Dragon Age: Inquisition Review – Saving the World

Dragon Age: Origins is considered by many to be one of the greatest RPGs of the past decade. The new IP showed tremendous promise back in 2009 when the game released, combining some of the best ideas that BioWare had crafted over the years in a new fantasy universe, rich with strategic combat and impactful decisions to be made by the player. Just a couple years later Dragon Age 2 would release. While it tried to push the franchise further, many thought it took a few steps back, losing the interest of some fans of the original in the process. 

BioWare immediately began working on Dragon Age: Inquisition, a game that is intended to show that Dragon Age refuses to be anything less than a top-tier RPG. Has it succeeded?

 

This World is Yours to Define

There are decisions to be made throughout the Dragon Age: Inquisition narrative that have dramatic ramifications on the game world. Building up the Inquisition is a main goal throughout the game, and you’ll meet a variety of noteworthy characters from different factions, deciding to either ally or do away with them. Critical points in the path are often, making each player’s journey through the 50 or so hour campaign their own.

Your influence on the narrative is impactful, making you feel like the story is yours. You will see the results of your actions; your decisions have very real consequences. This also comes in the form of altering which tasks you set out on. During several main missions, you’ll decide how to handle a situation, and the mission will divert accordingly. It makes you feel powerful, and not like you’re being driven down a linear tunnel as many RPGs do.

BioWare has even gone as far as to let you import a profile based on hundreds of decisions made from both previous Dragon Age games. This is a game that makes ever effort to let you forge the tale, and it begins before you even turn the game on.

Your influence on the narrative is impactful, making you feel like the story is yours.

Another point to drive home is that this is not a character based RPG, but rather a team oriented one. Dragon Age: Inquisition is about the adventure of your crew as you build up the Inquisition to battle the evil of the world. So, engaging with each character and learning more about them is integral to the experience, rather than self-reflecting one like Dragon Age 2.

That said, you do get to make a character. There are a variety of options, including a choice between several races, and even gender. This character is the only one you can control when in town or in certain story sequences, so make sure he or she is someone you like.

Building up the Inquisition isn’t as thoughtfully crafted as it could have been, though. There is a system in the game where you send out loyal members of the faction to complete optional tasks, rewarding you with things like gold and influence upon completion. While they are intended to make you feel like there’s a lot going on in the background, the systems seems as if they were shoe-horned into the game given how basic and repetitive the inputs are. There are other systems which are similarly convoluted.

That said, the battle between humanity and demons is an interesting affair in Dragon Age: Inquisition that has its weak points, but as a whole it’s content-rich and compelling.

 

A Wonderful World

Dragon Age: Inquisition‘s world is by far the largest that next-gen consoles have seen to this point. Set in Ferelden and Orlais, its map stretches from the calm plains of The Hinterlands to the colossal rock formations of Storm Coast. Environments are vast, littered with content and a high attention to detail. You can see flowers flow with the breeze, and the ripples of water as foe and friend alike step through streams of running water.

A lot of the journey is open-ended, allowing you to fast travel to a camp in one of the zones and begin adventuring. When in a zone navigation is seamless. Though, there are lengthy load times separating each map.

You’ll run across quests when out and about, coming to the aid of others and discovering mysterious objects. Sometimes it can be difficult to find a place to go that’s for your level range, resulting in you traveling to a location and looking around for enemies that are within a level of you. This isn’t particularly a problem until later in the game, though.

There’s a great mixture of quests that give the game a sense of unpredictability. These quests are bolstered by hidden treasure, leading you to tread with awareness. While there are a few quests that are shared between zones, the game manages to change things up often enough that repetition isn’t a concern.

There’s a great mixture of quests that give the game a sense of unpredictability.

For a large portion of the journey you’ll consume these quests, diving into interesting sub-stories—if you’re an Elder Scrolls fan you may fine some of its flavor here. However, the main narrative is driven through a critical path laden with missions that are dense with story. The path of these missions are altered by decisions you make, but the path you take during the missions are linear in nature, typically leading to a major battle of some sort. For the most part, the main missions are held to a high standard, although there are some tedious moments that slow the pacing down.

Between the critical path and side quests you’re looking at a 50 to 60 hour adventure. If you want to digest everything you can find in Ferelden and Orlais, you’ll have no problem getting a solid 100 hours from the game.

There’s also a multiplayer component that is separate from the campaign. In multiplayer, you team up with three others and engage in 20 to 30 minute missions to acquire experience and gear. It’s a great way to enjoy the game with friends, but controlling one character in action mode is not where Dragon Age: Inquisition shines.

 

You Have My Sword!

 

The combat system in Dragon Age: Inquisition takes the best of its predecessors and combines them into one fluid experience. Usually, you will engage with enemies in a third-person over-the-shoulder perspective of any one of the four characters in your party. From there, you’re able to move around, use abilities, and even instantly swap to any one of the other characters.

Where it gets particularly interesting is when you toggle into the tactical camera. At that moment, time will pause and you can look around the battlefield to observe the health of a character or enemy, and decide what you want to do next. From here, you can execute an order for all four characters, and then proceed to control the time progression of battle. It works very well.

The A.I. falters in some cases, which makes the tactical camera a must for the more difficult battles. For example, a Warrior controlled by the A.I. might use Charging Bull and end up far away from enemies leaving your thinly armored comrades vulnerable. Or, a double dagger equipped Rogue may completely forget to use Evasion to dodge damage. You’re going to want to assume control of your team in any circumstances where the enemy exerts pressure on you, especially during boss encounters.

Related: Why Dragon Age: Inquisition is Bigger and Better Than Dragon Age 2

Another interesting design decision was to not have any form of healing spells in the game. Instead, you will rely on potions that are shared between your characters. Your potion allotment can be refilled when back at camp, and you’ll occasionally find supply boxes in the game world, but you’ll soon learn that these potions are the lifeblood of your party. You’ll be reliant on these potions to survive, in addition to taking advantage of the Guard mechanic that protects a Warrior’s health, and short-term Barriers that Mages can cast on teammates. You’ll want to design a team that’s well-rounded and utilizes the strengths of each class.

Each party member can level up, earning new ability points to be spent on a variety of skills. There are three classes, each with roughly five skill trees each, so you’ll have a lot of choices to make in terms of how you build your team. Some skills are definitely more powerful than others, so choose wisely.

You’ll also need to equip your team with armor and weapons. It’s rare to find an upgrade, so when you find them you’ll have reason to be excited. The armor and gear is highly detailed, as are the character models, making the journey from level 1 to 20 an evolutionary one.

 

Conclusion

Dragon Age: Inquisition‘s beautiful world isn’t just a theme park looking to entertain with pre-built rides, it makes you feel like a part of the equation with major choices to be made, and often.  Its combat system is a great mixture of its two predecessors, offering means to play in both action and strategy modes. Although, CPU controlled characters don’t exercise good judgement, making strategic play the better choice in most scenarios. There are also some low points in the narrative path which may hinder some from completing the lengthy journey, but it delivers interesting quests often enough to keep the ride going.

In an era where it’s uncommon to see an open-world RPG, let alone one equipped with an engaging story and fun combat, Dragon Age: Inquisition has appeared to remind everyone that it’s still possible, even with remarkable graphics.

Jonathan Leack is the Gaming Editor for CraveOnline. You can follow him on Twitter @jleack.


Copy provided by publisher. Dragon Age: Inquisition is available on PC, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, and Xbox 360

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