Dragon Age Inquisition Review

Dragon Age: Inquisition has been quoted as having a 50 hour storyline, as well as 100 hours of side-quests. I haven’t actually finished the game yet, but based on my 95 hours of gameplay so far, those figures seem pretty accurate to me!

When it comes to RPGs, I think of myself as a serial-sidequester: once found, side-quests, become my priority. As with most RPGs, some of the side-quests (particularly collectibles) can be a little repetitive. But fortunately, most are fairly unique, reward a serial-sidequester’s need to explore, and make good use of the environments in which they’re found. So much so that, even being 95 hours into the game now, the end credits don’t feel like they’re anywhere in sight.

Needless to say, Inquisition is one of the most expansive games I’ve ever played.

The Plot

The game continues not long after Dragon Age II left off: there’s a war raging between the Mages and the Templars, and a peace conference is being held by the Chantry (essentially the Church). The conference ends in disaster, with a huge explosion which opens the Breach and many other smaller rifts, from which demons from the Fade emerge. The Chantry’s leader (the Divine) and many of its senior clerics are killed in the explosion, as are many Mages and Templars. The player-controlled character is the only survivor of the explosion. Although initially blamed for what has transpired, it turns out that you are the only one capable of closing the rifts due to a mysterious mark you’re left with. As the Breach continues to expand and more demons are coming through, efforts are made to halt its expansion, and eventually close it.

dragon age inquisition breach

At first, this sounded like the overall basis for the game to me. But it’s not. It’s just the prologue.

Once that section is completed, you then become the Inquisitor. While exploring, you lead a small party around large and small environments, but beyond that, you also play the leader of the Inquisition, striving to bring order to a land stricken by civil war and political turmoil, making decisions that do very much affect the entire game world.

Given how extensive the plot is, and how much content exists in the game, there are sadly certain sections that lack detail. Firstly, the game’s outset, particularly how it’s presented, is fairly vague. But perhaps more importantly, while your decisions have impact, and the gravity of those choices is often made visible, how many of the game’s events come to pass, and why, is often overlooked. The details that are given tend to be slightly tenuous as well, which is a shame, because if a little more time had been spent to strengthen out those points it would have made a very good RPG an almost perfect one.

Even with that in mind, Dragon Age: Inquisition is still rich in lore and political intrigue. Although the plot details are probably the game’s biggest weakness, I still wouldn’t say that the plot itself is weak, but rather that there are weak spots in an otherwise strong and interesting story. It does at times feel like the story has been deliberately shaped around the action sequences that the game creators had in mind, but I personally found that this had been done well enough to to justify it, even if the connections it made were a little weak at certain points.

The War Table is also worth mentioning. Within the Inquisition you have the Commander of your army, Cullen, a political Ambassador, Josephine, and a Spy Master, Leliana, each of whom can be sent on missions available on the war table. These missions take a specific amount of real-time to complete, anywhere between 12 minutes and 24 hours! Fortunately, this time also passes when you’re not playing the game. If there’s a particularly long one, you can just send someone to do it, and come back to the game the next day to find it completed. These missions can yield simple rewards such as Gold or metals, as well as unique weapons, and increase the Influence of your Inquisition. While you don’t personally play a part in these missions, it does help to make it feel as though the Inquisition has a far wider reach than the areas you explore throughout the game.

The impact of your decisions is also visible in both small, and large ways. For example, in one of the maps, I encountered a woman who wanted to join the Grey Wardens. In my conversation with her, I chose the option to encourage her to do so. In one of the later story missions involving the Grey Wardens, there was a sequence where I saw her get killed, all as a consequence of my suggesting that she join.

The Environments

The game is neither open world, nor linear, but a good combination of the two. There are a selection of different areas that you’re able to travel to; some small, and some large. Some of these areas are deliberately linear, some are very open, and some are open but with linear paths scattered about as well. The maps are all sufficiently different and open enough to make you feel as though you’re still exploring vast environments, but are linear enough to prevent you from ever feeling truly lost.

Perhaps the best thing about these environments is how unique they are. Skyrim for instance, while vast and rich in content, had areas which were very much carbon copies of one another; this was especially true of the dungeons. Dragon Age: Inquisition’s environments are however very diverse. The fact that they are separated out into different areas, rather than combined into a single map, probably helps with this as well. Having to specifically choose to travel to another area does indeed give the impression that you are going somewhere different, even if some of the maps are based around the same type of design.

Characters & Combat

Inquisition has no shortage of characters to join your party: 9 in fact. This may seem like a lot, but it is actually quite useful.

dragon age inquisition characters

During the character creation process, you can choose to be either a Human, Elf, Dwarf or Qunari. There are also 3 character classes to choose from, Rogue, Mage, or Warrior. These can also have a particular focus: Rogues can use knives or bows, Mages of course wield magic, and you can focus on fire, ice, lightning, and support magic, and Warriors can use two-handed weapons, or focus on a sword and shield role.

Of the 9 characters that join your party, they are quite evenly split. They consist of 3 Mages, 3 Warriors, and 3 Rogues. This gives you ample opportunity to explore the different types of combat specialisations available, thus also allowing you to experiment with different party variations and how they can work in combat.

All of the game’s main characters are very well-written and acted. They come with their own backstories of course, as well as missions relating to them. So while the 9 that can join your party aid you in combat, they very much add to the game’s depth as well.

Speaking of combat, Dragon Age: Inquisition has introduced a tactical view which pauses the combat and allows you to designate actions to your party via an overhead view, much like you would in an RTS. On the lower difficulties, the tactical view may never be needed; on Easy you can likely get through the combat by just holding down the right trigger to keep doing your standard attack. On the higher difficulties though, and especially against some of the more challenging enemies, such as dragons, it’s pretty useful. I’d managed to kill 3 of the 10 dragons in the game before deciding to increase the difficulty from Normal to Hard to add to the challenge. Even on Normal, the tactical view was still needed against dragons; on Hard, it was essential.

Dragons

I feel that the Dragons deserve a special mention. In Skyrim, it felt like there were no end to the dragons. And indeed that was true - wait around for long enough, and another would appear. In Dragon Age: Inquisition, there are 10 High Dragons (fully grown female dragons) to test your combat prowess against. I’ve come across all 10 in my playthrough - I’ve managed to beat 9. The 10th, the level 23 Highland Ravager, has still proven to be too much for me on Hard difficulty (I can’t imagine how challenging she’d be on Nightmare difficulty!).

dragon age inquisition dragon

As far as game creatures go, these dragons are beautifully done. The idea of dragons in the Dragon Age world is that, when fully grown, they are the embodiment of pure unhindered power. And that is really how they are portrayed. Every one of them looks, and even sounds unique. One of my favourites was the Greater Mistral, whose roar sounded like it was being constrained within a tunnel of ice - it was an earthy combination between a roar and a screech. She was an ice dragon - the final one that I beat on Normal difficulty before increasing it to Hard. And even then, she managed to completely slaughter my team a good few times. I actually feel bad every time I kill one of them. Like in Shadow of the Collossus, every time you killed one of the Collossi, you felt as though you were ending a species - removing something truly unique from the world. That’s how I feel every time I beat one of these dragons, and why I actually remember most of the fights with them.

Conclusion

I’ve spent a lot of time in the game exploring every environment I can. Most of which, you don’t even need to explore as part of the main plot. If you play through this game just for the main storyline, you’ll get to experience an incredibly detailed plot, among diverse environments, that will last 4 or 5 times as long as many other games. That alone is reason to give this game a try, and will still leave you with entire sandboxes left to explore.

If you like doing side-quests as much as I do, then you’ll get well over 100 hours out of this game.

If you like RPGs, even slightly, then I think you’ll really enjoy it. And if you like RPGs as much as I do, then you’ll love it.


Posted: December 27th, 2014
Categories: video games, reviews