I swear I must be getting psychic or something, because I had just gone online to check the status of my Dragon Age: Inquisition order & saw that it was on a UPS truck to be delivered when the UPS man pulled up in my driveway. My thought process went, “Oh, I should get it today,” then hearing a door shut outside & thinking, “I bet that’s them.” Weird, but in a good way. So I spent the better part of the evening messing around with the character customization & playing through the opening section of the game.
Inquisition picks up not long after the events of Dragon Age 2. Due to the events at the end of the previous game, the Chantry & mages are at war. The supreme authority for the Chantry calls a Conclave, a meeting between both side to negotiate peace. However, something goes horribly wrong, resulting in a Breach — a massive tear in the Veil that separates the world of the living from the world of spirits. Only the Inquisitor survives thanks to the help of a mysterious being of light. But they don’t escape unscathed, as they now possess a Mark that allows them to close rifts & seal the Veil.
I found the game’s opening rather odd. It just sort of dropped me into the thick of it, leaving me confused. But as the Inquisitor is also confused, I suppose it does a good job of evoking the feelings your character’s having. In the previous two games we at least got a little opening speech to recap what’s going on. Not this time around. The scene at the start menu is the opening. You press start, you wake up in the Fade, make your character & go.
While we’re on the subject of making your character, I have to say that the character customization is fairly impressive. First of all, BioWare brought back the ability to choose your Inquisitor’s race. So not only can you choose to be a human, elf or dwarf, but you can also be a Qunari this time around. Your class will somewhat affect the Inquisitor’s background. For my first playthrough, I chose to be a female Dalish archer, who ended up looking remarkably like myself unintentionally (I typically make a character that I like as opposed to trying to make someone who looks like me). But the customization options are far improved over the previous games… or most games in general. You can adjust the size & position of every facial feature, have sliders to make innumerable color choices for eyes & tattoos, & can even adjust how pronounced their scars are. You even get to choose between two voices for your character. Hell, you can even customize your eyelash color!
As for the gameplay aspects so far, a lot of the time it felt like I was playing a completely different game. I don’t know if it’s because I’m still adjusting to using a PS4 or if BioWare really changed a lot. For one, the game is more open than before. While I haven’t gotten to the “open-world” part, the first level was definitely larger than the areas in the previous titles. While there’s still a clearly defined path, there are also areas off the beaten path to check out. Another change was bringing back the tactical camera during combat. Combat in general is still action-oriented, but feels less button-mashy than DA2. But now you can pause to go into tactical view, which gives an overhead view of the battlefield & strategize, making use of your team’s skills. While more strategy-minded players might not like how the default is action, I prefer it this way. I tend to use the one-on-one mode most, occasionally going into tactical view to keep tabs on the battle or to ensure all of my teammates are fighting efficiently.
Another change I noticed from the previous game is with the dialogue tree. While it still has the dialogue wheel gamers who’ve playing Mass Effect or DA2 will recognize, it seems BioWare has worked to given the player more choices. Although in general you still have the three main choices to advance dialogue (peaceful, neutral & aggressive), I’ve had more choices to really flesh out my character. The game calls these emotional choices. For example, at one point I could choose to express sorrow at the death of those in the Conclave, confusion about the situation, or anger at being accused of being responsible. I like that the game doesn’t say that any of these choices are “right” or “wrong” but merely how you want to shape your character. I also had the opportunity to respond to some of the chatter that goes on when you’re wandering with your team. Early on, Solas, an apostate elf, made a comment about my character being Dalish, & I noticed a semi-transparent dialogue wheel pop up. I nearly missed it. So that was interesting.
Speaking of teammates, I was glad to see a combination of old & new faces. I’m looking forward to see how everyone interacts. Part of the fun from the previous games was the random chatter & camaraderie (or clashes) between personalities. I hope the new characters have as distinct personalities as the old ones.
As I’m only about two hours into the game, there are still a lot of aspects I don’t understand or haven’t come across:
- Inquisitor “powers”
- companion approval
- building the Order
- The Keep
But at the very least I’m looking forward to learning about them & seeing what this game has to offer.