Editor’s note: I haven’t completed the game yet, it’s a long game and I want to enjoy every nook and cranny, so I won’t be going into a review of the story here, or elements of the game that I haven’t experienced yet, that wouldn’t be fair to assess at this time. This is our first look, what I think about the game since I bought it up until now. I’ve played through the first few character levels up to the writing of this article.
I waited to get DA:I until they had patched it a few times, due to the early reports of game-breaking or just irritating bugs, but that didn’t stop one bug from keeping me down for a couple weeks when the game froze on the menu screen. After another patch it was cleared up and I got down to some serious playing. My first play through was with a rogue, but I remade her after a few levels and rolled up a warrior, so I got a taste of both ranged and melee combat. The beginning of the game combines a bit of backstory, scene setting, and tutorial which was nice and not too tedious like many ‘prologue’ tutorial levels can be in games. So, let’s get down to it.
The game is pretty, there’s no question about it. The scenery is some of the best I’ve seen, and the level of detail on everything is impressive. I have to admit, the first few hours I was distracted by how ‘shiny’ all the people are in the cut scenes and closeups. It’s as if everyone is covered in oil with how the light reflects off of them. As jarring as it was at first, it became less distracting as time went on and the game opened up. It is my only complaint with the graphics however. The interiors are highly detailed, and logically sized. The landscape is beyond impressive, especially when you get into the mountains and have to navigate ravines, fallen logs, cliffs, and caves. It is, overall, one of the most eye-appealing games I’ve ever played.
The best part, for me is the attention to detail in the armor, weapons, and gear of your character and the companions. Armor that gets bloodied, buckles, straps, rivets and plates, all details that stand out for me. I love detail in art and to me games are just the latest and greatest art form. You can see, in the image below, the attention to detail on each plate, the rivets and even stitching in the leather. You can see the padding and fur beneath as well as the straps that hold the armor in place. It’s this sort of detail I appreciate in visual design for a game.
To me sound in a game is just as important as visuals and story. I want to be immersed in a game and sound is a huge factor in drawing me in. DA:I’s sound and music does not disappoint. The score is exciting where it needs to be, environmental in the right places, and most of all subtle. In some cases music is completely non-existent, which for me is great, keeps it from getting repetitive and old. Music can be the best you’ve ever heard, but it gets annoying when it overpowers the other sound, or is just distracting. The effects, while sometimes more Hollywood than realistic, are well done, and the voice acting is great so far. It all blends together to create an environment one can get lost in for a few minutes, or a few hours.
The magic effects are some of the best as well. Ice spells sound like ice cracking, lightning like lightning, and so on, and all without the extras that sometimes come with fantasy RPGs. The sound team did a great job making things sound like one would expect magic to sound, without being so minimal that it loses the element of fantasy.
The controls are easy to learn, especially with the ‘tutorial’ part at the beginning of the game. The developers did a good job of not giving you too much, too fast, which may be a little tedious for players of the past games, but for me it helped. The controls were a mix of traditional RPG control style and FPS controls, which did make it easy to learn since I tend to play more FPS games than not. Skills, combat, and spells are all intuitive to use after just a short acclimation period so that’s nice. I don’t like games that are so difficult to learn that you can’t focus on the rest of the game because you’re trying to remember what button does what.
There is an option to use a tactical camera, or a traditional over-the-shoulder third person camera, but I used the latter the entire time. The AI of your companions is generally pretty good and I didn’t feel the need to micromanage combat with an overhead view, so far anyway. The standard camera is easy to move around with the mouse, and doesn’t get hung up too often on terrain by zooming into rocks that are too close and blocking your view.
I won’t touch on crafting or multiplayer much, because I haven’t quite gotten the hang of the former, and really didn’t care for the latter. Crafting is the one part of the game that is not intuitive, and so far seems more of a hassle than a boon. I’m sure I’ll learn it over time, but it will take some getting used to. Multiplayer, on the other hand, just isn’t my horn of beer. I was hoping to be able to play the game co-op, as in go through the story with friends, but alas that’s not the case. It’s just getting a team together to fight your way through areas and collect treasure, while leveling up your MP character. It got old fast for me.
Overall, despite the minor bugs I had at first it’s a fun game. There’s so much more to it than what we were able to touch on, but again, the game is huge. When I have a good feel for the story, and the more detailed aspects of the game I’ll probably write another review covering the rest. From a first look though, it’s well worth playing. Was it worthy of Game of the Year status last year? In my opinion no, especially considering it was buggy enough to be considered unfinished when the award was given, and barely playable at all last year. Now that a lot of the kinks have been worked out I think it’s worth getting if you enjoy huge RPGs with a great deal of character and dialogue options. It is definitely a lot of fun and will keep you busy for awhile.