I will not be giving you a run-down of everything I’ve been doing in the Hinterlands, mostly because it would take up at least five single-spaced pages of blathering about collecting herbs and iron and drakestone, chasing apostates and Templars, and doing so many fetch quests that I start having flashbacks to Borderlands. At least these are interspersed with commentary and occasional jokes from Varric, Cassandra, and Solas.
I still like Varric – he was one of my favorite companions in DA2, and even though he’s a lot more bitter (surprisingly, since he was already pretty jaded), he’s still funny in an extremely dry sort of way. Cassandra is largely without personality, sadly, and is very I-AM-A-CHANTRY-SEEKER, which is to say that she has little of color to offer to the world, at least as of yet. I am often surprised by Solas, though, who is kind of history-nerdy without being a spaz like Anders (in DAA and DA2) or a flake like Merrill (DA2). I am starting to want to find additional NPCCs to join my party, though, because these three are becoming predictable.
One of the primary issues I have with a lot of open world games like DAI – and Skyrim – is the lack of immediacy I often feel as the player controlling the player-character. For instance, I spent hours in the Hinterlands avoiding the main plot quest, went back and started it, and then spent several more hours avoiding it, hunting rams and finding supply caches and closing rifts and so on. Fetching this potion for an asthmatic elf here and delivering the messages of dead lovers and spouses there. In other words, the game allows me to follow the plot quest at my own pace, which is mechanically good in that it lets me satisfy my inner completionist, but is also bad in that it makes the war – the END OF THE WORLD – not seem terribly pressing, despite the fact that everyone keeps telling me just how horrible and WE HAVE TO FIX IT NOW it is.
I don’t really have an actionable complaint here, other than perhaps choosing a main quest that’s a little less apocalyptic. I’d be okay not saving the world/universe/creation in a game for once. Like Dishonored. That was about one city, and it was great. I don’t need to be the most Special Special to ever Special. (Which is part of why my Herald, Khaaras, keeps deferring whenever anyone calls him “Herald of Andraste.”) I had high hopes of avoiding that problem after DA2 because Hawke seemed to be a fairly normal person who just kept being in the right (or wrong) place at the right (or wrong) time. DAO/A’s Warden was a little special, although part of that comes from the fact that all Wardens are a little special (not dying when they drink Darkspawn blood and all that). But Khaaras (the Herald) is Special. He’s been marked, and although I can choose to have him play that element down, it’s pretty clear that the narrative is marking him out as Special (even if only in the view of the NPCs).
As I compare DAI to its predecessors in terms of world, I find myself missing the very straightforward levels from DA2 a little – not a ton, mind you, because I was definitely one of those people who screamed every time a “new” cave was the SAME CAVE with flowers or spiderwebs or whatever one signifying difference. I don’t want that ever again. But it would be nice if it weren’t quite so Skyrim – a little more direction or some indication of whether I should be doing the plot quest first or whether it’s wise to do the non-plot things. Just a hint or two. But, alas, I have nothing to go on except my own sense of “Okay, I need to get on with this story before I go crazy chasing rams.”
So I more or less accidentally stumbled on the horse master, which killed quite a bit of time because I kept being confused by the magical disappearing racehorse. I’d race it, and then if I got off, it would disappear. The first time, it climbed up the side of the stable. The second time I left it in a field and went inside and didn’t see what happened. The third time, I watched it turn to smoke in front of me. Then I gave up on trying to figure out how to KEEP the stupid thing.
Eventually I get back to the races and have to LOOK UP how to find my disappearing horse. Which brings me to one thing that I don’t like about DAI – it’s not intuitive. Really really not. I’ve only gotten as far as I have because of the nearly endless hours I’ve spent with the other games – if I’d come to DAI without that? I’d be so lost it wouldn’t even be funny. I’m already lost and I DID spend hundreds of hours playing the other games. (Okay, so they didn’t have mounts, but that’s why something more than a popup that I can accidentally dismiss in half a second might be good for new stuff… and old stuff… and anything that’s actually important for your players to know). There are so many things that I don’t remember or have changed or are new that I really am struggling a little with a lot of the controls and stat management, and I can quote the other DA games in my sleep. That’s… a little steep of a learning curve.
I’ve also run into a little bit of a tactical problem – the rifts and accompanying demons are now too difficult for me to kill off. I pretty much attack the rift once and then something spawns and instantly kills me and/or most of the party. It’s rather frustrating, given how easy the first batch of rifts were to deal with. Maybe it’s because I haven’t actually finished what I’m supposed to be doing plot-wise (there’s some Lieutenant back at the central area that I’m supposed to talk to). Either way, I’m the magical rift-closing dude, and I can’t close the damn rifts!
Fine. Corporal Vale it is. And he then talks to me about a bunch of stuff I’ve already done. Okay. Back to doing random things. Like marking watchtowers and killing bears. Also, what the hell is this “War table” the quest map keeps babbling about?
And I am still stuck in the Hinterlands.
To alleviate the sense of “I can never leave,” I head back to Haven to do some crafting, turn in some creature artifacts, and talk with my companions. Solas has nothing more to say to me, and Varric very little, but I get to talk to Cassandra for a while. I also get to find out about me, since she asked and I had the option to “[tell her the truth],” which I didn’t even know myself. I guess Khaaras was a Tal Vashoth mercenary. Okay. Spiffy. I’ve also decided that Khaaras doesn’t believe in the Maker, but he’s trying not to be abrasive about it. This is… not easily done, but is doable by being funny. So we’ll go with that.
Back to the Hinterlands. I think I can take it. And… now I’m leading a Druffalo (squat buffalo like cow thing) back to its pasture. Because that’s a dignified way to spend my time as the Herald of Andraste. I find it odd how often really weird mundane things get mixed in with the life-or-death-there-are-demons-about-to-eat-my-baby quests. I mean, okay, so demons would likely have eaten the Druffalo if I hadn’t closed the rifts in the fields, but still.
I have to say, though, being able to fast travel between camps is one of the things that’s keeping me from going utterly insane at STILL being in the Hinterlands. I swear, if I had to WALK everywhere (or even ride my magical disappearing horse), I’d go mad.
Okay, people, so… to whomever decided that “loot,” “jump,” and “disrupt rift” should all be the same button – you’re either a little daft or you need some serious counselling because you’re a certified sadist. Seriously. I’m trying to jump to get out of the way of something or trying to disrupt a rift, AND BECAUSE THE BUTTON IS THE SAME I END UP TRYING TO LOOT SOMETHING AND GET KILLED IN THE PROCESS. Oh, and since there’s bodies everywhere because it’s a battle, I KEEP DOING IT EVERY TIME I RETRY. Not cool, guys. Really not cool.
Okay. I’ve got a few rifts yet uncleared, but the process of doing so is… not really feasible, at least according to the hour or so I spent failing at that one (there are only two left, plus a mission to take some herbs I don’t have to a hill). Since I’m almost totally done with the Hinterlands missions, and all the main ones are complete, it’s time to move on.