There comes a time when you have to admit that you’re fed up and a game should not have been released in its present state. Last week, I reached that breaking point with BioWare’s latest. After spending a hundred hours on a single playthrough of Dragon Age: Inquisition leaving behind plenty left to do, I was genuinely excited for some hardcore RPG co-operative multiplayer. After all, Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer was the bee’s knees. What could go wrong?
I should have expected a rough time when the single player campaign had me resetting my console every few hours due to full crashes, among a multitude of other glitches. Plus so much was spent making the game insanely massive, that a lot of the little details that made previous BioWare games such a treat were missing and the game didn’t perform as it should a lot of the time. Still, I had a great time.
When I finally decided to break in the multiplayer, I was at first impressed, than underwhelmed, then impressed again. The amount of content was rather small: a few characters to choose from, several more to unlock, a handful of maps and enemy sets, and a crapton of random loot. The overall setup was like Mass Effect 3, but it lacked the polish. There were good times to be had, but overall, it was never going to be Inquisition’s feature attraction.
Even with the tacked-on feeling, there was a lot to do in terms of leveling up your characters. As I progressed and unlocked cooler characters and more powerful weapons I started getting really excited about my builds and the tactics I could use to bring victory to my crew. After the hectic juggling of my party in the single player quest, it felt pretty good to focus on just one character at a time and work with other players towards the common goals of kicking ass and taking names. The skill trees for each class were well constructed, and since the game’s combat engine is happening, endless hours of grinding was a joy and not a chore. Fun was both afoot and at hand.
As it was, I was playing only a couple hours a night if at all. Maybe once a night I’d get dropped or the game would freeze or something, but it seemed like isolated incidents. Until I realized it was happening as often as it was, that is. Quest-breaking glitches were popping up, robbing me of my precious time, hard-earned virtual currency, and all-important experience points.
You see, to keep losers from bailing on you mid-quest Inquisition only gives you what you’re owed upon completion of the mission. It seems like a good idea, and it is…..so long as your game works like it’s supposed to. You can only get so many isolated sessions interrupted before you notice the pattern, and once I got some more time to really put my nose to the grindstone, I discovered the second most broken multiplayer experience I’ve ever had in all my years gaming.
Batman: Arkham Origins had an extremely creative and fun multiplayer mode, but I was forced to quit because it was damn near impossible to make it through a match, and sometimes to even find a match. But that was from a first time developer. BioWare did a competent job on their last game’s multiplayer so you’d expect this one to be functional at the least.
But no. During one night of intense multiplayer madness, I finally decided that Dragon Age: Inquisition’s multiplayer is not something I need in my life. At least, not in its current form. In fact, it may be a herald of an incoming video game industry crash. That products of this size are being released at all in this state is something companies like EA should be ashamed of and it could be a matter of time before gamers lose interest if it keeps up.
So what kind of night makes a confirmed Biodrone turn against his favorite dev? Well, picture a multiplayer RPG where leveling up your characters and buying chests packed with random loot is where the fun and advancement come from. Now picture that you spend hours playing the game and the game keeps robbing you of those things after you’ve already put in the work. Even casting aside all of the other bizarre glitches and bugs, this is just unacceptable.
I started up a god-tier Elementalist three times, had great games filled with me being awesome and saving my weak partners (randoms in this game are freakin’ helpless for the most part, I’ve found), and got nothing at all for my troubles. Either the server crapped out, the game itself crashed and froze my console, or worst of all the game didn’t recognize that you’d killed every last enemy and refused to let you move on; almost always near or even after the final battle. That was just an hour and a half trying to get one character though his first mission.
Just prior to that I was playing my glass cannon of a Reaver, smashing through enemies with my two-handed axe like I was mowing lawns. It was awesome. Now I understand why people play as tanks. The power could drive one to madness! Die, weak fiends, DIE! Neither puny mage nor cowardly rogue shall have the glory of the kill whilst I roam the fields of battle! I got her to a pretty high level, but hit the same wall with the game not letting me advance due to its own shittiness. The Elementalist was just the last straw.
So my last game as a Reaver we had to find a key to the door by defeating all of the enemies. We did the thing, but the door remained locked. We spent almost half an hour backtracking, breaking random objects, talking shit about the game, and eventually trying to kill ourselves. The conversation focused on how shitty a game has to be where it becomes your responsibility to look for ways to commit suicide just to get the experience, gold, and items you’d earned so far in the broken quest.
Standing in fire didn’t help, but I found that if you jumped down a stairwell just right, you could get a little fall damage. So here were the four of us climbing up a stairwell jumping back down over and over again while our characters repeated the same sayings over and over (as they do every game) so we could get a game over screen and at least be awarded our due. Not really the kind of epic quest we signed up for.
The ultimate insult came when we were nearly dead after several minutes of this ridiculousness and found that we could damage ourselves no further. Seriously, BioWare? There is almost no way to get fall damage in this place and you’re so worried about it that you made dying from it impossible just to make goddamn fucking sure that when your shitty game broke we had no way to collect our earned gold and experience?
So after thoroughly expressing our discontent while desperately seeking a way to salvage our adventure, the rest of my party determined to play some Far Cry 4 instead and I was hoping that by starting a new mage character I would feel a little better. We all know how that worked out. A couple hours later, I was done with Dragon Age: Inquisition. It’s been over a week and I’m still butthurt. It was so much fun (when it worked)! So much potential (when it worked)! So many characters to build (when it worked)! It should have been great, and it would have been (had it worked).
So this whole experience has left me pondering what the hell is wrong with the state of the game industry that a respected developer like BioWare can get away with putting out something this broken as a finished product. This is a fairly new thing, releasing half-finished games. You didn’t run into this kind of crap in previous generations. This is all Xbox/PlayStation era. I thought the problem might have been me playing a next-gen game on a last gen console (PS3), but the next-gen message boards seem to bear out that this is a problem there too. The game was released while it was busted on a fundamental level.
I’d love to give it another shot when they patch it, but why should I? I preordered this game and had been awaiting it with baited breath for years. I even cheered when they delayed it because anything that makes the game better is fine by me. But now I have to wonder about what the game would have been like if they hadn’t delayed it. The multiplayer is almost unplayable as it is. I’m sure in the future they’ll have ironed it out and maybe even added in some free DLC, but the likelihood of me gathering myself up to go back to this mess on the chance that it’ll be fixed is unlikely. As a general rule, you get one shot with me before I move on and BioWare blew it. I was playing the game right here and now and it is broken right here and now and my last experience with my most anticipated game of the year by far left a bad taste in my mouth.
What the hell happened? Is it the new engine? And why are no sites pointing these things out? Is it because we’re filthy console peasants and nobody cares about us? It’s EA’s fault, isn’t it? Fuck EA. Really, though, how is it that something like this can even be released in good faith? The faithful fans buy games as soon as they come out and they should be treated to the best that the product can offer them.
The smart gamers are having to wait for Game of the Year editions or sales a year or so down the line to scoop up the patched version and enjoy the game as it should have been enjoyed in the first place (see also: Red Dead Redemption/Fallout: New Vegas). This nonsense has got to stop. Release unfinished games is going to do nothing so much as lower consumer confidence and send us fleeing to Nintendo, piracy, indie developers, and used games.
Our time and our money is valuable and if big game companies are going to pretend that isn’t a fact, then they will eventually see their income dry up. Fair warning. A game industry apocalypse is the only way this ends if screwing your customers remains commonplace. If we can’t count on the companies with the most resources to release dependable finished quality products, they probably won’t be able to depend on us buying them much longer. Sooner or later, we’re going to get sick of it. I’ve just reached that point, and with one of my favorite games of the year, ironically.
Hopefully, this doesn’t become standard procedure, but it kind of feels like it’s starting to. More and more games are being released with massive problems and the industry seems more obsessed with pushing itself further in than pulling itself out of this technical quagmire. BioWare is my favorite game developer and now I can’t even count on them so where does that leave my faith in the industry? Not in a good place. We’ll have to wait and see what happens.