Someone elsewhere had linked to this column about Dragon Age: Inquisition, crafting and RPGs
. It seemed to fit into what we were talking about here so I'm passing it along. I disagreed with much of it and am copy & pasting my response below.
Interesting, but I disagreed with most of it.
DeBoer laments "picking up junk to craft other junk" but the items you craft in DA:I aren't junk -- they're usually the best items you'll have. He mentions "living the life of a cobbler" but crafting in DA:I is really quite simple. Finally, he out-and-out admits that he's barely looked at the system so it's hard to take him seriously anyway. He's "baffled by the complexity of the crafting system"? Seriously? Picking two or three materials and hitting "Craft" with the screen saying exactly what they'll produce is "baffling"? Ok, dude. I don't think computer games should be your thing.
Meanwhile, RA Salvatore laments crafted gear that exceeds looted gear and reminiscences about Everquest. It's wrong (in my mind) to draw comparisons between crafting/looting in an MMORPG and doing so in a single player RPG. In an MMORPG, the items you'll acquire are the entire point of killing a raid level monster. Therefore, the monster must have gear worthy of your time. In a single player RPG, the point of killing a "boss" is to advance the story. It doesn't need to drop the Ultimate Blade of Slaying because your motivation is supposed to be stopping it from eating all the villagers' children. So saying that crafting in DA:I is "bad" because RA Salvatore likes getting loot in Everquest completely misses the mark.
Finally, Breault talks about the game's "busy work" which makes me wonder if he ever played Origins. A fetch quest to find a book in DA:I is "busywork" but a fetch quest to find a book in Origins is scintillating world building. Getting a potion for someone in DA:I is lame, but finding some wooden sticks for an elf in Origins is immersive. Ooooooh-kay, then.
Of course, everyone's entitled to their opinions. I like the crafting in DA:I. Materials are abundant enough that it doesn't feel like a chore, I like how different materials can change the look & how you can name your items (which makes me feel like I really 'made' something) and I like how it offers some customization to your characters. It makes me feel much more invested than something like "Four pig hides to hold another four syringes" from Far Cry 3.
As for the "busywork" quests, my main complaint about them is their effect on the leveling. Do every one you come across (even without actively seeking them all out) and you'll soon find yourself at level 12 while the plot is still in level 5-8 areas. I like having set level areas (versus "level 25 cows in the starting town since you're level 25") but feel they could have worked the progression curve a bit smoother.
But here's the thing about the side quests: They're all optional. Don't want to do them? Hate fetching five herbs or delivering a letter? Then skip them. You'll still finish the game. They offer rewards if you want to put the time in: some gold, some influence, maybe a new contact but they're in no way mandatory. Relating back to my previous comments about levels, you're not even expected to do them all. If you're trying to "clear" the Hinterlands, you're doing it wrong. My first game, I skipped clearing a fortress full of Red Templars -- I still won. I skipped the shard collection -- still won. Ignored almost all of several geographic areas... yup, still won. This time around, I'm doing those things instead and stuff I'm skipping still won't keep me from winning. So why complain about it? The idea is that it's a big world full of things you can do, not that you have to do everything in the world.