After the second game fiasco with the Dragon Age 2, BioWare made sure that the third installment satisfies the burning thirst of many Dragon Age fans. BioWare stated that they listened to the fans and the new Dragon Age: Inquisition was going to correct the problems players had with the second installation. This means Dragon Age: Inquisition is BioWare’s way to seek redemption. Now that I have the finished product and have invested some serious playtime (40+ hours to date and still going), I can validate the old saying: the third time is the charm.
The game gives you the option to create your own hero through Dragon Age Inquisition characters creation. But irrespective of your choice, the story starts the same way for all. After a large magical explosion that leaves no leader of Dragon Age Inquisition Mages or Chantry or Templars alive, you are the only survivor left with a pulsating green light in your left hand.
This light gives you the ability to close the fade rifts that resulted from the explosion, which unleashed demons from the magical realm into this plane. In response to the political power vacuum left by the explosion, the Inquisition is formed. Tensions are running high and the undercurrents of a civil war are bubbling closer to the surface. So in addition to closing the rifts, you also need to gain the support for the Inquisition from the people of Thetas by completing quests. Though it may sound simple and like a familiar construct from a dozen other RPGs, the scope of the game is massive. Not just the size of the regions you can explore but in the choices you make in the course of the game with your party and how you choose to resolve quests. In some cases, how you chose to resolve a quest will have lasting effects leading to alliances with some while creating enemies by others.
As you complete quests, explore new areas, harvest resources and a do a myriad of other things, you gain power points used to unlock other areas on the map to explore and “influence”, which allows additional perks for the Inquisition’s efforts. There is a fast travel option to return to previously explored areas, which helps with all the exploration you will be doing. The map allows you to spend your power points to unlock new areas to quest in or assign agents to the mission which give bonuses, upgrades and provide resource rewards. My OCD kicked in early in the game and I was determined to fully explore the Hinterlands (the starting area), before returning to confer with my group at the base.
If you want a smoother flowing experience, it is sometimes necessary to pop out of your current area and chase down leads or quests in other areas to get gear or level your team as you can and will run into groups of tougher enemies. Nothing will shake your strategic combat confidence like getting your butt handed to you in combat by a group of high-level demons from a Fade rift over and over again.
Speaking of combat, Inquisition has done a very solid job of allowing the player to toggle combat to their liking. Not only can you jump between real-time and strategic combat with the hit of a button, but you can also take control of any member of your party by clicking their portrait in the left corner of the screen. While most of the time I played my Dragon Age Inquisition mage build and stayed in real-time combat mode, I did stop the action and issued commands to the other members of my team in some challenging encounters. As in earlier BioWare games, in Dragon Age Inquisition gameplay, you can also customize the behaviors and tactics for the members of the team when the computer is controlling them if you find the default AI settings are not quite to your liking.
Several Dragon Age Inquisition characters return from previous Dragon Age games, like Varric the dwarf and Cassandra the Seeker who were central to the plot line of the second game. New characters will be available to join your party as well like the Qunari fighter Iron Bull and my personal favorite, a smarter passed elven rogue named Sera. The banter between the members of your party as your quest is one of my most favorite things about the Dragon Age series and I am thrilled to experience again in Inquisition. I like the banter so much that I find myself letting the game run in the background while I am occupied with other tasks just in the hope of catching some of the exchanges between party members.
Speaking of the game world, the different regions range from mountain forest with streams, caves and pine trees, to nasty rotting bogs littered with the undead. The ability to zone from one area to the next and not have to do the gradual transition from one to the other when in a truly open world allows more freedom when creating distinct areas but each one feels different and yet natural or organic in their own right. Some effects like streams, waterfalls and rolling waves along the beach are quite stunning. Characters look good with detailed texturing for metal and fabric but if you have played a Mass Effect game the character models will be instantly familiar. I do have a minor complaint with some cut scene animations as the gestures made while some of the characters are speaking seem too broad and a bit over the top. Granted I have gotten spoiled as of late with some of the newer graphic engines but for as good as the characters look the animations do seem a bit dated.
Another complaint I have is with the missions you send your agents on via the map in the war room. Each mission has a real time amount that it takes for the agent to complete. While some take 10 to 20 minutes others can range upwards of hours. I understand that not everything is equal but it did seem more like a time sink rather than necessary game component. Usually, I used this as an excuse to return to an to look for more unexplored areas and not too surprisingly I have so far always been rewarded with new locations, hidden items and yet more items to collect. There have been a few technical issues that seem to indicate some memory leaks as the longer I play and the more I travel the loading of large areas tends to slow down. With the sheer size of the game this does not surprise me but already EA has said they will have a number of items to be patched on the day the game ships.
One thing they can’t patch away is the need for EA’s Steam competitor, Origin. Sadly for the PC version, it is still required in order to run the game. While it has gotten somewhat more stable than and not as obtrusive as it was when it first launched, I am a little bugged that I have to have yet another service running on my system. I don’t think this will change anytime soon but EA is counting on people wanting to play Inquisition badly enough to put up with Origin and I have to admit, I am willing to run it on my system.
Once you start the game you will have no shortage of things to keep yourself busy, even if you decide to put off making a beeline solving the main quest. Along with the single-player story, there is also a Dragon Age Inquisition multiplayer side to the game where up to four players can fight waves of AI on different maps. As you level up you unlock new abilities, pick up gold to buy better weapons and armor and resources to craft new gear. I have had issues getting into a multiplayer match thanks to a very stubborn router but honestly, while it seems like a fun diversion, I would rather get back into the single-player story as it is more appealing to me.
For people looking to get lost in a detailed world brimming with political intrigue, warring factions, tough choices that affect the story and gobs of replay ability that will last you well beyond Fall and into the new year, Dragon Age Inquisition is a must buy.