Published on December 15th, 2014 | by Wez Evans0
REVIEW: Dragon Age: Inquisition
This generation of consoles has seen its share of ports, flops, and broken, unplayable games. Leave it to a developer like BioWare to create something that not only adheres to suggestions from its playerbase but that also – and it’s sad that this is such a novelty – works.
That’s not to say that Dragon Age: Inquisition doesn’t have its share of bugs, they’re just not game breaking and they’re certainly forgivable. Between densely populated social situations and vast explorable areas with the ever looming threat of dragon attacks, there’s a lot going on. A sprinkle of non-gamebreaking issues are understandable, although your milage may vary.
You play as The Inquisitor, a character of your own design, marked at the start of the game by a green, flaming brand, which grants the ability to close fade rifts: tears in reality causing demons to pour into the world of Thedas from the spirit world. If you’ve played any of the previous Dragon Age games then you roughly know what you’re in for. Lore heavy conversations, political intrigue, and an ever expanding roster of unique characters.
Dragon Age: Inquisition – Gameplay Launch Trailer
If you haven’t played a DA game before well then unfortunately you’re going to find yourself playing catch-up. Codex entries do a good job of filling in the blanks if players don’t quite understand why mages and templars aren’t always the best of friends and you’ll pick up a lot of the rest as you go along but for a first visit to the land of dragons and darkspawn this might be a trial by fire.
The central story is serviceable with a solid escalation of events and the distracting sidequests are almost always enjoyable, to the point that you really need to ignore the world around you if you want to actually progress in Inquisition’s main campaign. These do include generic fetch quests (go collect 10 of this item, repeat) but those activities are all requisitions obtained from the same source and can be safely ignored.
Combat is the strongest it’s ever been, blending the meticulous micromanagement of Origins with the satisfying, visceral attacks of DA2. Melee hits and staff casts pack a serious punch and are thankfully inputted by holding the right trigger button – a huge improvement from DA2’s button mashing.
“Control has never been this total.”
Your AI companion’s are competent and players can set what attacks should be used in when so for the most part it’s possible to complete Inquisition while only controlling your own character, although switching to your teammates makes controlling the fight that much easier.
Interestingly, the biggest change to skirmishes is the topdown Tactical View. It was a key feature in the PC version of Origins and completely changed how the game was played. Now it’s on consoles and it’s hard to imagine going back. Pausing combat and allowing the player to issue commands from anywhere on the battlefield, this feature gives you time to assess and moderate situations as they arise. Whether it’s zooming out, setting targets, and snapping back to control a specific character as your team carries out their orders or remaining topdown and squeezing the right trigger to progress time and keep an eye on events as they happen, control has never been this total.
There are no healing spells in Inquisition – bar Vivienne’s incredibly useful super attack later in the game – and this also affects how you fight. There are various healing potions but they’re limited. The way to stay alive is to make sure the person being smacked is someone wearing armour and someone who has Guard, which is built up by warriors via various skills. Mages can cast barriers and rogues can stealth and lay traps, putting a strong focus on preventing damage rather recovering from it. It gives each fight more tempo and makes more difficult battles a little less forgiving.
Crafting (because it’s not a fantasy game unless you have crafting. Also giant spiders.) breaks down into potion brewing, weapon and armour smithing, and runecrafting, all of which are fairly simple and customisable, with weapons and armour winding up with different stats and colours depending which materials are used. It can be dabbled in or fully experimented with, it all depends on how deep you want to get and how often you find yourself distracted by sidequests as they often lead you to useful pieces of gear.
Separate to all of that is multiplayer, which is fun in short bursts but not the main draw. You play as one member in a team of four as you run through fairly bare-bones campaign quests. It’s interesting to play with other human beings but without the drive of BioWare’s unique storytelling behind it the whole thing is reasonably forgettable. There are unlockable classes and upgradeable gear, neither of which are worth more than a paragraph by way of review. So that’s that done I guess.
With a gigantic world and an unfathomable amount of voiced dialogue options, bugs are unavoidable. Fortunately we didn’t find any that hindered our progress but they were annoying nonetheless.
During our playthrough we encountered several scenes where a line of dialogue wouldn’t appear and were left staring at the person speaking like they’d forgotten their line. The only way to progress was to skip several lines which in some situations meant missing important information. In one situation two charachters started arguing amongst themselves and then froze. After being forced to skip several lines of dialogue we were given a choice as to which of them would live, with no indication as to how things escalated to that point.
“Inquisition is a beautiful game, and the clear masterwork of the Dragon Age series.”
Equally frustrating is a bug involving the import of a character from previous games. Just as an old acquaintance is introduced – assuming you entered your choices to Dragon Age: Keep– you’ll be prompted with the option to either use their default personality and appearance or import your own and redesign their look. Unfortunately the latter will switch your Inquisitors voice to the alternate voice actor, which in the case of both male and female characters is drastically different. We opted to allow this default stranger to seep its way into our lives in favour of keeping our hero intact.
Minor technical faults aside, Inquisition is a beautiful game, and the clear masterwork of the Dragon Age series. Fantasy and RPG fans should absolutely check this out but be aware that you’ll be jumping in at the deep end of a very large but entertaining pool. Fans of the series shouldn’t hesitate, Thedas has has never been so immense.
This is a top tier BioWare adventure and arguably the tipping point in this console generation.
This review is based on a review copy of Dragon Age: Inquisition for Playstation 4, provided by EA.