The score is suitably epic – as always – and the intentionally cheesy-at-times acting is a good fit. It’s let down by the odd audio bug here and there though.
Thedas has never looked so good. BioWare could do with a whole new engine for faces and facial animations though. It’s about time the studio caught up with the rest of the industry.
The combat is as intuitive as Dragon Age II’s, with the strategy of Origins – if you want it. It’s a little buggy at times, which can put a downer on the experience.
An epic, sprawling adventure across Thedas, that takes you from Orlais all the way through Ferelden, spreading your influence as far and wide as it will go. A gripping story in a world full of wonder. Oh, and there's multiplayer too, if that floats your boat.
A truly enjoyable list with a little ingenuity, a relatively good spread and solid balance.
November 20, 2014
Dragon Age has often been the bastard sibling of BioWare's Edmonton-based studio and its much more popular brother. If Mass Effect is the high-school quarterback, Dragon Age is its geeky, quiet, but equally as talented little brother. Often in the shadow of its big brother, Dragon Age chugs along out of the spotlight, doing – at times – greater things than its older brother, but never getting the kind of attention it deserves. Dragon Age: Inquisition is basically puberty for the franchise. Overnight the younger brother has grown a few inches, his voice has shifted an octave and his acne has cleared up. It’s time for the little brother to get noticed.
Dragon Age: Inquisition sees you take control of a brand new protagonist who unknowingly gets pulled into preventing a potentially world ending cataclysmic event. Basically, a hole has opened up in the sky and it threatens life in Thedas as you and its inhabitants know it. It’s classic BioWare zero to hero stuff, really, chock full of plot twists and cameos from previous games. But more importantly, it’s coherent, engaging and epic in terms of scale and set pieces. If you’ve not played a Dragon Age game before, fear not, Inquisition makes for a good starting point.
A lot of the criticisms aimed at Dragon Age II are a thing of the past in Dragon Age: Inquisition. The main one is that the era of reused art assets for the environments is gone now. And what we have in its place is a wonderfully huge and expansive world that ranges from beautiful elven forests and barren deserts, to snowcapped mountains and rain soaked coastal regions. There’s ten huge environments in all, and a ton of one-mission-only regions that crop up throughout. Thedas has never felt so alive, and more importantly, so rich in content.
The sheer amount of activities and quests on offer is astounding and Inquisition is probably BioWare’s biggest game in quite some time. At the core of the game lies the Inquisition mechanics, where you must build your army forces to progress through the main story arc.
This may include setting up camps in the various environments, claiming keeps, helping villagers, acquiring agents for your cause, using the map table to send out agents to spread your influence, killing dragons, casting your judgement on enemies you capture, collecting materials, ordering the Inquisition to, for instance, build a bridge to access a previously inaccessible area, collecting shards to unlock the secrets of Thedas, sealing rifts, using Astrariums to access loot caves and more. So. Much. More. There’s easily 100 hours worth of content. I’ve played 97 hours on my one save and I’m still overwhelmed by how much I have left to do.
Inquisition is still very much a monstrous RPG title as well, and aside from players being able to craft armour and weapons, but you can now add attachments to them, modify them, create and upgrade potions. You can upgrade the Inquisition stronghold too, and for the first time in the series, you can customise your companions’ armour and weapons too. And yes, being a BioWare title, you can also handcraft your own protagonist, although the character editor is still awfully clumsy and terribly last-gen.
BioWare has bizarrely decided to change up its levelling system as well, meaning you don’t actually choose where your stats go now – whether it be on cunning, magic, dexterity or so on. Instead, when you level up you get an ability point to spend and you invest that in the skill tree, where your character skill points are also earned. It’s a backwards step if you ask us.
Then there’s the decision to get rid of healing mages – something already established in Dragon Age lore and replace it with potions to heal, which is baffling. It essentially means that you’re heading back more often for supplies now – you can only hold a handful: again, bizarre – artificially extending an experience that really doesn’t need extending and managing to frustate all at once.
The game is extremely unbalanced at times as well – archers do too much damage, mages are extremely susceptible to damage and more – and it genuinely means that you can head into battles under-levelled and end up screwing yourself over. Not once – and I reached level 20 – did I feel like an all powerful badass. Instead, to get past some of the tougher encounters I was having to use exploits to get past them, like tricking the enemy into thinking he couldn’t get to me or exploiting the fact that some enemies can’t cross certain invisible lines.
I even went into missions where I was supposedly over-levelled – according to the recommended level to play it as – and I was struggling… on normal difficulty. I dread to think what some of the tougher enemies are like on nightmare difficulty!
Players after a more tactical affair akin to that of Origins, now have the tactical view, which lets them play the game at a much slower and more methodical pace. It actually becomes a necessity at times for all players, mainly to suss out your enemy’s weaknesses or even their level – it’s possible to come across high level opponents in the open-world environments where retreat is the best plan of action.
Inquisition is also a game that’s plagued by various issues, like the fact that BioWare decided to put jump – yes, you can now jump – on the same button as interact/pick up object, which will have you picking up loot mid battle when you’re really trying to vault over some barrels. Then there’s the fact that your ally pathfinding is godawful at times, the load screens can be brutally agonising, the lip syncing is pretty bad – something that BioWare really needs to sort out if they want to keep up with Rockstar and co. when it comes to storytelling – and the mounts – yes, there’s mounts now too – are rather slow and clunky.
Then there’s the bugs. Dragon Age: Inquisition could really have done with another month in development to polish and round off some of the ragged edges, because in its current form it’s as rough as how I feel on a Sunday morning after a night on the town. On more than one occasion the game crashed, I got stuck in the map, kept experiencing audio bugs that meant I lost the sound, got locked to one character in combat, and bizarrely, actually broke the game multiple times and needed to restart it.
Keep that shield up.
Thankfully the autosaving is great and I lost literally no progress every time I had to restart. Granted, some of these were isolated incidents in 100+ hours of gameplay, but some of them were genuinely easy to recreate, making you wonder what the hell their QA team was doing.
Despite those little niggles, Dragon Age: Inquisition is an epic journey though. One that everyone should experience. Something I wholeheartedly stand by. Oh, and there’s co-operative multiplayer too, very similar to that of Mass Effect 3, and like that, largely forgettable. Dragon Age: Inquisition is a single-player game, and I’d be doing the game an injustice to dedicate anymore of the review to the multiplayer, which is a temporary distraction at best.
If that doesn’t tempt you, maybe the achievements will, because – credit to BioWare here – it’s actually a really good list, one that encourages you to seek out the best the game has to offer. Dragon killing, finding the game’s best temple and unlocking its secrets, cross-combo attacks, causing severe damage in one hit, crafting super rare goodies and more. Sure, there’s a lot of by the numbers stuff, but that’s to be expected. Good luck with Nightmare though… it’s giving me nightmares just thinking about it.
There’s nothing exceptionally next-gen about Dragon Age: Inquisition, but BioWare has undoubtedly crafted the best instalment in the series thus far. It’s not without its problems, but if you can look past those, Dragon Age: Inquisition is an epic journey in a huge, diverse world that makes you feel like you’re in control of yours and Thedas’ destiny.