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Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Dragon Age: Inquisition - Trespasser.


Dragon Age: Inquisition - Trespasser.



SPOILERS BELOW.


So, the very last Dragon Age: Inquisition DLC. I remember when Dragon Age II's DLCs ended - less with a bang than with a whimper, as the planned final DLC never materialised, leaving us instead with a rather sheepish announcement that Bioware had finished work on new Dragon Age II content. Inquisition is going out on a much more dramatic note, with a DLC that brings us back to Halamshiral, gives us a Qunari invasion, and sees the return of our errant companion Solas.

There's been some discussion over whether Trespasser technically counts as a company carving off parts of the story for the DLC, since it is a story relevant, and I'm not certain it does. Inquisition on its own is a complete story - it's not like Asura's Wrath, where the last chunk of the story was just missing on release. Trespasser, while story-rich, feels more akin to a Doctor Who Christmas special. It's something distinct and separate from the main story.

Set two years after the main game, Trespasser sees your inner circle reunited as the Inquisition is called to attend the Exalted Council, a meeting of heads of state to determine the future of the Inquisition. All is not well at Halamshiral, however, as a Qunari corpse is found, leading the Inquisitor and their companions on a hunt through a series of eluvians to find the course of a conspiracy - a hunt that will take them to a long-forgotten elven valley, the Deep Roads, an ancient elven library, and to a Qunari fortress. As they travel, the learn the story of Fen'harel, the elven trickster god, and discover that he is not only real, but may still be around.

Nice.

In terms of gameplay, Trespasser is obviously identical to the main game, bar that it adds the 'discharge focus' mechanic. Focus was energy that built up as you did damage to enemies, and could be used to activate powerful abilities - come Trespasser, with the Inquisitor's mark going out of control, focus builds up automatically over time and must be periodically discharged. Doing so first makes your party invulnerable (and lights dark areas), then later does damage to enemies, and then later still does massive damage to enemies (but will discharge on its own and damage you if you don't keep it in check).

So that's a nice touch, and one that ties in the story element of 'your mark is going crazy' and gameplay quite well. No ludoscabib narratitivi here, no sirree.

In terms of plot, too, Trespasser is quite astounding - or it was to me, at least, I know some people disagreed. After the relative disappointment that was Descent, Trespasser is just what the doctor ordered, giving us character development (as we get to find out how the two years timeskip has changed each character, and see them settle into their new roles and be changed by what they encounter during the DLC), political machinations, an invasion by a foreign power, history, gods, and all those other grand things. The plot is well paced, and rather than a DLC it feels almost like a complete game in its own right, albeit a very short one - you can finish the whole thing in about four hours.

Eerie.

There is a strong element of bittersweetness to the whole thing, one that sets in early, as despite everyone's good cheer (and a large amount of comedy thrown into the opening, such as Vivienne and the Inquisitor's 'spa day', Iron Bull's birthday, and Josephine's opera) there is the deep-seated feeling right from the start that this is the end. Your companions will remark on how the Inquisition will be permanently changed after the Exalted Council, many of them are already leaving you (much is made of Dorian in particular leaving you), and as the game winds on you start to see cracks appear among your advisors, and see that inevitable ending loom ever closer.

When the DLC does eventually end, you have a choice of how you want the Inquisition to finish - whether by becoming Divine Victoria's honour guard and a peacekeeping organisation, or to disband entirely, but either option is a decisive ending to the Inquisition that you've known and come to love, and no matter what you pick, your companions will leave you to carry on with their own lives. It's deeply sorrowful.

Trespasser also provides probably more information about what's afoot in Thedas than any other two games in the series combined. You learn what the elven gods were, about elven society and how it fell, about the nature of the Veil - massive, important things that have been mysteries for years now. It doesn't hold back on the information it gives you - rather, the DLC is eager to illuminate, to answer some of those gaping questions. One of the questions it answers is 'where will Dragon Age 4 be set', which fills me with confidence that we'll be hearing something about that soon.

What an unfriendly Qunari.

It's also gorgeous. Halamshiral is even more beautiful in the day than it is at night, and the various locations you visit through the eluvians are all striking and attractive in their own distinct ways. Add to that some stunning voice acting (all of the returning voice actors bring their A game), and a lovely new OST (there's a song that plays towards the end that is amazing and I want it), and you have a real treat on the eyes and ears.

But I am sad. Inquisition was, in many ways, the best Dragon Age game, the one that catapulted the franchise's popularity beyond that of its sister series, Mass Effect, and the one that will be remembered most fondly, I think. Will Dragon Age 4 live up to the legacy set by its predecessor? I do hope so.

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