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And by that I mean, of course, you will patiently sit and read while I praise the first game and condemn its sequels to their horrible and well-deserved fate. What do I intend to accomplish? Well, both sequels have left a horrible taste in my metaphorical mouth, so I want to get all that out of my system. If I happen to inform some people or even change some minds along the way, so much the better.

(An asterisk means "hover over me!", by the way.*)

Everything that follows is my (well-researched and thoroughly thought out) opinion. (Did I mention I'm pretty sure I'm smarter* than you? Let's get that out of the way now. Also, I'm kind of a dick.)

On that Note: Trigger Warnings and blahblahblah, this isn't going to be polite/PC/written to mollify the soft and squishy among you. Also, spoilers ahead for those of you who haven't played all of the games, watched all of the cutscenes or read all of the lore and are still reading this for some reason.

To be honest, this isn't going to be kind at all.

EDIT: This thing got fucking huge, don't start reading unless you mean to finish it. Also, I split it up into two journals, because it's, uh, too big. There might be a third. If you came here for a recommendation to or not to buy Inquisition, don't buy it. Rent it and stay focused on the main quest, Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts is the best that game has to offer.

Where to begin?


I know!

Dragon Age Origins by ILikeCommas

  Dragon Age: Origins, released in November 2009, was the seminal RPG of its generation. It seamlessly combined innovative tactical combat with in-depth party controls, featured believable companions with engaging dialogue, and wrapped it all in a mature heroic fantasy setting that represented the best of the genre while gracefully twisting most of its clichés and worn tropes, ultimately creating a rich, memorable and entertaining WRPG experience that has yet to be equaled.

  In short, the game was a massive success*

Dragnor360naogre007 by ILikeCommas
Only losers use shields. Except Alistair, he's cool.

  Origins was released in the midst of the worst economic downturn in almost a hundred years. It was a new IP, in an unpopular genre, and despite everything going against it, the game sold

  Boy did it sell.

Protagonists in Dragon Age Origins by ILikeCommas
Images provided by the Maker*.

  Triple platinum in three months?*

  Over 4.5 million lifetime sales?*

  And that's not considering well-concealed digital distribution.

Dragnorpcscrnhighdragonna04 by ILikeCommas
Oh, I just love your conditioner, Andraste. Thanks for sharing!

  Let's compare it to Mass Effect, the first game of BioWare's most lauded venture.

  Reviews are a dead heat, with ME edging DA on the 360, and the opposite on the PC. Of course by sales-weight most people would put the 360 ahead of PC, and that's fair.

  Total sales put Origins ahead by ~1.5 million.

08 by ILikeCommas
Boobs. You're thinking about boobs* now, you sick bast-

  So. The gameplay was amazing, the characters inspired emotions that run strong even to this day, the lore spawned thousands upon thousands of questions and debates (not to mention fanfiction ranging from deliciously seedy to heartwarmingly endearing).

  What's not to love?

  Well, as great a game as Origins was, it was not without its flaws. For one, all that romantic potential between Morrigan:heart: and Leliana was squandered.

Dragon Age Origins Profilelarge by ILikeCommas
Morrigan/Leliana-fiction, Commas tested, horrible-deformed-mother* approved.

  Alright, so most of the bad stuff is pretty subjective.

  The game wasn't Baldur's Gate 3, even if it had a fair bit in common with that series.

  Some people confused it for an Action RPG, what with there being swords and magic and moving around freely, and thought it was slow for that. (Did I mention they're morons?)

  The tactical combat I found engrossing and rewarding was difficult to fathom for some people. (Who also apparently weren't smart enough to just use the more-than-sufficient premade tactical roles provided by the game, or just look online for help.)

  Most of these complaints were from people who'd played little-to-nothing in the way of traditional/tactical RPGs, but there are some cons that even RPG veterans* will shake their heads at.

DragonAgeOrigins-scr006 by ILikeCommas
Hey, hey. Look at that. Am I the only one seeing that? Where'd all this blood come from, anyway?

  It required inventory management, for one, and by and large for no real purpose. Can you only carry a limited amount of things? Yes. Does it have a real impact besides forcing you to sell junk? Not really.

  It was never a big problem for me, but I kept up on selling my junk, like a good little RPG player. The only time the inventory actually made me think farther than "I'll dump this junk that won't sell as well as the other junk" was in the Warden's Keep DLC. (Which also helpfully introduced the storage chest!)

  That aside, I thought it struck a nice balance between realism* and expediency*, that played to the game's big strength: immersion.

Dragon-Age-Origins-Awakening-PS3-download-torrent by ILikeCommas
Hey! You! Nice hair!

  The levels felt smaller than its predecessors, or so I hear.

  For the most part they felt as big as they needed to be to me, though I do remember a few brief moments where I found the overlap in quest requirements weighing a little heavily on my suspension of disbelief. Ortan Thaig could've been an out of the way location with its own map and fights instead of conveniently on the way to where I was going, and the quest to find the "Places of Power" lined up a little too neatly with my travails for my taste.

  Again, while there were filler quests, the ones that came without much dialogue and in-character motivation weren't burdensome. At no point did I feel like they kept me from my QUEST TO SAVE THE KNOWNE WORLDE FROM THE DARKESPAWNE MENEAECEEE*!

08 by ILikeCommas
I really like Morrigan:heart: by the way.

  Not everybody liked the characters. And you are horrible people! You should feel ashamed and bad and-

  Ahem. Sorry.

  The characters were great. I loved the way Sten changed to respectful and even somewhat friendly after you got his sword. Listening to Wynne tease Alistair about waking up in his bedroll was hilarious. Oghren drooling at Morrigan and even Wynne was great! (7/10, best GILF). Alistair was just snarky enough to stay relatable and I loved the twist of "fuck NO I don't want to be king!", Leliana was just crazy enough to be fun and just vulnerable enough to be endearing. I felt genuinely compelled to keep them from hardening when faced with their respective and disheartening pasts. Also, Alistair and Anora make a great goddamned couple*: she's the administrator Ferelden needs to stave off Orlais and rebuild, and he's the king they need to rally and keep them on the right track of doing right by their people. Loghain was cool. I still don't like him, though. Bohdan was fun, though he got annoying after a while. Sandal's a total boss.

  And then Morrigan.


  Her rejecting all the standard "good guy" lines was great! I barely romanced her the first male warden playthrough: the second, I thought the more pragmatic responses actually made sense to a guy who just lost his entire family and legacy and chance at justice to greedy assholes. Pissing her off by being a goody-two-shoes in actually dealing with people just made it all the sweeter. The scene where she gave me the special ring was heartmelting, her little breakdown at trying to reconcile her worldview with actual love, choosing to randomly withhold sex, and then doing it full stop when she did realize she was in love and wasn't sure she wanted to go through with Flemeth's plan and kind of hoped holding out would make me break up with her. Then, finally, the big reveal: her whole character was a sucker punch aimed right at my feels.

  And it landed perfectly.

  So, the characters simply being the best fantasy characters ever in mind, there was a lot of "boring" dialogue and "boring" cutscenes and "why aren't I smashing monster face?!" 

  This one is subjective again, but honestly I'm running out of bad stuff to say: it's a role-playing game! Do you know what role-playing is?

  "Sure, Commas!* It's a game what where you get thuh expeeryence points and lev'l up!"


Alistair-dragon-age-origins-30432974-1012-578 by ILikeCommas
Alright, one for the ladies. But you should definitely consider Morrigan, is all I'm saying.

  Role-playing games are about playing a role. The progressing element that people so often seem to mistake for the core tenet of RPGs is just a means of ensuring you control your character's development to increase immersion in the role.

  Actually, I have more to say about immersion, but I'll save that for later.

  So, flaws. Some people thought the graphics were crap. Not to be unnecessarily rude and call you morons but-Wait, no that's exactly what I intend to do!

  The people who made these complaints fall, overwhelmingly, into two groups:

  1) Those who played the game years after its release, and few games don't look dated after three or four years.

  2) Call of FPS and Sports Game 'ThisYear "gamers", for whom the only meaningful improvement between most games is a small upgrade in the graphics.

  All that aside, I can say the game earned its 9.1/10 rating* from the moment it loaded and that deep, epic music captured me. 

  For now, we have to talk about where Dragon Age went wrong.

Dragon-age-origins-the-awakening-pc-042 by ILikeCommas
Hello, I'm Marty, and this is my willing slave, Turned-Her-Back-On-Everything-She-Ever-Knew-Because-I-Asked-Her-To.

  Interesting Fact: You may or may not know that Dragon Age was doomed to eventual mediocrity before the game even came out!

  So, here's the whole story.

  TL;DR: Origins' lead designer and creative director, having just masterfully masterminded the core content of this masterful mastery of masterpieces, received word from on high that the sequel would be more "action-y" and have a "concrete" protagonist.*

Action by ILikeCommas
Pictured: "Action."

  At this point, the fellow–apparently able to detect bad ideas and half-assery years in advance–relinquished his role as lead designer and let some other, presumably less competent moro-er, designer, go ahead and throw the filler content in. He did stop to work out a fair number of the game's bugs on the way out the door.

  Now, action and concrete are both good things, right?

  Well, remember how I just spent an ungodly number of words lauding Origins' tactical combat and immersive role-playing?

  Turns out it's hard–if not impossible–to make "action-y" tactical combat AND an immersive role featuring a "concrete" character. 

  In other words, it's hard to let you be the star of the game if the star of the game has a name and personality and appearance and mannerisms, all distinct from your own, and it's hard to make a game that relies on planning and tactics, as well as rolling and pressing the attack button at exactly the right time.

  But Dragon Age 2 will have its turn.

  Back to Awakening.

Dragon-age-origins-the-awakening-pc-042 by ILikeCommas
Hey, Stu again. Did you rethink saying no to my plan to turn every living being in Thedas into ghouls? No? What about granting sapience to all the
darkspawn by feeding them the blood of Grey Wardens? Did I say something wrong?

  Of course I was delighted at the prospect of Awakening: another 15-20 hours with my Warden and my companions in my country? Fantastic!

  All the better, as, half the prior DLC seemed a little too "let's mostly rehash already existing levels and put the promise of sweet loot at the end that carries into the main game as an incentive to buy/finish it"-y for my taste.

  Leliana's Song was nice. The "Darkspawn Win" invasion of Denerim was okay, if a little easy and contrived. Ostagar was fun and short*, loved Warden's Keep, even if I decided to tackle it a little TOO early and barely scraped my way through the final battle. Stone Prisoner was glorious, and Shale was glorious-er.

Tumblr Mjbpt10e5o1qa64bjo3 1280 by ILikeCommas
Honestly, if you'd come first and weren't 800 lbs. of murderous, crystal-infused stone, you might hold a candle to Morrigan.

  Ahem. Back on track.

  Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening promised a mostly-new adventure in the familiar environs of Ferelden, battling a mostly-new threat with your returning companions. 

  Or something like that.

  What they really meant is Oghren comes back, you chat with Wynne a bit, Alistair makes a cameo (he was king in my world state, always king) and Morrigan doesn't come back.


  The whole "companions" thing is fulfilled by a mostly-new and mostly engaging motley group of wannabe darkspawn slayers: Nathaniel, Anders, Velanna (mmf:heart:), Sigrun and Justice.

  All of them were endearing in their own way, from Sigrun's casual lightheartedness in the face of her own inevitable demise, to Ander's "I hate anyone who tries to put any sort of limitation on me just because I'm at risk of being possessed by a fade spirit* and wreaking immeasurable havoc across Thedas and also do you wanna f*ck?" to Velanna's "I'm a crazy mage and hate humans and have dem elven hips*."

  But something was off.

Tumblr m7gckdRUcO1qj22epo8 1280 by ILikeCommas
Seriously, she would kill me on sight and I am totally okay with that. Totally.*

  Clearly, Velanna should have prominent dalish face tattoos to increase her exotic-Er

  Uh, where was I?
  Oh, yeah, something was off.

  The companions were there. They were fun and engaging, and snarked at each other. Oghren was kinda melancholy.* Justice was a cool idea and a hell of a warrior. 

  They didn't really seem as interactive as Origins' companions. Sure, the lack of a romance option was disappointing.

Dragon-age-awakening-justice by ILikeCommas
Who doesn't want a piece of that? Mmf.

  They didn't have as much dialogue as the companions I'd come to know and love. And what they had wasn't as deep. There wasn't much of an option to harden or soften Velanna, or Howe, or Justice, or any of them, really. They had changing points, sure, but they were more set in stone, and none lead to a noticeable difference in the way they act. Justice wanted to do right by Kristoff's wife*. Nathaniel needed to come to terms with the fact that his father was just the biggest asshole.* Oghren's personal quest revolved around his lady and child, and whether or not you could convince him to be a more active father.


  Oh, sorry. Did you hear that? That's a bit of my fond memories and love for Dragon Age crumbling away, mere dust in the wind.

Oghren by ILikeCommas
It's not your fault, buddy. You just wanted to drink some Garbolg's and turkey slap a revenant.

  Of course, I didn't even find out his plot was screwed until after I finished the game, but that's enough of that.

  Origins was never perfectly balanced, but at least you had to try to break it. By the end of Awakening my Warden, a two-hander warrior–a class choice I've heard severely disparaged as weak by, uh, damn near everyone in every Dragon Age thing everywhere–could essentially solo a "super" Ogre, or a high dragon, or a varterral. Really, terribly overpowered*

  The rest were just as bad: Nathaniel seemed to wipe out half of each enemy encounter before they even got within melee range; Velanna's awesome Keeper spec made her a combination damage/control powerhouse; Anders as a Battlemage was even more ridiculously offensively overpowered. It was all awesome at first, hacking through foes in seconds that had taken tactics and patience in Origins.

  It was only a prelude to Dragon Age 2, unfortunately.

Dragon-age-origins-the-awakening-pc-042 by ILikeCommas
Hi, just checking in one more time. You do think I'm awesome, right?

  Now, the Architect isn't the worst Dragon Age villain: I believe Meredith and Corypheus are still hard at work competing for that regal office. Nonetheless, he leaves a bad taste in one's mouth. 

  Oh, at first he's cool and mysterious. "A sapient darkspawn? He knows magi-science? Wants to avoid the Old Gods? By the Maker!"

  But then he ruins it by revealing his actual plans, which involve peace and harmony between darkspawn and the other races. He first planned to do this by turning everyone else into ghouls. Someone rightly pointed out this was moronic and tried to kill him. His new brilliant plan was to make the darkspawn sapient and kill off the Old Gods so they'd have no reason to fight the other races.

The Withered by ILikeCommas
Do you think I have too much eye shadow? I don't look like Ronan*, do I? I mean, I'd be cool with Bucky~

  So, apart from the fact that the darkspawn have spent a thousand years trying to kill everyone, and the fact that their primary dietary component is "things that aren't darkspawn and preferably sentient"; and the fact that they reproduce by force-feeding human, dwarven, elven and kossith women darkspawn tissue in a process most concisely described as "feed-rape", turning them into massive, eternally pregnant, sessile ghouls that birth darkspawn in litters measured in the dozens, everything should be fine, right?

  Well, here's a shining example of that "darkspawn sentience". The Withered (above) was tasked by the Architect (such clever naming, right?) with making contact with the Wardens at Vigil's Keep. His plan to accomplish this was to KILL EVERYONE THERE BUT THE WARDEN-COMMANDER AND KIDNAP HIM.

  Darkspawn totally belong with the rest of the sapient races, of course.

  Worst of all the Architect's failings, however, is his inexplicable ability to convince otherwise competent and reasonable people to do completely unforgivable and imbecilic things. Like giving up life-sworn oaths, and letting horrible, genocidal monsters live. The best example is when you confront him on your way down to the Mother.

The Mother by ILikeCommas
The Mother's Face
Oh hey there, I see you have multiple sets of-WHAT HAPPENED TO THE FACE PART OF YOUR FACE?!

  The Architect appears as you reach The Mother's* chamber and provides what is presented as a very reasonable sounding argument to convince you to let him continue with his plans.

  You know? The plans about peacefully granting sentience to bloodthirsty geno-cannibalistic feed-rapist murderers that he can't even control?

  In that one moment, he ruins everything cool about himself by revealing he's a huge moron. This is also foreshadowing.*

  Another small thing I'd like to mention is the addition of crafting. Half-assed, horribly unbalanced and lore-unfriendly crafting. And broke, as in it can corrupt your save file broken.

  That bug testing Good Dev did before he left the main game? They didn't seem to be so big on that, along with class balance, character development, immersion, etc. You know, all the things that made the game good in the first place.

  I mean, the expansion was enjoyable. Most of the problems are either long term* or just poorly implemented in relation to your hard-earned ending.

  So, after Awakening we have Golems of Amgarrak and Witch Hunt.

  Both are rehashes of prior content, though Witch Hunt at least runs you through several different areas and introduces a lore-friendly end boss.

  Amgarrak starts off strong, if stupid: some random dwarf wants your help waaay in the sphincter end of the Deep Roads, and you decided to abandon all your duties and go along for the fun of it. Also, exactly one magic golem* exists to conveniently magic things for you!

  So, after running through some underground mist(?) you find a "lost thaig" that looks EXACTLY like Ortan thaig with some fancy color overlays and a few shiny new effects!*

  Why? Because golems!

  Wait, you sided with Branka and Orzammar already has golems again?


  You know that whole "making choices actually has an indelible impact on the game world" that was so crucial to immersion in Origins? This is the first, tiny sign of its destruction.

  The boss was the biggest draw. Some people claimed it was impossible on Nightmare if you weren't a mage (there's no mage otherwise), but it seemed pretty easy to me. Probably because, between the new specs and crafting, I was horribly overpowered.

Harvester by ILikeCommas
Surely they wouldn't recycle me nonsensically as an uninspired penultimate boss in the sequel that's also a slap in the face to half the choices you made during that game! Surely!*

  Anyway, so, Witch Hunt. It's mostly a trip through places you've already been to. The companions are fun, and after Awakening I lacked any expectation of a deep friendship with them, so I wasn't disappointed!


  Wait, no, lowered expectations =/= a better game. (And, BELIEVE ME, this concept is going to come up again.)

  So, they're no worse than the Awakening companions, and unburdened by the partial-insanity Awakening's devs required to form a coherent(?) storyline, they're pretty fun. But they're still a step down from Origins.

  The whole thing is a hunt for Morrigan, btw, so I was pretty stoked.

  In fact, I barely remember fighting the boss.

  It was more: "Oh, cool, that thing that was mentioned in a suspiciously prominent book in the mage tower an hour ago."

  It died about twenty seconds later, IIRC.

VarterralDAII2 by ILikeCommas
Surely they wouldn't recycle me as an uninspired penultimate quest boss in the sequel! Twice! Surely!*

  So, kill the thing, blahblahblah, find Morrigan. Long, in-depth conversation about her leaving and why and the future ensues. I felt bad for most of it, and then good as I stepped through the Eluvian with her.

Morrigan1n by ILikeCommas
Maybe it's a good thing they screwed up the franchise, because this is unhealthy. :love:

  So, all in all, it got bumpy (REALLY bumpy) near the end, but any lingering dissatisfaction I might've had over the decline of the game's mechanics, story, characters... uh, well, I guess that's everything...

  Anyway, that whole "everything was worse" kind of got washed away by a wave of waifu-induced happiness. It was time for Dragon Age 2, which is covered in the next journal.

  I'd love to hear what you, faithful readers, have to say about any and all of this. Am I moron? A genius? Did I miss something important? 
  Let me know in the comments!

EDIT: Here's part 2 for convenience.
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EttuBrutal Featured By Owner May 12, 2018
I’m enjoying this. I just started playing inquisition on medium difficulty, so not hard, and am getting annoyed. I dunno what the deal is, maybe I’m just rushing out too far too fast. But one mob, on closing rifts, is capable of murdering my entire group. It’s these fucking Despair Demons that can one shot the entirety of my group, sometimes multiple at once. Enter tactical view and focus all fire on it? Might kill the one just just in time for two more to show.
but it’s so early game I don’t have much for resists. Would swear watching me that I was playing on a way higher setting.
Oh well, back to it for me. Once I start something I gotta finish it. But the combat is sloppy in this game.
EttuBrutal Featured By Owner May 12, 2018
Oh, I see. This game is about crafting, not looting. And when you take ten minutes to craft a few items you suddenly go from being a total wimp to being ridiculously overpowered... brilliant...
EttuBrutal Featured By Owner May 12, 2018
I’m enjoying this. I just started playing inquisition on medium difficulty, so not hard, and am getting annoyed. I dunno what the deal is, maybe I’m just rushing out too far too fast. But one mob, on closing rifts, is capable of kurdering my entire group. It’s these ducking Despair Demons that can one shot the entirety of my group, sometimes multiple at once. Enter tactical view and focus all fire on it? Might kill the one just just in time for two more to show.
but it’s so early game I don’t have much for resists. Would sweat watching me I was playing on a way higher setting.
Oh well, back to it for me. Once I start I gotta finish. But the combat is sloppy in this game.
But first, part 2 of what you wrote.
ILikeCommas Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2018  Hobbyist Writer
Need to make some armor is all.
danno6466 Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2018   Digital Artist
Great read (three years later) - its great because you detailed your likes/dislikes and gave me a rudder to steer away from dlc's /sequels that might not live up to the original ORIGINS, a game I truly loved as well. Thanks for that!
ILikeCommas Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2018  Hobbyist Writer
I do what I can
nesreb Featured By Owner Jul 13, 2015
Seriously?  No comments yet?  This is pure gold.  Thanks for putting into words so many of the same thoughts and feelings I have.

It took me a couple of tries to get into Origins, but once I did, I fell in love.  It's one of my all-time favorites.    

Had to play DA2 because I was still on my Origins high, and it was on sale for less than $10.  I read so many negative user reviews that it wasn't difficult to exceed my expectations.  The raining waves of enemies sucked, but there was still a lot to enjoy (even in their overly reused assets).

Witcher 3 has taken care of my dark fantasy itch for now, so maybe I"ll return to Inquisition after there are more mods and the DLC is wrapped up.  However, after three tries, it remains an overly sterile and seriously babyfied version of what I thought it would be.  Technically it's beautiful, the base game is bursting with content, but the controls and character development are lame.  Can't believe the critics fawned over it, but then again, they loved DA2.  

And finally, I really wish Bioware would stop making the compass and maps looks so freakin computer space agey!  DA2 and Inquisition maps look like they belong in Mass Effect.  Again, thanks so much for this article.  Good stuff, really.
ILikeCommas Featured By Owner Jul 13, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
Hey thanks!

Does The Witcher live up to the hype?

I haven't played any of 'em yet 

nesreb Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2015
The Witcher 3 exceeds its ridiculous hype.  Don't think I've experienced such joy since playing Origins and ME1.  Well, Bloodborne and the Souls series are up there too, but those are different beasts.
ILikeCommas Featured By Owner Jul 15, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
I do like me some Souls... Maybe it's time to get that PS4.

Thanks, dude!
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