“Say Goodbye to Your Free Time.” Dragon Age: Inquisition Review
+ massive and terrific story.
+ great blend of tactical and action gameplay
+ amazing cast of characters
+ top notch voice acting
+ gorgeous setting
+ satisfying ending
+ the war table
+ judgment scenes
- ran into a few bugs
- damn Ser Stroud stealing my hairstyle.
I would be foolish not to start this review talking about the story of Dragon Age: Inquisition. BioWare, the wonderful and masterful storytellers of past adventures such as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and the Mass Effect trilogy, take another swing at their Dragon Age games, and hit a deep, deep home run.
I played maybe half of Dragon Age: Origins and didn’t play Dragon Age 2, so my opinion of this game isn’t clouded by the previous games. I got into DA:O a little late and couldn’t get into the story or more importantly, the combat. So while I may have missed little moments that connect through the stories, and had little to no connection to certain characters coming into DA:I from DA2 (though I fell in love with Varric almost instantly), I had no problem getting enveloped by the story of DA:I.
The game starts with a conclave of Templars and Mages to settle the ongoing feud between the holy warriors and the fireball slingers. Just when everything looks great, BOOM! An eerie green explosion goes off, and everything goes wrong pretty quickly with demons spilling out of the sky. Yikes.
Your character, (in my case, the devilishly good looking mage, Damon) is accused of… something, and is forced into the narrative of this long, detailed, and mature story that has you running all over Thedas as the face of the Inquisition stomping demons in their little booties.
This story, just damn, it’s good. When the story of a game is good I’ll forgive just about everything to experience it (except there isn’t much to “forgive” in DA:I). BioWare has already shown that they can tell a great story, but this one stands out to me. I’ve said a couple times that the story is mature. By that I mean that how the Inquisition handles problems is how I think a group like that would actually handle them. As the Inquisitor, you’re the head honcho, you have your cabinet of advisors in the form of three different branches of the inquisition. The army, the spies and the political connections. The heads of those three branches report to you and carry out your orders. That just makes so much damn sense. For example: In one region of the map, my soldiers were feeling down and low about the war we were fighting. Instead of the game making me, the Inquisitor, ride down there and carry out a pointless mission for them (which many RPGs would make me do), I had Josephine (the head of my political connections) send down some new chefs so that they could have warm food waiting for them when they returned from their patrols. Doesn’t that make sense? Isn’t that how an army would really work? To make things even better, when I was actually in that area, as I walked by them I overheard those soldiers talking about how much they enjoyed the new food.
Seguing into my next point is “the little moments” in DA:I. The party banter, the drinking with Iron Bull (my favorite character), finding letters of dead soldiers to mail to their families, catching two young people sharing a romantic moment and telling them to be careful, flirting with Scout Harding and settling for Josephine (like so many other Inquisitors), to Varric’s one liners, to Solis’ weird but interesting rants about ghosts. These little moments just fit together like a giant and big puzzle that is more than a blast to put together.
The story missions in the game are the best I’ve ever played in an RPG, each one has that big “end game” feel to them where in any other game, they would be, but in DA:I, it’s another day at the office. They each tackle different ideas and challenges to overcome whether it’s fighting giant demons or playing the political “game” at a lavish party complete with masks. Each one sucked me in, and held me for hours as I made my way through them.
The side quests and missions in the game may not have the same epic feeling, but they don’t lack heart or reason. I hardly ever did anything that would have been “beneath” the Inquisitor and company. One side mission near the beginning of the game was to track down rebel mages’ encampments and mark them for the Inquisition to pick up later so the townsfolk of a town we were set up in would have warm blankets and supplies. No “rescuing a cat out of a tree missions.”
The story has a great ending as well. There was a twist that I did not see coming from a mile away in a good way. Not a bait and switch moment that left me pissed. Just good storytelling. I’m happy to say that the game doesn’t just end and leave you going, “that’s it?” It ends in a way where I sat back and smiled at what I had accomplished.
The voice acting in the game was top notch. Most, if not all characters, were portrayed by skilled actors who made me fall in love with the characters. There were different accents, voices and races and each sounded unique. Voice acting is one of my favorite parts of video games and DA:I delivered on this front again and again. A special shout out to Freddie Prince Jr. (Yea! Fred from Scooby Doo!) as Iron Bull, Brian Bloom as Varric and Roman Tikaram as Dorian.
The gameplay in DA:I is wicked fun to play. From what I’ve played of DA:O and seen in DA2, it marries the two styles of gameplay into one, and for the better. You have traditional roles in your party (tanks, support, damage dealers, crowd control etc). Which I love. I’m not the biggest fan of some modern RPGs where healers can wear plate armor and throw fireballs all in one. My character was a mage, so he stood back and froze enemies while Iron Bull crushed them with a mighty sword. (Though that later changed for me when I specialized to become a Knight Enchanter that had a spirit blade. Which pretty much made me a Jedi.) While I had Dorian raising the our dead enemies to fight for us and Blackwall tanking all of the baddies. The best part of all of that is that there are so many other combos I could have picked and plan to mix up in the future.
The combat itself is super fun. It’s flashy and fast, but it’s also smart and calculated. I played most of the game without the tactical camera, but still felt that I could command my troops in a certain way that was more than just button mashing. I never felt overpowered in the game which is good because the level of threat was always there.
The war table was a lot of fun to play around with. I talked about it briefly in the story section of the review about having Josephine handle the morale of my troops with better food, but I wanted to go into more detail here. The war table is where you command the different facets of the Inquisition in a very clear and concise way. There will be a marker on the table talking about a problem in part of Thedas, a point of interest, or something a party member brought to your attention. You select the marker and then choose how to proceed. Each of your cabinet members offers a way to proceed. Whether it’s sending in a platoon of soldiers to deal with the problem, using your political connections or going behind the scenes with your spies. After you choose your way of handling a problem, all you have to do is wait. Each operation takes a set amount of time varying from 10 minutes to 3 hours (real time). Not only does it not bog you down with even more small quests (because trust me, you’ll be busy enough) but allows you to handle certain things the way you would want to. There were some scenarios where I could have sent soldiers in to handle something, but it felt more right to handle it through political means. I went crazy over this kind of choice. Just added the many many ways to get immersed inside this game.
Another point of immersion in the game is the craft system that is beyond good. I normally don’t dive into crafting systems in games because I like the thrill of looking for my loot, but DA:I has a system I couldn’t help but love. It’s dense but familiar. After a couple times of looking through the system, it made perfect sense. You get a schematic of something, then fill the slots of the schematic with materials you find throughout the world. So really, you can make the same mage armor again and again, just adding better materials to it to 1) change the stats but 2) change the look. This works with armors, weapons and even runes. It got to the point where getting a new schematic was more thrilling than a new piece of armor.
A small but effective part of the gameplay was the “judgment” scenes where you decided the fate of criminals you come across. Some are serious and others are funny (like deciding the fate of a dead body). But like so many parts of this game, it added a layer of choice that I went nuts over. It was one thing to kick some dude’s butt, but it was even cooler to decide his/her fate sitting on my throne.
DA:I looks great. I played the game on Xbox One, so it wasn’t as good as it could be (I’ve seen some crazy stuff on the PC version), but there were still moments that caught me looking out at vistas when I should have been being productive. Seeing the sun shine through trees in the Hinterlands, or seeing water crash on the rocks of the Storm Coast; it just made me fall in love with Thedas just on its looks.
The characters looked good for the most part. There were a couple times they looked lifeless as they spoke but all of the main characters looked great. (except Ser Stroud… that jerk stole my haircut.)
As a mage, I spent a lot of times throwing spells at bad guys and they looked awesome. The colors that were used in each of the categories of spells looked crisp and popped off the screen.
The music in DA:I didn’t disappoint. The main theme of the game is iPod worthy, and the rest of the score fit perfectly with the game. The sound design of the fighting is also worth noting. Electric spells crack from mage’s staffs, and each of the melee characters’ swings were meaty and satisfying. Everything, really, in the game sounded just as satisfying.
Despite everything I loved in this game, I ran into a few bugs in DA:I. Some were minor, but others were so bad I couldn’t carry out certain side quests. I’m sure BioWare will patch the various bugs in due time and I can’t really be that mad about it due to the massive size of the game.
Other than that note, Dragon Age: Inquisition, was definitely my game of the year for 2014. I can’t wait for DLC for it, or better yet, the next installment in the world of Thedas.
BeardyMcDanA bearded gamer born in Houston, grew up in Florida, spent a spell in Oregon and currently yelling "Roll Tide!" in Alabama. I love games, I love stories, I love immersion. That's what I look for in a game essentially; to get lost in the craft of a story and it's characters. Here's to many long hours of gaming and not shaving your beard. Cheers!
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