I’m guessing that this one should pretty much wrap things up. Having sunk a bit over 20 hours into the game, anything beyond this would need to turn into a full-blown review, which would necessitate finishing the game. Even the major reviewers noted that it took close to 80 hours to do that, and it included leaving a boatload of side missions and quests uncompleted. Since I’m being fairly completionist about it and most of those side missions and quests involve a lot of running around (time), I really don’t feel like waiting until after the beginning of the year to do it. But I’ll do a short wrap after this, just to hit the high points.
The controls lag is still an annoyance. It seems to take about a half-second or so after exiting inventory, or the character screen, or a cutscene or just about anything other than the main game screen before you regain control. And it’s consistent. I’ve don’t recall ever having immediate control after the game does something on its own.
There is a big “dead zone” at the bottom of the screen (right about at the hotkey toolbar) where the mouse-controlled camera stops working until you release your RMB, get the cursor back up off of the toolbar, and then reengage. This will likely not be a major issue for players using controllers, but it’s certainly an annoyance for those of us who use keyboard and mouse and is particularly problematic during combat. I don’t think the entire party has died from it, but we’ve come awfully close a few times.
As far as encounters (both set-piece and random), the game doesn’t do much hand-holding. Enemies do not appear to scale to the character/party. Instead, areas seem to be clustered around a particular level with a higher-level boss (or bosses) within those areas. So it is entirely possible to find your party completely overmatched in some places. For those cases, “run away!” appears to be a workable strategy as you can come back at a later point to clean up the few odd pieces that you weren’t powerful enough to handle on the initial encounter.
For those overhead Fade Rifts where I just can’t manage to get to a position where I can disrupt them, the only strategy that works consistently is to simply kill everything that it spawns. This eventually reduces the Rift’s health to the point where it will stop spawning stuff (until the area reloads, anyway) and then I can find the one tiny spot where “Close Rift” is accessible. This is extremely costly in terms of health potion usage and highly frustrating when your party is close to being overmatched, but it does work. Of course you do get experience for killing all of those extra spawns, but I’m not sure that the trade-off is worth it. I’m hoping that this is something that will get fixed in a patch, sooner rather than later.
Potion usage seems to be a bit glitched in a couple of areas. First, you can expand the number of potions you can carry by spending Influence points at the War Room. But those extra potions don’t seem to get added to your inventory, either manually or automatically. For example, I expended a point for extra potions and should have 12 available rather than the base 8. But I’m still at 8 potions. This is apparently also an issue in the PS4 version of the game (I don’t know about the XBox version), so it’s likely something that will get patched eventually.
Along those same lines, you can add a second batch of potions (Health Regeneration, Lyrium, Grenades and probably other stuff that I haven’t researched yet) to each character’s belt. The default is five of these. However, party members will not automatically use these. Over five or ten hours of playing, all of my party members are still toting the original five potions that I gave them. Also, now that I’ve managed to research and upgrade a grenade, I can’t seem to remove the Health Regeneration potions that are already in their belts. I haven’t yet tried manually using them to empty the slot. Might work, might not.
OK, let’s deal with dying. When party members die, you will either need to send another character to revive them or finish the battle without them. Reviving requires pulling a character out of the fight, moving them to the fallen character, and then holding the appropriate key/button until the revival finishes. After the fight is over, the fallen will automatically revive with a couple of health bars. However, there is a “Revive” spell in the Spirit perk tree that will accomplish the same thing without the need to pull a character out of the fight. You’ll need to expend several points in the tree before you can get to it (four or five, I think), but it can be well worth the expenditure since it lets everyone keep slugging.
Unless there is something at the end of the game (like the Warden making the ultimate sacrifice in DAO), there does not appear to be any perma-death in the game. The closest the game seems to get to this is that if the entire party dies, you’ll need to reload your last save.
On the topic of saves, the game is pretty good about autosaving before combat, especially at major points like Fade Rifts. If you find yourself overmatched, you can always turn back after reloading. However, if you already have enemies on the screen, you will not be able to save or quicksave until you either finish the combat or back away. Kind of makes sense in a way. You probably don’t want to be stuck with a saved game where the party is doomed regardless of any actions that you take and your only other option is to lose several hours of play because you forgot to save. In this area, the game does some reasonable hand-holding. Saves are pretty dinky (about a quarter of a MB), so don’t worry about accumulating a ton of them (we’re not going to discuss the couple of GBs or so of saved games from my last Skyrim playthrough).
One last chuckle before closing. I’m noticing that Bioware is still having serious issues with NPC facial hair (well, hair in general). Head hair is somewhat better than earlier games, but still looks like a rubber wig a lot of the time. But a lot of beards are just flat-out funny. Some NPCs honestly look like they’re wearing fake beards, kind of like the strap-on Santa beards that go with cheap costumes. You can see gaps between the cheek and beard while you’re talking to them. Almost makes me wish there were some dialogue topic I could select to point it out to the NPC and then see them hastily try to adjust it.
And on that note, I think I’ll say, “that’s a wrap”. A very good game so far. It has a few glitches and failings, but most fall into the “mildly annoying” category with only one or two “seriously annoying” ones and nothing completely game-breaking. Happy gaming.