Monday, 14 September 2015

Game Review - 'Dragon Age: Inquisition - Trespasser'

Being the last piece of single-player DLC that will ever be released for Dragon Age: Inquisition, there are clearly two main goals that Bioware hoped to achieve with the release of Trespasser. First, and perhaps most obviously, there was the need to provide a satisfying conclusion to the story of the Inquisitor - a story that had been in progress since the main game was released a year, or so, ago. There were plot-threads that needed to be resolved, choices that needed to be acknowledged, and relationships with the game's impressive cast of characters that needed to be given some form of resolution. At the same time, though, Bioware also wanted to give long-time fans hints about where the franchise was heading in the future.

Picking up two years after the end of the main game, Trespasser concerns itself with exploring what should happen to a world saving organisation now that it is no longer needed. As the new story opens, the Inquisition has been called to a Conclave where, as the Inquisitor, you will be expected to answer to representatives of Ferelden and Orlais. The political stakes for the Inquisition are made fairly clear right from the start - with pressure being placed on the Inquisition from both sides. Both the Orlesian and Ferelden representatives are concerned that the Inquisition still retains its power and influence even after the main threat has been dealt with - and, both are convinced that something needs to be done. The Orlesians, it seems, want to take control of the Inquisition, and turn it into another branch of their own military - while, the Fereldens would rather see the whole organisation disbanded.

Of course, things get a little more complicated when a Qunari soldier is found dead at the Winter Palace, with a trail of blood leading to an active Eluvian. The Qunari, it seems, have managed to gain access to a whole network of still active Eluvians - which they seem to be using for some unknown purpose. So, with the Inquisition's advisers left to take over at the Conclave, the Inquisitor is required to set out through the Eluvian in order to learn what they are planning - finding themselves confronted by the Qunari's leader, the Viddasala, who believes that the Inquisitor's Mark is a danger that needs to be destroyed. As they press further, though, the Inquisitor will also hear rumours of activity by agents of the elven god, Fen'Harel.

After getting off to such a great start, though, it is a little disappointing to see how rushed things begin to feel in the later half of Trespasser. Sure, it's fairly obvious that the Qunari were never really intended to be the main focus of this story - being, essentially, little more than the catalyst of our eventual reunion with Solas. But, even with that in mind, they never really seem to pose much of a threat - and, their eventual defeat feels a little too easy. In the end, the defeat of the Viddasala, and the unravelling of her master plan, feels abrupt and very anti-climatic - and, the Viddasala, herself, is never really given enough focus to make much of an impression on the player. It's fairly obvious that Bioware simply wanted to get us to that promised meeting with Solas (and, to be fair, that meeting was definitely worth the wait) - it's just a shame that they chose to do so at the expense of another potentially fascinating character.

Basing the new story around a network of active Eluvians has given Bioware ample opportunity to fill this relatively short story with an impressive variety of new environments, though. Throughout the few hours you will spend working your way through Trespasser you will be treated to another short trip back into the Deep Roads, more ancient elven ruins, a Qunari stronghold, and (most impressively) an upside down floating island deep in the Fade. The threat presented by the Qunari may occasionally feel vague and under-developed - but, the variety of new locations you will get to explore while confronting that threat goes some way toward balancing that out.

As is common with the best of what Bioware has offered over the years, though, it is the character moments that are the clear highlight of Trespasser. While previous DLC had (perhaps by simple necessity) pushed existing characters to the side-lines (with only minimal new dialogue for established party-members, and none at all for the Inquisition's advisers), here all of the important figures of the Inquisition are given much more focus.

The DLC even goes out of its way to give you an opportunity to catch up with all of your old friends (assuming that they were friends, of course) before the action starts. You can force yourself to ensure some Orlesian opera with Josephine if you like, or set off on a pie-tossing rampage with Sera, or (like on my own play through) you could find Cassandra in the middle of a mild panic because Varric has convinced her that your Inquisitor intends to propose. Throughout the DLC, too, each character is allowed to play a part comparable - with plenty of new banter for party members, and important supporting roles given to your advisers while you're off adventuring.

Of course, all of this is intended to lead up to the promised reunion with Solas, and the hints about what's to come next for the Dragon Age franchise - details which I can't really discuss here, for fear of ruining it for anyone. But, if you have finish the core game (which you will have to have done to be able to access Trespasser), and you caught the post-credit teaser scene, then you should already have some idea what to expect. I'll just say that, by the time that Trespasser is over, you should have a fairly clear idea of where the Dragon Age franchise is headed in the future - and, it certainly seems to be headed in a fascinating direction.

It's not just the DLC, itself, that Bioware have added here, either. There are also new features intended to make an additional play-through of the entire game more rewarding. First, every active ability in the game now has a second upgrade option to choose from - allowing for a much greater degree of customisation for your group. Second, Bioware have added a handful of new custom difficulty options to make your next play-through more interesting. One, for example, will halve the experience you earn during the game, while another will double the effect of any disapproval you earn from party-members. Activating each of this Trials, as they are called, will also come with in-game rewards - and, there are new achievements tied to some of them, for the completionists. Combined with the 'Golden Nug' feature included in a recent patch (which allows you to transfer collectibles and crafting schematics between characters) and it seems fairly clear that Bioware still want you to spend more time with Dragon Age: Inquisition, even though it's now officially finished.

There were, unfortunately, a few technical issues that marred the experience for me. On my run through the DLC, the entire Deep Roads segment was let down by a particularly irritating bug which caused a noticeable delay every time I tried to interact with an NPC or object - a delay which seemed to get longer as I pushed further through that segment of the game. The worst part, though, is that when I attempted to save and reload, hoping that would fix it, I found that it just wouldn't load. This issue only seemed to affect the Deep Roads, though - once I pushed through to the next section, everything ran smoothly once more. It's possible that you might not have the same issue, and it's also more than likely that Bioware will put out a patch eventually - but, it was a low point in the DLC for me. There were other, minor, issues as well - such as Leliana (as Divine Victoria on that particular play-through) suddenly appearing in her Inquisition uniform in the game's last cut-scene in what I can only assume was a minor continuity glitch, and closing epilogue slides that moved by almost too fast to read (also, why wasn't there any recorded narration to accompany them?). But, none of this comes close to the same level of irritation as the Deep Roads bug - and, I think it has already been confirmed that the issue with the epilogue slides will be fixed.

Trespasser has its share of issues, sure - the Qunari story ending in an anti-climax was a little disappointing, and the various bug-related issues I had were annoying. But, the things that Trespasser does well more than make up for that. There is, obviously, something a little sad about something that I have enjoyed finally being over - but, Trespasser is definitely a worthwhile final chapter for the story of the Inquisitor.

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