I finished my second playthrough of Dragon Age: Inquisition with pretty much the same reaction I had the first time. As I finished watching the new Daredevil series at about the same time, I found myself thinking that the stories have vaguely similar shapes. The heroes are, at the beginning, very small, facing an unknown villain so vast they can barely grasp his plans, much less figure out how to stop them. They run around putting out fires and thwarting the villain’s allies and minions, trying to get close to the one behind it all. So why does Inquisition’s story feel flat while Daredevil’s feels sharp, tense, even terrifying?
Tumblr user Sage (mind the autoplay music widget) has a pretty good read on how the narrative loses momentum once you get your magical cloud castle, and N.K. Jemisin rakes the plot and characters over the coals for being shallow and underdeveloped. I’m going to focus on the villains, contrasting them with the threats in Daredevil, the previous Dragon Age games, and the Mass Effect trilogy to try to get at why this game’s story leaks tension like the Fade leaks grumpy spirits. Spoilers for all of the above.
Obviously this is going to be subjective. I talked about some of the things I enjoy about Inquisition here. Not everyone likes the same kind of stories I do or prioritizes the same things when playing games. Not everyone likes to see their heroes kicked in the ribs. Repeatedly. With cleats. I hope this might be educational anyway.