My general impression is that it was a little too long, a little too open world, a little overwhelming with all the sidequests and gigantic open areas. I did appreciate that many of the sidequests bore relationships to the main plotline, but it would have been nice to see the connections drawn more strongly, and more often have actual consequences reflected in the main plot. The main storyline, whenever we got around to getting on with it, was interesting enough, and a reasonable follow-on to what came before. Exactly what I would have done, with these characters and this world? Probably not, but I appreciate both what they were trying to do and the various ways in which they pulled it off.
My thoughts on the characters are similar to my feelings about ME2: too many characters, and the pacing in conversations, personal quests, and character development seemed off. In part, this is probably the fault of how T and I played the game -- because he doesn't have the patience to go through long dialogue trees with them repeatedly, we end up missing some conversations and consequently doing things out of order. Dorian's personal quest never fired, despite our having quite high approval with him; I gather this is a bug, and a disappointing one. Our LI was Blackwall, which had its high and low points (more behind the); I liked it well enough, but T found it underwritten, and I can't say I completely disagree with him.
After discovering the truth about Blackwall -- which I saw coming, but only right before it happened, and was fairly irritated with myself for not noticing before; he just said too many things that didn't quite add up to him being a true Grey Warden -- Malika did free and forgive him. I can't decide if that was an IC decision or the lady with the controller wanting to see the romance through. I think T would have been just as happy to give it up and have no romance at all, but I couldn't quite see doing that my first time playing.
Speaking of characters with secrets... Neither of us really trusted Solas, and T was quite vocal about it almost from the beginning, so to learn his secret identity wasn't a surprise exactly, but we sure didn't guess that he was actually the Dread Wolf. (Whether he's a literal incarnation of Fen'Haral or in a situation more like Flemeth's with Mythal remains to be seen, I suppose. Speaking of which, Flemeth. :-\ I haven't decided how I feel about this reveal that Flemeth has been carrying around the spirit of an ancient elven god all this time, but I do know that I'm not happy to see her apparently dead. I mean, it's Flemeth; if anyone has a way out of this, it's her. But it sure didn't look promising there.) I had half expected that Solas's endgame was to get control of the Orb and use it to erase the Veil, and that he would be the true big bad in the end. That may still happen, it's just the next game.
In some ways, I really wonder where Bioware goes from here. It seems like the world can be left in a lot of wildly divergent states, much more so than DA2 or even DA:O. How do they write a game that works in a universe where Celine rules Orlais while a full-scale elven rebellion is waged (our world state) and in a universe where Briala is in charge? (Just to pick one example.) We aren't talking about easy substitutions in and out, as with who rules Ferelden. I'm curious to see how they work it-- or if they even try.
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