Or better known as a saga of distraction.
I originally started following up on my treaties by journeying to Redcliffe to talk to the Arl. After arriving, a guard lets me know that not only is the Arl dying, but a curse has fallen on the village, causing zombie-like monsters to attack the village. They would even rise from the ground during the day if anyone tried to escape. You’re asked to help protect the village through the night which is simple enough. The sheer number of enemies is where the real difficulty lies. Even though you have the entire town’s militia helping, they seem to get killed almost immediately. Stupid civilians.
It gets more difficult with the game’s glitch I encountered twice. A cutscene of a memorial service for those who died is supposed to trigger after defeating all of the enemies. If you let Murdock or Tomas die while fighting, sometimes the enemies just keep coming one by one after defeating the horde. It’s clear that something is off because after all of the enemies are gone, I go around and talk to the surviving characters, and they tell me to protect myself. Give it ten seconds and one poor mutant creature wanders down the mountain as if he overslept for the night shift of terrorizing and murdering the locals. After twenty minutes of this I went to look up what I needed to do to finish the game and found out it is a common bug. The only way to fix it is to reload the game. Luckily I had saved between the two phases of battle, but considering the difficulty of the second fight, it was hard to take this advice calmly.
Finding out the bug’s trigger gave me a goal for the next try–keep the two named and semi-important people alive. Too bad they are so useless that at least one of them–usually Murdock–is already dead by the time I make it down to the campfire to help; instead I fight off zombies while trampling all over this empty robes. Frustratingly the same thing happen again. At least this time instead of wandering up and down the mountain looking for something to do, I immediately reloaded again. I didn’t even bother to protect anyone the third time and luckily made it through to the end. Apparently there is a strategy where you can try to keep everyone alive, but it’s not worth it. Maybe if I already had Wynne and could use healing powers, but for now for the sake of time and the safety of my computer, I only have time to be selfish.
After this, I was so frustrated that instead of venturing up to the castle to save everyone else, I started exploring Ferelden and looking for sidequests. I went to Denerim, the village right outside my home alienage, and found more questlines than I know what to do with. There is the Chanter’s Board like before, the Mage’s Collective, the Blackstone Irregulars, and even a category called “Favors for Certain Interested Parties” (you can guess those are the less moral ones). Each has four or five and many ask you to leave town. I went around the newly opened back alleys of Denerim looking for fights and trying to collect different potions and mushroom for the various. um, interested parties, certain and otherwise. The funniest–or absolutely horrible and disconcerting depending on who you are–were where I kept running across dead bodies that needed to be disposed of down a well. Hopefully Timmy from Lassie is out of there now, or his home is about to get much more crowded.
What I really enjoy is how while finishing up a more in-depth quest, the game runs you across a smaller delivery or fetch quest so that you can multitask. While fighting the bandits all over the town, I was also able to deliver death notices to unknowing widows and mark the houses of blood mages. It triggers that same feeling I mentioned earlier about cleaning out my inventory but much more understandable. Instead of being potentially wasteful in the name of greed and over-preparation, here I just feel accomplished.
Apparently not all of my party members have the same adventurous spirit as me. I took Sten to the village of Haven to try to find out more about Geniviti’s research, and he was too happy with me ignoring the world’s impending doom. He tried to stage a coup and fought me. I somehow managed to beat this giant–who is suddenly a lot harder to kill when I’m doing it–and instead of dying, did agree that I was awesome and got back in line. I knew he was a murderer by nature, but this was still a bit unexpected.
Now with all of this exploring, I have discovered two things–one good, one questionable. Let’s start with the good.
In a lot of games with any kind of open world element, I tend to focus on getting from one place to the next instead of looking where I’m going. I abused the Clairvoyance spell in Skyrim just to make sure I could fast-travel to more places. No matter how much I loved its expansive world, I only wanted to get to the dungeon or town. Here life truly was about the destination and not the journey.
But in Dragon Age, I love walking around and seeing everything. The more I play, the more I realize that a lot of assets are reused but the events you can come across if you’re paying attention. As a reward for getting an unruly crowd to leave a local tavern, a knight thanked me without giving me much of anything. I was a little confused but didn’t think too much of it. I’d been amassing gold quickly with smaller quests anyway. But walking past him again later, I saw him moving around a little and heard him call for me. Seriously, he noticed and called me over. Then he gave me a sovereign for my trouble. I have trouble thinking of a game I’ve played where I feel like I am truly that present in the world. If you know of another though, let me know because I’m really digging this new concept.
Now for the questionable. This game is full of invisible walls. They aren’t so bad that I can see entire inaccessible areas, but if I’m walking down a path that is slightly raised up from the ground, I have to follow the trail all of the way to the end. I play as a rogue who is lithe on her feet and yet I can jump off a six-foot ledge. It is a small complaint, but with how much walking there is–and how much I actually enjoy travelling–I want to be able to take the straight-path instead of following a clearly marked path. I wouldn’t even mind if it took the approach that happens in games that have a lot of platforming and cause me to lose some health if I fall from too high up.
Now off to see if I go back to helping the world, or trying to earn more gold than I know what to do with. Stay tuned.