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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Dragon Age versus The Elder Scrolls

On October 7, 2014 another very promising fantasy game will hit the proverbial shelves. Bioware will deliver to us Dragon Age: Inquisition. If you've not watched the trailer yet, here it is.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xnXlKrBItc0?rel=0&w=1400&h=875]

Oh yeah, that looks really good! But will it be enough to dethrone The Elder Scrolls, and specifically Skyrim, from the hearts and minds of fantasy gamers? It's arguable The Elder Scroll franchise has better trending than the Dragon Age franchise. In fact, the Google Trend analysis shows Dragon Age has better trending.

[caption id="attachment_3080" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Dragon Age vs The Elder Scrolls Dragon Age vs The Elder Scrolls[/caption]

But when you add Dragon Age II and The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim specifically into the trending results, it's very clear which brand currently has dominance.

[caption id="attachment_3082" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Dragon Age vs The Elder Scrolls and Skyrim Dragon Age vs The Elder Scrolls and Skyrim[/caption]

I've played both games, and I have to say I currently fall into the Skyrim camp. The reason for this is Skyrim has a more open game play system to me. I feel I have more freedom to play the game as I wish, not as the devs wish. I am not pushed down a line of quests like I was with Dragon Age, and that has value to me. I'm not a min-maxer, and I believe enjoying the game  is not about "winning" the game. There is no win, there is only play, if I might paraphrase Yoda. I also find the skill system in The Elder Scrolls more appealing. It allows for a more unique character than Dragon Age where the more variable skills don't actually apply to combat directly. That lessens the control I actually have, and I have to be me after all! Dragon Age falls along the time-honored lines of pick a class and advance along that classes' predefined abilities. It's the AD&D method of character development, something The Elder Scrolls was able to break out of for the most part.

But that is not to say Dragon Age doesn't have some superior content to The Elder Scrolls. For all the talk of The Elder Scroll lore, I actually find quests in Dragon Age to be better. That's probably due to the fact the devs DO have direct control over the story's progression, but I have to call success where I see it. Unfortunately that makes me choose between two things I want equally. I really want solid questing AND a unique character development system. Who says you can't ask for the moon? Another big win for the Dragon Age franchise is the companion system. In Skyrim, the companions simply fill a DPS slot more or less. In Dragon Age, they take on a persona and are more real to me. When I lost my first companion in Skyrim, I was not sad. I gave her a nice burial and then went down to the bar and bested a better companion. It was like upgrading any piece of equipment. Losing a Dragon Age companion is like losing a friend, especially if you've pursued the romantic quest line. Then you're not only getting a friend killed, but a lover too. Ouch! The emotion that brings to the game is hard to quantify, and I'm not going to try. It's probably the best thing Bioware did for Dragon Age.

So which game wins? Fortunately for us fantasy gamers, both win! The only thing this competition does is bring us better games release after release. And what's totally awesome is you can play both! Their competition is your windfall. You may have to wait to get a smoking deal during the Steam Summer sale, but you really can have the best of both worlds. Now doesn't that make it fairly academic as to which franchise is better? I know when October 7th comes around, I will certainly be looking at buying a copy of Dragon Age: Inquisition. The game looks incredible. But I'll still be playing Skyrim when the mood strikes. There is no compelling reason not to.

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