Dragon Age: Inquisition Review
In terms of sheer content and possible time-consumption, there aren’t many video games that will give you as much bang for your buck as DA: I. In truth, there aren’t really many products, in any form of entertainment media, that will bring as much to the plate as Dragon Age: Inquisition.
Dragon Age: Inquisition is the third game in the critically acclaimed series, developed by RPG powerhouse Bioware (Of Baldur’s Gate, Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect fame). Their reputation amongst fans of the RPG genre is highly favorable and they have developed some of the most iconic RPGs in video game history. Though many of the founders that lead “the old Bioware” have now left, Dragon Age: Inquisition is proof that Bioware is not short of talent, though the big names are gone.
Dragon Age: Inquisition lets you create your own character, create your own adventure, make your own choices and ultimately shape the course of the game itself.
You create your character from 1 of 4 different races (Human, Elf, Dwarf and the newly playable Qunari race) and then your class. You get to choose from 5 different classes: Two Handed Warrior, A warrior fighting with sword and shield, a dagger-wielding rogue, a bow-wielding rogue, or a mage. Furthermore there are 3 different specializations for mages, warriors and rogues.
While the different races will affect how the people of Thedas (The fantasy world in which the Dragon Age universe is set) will react to your character, whether that would be a positive or negative reaction, your class will affect the way the game behaves in combat.
You are put in the shoes of your newly created character and you are thrown into the middle of a crisis that threatens to destroy the world.
As a “veteran” Dragon Age player I found no problems in keeping up with the evolving plot, however, newcomers to the series might find themselves wondering what is going on at times. Thankfully, the good folks at Bioware have crafted an incredible encyclopedia of knowledge, so whenever you feel lost, there is a wealth of knowledge and explanation waiting only a few button-presses away, at any given time!
While the plot is decent (if not somewhat generic, though it certainly has its own twists and turns) and contains some great moments and decent set pieces, the real stars of the game, are all the characters you meet. Where the story perhaps falls short, with its somewhat forgettable villains, the fantastically crafted gallery of characters will keep you coming back for more.
Whether it’s the witty mage Dorian, the Dwarven scoundrel Varric, the Qunari Mercenary “Iron Bull” or the great cast of smaller, but no less important characters, the well-written dialogue and excellent voice-acting will be sure to bring laughter, smiles and emotions aplenty!
The wealth of different characters accompanying you on your journey to save the world, is quite admirable, and the characters I thought I’d dislike (I went into the game having acquired some knowledge on the cast of companions) were the ones, I grew to love the most. All the characters seem so multidimensional, that they really do feel like real people. The personal quests you can choose to go on for those characters, feel like they have real weight to them, because you really do grow to care for these people. One thing is certainly for sure: No matter who you are, you’ll be able to find a companion you love in this game.
Overall, the writing and dialogue is excellent. The choices feel like they have real weight behind them, and Bioware’s trademark dialogue-wheel will make you think twice before you commit to anything. As an example of choice and consequence, a companion fundamentally disagreed with me on several occasions and near the end of the game, this character chose to leave the Inquisition, never to be seen again. I had actually lost one of the characters forever. I would never get to complete this characters special sidequest. A testament to the impact your choices can have on the story.
On the same note, you will be siding with certain factions in the world over the course of the game, and your decisions will shape how the story will progress. Though the ending does not change depending on your choices, they all have a certain weight to them and none are taken lightly. It’s not a bad thing that the ending is set in stone (perhaps the Mass Effect 3 ending had some part in this) as I could hardly see the game end in any other way than it did. I’d even call it fitting.
The gameplay is as challenging and tactical as you wish it to be, with the mandatory difficulty settings in place. The easiest setting will set you up for the story without you having any real challenge in combat. This setting is excellent if you just wish to experience the role-playing, the dialogue and the story.
My first playthrough was on medium difficulty and my second on hard. Medium difficulty felt like a good balance to me on my first playthrough, giving me a good challenge in the big fights against Dragons, Giants, demons coming out of the fade rifts (These are basically portals to another world and you, as the inquisitor, is tasked with closing them and putting a stop to the evil in the world), while never feeling too hard or unforgiving. Hard difficulty required more use of tactics, and this is where the Tactical camera comes into play. This feature was missing from Dragon Age 2, to the great displeasure of many fans of the series, but makes a return to the game on all platforms. The tactical camera allows you to pause combat and select different actions, for your own character and your companions, such as utilizing abilities, drinking potions, throwing concoctions, or moving yourselves into more advantageous positions on the battlefield.
The camera is handy for the more difficult fights; however I didn’t really need it until I went onto hard difficulty. The tactical camera is not without fault though; the cursor with which you move around in the tactical camera will frequently get stuck in terrain and might have a hard time moving from one level of terrain to another. This is not too much of an issue if you’re playing on the lower difficulties, however on the harder ones, where more tactics are required for success. This quickly tears on your patience, and has yet to be fixed as of writing this review.
Equally annoying, were the bugs and glitches that inhabited the world of Thedas alongside its beautiful and desolate landscapes. Dialogues would sometimes bug out and you would be unable to choose something to say, NPCs or companions would sometimes freeze in their dialogue and multiple minutes would go by before they’ll continue, unless you chose to skip the otherwise excellent dialogue. This did not happen frequently for me, however it happened enough for me to have an issue with it. This, however, is not much of a concern after the first patch after launch finally arrived! This patch improves stability and almost eliminates these issues entirely. There are also changes that improve gameplay itself. This latest patch did bring up unforeseen issues, especially on the PC port. Caution on the PC port would still be advised, though the game is still fantastic. This reviewer only had minor technical issues on PS4 after the latest patch, which seemed to work wonders on the consoles.
Another issue, which still persists, with the game is the friendly AI. Positioning is a task best managed by the player, since ranged characters will often find themselves in the midst of a huddle of enemies, only to get stabbed or trampled to death. This is especially true in the larger fights against dragons and more mobile enemies. Likewise, the AI’s use of abilities can sometimes be questionable. This is something Bioware seriously needs to address as it is massively frustrating on the higher difficulty settings.
There are some visual glitches as well, such as some pop-ins and aliasing issues but you’ll be too busy interacting with the fantastically crafted world and its people to notice, however these issues are still noticeable at times. Graphically oddities like those are only apparent to this reviewer, because the game generally looks dashing. Gorgeous lush forests, torn and barren landscapes, and otherworldly places all look excellent. Characters are detailed and facial animations are good, however it won’t stand up to the likes of other games of this generation in terms of graphics. The game runs at 1080p, 30 fps on the PlayStation 4. This might be a problem to some, but personally, I found no issues with it. It is, however, a bit concerning that the game could not reach 60 fps. The PC port is another issue entirely, since it has been haunted by various technical issues, such as fps drops.
However, graphics are the least important part of a good RPG (though it really does look very pretty!) and where this RPG truly shines is in its staggeringly great characters, it’s excellent dialogue, top-quality voice acting and it’s delivery of an altogether unforgettable adventure which begs to be played again and again with different player created characters and different choices.
Sugar coat all of this with some fairly solid, enjoyable gameplay, which has retained the fun, action-based combat of Dragon Age 2, while allowing the player to play tactically, though not as tactically as in Dragon Age Origins, and you have a fantastic game with potentially hundreds of hours of content, just waiting for you to come and find it.
It’s a fine balance between the action-oriented combat of Dragon Age 2 and the tactical goodness of Dragon Age: Origins. Certain systems remain limited in scope, such as the leveling system, in which you won’t be able to allocate attributed like Dexterity and Strength. Instead, the player in confined to allocate skill points into the skilltrees, and those will occasionally grant attributes. Another way to influence your attributes is to use the finely created crafting system which has thousands, if not millions, of different combinations for both weapons and armor, with crafting materials scattered all over the world and weapon/armor schematics hidden in the deepest of dungeons. One of my favorite features of the crafting system is, that you can name the items you craft, which any role-playing fan will appreciate.
The multiplayer is alright, but nothing special. I’ve spent a few hours in it, but the real pull of Dragon Age: Inquisition is, of course, its singleplayer component. I would almost say the multiplayer isn’t worth your time, when you could be playing the excellent singleplayer instead, but if you have a few friends to play with, there is some fun to be had with Dragon Age: Inquisition’s multiplayer. Just don’t expect that fun to last for too long.
I’ve gone through ice, dust and flames with the Inquisition, spending more than 200 hours in-game and I’d be hard-pressed to find a better use of that time. I’ve gotten to know some unforgettable characters; I’ve laughed, I even shed a tear at one occasion, and like with the first game in the series, Dragon Age Origins, this game will be sure to stick with me for months, if not years to come.
Dragon Age: Inquisition was released on November 18th in North America, and November 21st in Europe. The game is available for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One and Xbox 360. You can buy it here, or on Origin.com
This game was purchased by the reviewer and played on the PlayStation 4.More About This Game