Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Dragon Age: Inquisition review

*Warning - this review contains mild spoilers for the prologue of the game*
    I picked this one up for my birthday and have been more or less playing it non-stop for a week. I'm still not done with it but the game has provided countless hours of continuous amusement. Dragon Age: Inquisition combines the deep characters of Dragon Age with the sheer open-world hugeness of Skyrim.

    It is an impressive accomplishment for Bioware, its writers, and its programmers. If nothing else, anyone who says the game is underdone is lying through their teeth. This is a product of hard work with every one of its thousands of man hours visible. About the only thing I can compare it to in size is an MMORPG and it has all the benefit of such without the actual MMO-isms.

    This is one big-ass game.


The War Table operations aren't a great deal of fun but help with the feeling you're in charge of an army.
    Have I mentioned its big? Yeah, okay, now we can move on. The premise is the mages and Templars have been at war since the events of Dragon Age 2 (the actual declaration taking place in novel Dragon Age: Asunder). The war has been devastating for both sides so the Chantry, equivalent to the Catholic Church, hosts a peace summit at the holiest spot in Thedas: The Tomb of Sacred Ashes (found by the Warden in Dragon Age: Origins). This is already full of fanservice for  devoted followers of the series. The peace-summit goes disastrously wrong, however, when someone sets off the equivalent of a magical nuke. A literal hole in dimensions is torn and demons begin pouring out by the hundreds.

    All of the participants at the conclave but a scattered handful are killed, including the Chantry's equivalent to the Pope. One survivor, however, emerges from the Fade with a supernatural mark on his (or her) left hand. This is the Herald of Andraste and future Inquisitor.

    Your character.

A duel of words is as deadly as one of swords in Orlais.
    The Breach, as it comes to be known, has had even greater effects than this initial explosion. Smaller rifts have been created across the continent, flooding Thedas with demons. The Templars and Mages blame each other, resuming their fighting, but it's fairly obvious neither is at fault.

    The character, who people believe was rescued by Andraste herself due to some oddball events in the Fade, is thus dragooned into joining a force to put the world back to rights. It's a strong, if somewhat generic, plot. The "save the world" thing has been done many times in the past and I should probably be grateful this isn't just another Blight.

    My biggest criticism of the game is its greatest blessing. Inquisition isn't just meaty, it's outright obese. They could cut half of the side-quests away from the game and it wouldn't lose a thing except running around time. It's possibly to spend forty or so hours in the Hinterlands doing random side-quests so when the time comes for the "Seal the Breach" mission, you assume it's the ending. In fact, this is just the ending of the prologue.

The High Dragon fights are suitably epic.
    I feel a bit daft complaining about this sort of epic scope and it's not a large complaint. In truth, this is a great game to spend a long time with. The game doesn't blow everything at the beginning, either, as there's some truly magnificent levels spread throughout. My favorite was attending an Orlesian masquerade ball where you can assemble blackmail material to, potentially, control the future of the Empire.

    The characters are an eclectic mix of heroes, villains, and anti-heroes with old favorites Varric, Morrigan, Leliana, Hawke, Cole, and Cassandra returning. Sadly, Alistair doesn't make as much of an appearance as I'd hoped but you can't have everything.  New characters of Solas, Sera, Vivienne, Dorian, and Iron Bull are all fascinating even if I can't say I fell in love with some of them the way I did Origins. Writing is where Bioware is at its best and you really come to view all of these individuals as friends by the end of it.

    The Elder One, mastermind behind all of this madness, is a poor villain. While I'll keep his identity secret, he amounts to being little more than a generic doomsday cultist. There's none of the menace and personal anger at Loghain or Malak from previous Bioware games. The Elder One manages to be a better villain the Knight Commander Meredith or the Arishok but even they had moments of pathos. The Elder One, at the end of the day, is a poor man's Skeletor and I think they could have done better with him.

The Inquisitor has a selection of four voices and multiple races, which gives quite a bit of range to characterization.
    I can't say I'm not disappointed with the resolution of the Mage-Templar War too. Given I took the time to write a huge essay on freedom versus security on this website, it turns out none of those issues were addressed. The majority of both factions die in the conclave explosion and the survivors are those who the Inquisitor chooses to ally with. There's no final showdown between the two factions with one faction winning by default.

    I felt kind of cheated.

    The gameplay is similar to Origins with many tweaks. It's real-time turn based with an option to pause the game for tactical commands (which you will never do because there's no real point). You can armor and gear your followers however you want, but their clothing will adjust to their personal styles. High Dragons make a return with a unique set of them spread throughout the game for high-level monster-slaying.

I romanced Cassandra, one of the few openly lawful AND good people in Thedas.
    Another huge draw of the game is the settings are absolutely beautiful. While the Hinterlands are something of a generic fantasy land, there's a fabulous mixture of environments throughout. There's deserts, stormy coasts, gloomy haunted marshes, and a battlefield which has been torn-up to look like World War 1 trenches. All of this is gorgeous and you're really doing yourself a disservice getting this on a last generation console.

    One feature I liked about the game was the addition of the War Table operations. While they could be no different than the Assassins missions from Ubisoft, I think they did a good job making them tools for world-building. Lots of connections from previous games show up and the use of the Dragon Age Keep means I can change my game however I want to. One final thing, for those who care, the romances are considerably more risque with a Witcher 2 level of nudity.

    In conclusion, this is a must-buy for anyone who wants to spend possibly a hundred or so hours in Thedas. If not, you can race through the game, but don't be surprised if the Elder One destroys the world.



  1. They did totally censor the look of Desire demons though. Also nerfed the rouge classes with the removal of the duelist tree though not as bad as they were in DA:O. Also a lack of immoral characters like Isabella, Zeveran, or Fenris. The closest is Iron Bull and he isn't really.

    1. You forget Sera? She's a member of the Thedas version of anonymous and about as roguish as any other character in the setting. She's also deeply-deeply amoral.

    2. Sera walked right out of a Guy Ritchie movie. Really, though it is not quite as bad as the Witcher series but almost everybody in charge is a corrupt prick so getting a little revenge on them isn't a bad thing.

  2. Here's my two or three part review for the game

    Another great review Charles,

    I was busy with this game for two whole weeks just doing it once, that I haven't gone through it again since. The game overall left mixed feelings in me as I feel there are some superb stuff in the game (companions Solas, Iron Bull, Krem, Blackwall Cassandra and Varric), Returning plot points and characters (Orlais being the best level with Morrgian returning and me finally see my warden mage son after all these years, Morrgian really has come a long way form what she was) and you know who returning for two scenes that I felt were maybe the best in the game). The warden stuff (Hawke and Loghain were handled well) was probably the best level, Nightmare being a great villain. Plot twists and revelations that got a reaction out of me.

    Though I felt the game let itself down by having far too many fetch quests and levels that were quite tedious to do (hissing wastes felt like this as did some of the hitherlands and some bits of the ramparts level, feeling like padding rather than making the qame feel more in depth, it's a flaw I see too often with open world games, they feel empty and filled with quests that feel flavourless and add nothing, Skyrim had too many of those along with some real wasted plot and characters, if I didn't have a pc for the mods, I wouldn't own it today. It's the same way I feel towards rockstar's games at times, I love the effort they put into them and their story, but sometimes their open world with gta4 especially felt like this big time a vast empty space.

    Also like you I felt the elder one wasn't a good villain, no tension and a real waste as well considering who it is, there was a lot more they could have done with the elder one. At least some of it's minions had some depth towers them.

    I also felt the Elder one basically was there so Bioware could bait and switch the whole mage and Templar conflict, a cop out on their part.

    Also the game felt like in places that it had been constrain for time despite having had another year and month, Bioware have admitted this a bit hence DLC so hopefully the flaws mentioned above will feel sorted in future.

    1. I really think Inquisition feels like an MMO in many places as it comes across as playing World of Warcraft solo, only you don't see anyone else running around picking Elfroot. Really, they could have broken up the game a bit and made it Dragon Age: Inquisition part I and Dragon Age: Inquisition part II without much difficulty. Heck, expand on it a bit and make the Dragon Effect trilogy.

    2. Yes I felt inquistion felt like an no game overall and not a rpg game. Bioware must be stuck in still thinking they making every game like swtor

  3. The war table I'm mixed on done better than war assets in Mass effect 3, but still feel overall they seem to matter little at times in the game and how much time you have to spend on them can make them really tedious, and some I wish could have been playable quests. Some of the keeps stuff didn't seem to influence anything in the game. But some did so they were worth doing.

    Crafting was something I liked about the game, was fun to do and made it easier to really make my own inquisitor.

    by the time I completed the game I had done 75 hours on one playthrough, with a full work life this a lot of hours to spend on a game and Inquisition sucked a lot of it on stuff that weren't engaging enough I feel.

    The positives outweigh the negatives, but I feel Bioware did a play it by the numbers with this game and personally I feel they could have taken more chances.

    But the sequel hooks keeps Dragon age alive, I hope it will move away now from Fereldain, Oralis and the Free Marches. As well as chantry, Templar and mage stuff, as we have had enough of that I feel.

    Same with characters like Cassandra, Cullen leilana etc. love them but they have had enough role in dragon age and need no more I feel. Morrgian I think they might be able to do with but depends on what they have in mind for her.

    From the ending I imagine more elves stuff and warden stuff will be done, which I approve as more can be done there.

    I give the game 8/10

    Does it's characters and plot twist well enough, just falters on the open world aspects and on the villain this time.

    1. I'm hoping the next Dragon Age game is set on Seheron, the island disputed between the Tevinter Imperium and the Qunari. There's a lot of potential for that location.

    2. I'm hoping the anderfels just to see grey warden main base or antivas, but Aegean would be good as well

    3. I am hoping for Rivain. Not exactly chantry held and not exactly Qun held. Den of pirates, raiders, and thieves like medieval Ukraine but with a religion that is more like Indian Buddhism.