Dragon Age: Inquisition
It’s been two years since we’ve been blessed with a BioWare experience, in the form of Mass Effect 3 – too long a time by any count – and even longer since we’ve journeyed into the land Dragon Age’s Thedas. But the masters of the RPG game are back with Dragon Age: Inquisition, arguably their boldest and most ambitious project yet. Bringing together years of refined RPG elements and Dragon Age’s own deeply layered narrative, BioWare have delivered one of the most personalized story experiences in gaming with Inquisition.
I say story experience as first and foremost that’s what I feel this is. It’s a story, a high fantasy tale of unparalleled proportions, and everything from the visualization of the games graphics to the combat and the gameplay play second nature as a way of simply expressing the story, of putting it into the players’ hands. Even so, the game doesn’t skip on any of the meaty stuff, Inquisition is still most definitely a game that ticks every box, and then some.
Creating a new protagonist from those in the first two installments in the series, we become the Herald of Andraste, aka the Inquisitor. Following a devastating disaster known as The Breach, which see’s demons pouring into the world, we’re tasked with putting a stop to all that is bad in the land, and those who thought doing so was a good idea. Thankfully the game is far more complex than just that though, the storyline injected with hefty doses of politics, religious nuts, war games, twists & turns; the list goes on.
If you’re familiar with the series already, you know these are staples of what gamers must deal when given a spot of power in Thedas. Inquisition turns it up to 11 though, the Inquisitors tale being a much more important one that we’re used to. So much so in fact, we’re constantly affected by and seeing the consequences of choices made in the previous games. That’s one of the titles biggest feats, truly continuing on the state of the world that players have been captivated by and shaping since 2009. With every mission, with every act, the Dragon Story becomes more. It becomes our very own.
The titular Inquisition, which players grow into a force to be reckoned with over the course of the game, hangs it hat in Skyhold. Skyhold is a fortress amongst the mountains which players will use as a base of operations during their conquest. It can be customized, upgraded and explored at your leisure. Best of all though, it’s home to one of Inquisitions best new features; the War Table. While simple in theory, this part of the game adds to the feel of the players’ power, be it political or military. You earn your new missions through selections made here, and can send your troops on various operations Thedas over, for select rewards or gains. Couple this with the decisive judgment of NPCs, native housing of all your companions, and noticeably changing scenery, Skyhold is a very neat and welcome addition that helps Inquisition stand out among its peers. We’re not just a hero on a mission – we’re a leader.
Notably, Inquisition has some of the best writing I’ve seen in a game. The franchise has always had a tongue-in-cheek humor about it, but here it’s finer than ever and very consistent. Of course, it’s a serious game primarily, but there are hidden jokes, references and adult humor scattered in every corner that just fit in so well without having to spell it out that you can’t help but expect to love even the most inconsequential conversations. And then when you least expect it, it can hit you with an emotionally draining revelation or character driven scene which makes your heart skip a beat. An awesome display of diversity in the script, and one that keeps the quests and characters fresh, loveable and humane.
Combat in the game finds some middle ground between the two different (and very critically divided) systems the series has seen thus far. It takes the slower, more tactical approach of Origins and molds it around Dragon Age 2’s much more responsive core. The result is a game that can be played wither way, with a Tactical Camera for those who want total control over their party, or regular Action-RPG gameplay. While it’s great to have the different choices of how to play, there are some noticeably lacking features which hinder the combat.
We’re unable to stack commands to our party and player, meaning if you want to take control you have to constantly swap your active character, and doing so over a whole party of 4 is really tiresome. Also not present is the ability to equip a character with more than one weapon or loadout, ala Origins. If you want to create a Rouge character who specializes in ranged as well as dagger combat, or a Warrior who brings both a greataxe and more nimble sword & shield to fit the scenario, to change you have to navigate the clunky menu mid-battle. There’s no quick swap to speak of.
Speaking of the directions to take your character in, Inquisition has toned down some of the RPG elements fans loved about the series. All your stats are as present as ever, but we no longer have the ability to choose where our skill points go, to opt to work on Health, or Strength, or Cunning, as we always did. Instead we’re just given an Ability point, which are used to unlock new moves or passive abilities, and our Stats are updated based on which we buy. Not a big downer, but when compared to how much choice we had to make a fighter in whatever way we could imagine in Origins, this – along with the lack of different weapon load outs – has streamlined the combat quite a bit.
hen Dragon Age 2 was released, the general art direction and style took on a massive change. Everything looked incredibly different. Inquisition has gone back to a more realistic approach to the visualization of the world, obviously with much better graphics than what plagued the somewhat ugly Origins. But it’s a given, as everything about the graphical department of Inquisition is aiming sky high here. It’s one of the prettiest games this size we’ve seen, the world of Thedas is absolutely stunning and seeing the detail and finer points that’ve gone into the many different locales and areas make exploring a never-ending joy. Deserts, swamps, rolling hills, rocky beaches; wherever you are in Inquisition, there’s something amazing to look at. For an RPG, it’s surprisingly atmospheric too, some of the areas the game takes you being very gloomy and having the style to make it feel like it should, not just another skin on a new map, makes a difference.
Inquisition is the first in the series to feature multiplayer of any sort. Rather than trying to squeeze in co-op into the story mode, BioWare chose to create a standalone co-operative game mode which see’s up to 4 players take on dungeons in a variety of the games styles. The main focus here is looting and leveling up, with a range of different archetypes to choose from, unlock and customise. There’s something for every type of player, and finding which work well together and which you like is half the fun. I will admit I was very cautious about this, I’m not a fan of developers throwing in multiplayer into predominately single-player experiences. And at first, I thought my caution well placed. After an hour of getting the hang of how the levels work, and how to approach them, my friend and I who had been playing Private took it online after we’d leveled up a few times to hold our own. Within the first proper go of 4 player online, I was converted. It was one of the most enjoyable multiplayer experiences I’ve had on the current gen. Very challenging, mildly rewarding and rather addictive.
The core experience here is a very well rounded dungeon crawling adventure, with secret loot and overwhelming battles aplenty. Co-operation is essential, and getting the most out of your characters abilities becomes a team effort. However, there isn’t a lot of content here. Which is unfortunate, as I think it could actually hold its own alongside the main game. If it were fleshed out properly, this would be more than just a tacked on multiplayer experience, but a true part of the package. There are plenty of characters to make your own, but there are only three different types of maps, which while they do randomize the room and objective orders, do get stale. There are also only three types of enemies which occupy them, and they aren’t nearly a different enough experience to keep it going. There are only so many times you can fight through a ruin or mansion against some knights or demons. I have my fingers crossed for a quality multiplayer update or DLC which adds in the content this needs to shine. There’s so much to discover in the Dragon Age universe. Let us see it with friends.
It’s a forgivable offense however, when we do go back and look at the just what the real game offers. While not settling for just being the best Dragon Age in the series, Inquisition is also by far without a doubt the biggest. Honestly, this game is gigantic. Long gone are the days of tight pathways and reused environments; here, we have a massive world to explore – to truly explore, that is. Not wide open in the sense of Skyrim or Fallout where the game is simply open to us, Inquisition utilizes a system of different localities. Each of these is freely open and explorable, and set all over the world of Thedas. They’re jam packed full of content, too. The first area given access to, the Hinterlands, help me captive for a good 15 hours before I moved on. There are sidequests, big and small, galore.
– Epitome of RPG storytelling; a singular personal narrative from Origins to Inquisition
– Plethora of content which rarely repeats or overstays its welcome
– Beautiful, diverse range of scenery
– Surprisingly good multiplayer experience
– Some combat hindrances and missing features
– Lack of multiplayer content
Dragon Age: Inquisition is the game the franchise always needed. It blends the traditional RPG elements from BioWare’s back catalogue with the finer points of the competition, making for both an accessible Action-RPG with an exceptionally well-polished core as well as most importantly a true feat in video game storytelling, taking the narrative and series to new heights unequalled by all. Inquisition is the best high fantasy game to come out in years, and one that should be snapped up without a second thought. This just set the bar for other RPGs, and until they can blend 5 years of investment and story into a single experience, won’t be reaching anytime soon.