Dragon Age: Inquisition Review

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Dragon Age: Inquisition is a fantasy adventure RPG developed by Bioware and published by EA. It is the third installment of the Dragon Age series, after the popular Dragon Age: Origin and the disastrous Dragon Age 2. Inquisition does its best to take the rich and interesting world and tactical combat elements that drew so many people to the first game and added the streamlined controls and updated graphics that people didn’t hate about the second one. The result is a solid game that successfully apologized for Dragon Age 2 and possibly saved the franchise as a whole from dying.

Dragon Age: Inquisition follows the adventures of what will come to be known as the Herald of Andraste during a crisis that has struck the world called The Breach. The Breach is a tear in the thin veil that separates the mortal world from the world of magic where destructive demons come from called the Fade.  You, this Herald of Andraste, are the only one with the power to close the rifts that this breach is creating due to your crazy glowing hand. Together with a bunch of people who wanted to kill you, you create the titular Inquisition that sets out to figure out what is causing the breach and how you can close it off once and for all.

Gameplay

Dragon Age: Inquisition is an action-RPG, meaning the gameplay consists largely of exploring the large expanse of the world and occasionally the various caves, castles, and dungeons within it. Interestingly, this game has given you two different ways to go about doing this. You can play the game “normally,” meaning you control one character and walk around the world in a third-person view, or you can enter the game’s tactical mode and control the character by clicking on each spot you want to move to in a bird’s eye viewpoint, much like in Dragon Age: Origins. They both have their own significance, especially during combat. Against most enemies, fighting in third person and using your skills/spells fluidly is extremely satisfying. The weight that each attack carries feels great, even as a mage, and it is one of the things that Dragon Age 2 did really well that carried over here. Against tougher enemies, or in more complex combat scenarios, the tactical viewpoint is extremely useful, as it pauses the game and lets you issue commands to each of your companions to execute effective attack combinations. Unfortunately, both methods come with their annoying drawbacks. The controls in the third person mode feel very clunky at times, especially when trying to navigate around the terrain, and the camera can get extremely annoying to the point to where it makes it nearly impossible to do things like disrupt or close a rift, especially if playing with mouse and keyboard. The tactical view mode has a limit on how far from your selected character you can look toward, is kind of slow, and makes it very easy to lose track of where your characters are.

There is much more to Inquisition than just combat. You can travel to the Inquisition’s main base called Haven, where you can talk to (and sometimes flirt with) each of your companions, do some blacksmithing or alchemical crafting, and consult your advisors’ sort of “war table.” The war table acts in a similar way t the follower system in World of Warcraft’s new Warlords of Draenor expansion or various time-based Facebook or smartphone games. Basically, you send one of your three advisors our on a mission depending on their specialty, and they will come back with a reward after a certain amount of time, usually ranging from about 15 minutes to an hour. It is kind of a neat system and a way to gain certain items or influence, which you can use to buy various perks. Add on top of all of that the tons of quests and little surprises to explore this game has to offer, and you will almost never run out of fun things to do.

Story

The story in Inquisition is actually very similar to the story in Origins, only this time instead of darkspawn, you are fighting magic demons. Instead of the Blight, you have the Breach. It seems lazy at first, but it actually fits the game’s pre-established lore. Neither the demons, nor the idea of the rifts in the veil are new concepts, as you fight this sort of thing in a side story in Origins. It is unsurprising that a large-scale tear such as the Breach would happen eventually. More importantly, the story is told in one of the best ways possible, through exploration, questioning, and dialogue. You learn more about the Fade, the demons, the rifts, and all of the other little things that are going on in this world because you want to, not because the game just tells you. There are also a mess of books and notes to find throughout the world that will give you even more in-depth accounts to the story. If you want to play through the game knowing no more than what you need to do to stop the Breach, the Inquisition will not stop you. You essentially control the pacing of the storytelling yourself.

That said, there are tons of things going on while you’re trying to fix the hole in the sky. Tensions between the Templars and mages are higher than they ever have been before, going so far as to ignite a war between them. Then there are tensions within the Chantry (in-game church), issues with the Qunari, and a mystery surrounding the Grey Wardens. In short, you will find no shortage of side stories to plunge into.

Character development is excellent in a very similar way to the story as a whole. Many of the characters you can gain as companions are entirely optional, much more so your personal involvement with them. You can invest yourself deeply in their backstories, or you can ignore them altogether. After their introductions, they will rarely insert themselves in your face unless you bring them with you on your adventures. If you find one annoying, then you can just kick them out. Probably the most impressive character development, though, is that of your own player character. Your character will have a rough outline of his or her background based on the race and class combination you choose at creation. For example, my human mage was born in nobility and sent into the Mage’s Circle at a relatively young age as most people with an affinity for magic tend to do. The really neat part is that you construct all of the details through your dialogue with other characters. Someone will ask me if I miss my home, and I can say yes, or I can say that I hated my hometown. This stuck out at me most when one of my companions asked me about a particular character from the Mage’s Circle. I had the opportunity to say that she was my mentor, close friend, bitter rival, or even someone I did not know at all. Neither of these answers were lies, they were just ways for me to construct my own character’s place in the world, and that was freaking cool.

Graphics

The world was just absolutely beautiful. All of the landscape felt gorgeous and atmospheric in a way that hinted at the looming danger of both the supernatural demons and the real world strife of war and conflict. Peaceful fields were interrupted by abandoned ruins or shacks, and it all looked great. Everywhere you went, you could see the massive green hole in the sky. Even at times where it was near impossible to actually get the camera to look up at the sky, I could always see the green reflection of the breach off of my character’s helmet, constantly reminding me of the danger the world was in, not unlike the feeling you get from the moon in The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. The armor on all of the characters was very well detailed. You could see the fuzz on a wizard’s vest and each individual scale on a warrior’s armor. Individually, the armor and the world were amazing, but oddly they didn’t always seem to fit together all that well. While the armor and world interacted together well in the form of lighting and wind effects, the art style between the two kind of clashed a bit. Also, the characters’ hair had a habit of looking like plastic, so this was one game where I made it a point to keep the helmets on. Each of the characters’ faces were very detailed and either pretty or interesting, which is a godsend, since you will see a lot of close-ups in the dialogue. The animation during dialogue was very robotic, which is something that has been fairly consistent throughout the Dragon Age series. It is kind of weird, though, since the combat animation is so fluid and cool-looking.

Sound

Inquisition’s music is impressive. Right out the gate, you are greeted with beautiful and emotional music in the main menu. The general background music is nice, but the songs that the bards sing in the taverns, particularly noticeable in Haven, put Skyrim to shame. It had me sitting idle in the tavern for a solid twenty minutes, just listening. The voice acting is great too, and even distracts from the animatronic-style animation that occurs in the dialogue bits. Some of the many accents can sound a bit forced, though.

Value

Dragon Age: Inquisition is currently available on Origin, as well as in stores, for about $60 USD. I have so far only spent about twenty hours on the game, but still I feel like I have really only scratched the surface. With all of the side quests, crafting, and story-delving, this title has well over 100 hours’ worth of gameplay, and that is only accounting for one character. With all of the different character races, classes, class trees, faction choices, romantic choices, etc. there is a ton of replay value in this game.

Summary

Dragon Age: Inquisition is a game with an absolutely monumental list of things that you can do in it. The story is interesting and compelling, but not so in your face that you will quickly get sick of it. There are plenty of characters worth investing time to get to know, including your own. The graphics are solid, and the music is beautiful. There are some issues here and there that might get extremely annoying at times, but the things you get to discover make it bearable enough to enjoy the game as a whole. All in all, Dragon Age: Inquisition is a great game that I might even try to play through a few times.

Score:              4 / 5

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