically glowing, and that’s not to mention how the lighting engine would completely bug out with the right combination of settings.

          1. That’s just a filter that tries to simulate the bad photo developing from the days of Ye Olde Kodaque Filmme. I’m not sure if that’s to appeal more to an older audience or the one that uses annoying filters on their Instagram photos, though.

            1. guy says:

              No, no, that is seriously what the game actually looks like sometimes.

              I had an Inquisitor with white hair and red eyes, so I didn’t have many problems with her appearance, but Blackwall seriously had metallic silver hair under certain lighting conditions.

        2. Kylroy says:

          I love the idea of wonky graphics being produced by a “PBR system”.

        3. Kylroy says:

          I love the idea of wonky graphics being produced by a “PBR system”.

          1. “What’s a PBR system for graphics?”
            “Iss where hyoo keep drinkin’ these here Pabst Blue Ribbon thingies ’till the grafficksh look AHMAYYYYzingggg!”

            1. Canthros says:

              Motion blur is mandatory, though.

        4. MichaelGC says:

          So it sounds like they originally had a problem where everyone was being forced to use Ultra mesh. Then the attempted fix changed that by forcing everyone onto Low.

          Plan C did finally fix things, but with the result that some on Low will be forced onto … Geriatric? Er, righto then.


          1. guy says:

            Before Patch 2, released December 9, shader quality for all PC users was being forced to run at Ultra.

            Well I guess that helps explain our performance issues. Good god.

            1. Whoever did that should go have beers with whoever got Peter Jackson to film the Hobbit movies at 48 fps. I’m sure they’d have a lot to talk about.

    2. Eruanno says:

      I know this probably doesn’t help you at all, but my PS4 version of Dragon Age: Inqusition does not have the crazy shiny vegetable oil hair. So it’s possible it’s some sort of PC-specific shader bug?

      1. MichaelGC says:

        Glorious PS4-gaming matte-hair race!

        1. mhoff12358 says:

          And my day is made.

      2. Artur CalDazar says:

        It only happens if you put your settings down to the very lowest, the PS4 is better than the lowest PC settings.

        1. Corpital says:

          High praise indeed!

  3. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “Aside from the glitches, I can't point to any one thing the game did wrong. ”

    I can.They decided to make a single player mumorpuger.And the thing about mumorpugers is that after a while you get tired of the vastness and monsters and grinding,and then you get a friend or two to help you refresh the experience.In single player,you get no such thing.Hence the emptiness.

    1. Zagzag says:

      On the other hand, they made a game built around explorable questing zones (like almost every MMO these days) where what you do actually has an impact on the world around you. There is no MMO out there that allows this to anything like the same degree, so I really enjoyed how immersive the game felt. It came accross to me like a vastly improved MMO that just happened not to have other people in it, and this is coming from someone who primarily plays MMOs.

      Obviously this being Bioware you have the game split into two entirely mechanically distinct games, the one where you run around questing, which to me is an improved MMO, and the one where you talk to people, get to know them and make interesting choices, which is pretty much identical to how it’s been in every other Bioware game ever. And for the first time ever in a Bioware game there wasn’t a companion I hated or considered badly written.

      1. Michael says:

        “…where what you do actually has an impact on the world around you. There is no MMO out there that allows this to anything like the same degree…”


        It’s rarely about opening up new pathways, but the game world does change pretty drastically as you complete quests. I was actually expecting DAI to have more world manipulation than that, but… nope. :\

        Granted, ESO doesn’t have you doing things like setting up watchtowers, but it does things like getting rid of the mind controlled ravens that are swarming a city spying on everything, or letting you choose between letting the ghosts OR the angry wraiths in a city survive, leaving either as a haunted tourist trap or a dangerous area that can never be safely resettled.

        I was actually expecting to have more world manipulation in DAI than in ESO.

        The second problem is that DAI’s story feels like a launch MMO. Stuff happens until you hit level cap, then suddenly out of nowhere the dark evil villain guy appears so you can fight him because reasons. There’s no build up, no lead in, just suddenly, “a boss fight!”

        You don’t get any resolution, the story just suddenly ends about midway through the second act, and the game wraps. Because, they want you to keep paying sub fees so you’ll see the story extension in two or three years? Except, of course, that can’t be the case here.

    2. Eruanno says:

      I don’t actually feel this way at all. I feel like they took the good parts of MMORPUGERs (the big worlds, lots of quests and things to do and explore) and ignored most of the crappy grindy bits. There is the Power-system, but after a while the game starts just giving you more Power than you know what to do with, so it’s never really a big problem and never felt like a huge grind.

      1. I'm Patrick.....he's Hicks. says:

        MMO’s of any kind are going to be self-defeating in the near future. They will be their own worst enemy. The resources needed to develop, create and maintain them will start cannibalizing the publishers other games. Like Shamus pointed out, time is finite.

        The whole expansive, world dominating MMO is fine if you are Blizzard and are content with releasing 1 game a year, with expansion packs sprinkled in here and there. That doesn’t work for other publishers that are trying to sell you 5-6 titles a year. Selling consumers a game that consumes all of their gaming time would bankrupt them unless developers charge so much for that game that it compensates them for all of the other games consumers aren’t buying. There will never be another WoW.

        Imagine if Ford or Chevy made a car that you could drive for 1 million miles. That’s 7-8 cars worth of miles, so unless they charge at least 7-8x as much for the car, they are losing money. And nobody is going to shell out $450-500 bucks for a game.

        1. Muspel says:

          Well… yes and no.

          Big-budget AAA MMOs made to appeal to a mass market are generally a really bad move, yes, because it’s really damn hard to beat WoW at what it does– they have over a decade of polish and content, and while the game shows its age in a lot of places, it’s still a force that a new game isn’t really going to be able to compete with on anything resembling an even footing.

          However, smaller MMOs that are targeted at doing certain things very well without attracting millions of players can actually be quite successful. This is doubly true if the game in question is particularly unique. A good example of this is EVE Online, which is a game that I would never want to play, but is tailor-made for a non-trivial number of people.

        2. Eruanno says:

          I… uh… I don’t disagree with anything you say, but I’m not sure if you meant to reply to my post because I didn’t say anything about those things.

          I don’t particularly like MMOs (and I especially don’t like paying a subscription fee every month) but I do believe some of the game design bits can be reused to good effect in other genres.

        3. Dev Null says:

          They try and make up for that with the subscription model… but since no one has managed to make subscriptions stick since WoW, it’s a bit of a moot point. And since there are so many other MMOs out there that are free-to-play, why would anyone (who hasn’t invested years in building up their WoW character) pplay one they had to pay a subscription for?

    3. Vermander says:

      I have very limited experience with MMORPGs, but I’m finding the side tasks in DA:I bother me a lot less than they do in that type of game. I agree with Zagzag that part of it is that there is at least an illusion that my actions are changing the game world, like hearing how I’ve made things much easier for the refugees in the Hinterlands or seeing all the new camps and defensive structures that I’ve built.

      There’s also the fact that there are a lot of different types of side missions to choose from, and “Power” is fairly easy to accumulate. That means that I can safely ignore the kinds of missions I find tedious and focus on the ones I like without worrying about crippling my stats.

      And finally there’s the companion banter, which makes running around on huge maps a lot more bearable. It’s also made me willing to try out many different teams of helpers just to see how they interact with each other.

    4. I'm Patrick.....he's Hicks. says:

      I realized a long time ago that MMO weren’t worth playing unless I knew where they people I was playing with lived. My inability to physically assault people for playing like assholes offsets any enjoyment I may otherwise derive. Until they make some kind of Leeroy Jenkins laws…my MMO days are over.

      Beyond that…MMO's of any kind are going to be self-defeating in the near future. They will be their own worst enemy. The resources needed to develop, create and maintain them will start cannibalizing the publishers other games. Like Shamus pointed out, time is finite.

      The whole expansive, world dominating MMO is fine if you are Blizzard and are content with releasing 1 game a year, with expansion packs sprinkled in here and there. That doesn't work for other publishers that are trying to sell you 5-6 titles a year. Selling consumers a game that consumes all of their gaming time would bankrupt them unless developers charge so much for that game that it compensates them for all of the other games consumers aren't buying. There will never be another WoW.

      Imagine if Ford or Chevy made a car that you could drive for 1 million miles. That's 7-8 cars worth of miles, so unless they charge at least 7-8x as much for the car, they are losing money. And nobody is going to shell out $450-500 bucks for a game.

    5. Daimbert says:

      My view is that that model has always worked for the Elder Scrolls games …

      1. Except they don’t have the grind. Stuff may be far apart, the stories might be a bit lackluster, but you don’t have to spend hour upon hour in a given location killing the same mooks until they drop the needed number of items, points, or whatever.

        1. Avatar says:

          And Elder Scrolls Online, which did have the grind, flopped pretty hard.

          1. I would still love to see the assets from that be incorporated into a stand-alone Elder Scrolls game. At least they wouldn’t be a total waste that way.

            Say… Does it use the same basic engine as Skyrim? Maybe modders could pull the assets from the game and use them for the purpose they were intended: A decent game. :)

  4. MichaelGC says:

    It’s weird – I played 200+ hours of Inquisition, thoroughly enjoyed almost all of it, and yet don’t disagree with any of Shamus’ comments.

    (It’s possibly just because I’ve never MMOed, so whilst I know full well that ‘collect ten ram asses’ is groanworthy by this stage, I’m not personally sick of such just yet. Dunno! Odd one.)

    1. Wide And Nerdy says:

      I had an experience between yours and his. First playthrough, started out ok, started to get boring, then that one part of the game happens (the transition to Skyhold) and there’s rousing but cheesy stuff that echoes DAO and I’m thinking “Maybe they have remembered what they forgot. Maybe, like my first playthrough of DAO, it just takes a little while to get good.”

      I think the strength of that sequence combined with pretty environments and what I felt was the promise of what remained in the game, carried me through gameplay that ranged from dull to annoying (I’m kind of used to dull gameplay from Bioware and I could at least appreciate that they seemed to be trying.)

      But then the ending happened and I realized that much of what I did didn’t matter (I don’t mean the usual “my choices don’t matter” refrain so much as “my grinding and resource collection didn’t matter.”) Then the bloat got annoying, not just how much grinding you have to do but how long it takes to do each individual thing due to poorly optimized choices for interaction and interface (things like having to fast travel to the courtyard and then run into your keep, going through a second loading screen anytime you want to get to the war table, not being able to queue actions for the war table so you don’t have to visit as often, having to get right up on an item before clicking it so that your character is lined up to perform an unnecessary 3 second “pick up” animation that doesn’t line up with whats being picked up more than half the time anyway.)

      And the power point mechanic is a bad idea. After seeing it here and with “War Assets” in Mass Effect 3, I have to conclude that its causing them to lose the logical connections between story points. “You did this thing and that somehow helped you do the next thing.” Its like spackle for the plot. Somehow I can get an invitation to the Winter Palace based on the fact that I closed 10 rifts and filled 20 requisition orders for tents for my troops. I guess the empress just had to meet this guy who had such a passionate belief in making sure his troops had tents.

      I only did a second playthrough because I’d missed a lot of companion and side quests and got Stroud instead of one of the other two and I was still hoping to recapture the magic. It didn’t happen.

      I think the reason this game got such good reviews at launch is because of the expectations Bioware has set up among fans and critics. We know the gameplay isn’t going to be great and the visuals always have some quirks. We’re pleased that they put in any effort on that stuff at all, but we’re really here for the story and the companions, and this story looks hopeful in the beginning. It has a good premise and seems to take some interesting directions until you get towards the end and start asking yourself “why did I build an army to fight one guy? Why did I need a massive organization and political connections and blackmail material and tents for troops and outposts throughout Thedas when it all comes down to a squad battle?” And you know? There might even be an answer to that question that I’m missing but the grinding spreads out the plot points so much that its easy to forget.

      But by then critics have already written their review about the fun times they had with companions and only feel like they need to tack on “Aside from a disappointing ending” to the otherwise glowing review. The game takes so long and reviewers are on such a deadline that they probably don’t have time to stop and think about how much that ending deflates any future playthrough.

      1. Artur CalDazar says:

        ” filled 20 requisition orders”

        Please tell me you didn’t actually do that many?

        1. Wide And Nerdy says:

          I didn’t but you can. Thats the point. The game throws all that stuff into one big pot and then treats it all as one fungible commodity for gaining political or strategic access.

          1. guy says:

            Personally, I felt like they actually pretty much nailed it with the power system in terms of story integration, and I’d probably like it overall if they were a bit better about only making things available once they became things it would make sense to unlock instead of being zones twice your level. It’s basically a generic measure of your resources and credibility. Everything you do makes the Inquisition stronger in some capacity and convinces people it’s a going concern. Everyone wants the world saved, and when you shut rifts it helps convince people you’re the person who can do it and they should help you. Requisitions make your army better-equipped and stronger. Sidequests give you various kinds of support. I don’t mind abstracting the varied things you can get into one resource. I wouldn’t mind if it tracked the types of resource to give different kinds of flavor, though. For instance, if you had mainly soldiers you’d unlock new wilderness zones by deploying an expeditionary force, while lots of diplomatic contacts would let you negotiate with people for logistical support and maps. They’ve got that with the war table side missions, but not the actual power resource.

            1. Wide And Nerdy says:

              But the thing is, my resources seem to work equally well whether I’m getting an invite to the Winter Palace, Scouting an new area to establish a presence, or meeting the Templars. Lets say I got most of it from closing rifts. How does that give me access to a new area? Or if I did the research requistions. I can imagine that currying favor with a university should only get me so far, its not like they have limitless military might or anything.

              They did it a little better in the first part where your gathered forces were augmenting your rift mark to close the breach. But after that? The only thing you really need is Morrigan so that you can find Corypheus and kick his ass. So you need to go to a Winter Ball to do that which feels arbitrary because 1) You aren’t there to find Morrigan and 2) If you were looking for Morrigan, its the last place you’d expect her to be. (Because it makes no sense for her to be there. She doesn’t need courtly favor to hide. She has shapeshifting powers and grew up in the wilderness.)

              Besides which, they could have just as easily justified introducing Morrigan literally anywhere else in the story. She knows about you and given what her goal is, she has reason enough to seek you out on her own. Nothing about showing up at a ball or even helping the empress is going to do anything to influence her decision to join you other than the fact that it happens to place you in convenient conversation distance.

              1. guy says:

                Closing rifts helps you scout new areas because it impresses people and convinces them to help you. The university has money and contacts and rare books that you can find various uses for. It’s all very abstract, but I don’t mind that because it lets you pick and choose sidequests.

                The main quest stuff is all very goal-oriented. Your initial goal is to get help to close the Breach, and when you do that your goal rapidly becomes stopping Corypheus and the main quest advances that goal.

                It’s possible that your problem comes from going with the Templars; I went with the Mages. In the mage quest, you get flung into a bad future where Corypheus pretty much wins, and you learn that he assassinated the Empress to throw Orlais into chaos and invaded with an army of demons. So the goal of the Winter Palace mission is to save her to avert the chaos. I had also assumed that the Breach ritual required the blood of a woman of high rank, since the initial one used Justinia, so saving her would also stop the demon army. Didn’t turn out that way, but it was part of my thinking.

                Even discounting that, though, you don’t just need Morrigan. You want the help of the Orlesian military to fight Corypheus. There was that whole pitched battle in the forest against his army.

                1. Wide And Nerdy says:

                  I played through twice and tried each path once.

                  I had forgotten that revelation about the bad future. Frankly that was probably my favorite part of the first playthrough. I can’t even remember how you get that information in the Templar playthrough. When my Inquisitor revealed that he knew it, I was like “wait, we didn’t go to the bad future this time. How did you know?”

                  I think it would have worked better for me if I’d cared about more of these areas for their own sake. The only area I intrinsically cared about was the Hinterlands, its both the Redcliffe area and feels like the fantasy worlds I love in other games. It would have suited me just fine for Corypheus to throw Orlais into chaos because I hate every last single little thing about the Orlesians. I hate it for no good reason other than that I hate it.

                  I think this is what saved Mass Effect 3 for me. It didn’t matter as much to me that the ending wasn’t the amazing capstone. I’d spent the entire game helping people I cared about and resolving issues I was already invested in like the genophage and the geth quarian conflict.

                  In Dragon Age Origins, they made the plots all feel much more logically and hierarchically connected with stories nested in stories that all served the whole but each worked as their own bits of story.

                  I feel like if they’re going to do open world again for DA4, they need a premise that better supports that. Maybe something like Ultima IV where you’re questing to embody virtues as opposed to actively working for a specific organization with a specific goal the entire game. If they want to stick to their organizations, they need to go back to the old structure. It worked better.

          2. MichaelGC says:

            Aye, reckon you make a really good point about the power points or ‘War Assets’ setup causing them to lose the connexions between what you’re doing, and what you’re ultimately supposed to be doing it for.

            I guess one reason for doing it that way might be so that once you’ve finished the main story, you can keep playing – should you wish! – as the tents you’re now stitching weren’t going to affect the story anyway. As you say, they were just going to affect a number, and it’s the number that “affects” the story.

            And whilst that may be a reason for doing it that way, I’m not suggesting it’s a particularly good one! Much as I enjoyed myself with the game, I do think I would have preferred something a little more connected or holistic, even if that also meant it did indeed actually-end at the end.

            1. Wide And Nerdy says:

              If that was their goal, then it fails (which I’m sure you don’t dispute). At this point, you’d just be building the Inquisition for the sake of building it. It was created to avert a crisis and that crisis has passed, so why are you still building it?

              And there’s no getting away from that. People compare it to Skyrim. At least in Skyrim you were doing those things for you, for whatever reason you feel like. The rewards for additional questing in Skyrim are increase in your own abilities and wealth and exploring for the sake of it. It leaves you with the freedom to decide why you’re still doing it. You can save the world and end the civil war then adventure for your own sake or ignore both those things and get straight to the adventuring for your own sake.

              But DAI never lets you become divorced from questing for the Inquisition. You’re dragging along companions who answer to you because you’re the Inquisitor. You have an organization to manage if you’re going to keep it going.

              1. stratigo says:

                You’re still building it because you created a powerful organization suborned to your will. What, are you just going to retire? And even if you do, do you think the inquisition will just poof? These sorts of organizations tend to become self perpetuating.

                1. Wide And Nerdy says:

                  I would disband the Inquistion and hand its resources back to the organizations that lent them to aid in cleanup and rebuilding. The death of Corypheus is exactly when you have a chance to end it. Its a logical stopping point (or if there are still rifts leftover, close those then disband it.) If you set a precedent for it to continue, congratulations, you’ve given the church a standing army built to fight holy wars. Inquisitions aren’t supposed to be like that. One of the clerics tells you as much (I forget her name, the one you meet early on who joins). They lay down their arms when the purpose they were formed for is fulfilled. The game doesn’t give you that option. You can either turn off the game or continue building the Inquisition.

    2. Vermander says:

      Still on my initial playthrough, but I’m finding I’m also enjoying DA: I too. I play on an XBOX 360, so I’ve had the same shiny hair and tiny font issues as lower end PC users. Initially I was really put off by this, but eventually I stopped noticing it.

      It usually annoys me when people say “the game gets good a few hours in”, but this is the rare case where I’d say this is true. The early part is a bit of a slog, but I’m really enjoying running Skyhold. The place is huge! I keep finding new rooms that I hadn’t noticed (I was recently surprised to discover that we had a wine cellar where the stff has been stashing all the random bottles of booze I discover.

      For some reason a lot of game mechanics and superficial features I found tedious in Skyrim, like crafting armor or buying furniture for my keep, are more fun in Inquisition. I’ve learned that when I make a suit of armor I don’t care at all about its stats, I just care whether I can make it blue, and maybe ditch the spiky shoulder pads.

      I also like the characters. One or two of them are a bit tedious (mopey Cole annoys the hell out of me) but I’ve found most of them pretty interesting. For some reason I really got a kick out of catching Cassandra reading Varric’s trashy romance novel.

      For all the raging I did at the ME 3 ending, I feel a bit guilty that I’ve come back to Bioware again, but as I’ve said before, I haven’t found many other games that do the things I like about Bioware (customizable protagonist, fun and interesting supporting cast, and illusion of choice) quite as well.

      1. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        I’m on the XBox 360, too. The shiny hair bothers me a little -I think it looked better in DA2, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why shifting to the new engine would result in worse looking hair. But what really gets me is the facial hair. Beards don’t connect to the face -even with the cheeks fully expanded, there’s still this gap in in my inquisitor’s face -if you look at him dead on -where his beard just kinda leaves his skin. And when I experimented with mustaches, every single one of them appeared to be growing out of the lip, instead of from the space above the lip. And the stubble mustache keeps looking like it’s just pixilated visual artifacts. Blackwell’s facial hair actually looks really good -I don’t see why I can’t have that, too.

        I probably wouldn’t notice if I didn’t have a big screen TV.

        I just keep the helmet on, and I’ve pretty well enjoyed the game. Liberating that town at the Crossroads and clearing the road to Redcliff -that’s the experience I’ve always wanted and never gotten from Fallout: NV, or Skyrim. I’ll, of course, be disappointed if I return to Fort Connor to see it re-occupied by Templars. My only gripes are that the primary way I learn “I’m in over my head” in the open spaces is when after the first battle (in the Mire, for example, or closing the rift near the lost druffalo in the Hinterlands) is when attempting it results in a rapid TPK. Someone saying “whoa, that looks a bit steep, even for us…” would be appreciated.

        And it has had one other good effect. It made me go back and play through Dragon Age 2, and I found I enjoyed the game more than I had in the past, and that I could accept the ending. From there, I played Mass Effect 3 again, and likewise found that the ending didn’t bother me as much (though I do just figure that the Catalyst is lying about everything, and just blow up the reapers, and in my mind, no it doesn’t kill the Geth or EDI, because the Catalyst is lying).

        So, it has put 5 games (ME1-3 and DAO-2) back on my playing list. They had been off it for several years. I consider that worth it.

  5. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “there's nothing there that I really hated.”

    Really?Not even shadow of MORE DOOR?

    “I didn't play Valiant Hearts, Child of Light, Transistor, or This War of Mine.”

    You need to rectify this.Especially with transistor,and especially now that you are in your music phase.If nothing else,put the game in front of everything else because of the beautiful music.Seriously,listen to that girl hum a song is gorgeous,you will loose yourself for hours the first time you get the hum command(some 15 minutes in).

    Also this war of mine is a great game if you feel that you still have some parts of your soul not crushed by spec ops:the line.

    1. Shamus says:

      See, if I had played those games, then some others would have gone un-played, and people would be telling me I need to rectify THAT. And if I go back and play them now then I’m just adding to the list of stuff I’ll miss in 2015, which someone else will also say I need to rectify.

      Time is infuriatingly finite.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Any game that you dont play in order to play transistor is an acceptable loss.

      2. At this point, I’m mostly building up my Steam library for my eventual internment in a nursing home or a cardboard box with a laptop and close proximity to a coffee shop’s free WiFi.

        1. Dev Null says:

          I feel like that sometimes. I buy things because I want to play them and they’re on sale; I think I’ve played about half of my library.

      3. evileeyore says:

        “But then once all the episodes are out it feels like everyone else is done with the game and the conversation is over.”

        I get that having conversations is what you do around here… but…

        Maybe you should just occasionally kick back play a game for the sake of playing a game.

        Start with This War Of Mine. It’s fast to get into and you can get a feel for it very quickly (within 30 minutes you’ll know if you want to keep playing or not, but beware, it has that “One More Turn” effect like old skool Civ, you’ll keep wanting to play “One More Day”).

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          So what youre saying is that this war of mine will make you want to make a deal with the devil?Yeah,thats about correct.

      4. I'm Patrick.....he's Hicks. says:

        I’m still waiting for your view of Candy Crush. Its only the most popular and obsessively played game of 2014. I can’t believe you haven’t played it. This omission is yet another example of your wanton dismissal of your core audience, and demonstrates your tone deaf ignorance of the axle the gaming community rotates upon.

        I find your arguments invalid and life’s work empty and flawed. Your penance is making me a giant Nachos Bell Grande.

      5. Merlin says:

        It really does sound like you’re suffering in part from just choosing the wrong games to play. And doubly so because those games are all excessively long. It’s telling that Ubisoft gets two mentions (and I’m a little disappointed they didn’t hit the trifecta with a Far Cry 4 blurb). They’re the Michael Bay of the industry, constantly recycling generic content with the only underlying mentality being “more is better.” Where Bay is looking for more explosions and car chases, Ubisoft is looking for more minigames and towers to climb – more hours, basically. The sheer amount of stuff they put out combined with good production values means that both have some hits among the misses, but mostly they’re just time-wasters. And given that Ubisoft’s core goal is to waste as much of your time as possible… yikes.

        Maybe the lesson here is that 2014 was your Year of Overstayed Welcomes. Would Dragon Age feel more like a Fantasy Epic than a Directionless MMO if they cut out half of the sidequests? Maybe. Would Alien: Isolation have felt better if it was a 4-6 hour game you could play in one or two long sessions? Probably. Even the Telltale games you mentioned suffer a bit from the reality of episodic content (still) taking a long time. Hell, I’m really intrigued by the prospect of Kentucky Route 0, but two years after their first episode, they’re halfway through the game, and so it sits unpurchased on my Steam Wishlist.

        I wouldn’t extend that title to last year’s hits though. I’ve only even played 3 games released in 2014 (Banner Saga, Nidhogg, and Shovel Knight) but I loved each of them to death, in part because they knew when to wrap up.

        1. Matt K says:

          I definitely agree with this. I started playing Watseland 2 but didn’t get very far because I just don’t have time to play such lengthy game. Honestly, it took a while for me to complete Transistor which ended up being only 10hrs of game play. When I was younger longer playtime seemed like a great idea, but I’ve come to feel that having a tighter experience and a shorter playtime is better. But then again I’ll wait for the games to go on sale because there’s no way I’m paying $30+ for 5-10 hours of game play.

      6. tmtvl says:

        Well, don’t worry about playing Child of Light, it’s not really good. It’s silly, but not interesting, so it’s a bad kind of boring.

      7. Transistor felt to me like it only took a few hours to beat. If I had to guess I would say 4 hours (although I am probably wrong on that). Great for someone who is on a time crunch.

        The story concludes IMHO at precisely the perfect time, where it doesn’t feel like it was cut short. The game had an AMAZING vibe to it, can’t really explain, it’s really more than the sum of it’s parts if you ask me.

        It was really good, if you get it on PC you should probably play with a controller though (again, personal opinion, but I can’t help but feel it wasn’t designed for a Keyboard/mouse).

        If you are ever curious, there is a website that will tell you how long a game will generally take to beat in case you ever want to check:
        How long to beat

    2. Matthew I says:

      Transistor was (to me) really disappointing. It does a lot of things well, but the core gameplay and story just don’t work. Combat is an experimental mix of turn-based and real-time elements that jettisons the advantages of both systems (real-time attacks have 3-4 second animations, ruining its hectic reflex-driven nature, while planning mode just doesn’t force the player to worry about anything beyond maximizing damage), and story-wise its beginning is a confused mangling of in-medias-res* and the ending is a rage-inducing mangling of the silent protagonist**. But yes, the music was amazing.

      *The story begins with the PC standing over a body with a sword sticking out of it, and the sword commenting “we’re not going to get away with this.” If you think this means the PC just murdered a bloke? Nope. Common mistake. He was killed by the main antagonists in an failed attempt to kill the PC and the sword was possessed by its victim.

      **Long story short, the PC goes through hell to complete a quest in Transistor, and why exactly she does so is irrelevant (and almost uncommented on) until literally the last 10 seconds, when a silent protagonist’s motivations and feelings become a critical plot point. (Also, player, you’re WRONG about what they were).

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Ive found real time combat to work very well once you unlock a bunch of powers that you can combine into something that is either quick,or slow but makes you invulnerable while its executing.

        As for turn based parts,they become crucial if you use some of the more devious limiters.

        It takes a lot for the system to get going though,but once it does it rushes on with considerable steam.

  6. Piflik says:

    Spoiler: Next part will include Titanfall…

  7. MichaelGC says:

    Re: Wolfamongus

    By the time the next episode arrives I'll have lost my connection to the world and forgotten half the characters.

    I played Episodes 1-4 in basically one sitting, and it still felt like this! It actually felt as though the developers themselves had the same issue…

    Maybe I was in the wrong frame of mind, or maybe this is just not my type of game, but by Episode 4 I no longer had any idea what we were trying to achieve or why I needed to visit some particular place to achieve it, whatever it was. (Maybe Episode 5 beautifully ties it all together? – I confess I didn’t bother with Ep. 5…)

    I do like the general idea, though, and I’m glad that others enjoyed it, but for me the actual questline was a baffling mess.

  8. gunther says:

    Yeah, Dragon Age Inquisition… I put 30 hours into it the week it was released, then stopped for good. I remember enjoying it at the time, but I have absolutely zero interest in playing it any more. No idea why.

    I did find out I had a bug where companion banter was drastically reduced – I watched a friend play it and they were getting banters between companions every ten minutes or so, which was enough to make the world feel that little bit more alive while also fleshing out the characters. Apparently the low-banter bug is incredibly common and there’s still no fix for it, which kinda sucks.

    But if it got patched tomorrow, I doubt I’d feel inclined to ever give it another go. Again; no idea why. Maybe the Bioware model has just gotten stale.

    1. MichaelGC says:

      Aye – I believe they plan to address the sparse-banter issue in a future patch. But! – apparently: is not bug, is feeeecha:

      We have conducted rigorous initial tests, all of which have shown that the system is working as intended.


      1. “…the system is working as intended.”

        That could’ve been a line from the hologram-kid at the end of Mass Effect 3.


        1. MichaelGC says:

          We have conducted rigorous artistic tests, all of which have shown that the vision is working as intended.

      2. gunther says:


        By which I mean I literally don’t believe it. You can watch Let’s Play streams and see that some players get frequent banter (once every ten minutes seems to be what the game is supposed to have) while others just don’t ever get banter. Their refusal to acknowledge that the bug exists is absurd even for modern-day EA-owned Bioware.

  9. Thomas says:

    The thing is, if you stripped half the game out of Dragon Age Inquisition, I’m pretty sure you’d end up with the same level of content and engagement as any other Bioware game. It very much sounds like Shamus never even got to the end of the prologue or the first story mission. Did you even meet Cole or Dorian as party members?

    -But! That’s not a criticism of Shamus. The game game basically encourages you to do all the little filler missions that absolutely sucked in ME1 and it lays the breadcrumbs so that instead of realising the side missions suck and playing the story missions (like in ME1), it encourages you to play the side missions and ignore the story missions.

    And the side missions are a lot more fun, but in a grindy MMO way. So people play them for 10-20 hours without ever trying a main story mission, and then the fun disparates and they stop playing without ever having progressed the main story or doing anything worth remembering afterwards.

    I think there has been a lot of discussion about the Inquisition and Iron Bull and that kind of aspect, but even that’s hampered because everyones too busy doing the side missions to do the things worth talking about to other people. It’s the only game that everyone buys at the same time and no-one discusses because they’ve all spent 60 hours killing rabbits instead of ruining Leliana and the world.

    Thematically, I think it’s the strongest Bioware game made. It’s the first Bioware game where people have brought their own life situations and beliefs into the story discussion proper. But that’s surrounded by 100 hours of completely other stuff.

    (Also, even Shamus did actually play the main game, I don’t think you’d enjoy it. So this isn’t a recommendation to try again or anything. But I think other people who get stuck in the MMO grinding feedback loop might enjoy the rest of the game if they played it)

    1. Wide And Nerdy says:

      If all you’ve got for themes is the thing with Dorian that falls apart. In two playthroughs I never did it. And I wasn’t trying to avoid him. I even made the occasional effort to go talk to him but it barely got to the point where he started hinting at the issue with his sexuality and his family. It got swallowed up in the game.

      As for main themes, I think they dropped the ball. Conversationally they kept bringing up this theme of “what are you building all this for? What are you going to do with it when you’re done?” and they completely dropped that one. They could have done something with it after you sealed the Breach. With the Breach sealed, it would be easy for people to feel like the crisis had passed and start hurling accusations that you made up this “Corypheus” thing as a witch hunt to justify your continued existence. But everyone just sort of knows that Corypheus is a threat that needs to be dealt with. Granted, it would have taken a little reworking to make that happen but I felt like it would have been worth it. Maybe a post story DLC will go into that.

      The other arguably related theme is “what role should the church play? What kind of reform might be justified?” But in my opinion this only plays into your choice for a Divine and your decision early on to pick Mages or Templars. There’s otherwise a lot of conversation about it but the story and the gameplay are entirely about there being a big threat that needs to be stopped. So these potentially strong themes end up being weakly presented.

      1. Artur CalDazar says:

        I’d say faith is a very strong theme in the game if not the strongest. Most companions are dealing with some crisis of faith and spirituality the main plot deals directly with it, it’s the most common issue that gets talked about with you and you can express rather nuanced or harsh ideals.

        1. Thomas says:

          Faith is definitely one of the strongest themes of the game

      2. guy says:

        I actually didn’t mind the whole faith/church thing kind of falling flat, because I played a Tal-Vashoth mage and her position on every religious matter was essentially, “Eh, maybe, I’m not a theologian. Look, there’s a hole in the sky raining demons.” Whenever religious issues came up, I deliberately selected noncommittal responses. She didn’t know or especially care exactly how she’d wound up with the brand, and she didn’t know whether or not she’d been selected as the Maker’s champion but did know she hadn’t gotten special insight on matters of doctrine.

        However, the Inquisition structure/future issues were really pretty weird to me. When people started raising the question of who would lead, I was honestly baffled. I seriously didn’t realize that my character hadn’t already become the official leader; the dialogue options I picked were always calm and authoritative and the scenes all felt like consulting with my team of advisers and subordinates. And I really wished that I could properly answer people asking about the future, because I already had an idea at the very beginning and set a firm idea after Haven. Upon the election of a new Divine, the Inquisition would become the militant arm of the Chantry and the title of Inquisitor would become a permanent one that reported to the Divine. It would fight demons, darkspawn, rogue mages, and anyone else the Chantry required. After Haven, I’d selected the mages and Red Lyrium had claimed the Templars. I wanted the Templar Order permanently disbanded and any surviving members folded into the Inquisition. I figured the best mage-related option was to reform the Circles as schools more than prisons, with mages who completed the Harrowing being more-or-less free. They might be assigned escorts just in case but they’d act more like bodyguards than jailers. The Inquisition would handle security for the circles and retain a battlemage component.

        Basically, I was playing a level-headed, focused, and decisive character and I wanted her to respond to those questions with definitive answers, but the game didn’t really let me.

      3. Eruanno says:

        One thing I really like is something they touch on here and there. What IS spirituality and what are the gods and faith, really? Corypheus says he went to what people think is the literal seat of the Maker and that it was empty. And then some others claim that maybe these beings we refer to and revere aren’t gods at all and some of them are huge assholes. There’s even some stuff about the elf war with Tevinter not being at all what the elves think it was and that a lot of the history they hold dear is wrong.

        1. Wide And Nerdy says:

          I’ll admit, I did like the idea of Corypheus being a present god to counter the absent Maker. I think the appeal of that could have been played up, maybe used in conjunction with the “Why does the Inquisition still exist?” idea I mention earlier in the thread. THAT would have been a compelling villain. Maybe have him perform some miracles to show people the appeal of an active god instead of just being a rampaging conquering demon.

          I don’t think it works terribly well here though. I can’t imagine anyone preferring that the Dark Lord Sauron rule the world as a god actively in place of the unseen or nonexistent Maker.

          1. guy says:

            Honestly, one thing that kind of bugged me with Inquisition is that it went too far into the myths. I liked how the first two games had all this mythology and never really confirmed any of it. They pretty much left it an open question whether any of the religions were accurate; maybe Andraste’s ashes were blessed by the Maker or maybe it was the lyrium in the chamber that gave them healing powers.

            In Inquisition, though, I got the very strong impression that every religion except the Chantry was accurate. The Elven gods show up and demonstrate power, we hear more about the Old Gods being properly godlike, and so forth. Meanwhile, there’s only evidence against the Chantry; while you confirm the Golden City Expedition happened and created the Darkspawn, there’s no reason to think that was divine punishment instead of what happens when you use a massive blood sacrifice to open a hole into the manifestation of humanity’s perception of unobtainable paradise. I was particularly irritated when you learn how you survived the Conclave; I’d been hoping to go the entire game without that question ever being definitively answered.

            1. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

              I haven’t gotten far enough into the game to see the religious debates flourish -I’m just at Mother Giselle and Leliana kvetching about the ancient injustices of the Chantry, but that has been enough to bug me.

              I’ve got a friend who is a medievalist, and he watched bits of it with me, and he concurred with me: the religious people are thoroughly 20th century thinkers transported back to a 15th century world. If Mother Giselle seriously doubts the existence of the maker or the quasi-divinity of Andraste, she never would have made Divine Mother. Leliana’s desire to reform the Chantry is entirely political -completely divorced from religious doctrine. She doesn’t even have the decency to concoct a post-hoc doctrinal justification. Even Henry VIII felt the need to invoke Leviticus to annul his marriage to Catherine, and when that failed, he latched onto the doctrinal claims of the Protestants -but it never would have occurred to him to simply make a power play like the characters of Inquisition do.

              Similarly, the Inquisitor has lines like “People worship me. I like that.” And it’s treated as not a huge deal -when it’s the kind of things crusades got called over. Even the question “do you believe in the Maker” is inconceivable to the mindset that should be present in the game.

              Now, generally I can overlook this because it’s not Earth in the 15th century. Their culture has developed in other ways, their Chantry is functionally more like a Mystery Religion than Catholicism, anyway (though as a Mystery Religion, why it has religious orders like the Templars becomes an open question -and while political-religious power plays weren’t unknown to the Romans and Greeks, let alone Persians or Babylonians, it is still an open question whether any of the people in those civilizations could have comprehended a question like “does the Maker/Pantheon” exist).

              But it is still jarring.

              1. guy says:

                Actually, there was a pretty strong atheistic strain among ancient philosophers.

                Mother Giselle isn’t an atheist, though. She questions the Chantry and some details of the myths, but not the Chant Of Light itself. Same with Lelianna. The historical Catholic Church had no shortage of reformist movements, most notably Pope Gregory VII, and there was no shortage of power plays with only a thin veneer of doctrinal justification.

                Likewise, calling yourself the Herald Of Andraste does make trouble for you, hence why you go looking for high ranking Chantry members who are willing to support you. It doesn’t make large-scale trouble for you because the Chantry is falling apart. The Divine and every serious candidate for her replacement died at Haven. Their militant arm has gone completely rogue. The top advisers of the previous divine are Cassandra and Lelianna. Chancellor Rodrick has no spiritual authority whatsoever. None of the local military powers are likely to respond to a call for an Exalted March even if there were a Divine to authorize one. Tevinter is busy fighting the Qunari, and in any case the Black Divine is unlikely to be concerned.

                1. Wide And Nerdy says:

                  Being the Herald of Andraste doesn’t cause near as much strife as it should. Big missed opportunity. Sure you fight the templars but its because they’re the Red Templars, corrupted and evil. They didn’t need the Templars to be red to justify them fighting you (though I’ll give them points for rule of cool).

                  1. Artur CalDazar says:

                    The Templars were aligned against their own chantry before tey were red. They are as herituc as you are,

                    1. Wide And Nerdy says:

                      The ones that don’t turn red can be converted back quite easily as long as you don’t side with the mages. If this were the Catholic church, your blasphemy would be a bigger issue than cavorting with the occultists (though either would be unpardonable in their eyes).

            2. Thomas says:

              I wish it hadn’t revealed what happened at the rift too. But it does bring an interesting crisis of faith to someone who believes Andraste might have saved them, and the game does have a lot of conversations about that crisis of faith, all of which are interesting and raise interesting points

              1. Wide And Nerdy says:

                I’ll agree. This thread has reminded me just how much the “crisis of faith” angle was used as a theme. I remember liking it when I first came across it with Lelianna. It was surprising at first that they had her character going through that but within the same conversation it began to make perfect sense. It helps that the Maker is understood to be an absent deity.

                Then on the opposite side you have Varric who is an Andrastian unwilling to set foot in a church but still perfectly willing to believe you’re the Herald even after the things that come to light later in the game. And that makes sense. I think anyone in real life who has faith could look at these events and feel like there’s purpose in it.

  10. Thomas says:

    A lot of people have been feeling that 2014 was a pretty downer year in general. Most end of year recaps about most things have been incredibly negative.

    There’s a legitimate (as in effective and used, not as in ‘right’) tactic that politicians use(this was told to me directly by someone whose job it was to devise campaigning strategies for a political party), where they try to discourage people from engaging with politics at all by making it seem like every side of every argument is awful and there’s solution to anything. The idea is, if you’re a political party whose supporters are more extremist, then they’ll still turn up to vote whilst reducing everyone else’s count.

    And a documentarian from the BBC has had the idea that marketing campaigns in other walks of life have begun experimenting with this tactic. Maybe the Royal Bank of Scotland can’t regain it’s reputation, but it can stop other banks from gaining market share by making them all out to be bad, that kind of thing. Or Comcast can destroy reform laws by making the public sick of hearing about X broadband regulation.

    And I was thinking, maybe the culmination of these kind of campaigns is damping the optimism of people in general and we’re finding it harder to celebrate the good amongst the bad this year

    1. MichaelG says:

      It’s my fault. The world revolves around me, and I’ve been depressed.

  11. Mephane says:

    Well, for me it was the year Elite Dangerous came out (and I played the Alpha and Beta throughout the year), which kind of overshadowed pretty much everything else. :)

  12. The Other Matt K says:

    I really liked the full scope of Dragon Age: Inquisition. The story didn’t have as much depth to it as some Bioware titles, but did a really good job of both drawing on the past Dragon Age games, while also setting up something new and interesting for the future.

    I can definitely see how one might tire of the ‘MMO’ style of everything going on. I had something similar happen when I played Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, which was very much the same as DA:I in scale. The thing is, when I got tired with the grind in Amalur, I then stopped all the side-questing and focused on the main story, and the game worked just fine in that mode.

    I got the sense the same is true in DA:I – even with the ‘power’ requirements to open some areas/quests, they didn’t seem so onerous that grinding was a necessity for them. And by doing everything, I ended up way overlevelled for the content (which I was fine with) – but it leaves me to assume that if I focused entirely on the story chapters, I would be right in the sweet spot for the challenge of the game.

    Now, I can’t say that for sure, of course. But I do wonder if those who tired of the MMO aspects of DA:I, if they simply ignored those aspects and focused on the core plot, if that would make the game feel more like classic Bioware in nature.

    1. guy says:

      Personally, I got kinda screwed over by the power system because my natural instincts guided me into a terrible mistake. I was level 8 or so, having just gotten to Skyhold, and I looked at my map and noticed I had a number of 8 power sidequest zones, two 20 power sidequest zones, and a 40 power main plot mission. I looked at this and said to myself “Well, I guess the 20 power areas are large zones with lots to do and the 8 power zones are more minor and focused. I’ll unlock the 20 power zones and mostly focus on them.”

      Turns out the 20 power zones were level 16 zones. It was horribly painful.

  13. I'm Patrick.....he's Hicks. says:

    “The one thing I liked about the game …..was locked away in a pre-order bonus and not part of the main game.”

    For those of you who don’t regularly play consoles this type of “business model” has gone from occasionally annoying, to standard practice and landed on habitually abused and punitive. Nearly every game released on XBox or PS4 has some kind of content removed and dangled in front of the consumer for an extra cost.

    And I’m not talking about whole DLC add-ons. I’m talking about normal game content. It’s like selling a car but charging $10 for the buttons and knobs for the radio and air conditioner. $5 for the stickers that go on the buttons to tell you what each one does. When developers are talented enough to make a game, intuitive enough to recognize what makes the game actually, you know, fun…. and then intentionally leaves that portion out, that goes beyond a “dick move”. Cell phone and internet providers aren’t this asshole-ish. It’s like a restaurant charging extra for the bowl and spoon when they sell you soup.

    “We wanted to provide our customers value and service by giving them the option to have their soup poured directly into their mouths if they felt the bowl and spoon were features they weren’t interested in.” Chip Dickwade, Director of public relations. EA Restaurants INC

  14. Drew says:

    I’ve played the hell out of Divinity: Original Sin this year. It’s not without its flaws, but someone made a lengthy RPG designed for co-op play, and that’s completely my sweet spot. The combat system has some really interesting aspects, there are multiple ways to resolve some of the quests, and turn-based combat where you can discuss your plan with your co-op teammate is just fantastic.

    I don’t know if it’s worth discussing at length and heaping rewards upon, or if it’s just right in my wheelhouse, but I’m glad to see a game like this get made, and I was very glad to see that it’s gotten a lot of positive press as well.

    1. lucky7 says:

      My favorite moments were the side quests. When I got to the second town, Imissed a dialogue option with Ruby before sending her to the troll. Since I wanted to see it, I tried to kill the troll while sparing her. She gave the exact same piece of dialogue about the troll loving to hear her tell stories. I have never cracked up so hard.

    2. Wide And Nerdy says:


      We have DOS, Wasteland 2, Pillars of Eternity, Torment Tides of Numenera, and Shovel Knight (this last one making several critics Top X lists) all funded by Kickstarter. As much crap as we’ve given Ubisoft for their perfect storm of suck, their Ubi-art division seems like a success with Child of Light and (forgive me if I’m misremembering) Valiant Hearts. And even with their big triple A flops, they were at least trying gameplay that wasn’t bro shooter. I mean they tried a game that had hacking as a central mechanic. Its nothing new but its encouraging to see in such a big title. And Assassins Creed is built around traversal. Wolfenstein resurrected the old school shooter sensibility and had an imaginative story. Telltale proved that Walking Dead Season One wasn’t a fluke.

      Nintendo seems to be rallying now that they’ve got Mario Kart 8 and Bayonetta 2 out and this Amiibo thing is kind of a neat idea. One of the three major console developers is still trying to be innovative about gameplay. Its something.

  15. Artur CalDazar says:

    Huh, in a couple entries you mention that the conversation around the games affecting your playing of them, or not doing so. Is being part of a conversation a big or consistent influence?

    Anyway as with most end of year lists for 2014 I’m more interested in the upsides, they have been pretty assorted.

  16. bloodsquirrel says:

    Dragon Age: Inquisition really doesn’t seem to have been talked about much in general, at least not compared to DA:O or DA:II. I think we’re reaching the point where old Bioware fans have just given up caring. I still haven’t played it, and don’t really feel any need to.

    1. tmtvl says:

      I’m boycotting Bioware over Mass Erect 2, and I haven’t heard anything said about DA:I that makes me want to play it.

      Bioware is trading their old fans for newer, probably younger fans.

      1. Ofermod says:

        On the bright side, Obsidian’s bringing us Pillars of Eternity, InExile’s making Tides of Numenera, and Beamdog announced a new Baldur’s Gate game. The future should be good for us old-school fans.

      2. Wide And Nerdy says:

        Even the younger fans excuse doesn’t hold water. We were the younger fans back when they were still making good thoughtful games. Millenials aren’t stupid.

  17. Darren says:

    Wow, I tend to agree with your specific complaints even if I disagree overall (for instance, I see how Alien: Isolation would be more annoying than anything else, but I was overall very impressed) but I really disagree with you about Inquisition.

    Mass Effect caught on big, but Dragon Age has always felt more niche. It’s not surprising at all to me that a game where you can spend 20 hours on essentially the prologue hasn’t caught on. It’s a massive game, and approaching 60 hours in I’m still uncovering new things about my companions (this is probably why you feel they are empty; the game doesn’t front-load all the conversations the way some other Bioware titles do) and engrossed in a number of interesting quests without having even seen whole maps.

    And that’s before we get to the raw content. I’m not trying to start something, but have you noticed how much more non-mainstream Dragon Age is compared to Mass Effect? The first two ME titles had no gay romance and a lesbian romance informed by the fairly straight-male-centric sex species. Dragon Age has leaned harder towards GLBTQ content from the start, and Inquisition features one gay man, one lesbian, one bisexual (who is the most traditionally macho character in the whole party), and even a transgender character in a supporting role. I’m not trying to stereotype, but I genuinely think that Dragon Age is simply going to repel a lot of the people who participate in gaming conversations.

    Where I’ve seen a lot of discussion of Inquisition is over at the AV Club, a pop culture website that has a lot of commenters who are into vaguely hipsterish pasttimes and, perhaps not coincidentally, has a lot of GLBT commentators. If you want to see detailed discussion of the game and the series as a whole, head over there. If you’re just going to stick with the typical gamers, you’re going to misunderstand the popularity and appeal of this particular franchise.

  18. Zukhramm says:

    I don’t know what people are talking about really, 2014 was pretty good to me. Of course, if you chose to play Watch Dogs and Assassin’s Creed 9 then yeah, it might not seem that great, but really, if people played those games it’s their own fault for having a bad year.

    1. tmtvl says:

      Yeah, I’ve put a bunch of time in Dark Souls 1 and Fallout New Vegas, and I had a lot of fun.

  19. guy says:

    My main complaint with Inquisition is that its side content is too large in a lot of respects.

    First, there’s too many sidequests. I think that’s from a well-intentioned plan to have a giant buffet of sidequests so people can only pick the ones they’re interested in and not have to worry about falling behind, but I actually was interested in lots of the sidequests and got annoyed that I outleveled zones before I got even close to finishing them.

    Second, the companion sidequests involve going to widely separated areas, often in different zones, and there are a number of other widely-scattered sidequests. I don’t mind that kind of thing in principle, but I feel that when they’ve got something like that it should give you something meaningful for partial completion, and these gated interesting companion backstories.

    Third, there was simply too much physical space. Things were infuriatingly far apart even on horseback. The space wasn’t exactly wasted, because there was interesting content all over, but it made it a huge pain when you wanted to go somewhere specific. Also, the headquarters were too big. It took way too much time to just walk around and talk to all my companions and I frequently simply didn’t do it.

    Finally, they really dropped the ball with the War Table in a lot of ways. Obviously there’s the whole “real time” issue where it feels like one of those terrible free-to-play games that soak you for money by making everything take much too long if you don’t pay. Secondly, when the timers were short or you took long breaks you could have them complete while you’re in the middle of something and it’s annoyingly inconvenient to go back, check your rewards, and send people on new ones. There were also so many of them the map got wildly cluttered.

    Also, you get to pick whether to send your diplomat, general, or spymaster on them, and the choice apparently affects what you get, which theoretically leads to interesting choices. But there’s not really any information on how it changes things, so I picked them at random.

    Of course, in a sense none of that is terribly important, because the rewards are basically meaningless. Lots of them just give points towards Inquisition perks, but the amounts are tiny. Others give items or schematics, but not very good ones.

  20. Kian says:

    I’m slowly making my way through DA:I, I’ve got nearly 90 hours in it (maybe 10 of those are waiting on loading screens -_-). I feel the game is somehow vast, empty and cluttered at once.

    First, every RPG ever has trained me to do absolutely everything I can before advancing the main quest, because main quest missions tend to alter the state of the world and close off areas and such. I nearly cleared the Hinterlands before reaching Skyhold, and the Hinterlands are HUGE. So it feels like things progress slowly.

    In addition, travelling is a pain. The game looks “open world”, but in reality each map is split into areas and those areas have entrances and exits. It’s just disguised, which means getting from one place to another isn’t as easy as going in a straight line, but requires that you take non-obvious circuitous roads. And worse, some of those paths require that you complete some task before they become available. So you’ll see a marker for a quest, try to reach it, and find out you need to start bordering a mountain, a river or some other impassable terrain looking for the path in. I still haven’t been able to figure out how to reach the marker for one of Cassandra’s quests, because although it looks like it should be easy to reach, it’s in a cordoned off area of the map. Which I learned by spending close to an hour exploring the map trying to get in.

    Also, the side-quests feel meaningless, because the characters involved are so poorly characterized. Sometimes there aren’t even characters involved, you just read a note someone left about something they meant to do, go to the place and complete what they intended to do, and you’re done. There’s an attempt at environmental storytelling, like you’ll see the corpses of the people that left the note around, but that doesn’t help me feel bad for them. All I know is they meant to do something and now they’re dead. It doesn’t fel like I made an impact, and most npcs are completely static, they don’t react to you going by, you can’t talk to them, etc. They’re just decoration.

    Your companions are the exception, as is usually the case for BioWare games. I do enjoy going around talking to them periodically, completing quests for them, etc. But that means finding them in Skyhold. It can take something like ten to fifteen minutes just to find all of them, without accounting for the conversations themselves.

    In the end, it feels like I spend too much time just trying to get to places, and very little time doing interesting things that affect the environment in a meaningful way.

    1. guy says:

      Yeah, I think I know the Cassandra quest you’re talking about. If it’s the one in the Western Approach, there’s this fortress in the northwest that looks like it’s part of the skybox, and you have to find a hole near its base to break in and take over in order to unlock some War Table stuff that gets you into the enclosed area. It was a colossal pain.

  21. General Karthos says:

    Not sure I can agree with the statement that your companion characters in inquisition “don’t have anything to say”. I’ve heard some pretty amusing conversations between a number of my companion characters, without the dialogue being repeated (except in the rare instance where I lost about half an hour of progress because my XBox crashed). Do those conversations have any meaning? No, but they’re charming and I find them fun.

    I also find that the world is very deep. You have to go looking, and spend time reading to get the additional history entries, but it’s worth it, and I’ve had occasions where I’ve spent an hour just reading about the world. Now, maybe that’s just me. I enjoy a good, deep world, but so far at least, Bioware has kept it consistent. Certainly better than they did with Mass Effect. (Ugh. I love Science Fiction, but the problems with Mass Effect are extremely deep.)

    I don’t know. I’m enjoying Dragon Age: Inquisition. Of course, I’m 40 hours into it, so I don’t know…. Seems like my initial reaction didn’t compare to yours. I’m not saying you’re wrong, Shamus, and I’m certainly not saying “you must play it” if you don’t enjoy it, but…. Yeah, I dunno. I’m quite enjoying it. I just finished the time-travel based mage recruitment mission which was a fun idea and I thought, quite well-executed, since it lets you see the world the way it will be if you fail.

    1. General Karthos says:

      EDIT: I say 40 hours. My XBox says 100+ hours, but because I didn’t know that you have to quit a game before you turn off the console or the timer will keep counting, I don’t actually KNOW how much time I’ve put in. It’s gotta be 40 hours by now though.

  22. Phrozenflame500 says:

    This year has actually been really good for non-AAA games.

    Indies got This War of Mine and Crypt of the Necrodancer and One Finger Death Punch and Shovel Knight and The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth and Transistor and the TellTale titles and a huge number of others. It’s been given less attention because of the new console and the negativity surrounding the AAA scene and… other events, but the indie scene is still booming strong.

    The Wii U also finally got a bunch of really good games that makes it ironically the most attractive console IMO right now. You have Smash 4, Mario Kart 8, Captain Toad and Donkey Kong. It also got my own personal GOTY Bayonetta 2.

    So yeah, 2014 was pretty good all and all.

    1. Trix2000 says:

      Not to mention the selection that the 3DS produced this year as well.

      For a Nintendo fan, it was a pretty good year.

  23. swenson says:

    The Wolf Among Us will take you like eight hours if you play it straight through. Go play it!! It’s great! I played it through in one day, then spent the next week reading Fables (the comics universe it’s in), which should tell you how much I liked it.

    (I do agree that bits are a little disjointed when you play it straight through, and there’s a number of dropped plot elements, but it was fun enough I didn’t really care. Characters are great, too.)

  24. Nyctef says:

    I really liked Inquisition, particularly the characters, but it is WAY too easy to get caught up in sidequests for hours on end. You really have to ration those things

  25. Zardon says:

    I’ll throw Wasteland 2 on the pile of good titles that came out this year. Not groundbreaking, but good old fashion fun and depth.

  26. Smejki says:

    Talos Principle maybe?
    Divinity: Original Sin?
    Elite: Dangerous?
    Door Kickers?
    The Banner Saga?

    Holy crap this list of tips ran dry quickly. Meh.
    The most symptomatic games of this year for me are TESO and Wasteland 2. The first represents the AAA meh. The second just proven two things: 1. KS is a very much viable platform 2. KS by itself is not a guarantee of top notch quality

  27. Kristoffer says:

    Shamus, if I can’t trust you to nitpick the story in Inquisition, I don’t know what I’ll do.

    This year made me want to get a Wii U, I’ll say that for it. I was expecting to be warming up to a ps4 around this point, but nothing’s really turned up so far that made me excited.

  28. Atle says:

    Maybe I’ve outgrown these types of games, I’ve played them at least since the original Bards tale.

    But I think the problem is the mechanics that through the series separates me more and more from what’s going on.

    There’s a lot of random encounters. None of them matters or feel special. ALl enemies met feel the same, demon or man, I meet them with the same ignorant tactics. And there is no consequences, worst case scenario is trying again from a few seconds back in the game.

    My three companions, the do what they do. I don’t know what powers they have, or how they think. Ooe of the guys has an ice wall kind of thing. I have never seen him using it.

    Upgrading their powers, I don’t know what to go for. The descriptions are superficial, and I don’t understand the impact.

    Trying to take direct control over the companions is really difficult. The interface doesn’t really support this kind of playing.

    I’ve bought DA 1, 2 and 3, and I really wants to love these games. But I think the game mechanics have gotten worse with each.

    I still want to like the game, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to find the motivation to get into it again.

  29. SmileyFace says:

    Is it really fair to put games like the Wolf Among Us or TWD: Season 2 in the losers pile for the sole reason that you didn’t play them? The rest of the stuff is being disqualified on the basis of the game’s content, but these are being eliminated for reasons that have very little to do with their quality as games.

    I mean, it makes sense if the main reason you play games is for the conversation that evolves around them, but in that case you’d get to have either the full conversation in the window after the game’s completed, the same as any other game (catching up shouldn’t be a problem if you’re playing frequently enough for the staggered release schedule to put you off), or 5 different conversations over the course of the release schedule.

    1. Phantos says:

      In fairness, it’s probably for the best that he hasn’t fully played TWD: Season 2.

      That game was bad even in a year that gave us mostly unfinished disasters(Thief, Watch Dogs, Halo Master Chief Collection, Sonic Boom, Rambo, Assassin’s Creed Unity…)

      Maybe 2014 wasn’t memorable for games because we’re all trying as hard as we can to forget it ever happened?

  30. Cinebeast says:

    Sad to hear you couldn’t get into Inquisition. It’s probably one of my favorite Bioware games ever now, and it’s gone a long way to helping me forgive them for ME3’s ending.

    Even though two separate branches worked on each IP. Eh. I suppose I should say that DAI has gone a long way to help me forgive them for DA2. Time will tell if they’ve learned anything with Mass Effect 4.

    Anyway, hope you found some good games too, Shamus.

  31. Alec says:

    This is the dopiest column Shamus has turned out in a while.
    “The year was Meh, but here are all the great games that I’d probably love that I didn’t bother playing”

    And for good measure “here are all the games I did play that I never bother explaining what I didn’t like about in my usual in-depth manner during the year”

    What *did* you play this year then? Was Spoiler Warning taking up all your free time? I guess I’ll wait for Part 2, but it’s just not like Shamus to have nothing to say, then write a piece about it anyway.

  32. skellie10 says:

    As the years have gone by I’ve found my opinion slowly moving away from Shamus’s, and I’ve always found that very unfortunate, but never before have I found it so unfortunate as in this case. I legitimately don’t understand how Shamus couldn’t enjoy Alien: Isolation. It was one the best games this year, easily the best AAA title, and overall a fantastic experience for any fan of the original Alien movie, back when it was still untainted by the existence of everything that came after.

    The fact that Shamus’s main complaint about it is that it’s more annoying than scary suggests to me that he only bothered to play the infuriatingly unforgiving Nostromo DLC missions. The main game is not remotely as stingy with the placement of save points and so forth, while at the same time being just as packed with the atmosphere of Alien and providing a compelling, tense, emotionally draining experience in its own right.

  33. Phantos says:

    Did 2014 even happen? Do we have confirmation that that was a year that existed?

    I actually struggled to think of enough things last year that I’d want to put into an end-of-year Top 10 list. Literally the only game I remember from 2014 is Dark Souls II.

    …Either that, or I’m so addicted to Dark Souls that I’ve lost sight of the rest of my life.

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