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The RPG Files: Will Dragon Age: Inquisition Be Too Long?

Columns By Christopher Coke on October 17, 2014

Will Dragon Age: Inquisition Be Too Long?

Dragon Age: Inquisition is shaping up to be a massive game. From the very beginning, Bioware cited Skyrim as an inspiration, and with good reason: Bethesda’s opus essentially dethroned Bioware as the king of high fantasy. With something to prove, Bioware recently revealed that the single-player content in Inquisition comes in at a mighty 150-200 hours. Which begs the question, even with a solo campaign of 20-40 hours: is it too much for a game that’s not Elder Scrolls to maintain? Read on as we answer that question and break down the week’s news below!


Have you picked your jaw up off the floor yet? It took me a minute too. 150-200 hours is an epic amount of content, even if three-quarters of that is likely to be sideline to the main campaign. If the “stories we want to tell” quote is taken seriously, it is still likely to be 20-40 hours. The natural reaction is to jump, to cheer, to slap Bioware on the back and give ‘em a good old ‘attaboy! for delivering  on their lofty ambitions. I am 100%, without question, on board with that. Good for Bioware, and good for us.

If I can gush for a second, I freaking love Dragon Age: Origins. I even loved Dragon Age 2, though I might pick on its foibles with the rest of the internet. My love for Bioware fantasy goes back even further to Neverwinter Nights, which, after years of MUDs, introduced to a new era of PC gaming.

The same can be said for lengthy, deep RPGs. Oh, how I loved Final Fantasy and those of its ilk. Forty hours seemed like the norm back then. FFVIII was my hallmark but FFX stole a special place in my heart – 43 hours clocked in 10th grade. For years, a game that ran less than 20 hours seemed shallow as a result. If Square and Bioware could do it, what was Activision trying to pull delivering only 12 hours for their campaign? I was realistic, and accepted the genre differences, but that sense of wanting more never faded.

So believe me when I say I couldn’t be happier with Inquisition’s content bath. I will happily chip away at the campaign until I’ve seen it through, side-questing for months after until the inevitable expansion comes out. That’s in my blood and fits my play style as a gamer. Still, I have to wonder, is Dragon Age capable of maintaining such a lengthy playtime? Is it even a good idea?

Even as a huge fan of the franchise, a believer in the giant mostly-open world Bioware is creating, I have serious doubts that Inquisition will ever stand up to Skyrim in terms of replayability or for those extended, non-campaign hours, and even question whether it will be memorable or not.

See, it comes down to this. What Bioware does right with Dragon Age is precisely two things: story and combat. Exploration is another but it is a distant contender behind the games’ story.  Once the campaign has dried up, will you want to spend another 150 hours killing 10 sloth demons or collecting artifacts? Will you explore for exploration’s sake in a world that isn’t a guaranteed trove the same way Elder Scrolls is?

Yet there’s no doubt that it’s possible. I hope so.

But let’s not confuse two companies. Where Bethesda pulls back on story and focuses on crafting their worlds (deep and detailed), Bioware focuses on story and crafts the world to tell it. It would be a mistake to conflate the two. Inquisition will not be all things to all people; it will be an expansion of their concepts, not a reinvention.

I wonder what today’s gamer will make of the post-campaign game world. Will the next great thing set in and draw them away once the truly deep stories have been told? Will the older, job-ridden family leader lose interest precipitously after the final exhale?

Or will those 150 hours be rich so as to defy expectation from the dozens of developers we’ve heard promise the moon and deliver rough stone? If that were to be so, we should all be so lucky, because it would fall back on systems rather than stories. Systems can be infinitely replayable.

With that, to the news!

Quick Hits:

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel has released and, to our great pleasure, isn’t terrible! In fact, I would contend that the main criticism – “it’s more Borderlands” – is actually a pretty good positive considering it isn’t the Borderlands guys who made it. Now, it just needs to come to next-gen consoles and it can marry Destiny in my own living room ceremony.

Speaking of Destiny, for a game that received such middling reviews, it sure is being played a lot. 3.2 million players a day for an average of three hours a day. What do you suppose the average age for Destiny players is? It’s possible that 3.2 million spouses smacked their loved ones upside the head and told them to change the baby…or maybe that’s just me?  Of course, there are also the nerfs – but not to fusion rifles, so keep chargin’ trigger holders.

Fans of Torchlight and Runic Studios should take notice: former Runic devs Erich Schaefer and Travis Baldree have set up a new studio, Double Damage, to pursue their dream of making Elite: Dangerous. Well, if you’re going by the features list anyway. The game is called Rebel Galaxy, and is a much lighter-hearted take on the space-sim, which is to say that it’s really not much of a sim at all. Then again, an arcade-y space combat game with heavy RPG elements and meaningful dialogue choices? Rebel Galaxy might be better at making you feel like a scoundrel than any of the games that just let you kill other people. I mean, come on: blowing things up is only half the battle. The other half is being a smart ass.

Lastly, in a return to Dragon Age, be sure to check out the latest Hero of Thedas trailer and to compare your computer to the latest PC specs. With a month left to go, there’s still time to upgrade!

With that, we leave you, RPG fans. 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.