November 27, 2014 by Paul Curtin
After upsetting fans with Dragon Age II and Mass Effect 3, BioWare is back trying to redeem themselves with yet another controversial third installment to one of their most beloved franchises. Whether it’s new gameplay mechanics that cater to the masses, social agendas, glitches, or controversial endings, there’s almost always something for someone to find fault with due to just how massive and ambitious their recent games have become. But for the most part, BioWare has found a way to keep using their successful RPG formula in Dragon Age: Inquisition to craft yet another grand adventure that dwarfs other games in the same genre.
Just like in past BioWare games, those who have played Dragon Age games before will be able to import their saved history into Inquisition and ensure that all of the decisions they’ve made in the past will have an effect on this new story. Don’t worry if you haven’t played Dragon Age before because there’s even the ability to create a custom backstory through the developer’s detailed online Keep feature to help get you caught up on everything that’s happened so far.
In typical RPG fashion, when creating your custom Inquisitor, you’ll be able to choose from four different races: human, dwarf, elf, or a horned giant called a Qunari. Based on this choice, you’ll have a slightly different backstory and dialog options due to the character’s culture; however, these differences are mostly cosmetic and don’t play into the grand scheme of things as much as you might hope.
After picking a race, you’ll then be able to select a class that comes with a unique set of abilities, weaponry, special moves, and even class-reactive story content. Classes go by your basic cookie-cutter RPG format, allowing you to pick from a Warrior, Rogue, or Mage. Because of the talent upgrade system, each character has its own skill tree that allows each to have their own expertise with a different specialization.
Warriors can focus on being heavy tanks with shields or damage dealers with two-handed weapons. Rogues can go the stealth dual-dagger route and get up close and personal or focus on ranged attacks from afar. The only big difference between previous Dragon Age games is the lack of a true devoted healer. Mages have the ability to heal and create barrier shields to protect allies, but healing in Inquisition focuses on sharing a limited amount of potions between your team.
And it’s this team consisting of four members that keeps gameplay feeling fresh and interesting. You can swap out characters and take control over them in combat at any time so that you’re never locked into playing a single class. This is great if, say, after twenty or more hours you realize you don’t like your initial class choice and want to play another without starting over.
Each character has his or her own unique personality and even additional side-quests that can help build a relationships with them on the side. While you might have your favorites that stick with you the most, more challenging enemies on higher difficulty modes have resistances to certain elements, so you’ll need to swap out party members if, for example, your main mage has fire damage and the dragon you’re battling will be easier to slay with a frost mage. Or you can always just stick to your primary group for a real challenge… but this can also hurt the main story as you’ll be missing out on getting to know everyone involved in the lengthy story.
Inquisition opens ten years after the events of Dragon Age: Origins and only a few weeks after the epilogue of Dragon Age II. As peace talks are underway between warring mages and Templars, a massive explosion erupts and rips open a giant portal in the sky that demons begin to pour out from. You’re the only remaining survivor of this blast and have gained a mysterious power from it… but cannot remember how. Without time to waste, it’s your role as the Inquisitor to quickly reform the inquisition and try to close the breach and restore order.
Even with so much at stake, Inquisition takes its time when telling its heroic tale. After an exciting boss battle right from the start, the story’s pacing significantly slows down when you begin your journey in the first area known as the Hinterlands. It’s here that the game can quickly turn players off. With the current unpopular trend of shorter triple-A games only lasting around 6 hours, completionists can easily find themselves stuck in this intro area for the same amount of time, trying to finish every single quest and writing the game off thinking these basic simple side-quests are all the game has to offer. Do not make this mistake!
It’s not until venturing out of the game’s starting zone that the sense of an epic adventure kicks in. A disturbing villain quickly emerges during an epic sequence of events, and it becomes clear that he’s the game’s biggest threat and must be stopped. It’s this story that at times can be convoluted and at other times too generic, but ultimately, it is enough to keep pushing you forward throughout the game’s rollercoaster ride of highs and lows as you craft your own hero’s journey. Sadly, there are no true villain options like other BioWare games and other restrictions that take away from from the experience if you were expecting a pure choose-your-own-way adventure.
Considering that Inquisition can take anywhere from 50 to 200 hours to complete, the pacing is done very well. Even after my 60 hours with the game there are still parts of my keep that I’m sure I haven’t discovered I can upgrade yet. Little things such as upgrading tapestry or the throne you’ll sit upon and judge people are a nice touch. When venturing out of your fortress, every new environment that you’ll come across contains what seems an endless amount of new tasks to complete. Some of these objectives can be as lame as going to a certain area to collect shards off the ground like a boring MMO while others can involve epic dragon battles or encounters with foes that can have a direct effect on the world and the strength of your inquisition.
If anything, it’s the world in Inquisition that’s literally its biggest selling point. Just like the original and Skyrim, the continent of Thedas is simply stunning. Many times while venturing out into the wild on your journey you’ll be left just admiring the environment and your beautiful surroundings. As you traverse Thedas in awe of the frozen mountain tops, lush green forests, and arid sandy deserts, you won’t know when a dragon might fly overhead and trigger the beginning of an epic encounter. Unfortunately, exploration isn’t as rewarding as in the original, but there are still the occasional caves you’ll come across with secrets to uncover that help tempt you off the beaten path every now and then.
While many of the side-quests are boring and repetitive, BioWare has cleverly given these lesser quests more meaning by requiring them to be completed before the more important primary missions can be started. Completing side-quests not only result in obtaining better weapons and armor to gear up your crew, but also increases to your power. At any time you can open up the map and jump to different locations and complete quests in whatever order you please, but you’ll need to have a certain level of power before you can venture too far out; otherwise you’ll meet your maker quickly when trying to do battle with much higher level foes.
For the combat system, BioWare has tried to merge a fast-paced third person action game with the option to stop time similar to a real-time strategy game and make tactical decisions as you command your team of allies. It’s this system that can be hit or miss. The game’s primary combat system is a bit clunky, and it can be hard targeting enemies precisely when playing in real time and attacking/defending in third person. When pausing time and switching to the tactical camera, combat can be even more frustrating (especially on PC) as the camera doesn’t easily pan around the battlefield as you would expect in an RTS where quick micro-management is expected.
In addition to some wonky controls, the character A.I. of your party members can sometimes do more to frustrate you in battle than help you. There’s the ability to set combat tactics for each one of your four party members, but even then, there are times that you’ll find your allies running around in circles not knowing what to do after you’ve specifically assigned them roles and targets to attack.
With time, some of these frustrating elements can be alleviated as you gain a greater understanding of how to work (or work around) the combat system. Eventually, things begin to click, and while not perfect, battles become exciting and make for some of the most exciting RPG encounters ever when trying to take down challenging dragons as epic music plays in the background and sets the perfect scene.
There’s even a four player online co-op mode that gives the game more life after spending entire days in the single-player adventure. The Inquisitor you create in single-player won’t be linked to this mode in any way, and instead there are multiple other new characters who use the same class system and talents that can be unlocked. It’s more Gauntlet Legends than Diablo… but that’s not a bad thing and this mode is easy another way to spend even more time with the game. Although in its current state this multiplayer mode is pretty slim, it has tons of potential now that the developers can focus on adding more content such as dragons and other massive boss fights in future free DLC packs like Mass Effect.
With so much going on in such a massive game, it’s easy to nit-pick all the little things wrong with Inquisition to the point that a review highlighting all of them could begin to sound too negative. BioWare’s latest starts off slow and is certainly not without its flaws, but as you invest more time forming your inquisition, it becomes evident that this is one of the biggest and best games of the year. Come for the political drama and espionage. Stay for the epic dragon battles that continue on even after the credits roll. Dragon Age: Inquisition gets 4.5 out of 5 stars (Amazing).
- Visually stunning massive world
- Epic dragon battles
- Great RPG mechanics
- An endless amount of things to do
- Memorable characters
- Clunky combat and camera
- Too many restrictions on moral choices
- Questing can be a chore at times