Dragon Age: Inquisition (REVIEW)

written by Jay Hammon (@Gravity_Flux)

I was in a slump when it came to the game offerings of the current gen consoles. Hype-fest and indie titles alike were letting me down and swaying me more and more from buying games that I would end up trading-in; sometimes in as little as days. I was becoming jaded and I knew it. It was during one such conversation with a fellow gamer that I said I need a good RPG to release so I have something to pour hours into while I wait for some other good games to release. My friend happily chortled out ‘Dragon Age’ in a sing song voice that reminded me of the opening to Gummi Bears. I winced. I really enjoyed the first offering in this series and was just a step above hating the second offering so this wasn’t my idea of the video game messiah that I was hoping for. I’m glad I gave Bioware’s latest offering a shot before I completely wrote it off. This is the RPG I needed to keep me going until more games worth my time and money release. I’m a fan of Dragon Age again!

As is the case with nearly every game of this ilk you start off by creating your hero. You pick your class, design your facial features, hair style, markings, etc. It’s your typical fare; you can be as whimsical and outlandish as you please. Since I began my journey into Inquisition during no shave November I gave my warrior a burly beard and hopped into the game. You start off with a bit of amnesia and find yourself in the middle of a huge catastrophe of which you’re the primary suspect. You’ll spend the initial part of the game trying to earn people’s trust and to clear your name.

a Quinari Inquisitor meeting Solas

As you delve deeper into the game you gain influence and power. These allow you to open up new areas to explore and to influence the world you’re exploring. As part of the Inquisition you’ll choose the right member of the war council to help you in these areas. As you explore more lands and help more people as the Herald of Andraste you’ll also garner more followers or teammates. Stopping by a stronghold or a camp will allow you to alter your party of four heroes to your liking. You can mix and match in any order you prefer. For a few skirmishes I tried going without a rogue but having a leveled up rogue using a bow is something I would no longer recommend trying. As you switch your characters around you’ll be able to enjoy their banter back and forth. This really helps fill in some backstory and history of the game’s universe as well as flesh out the characters more. Being able to hear them chat about the issues of the day or just talk about whatever random things (and they can be truly random) come to mind really makes your team feel like a real group of people out exploring together. It’s like that hike you went on with your roommates in college… except there’s dragons and demons but less Budweiser.

by the power of green glowy hand thing...

Each character will have a skill tree that is broken down into a few sections. First things first; you’ll want to spend some time looking over each section so you can have a strategy as to how you want to build your character. Once you have a path in mind it will make it easier to maximize each skill point you spend. As you wander around you’ll need to harvest materials to be used in creating potions and for crafting. In DA:I you can craft weapons, armor and upgrades for both. As you loot corpses and chests you’ll come across schematics for new items that may be exactly what your broadsword or staff needed to kick things up a gear and prep you for that big battle you’ve been grinding out levels for. I do wish it was more apparent which upgrades would work for currently equipped weapons as I found myself wasting resources on a few occasions but it’s a good system to level up a weapon you’ve already equipped. Harvesting and crafting are just a hint at what you can do in Dragon Age. There are so many missions and places to explore, so many creatures to discover and battles to fight. You’ll spend countless hours just trying to clear all the shadow off your map to make sure you’ve discovered everything. I’ve never been a completionist when it comes to games but I’ve found myself finishing almost everything in one section before moving on. It’s just such a well-crafted and enjoyable world to explore. I had logged countless hours before I saw my first dragon and when I did I squealed like a pig and hastily grabbed my phone to snap a photo of the screen to send to a buddy. “I saw a dragon!” To which my friend responded… “Why, yes, yes you did”. It was like when you pat a child on the head for not dumping their juice all over themselves. But once you’ve played the game you’ll understand.

I've got skills

Visually the world is both huge and beautiful. You’ll find yourself in all manner of terrain. Beaches, mountains, desserts, swamps… it’s all there for you to find. The animation is smooth and flows well. When you first stand atop a mountain and look down over the surrounding lands you can see the attention to detail; vague trails of smoke in the distance or crashing waves on a beach that are just barely heard over the battle you’re currently fighting. The voice acting is really well done. Keep your ears open when you’re in a town or village because some of the background chatter is hilarious. Again, the conversation between party members is entertaining and gives you another reason to explore the world; more time walking equals more conversations. As you talk with characters you’ll either earn the approval or disapproval of your teammates. While this initially seemed really cool (like in the Mass Effect series) but after the first few hours or so I noticed those notifications popping up less and less and I never really felt the effects of them. Towards the end of the game the effects of an approval or disapproval will come into play with those who choose to stand by your side in the final battle. I wish the effects of my choices would have been more frequent and more apparent as this system didn’t really feel properly fleshed out to me.

Thedas is splendidly realized...

and so is this place where Gravity doesn't work...

The story and characters are awesome! There’s such a great variety of people running around this game world it feels like a little chunk of real-life was dropped in. There’s obviously the main plot of the game where you, the Herald of Andraste, faces off against the Elder One (or Jerkface as I’ve come to refer to him) but there are so many more interesting plots and stories to be discovered as you enjoy the world Bioware has crafted here. Do side quests, be exposed to more of the mythology of Dragon Age. It’s that simple. The way this tale, it’s stories and the world of DA over an entire series entwines in DA:I is just downright great writing. The more time you spend enjoying this world the more apparent this fact becomes.

Overall this has been a trouble free experience for me which is a great change of pace in comparison to some other recent games. The few issues I’ve encountered have been pretty minor. I once jumped over a fence and was hurtled to the other end of the map. It was a cool bug and it was fun seeing the world fly by (this hurtling didn’t kill me as that would have been a completely different story). I had a conversation tree disappear during my first conversation with Dorian. I just had to skip a head a little in the conversation by using the B button and it was all good. You’ll occasionally notice NPCs walking where they shouldn’t be or you’ll be trying to jump but instead will hunker down to harvest a nearby flower but these are truly minor inconveniences and nothing game breaking.

Combat can be as fast as you want it... (like DA2)

or a tick more strategic... thanks to the tactical camera

Bioware saw fit to include a multiplayer experience outside of the main story. Initially I didn’t care for making the multiplayer a separate character from the one I use in the main story and I would have preferred to have friends hop into my party while we tackle the game together but, at least in regards to that first critique, I can see why they made that choice. You pick a class and hop into the game world to take on missions that will help the Inquisition. When you play the main game and hear about battles around the world… these are the battles you take part in during the multiplayer. It’s pretty slick. It also gives the player an opportunity to experiment with a different class before starting their second playthrough. Yes, I’m just assuming everyone will play through Dragon Age: Inquisition at least twice.

Have I done everything I want to accomplish in Dragon Age: Inquisition yet? No, I haven’t. Will I keep at the enjoyable grind of leveling and completing quests? You bet I will and I can’t wait to start another playthrough. If you’ve played a Bioware game before you have an idea of what to expect and the craftsmanship they bring to a game. This is everything a modern RPG should be and with only a few small tweaks that would be easily done via updates or DLC, Dragon Age: Inquisition is setting itself up nicely to be a contender for my Xbox One GOTY.

The Verdict:

As stated previously this game is a contender. Great story and character development, wonderful voice acting and a beautiful game world worth of the time you spend discovering it. Dragon Age: Inquisition is worth the price of admission and then some. If I can give you one tip… keep your second controller charged so when your primary battery dies you won’t have to stop playing.  

PROS:

+ Huge world to explore
+ Interesting characters
+ Near Endless gameplay
+ Easy to pick up

CONS:

- Slightly muddled equipment upgrade system
- Inability to play main story with friends
- Needs better application of player choice
- Jerkface will give the kiddies nightmares... and steal their toys

SCORE BREAKDOWN:

Story: 4 While some of the concepts of the story are clichéd this is still a well-crafted tale with some great characters and plot elements.

Graphics: 4 It’s a great looking game that flows smoothly. I didn’t notice any issues with frame rates or pixilation but it’s also not the best looking game I’ve seen in the current gen consoles.

Audio: 5 The ambient noises, voice acting, music… everything is on point here. I am thoroughly impressed and happy with how well this game comes together in terms of its audio.

Level Design: 5 The castles feel like they are laid out like a castle should be, towns feel real and the world is expansive but still well designed. I found that I was able to become immersed quite easily in this game in no small thanks to how well the levels and world were created.

Polish: 5 This is one of the least buggy, glitchy and/or broken games I’ve played in a while. It was a relief and a joy to play a game made by professionals who take pride in releasing a product worth their time and name and worth our money and devotion.

Controls: 4 Easily picked up and played the learning curve is very small here. If I could make a small tweak thought it would be to make the jump button different from the action button. It’s a small critique on an otherwise easily played game.

Overall Gameply: 5 I’ve lost count of the hours I’ve poured into Dragon Age: Inquisition and, to be honest, looking it up on my XBL profile will take more time than I’m willing to devote to something other than playing more DA:I. You have great single player with tons of replayability and you have multiplayer so you can slash and spell your way to victory with friends. Do you really need more? Aside from drinks and assorted snacks?

Extras: 3 Potion making while neat was quickly left by the wayside by me. I just didn’t need them so I didn’t use this much. Crafting gear is cool and while it seemed to take a bit of time and patience the end result on some of the gear I made was fully worth it. Of course there will be DLC we can buy at a later point which will be great if it lives up to the main game and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.