One of the biggest complaints leveled against Dragon Age II was how small & repetitive the locations you visited were. While this wasn’t really an issue for me, as DA2 was more about the events within a single city as opposed to an entire country, I do consent that the areas felt a bit disjointed & unconnected. Dragon Age: Inquisition attempts to make amends for this by allowing players to roam not one city, or one country, but an entire continent, not to mention involving all of Thedas in some context. So does Inquisition make the most of this sprawling world space?
Dragon Age: Inquisition takes place shortly after the events at the end of DA2. Due to Anders’ actions in Kirkwall, mages have been blamed for the attack on the Chantry, leading to the Templars exacting revenge and prompting the Circles to disband in retaliation. It’s an all-out war between both factions. At the start of the game, the leader of the Chantry, Divine Justinia, calls for a Conclave, a peaceful meeting between mages & Templars to end the war. However, a massive explosion destroys the Conclave, killing everyone involved & tearing a Rift in the sky. This Rift sunders the boundaries between the real world & the Fade, allowing demons to freely traverse the plane. This is where you come in: as the Herald, the only survivor of the explosion, believed to have been pulled from the Fade by Andraste, & physically marked by the Maker with the only means to close the Rifts. Thus it falls on you to save the world from itself.
While much of the gameplay remains the same as in previous Dragon Age games, there have been significant additions. You begin by choosing a race (human, dalish, dwarf or Qunari) & a class. BioWare brought back the tactical camera from the first game, giving players the option of the more fast-paced view, or pulling back to observe the entire battlefield. Another new feature is the war table, where you essentially delegate tasks to your advisors to complete. Different advisors may suggest different courses of action, leading to different outcomes. Other additions include the return of a crafting system, hunting, harvesting, mounts, new specializations, & a revamped relationship system for your followers.
There will be no review of the multiplayer component of this game as I don’t do multiplayer.
Narrative: Inquisition definitely had the largest scope of the Dragon Age games so far, & the most far-reaching story. All of Thedas becomes involved in your quest in some capacity. Unfortunately, the only city you get to visit is Val Royeaux, the capital of Orlais. It would’ve been nice to revisit locations from the previous game, like Denerim. The plot itself is interesting, dealing with issues such as faith & fate. I like that in all the Dragon Age games they balance the Circle & Templar factions in that neither side feels good or bad. They both have valid points as well as missteps. Inquisition finally gives closure to the conflict DA2 danced around & ties in well with the previous games. I liked that, thanks to The Keep, you can shape the world to your previous games that, while not always having a noticeable impact on the way the story resolves itself, colors the game to being your world. Did you make Alistair king or did he stay with the Wardens? Did you go along with Morrigan’s ritual? The changes these decisions offer may be minor in the long run, but it makes for a cohesive experience to those who’ve played the previous games. I also enjoyed the characters in Inquisition. All your followers & advisors have unique personalities & agendas, responding to your decisions both big & small. The way you choose to play impacts how they relate to your character. If I had a complaint with the story, it was that at times it becomes lost in the scope of the world. As you explore the large areas offered by the game, it’s easy to forget what your ultimate objective is in all the tiny details. But, that may have been just from the way I chose to progress through the areas, being the completionist I am. So overall, interesting characters, cohesive world, & a plot that involves trying to stop a madman from usurping God. Score: 5
Mechanics: There are a lot of gameplay features in Inquisition, so I’m going to focus on what I think worked the best & where there were problems. For starters, it was good that they brought back the different races. It adds more variety to the game & also affects the way people interact with your Herald. I also liked the new talents & specializations. Each class (mage, warrior, rogue) can unlock one of three specializations midway through the game, which were all fun. Playing as a Dalish archer specializing in the Artificer tree, my favorite strategy upon approaching a group of enemies was the go into stealth, put down a mine under the strongest enemy, & when it went off, starting combat, Leap Shotting back behind my warriors. Your followers also gain access to a specialization that suits them, so you get to play around with all of them, adding more variety to combat. Speak of combat, it’s definitely improved since DA2. Whereas DA2 felt more like a hack-&-slash, especially if you used a fast-attacking class, you no longer have to wail on the attack button. You can just hold it down. You have two sets of quick-select slots of talents, allowing you to map eight talents. However, I didn’t like that there was no way to use talents you’d unlocked but had no room to map. The tactical camera lets players fight however they prefer, be it more action or strategy-oriented, or a mix of both. I typically stuck with the action view, occasionally switching to tactical to keep track of the entire field or to command a character to use a specific talent. Hunting & harvesting are new features, & go well with the new crafting system. You can find or buy schematics for weapons, armors & upgrades, which use the different resources. I liked the crafting system overall, because it allows for customization of not only character appearance (both the Herald & followers) but stats & abilities. On a more superficial note, I also liked that the armors have different appearances based on who’s wearing them. You can also upgrade your potions, grenades & tonics, which again add more strategy. Plus, throwing firebombs is fun. The war table is also a nice addition, because it lends to the feeling of being in charge of this big organization that has resources scattered through the world. It unrealistic for a leader to handle every matter personally. Although I do wish some of the timers on the operations weren’t so long. You can always cheat though, & just change the time on your console.
I’m fairly lukewarm about the mounts & approval system, though. The mounts are nice, & cool to look at, but I never found a use for them in combat, despite the game’s insistence. I would always just stop & get off to fight. But it’s a nice, faster way of getting across the map if you have quests to turn in. I’m also no crazy about the approval system. While this has been a feature in all Dragon Age games, it’s not as well done as in the previous games. You can only gain or lose approval based on your decisions during quests. There’s no friendship/rivalry like in DA2. Nor can you give gifts to your companions. While this does make for a more dynamic story (keep doing things someone doesn’t like & they’ll leave) you may find yourself making decision based on balancing companion approval instead of what you want to do. But it’s all in how you approach it.
For all the good, the game isn’t without faults. For one, I experience a lot of bugs, especially later in the game. Most of them were minor, like graphical bugs (such as characters sitting on the back of chairs or zipping around when they walked) or sound stutters, but some were more annoying, forcing me to restart the game or reload an area. One example was that during Cassandra’s quest, a pile of loot that held the key I needed to progress spawned in the air over a door, preventing me from getting the key. Some of the collections quests were bugged, with pieces spawning in inaccessible places. I also didn’t like that the same button is used for jumping, looting, talking, or any action in general. Because all the other buttons are assigned to combat, there were many times I looted when I wanted to jump to higher ground, or talked when I wanted to open a door. The game can be a bit finicky in general about selecting a target, taking a few seconds to register that you’re in range of interacting with something. Speak of jumping, I hated the amount of jumping puzzles in the game. By “jumping puzzle” I mean the developers would put things in places where you’d have to navigate up a cliff by jumping. It doesn’t help that when your character changes direction, they run forward a step before turning, instead of just spinning around. While it may be more realistic than spinning on a dime, that’s little consolation when I fall off a cliff & hurt myself because I just wanted to turn around to jump to the next rock to reach a stupid shard.
So overall, while there were control & bug issues, most of the mechanics were well implemented into the game, were fun to mess around with, & added to the feel of being in control of a world power. Score: 4
Aesthetics: I liked the look of the game overall. It goes more for the fantastical feel that pure realism. The areas are distinct & interesting, making exploring a joy. The enemy designs are all varied. I especially liked some of the designs of the demons. The character customization options are insane, allowing you to create basically any face you want. Seriously, how many games let you color your eyelashes? The sounds design is good as well. The music is nice. The pieces during major quests feel especially epic. The voice acting is good all around. I’ve always liked that the different regions in Thedas have different accents. You can usually tell where a character is from by their accent alone. Overall, great presentation. Score: 5
Replay Value: Very high. Despite the length of the game if you want to complete everything, there’s plenty of replay potential. Not only are there different races, classes, specializations & romances to experience, but you actually can’t see everything in the game in a single playthrough. Some operations are only available to certain races. And choosing between the mages or Templars affects blocks off certain quests & operations. Not to mention The Keep allows you to mess around with the world’s history without having to replay the previous games. Score: 5
Final Word: In my opinion, Dragon Age: Inquisition is the best of the Dragon Age games so far. Although it does have some flaws, it hits all the right notes to be a must-have for any RPG fan.
Title: Dragon Age: Inquisition
Console: PC, PS3, PS4, 360, XB1
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: November 18, 2014