Descent II – Greater Boss and World Variety But Less Difficult and Fun

“Descent II” fixes some of the issues with the first game (mostly length and Boss variety) but is weaker in almost every other way. It is still a good game that I’d recommend but it is more flawed than the first game. It did come out in 1996, a year after the first game so I think it was most likely rushed given some of the flaws. I’ll get more into what I mean further in.

The game was created by Parallax Studios and released by Interplay Productions.

The story picks up with the mercenary from the first game, the Material Defender being forced to warp into deep space by Dravis and the PTMC or forfeit his reward as he must clear out their deep space mines.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The World – This game opens up the world of “Descent” and does so in a compelling way. First we have deep space and an experimental warp drive and finally aliens as the last planet is a space ship. Your warp drive also is destroyed on your arrival home fully setting up PTMC as the main enemy moving forward.

Guide-Bot – I had issue with how complicated some puzzles and maps were in the first game and the Guide-Bot fixes that as it guides you to where you need to go next. The bot isn’t smart so you do need to find ways to open passages and doors but it pushes you along if you ever feel stuck. It is a neat bot.

The Gameplay – The gameplay is just as fun as the first game and there are new weapons to that add more strategies for defeating bosses and enemies. Some bosses are only vulnerable to certain weapons or only when shot in certain areas that adds another level of fun to the game.

The Boss Variety – There are 6 bosses and each of them are themed around the type of planet they are on. You have a “Red Boss” (level 4) in the classic mines a “Water Boss,” (level 8) “Fire Boss” (level 12) “Ice Boss” (level 16) and 2 Alien Bosses (levels 20 and 24). The hardest for me were the “Ice Boss” who blinds with flash missiles in his dark map and the last boss who has Earthshaker Missiles and can only be hurt from the back. This variety was better than the only 2 bosses in the first game though these were all much easier than most of the first games bosses.

Okay:

Enemy Difficulty and Variety – This game is substantially easier than the first game. I didn’t feel challenged by any single enemy units until the final planet and there are no enemies as difficult as the larger Hulks and Drillers of the first game. This was where the game felt rushed and even enemy designs are more simple than the first game though they still feel like they are of that same world so not putting them as a con.

Boss Difficulty – There are more bosses and most are easy. Even the boss on level 20 isn’t hard it just sucks the world it is on takes your energy. The fact that only 2 bosses were memorable in difficulty after how hard the only 2 bosses in the first game are it is definitely a step down.

The Cons:

Soundtrack – While the other soundtrack has a calm and haunting ambiance this game is much louder. It feels like it is trying to take metal meets sci. fi. but it doesn’t work and is distracting. The soundtrack didn’t compliment the worlds all that well which was a shame. It just sounded the same.

Cliffhanger Ending – The game ends on a cliffhanger with the Material Defender falling into the sun. It promised it would be continued. This was a mistake as there was no reason to believe it would have been able to continue. This is also my bias against cliffhanger endings coming out.

“Descent II” is step down from the first game while adding some cool things like diverse worlds and the Guide-Bot that give the universe character. It is a shame that the bosses were mostly so easy and that hardly any of the standard enemy robots were difficult. Still, as someone who enjoys this world this is a game I return to just not as often as the first game. This game is good, the first game is a favorite.

Final Score: 8 / 10

Descent – A Great Classic Game That Still Holds Up

“Descent” was the videogame that got me into gaming. I remember the demo of it being on my family’s computer and it ended after beating the boss on level 7. I was a little kid and thought it was the coolest thing. I’d later buy the full game and even after beating it is still one that every few years I come back to. What brought coming back to the “Descent” series as a whole this time is I plan to play “Overload” and “Descent: Underground” both of which function as spiritual successors to the series. Before I do those I’ll be going over the original games first.

The game was created by Parallax Studios and released by Interplay Productions.

You are a mercenary hired by Samuel Dravis of the Post Terran Mining Corporation (PTMC) hired to rescue hostages trapped in the mines and stop the virus infected robots.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The World – I love the idea of an intergalactic corporation hiring mercenaries to take out infected robots. The robots have really cool designs too and the mission briefs are filled with little details of your character’s personality and the personality of the robots. It is a cool universe whose story ends with us going further out into the universe to find the source of the alien virus.

The Gameplay – You are in a spaceship and have full 360 degrees of movement. You also have tons of weapons that can bring about different strategies depending on enemies you are fighting. You have shields and energy and some weapons like the Vulcan don’t use energy while other weapons like Fusion and Plasma are very energy heavy. There are also powerups of cloaking and invulnerability that you will need against the bosses.

The Enemies – There is a huge range of enemy robots and they have great colorful shapes and designs. Some are cloaked. Others like the Hulks are heavies who take a lot of hit. The Drillers can wreck you quick and you’ll have some who are melee while others have long range or homing missiles that can track you. Heavy Hulk, the Fusion Hulk and the Drillers were the most annoying of the enemies.

The Bosses – There are only 2 bosses in this but they are more difficult than most of the enemy bosses in “Descent 2” and “Descent 3.” They can kill you quickly, have allies that can kill you quickly and can quickly isolate you in their boss chambers. Beating the 2 and their smart and mega missiles are deadly. I loved defeating these 2 and how they forced speed and efficiency to be cleared as well as knowing where to find all the cloaks and invulnerability powerups.

Difficulty – The game is good with rising difficulty of enemies as you pick up weapons that can match them and have strategies to meet them as well. The maps tend to get more difficult too and could easily be the most annoying part on some levels.

The Cons:

Some Puzzles / Maps – Some maps are all hidden doors and areas and it is annoying as it feels like almost luck to find them. I don’t like when any games do this and it is annoying here where there are 27 levels plus 3 secret levels. That is a lot time to get through everything.

Length – If this game had 3 – 5 less levels it would have been the perfect game. The mid-section lags at times and I’d trade a level full of difficult enemies over an overly confusing map. Length is one of the biggest factors for why I don’t rate it higher.

This game is still very much a classic that holds up. The combat, gameplay and most of the puzzles are fun. If you are are looking for a good sci. fi. game and shooter this is one I highly recommend. The game was made in 1995 and still holds up to this day.

Final Score: 9 / 10 Solidly great and a favorite game.

Soul Calibur VI – Moments of Fun in a Franchise Gone Stale That Still has Potential

Soulcalibur VI Game Poster – My Hot Posters

The “Soul” series is a Franchise I grew up with. I remember playing “Soul Edge” in 5th grade and falling in love with the concept of the game of fighters from all over the world, each with different weapons and an all corrupting blade. Cervantes was also a cool final boss too. Over the following years I’d play bits and pieces of the other “Soul Calibur” games at friends’ houses or arcades and began to notice how the later games were getting a bit stale and I think the writers were slowly running out of ideas over where to take characters. For this reason having this be a soft reboot made sense. Sadly though the story needed a lot more focus and interconnectivity if it was going to be good or great. This is a far cry from the storytelling in “Injustice: Gods Among Us” and hurts my rating of this game. It could have been so much more given the premise, which I’ll get into more below.

The game was developed and published by Bandai Namco Studios with the director being Yoshinori Takahashi.

The story takes place after Sophitia and Taki defeat Cervantes and destroy one of the two corrupted swords. Sadly Siegfried discovers the one that was not destroyed and it corrupts him, turning him into Nightmare as he uses his power call forth the Evil Seed to bring about corruption upon the world.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Idea – The idea of Nightmare calling forth an apocalypse and that being the call to action for our heroes is really cool. The stakes are their homelands or them fighting against their own corruption that the event brought about. In execution it largely didn’t work though both in the presentation of the apocalypse and threat of Soul Edge and the many character narratives, many which didn’t connect to one another at all.

Gameplay Options – There are quite a few gameplay options that made the game fun to play. Whether it is the story mode where you can play a campaign for each character or Libra of Soul where you create your own character and play in the story. This personal narrative where you interact with multiple characters from the game (really want the main campaign should have done like “Injustice: Gods Among Us” did.

Certain Character Stories – There are a few character stories that connect to the wider mythology of the game and were a lot of fun. I’ll list the ones that worked for me here and that I thought managed to be good on some level. Sadly that does not apply to the majority of the story campaigns though.

Grøh and Azwel – These two have a connected story in the main campaign that I found compelling. Azwel is motivating by using the power of Soul Edge to enslave the world so it won’t commit evil and Grøh is the one attempting to stop him after the sword corrupted him and he constantly seeks redemption as he finds himself outside the Aval Organization that he and Azwel were a part of. I wish these two could have interacted with more of the core cast as they each bring an interesting dynamic to the game and fun playstyles.

Siegfried – Siegfried like Kilik and Grøh is seeking redemption for his actions as Nightmare and his campaign is him facing the consequences for his actions before finally facing down Inferno once more. His character is basically the same from prior games but he is a fun character and I wish he’d interacted with more characters in either Nightmare or Siegfriend form as in both he did great evil as he killed thousands to ressurect his father.

Cervantes – Cervantes is so much fun. He is evil and loves it and after being resurrected by Nightmare is empowered by the broken blades of Soul Edge within him. He realizes that he was the one to kill his crew and his legacy of a terror of the seas and embraces it. He is almost Jokeresque in his love of combat and destruction and it makes him a much better villain than Nightmare who is basically just Inferno’s puppet.

Kilik – Kilik like Grøh is fighting corruption as the evil of the blade caused him to kill his temple and he lives with the guilt of murdering his sister. He is the main storyline as he is the one to defeat Nightmare and Inferno the first time. It is a solid campaign and besides the bad romantic writing is quite fun. I can see why they chose this one as the main storyline as he does interact with a decent amount of characters.

Creating Your Own Character and Libra of Soul – Creating your own character and giving them your favorite fighting style is a lot of fun. This story is one that is actually good too as you interact with most characters in the game and the stakes are clear versus the unfocused mess that is are the character stories connected to the main campaign. The fact that you level up and can hire mercenaries is really cool too. Both these aspects were a major strength the game needed after how poorly so many of the other stories are handled.

Geralt – Geralt is playable and he is the character who I beat arcade mode with. His playstyle is so much fun as it is a mixture of swordplay and magic like in his games. He also has a campaign in the story missions where he crosses into the Soul Caibur Universe and needs to get back to his own. It is a short campaign but a lot of fun.

The Cons:

The Writing and Main Story Presentation – The writing is really bad. Characters have no nuance or subtext, which in itself isn’t bad but how it is handled is nothing but awkward dialogue. Most characters don’t even interact with one another too making their connection to Soul Edge tenuous at best. This was a story screaming for a tournament like in Tekken or Mortal Kombat as some of the characters have personalities and motives that would clash but we never get that so in turn we get a lot of simple stories with only a few being okay and maybe good to quite a few bad ones.

Enemies – Nightmare who is Siegfried consumed by Soul Edge is the main boss in the story campaign besides the spirit of the sword Inferno and it seems purposeless beyond the desire for souls. It has Ivy and Astorath as lieutenants but they don’t get any orders from him. Basically this villain is boring and kind of useless. I would love it if this game would explore the endgame goals of Inferno and whomever is it’s Avatar as so far Cervantes seems to be one of the few whose voiced a motivation when he posses it.

Presentation of Women and Companionship – Nearly every single women in this who is good is hooked up with someone or implied to hook up later with someone. This is really annoying as there are characters who have purpose beyond getting married like Mitsurugi or Yoshimitsu for example. I hated this sexism as it simplified all women that if they are noble as just wanting to settle down. For a game with so many characters to choose from it should have given as much variety of motivations to it’s women as it’s men.

The variety of story and gameplay types is what ends up saving this game in the end as if I was rating it on the main story mission alone it would fail as the core story itself as fun as it is still holds a fair amount of terrible writing. This is no “Injustice: Gods Among Us.” This is a series that still has potential though and I hope if the story continues that they better integrate all the storylines together and better integrate how the stories connect and lead into one another. As it is now I see very little reason narratively why a lot of these characters exist in the series as you could cover the main plot as is and tell it well with maybe only 10 characters at most. The rest is just fluff or bad writing that lends very little to the world and mythology. This is a game series that still holds potential though.

Final Score: 7.4 / 10

Injustice: Gods Among Us Ultimate Edition – Great Story and Gameplay for the DC Universe

Injustice: Gods Among Us Ultimate Edition

“Injustice: Gods Among Us Ultimate Edition” is a great story and game to come out of the DC Universe. This is a universe that gives us a compelling conflict, characters and story and uses the framing of a fighting game to do so. Fighting games in my experience haven’t been good at doing this but this one had one of the best story modes I’ve experienced in any games. WB Games and NetherRealm Studios really made something amazing. After “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” I’ve been seeking versions of the Justice League to see how they compare and both the Injustice version and the prime universe versions in this game are some fantastic versions of these compelling characters.

The game was published by WB Games and deveopled by NetherRealm Studios, High Voltage Games and Armature Studio.

The story follows the Justice League when they and their Joker are pulled into a universe where Superman rules a fascist regime over the population of Earth after the Joker tricked him into killing Lois and his unborn child as well as the Joker’s destroying of Metropolis which leads to Superman killing the Joker and establishing the One Earth Regime.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Diversity of Game Modes – There are a lot of games modes in this edition so chances are you will not get board playing. You have a few Arcade modes, with Classic being my favorite, single battles, missions from S.T.A.R. Labs and of course the campaign. This alone is better than my experience with the “Soul Calibur” and “Edge” series and is an example of what fighting games should strive for.

The Gameplay – The gameplay is fun as the different modes provide a great array of challenges. The powerful combos you can do can be canceled out to and aren’t gamebreakers but when they are successful still do enough damage to mean something. Each character fights in a unique way as characters like Deathstroke and Aquaman have reach through their weapons while others like Harley Quinn, the Joker and Lobo use guns. Some like Wonder Woman can alternate between styles too making the game even more fun to pickup in regards to the learning curve and power moves. I haven’t had this much fun playing a fighting game in a long time.

The Campaign – The campaign is great. The stakes are established from the get-go when members of the Justice League and Joker are transported to the Injustice Universe and from here have to separate friend from foe. The framing works really well as characters who distrust one another in the main universe establish rapport with the Injustice alternates. The action is handled well too as we have action that rises at a great rate before Injustice Superman goes full crazy and forces our heroes to up the stakes on their own missions as well.

Campaign Presentation – There are 12 chapters with main universe Batman as the first chapter and introduces us to the Injustice World. 2nd Green Lantern establishes minions of the One Earth Regime. 3rd chapter is Aquaman and establishes that Atlantis is about to fall under Superman. 4th is the Joker and establishes the Insurgency and Injustice Harley as an ally and the One Regime’s capture of Batman. 5th is Green Arrow and is helping Injustice Batman get a weapon to defeat Injustice Superman. 6th is Cyborg and bringing the fight to the One Earth Regime forces. 7th is Injustice Deathstroke and destruction of the Injustice Watchtower. 8th is Injustice Batman and freeing Batman from Injustice Superman. 9th is Injustice Lex Luthor and ends with his death and the populace turning against Injustice Superman. 10th is Injustice Flash and him turning against the Regime after Injustice Superman murders Shazam. It ends with him warning the insurgency about Injustice Superman’s plan to destroy Gotham and Metropolis. 11th is Wonder Woman who recruits the Amazons against Injustice Superman and stops Injustice Wonder Woman and 12th is Superman and his defeat of Injustice Superman’s generals, Injustice Doomsday and Injustice Superman himself. It is a rewarding end and so much fun to play. The story presentation is fantastic in the rising action and I loved these characters.

The Injustice Characters – The Injustice universe characters are compelling and I like how they have unique organizations like the One Earth Regime and The Insurgency. Both the main universe versions and Injustice universe characters mostly work and I’ll get into why. I’ll go into Injustice Superman and Joker at the end as I feel within the narrative they are bigger bads beyond the organizations at play.

One Earth Regime – The One Earth Regime is Injustice Superman’s fascist regime and it is a great threat. Sinestro has a huge army of faceless soldiers he leads and we learn Injustice Black Adam’s ancient regime inspired the creation of this one. Injustice Cyborg and Injustice Hawkgirl aren’t fully explored in regards to if they were indoctrinated or not and Injustice Raven only supports the regime so she can use it to bring about Trigun into the world. Injustice Superman also has a version of Doomsday he controls and has Solomon Grundy and Killer Frost as minions as well.

Injustice Wonder Woman – Injustice Wonder Woman believes that the only way to fix man’s world is through embracing of destruction and emotion until it is gone. Injustice Wonder Woman is Injustice Superman’s lover and his second-in-command and co-founder of the regime. She is a consistent threat throughout the story and it was rewarding to beat her as Wonder Woman.

Injustice Flash – Injustice Flash comes to realize he is backing the wrong side after Injustice Shazam is murdered by Injustice Superman. We see his seeds of doubt before Injustice Deathstroke destroys the Watchtower and the death of Injustice Shazam is the last straw. I found this version of the Flash compelling and he goes to prison for the part he played in the regime too.

The Insurgency – The Insurgency is our heroic organization fighting against the One Earth Regime. This group is handled well and we learn that before the Justice League was pulled into this universe by Injustice Batman that Injustice Green Arrow was murdered by Injustice Superman. This is an organization that has lost most members and is suffering for it.

Injustice Aries – Injustice Aries helps the Insurgency because the One Earth Regime has so thoroughly ended conflict that his power is weak. This takes time but he does eventually convince Aquaman and Wonder Woman that he is right. He is still a villain but his helping the good guys makes sense and it was great seeing him in this role.

Injustice Deathstroke – For this version of Deathstroke the Insurgency is personal as the One Earth Regime tortured him and removed his eye. As revenge he destroys the Watchtower and over the course of his and Cyborg’s Chapter we see respect is built between them. J.G. Hertzler (Martok from “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”) voices him and Aries and does an amazing job at both roles! This is one of my favorite Deathstrokes and was so much fun to play.

Injustice Harley Quinn – Injustice Harley Quinn runs a Joker cult and are part of the Insurgency against Injustice Superman. She even has Injustice Batman on speed-dial. Her arc is realizing how abusive Joker is when main universe Joker uses her and plans to murder her until Injustice Lex Luthor stops him. This leads to her going independent and finding identity outside of the Joker. It is a great arc and I hope “Injustice 2” doesn’t ruin it. Harley is free, let her be her own force of nature. Tara Strong owns this role as she did in prior versions like “Batman: The Animated Series.” She is such a great voice actor and I’m glad she got to do this game.

Injustice Lex Luthor – Injustice Lex Luthor is Injustice Superman’s friend until the regime is established. At that point he works with the Insurgency and we see how well he is doing it as he does give the regime information just not anything that will change the state of the war. In the end he is murdered by Injustice Superman after Injustice Shazam saves Injustice Superman’s life. It is a powerful scene and we see in this murder just how insane Injustice Superman has become. I also really liked playing as him. For being in a big giant Anti-Superman suit he has a variety of moves and is surprisingly nimble for being so bulky.

Injustice Batman – Kevin Conroy voices both versions of Batman and is amazing in the role as always! Injustice Batman is the one who brings the Justice League over but comes to regret it after Injustice Lex Luthor is killed as he feels like everything he does just leads to the death of people. His arc is finding hope again as Batman from the main universe convinces him to bring over his Superman so that Injustice Superman can finally be defeated. We see his heart is in the right place too as he empowers the populace to make sure another Injustice Superman will not rise again at the end.

The Justice League and Core Universe Characters – The core universe folks are voiced by people in the Bruce Timm DC Animated Universe and it works so well! The characters aren’t exactly the same (They are their own thing) but them voicing them lends power to the actions and world they inhabit.

Aquaman – Aquaman is amazing in this. In this arc he realizes that the Injustice version of his character is submitting to Injustice Superman and he stands against it. Throughout all of this game we see how powerful he is as calls a deep sea creature army against Injustice Superman’s forces so they can save Batman. He is also one of the most fun characters to play as his trident has reach and he is a good damage dealer.

Cyborg – Khary Payton of the classic animated “Teen Titans” fame voices Cyborg again and he is wonderful. This version of the character is quick to action leading to misunderstanding when he fights Injustice Luthor and Deathstroke but after he comes around to respect this version of Deathstroke. I liked that as well as that he looked up the file on Injustice Deathstroke and his reason for not trusting him made sense as Injustice Deathstroke had still fought the Teen Titans. He is the most light hearted of the characters, which was needed in this heavy game.

Green Arrow – Green Arrow like Aquaman was one of the most fun to play. He is one of the more light-hearted characters like Cyborg as he is a joker and adds a lot of humor to what is going on. I liked this and his sarcasm as it was a nice way to critique the Injustice Fascist characters. He also was a lot of fun to play though not a favorite.

Wonder Woman – Susan Eisenberg of Bruce Timm’s “Justice League” and “Unlimited” is wonderful as both versions of her character. In this she is the one who reminds the Amazons that they are there to bring humanity to the good and that having men give into their passions and rage is what had got this world to the brink. Her speech is awesome and I loved her talk with Injustice Aries and how quickly she realized the stakes.

Batman – The main universe Batman like Wonder Woman and Superman is there to remind the Injustice World that hope and the good exists. Kevin Conroy owns this as we see a Batman who will not kill and after undergoing torture from Injustice Superman is still just as strong in his belief. After he helps Injustice Batman find hope again they plan the final attack with Superman as Metropolis and Gotham are under siege from Injustice Superman’s forces.

Superman – George Newbern is another returning voice actor from Bruce Timm’s “Justice League” and “Unlimited.” This Superman is fantastic as we see him trying to reach the Justice League in the Injustice Universe and finally being pulled over himself and taking out Injustice Superman’s generals and Doomsday before Injustice Superman himself. He never stops being good though he admits that if what Injustice Joker did to Injustice Superman also happened to him that he would also be in danger of making the same mistakes. It was great to see him recognize that, which in turn is the greatest way of preventing the same mistake.

The Main Villains – The two main villains of this game I’d argue are Injustice Superman and the One Earth Regime and Joker, who triggered the crossover when he was about the nuke Metropolis in the Main Universe. These two are easily the main ones causing problems through the campaign.

Joker – Joker begins the game ready to nuke Gotham and die with Batman in the blast only to defeat Batman in his chapter but lets him live because he wants their last moments to be better. This game captures that co-dependency the Joker has towards Batman really well. It also captures how evil and awful he is as we see him attempt to kill Harley Quinn for failing him. Luckily she turns against him and gives him to Batman to take back to the main universe.

Injustice Superman – Injustice Superman is a great villain. In the story you can see how awful the fascist world is he has made but also how his mind became so broken too as he killed Lois due to the Joker using Scarecrow fear toxin making him believe Lois was Doomsday. On top of this Metropolis was nuked when she died and after killing the Joker he became the dictator to make sure that would never happen again. We never see him question his mission but we do see his sense of control he tries to show fall over the course of the game. The Watchtower’s destruction was a major event as was Injustice Lex’s betrayal. In the end he is so far gone he plans to conquer other universes after Metropolis and Gotham are made an example. This Superman is terrifying and a great final boss. He was a good fight too and was a well-deserved challenge.

New Characters to Play – Ultimate Edition gives Lobo, Martian Manhunter, Batgirl, Zatanna, Scorpion and Zod. I had the most fun with Batgirl, Zod and Scorpion. These characters were a great addition and their play styles gave the game more replay value.

The Cons:

Both Hal Jordans – Both Hal Jordans are arrogant and uncompelling. The entire time I played as Hal I learned nothing about him and the Yellow Lantern version is nothing more than stupid muscle as he is the first one who Injustice Flash fights when he joins the Insurgency. I would have skipped him to play as one of the other characters given how worthless Green Lantern’s chapter feels in this.

Injustice Damian Wayne – Injustice Damian Wayne sees Injustice Superman as his real dad and it is never explained. He is just angry and anxiety and is the one who killed Dick Grayson and adopted the Nightwing mantle. I hated this character.

This is a game I highly recommend and one I will come back to. This gives us great versions of the Justice League with both the Injustice and main Justice League versions to work with. This is a story with consequences too and though it is extremely dark has a lot of hope and humor as well that doesn’t clash with the narrative. I’m excited to play the campaign in “Injustice 2” as this is a compelling universe and one I think that would work really well in television or film form be it animated or live-action. This is game is a wonderful example of what makes the characters and multi-verses of the DC universe so fascinating and compelling. This is easily one of the best fighting games I’ve played and definitely a favorite.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10 This is a great game and a favorite.

Dragon Age: Origins – Ultimate Edition

Image result for Dragon Age Origins Ultimate Edition

After trying out the other campaigns and now having played both “Origins” and “Awakening” it is time for my overall thoughts on “Dragon Age: Origins – Ultimate Edition.” There is so much content here and I will attach my other reviews to their campaign summaries in the review. Suffice to say, this was worth it and the amount of time I put into this game makes it one I’d highly recommend for any fan of dark fantasy and the “Dragon Age Universe.” Bioware, even with how buggy some of their games are, is still easily one of the best examples of amazing story driven game developers.

The base story follows you being recruited to the Grey Wardens to deal with the Fifth Blight and Archdemon as you must navigate political troubles to recruit allies to your cause against the Darkspawn. This edition also includes stories surrounding this.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Gameplay – The gameplay is so much fun in this entire series and I can see why people look on “Origins” the most fondly as it is easily the most challenging of the 3 games in the Trilogy and because of it has some of the most interesting fight synergies and boss battles. I was never bored playing this game and that is entirely due to how the game promotes tactics in gameplay and how difficult some of the bosses and situations are.

Amount of Extra Content – Not all the extra content is great but so much of it is fun. There was enough extra content here that I’ve got summaries and scores of the campaigns including “Origins” and it’s expansion “Awakening.” This is something “Dragon Age 2” didn’t have, though I would rate “Dragon Age 2” as having better story DLC than “Origins” as it built up the lore and added new locations versus some of the campaigns we have here. None of it is bad, but very few of it is great.

Companions – Companions are the best part of Bioware games and “Origins” and “Awakening” are two great examples of this. My favorite companions were Morrigan, Leliana, Shale, and Alistair for “Origins,” and Nathaniel, Justice and Velanna in “Awakening.” Each of them have compelling stories and adding Shale as DLC was a great example of DLC that enriches the main game in everyway as they are a compelling exploration of identity as they are a Golem. Some of the smaller campaigns don’t have that great of companions though with the only exception to that rule being “Leliana’s Song.” Still, the main game and expansion give some amazing characters and banter.

The Campaigns – The campaigns were all enjoyable, but very few of them beyond one of them and the expansion are rarely good or great. These campaigns don’t add much to the lore (Except “Leliana’s Song” and “Awakening”) but are still a lot of fun gameplay in the universe. They are worth it for that if you get “Ultimate Edition” on sale.

Darkspawn Chronicles – Darkspawn Chronicles are a fun escape and nothing more. This is basically what if you are the bad guys and win the final battle. It doesn’t add anything to the lore, but it was fun playing as Darkspawn as they are such a fun enemy to face. This I feel could have been used to make a good multiplayer in later games.

Final Score: 7 / 10 Enjoyable, fun and forgettable.

Leliana’s Song – Leliana’s Song is the prequel campaign where you get to see how she ended up joining the Chantry. It is a powerful story and I really liked her companions Sketch the apostate elven mage who is always nervous and the battle loving dwarf Tug. Tug’s death was heartbreaking after Leliana’s lover and mentor Marjolaine betrays her. For this reason getting revenge and finding a new path (that eventually leads to joining the Warden in the main campaign) is really well done. This campaign illustrated how complex Leliana is as a character and she is easily in my Top 10 companions of “Dragon Age.” This story is a bittersweet tragedy that enriches the lore as campaigns and DLCs should.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10 Only reason it isn’t higher is we aren’t in any new locations and Tug deserved more backstory.

Origins – The main campaign of “Origins” is a story with consequences and choice with so many great companions. From the beginning you are making decisions that will define your character and path and after the Grey Wardens are betrayed and you and Alistair are the last 2 you have to rebuild everything as the world is being conquered. This is dark fantasy at it’s height and I cared about the stories I was taking part in and every boss fight felt rewarding and earned. Only cons were really one of the companions and the bugs, which kept me from rating it higher.

Final Score: 9 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2021/01/27/dragon-age-origins-a-great-and-flawed-story/

Awakening – Awakening is “Dragon Age: Origins” expansion and it is really good. It does what I want in an expansion as it adds more zones, characters, gameplay and continues the story of the character. The only things that bring it down is it doesn’t fully flesh out some of the lore ideas. The Darkspawn Civil War could have been so much more as could have the court politics when you function as an Arl and are having to rebuild the Grey Wardens. This one is well worth your time though and could have easily been great with just a bit more development.

Final Score: 8.8 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2021/01/30/dragon-age-origins-awakening/

The Golems of Amgarrak – This story is basically a lesser version of the main Dwarf recruitment quest in “Origins” as it is Dwarves dug too deep and all died in the process. Jerrick Dace is the Dwarf who asks for your help as his brother was part of the expedition to Amgarrak and he wants to learn if he is still alive. In the campaign you learn what happened to the expedition and save his brother after you fight The Harvester who becomes a Flesh Golem. Having another Golem companion again was cool but this was pretty standard lore that didn’t really add anything new to the game. “The Descent” in “Inquisition” did more for Dwarven lore.

Final Score: 7 / 10 Enjoyable but skippable.

Witch Hunt – Morrigan is one of my favorite characters in “Dragon Age” and so much more could have been done with her in this campaign. Sadly you get stuck with two annoying companions and a dog and learn nothing new. Eluvians are introduced but the mystery behind them isn’t nearly as well handled as when Morrigan shows you how they work in “Inquisition.” This isn’t nessasary and isn’t rewarding unless you did the romance with Morrigan. Otherwise, this is also skippable. It needed better companions and to add more to the lore. The writers apparently thought cleverness and jokes equals character.

7 / 10

Choice and Consequence – Both “Origins” and “Awakening” have a lot of choices that have consequences. Recruiting the Dwarves and Dalish Elves are the best examples of this with major moments being choosing the king of Ferelden and choices in the Darkspawn Civil War post “Origins.” This is where it all began and I can see the base here that would make “Dragon Age 2” and “Inquisition” the enjoyable stories they were.

The Cons:

Gamebreaking Bugs – My initial playthrough of “Origins” was buggy as hell and it was only through a few fixes and lowering the graphics card (which I didn’t need to do in newer games like “Inquisition”) that lead made me not rate the game as high. This still stands as a game this old should not be so buggy, especially with newer edition releases like “Ultimate Edition” and all that.

“Origins” Traveling – Orzammar and The Deep Roads (and some Temples and Castles) are slogs to get through. This is an issue that “Awakening” fixed as none of the maps were as big after but “Origins” has so many repetitive sections and they go on forever. I loved the dwarf recruitment story but I hated the Deep Roads so much. There is so much content with not much reward for everything you have to fight and do. This was a shame, as again the Dwarves had some of the best lore in the game.

“Dragon Age: Origins – Ultimate Edition” is worth it for the sheer amount of playability. I initially only planned to review just “Origins” and the expansion “Awakening” but came back days later to play the other campaigns. They were all fun too, even if very few of them were great. This for me is showed just how stronger the base game is and endeared this version of the game to me. Now if they can just fix the bugs than I’d rate it higher in the end. Either way, worth checking out for any fan of fantasy games and RPGs. I played the “Dragon Age Franchise” in reverse and began with “Inquisition” and played through “2” and ending with this game was fantastic and worth it.

Final Score: 9.3 / 10

Top 5 “Dragon Age” Companions

After playing through “Dragon Age: Origins” and it’s expansion “Awakening” as well as “Dragon Age 2” and “Inquisition.” I thought it’d be fun to do a list of my Top 5 favorite companions. Given how many companions show up in multiple games, here is to hoping that we see more them show up again in “IV” even if they can’t join your party. Characters are the strongest part of the storytelling in Bioware games and “Dragon Age” like “Mass Effect” is one of the greatest examples of why.

Also this will contain SPOILERS for all of the games as a reason they are my favorite companions is framed from events in the stories and the history and lore of the “Dragon Age” Universe, so know that going in.

So without further ado, here are my Top 5 “Dragon Age” Companions:

5th – Dorian

The Tevinter Imperium are a constant threat throughout every game in the “Dragon Age” Franchise and are setup as the reason the world went to hell in the first place and the Blight came about. They are a society built on magic and slavery who are constantly making vies for power in Thedas to reclaim the Empire that was lost whether it is actions in Kirkwall or allying with Corypheus. Dorian breaks that role as he rebels against his family and joins the Inquisition. He is a potential love interest and I would have pursued him if I hadn’t already been with Josephine with my Male Mage Qunari. Dorian is sensitive, strong, smart and arrogant and his arc involves making peace with his family and advocating for reforms in the Imperium as his father is murdered after they make peace and his father accepts that he is gay. We go to Tevinter in “IV” so I hope Dorian can be a companion again. This is a character who is pushing the boundaries of magic but never loses sight of the bigger picture as he confronts both the evils in Thedas and his own nation. “Inquisition” had my favorite group of companions and Dorian was one of my favorites.

4th – Morrigan

Morrigan is one of the first characters you meet after your starting story in “Origins” but for me the first time I met her was in “Inquisition” as I played the series in reverse. In all cases I helped along what she needed whether it was the ritual so I’d survive the Archdemon in “Origins” or drinking from the Well of Sorrow in Inquisition. Morrigan is an ancient witch and her overall goals are to create a new and better world by changing it. What this entails is still unknown but like her mother Flemeth I’d say they are the side of the good even if their methods are more selfish and chaotic. Claudia Black brings this character to life so well and I loved having her as a primary companion in “Origins” and as a temporary companion in “Inquisition.”

3rd – Fenris

Fenris is a former Elven Tevinter Slave and understandably has a huge issue with mages. I always play mages in my playthroughs but still pursued a romance with him my male mage Hawke. Sadly it was not to be as I made way too many pro-mage choices so ended up with the wonderful naïve mage Merrill. As much as I like Merrill and do consider her a favorite, she doesn’t make the Top 5. Fenris is the tortured warrior who still will become your close friend or lover even if you are a mage. In the end his own sister is used against him and the loss he goes through is awful. Fenris is a character who has faced so much suffering but in living and his adventure with Hawke finds a reason to be and a life beyond hate. I love this character and he was my favorite warrior option in the end and he had steep competition against Alistair, Cassandra and Iron Bull. He and Merrill were the best parts of “Dragon Age 2.”

2nd – Solas

Solas is a fascinating character and for my Inquisitor in “Inquisition” he was my advisor. If he wasn’t a straight elf into only elves I would have pursued the romance option with him too as he was the kind of Mage I was, where he was a conservative mage in many ways but an apostate, which was how I played my Inquisitor (Hawke’s mage I played entirely as a rebel and my “Origins” elf mage was just selfish except for looking out for friends). In the end we learn that kind, intellectual Solas caused the world to be what it is today as he is the Dread Wolf who imprisoned the Elven Gods (who were just powerful mages akin to the Tevinter Archons) and has been seeking to remake the world for the elves once more. He has a perspective beyond nationalism though as he saves the Inquisitor from death and wants to be proven wrong. I hated the reveal of him as the Dread Wolf originally but it has grown on me as it makes sense given his lack of backstory he chose to share in the main game and it does add dimension to him, making him one of the most complex characters in the game. I suspect he’ll be the primary villain in “IV” unless there is someone stronger than him.

1st – Varric

Varric is the heart of the “Dragon Age” Franchise as he is the storyteller who is a companion to both Hawke in “Dragon Age 2” and is telling that story to Cassandra and is the friend and advisor to the Inquisitor in “Inquisition.” I love this rogue. He has a story full of tragedy who is betrayed by his brother for power and has his own shadows following him in the Merchants Guild and the Carta gang. He is guarded but also the most sensitive of the companions as he protects Merrill in Kirkwall when she is wandering in dangerous areas, helps Cole find his humanity and will give anyone the time of day, as well as a nickname. It is great having a famous author in this world and seeing first hand where he pulls inspiration for the stories from. I’m so happy he was narrating the intro to the “Dragon Age IV” trailer and though he is Viscount of Kirkwall, I hope he will be a party member. He is the best character in “Dragon Age” hands down and I can’t wait to see what is done with him in the future.

These were my Top 5 favorite companions. I’m curious to hear who yours are as well as characters is where Bioware excels and I hope we get more companions like these in the future.

Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening

Dragon Age: Origins Awakening

“Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening” is a really good expansion. It builds on so much of what worked about “Origins” and is ambitious in the ideas it tries to explore. Sadly what keeps it being higher in my recommendation of these games is like “Dragon Age 2” it has greater story ambitions than what it can actually accomplish. I’ll get into what I mean below.

The story follows the Warden from “Origins” as you arrive at Vigil’s Keep under attack and must rescue it and the Wardens from the surprisingly organized Darkspawn.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Gameplay – The gameplay flows a lot better this time around and of course importing the character gave all the options from before which made the experience more enjoyable. There were also quite a few enemies that provided a fun challenge such as dragons, armored ogres, darkspawn alphas of different types and a pride demon boss. The combat synergy among the party was just as good as “Origins” as well. The areas you visit are also much easier to navigate as well and aren’t as sprawling which made completing missions much more fun as I never faced the Deep Roads or Mountains slog from “Origins.”

The Setup – The setup of you having to build Vigil’s Keep back-up and recruit Grey Wardens is really great. Alistair shows up briefly passing through too so you have the endorsement of the King for immediately keeping some companions like Anders from the start, even as Templars are demanding his head. The goals are immediate as well as the mystery as the voiceover talks of a darkspawn civil war and our first experience with them in this expansion intro is one talking. There is intelligence there and a mystery behind the conflict voiced in the beginning.

Vigil’s Keep – Vigil’s Keep is great and you are the Arl. It reminds me a lot of an early version of Skyhold as you have enchanters, armorers, smiths, masons, etc. and can work with them and do rulings on the region that once belonged to the Howes. It is fun doing quests here and helping out the people and lords as well as dealing with the Darkspawn invasion from the tunnels below and building up the keep to withstand a future attack. Because I’d built up the Keep so much when the final attack did finally come all my companions and the Keep survived.

Recruiting Companions – The companions this time around I’d say are slightly better than the ones in Origins as there is no Wynne or Sten and befriending these folks is a lot easier. The weak link this time are the Dwarves as Oghren feels like he hasn’t changed at all from last game and Sigrun’s survivor’s guilt and drive is barely explored. In the end I liked them but they were flat compared to Velanna in her revenge quest for the Darkspawn taking her sister and living with exile from her Dalish clan, Justice and learning to live in a mortal’s body, Anders and his quest for freedom from the Templars or Nathaniel Howe seeking to redeem his family name and himself after his father was one of Loghain’s big bads in “Origins.” There is a lot here to like and again there wasn’t a Wynne or Sten to bring it down though I didn’t notice the level of complexity in character relationships that “Inquisition” did or them with you.

My main party ended up being Nathaniel, Anders and Justice and if I wasn’t taking Anders I took Velanna. Either was my main go to. I only took the Dwarves on the story driven quests as both Nathaniel and Justice were the better rogue and warrior.

Dragon Fights – I am easy when it comes to these games and battles. Give me High Dragons to fight and I am there. In this expansion I got to fight the Queen of the Marsh (The spirit of a High Dragon) and a High Dragon fighting Darkspawn outside the Mother’s lair. Both fights were extremely rewarding as usual. I love fighting dragons.

Darkspawn Civil War – The idea of the Darkspawn Civil War with Old God loyalists with the Mother and rebels under the Architect who is an Ancient Darkspawn was such a cool idea. Not enough time is spent on it, which I will get into later (this really deserved more than expansion to be fully realized) but the idea and seeing it play out as you do missions and recruit Grey Wardens is really cool. The new darkspawn born from it are interesting too. The darkspawn are changing even in their attempts to resist or embrace it.

The Architect – The architect is an ancient darkspawn like Corypheus from “Dragon Age 2” and “Inquisition” and is seeking to find freedom for the darkspawn from the Old Gods. This is intriguing as it came about by him becoming a Grey Warden in reverse by ingesting Grey Warden blood. From here he sought the freedom for his people and recruited others to his cause. He functions almost like an anarchist to the dictator and control and bringing back the Old Gods the Mother seeks. He needed more exploration though, Corypheus gets some deeper development on the person he was before but the Architect still feels mostly like a really cool idea.

Revenge and Redemption – Revenge and redemption are the two themes of this expansion. Characters like Velanna, Justice and Sigrun seek revenge for those destroyed by the darkspawn (and Anders against the Templars) while Oghren, Nathaniel and Anders to some degree are seeking some form of redemption in a new life.

The Afterwords – I enjoyed reading the afterwords though I think I prefer when it is done in the form of drawn art versus screenshots with a blurb. The blurbs were still cool though as it leaves things open enough to setup Anders and Justice’s reunion as one in “Dragon Age 2” and it sounds like my character did rejoin Leliana to travel like we’d talked about in camp. It was a nice detail. I also love that Vigil’s Keep stood and lead to the reformation of the Grey Wardens in the region.

The Cons:

Holding Court – This holding court was handled better in “Inquisition” where you would see your party members approve or disprove of your choice and reactions on the warmap. Here it is mostly rolling to convince people if there is a disagreement or finding a middle ground if not. I appreciated it showing the reality of ruling but it needed to do more and it didn’t compare to “Inquisition.” The Court drama just didn’t work. There are even Howe loyalists trying to kill you at one point, but once you put it down it just ends. This could have been a lot more, like the Darkspawn plot.

Attempt at Darkspawn Complexity not Fully Realized – We see the Darkspawn are learning and one I even let live because he fought with us (I did this again with Architect since he promised to help take out the Mother and to leave us in peace). He kept his words and even the Darkspawn became a bit of a hero, sadly the reality of the blight as a potential virus is still a thing. It suggests that they might be a threat inherently by existing and I wish this had been dealt with fully as well as what civilization the Architect was trying to form.

The Old Gods Question – Darkspawn serve the will of the Old Gods and that is the entirety of their being. It turns out the Architect awoken the latest blight (made me feel bad that I made the deal to take out the Mother with him) and again the question is asked is doing the Darkspawn have “Free will” or are just evil. This needed to be further explored as just posting the idea hurts the overall narrative when you are focusing on reforming the Grey Wardens (and the Darkspawn are their threat and the Blight). A bit more exploration of this and good darkspawn could have made this one of the best “Dragon Age” stories.

In the end this was a really good expansion that just needed to further expand on the ideas it posed. If you are going to court drama and betrayal go all in and have your companions get involved and have thoughts or advice for you. Same with the Darkspawn if you have two that can be non-hostile than make the Architect’s faction explicitly neutral unless threatened so you can fully explore diplomacy with a usual hostile faction. There was the hint that that could have happened at the end but it was another idea like the court drama that wasn’t fully realized. This is still worth buying by the way, the companions are great, combat is better than “Origins” and locations are easier to travel and navigate too. The gameplay is so much smoother in the process and I liked seeing how my elf mage’s story continued.

Final Score: 8.8 / 10 Really good, just needed to fully realize some big plot elements better.

Dragon Age: Origins – A Great and Flawed Story

Dragon Age: Origins (Video Game 2009) - IMDb

“Dragon Age: Origins” is easily the best and worst of this Franchise in equal orders but for me that still makes it a great but flawed game. This game gives us some of the best drama, tragedy, recruitment quests and interpersonal drama. So much that the story sets up in early on pays off later and through it all you are fully immersed in the world in a way even “Inquisition” couldn’t do. So, yes, this is a game I highly recommend.

The story follows the leader of the Grey Wardens Duncan as he recruits you to deal with the Darkspawn and the danger a Fifth Blight that could destroy the world forever.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Setup / Your Character – You can choose an elf, dwarf or human and they can be a rogue, warrior or mage. I chose an elf mage and my personal backstory is I was second generation as my parents grew up in the alienage but sent me to the Circle when I was born to magic. His family was largely out of his picture and growing up with Templars who wanted to kill him he grew to not trust people, especially humans. In the story his human friend Jowan is one he helps escape and after Duncan recruits him to deal with the Darkspawn threat.

The Betrayal – King Cailan is huge ally to the Grey Wardens and is with you against their large assault. It is in this his advisor Loghain (liberator of Ferelden and his chief Advisor and Father-in-law) leaves him to die and frames the Grey Wardens for it. You are only saved by the Witches of the Wild Flemeth and Morrigan, which leads to Morrigan joining you and Alistair as you recruit allies against the Darkspawn Blight and to eventually confront Loghain.

Recruiting Allies for the Grey Wardens – Over the course of the campaign you can recruit werewolves or Dalish elves, one of the Dwarf Lords in line to be King, Mages or Templars and the people of Redcliffe. Once they are recruited you can gather resources for their factions. Each of the stories is compelling though the best are easily the Dalish and Dwarven dramas.

The Dalish and Werewolf Drama – The Dalish drama exists because humans killed and did worse to the Dalish Keeper’s son and daughter so he trapped a spirit in a wolf form which cursed the humans to be werewolf and at the time of the story they have begun infecting the elves. I was able to resolve it by helping the Keeper finally find peace as he and the spirit die and the cursed line of humans ends and they are human once more, and you recruit the elves. I’ve always loved the Dalish (one reason I designed my elf to have their background via his parents) and this is simply a great drama.

The Dwarven Succession Crisis and Orzammar Stories – The Dwarven story is powerful especially if you bring Oghren and the golem Shale. In this you see the horror of how the Darkspawn are created and how they are made from their victims and what happened to agent Dwarven Paragon who put himself and his people into the bodies of golems. In the end the Paragon wants it all destroyed as Oghren loses his wife who has gone made to wanting to make more golems and has to be stopped. The drama is amazing and Ozrammar is beautifully designed, the Deep Roads though are one of my least favorite places in any game and I like fighting Darkspawn. That can’t make up for travel that takes forever.

Fighting Darkspawn – Darkspawn are the funnest thing to fight in these games besides dragons so I love that this game is all about fighting them. There is such a variety of them and they are difficult too, they force you to use tactics and counter what they bring as their unit variety is greater than that of what they have in “Inquisition” or “Dragon Age 2.” I look forward to facing them again in “Awakening” and “IV.”

The Archdemon – The Archdemon is such a fun threat. You see him throughout the game and the fight itself is a great challenge (as is getting to the boss). This was the kind of fight I love where you are facing off against a really smart and intelligent dragon (or in this case thing taking the form of a dragon). The fight keeps you on your toes and the threat of him and his armies is present as you quest. You feel that you are the underdog which is one reason I’d put him above Corypheus. This monster is a personal threat to the Warden.

Most Companions – I really liked most companions. Oghren is a disgusting drunk who jokes around and is great in combat, Zevran is an elvish assassin flirt (my character hooked up with him briefly and it saved his life), the Dog is wonderful and now I’ll go into who I liked most. Initially I had my Good Team (Wynne, Leliana and Alistair) but my favorite team and the one I faced the last levels on was Leliana, Morrigan and Shale. Alistair was my primary tank until I spent more time with Shale and did their loyalty mission. After that Shale became primary tank while Alistair’s arc became one of my motivations.

Shale – Shale is the sarcastic golem free of control and your arc with them is helping them discover their past. It is really well done and Shale’s sarcasm and jokes plays off of the other characters really well. I also like how we learn Shale was the only female dwarf to go with the Paragon and even with the knowledge of who they once were Shale is most present with who they are now. It makes them compelling and they were my go to Tank besides Alistair.

Alistair – Alistair is the Paladin type done right. He’s the King’s bastard and you can put him on the throne (I did and he was the King in “Inquisition” so it was fun having the games continue to line up even though I played “Inquisition” first). He’s sarcastic but caring and you come to understand his hatred of Loghain for all he puts you and your friends through. I was glad to help him and glad I survived to see him rule.

Leliana – Leliana is a Chantry sister and bard who was my primary rogue and also the romance that stayed static. I think it must have been a bug as I’d fully explored all the story options but I never got to face the bard who hurt her cause she never talked about it and I held off finishing the main 4 quests as long as I could because I wanted it to advance. At the end of the game I guess we’re together but it does feel more like friends than lovers. Still, I like her idealism and it is cool seeing the backstory of the one who would be the Nightingale and later the Master of Spies for the Inquisitor. Even if it is romantic friends that is fine for me as the real story happened with Morrigan anyway.

Morrigan – Morrigan is an awesome character and Claudia Black voices her so well. In this she goes from someone who has no friends (just tools) to you being her closest friend. It sucked turning her down when she wanted it to be more…but it became more anyway when the option for us to to do a ritual together would save me from killing the Archdemon (which also meant I’d risk none of my friends). So Morrigan and I hooked up and it was the most important thing to my elf and apparently Morrigan in the dialogue. Now our cursed kid has an Elder God and Morrigan goes into hiding until “Inquisition.” She is easily one of the best characters in Dragon Age and I’m fine losing Wynne because I chose the Morrigan side in Andraste quest.

Tragedy Done Right – This game is a tragic story. Duncan dies, King Cailan dies, Loghain dies because Alistair was that driven by revenge, most of the Circle is killed, the Dwarves still have a civil war as you have to choose a side and the backstory behind Darkspawn and Golem creation is extremely tragic. There is also the story of the elves and humans and the smaller Dalish and werewolf story and one of the early refugee city gets destroyed while you travel and there is nothing you can do. You feel the weight of the Darkspawn and the character drama truly made this game amazing.

The Cons:

Certain Companions – It didn’t matter how much I talked to Sten or Wynne how they felt about me did not change or in the case of Wynne my character allying with the Avvaresque Faction and getting empowered by a Dragon was the line far for her, when most decisions I’d made around her had been positive but that didn’t change her wishing me death and leaving. She also lacked complexity like Sten. Sten was the one note warrior obsessed with internal honor and Wynne was the traditionalist who was nice and that was about it. I think “Inquisition” is the only game in this series that has all companions I liked.

How Long it Takes to Travel – Orzammar, especially in the Deep Roads was a nightmare. It took forever to travel and even my love for fighting Darkspawn did not make up for how long it took to travel around both Orzammar itself and the Deep Roads. This also went for a few of the Temples and Mountains as well. I came to appreciate the fast travel of “Inquisition” so much more due to this game.

Game Breaking Bugs – At one point my game kept crashing until I went back to an earlier save and put the graphics settings at their lowest. This game has been out for so long why are these bugs still happening? This was an issues that “Inquisition” and “Dragon Age 2” did not have nearly to the same degree. This game has some great stories but is buggy as well.

My elf was easily the most selfish of my prior characters (He would clash with both Hawke and the Inquisitor) as I did play him with a bit of Morrigan’s mentality as I like her he could still be extremely kind and selfless especially for the greater good and to protect his friends and the people. In the end he chose to travel and help Leliana set up a place for Pilgrims in Haven (Hey, another “Inquisition” connection). This was a game where I cared about so much that happened and even the really bad flaws do not keep it from being a great game. All that is left is the expansion to this game “Awakening,” where my elf’s story will continue. Flaws and all, this is a game like “Inquisition” is some of the best that Bioware has made.

Final Score: 9 / 10 Solidly great, even with all the flaws.

Dragon Age 2: DLC Bundle – A Good Flawed Game with Mostly Great DLC

Dragon Age II DLC Bundle on Steam

Bioware’s “Dragon Age 2” is a good game with a few missing story beats that keep it from being great. You have a compelling story about your hero’s rise and all the loss experienced along the way, but so much of the political world and a major character beat leave a lot to be desired. This was a bigger problem here than in “Inquisition” as well due to in game consequences. I’ll get into more of what I mean further into the review but I highly recommend getting the game with the DLC as the DLC improves the game so much more storywise and keeps the game as recommended from me. I’ll be giving each individual story DLC a score at the end as well.

The story begins with you and your family escaping the Blight and Darkspawn in an overrun Ferelden as try to make your way to your family in the free Island of Kirkwall.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Framing the Narrative – The narrative is framed around Seeker Cassandra questioning Varric about what happened in Kirkwall and the events surrounding the Champion of Kirkwall. It is compellingly done and I like how she goes from hostile to the Champion and Varric to friendly by the end as she finds she believes his stories. After “Inquisition” I am also a fan of seeing more Cassandra and Varric. They are great characters and it is wonderful seeing them in an earlier time.

Journey to Kirkwall – The Journey to Kirkwall teaches you how to play the game and use your companions and ends with you losing your apostate mage sister Bethany or warrior brother Carver. In my case I was a mage already so I suspect that was why I lost my mage sister in the encounter with the Ogre as I found you can’t save both. It is a good setup and it establishes how there will be tension between you and your surviving sibling. You are also established as refugees and have to take work for smugglers or mercenaries in the first year to make a name for yourself.

Character Connections to the Other “Dragon Age” Games – In game you get to help Zevran the rogue from “Origins” and meet King Alistair as well as helping Leliana when she is on her quest for the Divine and of course Cassandra and her questioning of Varric. You also see when Cullen first turns against the Templars as he serves as one here. Of course Varric and Cassandra are the carry overs in “Inquisition” and companions in it so there is that too. I liked these connections even though I haven’t finished “Origins,” it is next on the list. This character overlap helps the game feel real and lived in.

Some of the Companions – In “Inquisition” I liked all of the companions and their arcs. I can’t say the same for “Dragon Age 2.” Carver, your brother is a chore to be with unless you save him and help him become a Warden. Sebastian is a bland religious zealot whose conflict is what Castle he wants to rule in basically (his Kingdom or the Chantry) and Aveline is pretty bland Captain of the Guard but is given depth in her awkwardness and conflict against Knight-Commander Meredith. I liked Fenris the former Tevinter elven slave who hates mages with a passions (even though I was a very pro-mage apostate mage) and he was nearly a love interest. Isabela is fun rogue but after I gave her the object she wanted I never saw her again so my time with her as a companion it was pretty short. Anders was a passionate mage idealist who I really liked until what he does in the end which made me hate the character. Merrill voiced by Eve Myles from “Torchwood” and “Doctor Who,” plays an amazing Dalish blood mage who sees herself as looking out for people and their legacy but is made outcast because of it. She was my love interest in the end as I made too many pro-mage choices for Fenris to ever truly like me beyond being a friend. Varric was my sarcastic storytelling best friend. He really got a great introduction in this game.

My main parties of choice were: Varric, Merrill and Aveline and if not Aveline I’d choose Fenris.

The Romance – The romance arc is sweet as you help Merrill in her quest to recapture her people’s past while she deals with the dangers of using demons to do it. In the end this blows up (as working with demons does in “Dragon Age”) and the Keeper, her mentor dies. In the end she is outcast from her people and together you decide to find a new purpose. It is really well done and Merrill’s idealism and want to remember and capture the past is powerful. Eva Myles also does a great job in the role and I think by the end my Hawke probably shared many beliefs of the Dalish because of his relationship with her. The final has that they are still together even after all the companions separate.

Dragonslayer – The High Dragon in this is more difficult than any of the bosses faced as even at the level I went into the final bosses with it still took a while to kill. I like I will love getting this achievement in any game though. It pushes your strategy and the High Dragon adds have some variety in this as he calls down Dragons as well to help, the further it is close to dying. I can’t wait to do this in “Origins” if it is possible.

Mark of the Assassin DLC – “Mark of the Assassin” is some really great DLC with only it being too self aware bringing down the story. In this story you help Tallis the Qunari rogue get back an item of value for the Qun to prevent war. It is really powerfully done as you hunt for Wyverns, have fun in the Orlesian Court and face off against Qunari and Orlesians who want to bring about a war. Tallis is a cool character who truly believes in the Qun and frames it in a Buddhist philosophy kind of way and Felecia Day plays the depth of the character well. The only con is when they have her do jokes and it comes off as being written for the jokes and not in character of the character. That self-awareness is the only thing bringing down a great story, well that and an annoying sneaking section. Tallis was a very fun temporary companion.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10 Rated highly for the lore and characters explored.

Legacy DLC – Legacy is when we free and meet Corypheus, the big bad of “Inquisition.” In this the threat and feel of him is awesome as you fight guardians and unlock his cage, which you learn your father put there with blood magic. I brought along Carver and it was great getting his Warden perspective in it all, also I’m glad he wasn’t the one possessed at the end. This DLC made Carver likeable except for the last Act with him where he’s likeable too. Also for me, fighting Darkspawn is always fun and this DLC has A LOT of darkspawn. Fighting the Carta was less fun but seeing how Corypheus had corrupted Dwarves and also Wardens was fascinating. I only wish more had been added to Corypheus’s backstory and that we learned more about Hawke’s father as those both felt like a lot more could have been revealed. Also, the Corypheus fight is harder in this than “Inquisition.” He is the hardest fight due to what he does and is up there with the High Dragon for the most fun I had fighting.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10 For ambiance, combat and lore.

Politics and Power – Once you become a noble you are dealing with politics and power as the Viscount’s advisor as you deal with Templars oppressing mages and blood mage cults jumping up around Kirkwall. You are also facing the Arishok and his Qunari who refuse to leave and are debating whether to take action against Kirkwall. They eventually do and kill the Viscount leaving Kirkwall leaderless and you left to pick up the pieces as all out war erupts at the end between the Templars and Mages. In this you see how different leaders deal with power be they from the Chantry, the Guard, the Mages or Templar and how those choices shape them in the end.

Choices with Consequences – This is a game where everyone won’t stick around and you can’t save everyone. By the end my remaining companions were Aveline, Carver, Varric, Sebastian and Merrill and Fenris after I convinced him to rejoin me after he’d left. This all stayed with me as in the end the only one who was willing to forgive in my party was Merrill in regards to Anders and his choices. I also probably made things worse in the conflict with the Qunari as I gave Isabela the Qunari artifact to protect her from the Captain wanting her dead and even then, she was gone for good after that. I also couldn’t save my mom or sister and a lot of minor Templars and Mages who weren’t initially bad. It sucked but felt real and it made the gaming experience richer. I also backed the Mage rebellion so my more Pro-Circle Mage Inquisitor and Hawke would have clashed. My guy was full pro-Apostate where the Inquisitor was sympathetic but also in line with wanting the stability of the Circle with reform.

The Tragedy of Hawke – Over the course of the story Hawke loses his sister, his mother, his friend Anders in the betrayal (and possible full possession by the Spirit), your girlfriend loses her people, your friends face their traumas and in the end you can’t stop a war that destroys your adopted nation and me as an apostate mage was all for supporting other apostate mages against the templars. This is a story with weight and you feel it in everything Hawke and those around him go through. I felt for this character and it made me glad I played his story all the way through, even knowing how his story ended for me after playing “Inquisition.” His story is worth it. If I’d not cared about the choices I made as the character I never would have finished the game. This was a fun story to experience and create.

The Cons:

Anders’s Arc – Anders goes from an idealistic mage possessed by the spirit of Justice who is a potential love interest if you are a guy to a mass murder by the end of the story. How he gets here makes no sense. He is afraid of Justice taking over and becoming Vengeance but besides one moment where you rescue a mage from Templars you never see that he’d be willing to go to any means and kill anyone for his ideals. This could have worked storywise but the work wasn’t there to make it happen. Anders deserved so much better. He was against the Templars and he knew innocents attended the Chantry Temple he blew up. The line he crossed and what it took for him to get there needed so much more.

Sebastian Bland the Exiled Prince DLC – You get a companion in the exiled prince and besides having another companion there isn’t much to say. I think Bioware was going for a Paladin type but he is just boring. He wants to serve the Chantry when people are telling him he should go rule his Kingdom. He really wins either way and the conflict isn’t deep. We never get to know the world he left behind and everything he does is for the “Maker.” This is a character with no nuance and no personality to boot. What a waste.

6 / 10 and only because I did need another rogue after Isabela left.

Crazy Templar and Mage Leadership – The setup of the Templar and Mages getting more extreme isn’t done really well in regards to leadership. This is because we don’t get to know or see the leadership until the Arishok has killed the Viscount. This needed to happened earlier and them both going mad at the end needed setup. Meredith of the Templars had at least some setup and clear fascist aims but the level of corrupt magic that came out of the High Enchanter was a story beat out of nowhere and didn’t fit the character we’d come to know who was a moderate among mages. The fights were alright at least but the characters deserved better.

Missing Story Beats For Such a Long Time Period – In every act there is a 3 year jump but we never see how the characters change. Meredith should have been a factor getting radicalized by the Qunari threat as should’ve the High Enchanter. Instead we only see the people they’ve become in Act 3 and the even the High Enchanter’s turn to extreme blood magic comes out of nowhere and doesn’t feel justified in the slightest. This goes for the radicalization of Anders too. I saw no line where he was suddenly okay targeting innocents so the fact that he did did a disservice to the character. In all cases these moments felt like drama for the sake of drama and were a disservice to the story the game was trying to tell.

This was a game that was overall enriched by the DLC and I really wish the main story had been as sharp as “Mark of the Assassin” or “Legacy” as both of those felt fully realized. The main story of “Dragon Age 2” is a story with consequences but also a story where you get drama for the sake of drama and detriment of character development. This was a problem that wasn’t in “Inquisition” and even 2 great DLC can’t make the game wholly great. This game is still good and I do recommend getting it with all the DLC. At the end of the day I cared about the Hawke story being told.

Final Score: 8.5 / 10 Score boosted by great DLC.

You can see how Hawke’s story ended for me here in my playthrough of the main campaign of “Inquisition” in the “Choice and Loss” section of Pros:

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2021/01/11/dragon-age-inquisition-the-main-campaign/

Dragon Age: Inquisition – Game of the Year Edition

Dragon Age™ Inquisition on Steam

“Dragon Age: Inquisition – Game of the Year Edition” is one of my favorite games. This was well worth buying on Steam as I got as much play out of this game as I did in the height of my “Mass Effect Trilogy” playthrough. Which was also very fun to review. Bioware when it tells a great story with compelling choices. I’m a huge fan of fantasy lore and this game has some of the most compelling lore in any game. So, if you get the chance I highly recommend checking it out (before I get into SPOILERS in the review). I also reviewed each campaign individually and will attach the URL in the summary and score section of this review as they are major parts of what made the game so great.

The story follows your character as the only survivor of “The Breach” that erupted during the peace conference called by the Divine Justinia V to resolve the war between the rebelling Magi and the Templars. It is up to you uncover what caused “The Breach” as demons pour across Thedas.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Character Creation – Character creation is best when you have options and you have lots of options in “Inquisition.” You can be Human, Dwarf, Elf or Qunari, which is what I chose. The classes you can choose are Mage, Rogue or Warrior and I chose Mage eventually sub-classing into Knight-Enchanters, which are basically Mage Tanks. It was so much fun doing this and from the basis of the world my character was part of Mercenary group before receiving “the Anchor” which can close “The Breach” and rifts around Thedas. Magic is looked down Qunari society as their mages are enslaved to be mad warriors so being born into exile was a blessing for my guy. He also got training as a Mage and was not self-taught making him somewhat Pro-Circle versus in the Circle versus Apostate fight.

The Gameplay – The gameplay is amazing. Each of your party members brings synergy and different tactics to each battle. For this reason I can’t say I had a favorite group to bring with me, though I did tend use Varric the rogue, Blackwall the warrior and Solas the mage primarily for character interactions and story purposes. They are the closest thing to favorite group to fight with but it really depended on the fight. Combat works in this game and you use skill points as you level up to unlock new abilities before your sub-class specialization which opens up another tree.

Dragon Fights – I bring up these in a few of my campaign reviews as I feel that they were one of the best parts of the game. They are entirely optional except for bosses in the DLC so they are really there to be a test of skill and tactics as each Dragon uses a primary element and therefore has a vulnerability opposite of it. They also can summon a shield you need to knock down and others do that and summon dragonlings. Some fights are also all on the ground and they never take off, where some will make use of flight to harass your party. I loved all of these fights and getting “Dragon’s Bane” was my favorite achievement in the game. It was in these fights I discovered so many group combinations that made questing more fun.

The World and Politics – The world and politics is such a great aspect to the game as every area that opens up on the Board has a unique threat (Avvar, Red Templar, Tevinter, undead) or any combination of the above showing the big bad Corypheus’s influence upon the world is he is attempting to remake in his image. You have the choice to back the Templars or Mages in the Civil War and your choice is permanent and effects who is Corypheus’s second-in-command. You also have to deal with fallout from Judgements you make on prisoners on the board and keep nobles happy as you deal with threats around Thedas some of which you can only send agents to deal with. The world is lived in and the Map shows it in the NPCs you can meet and recruit as Inquisitor agents and the enemies you face. I loved the world and can’t wait to experience more of it “Dragon Age II” and “Origins.”

The History and Lore – Another aspect of the game that is a lot of fun is all the history and lore. You learn about the Elven Gods, the beliefs of the Dwarves, the Blights and the Wardens fight against it, the Ancient Elves and Dalish Elves, the events of Kirkwall in “Dragon Age II” and the Tevinter, Fereldan, Qun and Orlesian beliefs and politics. There is so much here in the books and notes you pickup throughout the game as well as what characters tell you when you investigate. My character was a know-it-all and I’d explain the lore of something as a special speech option whenever I got the chance.

The Campaigns – The story is what drives a game and these stories are what will make a game work or fail in the end if it is an RPG. How well is the lore and story handled? Is it self-contained? Does the antagonist and threat feel real? For each I will give a summary and post my thoughts on each campaign as well as sharing the URL to reach the full review.

The Main Campaign – The main campaign is the strongest narrative of 4 stories that make up the game. Which is good as all the stories are built from the reality this story makes. What you learn is that Divine Justinia or a Spirit taking her form saves you and after the Inquisition is formed to deal with the threat of the Breach and later the ancient Magister Corypheus who seeks to become a God and who you stole the Anchor from in the first place. It is a compelling narrative and in it you get to know each of the companions and agents you recruit and find what matters to them most as well as helping them make important choices. All this leads to the rise in Inquisition power as you back the Templars or Mages and a final confrontation against Corypheus. It is a great story that has very little problems with narrative gameplay. Near perfect except for a narrative decision that plays a part in the DLC later.

Final Score: 9.8

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2021/01/11/dragon-age-inquisition-the-main-campaign/

Dragon Age: Inquisition Jaws of Hakkon DLC Pack - EA Official

Jaws of Hakkon – “Jaws of Hakkon” has you go to the Frostback Basin to uncover the truth about the first Inquisitor as well as why the Avvar known as the Jaws of Hakkon are being so threatening in the area. Avvar culture is fascinating and the tragedy behind the first Inquisitor is really well done (as well discovering what the Chantry covered up). The region is also beautiful and has a diverse array of quests and some final fights that make the DLC well worth your time. Solidly great.

Final Score: 9 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2021/01/12/dragon-age-inquisition-jaws-of-hakkon/

DRAGON AGE™: INQUISITION Official Trailer – The Descent (DLC) | Dragon age, Dragon  age inquisition, Dragon age romance

The Descent – “The Descent” is the weakest of the DLC but still a good story in how we learn about Dwarven Politics, face Darkspawn and Ancient Dwarves and travel with the gruff and wonderful Renn and driven Shaper Valta. These two characters and the discovery and gameplay, especially in the Darkspawn zones make-up for the weak second-half that asks far more questions than it is willing to answer. I hope that the answers are delved into later. This story also needed some dwarves who weren’t exiles to clash with our party and Renn and Valta, it would have made the story better.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2021/01/12/dragon-age-inquisition-the-descent/

Dragon Age™: Inquisition - Trespasser

Trespasser – Trespasser is a great example of how to make a compelling Epilogue. In this story you decide the fate of the organization you helped make powerful while dealing with a mystery and external threats that threaten to easily undo the tepid peace that exists. In this you face the Qunari and learn more about the Dread Wolf an Elven God of Rebellion and Mischief who played a far deeper part in the narrative than the main campaign revealed. In the end what would have made it better is bringing more agents you recruited into the story and not having the politics be so impersonal. I felt like Cassandra when dealing with the leaders of Orlais and Ferelden as I didn’t know either of them. Loved how it explores your characters stories ending though and how your friends and romance if you had one, ended up.

9.4 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2021/01/13/dragon-age-inquisition-trespasser/

Choices Mattering – The choices you make in this game matter and you experience it in-game. Whether it is in backing the Mages or the Templar or who should rule as leader of Orlais or even what should become of a companion or an enemy. Each of these affects how characters interact with you and what happens on the world map. This was a level of interaction I wish “Mass Effect” had as often times the missions around the galaxy didn’t know up much in dialogue around the Citadel and taking out “Cerberus” in “Mass Effect 1” meant nothing later. In “Inquisition” this is not the case. If you take out enemies in an area you will find your soldiers or ally soldiers taking their place. The world changes in real time.

The Characters and Companions – The characters are the strongest part of the game and you build friendships with them over the course of the game. Some may distrust you or want to use for their own ends at first but in the end they come around as you prove your goodness to them. This was really well handled and it made things feel organic. This leads to romance options in some cases depending on the character you made and the choices you make and that too has a whole narrative arc built around the choices you make. Vivienne, Iron Bull, Cullen, Leliana, Josephine, Cassandra, Sera, Solas, Varric, Blackwall, Cole, Dorian, Hawke and Morrigan all experience changes based on the decisions you make in-game and each of them has a compelling story to share and tell as you get to know them. Like “Mass Effect” the loyalty quests were really amazing and gave some of those fantastic glimpses into who they are.

Change Over Time and Character Choice – The character changes over time are represented on tarot cards and you can see when they are suffering as an image of them will often be keeled over and the card has red on it. The image also changes as well as initially they start out more traditional but change based off the decisions that happen over their loyalty quests or the political decisions in-game.

The Ending and Setup for “Dragon Age IV” – The ending is fantastic as the threat of Solas the Dread Wolf hangs overhead and the state of the Inquisition has problems regardless of the decision you make. You are with your secret council and decide to seek allies in Tevinter as that is the one area of the world Solas knows nothing about. I can’t wait to see that unfold in “Dragon Age IV” and am curious how the narrative will be framed as I doubt you will be the Inquisitor again. Their story is done.

Intersectionality Explored – Sexuality, gender, class and race are all explored in compelling ways in this game based off the NPCs you meet and the stories behind your companions and their friends. I loved how the game did this and it is reflected in the character you choose as well as I was a major outsider being both a Qunari and Mage which humans and Orlais and Ferelden saw as inhuman for those two reasons. This made standing up to assholes fun and standing up for my friends against bigots is always important.

The Cons:

More Wins Needed for the Antagonists – Corypheus destroys your first base of Haven and corrupts the rival faction you don’t ally with, but doesn’t get a win after that. I wish that had changed as he was an immortal so had a lot of time to plan. From the Jaws of Hakkon felt like a greater threat. The Qunari had the same issue as beyond “Dragon’s Breath” they didn’t seem to have any other plans to deal with the Inquisition.

DLC and Lack of Final Game Consequences Outside of “Trespasser” – “The Descent” and “Jaws of Hakkon” aren’t reflected in-game at all. I think the game would have been strengthened if the events had been shown to matter even if it was just flavor dialogue from your inner council around the War Table.

Elven Temple Puzzles – Elven Temple Puzzles are puzzles I had to look up to solve. They were really annoying and seemed to just drag out the game for the sake of the game. The only puzzle I really enjoyed was the Library in “Trespasser” as at least each new area unlocked new character or lore dialogue so it didn’t feel wasted.

Solas’s Betrayal Needed More Setup – So Solas was the Dread Wolf all along. I wish we could have got more hints at this as when he plans to leave it is never with a threat and he never came off as an elven supremacist. That change felt extreme and though I liked how the DLC explained that he told the truth about being Solas and the Dread Wolf his Imperial Ends after overthrowing the Elven Gods of old felt not completely fleshed out. I talked to him a bunch in the main campaign and there were zero hints about where his story would end up beyond his wolf jaw necklace.

This is easily one of my favorite games of all-time and well worth checking out for any person who is a fan of fantasy games and RPGs. The lore and world are so rich and the characters are complex and nuanced. I enjoyed exploring their stories and loyalty quests as well as seeing the consequences of my choices throughout the game. This is easily the gold standard for any Fantasy RPG and I can’t wait to go back and play “Dragon Age II” and “Origins” to see how they compare.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10