Welcome to our weekly open thread for the discussion of gaming plans, nagging questions, and whatever else we feel like talking about. No matter what the topic, we invite everyone in the comments to tell us: What Are You Playing This Weekend?
This weekend, I’ll be stewing in Dragon Age: Inquisition, my first foray into BioWare’s sword-and-sorcery fantasy world. With a little help from our beloved commenters, I’ve now come to better understand what in Maker’s name is actually going on in this game, and I’ve pushed through its initial impenetrability and settled into an enjoyable role-playing groove. Between playing Dragon Age and writing about Mass Effect this week, though, I’ve noticed some interesting differences in how I approached these two similar titles.
In Mass Effect, dialogue choices are split up into Paragon, Renegade, and neutral options, and the game tracks and scores you based on which decisions you make. Continually making the same moral choices results in more of those choices becoming available, and certain high-stakes options can only be unlocked by having a sufficiently high Paragon or Renegade score. Because those special dialogue choices tend to be more beneficial than their vanilla equivalents, there’s a reason to choose a moral path and stick to it. As I argued this week, consistently choosing Paragon options—even ones you don’t necessarily agree with—is pretty much always beneficial in the long run.
Dragon Age: Inquisition has no such overarching morality system, instead tracking whether your individual comrades approve or disapprove of your choices. Because your team is so large and varied, every decision you make tends to result in your star rising with some of your friends and falling with others. In last week’s comments, beloved commenter Kolya helpfully informed me that in private conversations, you can tell your associates whatever they want to hear—even if you’re lying through your teeth—just to earn their approval, since private conversations don’t affect the approval rating of your other party members. Good to know, and a useful way to game the system.
When it came down to it, though, I didn’t end up taking advantage of this. Early in the game I opted to ally the Inquisition with the rebel Mages rather than the Templars, a decision met with harsh disapproval by self-described “traditionalist” Mage Vivienne. When I spoke with her about my decision afterward, I knew that I could tell her any old lie just to get her approval rating up, but instead I decided to stick to my convictions and argue with her that I thought the Mages should be free, earning a fresh helping of disapproval every time I opened my mouth. Because I was freed from the binary morality of Mass Effect’s Paragon/Renegade system, and because comrades’ approval ratings are invisible, I felt free to actually speak my mind rather than trying to cheat the system.
What do you think, Gameotistas? Do you treat these games as stories in which you are a participating character, or as systems to be exploited? Do you try to inhabit the role of your character, even to your own detriment, or will you say or do whatever earns you the greatest advantage, even if it’s something you don’t agree with or believe? Let us know below, along with what you’re going to be playing this fine weekend.