Dragon Age: Inquisition ReviewJoslyn Walter
Dragon Age Inquisition was nothing short of breathtaking. It was hard not to love anything and everything the game presented, showcased in pregame Twitch releases or experienced personally with the gameplay.
With tons of content to cover, let's start with gameplay. The dialogue wheel once again makes an appearance into the fray and thankfully, decisions both large and small made in the game are not timed and also provide sub context in case a an option is unclear. Viewing pregame trailers, it would be easy to expect the combat in Inquisition to be clunky and awkward. Initially I considered the combat to be flashier than anything else, but to some small degree of surprise, the infamous Dragon Age tactics style made for well thought through battle encounters rather than reducing itself to colorful explosions and visual effects. The tactical camera is also completely optional, but for the few and brave and masochistic gamers, tactical camera is a must for the harder difficulties like nightmare mode. Also worth mentioning is that the enemies do not scale and that there appears to be no level cap. However, because of this, the benefits of fighting an enemy within certain areas of the game are limited since the amount of experience given is so little, engaging in combat is more of a waste of time. As far as larger scale boss-type enemies go, repetitive and predictable moves are painful to watch. Even if the difficultly increases considerably, watching enemies repeat combat behavior, especially for Dragons, gets a little exhausting. However, dragons in Inquisition make the dragons in Skyrim look little more than caterpillars in both appearance and combat difficulty, and the partially destroyable environment was appreciated as well. The fade rifts, a problem more related to the story plot became a tedious series of side missions, but thankfully, enemies that spawned from each rift were not the same. Some rifts spilled wraiths, others three pride demons at once, so players can be thankful for the variety.
Crafting, customization, and setting up for personal effects of Inquisition is a different topic altogether. Customization became so detailed, especially at Skyhold (the headquarters of the Inquisition in game) garden types, towers, beds, general dÃ©cor, and thrones could all be personalized to suit each player's tastes. Even the mounts were specialized to each Inquisitors style. Crafting could be tedious since materials do not recycle themselves in the campaign player mode, however, resources replenished themselves quickly, resetting every time you left the area and returned with the exception of high dragons; that means animals, creatures, herbs, stones and metals. Although a player could choose a stylized look for the Inquisitor, each character companion had their own set style of clothing, avoiding the issue of everyone looking the same despite constant armor changes and equipment load outs. With some rather heavy disappointment, Inquisition tailored to heavily to classical medieval styles and left very little room for impressively creative designs both with armor and with weaponry. Also to an awkward note, Bioware, what was up with the too tight awful gray partially bedazzled pajama default outfit the Inquisitor was wearing? I know plenty of people who disliked not being able to change that particular aspect of their Inquisitor.
Inquisition was nothing short of massive with over 10 major areas, not including extra side mission dungeons and surprisingly short loading screens. Each area had its own unique overall appearance and dynamic weather systems. However, each weather system was heavily tailored to the area. For example, the Storm Coast had dynamic rain, lightning, and foggy weather that you wouldn't see in desert areas. Sadly, the game lacked a dynamic time system for better or for worse; the war table missions based of real time and not in game time. Certain maps would have been beautiful to witness during sunset and night cycles. However nothing was the same; each cave was different from the last, each area with different beasts and resources, each area taking hours to explore. I often found myself wishing Inquisition was smaller, even though I am an avid lover of large scale RPG games.
As to be expected, Dragon Age Inquisition was packed with every kinds of lore, codex entries often finding their way onto tarot style cards on the loading screens if the player couldn't be bothered to read them while playing. Unfortunately, especially on the next generation consoles, the loading times were too short to finish reading the codex entries which left some disappointment, but also some relief to not be twiddling your thumbs trying to wait for an area to load.
Music was a heavily present aspect of Inquisition. Often times, a soundtrack can make or break a game, and Inquisition's soundtrack was nothing short of breathtaking. There was a perfect blend of instrumental setting music for both casual playing and cut scene actions, and vocal music well played in local taverns in the game. Bioware did a wonderful job at making each song uniquely different from each other while still wrapping it up in one game.
Companions in Dragon Age are each very unique as to be expected, although I can honestly say I wasn't expecting the massive amount of character developments of each companions to be pulled off so smoothly. Characters from previous Dragon Age installments that made an appearance in Inquisition also got additional character development for better or for worse. The romance in Inquisition, felt so heavily catered towards modern day politics it almost felt sickening. Understandably, Bioware tried to please everyone, but also avoided some pretty hefty bullets by pointing out each person has their own personal tastes and then continued to wrap that into the romance options within the game. Realistically, no one can argue with that, and in a strange way, made each of the companions in the game more lovable.
Grand scale decisions were always going to be a feature in Dragon Age, but now it forces players to think vastly and not make such close minded decisions. Even the way a dialogue option is selected can have a slight influence over how the game ends. It was an interesting experience to apply tactfulness, or lack thereof, both on and off the battlefield.
In a game as massive as Inquisition, there will be without doubt glitches. Thankfully, there weren't any problems falling through the maps on both next gen and last gen console play thorough's. There were speech dialogue problems, and some very awkward texture rendering, especially on the last gen console, but Dragon Age functioned well with minimal crashing for such a large game. In a 124 hour play thorough, I only experienced perhaps four complete game crashes, which is totally acceptable given the scale of Inquisition and how it runs. Thankfully, there were some patches released to fix the issues, and overall was a surprisingly polished game.
Warning: Spoilers below to viewers who have not yet played Inquisition.
The story of Dragon Age Inquisition was largely to how a player wanted it, but of course, there needed to be some direction to the story. The entire purpose of the Anchor (mark on the Inquisitor) and it's relation to potential relevance to the future of the Dragon Age franchise, not to mention the collection of end game decisions, left me begging for more and my curiosity high peaked. The direction of Dragon Age took a very interesting turn at the conclusion of the game, regardless of how weak the antagonist story plot was.While there were plenty of truly great and amazing moments to watch unfold, the story as a whole felt weak.
Digging up old characters, in this case, enemies is generally a sign or poor story development. Bringing back the self-righteous Darkspawn Magister from the DLC in Dragon Age 2, a widely disliked game to begin with, and putting him as the main enemy felt more of a distracting factor than a final boss I could take seriously. Considering the after credits epilogue of the game, it was easy to see why. Adding an Archdemon didn't really help push matters along, considering it Inquisition takes place 10 years after the fifth Blight. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the Archdemon was not actually a corrupted Old God. Not to mention the final boss fight seemed to take away from players; a rather lame cut scene finished the Archdemon instead of the player finishing it themselves and same went for the Darkspawn Magister.
If that wasn't dropping the ball on Dragon Age 2 again, the reappearance of Hawke, protagonist of Dragon Age 2, and some of the story that went behind it broke some aspects into very little sense. First of all, rational explanations of companions from Dragon Age 2; some clearly made sense, most didn't. At least in Dragon Age 2, Isabela made it clear she didn't want to be tied down, and that explanation carried over well into Inquisition as did the rationale of why Varric kept Hawke hidden from the Inquisition in the first place. Anders, the rouge Grey Warden mage from DLC in Dragon Age Origins, and the man responsible for destroying the Chantry in Dragon Age 2, didn't show up with the Champion of Kirkwall at Skyhold. Understandable, seeing as how there are probably hundreds of people who want him dead in Inquisition, if players didn't kill him in Dragon Age 2. However, if he is kept alive and romanced in the same hand, Hawke mentions since he's a Grey Warden and hearing the Calling of all things, taking him as far away from Orlais as possible is the solution. Excuse me, Bioware, but who is watching out destructive happy, partially spirit possessed, Grey Warden (hearing the Calling), Rebellious apostate while Hawke is not around to keep him in check or to keep him from getting killed? That was unanswered and poorly explained. Romanced Fenris and Merrill made little sense as well. Hawke explains she left Fenris because he would have died for her? What kind of sad excuse was that? Most people who truly care for someone else would die for that person. Romancing Varric was not an option, and it was clear from the prologue that he would have died to keep Hawke safe, but nobody saw Hawke mention that she would keep Varric out of danger despite him being one of her closest friends. Merrill keeping the elves out of the mage and Templar war? There is more going on than that, especially providing the strong elven resistance present in Orlais in the Civil war. Way to go, Bioware.
Additionally, narrow minded thinking took over in the Dragon Age keep once again for Dragon Age 2. Bioware is all about taking a side, but as First Enchanter Vivienne also mentions, the people of Thedas matter as well. Bioware assumes you side with mages for their freedom and not on the assumption that mages were going to be slaughtered for something they weren't responsible for. Anders blew up the Chantry, acting separately from the Circle, and the Circle was blamed. Or if you sided with Templars, it was because of blood magic. The way the Templar decision was carried over to Inquisition was pretty clear cut against blood magic users and not the rest of the mages, but with siding with the mages, Hawke mentions they spurred the rest of the rebellion. Let me go ahead and point out that I did not agree with mage freedom, and I did not agree with the murder of innocent people before the use of blood magic; the world is bigger than the mages and Templars. What about the poor innocents who get caught in the middle of the war who had nothing to do with mages or Templars? Not Hawke obviously. Thankfully, caring for those innocents was definitely more present in Inquisition, so the situation was rather awkwardly patched up, just not from Dragon Age 2's perspective.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.