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The RPG Files: Dragon Age: Inquisition is Too Easy (and That’s Just Fine)

By Christopher Coke on December 19, 2014 | Columns | Comments

Dragon Age: Inquisition is Too Easy (and That’s Just Fine)

In the age where Dark Souls reigns supreme, Dragon Age: Inquisition can seem staggeringly easy. The last two weeks has seen conversations about the game dominated by harsh critiques of its difficulty. All you have to do is hold one button! critics claim, then collect your loot. The thing is, that’s not totally inaccurate, even if it does ignore huge swaths of the rest of the game. But you know what? I don’t much care. And do you know what else? Neither should you, and here’s why.

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This shouldn’t need to be said, but Dragon Age is not Dark Souls. I can see where you might have gotten confused seeing as how they both have magic and skeletons and all, but that’s kind of like comparing Slayer and Santana just because they both used the words “black magic” in their songs. Or, how about this, it’s like comparing RuPaul and Bill O’Rielly just because they both have TV shows. You dig? So let’s stop the comparisons right off the bat.

Here’s the thing, Dark Souls is pretty much the Fifty Shades of Grey of the roleplaying world. It hurts so bad, it’s good, right? It’s the kind of game you have to be a little bit of a twisted sister to like. And I say that out of love, RPG fans, and as a twisted sister myself. Spending time in Dark Souls (either) is like taking a trip to your cities worst, muddiest ghetto and filling it with angry tooth dragons.

See, this tooth dragon illustrates the difference between these two games nicely. The above is Dark Souls, a game where even screenshots kick you in the crotch and tell you to go home. Here, on the other hand, is Dragon Age.

See what I mean? Big difference, right? He even looks a little cute with those beady eyes.

My point is this: what the two games are trying to do is very different. There is no denying that Dragon Age is easier. But let’s take it a little further, out to the people who aren’t comparing Dragon Age to Dark Souls and are instead comparing it to itself.

Many critics are making a point to hold Inquisition alongside Dragon Age: Origins. Fair enough, since Inquisition is the progeny of its forerunner. It’s an easy, even natural comparison to make. That said, the writing was on the wall with this one. There was no way, from the very beginning, that Bioware was going to make hack and slash and pause-and-play tactical RPG combat equally important. Not without serious concessions anyway. That concession turned out to be this: pause and play is entirely ignorable until you’re playing on a higher difficulty and even then. The two systems are tuned to different audiences, (PC and Console) with different expectations. 

Likewise, difficulty in this series has always taken a back seat to accessibility, more than ever with the jump to consoles and the introduction of action combat. Combat and gameplay are important, sure, but, come on, we’re talking about a game that literally has a difficulty option to skip most of the actual gameplay. When Bioware brought this into their games, it’s like they universally tuned down all of the difficulty settings too. Challenge levels are now something like this: 1) Barely a Game (narrative), 2) An Easy Game (normal), 3) Normal Mode (hard), 4) Hard Mode (nightmare). Skill counts, but not much on the first two settings.

Why would they do this? Story, the crowning glory of what Bioware is all about! And there, my friends, is why all this babble about difficulty is silly. Yes, in normal fights, it’s possible to hold one button to auto-attack. It’s stupid, and so much more fun to play with your abilities and combos, but it is possible (not factoring in movement). But does it matter? Are you playing Dragon Age to be a strategic mastermind or are you playing to see a years-long story to its conclusion? Combat is a means to an end for most players. It exists for you to grow in power and to make story beats feel monumental. Not to tax you into reloading. Not to drive you to a wiki to beat a boss. Combat serves mechanics. It serves narrative. It serves what Dragon Age is best at.

If you want that difficulty, you should be able to find it. That I agree with. So take the dive, friends. Bump that difficulty and enjoy pause and play. And let’s stop complaining when there’s a one toggle solution, yeah? To the news!

Quick Hits:

Lords of the Fallen 2 is already in the works! This is good news for challenge fans. I greatly enjoyed the first game, even concluding that it outdoes Dark Souls in some ways, so this will definitely be on my radar. Also, three cheers for a new IP living on for a sequel!

The developers at Undead Labs keep impressing with Moonrise. They have a new developer diary out, this week talking about questing. Give it a read.

Even though The Witcher 3 is facing a delay, the news train keeps on rolling. The second playable character we were promised has been revealed as Ciri, whom you might remember as “Cirilla” from an innkeeper’s tale in The Witcher 1. She’ll only be playable at key story points, however, so don’t look for her from the get-go.

Bioware has unveiled Inquisition HQ in support of Dragon Age: Inquisition’s multiplayer offering. It will allow you to keep track of characters, challenges, and more through the web. Neat for you meta-gamers out there.

This is a neat one. Darkest Dungeon is coming to Steam Early Access and is based around the mental trauma of being a hero. Your bard becomes a nihilist after seeing too many party members die. Your man-at-arms becomes a drunk to dull is anguish. A game that makes our heroes aware that they’re, well, incredibly murderous and on the verge of a breakdown? I’m in!

Get your CE on, Final Fantasy fans! One of the most interesting Final Fantasy games in years is on the way with Final Fantasy Type-0 and Square Enix is ready to take your money. The Collector’s Edition will run you $99.99 and the standard $59.99 but for either, I’d recommend waiting on reviews. This hasn’t been the best year for day one releases.

Finally, Elite: Dangerous has launched. Reports have been mostly positive, though some gamers are reporting the state of combat missions to be sorely lacking and more than a little repetitive. That said, this is a big day for fans of the series and a congratulations to Frontier is in order. Good job, guys!

That’s all from us, folks. Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Christopher Coke / Chris has been a fan of MMOs since the mid-1990s when he cut his teeth on MUDs. These days he scours the internet for the latest and greatest multiplayer gaming experiences.