South Park Self

I will follow you into the dark

I spent the weekend, as threatened, playing the latest Inquisition DLC, with rather more swearing than usual. This was because (a) I've been playing Mass Effect for the last month, and all my finger-twitches are habituated to big guns and biotics and using the space bar to interact rather than pause, and (b) because the latest Inquisition DLC is hardcore. It's all Deep Roads, caverns and underground cities and what have you, and you spend the first half of it being beaten up by hordes of Darkspawn, and the second half being beaten up by hordes of <spoilers> who have particularly nasty abilities in terms of <spoiler> and <spoiler>.

There was an especially bad set of curses at the point where the nasty, lengthy combat chipping away at the two rather ferociously indestructible <spoilers> ended with one of them, down to the last tiny fragment of health bar, falling through a glitchy bit of wall and getting stuck behind it so I couldn't finish them off, and I had to reload the damned combat and replay it four times before I managed to circumnavigate the glitch. (By dint of equipping my two tanks with the hook and chain thingy, gradually dragging the two bad guys out of the area and holding them away from the walls with static cage while we hacked at them. I confess to a certain vindictive satisfaction when the second one finally fell.) But it was at this point that I also realised why a moderately demanding DLC was ending up with me or my party down several times a combat and utterly out of healing potions: because (a) I was playing with the difficulty level at Hard rather than Normal or Casual, and (b) because this was my pacifist Inquisitor.

My difficulty level has been set at Hard for the last two games, despite my general lack of interest in heavy combat, because after the mumbleteenth replay of the same game I am so damned good at the tactics that combat was neither challenging nor enjoyable. And the pacifist Inquisitor is a combination of genuine roleplaying interest with sheer bloody-mindedness. I'm playing a human mage, which means a Circle origin - i.e. I've spent my life locked up in a mage tower learning magic while Templars breathe down my neck to make sure I'm not summoning demons. Magic in this world is heavily controlled, and I found myself wondering how likely it was that a mage would emerge from the Circle with any experience at all of combat magic. Because Dangerous and Bad and Templars wouldn't approve, surely? The most likely character trend would be towards academic geekiness and abstract or practical rather than combat spells. So my mental commentary at the start of the game constructed my Inquisitor as being horrified by the combat and somewhat violated at the idea of using magic - which is a very internal, personal sort of energy, I'd think - to kill stuff. And I developed her as far as possible without combat spells.

This was tricky, but possible - lots of support (barriers, resurrection, dispel, the whole spirit hog) and containment rather than damage (static cage, ice mine, etc.) I went ice rather than fire or electricity, as being less violently energetic, and eventually, and slightly counter-intuitively, developed her as a necromancer - i.e. animating already-dead corpses and scaring people off with Horror rather than destroying them directly. I also, in sheer self-defence, because you really can't be non-combat entirely in this sort of game, made the assumption that using a staff was a reasonable distancing mechanism, killing with a weapon rather than with your own life-force. The upshot being that she's fairly good at support but hopeless if anything gets close, hence the frequent dying. It was an interesting play-through, particularly in the demanding DLC setting, and interesting to see that it is possible to angle the game towards specific and slightly more coherent role-playing choices.

Of course, to play a demanding, combat-oriented DLC with a pacifist Inquisitor on Hard difficulty is sheer cussedness. I cop to the sheer cussedness. Possibly with pride.

My subject line is Death Cab for Cutie, a song which is a bizarre and idiosyncratic mix of sappy romantic with morbid. Fairly appropriately: if I have to spend a weekend following things into the dark while dying frequently, I have to say that this DLC is simply beautiful, especially in the lower levels where it's all dark blue shot through with lyrium veins, and in the final area which is <spoiler> and <spoiler> and generally exquisite.