2015: My Year In Gaming

I recap a full year’s worth of gaming in 2015, including new games and my backlog progress.

2015

I should really cut down on all these annual blog posts. The holidays are busy enough, and in 2015 I expanded my Top Ten list into ten separate posts, followed by my full Game of the Year awards and Most Anticipated Games of 2016 lists.

It’s all done in self-indulgent fun. My annual Year In Gaming post is probably the most navel-gazing thing I write on here. Part journal entries and part gaming calendar, I recap what I played on a month-to-month basis, and what really stood out.

2015 was the first full year of being a part-time freelance writer, and most of that was spent writing about video games. I maintained my blog both here and on Game Informer, appeared on podcasts, and can now say I’ve been published on Playboy. I also played lots of great games!

2015 backloggery

Though not as many as last year. I mentioned in my last recap of Rogue’s Adventures that I generally have less game time these days.

Since I enjoy recording my play times and my game library, it has helped me cut down on buying new games – which is painfully easy when you primarily play on PC thanks to rampant Steam sales. I played less games in 2015 but overall my “Progress Index” improved this year, so I’m pretty satisfied.

Progress Index is how Backloggery.com measures your finished-to-unfinished games ratio. Currently I maintain a Beaten ratio of about 63%, which has held fairly steady all year.

On to the monthly breakdown! Continue reading “2015: My Year In Gaming”

My Favorite Dragon Age Inquisition Companions

As much as I loved its insane amount of content, Dragon Age is still very much a BioWare RPG, and a large part of the experience lies in the well-written and interesting companions.

You can also read this post over on my Game Informer blog

Four Months and 75 hours later and I finally saw the credits roll on Dragon Age: Inquisition. I knew it was going to be a long one but releasing in November had the horrible side effect of trying to keep up with a sprawling RPG during the busy holiday season. Dear developers: Please release all 50 hour+ games in the Summer!

I’ve previously written on the problems of super long games but to be fair Dragon Age Inquisition is about as long as you want it to be. Felt like 70% of my time was spent just blissfully exploring the incredible amount of content that was offered, and I loved that I always had an overwhelming amount of areas to explore and quests to try. At some point I had to just force myself to get back on track with the main story (which I quickly outleveled) and ended up beating the game at level 20 with at least two areas barely explored (Hissing Wastes and Emerald Graves) and many more only half-finished.

As much as I loved the insane amount of content, Dragon Age is still very much a BioWare RPG, and a large part of the experience lies in the well-written and interesting companions. I thought I’d turn my thoughts on the game into a ranked list of all nine Dragon Age: Inquisition companions.

You can read more about my inquisitor and my predictions for the game here.

 

1) Cassandra

The very first companion you get is also the best, a concept that’s fairly common in RPGs. Your first friend and ally tends to be the most strongly written and the most directly tied into the main events of the story. As a former Seeker of Truth Cassandra embodies everything about a traditional Dungeons & Dragons-style Paladin, but her steadfast honesty and confident demeanor made me quickly fall in love with her. She’s also incredibly useful on the battlefield serving as your initial tank and becoming quite adept and handling mages and demons once she unlocks her templar abilities. Despite playing a warrior myself I almost never left Skyhold without her, and she was the first one I’d always go to check with in between outings. At the end of my game she became Divine, and I was proud and confident that she would lead the Chantry and the world into a prosperous era.

2) Varric

Oddly enough I rarely ended up using Varric in Dragon Age II. I enjoyed his personality but my Hawke was a Rogue and I loved using Isabella, so Varric rarely got to come with me. In Inquisition I played a warrior, and archery skills were just as powerful, if not more so than Dragon Age II. Certainly attacking from range afforded him a bit more survivability and I loved his artificer tree and those flashy grenades he threw. Personality wise Varric is the ultimate best bud – friendly, loyal and constantly cracking jokes even in the midst of terror and dread. He was my go-to Rogue for most of the adventure and I was always glad to have his good-natured insight and Bianca’s power.

3) Vivienne

Most RPG companions tend to be various forms of the rogueish archetype, but Vivienne is almost a polar opposite. She’s calm, elegant, and not afraid to flaunt her stature and power. She could be perceived as power-hungry but ultimately she wants what’s best for the world, which typically happens to align with her own desires. I loved the way she talked, layering in ‘darling’ and ‘my dear’ in a deliciously disarming fashion, and her high cheekbones and flawless skin added to her regal look. I could also gush about her usefulness on the battlefield – as an ice mage she’s useful in just about every situation, and her knight enchanter specialization is easily the best in the game, turning her into an off-tank or secondary DPS if you want to run up and whack things with spectral swords. The mages in the Dragon Age world have always had the best abilities and Vivienne gets the best of those.

4) Dorian


Dorian’s story is so analogous to many real people’s it’s almost painful. Running away from his life and responsibilities in his not-quite-evil empire of Tevinter because his father threatened to change his sexuality via blood magic instantly endeared him to me, and he was the first companion I befriended. Dorian was funny, cultured, sassy and a powerful fire mage. Fire can both burn and fear people, making Dorian almost unfair to use against humanoids, and his necromancer skill tree gave him the always fun ability of Walking Bomb. I give Vivienne the slight edge but I ended up trading off between the two for the majority of my adventuring.

5) Cole

Cole is definitely the most interesting and different of the companions. As a spirit inhabiting a dead mage he’s similar in concept to what BioWare did with Anders and Justice in Dragon Age II but the execution is far more fascinating here. Battling the red templars means I got a full blown mission that introduced him and his creepy and poetic way of talking, and his skills as a shadowy assassin fills his personality quite well. I also quite enjoyed his character mission when you find the templar responsible for his death. Unfortunately in creating the guard system for warriors BioWare really left rogues behind – especially those that eschew archery to get up and hurt people. Cole had lots of fun abilities but required a high level of micro management. Still, I used him when I could (he’s especially fun in the story mission where you enter the fade).

6) Iron Bull

Bull! Gotta love the big fun-loving brute character, which BioWare seems to love as well. I never used Vega in Mass Effect 3, a dumb meat-head that got in the way of the much more interesting aliens, but Iron Bull is all kinds of awesome. Every team needs an Iron Bull – heavy cursing, heavy drinking but incredibly loyal, fun and powerful. Unfortunately as a 2handed warrior myself I rarely had room in my party for Iron Bull. When he eventually gains enough skill points to max out his ravager tree he becomes a huge DPS asset with more survivability thanks to the guard system. He was my go-to for dragon fights and I loved talking to him in Skyhold, I just rarely used him in the field. His rapport with his own company of badasses was really fun, too.

7) Blackwall

Blackwall went through an odd rollercoaster for me. Initially I hated him; he was the stoic, boring warrior and skills-wise he was almost exactly like Cassandra, whom I loved. Thus Blackwall was almost never used until he got his champion specialization. Of course then I chose champion for my 2handed warrior and I’d rather take Cassandra for her personality and differing abilities. His character mission was fascinating, however, and my female warrior was trying to romance him as he was surprisingly sweet and reverent toward the Inquisitor. By the end his story fell flat for me, however. I freed him from prison fairly late in the game and barely had any special conversations or scenes with him afterward. Annoyingly it wouldn’t let me continue my romance with him despite doing all his quests. Blackwall is the perfect example of an interesting concept but a poor execution.

8) Solas

The above seven companions I generally enjoyed, but now we get to the ones that just fell flat for me. As a mage that specializes in the fade Solas is very useful on the battlefield, so my main beef with him is simply that I loved the other two mages much more. Solas is aloof, haughty and dare I say a bit boring. It’s irksome that he apparently is way more tied into the main plot than I realized (the end scene caught me completely off guard) as I rarely ever talked to him and never did his character quest. Sorry Solas but haughty elf that looks like The Mummy just isn’t going to do it for me.

9) Sera

I could easily describe Sera as the Borderlands character. She’s zany, irreverent, chaotic and rude. Now, I like Borderlands and the characters in that universe, but she just didn’t fit in my Inquisition at all. I appreciate that there’s a prankster style character but I enjoyed Cole’s enigmatic gags and scenes much more than Sera’s annoying hatred of everything noble or privileged. I role-played my Inquisitor as a fairly serious warrior and leader, and Sera rubbed her in all the wrong ways. I nearly parted ways with her after a particularly heated argument. Don’t get me wrong, I love that her kind of character was included, and it would be boring if the particular kind of character I role-played got along swimmingly with everyone. Power wise she was worse than Varric in every way, and I much preferred Varric’s specialization.

 

All of the pictures here I captured myself from my game, save Cole whom I forgot to take a picture of. How appropriate!

And there it is! Another BioWare game completed. I loved my time with Dragon Age: Inquisition but due to the length don’t see myself replaying it anytime soon. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences with the game and companions in the comments below.

You can also read this post over on my Game Informer blog

My Top Ten Games of 2014

You can read my full list over on my blog on Game Informer >>

The holiday decorations are put away and New Year’s shenanigans have come and gone. All that’s left to put a cap on 2014 is my annual Top Ten Games of the Year list.

What makes my list unique and interesting is that it’s soon accompanied by a Most Anticipated list for the following year. Then when it’s time to do the end of the year list, I can compare it with last year’s Most Anticipated list and see who well I can predict my favorite games. My track record isn’t so great, but that’s what makes it so interesting!

You can review my Most Anticipated Games of 2014. As a reminder I’ve posted them below:

  1. Starbound
  2. Broken Age
  3. Wasteland 2
  4. Dragon Age Inquisition
  5. Pillars of Eternity
  6. Titanfall
  7. South Park: The Stick of Truth
  8. Super Smash Bros. For 3DS
  9. MASSIVE CHALICE
  10. Transistor

Half of those games used Steam’s Early Access program and/or Kickstarter for their funding, and six out of ten are indie games. Four of them did not release in 2014: Starbound (still in Early Access beta, over a year now!), Broken Age (Act 1 released in January, still no Act 2!), Pillars of Eternity (currently in closed beta) and MASSIVE CHALICE (currently in Early Access/beta).

My friends and I were super into Starbound at the time of this list, which had just released on Early Access. I’m a bit shocked to find the game still in Early Access beta after over a solid year, and we stopped playing around Feb/March to wait for bigger updates/changes. As a side note, the upcoming patch looks nicely massive and an overhaul to gameplay, and I’m ready to dive in again.

This was definitely the year of the Kickstarter game as many of the original 2012 multi-million dollar Kickstarter projects released this year. I was very excited for Broken Age, Wasteland 2 and Project Eternity, though the latter would be pushed to 2015.

Six out of ten games on my list were released in 2014, though one of them I still have not played… Read on to see which ones made my Top Ten Games of 2014!

Read my full list over on my blog on Game Informer >>

My Inquisitor

dragon age inquisition inquisitor

So here we are with the long-awaited third installment. Unlike Dragon Age II, which was pumped out in a little over a year (while they were working on ME3), Inquisition has been in development for several years, and from what we’ve read of previews, interviews and most recently reviews, it looks like a huge step in the right direction. Taking feedback from fans, combining the best parts of Origin, DAII and the Mass Effect trilogy as well as looking at the insane success of the most recent Elder Scrolls game Skyrim have created a winning formula.

After navigating the panels of Dragon Age Keep I’m full prepared to dive back into Thedas – but first I have to decide on my Inquisitor.

Read the full post over on Game Informer >>

Top Ten Secret Player Bases and Strongholds

Like many RPGs, Dragon Age: Inquisition will feature a secret base where heroes can rest and recuperate. Here are the top ten strongholds in games.

Dragon Age Skyhold

Home is where the heart is. In games it’s also where you stash all your loot, craft some supplies and chat with your fellow party members and allies. Most games are about the journey of the hero, and precious few allow you to kick up your feet and relax at a safe haven you can call your home. 

Bioware’s upcoming Dragon Age: Inquisition promises one of the biggest player bases we’ve ever seen in Skyhold. Skyhold will serve as you primary stronghold and base for the inquisitor and his or her allies, improving over time and aesthetically customizable. 

Of course, Skyhold certainly isn’t the first player base to feature prominently in a game, and I’ve gathered my ten favorites (in no particular order).

Read the top ten list at Gameranx >>

New Blog Post – When Good Games Go Long

divinity

Just a few weeks ago I finally laid waste to the Void Dragon and completed Divinity: Original Sin. It’s a phenomenal tactical RPG that modernizes the genre while still retaining all the best parts that make those epic computer role-playing games so memorable.

It’s also incredibly long.

My playthrough took me almost 90 hours – that’s three solid months of giving it as much attention as I can while still playing online games with buddies and reviewing and writing about new games.

I also purchased Bravely Default in late July as a little birthday present to myself. I hadn’t really played a major 3DS game since I beat Fire Emblem in April (not counting Shovel Knight) and was looking forward to this well-regarded JRPG to tide me over till Super Smash Bros released in early October.

After two months I hit the 50 hour mark and completed chapter four….of eight. Literally at that point some kind of dimensional rift takes place, and our heroes are thrown back into the world where they have to do everything all over again. I stared at the game for a long time at that point.

Read the full post on my gaming blog on Game Informer >>