Usually, with each holiday season, game companies are vying for those precious dollars and seeking the title of “The must-play game of the season.” But when it comes to the holiday game king of the hill, one franchise has rested comfortably on the top of the heap for the past several years. Call of Duty seasonal releases have become as predictable as the falling of the leaves and gamers eagerly await it with frothing excitement. The trouble with a huge, loyal fan base and a yearly release schedule are that it’s easy for a franchise to stale and rest only on past success. Does Black Ops 3 repeat the formula of its predecessors or does it truly deserve that top spot on your wishlist this holiday season?
The campaigns of Call of Duty, while formulaic, have always been the highlight of the game for me. While the multiplayer succeeds in occasionally making you feel like a badass soldier, the campaign completely delivers on this front. Black Ops 3 starts with the player picking out your character’s avatar and gender, a welcomed first for the series. From there you’re tossed into your first mission, which goes horribly wrong and you’re left maimed and for dead on the battlefield. Thanks to the help of some cybernetically modified soldiers, you’re patched up and repurposed as a super soldier, much like the beginning of Advanced Warfare. The training missions are presented in a slick, unique way that gets you up to speed on your new abilities. The big change in the campaign comes in the form of your cyber core abilities. Players can choose from three tiers of cybernetic abilities, anything from the ability to run on walls, to taking over turrets, even unleashing a swarm of nanobots that overtake enemies and explode. Since you can only equip one tier at a time, players can replay missions for a completely different tactical experience. In addition to the cyber core abilities, another big change is how players load up missions. You’re given the choice right off the bat to take on any mission in any order via the new Black site. The Black site is where players will customize load-outs, abilities, view stats and medals, and select missions. Overall, the campaign is a fully-featured portion of the game and not just a tacked-on mode to accompany an already popular multiplayer experience.
Truly the bread and butter of COD are multiplayer. The online experience is something that has been tested and tweaked into near perfection over the years and this iteration builds upon the pedigree even more. Black Ops 3 introduces players to specialists, unique characters with special abilities players pick at the start. There are nine specialists to choose from although only 4 are available to start. Players must rank up through multiplayer and spend unlock tokens for special weapons and abilities. Special weapons range from a bow with explosive tips to flamethrowers and swords, putting more emphasis on close-range combat. Specialists can be customized via unlockable outfits by completing total kills while playing as a specialist. The jump pack makes a revised appearance and players can wall run and power slide around the level making the usual fast chaos of a match even more so by allowing players to utilize more vertical space. The maps feel well designed and balanced and fan-favorite Nuketown makes a return.
Zombies mode gets an overhaul with the setting taking place in a noir style 1940s town. You can play as one of 4 characters, each with unique playstyles and background stories. For the first in the series, progress is now saved and Zombies has its own level progression system. While the zombie’s mode has grown over the years, this is the first time it feels like a standalone game and one that you can spend more than a few play sessions in. For those that have enjoyed the Zombies mode over the past few years, this offering will most likely be your favorite to date.
Treyarch has become the go-to developer for the Call of Duty franchise. Their work on the Black Ops series has been the most innovative and fun since the series first took a leap from the past with Modern Warfare. They had three years to work on this release and the extra time looks to have paid off tenfold. They could have simply rested on previous work and put out the same thing, but this offering has taken what worked and improved upon it across multiple modes. The changes breathe new life into a series that some have questioned for being stale over the past couple of years. The gameplay and sound design are great and the graphics are truly breathtaking in the hi-tech future world of Black Ops 3. In a time when game companies seem to want to nickel and dime you for content, it’s refreshing to see a big AAA title still want to do right by their loyal fans. Although players on last-gen miss out on content, this is still worth every penny. I can only hope the other developers in Activision’s employment take notes and continue to build off the work that has been done on Black Ops 3
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In today’s increasingly digital age, it can be scary to let your kids off leash to play games, especially when they are connected to the internet. It seems that not a week goes by without a horror story of people calling the cops on other players (swatting) or kids suffering the abuses of others online. We all know the dangers of interacting online, especially when anonymity seems to breed one of the crudest and inhospitable places known to man. While avoiding the online experience is certainly one possible way to keep your kids safe, it’s not often feasible nor practical. Instead, here are 6 tips to help you not only keep your kids safe but ensure the experience they have playing online games is a more pleasant experience for both you and your child.
1. Monitor Your Children’s Online Activities
This is easily the most important advice we can give, but it’s often the most ignored. We’ve all been there. We’re playing a game of Call of Duty Multiplayer, playing well, and then it happens. Some kid starts screaming about your mother and the promiscuous nature of her relationship with this individual. We’ve all thought the same thing, “Do the parents even know their kid is doing this?” Chances are the answer is no. The child was given unfettered access to the console/computer and no monitors were put in place to ensure the child has a healthy online gaming life. For starters, the parents shouldn’t put the game system in the kid’s room. That is just a recipe for disaster, at least until the child is older or at least has enough maturity to not handle themselves in a way that would make Andrew Dice Clay blush. Instead, keep the console out in the open and all computers in family areas, and whenever online play is taking place, no headsets. All chat audio goes through the TV when playing online until the child is old enough. We’ll talk about muting in the next section, but that will also work for online games. Take time to show an interest in what your kid is playing. If you’re not a gamer, take time to understand why video games are becoming the most popular form of media (and most profitable) and you’ll find that they can be pretty fun to watch, even as a spectator. If you decide to try it out, buy a second controller and play with your child. There are some truly amazing co-op games on the market that both you and your child could have some fun playing!
2. Teach Your Kids How to Handle Cyber Bullies
If you have spent any amount of time online you have undoubtedly come across someone who appears to get great joy from inciting a response (often negative) from others. The internet culture is one that sometimes breeds a certain sense of boldness that you wouldn’t normally see in everyday life thanks to the anonymous nature of interactions. More often than not, walking up to a person in public and saying you “violated their mother in a questionable manner” last night would be met with harsh, sometimes physical reactions. But due to online anonymity, it often goes unpunished. Part of having a good time online is to first know the difference between people just saying offensive things and someone directing that speech towards you. Most online games are competitive in nature and it is somewhat par for the course to yell from frustration or triumph. If a player is just carpet F-Bombing, almost all games these days offer a quick and easy way to mute the player or whole lobby at once. The mute option is the first and greatest feature to protect you, children, online. If it really goes beyond that, online services like Xbox Live and Playstation Plus offer ways to report players for anything from excessive poor language and abuse to poor sportsmanship. If a player has been targeting your child directly or harassing them, even going as far as sending them messages, you can also report these people and easily block the player from ever contacting your child’s user name again. Games and systems have sometimes gone far enough to take into account the reputation of a player when setting matches or more so people with clean records get to play with others of the same reputation while players with a bad rep get stuck in an all troll match. This all happens “behind the curtain” of these online systems, but it seems that companies are at least trying to match players based on online behavior.
3. Protect Personal Info
A proudly touted feature of this current generation of consoles was the integration of social media. Players can now link directly to various Facebook or Twitter accounts letting other players know way more than they actually should. Even if nothing is linked, players can still enter a bio of themselves to which they can reveal a location, age or name. This is all optional. Parents allowing their kids to play online should verify that no information that could be used to help identify them goes onto their profile. This should include and not be limited to profile pictures and gamer tag or usernames.
4. Effectively Use Parental Controls
Parental controls have become a norm in the gaming industry, and you can rest assured that all gaming consoles have them, as well as software on the computer to handle this mechanic. Parental controls work by creating an account for your child on the console and entering specific limitations on their playtime and access. Only the password-protected master account can access the parental controls, and these controls can range in severity. It’s not realistic to think that kids will limit their own game time. Even under the safest, most family-friendly gaming environments, kids will abuse their screen time. Screen time isn’t bad, but physical activity and other non-gaming-related activities should be interspersed into their day, especially during summer months when it’s hot outside and school is a distant memory. Time limits on gaming can be entered via the parental controls where the system will give warnings and eventually shut off when the time limit has been reached, thereby restricting any future interactions with the console until the master account logs in. You will also want to password protect everything on your console, including the ability to purchase games on the digital storefronts. I (Scott) had a not-so-pleasant time recently of calling up Sony to cancel a $99 preorder my toddler purchased on PSN thanks to his constant button mashing and my stored credit card that allowed purchases without a password prompt. Lesson learned.. (and shout out to Sony for understanding these things happen!)
5. Do Some Research
While all games are legally required to display the ESRB rating on their packaging, the ESRB is often vague and cannot properly rate online play. This is where a parent should do the extra leg work and research what type of community exists for the online game your kid wants to play. We here at The Dadcade even try to help with articles covering this and a new feature (called “Can Your Kid Play It”) where we break down if a game is appropriate or not for your kid’s age range. Most games have forums and various subreddits dedicated to the community where they can ask questions and talk about the game. These are great tools to get a sense of the people that use the online features of a game. If stalking forums aren’t your thing, game streaming services such as Twitch. tv and YouTube Gaming can shed some light on the online community that surrounds these games. But above any other methods of research one can do, we highly recommend playing the game first or at the very least, alongside your child to see what type of players are usually on and what interactions take place. Who knows, maybe you’ll become a fan in the process.
6. Downloads/Installs Are Always Handled by Adults
This one is more directed at the parents of kids who play on the PC predominantly. Xbox, Nintendo, and Sony all have their own storefronts where passwords can protect downloads to the machine, but the internet, on the other hand, doesn’t have one central regulated storefront. There are reputable places like Steam and GOG.com, where you can rest assured the game you are downloading is safe and straight from the publisher, but other sites exist. Oftentimes, the search for mods or illegally obtained games for free will lead the child down a rabbit hole of unsafe sites and increasingly disastrous malware. In this day and age, virus software is a given on most PCs, so make sure you’re using them effectively. Above that though, instill in your child the notion that all software has to be installed by an adult. Like their console counterparts, PCs have user accounts where limitations can be placed on activity. Block downloads, limit time, and monitor activity to ensure your child is not only playing safe but being safe online. This transcends online gaming and covers online safety in general, so pay close attention to what your child is doing on the computer and limit their access until old enough.
Hopefully, these six points will make you more comfortable in allowing your child to play games online. Playing games against people from across the world is an amazing feat, especially when we were younger, we had to track down friends from the neighborhood to play and if they were busy, it was all single-player that night. If after reading these tips, you still don’t feel comfortable with online play, that’s OK. Gaming can be enjoyed locally with friends or via single player until the child is old enough to handle the stresses that can exist from online gaming. Only you know what your child can or cannot handle, we can only give you tools to better make that decision. Regardless, pay attention to your child’s gaming interests and be there for them when they have questions or concerns regarding their online play, they’ll appreciate having someone to turn to when things go south online.
After months of hype and anticipation and a steady stream of new info Mortal Kombat X (MKX) is finally out on Next-Gen Consoles and PC. Were my months and months of anxiously waiting for this game all in vain? Did it deserve to be our game of the month? Yes, a wholehearted resounding YES! To put it simply, if you slightly enjoyed NetherRealm’s last outing with Injustice: Gods Among US, then you will love “X.”
The story of Mortal Kombat X is all about passing the torch to some of the new characters introduced in this installment. It seems that, when not nut punching outworlders, the heroes of Earthrealm went and had some kids. Three of the new heroes are direct offsprings while the fourth is in the family tree. While stories in the fighter genre have always been a very thin excuse to put two people together to pummel each other, Mortal Kombat has always stood out for going the extra mile. The intro to the story takes place directly after the events of Mortal Kombat 9. Following a short intro, the story is then fast-forwarded twenty years into the future. Earthrealm and Outworld share an uneasy pact and Johnny Cage has been busy putting together a team of successors to handle any aggression the future might hold (that’s where the kids come in). The group as a whole doesn’t really work well together until the magic of plot holes all of a sudden fixes that for them. That was my one complaint with the story. The rest is very good and takes some twists you don’t see coming until you’re stuck in a whirlwind of plot development. The highlight of the story is the way NetherRealm peppers in some of the older characters into the story in a nice wink to the long-time fans of the series.
The combat in MKX is tight and varied with each character having three separate variations to choose from. While most of the basic move set stays the same throughout the variations, special moves, throws, even brutalities are affected. Even the most frustrating of characters seemed to get better once you were allowed to switch variations. The only minor annoyance comes in the story mode when you sometimes switch variations without really noticing. In some character models, the difference in appearance is so minuscule that you could very well be trying to use another move set with no success before you realize what’s going on. The controls are great and once you know the play style of a particular character, you should have zero problems holding your own in a match. What truly makes this version of Mortal Kombat stand out is what was first included in Injustice; the special meter. You fill up the three bars of the special meter to be able to perform a 30% health crunching X-ray attack or you can use a portion of it to break combos or enhance special moves. The bar fills up slowly while doing special moves and landing attacks or much faster if you are on the receiving end of a nasty beat down, making it a great and effective come-back mechanic.
The graphics, character design, and level design are all fantastic in this latest installment. Sometimes I find myself focusing too much on what is going on in the background that I forget I’m supposed to be fighting. All the small details, like a soldier fighting off rabid dogs, or statues crumbling in the background lend to the mythos of these incredibly detailed, lively worlds. The Kombatants show bruises and battle scars after every match and little extra details after fatalities (like muscle spasms) go far to add to the brutal nature of the combat. While all of the modelings is great they can oftentimes look disproportionate when it goes to X-ray view. For example, any head attack on Goro during this time makes his head look extremely small in comparison to the rest of him. The same can be said for Ferra/Torr. The sweat ( I assume it’s supposed to be sweat) shown on models often leads me to believe everyone has been contaminated with Dragon Scale, but again a small gripe when compared to the rest of the stunning visuals.
The biggest draws of the game is the sheer amount of things to do to keep you playing the game. Once the story mode is complete, you can jump into Online matches. Most of my time online was spent in “King of the Hill” mode where players compete to topple the current champ and the champ tries to continue their win streak. This mode has a feel of a pay-per-view event and it’s just fun to sit back and watch two players try to win, especially if they all have headsets. Living towers and Factions give you an excuse to stat up “X” at least once a day to complete new challenges and to make sure your faction doesn’t get humiliated on a weekly basis. The Krypt, MKX’s mode where you unlock items, is extremely vast and you need to explore areas multiple times to make sure you unlock everything. There is even the option to download the Mortal Kombat X mobile app to play on the go and sync up your WB account to unlock even more items between the two games.
While the overall game is great and the best in the series, it isn’t immune to faults. Some finishers don’t work as advertised (Ermac comes to mind) and while there is the ability to practice them ahead of time, there isn’t a way to switch which finisher you’d like to practice or the ability to practice brutalities. The fatalities have gotten less complicated over the years and while that isn’t an issue per se, offering two-button “easy fatalities” is. That’s right, you can earn (but most likely buy) one time use easy fatalities as well as pay to unlock all crypt items. I know you don’t have to purchase these things but it is a sad indicator of the state of video games right now where you never get a full package and there is an insincere grab at extra money. That coupled with a very hefty price tag for additional DLC characters and useless costumes left a bitter taste in my mouth.
Whether you have never played a Mortal Kombat game before or are a long-time fan, this is a game you don’t want to pass up. It’s accessible enough for first-time fans to quickly learn the ropes and has enough intricacies to keep long-time fans happy. Add in the excellent story mode, fun online component, and the ongoing Factions mode – there is more than enough to recommend this game to any type of video game fan looking for a very good fighter on next-gen platforms.
Techland’s latest game, Dying Light, is a first-person zombie horror game that places an emphasis on traversal in an open world above all else. You may be familiar with Techland from their previous zombie game Dead Island and you will see plenty of similarities between the two games. We recently gave Dying Light our game of the month for January but does it deserve all the hype that has surrounded this game? Looking at their previous track record, Techland has been known to get people excited about a concept and then miss the high goal they set with the final product. Does Dying Light fall into this trap or have they released something truly special like the previews of the game seemed to hit on. We answer those questions and more in The Dadcade’s review of Dying Light.
Above all else, Dying Light is a jaw-dropping, gorgeous game. Walking out of your safe house to a morning sunrise in the destroyed and quarantined city of Harran is an almost surreal experience. Walking around the world, you could be tricked into staring at the sights and sounds if it wasn’t for the bikers who want to have you for lunch. The attention to detail doesn’t stop with the city though. Interact with characters and you’ll see that attention to detail was the main proponent of Techland’s design approach to creating characters. From the flashlights taped onto characters’ chests to the hairstyle choices of one of the supporting characters, no expense was spared in making sure the characters and world were memorable additions to a story being told.
This level of detail unfortunately doesn’t extend to the zombies though. The zombies you’ll come across, while not all the same, don’t have enough characteristics to set them apart. Sure, you can tell what type of zombie is approaching you and be able to figure out how it will attack you, but within those subclasses, the differences fade. All spitters look similar and only a slew of thug-like big zombies exist (and each has identical weapon attacks.) This isn’t a huge knock against the game though since so many zombies need to be on screen at a time and judging the attacks of zombies and what type they need to be done fast, so this could have been a logical design choice on the part of the developers. All in all, though, the world of Harran is beautifully realized and the attention to detail is a refreshing thing to behold in a post-apocalyptic zombie game.
Dying Light takes place in an imaginary city called Harran where a deadly virus has all but decimated the local populace. You play as Crane, a mercenary working for the GDE (a government ops that seems just as shady as normal government) to infiltrate the area, find someone and the files they have on the virus, and then get out with both the files and your life. Things get off to a pretty bad start as you are attacked by armed thugs as soon as your parachute hits the ground. To top it off, you’re bitten by a zombie but saved by a woman named Jade who takes you back to her safe house, The Tower. It is from the Tower that you will be accepting missions and buying and selling items for the next couple of hours. Throughout the game, you will unlock smaller safehouses that allow you to catch your breath away from the infected, use your storage, and sleep until night/morning to regain health and advance time. These safehouses must be unlocked by cleaning up the infected and turning the power back on, something you’ll be doing quite often in order to unlock all safehouses. The story is easily the most surprising part of Dying Light. If you’re familiar with Techland’s last series, Dead Island, you’ll know that story took a backseat to gameplay and the characters were all a bit…uninspiring. That’s not the case here with Dying Light.
You are sympathetic to characters and their plight and in one key scene where a character died, the emotion that Crane expressed felt real. That’s pretty rare for a first-person zombie game and I was pleasantly surprised by the attachment I had to some of the characters in the game. Throughout the duration of the story, you’ll travel across all of Harran and eventually gain access to a previously inaccessible portion of the map when you progress the story far enough. The main story missions exist to keep you on your path, but if you really want to experience all that this game has to offer, you’re going to want to play some of the side missions.
Finding a VHS tape of “Charly” for a special needs man and his “mama” as well as helping Jeff make his wall of flame are some of the most entertaining side quests in the game and absolutely shouldn’t be missed. I had nights when I would decide that I was going to advance the story, only to find out that 4 hours later I had been doing only side quests and having a blast. The story also plays into Dying Light’s other offering – an insane nighttime mode. Basically, when the sun goes down, the horrifying zombies come out to play that will kill you in one hit if you’re caught. Your skills are increased during the night and you will gain XP faster, so there is a tradeoff between safety and rewards. Some missions require you to play at night, but overall the game is playable from either daytime or nighttime. If you don’t feel like dealing with the nighttime baddies, go to the safehouse and sleep until morning when it’s much safer.
If you previously played Dead Island then you’ll have a pretty good idea of what combat is like. Dead Island introduced us to a zombie game built around melee battles with weapons that decay over time. Dying Light does the same exact thing, except it’s a little dumbed down compared to the previous game. You can no longer target specific limbs in the same way you did in Dead Island but the combat is pretty much the same. Unfortunately, the combat is probably the weakest part of Dying Light. I’m not sure why they decided to scrap the limb attacks from Dead Island since that was one of the most fun and unique things the game introduced, but the end result is an offering weaker than it’s predecessor. While the limb attacks may have been cut, the RPG mechanics is one of the most satisfying things I have ever seen implemented into a first-person game. The way the RPG skill tree works is that you are given experience for 3 activities. First, completing missions rewards you survivor XP which is basically your overall level. This is the stat that will determine which weapons you can use and what blueprints become available throughout the story. The other two levels you will increase are power and agility-focused.
Power XP is gained from battling with enemies, while agility rewards you for your daring parkour movements. As you gain XP, you’ll unlock skill tree paths that will reward you with abilities unique to each branch. For example, leveling up power will unlock the ability to perform stronger attacks and ground stomps while agility will help you with skills that allow you to run longer, faster, and make world traversal just a bit easier. When the game begins, it can be pretty overbearing with the number of enemies on screen and your overall “squishyness.”
As you level up though, you’ll find that enemies aren’t as tough as they once were and you’re much more capable, due in large part to the skills you’re unlocking. The video game power fantasy is strong as you become a lean, mean, zombie killing machine. As you increase in power, you’ll also unlock new types of weapons that all handle differently from each other. You can also unlock and craft add-ons that give weapons electricity attacks, bleeding attacks, or increase durability through skill trees. These addon weapons come from blueprints that require salvage to create. By scavenging around Harran, you’ll pick up items that allow you to craft everything from medkits to weapons. The crafting system is pretty easy to grasp and you’ll bounce in and out of the menus pretty quickly. Harran is literally littered with lockboxes, storage cabinets, and medical closets that all give items to help you craft items. You can also buy items from shopkeeps if you’re having trouble finding them in the world.
Combat in Dying Light may not be as fun as it was in Dead Island but the co-op is just as fun. You and a couple of friends can team up to play the game and complete missions alongside each other. One person will host the game and the story will progress as normal in their world while other plays help and gain XP and items they can take back to their worlds. Along with story missions, players can also compete in small challenges that pop up randomly (and reward nice chunks of XP) that will have you killing the most enemies, racing to places, or doing the most damage to one of the big bad guys in the game.
As stated earlier, nighttime missions can be a drag but throw in a couple of friends and those crazy night zombies become a minor hindrance. I actually found myself inviting friends into my game to beat the night missions because I just didn’t want to deal with the stress surrounding these guys. Co-op definitely makes the frantic fight for survival in Dying Light a little less frantic and a lot more enjoyable.
Since this is The Decade, we’d be remiss to not talk about how “kid-friendly” or “parent-friendly” this game is. For the record, how kid or dad-friendly a game is doesn’t affect our overall score of the game, we just like to set aside a small portion of the review to address it since we think it’s relevant to our reader base. With that said, this game is absolutely 100% not kid-friendly. You don’t want to play this with the kids in the room and there is foul language from time to time so this will most likely be an “after the kids go to bed” game. Now, for being parent-friendly, it scores pretty well. The ability to pause the game (when not in co-op) to soothe a crying child is a plus and if you only have a short gameplay session before bed, you can easily knock out one or two side quests or spend your time scavenging for materials or leveling up your skill trees. The co-op is incredibly fun as well, so if you have other friends who own the game, a relaxing night of killing zombies is just what the doctor ordered to chill out before bed.
Dying Light surprised the hell out of us here at The Decade. We thought we would get something along the lines of Dead Island but what we got was similar, but a lot better. That’s not to say it is without criticism. The combat is a slog for most of the game and when it finally gets better, it actually becomes a little too easy. The limb combat of the previous series should have been implemented and that is a missed opportunity in our eyes. Also, the game suffers from some strange bugs like zombies getting stuck in walls and players falling through the ground. These are few though and not overly intrusive. Even with its faults, the beautiful graphics, the gripping story, and the incredibly fun parkour gameplay you can enjoy alone or with a friend make this a game easy to recommend to others. So, if you’re in the mood for a good zombie game with an above-average story you can play with friends, you should absolutely check out Dying Light.
The Dragon Age series has seen some troubled waters over the past couple of years. Their first game, Origins, was a critical hit and was well-loved by almost all who played it. Following the success of Origins, Dragon Age 2 was released and to say it was a disappointment is an understatement. While I enjoyed the game overall, it completely lost the magic of the first game that made it so special and set it apart. Gone was the strategic gameplay of the first, instead replaced with action-based gameplay more akin to third-person hack and slash-type games. BioWare knew they had to change the formula for their next game to be successful, and change they did. Is there enough change present in their newest game, Dragon Age: Inquisition, to make this series worth your time and money, or should you replay Origins to relive the glory days of dragon-slaying? Keep reading to find out.
Dragon Age Inquisition starts out with a bang…literally. From the start screen, the moment you press a button the location you are seeing literally blows up. This story setup, a magical terrorist attack on a conclave of mages and templar, will set the stage for the rest of the game. As the sole survivor of the attack, you will craft your character in whatever image you like, choose between the mage, rogue, and warrior-type classes, and then be on your way. The character creation is extremely robust and I was able to craft a character to match exactly what I wanted. I decided to play as a mage because in the world of Dragon Age mages aren’t the most trusted bunch, so I knew I would get an interesting story. The facial features, hair design, voice, etc. are all customizable and you can spend a ton of time tinkering with nobs to get things right. When you finally escape the rabbit hole of character customization, you should have a character that will suit your needs.
If you’re familiar with Dragon Age games, or really BioWare games in general, you know you’re going to get a top-notch story in a well-crafted world with political intrigue, character development, and awesome companions. This is all present in Inquisition and the story will keep you playing to find out exactly what the heck is going on. The story is set around your character as the sole survivor of a magical terrorist attack who takes on the role of leader of the Inquisition, a group that is fighting the evil that caused the attack. You’ll become a sort of king of your castle (literally, you get a castle) and will make decisions that will affect life for the people in the world. It can be cliche at times, but the story works well to cater to the video game power fantasy. You will continue to get more and more powerful throughout the game and the story will reflect that. You can be a jerk and rule the Inquisition with an iron fist or be a more merciful ruler and treat your followers with respect. Whatever you choose, your companions will respond to your choices and their approval of you will increase or decrease accordingly. Based on your sex you can romance certain companions which open up new story options. The feelings of your party members will also be intertwined into open-world gameplay as they make quips and conversations about current events as you’re fighting in the world. For instance, I chose to romance Cassandra, the stalwart defender of the faith, and while out fighting comments were made by other party members about our budding romance, much to her chagrin. These small additions to the story just accentuate an already grandiose and compelling adventure story that is well told, and well-executed, even if the ending leaves a bit to be desired.
In a BioWare game, the story is usually the main drawing point with combat and gameplay sometimes taking a secondary role. That’s a mixed bag with Inquisition. The RPG mechanics are spot on and over the course of the game, you’ll be unlocking some awesome skills to increase your power and taking down more powerful enemies with each level you hit. Unfortunately, the combat isn’t very interesting. On a controller, you hold down the RT or R2 for an auto-attack. Your skills are all on timers so while auto-attacking, you are keeping an eye on the timers to hit them when they are ready. It’s not bad enough to push you away from the experience, it’s just not that interesting. What is interesting though is maneuvering your teammates around the battlefield for the bigger and more complex fights in the game. You don’t need to do this for the usual mobs you find on quests, but take on your first dragon and things change. It looks like BioWare took the strategic gameplay of the first game and meshed it with the more action-oriented gameplay of the second and the result was something that is serviceable, but not overly unique. Probably my least favorite portion of the combat system was the removal of healing skills, opting instead, for limited potions that are shared with the entire party. Finding yourself out of potions halfway through an encounter without any supply boxes (which refill your potions) around is grounds for failure. In the future, I hope they scrap this potion choice and re-implement healing spells for mages.
The graphics are top-notch and the overall aesthetic of the game is grandiose and fits well into the lore. There is a huge battle taking place that could spell disaster for everyone in the Dragon Age universe. The castles are sprawling, the landscapes beautiful, and the sound design is amazing. Sound isn’t something you notice in a game much, but when you do it’s either because it’s hilariously bad or amazingly well done. The latter is true with Dragon Age: Inquisition. The battles and overall sound of the game are great, but not unlike much of what you’ve seen in other games. What is astounding though is the music, walk into an inn and listen to the bard singing about Sera or a sad tune about love and loss. It’s an amazing feat for a game to make me just sit in an inn doing nothing else but listening to the music.
Dragon Age: Inquisition is an excellent game and it’s probably my favorite game of 2014. I’m a huge story-driven gamer and this game has it in spades. It’s also an OK game to play around a toddler (most of the time) as there is a lot of dialogue and running around. Fighting scenes aren’t that graphic, but they are still violent. This is a long sprawling game and there are things to do (like the war table that lets you play a sort of Facebook-style waiting game with troops) when your kid is in the room. Everything else can be left for the evening after bedtime.
BioWare took what worked in the first two games and combined them into a very good Western RPG with elements of both strategy and action. The epic story and character development is the main course in this game that will easily take you over 80 hours to complete. It’s an investment for sure, and with kids vying for your time, it’s a hard sell to set aside time (at the expense of other games) to see this one through. But, if you’re willing to take the time and play through this game’s story, you absolutely won’t be disappointed. The team at BioWare has crafted an amazing game with serviceable combat and an awesome story that shouldn’t be missed, especially if you have enjoyed other games by BioWare in the past.