De-Stuffed: finally digging deep into Far Cry and Dragon Age

In my last post, I wrote that I was feeling both (a) overwhelmed by all the games I felt that I had to play, and (b) I was having trouble enjoying any of them because I wasn’t giving myself enough time to get sucked in to them.

What I didn’t say was that even in the midst of this frustration and chaos, I still knew this would only be a temporary feeling; after a certain inevitable point I knew I’d end up weeding out the ones that I knew I wouldn’t enjoy, and that I’d save some games for later, and then I’d be left with the stuff that I still felt some degree of urgency about, all the while knowing that 1 or 2 is far more manageable than 6 or 7.

So then:  we can cross the Halo Master Chief Collection off the list entirely.  I played about 10 minutes of Halo 2’s “Outskirts” level, just enough to see the improved graphics, A/B them with the original graphics, and then remember that I’ve never liked the Halo games as much as I felt like I should’ve.  I was curious about the remastering package, and wanted to at least make sure I saw it so that I could keep it in mind for my HD Remake section in my 2014 GOTY post; now I’ve seen it, and that’s that.  It’s hard to know who that package is for, really, beyond die-hard Halo fans who want access to every single multiplayer map.  And as of this writing, I’m still not sure if the multiplayer is working correctly.  It is a tremendous value proposition, but for me it does not feel necessary.

(Let me now reiterate my desire for a Rockstar Collection, including HD remasters of Red Dead, Max Payne 3, L.A. Noire and possibly GTA4.)

Assassin’s Creed Unity is on the cusp between getting saved for later and getting sent back to Gamefly.  On the one hand, I’ve already sunk far more hours into it than I expected to, and I’m past the halfway mark as far as the story goes.  On the other hand, I’ve not thought about it at all since last week, and I’m only reminded of it because the PS4’s menu screen automatically keeps it at the front of my stack, given that it’s on disc.

In the “Saved for Later” category, I’m putting Sunset OverdriveForza Horizon 2, and GTA V.  And in the specific case of GTA V, I’m putting that into a special “Saving for Much Later” category, because I’ve not necessarily blown away by the remaster.

So, then, what’s left?  As I suspected, it’s Far Cry 4 and Dragon Age Inquisition.  And also Rollers of the Realm for Vita.  Regarding Rollers, that’s still a fun portable game and it doesn’t really impact my attention span, so let’s also put that aside for the purposes of this discussion.  And speaking of fun portable games, stop what you’re doing and get your hands on Crossy Road for iOS; it’s an endless Frogger clone and it’s got a fantastic visual design and it’s wonderful and it’s free.

Far Cry 4 is a bit disappointing, I think.  The Far Cry franchise is notable for, among other things, completely throwing out the rule book and radically reinventing itself with each subsequent iteration.  Far Cry 4, on the other hand, is almost completely identical to Far Cry 3 in every respect that matters – as well as being conceptually identical to both Assassin’s Creed and Watch Dogs – and so I don’t feel all that compelled to go and explore, given that nothing feels particularly unique.  The only real change I’ve spotted thus far is that every once in a while you’ll have to choose between two competing leaders on the same team, but it’s hard to know what those choices mean just yet, given that I barely know the two people I’m ostensibly trying to help.

Moreover, the game feels a lot more difficult from the get go, which means that unlocking the map and crafting is far more important in the early going; my loot bag is constantly full, I’m not holding enough weapons, I don’t have enough ammo, and so I have to do this “optional” stuff in order to hold my own in the campaign.  But, again – I’ve already done this stuff to death in Far Cry 3, so it feels more compulsory than anything else.  I liked Far Cry 3 (up to a point), and I suspect I’d like Far Cry 4, but I don’t feel pulled to it.  It’s good for short bursts; if I only have 30 minutes or so, I’ll unlock a tower or an outpost, craft something, and then sign out.  (One more note about crafting – it’s annoying as hell that the crafting system doesn’t expand to let you see what you might need for later crafting levels.  Which is to say:  I’ve got a bunch of skins in my bag that I can’t do anything with just yet, but I don’t want to get rid of them if I’ll need them later.  Will I need demon fish scales at some point?  Can’t I just store that stuff in a hideout until I’m ready to use it?)

I’m now around 6+ hours into Dragon Age Inquisition, and I’m loving the hell out of it.  It took me a while to get the hang of it; the opening tutorial mission is a bit slow, and learning how to manage the inventory and how to craft weaponry and armor was a bit intimidating, but once I made it out to the Hinterlands and started questing?  Oh, baby.  Yes.  YES.  YAAAASSSSS.

It’s Skyrim but with BioWare-quality writing, and the writing and characters are great.  Even if I’m not as up on my DA lore as I’d like to be, I still feel like I understand the broader strokes of the current situation.  But more specifically, BioWare really emphasizes the role playing part of RPGs, and I always feel well-represented when a dialogue option comes up; I’m playing my female human warrior very much like myself, I guess, and so it pleases me greatly that I’m almost always given the option of asking the questions that I actually want to ask, and that I can answer questions in a way that almost always reflects my personal opinion – even if I’m being cagey by answering it strategically.

And it also should go without saying that BioWare’s attitudes towards gender and race are really quite extraordinary in this post-GamerGate era, specifically because gender and race aren’t that big a deal.  In my game, as in Susan Arendt’s in the link I just posted, 4 out of the 5 people at my war council are female, and it’s not commented upon or addressed; it simply is.  What GamerGate doesn’t seem to understand is that this is the whole point of wanting equal representation; it’s not about drawing attention to the fact that Dragon Age is full of women, but rather that it is full of women and it doesn’t change the experience at all.

I’m not necessarily pursuing a romance in DA just yet, though I do like it whenever I see a notification that “Cassandra slightly approves” whatever it is I just said.  Still, while I appreciate that BioWare goes to great lengths to let you romance whoever you want, that’s not why I play these games.  I like that it’s there; it’s just not important for me.  I’ve not yet been drawn to any particular character anyway, though – as I said – Cassandra is a tough nut to crack, and it’s nice to feel like she’s warming up to me.

I still feel a bit out of my depth in terms of the mechanics; I’m not crazy about the combat, though perhaps that’s because my warrior is wielding a very powerful but very slow two-handed weapon.  But there’s always the option of switching over to my party’s rogue or mage, and seeing how they work, and so that’s something I keep in mind if I’m ever feeling out of touch.

But this is all ancillary to the larger point, which is that I’m loving the hell out of it.  Now that I’ve sunk some quality time into it, and now that my to-do list is really, really long, I’m exploring and questing and doing all the things that BioWare games do so well, and it’s awesome, and all I want to do is go home and play some more.

Author: Jeremy Voss

Musician, wanna-be writer, suburban husband and father. I'll occasionally tweet from @couchshouts. You can find me on XBL, PSN and Steam as JervoNYC.

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