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Minor spoilers for a sidequest in DAI, discussion of numerous other games


Ok, I spent two and half damn hours trucking around the hissing wastes looking for fucking dwarf tombs. Those were HARD to find, man. But I did it! I did. Finished the two big quest lines in the wastes. Phew. Good stuff. And themes! All about the father who led his “family” away from the “family” of dwarves, then had his sons kill each other. No one belonged. Here’s this thing with monuments and no one belonged.

And finally, FINALLY, after almost two whole games with him, I FINALLY took Varric on a mission with dwarf shit and he had something to say about said dwarf shit. (Damn, Varric, that’s why I TAKE you.) And he ALSO was talking on not fitting in. Indeed, he sort of panics. He says, in one, that he’s never been more creeped out. Cassandra, rather incredulously, asks “Of all the things we’ve seen THIS is the scariest?” And he won’t back down. He ends with saying something akin to “Dwarf things make me uncomfortable because I’m not one.” His reaction was very interesting, especially coming from a religious person who hasn’t committed to the Inquisition yet.

But here’s the thing, and a thing that is still a knock on Bioware: For all the great, great, GREAT shit that Bioware does in its side quests and companion quests, their main quest stuff? Hmm. Here, in the wastes, two big quests: Stop the Venitori (main) and this tomb thing (side). Tomb thing? Neat. Themes. Varric development if you have him around. The Venitori thing? Fighty fighty fight fight. Little else. Go here, kill. Now there, kill. Now them. Which is sort of the problem bioware’s always had. You’re on the Normandy? Please enjoy 12 awesome, deep character quests. Done? Ok, shooty shooty save the world blah blah blah.

Which also turns the whole “This game has filler” stuff on its head. Can the main quest be the filler? Or something?

(Note: DAI has been the best Bioware game at avoiding this thus far. The future bit and the ball bit, both main quest bits, have been the best part of a great game to this point. But this hissing wastes thing just makes one think.)


Hm…this is an interesting point.

I wonder if they don’t intentionally make the main plot kind of “lighter” in order to allow people who hate “filler” and side quests to just charge right through it should they choose? I mean, by definition the main plot is the stuff you HAVE to do to finish the game. Maybe it makes sense, based on player completion stats and so forth, to have a meh-but-workable main plot and to pack your complex content into optional side quests, in order to allow people who aren’t really that into the complexity to feel that there’s still a reason for them to buy and play the game.

“Hey, I don’t care about all that ‘family, religion, theme’ crap you keep nattering about, but I do like fighting and killing stuff!”

With complex, themey narrative, you run a much greater risk of losing some peoples’ interest, either because they’re not into complexity and themes in video games, or because the particular complexity and themes you’re working in a particular game don’t resonate with them. It’s just going to be true that the more complicated a story becomes, the more likely some element of it is going to strike some players as boring or annoying or offensive, and if they HAVE to complete that story to finish the game, the more likely it is that you’re going to lose some of them along the way.

Aiming your main quest at the lowest common denominator (term used without prejudice in its sense of “the most basic thing all the members of your audience have in common”–here, presumably, a love of fighting and killing things) kind of makes strategic sense.

I totally get what you’re saying, and from our point of view the main quest SHOULD absolutely be the place where all the deepest and most thoughtful content comes in, but I can see why from a business standpoint you could make an argument for doing it the other way. “Let’s give the hack-n-slashers a rousing fight game to finish, and throw in lots of extra content to please the ‘we love narrative’ crowd too.”

It’s got to be a balancing act, like everything else.

Also, I agree, that dialogue from Varric was good to have. You get a much better sense of how he feels as a dwarf but not a “real” dwarf. Dwarf as culture, not just a physical heritage.


I suppose. Though I do think they’ve gotten more towards a main story with some degree of narrative oomph in this one. Sure, it’s still a “bad thing wants to end world kill it” story, like every other Bioware game (except the much maligned DA2. There’s a tangent. The one time it wasn’t a bad thing ending world story the masses didn’t go for it), but in this game, there’s some great narrative moments you can’t avoid (future, ball, etc. I’m looking forward to more).

Grumble. Go buy Skyrim, then, masses, if you want to avoid the themey stuff.

I think this also goes into another major complaint people had re The Order: game length. People expect sweeping fantasy epics (in the post Skyrim world) to be really fucking long. Really dense themey narrative would be tough to take and overcomplicated in a 100 hour game. Or 50, for that matter. TLOU, as good as it was, was right at 20 hours, and that was plenty. I did not want 30 more hours of that (and I liked that game a lot), and it wouldn’t have worked for 30 more hours. But when people want a Bioware game, they want a whole lot of hours (though, my ME2 and 3 playthroughs were 41 and 42 hours respectively, and people were ok with that length…..)

It’ll be interesting to see how TW3 does this. TW2 was damn dense. It also wasn’t 100 hours (maybe….40? It certainly had that balance of action/quests/dialog that seemed rather in the vein of ME). CDPR says 100 hours. We shall see if they try to keep it dense. And if we like it.

Do you think the lowest common denominator = fighting and killing bit is true of Bioware’s audience? Fighty killy was not my favorite part of DAO, DA2, ME or Baldur’s gate for that matter.

Did you get that Varric dialog? I know you didn’t run with rogues much.


I agree, there were main story points that were narratively very interesting, even while the overall arc was a familiar one. And definitely my favorite parts of BioWare games are not the killy fighty bits, but I won’t lie, I do enjoy some killy fighty action, so this is a taste I hold in common with many others whose favorite parts are not the same as mine. I wouldn’t want to see the game entirely stripped of combat. Or, I guess, I’d still play it and probably find it interesting (Life is Strange is very interesting completely without combat so far), but I wouldn’t be thinking “wow, this is great, I was always so bored by the fighting!”

Because nothing but fighting is dull, but honestly, fighting can be lots of fun, plus exciting, challenging, engaging, etc. It satisfies a different part of my game-playing self than the narrative does, and I like them both.

As for “go buy Skyrim, masses,” well, they definitely did. Poor, sad, Bethesda and its millions and millions of sales!

I tried to take Varric to the dwarven tombs in case he had anything to say. Pretty sure I remember the lines you described. Bull would also sometimes comment on the dwarven architecture.


No, me neither about wanting to get rid of all the fighting, though I must say the ball was one of the best parts of any game I’ve played in a while. Even TLOU, my least favorite bits were fighty bits. I mean, this isn’t me going all “I don’t like violence anymore cuz I’m a parent” or something. I don’t mind a good bit of violence, and I certainly plan on playing FO4, which, if Fallout means anything, should be a bloodbath. But I guess I’d like to see fighty bits that make sense in the theme/story.

TLOU managed that, as did FO3, as did TR, for that matter (hell, Lara is pretty much a superhero in popular culture, so you sort of sign up for “Lara Croft does cool shit a lot” when you boot up TR, and you like it). Bioware….doesn’t always have fighty bits for a reason other than “people like fighty bits.” And while saying “but people like fighty bits…” Ok, people like ice cream. But that doesn’t mean that a big ol’ scoop of ice cream belongs on every plate of food. Indeed, it doesn’t belong on most plates.

Indeed, the masses did buy Skyrim. And people buy CoD, and people buy Mortal Kombat, and people buy Madden, and people buy GTA, etc. And that’s ok. I do not judge those people the way some other bloggers do. But because those games exist…. there shouldn’t be the need to cram a whole lot of action into everything else. Hell, a shitload of people buy DAI, and maybe a puzzler, and maybe life is strange, and Mortal Kombat.

I’ll go back to food cuz I’m hungry right now: I like Chinese, I like pasta, I like Indian, I like ice cream, I like steak. But I wouldn’t put all that on one plate, nor would I go to a restaurant that did. I’m glad that there are restaurants around that serve each of those things, but they’re better on their own, and the older I get, the more I think that games should have a focus on something that’s nice and sharp. So no combat? Well…. if you’re going to have something, make it count. Either have it BE the focus (CoD, Mortal Kombat) or have it support the overall focus (loss of innocence in FO3, for example, fear of loss in TLOU). And that applies to anything. Long cutscenes, sex, QTEs, whatever. Make it count.

Finally, I take a dwarf somewhere and they have something to say. I also expected more from Ogrhen in the deep roads. Just quiet people, dwarves.


I agree in principle that if a game–or whatever–tries to do EVERYTHING and provide EVERY TYPE OF ENJOYMENT IN ONE PLACE, that usually won’t work out that well. Picking one type of thing or a few things and doing a really good job at it seems like a better strategy than trying to include a little bit of everything and maybe not doing that great with most of it.

I think maybe the calculation is a little different for games that are expected to be long, because there’s more room for players to figure “well, OK, I guess I’ll give smelting a try,” when they know they’re going to be playing that game for another 50 hours. What’s half an hour of trying out a crafting system you may not really care that much about in the grand scheme of things? And honestly, I don’t particularly object to the variety of things that most of the games I’ve played have had you do. Even Skyrim, which got lots of jokes (some from me!) about all the smelting and brewing and house-building and smithing you could do…I didn’t actually mind that stuff. I kind of liked brewing potions, and if I didn’t like it, I didn’t have to do it. But honestly, I thought it was kind of nice to have a non-combat means of advancing your character. Hey, you can do something to gain experience besides just kill people! We should be applauding this deviation from the beaten trail.

Obviously if you make intensive potion-brewing a requirement, that changes things, but if you’re just going to throw in optional stuff? Throw in whatever, and I’ll ignore the things I don’t like. I mean, I basically never played a pub game anywhere it was an option (several ACs, mostly), because I don’t care about playing board games or card games inside a video game. But it wasn’t mandatory, so I don’t care if it’s there. Maybe somebody else will like it. (The exception is Caravan in FONV, which was genuinely fun once I figured out how to play, and I did play that a fair bit.)

Like you, I have no harsh words for people who play Mortal Kombat or Madden (you pathetic weirdo) or GTA or Farmville or whatever, even though I am not drawn to these games myself. Play what you want, we don’t all have to like the same things. It’s a big world. And certainly there would come a point, maybe, if a BioWare game spent too much time on mandatory driving missions or something (although I never hated the Mako missions as much as some people did), where I would have had enough and would say “hell with this, I need more plot or I’m out.”

I don’t think there’s a game that I’ve played that’s really pushed that line yet, though. AC Brotherhood and some of those damn da Vinci’s machine missions, maybe. I hated those things. So I’m with you in theory, but I guess in practice I’m more tolerant of tossing everything and the kitchen sink into games than you are. (Hey, that sink will go great in my house that I built out of wood I cut and nails I forged with the iron I mined and smelted!)


I do applaud the deviation from the beaten trail, but you have to be able to see the trail, or even HAVE a trail. I, too, have no issue with the crafting in DAI, as it is rather secondary and avoidable. It’s not so in your face (like it was in Skyrim).

I love caravan. I want to play in real life.

But then, AC was the perfect example of nothing but optional stuff (I also saw that was the case in Watch Dogs). If ALL it is is optional stuff, then there’s no STUFF. There’s no there there.

I never minded the planet scanning, either. (And I didn’t BUY madden, and haven’t played since I won that last trophy. Hey, I used the multi player bit of my PS+ Subscription!)

Your desire for a kitchen sink explains your patience with Skyrim.


Patient. That’s me. Unless you bring in giant robots. Then it’s all seething hatred.

And that, Remember Me, I guess was an example for me of a game that did interesting things but didn’t make the interesting things the real focus, while instead the real focus was too much not-that-interesting fighting. So I’m totally with you in terms of there being a line there, and good design being a focus on the things that you do really well, rather than trying to do too many/too different things. I was intrigued by the parts of that game that were about memory and rewriting/stealing memories and stuff, and I was not into the parts that were getting into drawn-out combat every 2 minutes, and to me it felt like a mismatch. Not a case of there being too much random stuff there, though, more a case of me just not enjoying half of the few things they did. I would, probably, have welcomed the opportunity to do something like brew potions instead, just for a change of pace.

We must make Caravan happen in real life! Caravan tournaments! Something for the home, in between video games. The home is going to be so great…


I’m the same way with dragons. Seething hatred. Confession: I didn’t fight the dragon by the dwarf tomb. I tiptoed around it. Don’t judge.

The home sure is going to be great. I’m sure, somewhere, people play caravan. The world is geeky enough for that.

And a certain friend is already counting the days until the home. But she has been doing that since she was 24….


Yeah, she was way ahead of us on planning for the home, and I confess that in the early days, I didn’t quite see the appeal. But I think we’ve matched her enthusiasm by now.

I tiptoed around the dragon the first time, and then found that I had missed one of the other tombs and couldn’t get into the big one. Doh! By the time I got back, I was tougher, and killed it. But no, tiptoeing around dragons is totally valid. I liked that they left that as an option for some of them, too. “Look, if you don’t want to fight a dragon right now, it’s OK.”

Not that first one you meet in the Hinterlands, though. I tried to sneak by that thing repeatedly, but no dice.


She can come. After all, she doesn’t play, so she won’t want to steal our PS9.

I missed one tomb, too, but was so hell bent on finishing that shit, I went back, found it (of course, it was the one WAY the fuck in the north) then finished. I was GOING to finish that quest, dammit.

I found that Hinterlands dragon when I was like level 4. Fastest death ever.

Did you see some dude did a run of FONV in which he didn’t use ANY HEALING at all? For the whole game?


Same dude that played a whole run of FO3 in which he killed EVERYONE. Every NPC. All of them.

Dude has issues. And time.


I got nothin’ after that.