Before taking it upon myself to review the 3rd release in the Bioware’s Dragon Age series, “Inquisition”, I made a decision that I will first finish the game. After a few days of gameplay I thought, with just a spark of hope burning inside of me, that the game would be more then just good. As the hours went by and the days passed that little spark had grown into a burning flame, which completely engulfed my surroundings and allowed me to live Dragon Age for the past 10 days. And now, after spending no less then 84 hours of gameplay, I can stand before you and say: “This is nothing less then an amazing title worth every hype it was given in the previous months”. So good, that I have decided to make a breakdown review, in the hope of covering everything I want you to know about it.
Chapter I : What Was, Is And Will Be
- The Story -
As an RPG, Dragon Age’s story is the base of the game itself. It is one aspect of the game which can, even if everything else was brilliant, completely crush the expectations of its loyal followers. In my opinion, that certainly did not happen here, as you are able to experience an epic tale. One in which you will go from wearing shackles and then to being the Herald of Andraste, where you change the fate of Thedas with every decision made!
To prevent too much spoiling I will try to keep myself as vague as I can on the important bits. You are placed in the role of a simple survivor, finding yourself with no recollection of what just happened, as a huge rift tears up the sky. The gateway to Fade is open, and the blame is cast upon you to be guilty of its existence. You are without even the hilt of a sword between your fingers, and it seems like nothing you say or do matters, as your fate seems sealed. From this point on, one will starts exploring this huge story, trying to figure out what has just happened, and was it really you that plunged this world into chaos. And no, do not worry the game is not based about you trying to retrieve your memories, that simply plays its part in the grand scheme of things, and a beautiful one if I could say so myself.
The pure amount of quests, along with the size of a world which is bigger then the previous two games combined, is colossal. What makes these quests even more impressive, is that none of them seem to be miscellaneous tasks given to you to simply fill up the game-play hours. Each time you help clear out a ravine that is filled with ravenous beasts, or simply help an unknown researcher obtain some precarious samples, you are actually helping yourself and helping the Inquisition.
The Inquisition is an order, in which you are the centerpiece , and which is formed, to battle this new dark force which threatens to consume the world. You become its leader, and the burning heart in its core, as everything you do in the world, is to spread the influence, and gain power for the great Inquisition.
Chapter II : The way the World Works
- Gameplay -
What struck me first, as I wandered through the first twentyoz…. I mean twenty hours of the game, is the depth of the game. The amount of things to do, get, collect, kill, tweak, explore and claim is simply astounding. Even more, none of it ever felt like a chore to accomplish. Rather, it gave me a sense of accomplishment upon finally achieving it.
The gameplay concept, is as follows. You have your order, the Inquisition, and in order for it to function and grow you must obtain power and influence. Both through questing that helps fix the damage that happens to the world, or by recruiting new people that serve as agents and or companions.
Power, then you can use to unlock different missions in the world, and progress further through the story. You can either simply do a few quests and push on to uncover the next area, or spend the first 2 days in the Hinterlands doing every single possible quest you can find… like I did.
Influence grows from completing both quests and missions. Finding Different collectibles or claiming areas of the world with the inquisition banner lets you gain influence points and you can then spend on improving yourself or your party in numerous ways. I won’t tell you which ones are good or important, but I do suggest you read through all of them before you place a point. My Influence was at lvl 17 when I finished and I still I regret that there some points I could have allocated differently.
Now, more points that you get to spend are of course your leveling ones. After selecting your race, which is the standard Human, Dwarf, Elf and this time also Qunari, you then proceed to select your class. Similar like in DA Origins, at a certain point you will no longer be known only as -that warrior-, rogue or mage, but you will be able to pick your specialization. For me personally, it was the mix was a 2h wielding warrior, crossed with the Dragon blood drinking Reaver, to make one unstoppable machine able to rip anything Thedas would throw at me!
A really excellent thing, with this kind of leveling system, is that through levels 1 – 20 you are obtaining new spells and abilities all the time. There is none of of the typical “Here are your 3 spells, go kill stuff”type of mechanics that games usually offer. You get a full action bar and then some of spells and abilities and you can shift in between them in order to make the perfect build. Fun fact: There is no level cap in the game. I tried to do all the side quests that so I could really milk everything out of each zone before advancing. I was level 23 when the decisive blow was struck, and I fear the thought of trying to go through the final missions as lvl 17 – 18… would have been painful.
There is so much more I could list here, the Astrariums, Astrological Puzzles that wield great rewards,Mystical Shards that unlock forgotten temples and their treasures, even simple herbs and flowers which you can craft into potions and grenades of all sorts and So much more. I will leave you to explore those without spoiling them. You are going to want to feel the sensation of just how big the world around you is.
Chapter III : Talking about Emotions
- Dialogues and Companions -
Reason why I felt the need to stress this as a special part of my review, is because we have finally moved away from the standard Good – Neutral – Bad conversation style that was the usual RPG way of making your own choices in the game.
Sometimes, depending on what you chose to say, reveals that that there are 2 or 3 ways of saying the same thing, yet each leaves a different impression upon your companion. Sometimes, you will be able to simply agree, sometimes rage out, where at certain times even the great Herald of Andraste will be baffled and speechless at the information given.
In certain missions, you will have to watch what you say, as not every NPC is a soulless vessel in the quest you need to do and may require that they be spoken to with a certain tone and character. You wont always just press 1 – 1 – 1 and get to the quest you wish, nor will you always take everything from the quest giver without taking and investigating the matter with them deeper. I also want to mention that they are just remarkably done. The stories they have are fun and interesting with personalities and voices that differ greatly. They are just absolutely fun to converse with. I think there may be only a handful of conversations that I just went through without really listening. Im my book that’s something to remark about as far as RPGs go.
Your companions may often chat amongst themselves while they follow your need to pick herbs around a particular river bank. Those chats will often be about something that happened on the previous quest or may reveal more about their own lives and make you feel that much closer to them. I haven’t felt this kind of a connection between the companions and the player since the last time I played through Neverwinter Nights 2. By the end my actions were influenced by the party I had with me, and the more I thought I knew about them, the more they would surprise me when as they interacted with a decision I had just made.
You will get to meet and fight alongside some awesome companions from the previous games. I wont spoil them for you. Just know that now you will be able to really see who they are and what they are made of. Each one of them is really well written, and will play an important part in the events that follow.
Chapter IV : Why not bring a Friend ?
- Coop -
Yes, Dragon Age: Inquisition features a multiplayer or what would be better called a Coop mode. In itself it is nothing that will blow your mind, but considering we are talking about a primarily Single Player game here, it is quite good.
You can take part in clearing dungeons with 3 more of your friends, just like you would with your in-game party. Only this time those companions are players just like you are. At the moment there are 3 different map styles, which will give you, roughly, a dozen different looking maps to play through. You obtain gold as you look for different objects in the dungeon and then use them to purchase chests with random items and potions inside.
Here you can purchase extra currency in the form of certain bars, platinum or whatever, for your real life money. Reason why this does not alarm me, is the fact that I consider this nothing but a benign way to please the publisher, while doing absolutely nothing to harm the single player experience. Even so, since this is a coop mode, people who do buy these items and make themselves stronger, will only help you advance further, as they cant play against you.
In a nutshell, the Coop is Fun. It does offer a certain replay value. I suspect that DLCs will give some more maps that players can run through.
Chapter V : The Cogs behind the Scenery
- Technical bits -
The game itself, to the joy of myself and probably a large portion of DA fans, plays a lot like Origins. Although the combat is a lot more action driven this time, and will require less pausing apart from the really difficult fights. You can, of course, utilize the least amount of potions and execute things flawlessly and pause and use the new tactical camera to really give your party an edge.
The spells can be synced together, and each class really feels like it is doing exactly what its there for on the battleground. Protection warriors are insanely hard to kill, while mages can control or support really large numbers of either friends or foes. Rogues will always deal massive damage, and provide that bit of utilitie that you might need to really get through a tight squeeze.
I have not encountered a single game breaking bug during my 85 hour playtime. I had a few NPCs I could not interact with, but everything was fixed with a quick save and load, and only happened 3 times. I run a 5 year old machine, yet I could set my settings to medium/low and the game still looked amazing, while not having a single moment where my FPS would drop, screen go black or the game crash. Not once.
The Audio is just amazing. The music feels really epic and appropriate, and helps the immersion. It gives you that I’m a Hero feeling and makes the whole experience just that much greater. Facial expressions and models seem to follow the conversation really well, expressing confusion, anger, spite or plain happiness depending on the topic. I was never bored when I would seek out a certain companion for a chat, and sometimes differences in their voice or the expression on their face could hint that they are not really feeling the way they claim, and that there might be something else worth exploring.
Chapter VI : Conclusion
Dragon Age: Inquisition is one of the best RPGs I have played in the last 5 years. It is a complete adventure, which had me waking up each day thinking about it, wanting to play more. It is something I recommend for any true RPG fan. I have played it for about 8 – 10 hours every day and now that I have sadly finished it, I will start over again. Play a different class, use different companions this time, and see if there is anything out there that I could have missed.
Great game, and if you dont play it, you are risking missing something really awesome.