Stop and smell the elfroot… or don’t. It’s your choice. No really.

I’ve put over 115 hours into Dragon Age: Inquisition and I’m still only 3/4 of the way through the game. That’s a lot of elfroot picking, let me tell ya. The problem is that right now, I’m a bit… bored.

Did I just say that?

I love the Dragon Age franchise. It’s my Lord of the Rings of video games. Immersive, lore-filled, packed with interesting characters and stories. The first two games will remain at the top of my favorites list for a long time to come. So what is it about DA:I that is leaving me feeling meh?

I was playing it the wrong way.

There are a ton of side quests in DA:I. Most of them don’t serve to move the story forward in any material way. For a while now I’ve been feeling like my completionist bent has been a detriment to enjoying the game. I started looking for ways I might skip stuff without feeling like I was missing something and started thinking I had uncovered some kind of flaw in the game.

When I noted this boredom to some friends, I got similar responses. Message boards are filled with people asking if they can “go back and complete quests later” because they feel like they’ve lost a sense of urgency in the main storyline.

There is a good post on Kotaku that sums up how I’ve been feeling about the game. Interestingly enough, that same post also has some very useful comments that put things back into perspective for me.

Bioware has delivered us an RPG so dense with content that it gives us the ability to pick and choose what to do, and when to complete the actual main story at our leisure, such that, once ‘saving the world,’ the game doesn’t feel so empty, as is often the case in other games like Skyrim. It’s a new kind of experience … and we’re shunning it for giving us a fuller world than most any other game? The problem is not the game itself, it’s the expectation of any gamer who feels the obsessive compulsive need to do absolutely everything. Relax, sit back, and don’t worry about the quests you pass over. The idea is not to do everything, but to do what you can. It’s more akin to real life than the linearity of most other games: you have to choose where to invest your time, knowing full well you could be spending it doing something else in this large world, that something else is going on in one corner when you’re in another.

Oh. Yeah, I can totally see that. That’s not how I’ve been playing, but it’s probably how I should have been playing. This is a massive game. Doing everything is unrealistic, I don’t think we’re meant to do every quest available.

…the problem isn’t necessarily in the game itself but in the expectation gamers have built up in less ambitious titles, that the world is necessarily limited and so, do everything to be sure you’ve experienced it in full.

Thank you commentor! That’s where I need to realign myself to make this game fun again.

The previous installments of the franchise “hid” the main quests to some degree, and mixed the character and “very important to things” quests along with the generic loot grab quests so it was hard to tell which ones would have an impact on the main game. Inquisition does manage to communicate that information fairly well, actually. The main quests and character quests are clearly delineated from quests like “go find the sheep in exchange for some gold”. Literally everything else in the game, including hunting the powerful, boss-level dragons, is optional.

DA:I’s “How Long to Beat” entry makes this abundantly clear.

The main story can take as little as 30 hours to finish. Add the “extras” such as character quests and you’ve doubled the completion time. Still not bad and a full, immersive game, right?

On the opposite end of the spectrum, completionists are looking at an average of 125 hours, with some playthroughs topping off over 200 hours.

And I was well on my way to being one of them. I was trying too hard and looking at the game with an old way of thinking. I wasn’t seeing a world that was open to exploration, I was seeing a spreadsheet that needed to be crossed off.

Dragon Age: Inquisition is a gorgeous game. The landscapes are breathtaking and entrancing. The gameplay itself is fun. The characters are well-written and interesting.

It’s time for me to remember that and start picking more elfroot and enjoying the scenery again. Mr. Woolsey the ram will just have to rescue himself.

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