Review – Dragon Age: Inquisition (PC)

After 40+ hours of shooting exploding arrows, battling demonic forces, slaying a couple of dragons, and trying to find the best romance partner, I can finally say that I finished Dragon Age: Inquisition. Well, I finished its main storyline and a decent chunk of sidequests, and I think that’s good enough for a review. If you expected me or anyone else to beat this game 100%, then you’d be waiting for quite a while! Now, without any further delay, let’s get to the review.

Summary

“When the sky opens up and rains down chaos, the world needs heroes. Become the savior of Thedas in Dragon Age: Inquisition. You are the Inquisitor, tasked with saving the world from itself. But the road ahead is paved with difficult decisions. Thedas is a land of strife. Factions constantly war with each other even as a larger demonic invasion has begun. And you? You and your band of champions are the only ones who can hold it together. It’s your job to lead them… or fall. (Origin)

Review

For some reason, I kept trying to play Inquisition like it was Skyrim. Maybe it was the whole dragon part of the story that made me want to ride ponies up mountains or charge through each individual story, but I soon realized that this was a completely different game. For starters, horses can’t really go up mountains. Oh, and if you think you can speed run this game, good luck.

Let me explain a bit of how the game is set up. Unlike Skyrim, where you’re a lone adventurer trying to save the world from evil, you are the Inquisitor, a founding member and icon of a growing political and military power in Thedas. You and your band of companions are constantly travelling around the world, helping everyone you are able to and trying to reestablish peace in two separate kingdoms. Ferelden, the land to the east, is dealing with a war between rogue mages and the templars who used to police them. To the west lies Orlais, a land full of political scheming and shady business transactions that is in the midst of a power struggle between the Empress and her brother. The Chantry (this world’s version of the Catholic Church) has fallen into chaos as its leader and many high ranking officers were killed in the explosion that granted you your mysterious powers. It also left a giant rift in the sky that threatens to devour the world, so there’s that.

If it sounds like it’s getting complex, then I’m doing a good job of trying to explain just how big this game’s political system is. The world of Dragon Age is one of political strife, supernatural occurrences, and religious fervor. With Inquisition being the third main game in the franchise, there is a lot of backstory that newcomers (such as myself) might not be able to fully comprehend. I was constantly trying to figure out what the difference between a mage, an apostate, and a magister was (still couldn’t tell ya). This deep lore is both a great boon to the game overall and a major hindrance to new players.

So that’s the world of Thedas in a nutshell, but what about the people in it? I can definitely say that I’ll be remembering most of the main cast of characters for quite some time! The main crew is composed of wildly different people that each have their own story and their own desires for how the Inquisition should be used. There’s Cassandra, a Seeker and a former aid to the Divine (aka female Pope), who is constantly trying to reconcile her faith with the events that plague the land. Dorian is a mage from Tevinter who sports a fantastic mustache and is trying to undo the damage done by his former mentor. Iron Bull is a Qunari mercenary who revels in battle but also in camaraderie. And that is just my Waifu squad! (Sadly, the first was only into dudes, the second was also only into dudes, and the third just would not notice me for some reason. T~T )

This also brings me to another point. Those who read my Mass Effect review might know that I tend to spend quite a bit of time finding “the one” for whatever character I play in a Bioware game. This does not change in Inquisition, and I was also surprised by the diversity here. There are two bisexual characters, one dedicated lesbian, one gay man, one dude who is only into lady elves, and a few of the standard heterosexuals. Yet, you can still attempt to romance them. This is something I positively loved, as it mirrors reality much more accurately than most other games. Obviously, you won’t know their preferences before you get to know them, so the game actually lets you flirt and charm them. Should you be their type, you can have some pretty romantic scenes. If not, they will call you aside and politely decline your interest. It was a nice touch, and I hope more games pick up on this in the future.

Now that I’ve covered the world and the people, what about the actual “game” part of Inquisition? This is where I think the game falters a bit, though it might just be me nitpicking. There are two main parts of the game to be aware of: the war table and exploring. At the war table, you can allocate the Inquisition’s forces to complete various missions and tasks. Need to assassinate a noble? Have Leliana send her regards (and a few knives). Trying to broker peace talks? Try asking Josephine to cut a deal between the parties involved. Are darkspawn popping up in a town? Tell Cullen to bring in the army. What is interesting is that each of these three advisors are capable of performing most of these missions, but each one will do it differently. Cullen may provide the swiftest response, but Josephine’s method may make the region more stable. It really makes picking and choosing your battles a defining choice for your playthrough.

The only problem is that some missions require Power to complete, which can be obtained by going to each area and completing side quests. This was the part that gave me a bit of pause, as it prevents people from charging through the story. To do story missions, one may need as much as 40 power points, which is a lot considering that most missions give you 1 or 2. These sidequests tend to revolve around the Inquisition trying to beat back the aforementioned dark forces trying to rip the world asunder, but the pattern goes in the same direction. You hop over to a huge new area, following a few major plot lines, and try to do the things. As you do the thing, you find other things to do that range from finding a certain number of things to finding specific things, people, or places. As it is technically an open world game, it is full of little things to collect like herbs and minerals as well as landmarks, campsites, and other fun doodads to claim as your own. These fill in the empty spaces between plot points in the side quests, but they also let you trick out your gear and main base of operations. I didn’t mind them, but I get a little peeved when the fate of the world is hanging in the balance and have to help an old lady find her ring first so I can get the power I need to go do the important things!

There are times, by the way, in which you have to fight, and here is where I have a few more things to say. The game gives you two ways of fighting. The standard format is a third-person, over-the-shoulder view of your character. You are controlling that character directly, and the game lets you hop between each of your companions as well. That way you can switch to the tank to taunt enemies away from the squishy mage, use some abilities that you don’t want the AI spamming all the time, or just give you an idea as to how each class works. Speaking of, the game gives you a lot of options there, too. Each class has two main specializations, but this is made even more diverse when the other skill trees are brought in. Perhaps you want to be a Rogue Archer who uses alchemical concoctions to give yourself ice armor or a Warrior who wields a giant axe and only gets stronger as your health drops. Options abound, and you get a lot of friends to experiment on and plenty of opportunities to get things right.

The other style is by using the Tactical Camera. It basically shifts your view to an overhead shot of the battlefield, but I often found that it didn’t zoom out enough. I remember one time when I was fighting a dragon. The dragon was so big that I couldn’t see my troops underneath it, and the camera’s view was so small that I was constantly moving the camera back and forth in order to keep track of everyone. Picking this view also puts your characters on automatic, so you’d have to switch from tactical back to standard in order to really maintain a strong presence on the field. Something that I did like about the tactical feature was that it would pause the events on the battlefield, giving you a chance to reorganize your team and set up devastating combos. That I did appreciate!

Before I move on, I would also like to make a brief mention of the main story. I won’t spoil anything for you, so don’t worry. Remember how I said that the game has a lot of foundation on previous Dragon Age games? This also applies to the characters and to the story. People will pop up that you have no idea were important until someone (like my fiance) points out that they were the main characters of games prior. Then you have people talking about things that happened years before, how they know the big bad guy from what I can only assume was a minor mission in the previous game, and how this character did a thing that you may have no idea about. This doesn’t necessarily hurt the plot, but it does make things a bit less relatable for newcomers when the story relies so much on prior knowledge.

The Good

  • Strong main cast of characters
  • Deeply lore-rooted world
  • Capitalizes on its major themes, namely politics and religion
  • Many romantic options, even for those who take things a bit differently
  • Decent story
  • Customizing the main base is kinda fun
  • The battle system offers a lot of variety in how you play
  • Lots of content to play through, even after the game is done.

The Bad

  • Ending leaves something to be desired (which is supposedly rectified in the Trespasser DLC)
  • The open areas feel a bit too open at times
  • The world hangs in the balance, but you gotta go harvest some plants first! Well, that’s how it feels when I’m grinding for that Power.
  • The game requires many hours to play through it due to the Power system
  • The tactical camera felt sort of useless.

The Iffy

  • Combat can be repetitive (though that might be because I was an archer and always looking AT the battle and not being IN the battle)
  • The game does have a lot of references to previous games, and it can be overwhelming to new players of the series.
  • I kind of felt like my choices only mattered in a handful of situations, which is sad considering that Bioware’s big thing is making your decisions matter in the long run.

Recommendation: Buy it… on sale. Dragon Age: Inquisition isn’t a bad game by any means. I enjoyed it, though it took me some time to both get into the story and to actually beat the game. As someone who has very little knowledge of other Dragon Age titles, I do think that this game will appeal more to veterans of the franchise. That being said, I would not be opposed to recommending it to anyone who is thinking about it. The game may have its flaws, but that might just add to its charm.

Trivia: Freddie Prinze, Jr. is Iron Bull’s voice actor and NAILS IT.  Just thought you should know.

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