For awhile now, I have been in somewhat a bitter non-speaking relationship with Bioware since the fiasco surrounding the now infamous ending of Mass Effect 3. Anyone who knows me, or has read my reviews about the ending, knows that I hated it with every fiber of my being, enough so that I jumped on the band wagon group known as The Retake Movement wanting it changed. I have no regrets; I still believe that the ending was bad and, call me childish, still can’t play the trilogy without feeling some kind of nostalgic despair.
Nowadays however, that hatred has ebbed into a slight bitterness to where I will not wish swift vengeance to rain down from heavens on the ending like a entitled North Korean dictator, but more sneer at it through the blinds at my window while I search through various cat blogs on Tumblr.
Naturally, when the newest release of Bioware’s equally popular series Dragon Age was set to release, I was more than a little hesitant to jump back in. I love the Dragon Age world just as much as I loved the Mass Effect. But thanks to ME3’s ending, I was left with the question of how the game was going to play out. Fans such as myself weren’t exactly on good terms with the company, and this was the first major game in awhile. How was Bioware going to win back their fans, and would it work?
Well, for the most part, yes.
The world of Dragon Age has taken a swift turn since we last visited. Following the events of the previous game, the country is in turmoil with Mages and Templars are at each other’s throats, causing chaos everywhere. Just when it seems that peace may be at hand, the unthinkable happens. A mysterious explosion on a peace talk kills the mage and Templar leaders, as well as The Divine herself. With no leader to quall both sides, the fighting only worsens. But that isn’t the biggest concern. The true enemy lays in the fact the explosion has opened up a gigantic hole in the sky, tearing open the delicate veil between the world of demons and humans.
You take on the role as The Inquisitor, the only survivor of the explosion who quickly becomes the beacon of hope to the people, and is bestowed with the title the Herald of Andrastate.
The power quite literally in the palms of your hands as the Inquisitor has been gifted with the power to open or close Rift, magical tears from The Fade which allows demons from invading the world. As you play, you are given the tremendous task of building the Inquisition and establishing yourself as a force of power and influence in Thedas. In order to do so, you must not only close the great hole in the sky, but also find out who is responsible while bringing peace to a crumbling world.
You can’t really talk about this game without talking about just how bloody gorgeous it is. I mean, seriously! Many were concerned how this game would look with the Frost Bite engine running it, but I can safely say that those concerns were unwarranted.
The new graphics engine takes FULL advantage of the opening up the atmosphere way more than it did in previous games, giving new life and making it feel real. One of the biggest complaints back with Dragon Age 2 was how restricted and confining it was to be just in one local, as well as having repeated dungeons over and over. Here, that’s not a problem in the slightest. In fact, all parts of Theadas are opened up for full exploration in a Skyrim-style free roam. There is practically no where that’s off limits. You can go anywhere and everywhere in locations that are uniquely beautiful and fully flushed out, from the sun-burnt deserts of The Western Approach, to the lush forests of The Emerald Groves, to the elegant markets of Val Royeaux. This game clearly was made for the newer systems, which is both a good thing and bad thing (more on that later).
This being on a new game engine and being ported onto the newer consoles, I was curious on how decisions and actions from previous Dragon Age games were going to be ported over. Well, Bioware came up with a rather ingenious method of doing so with Dragon Age Keep.
Consider it a starting point for both veterans of the series as well as newcomers. Available on the Bioware site, players have the option to reconstructed their world state in Dragon Age to their desires and have it transferred over to Inquisition when they start up the game. Players have the opportunity to make critical and not-so-critical game decisions from who is currently ruling Fereldan to whether or not you supported the mage rebellion.
The story is constructed in tiles displaying players decisions called the story tapestry. It’s a convenient way to keep track of minor & major event that took place in Dragon Age thus far.
The combat system has been given a much needed face-lift as well. Players have more control now on what their party does and where they need to be. At any time during combat, players may pause the action to issue orders to the party whether that means position them in specific location or give them orders to use a certain spell or attack with a flight cam overlooking the action and giving them a bird’s eye view of how many enemies are on the battlefield. Using a fast-forward feature, players may speed up or slow down the action or pause the action again to issue new orders. This makes combat go by much faster and more smoothly with the player having full advantage over the playing field.
Bioware has never come up short when it comes to creating memorable characters, and this game is no exception. There isn’t a person in this game that I didn’t like or couldn’t relate too. For all that gripe about Bioware, they certainly know how to make characters that are not only fun but also characters that make you feel as though they are actual people. And one must not forget about the romances. Ah, the romances! The jeweled-feature of any Bioware game that seems to draw people in more than the game play. The romances in Dragon Age Inquisition are given a more relaxed pace than in past games, making feel more grounded and real. There is more emphasis on emotion and bonding than simply jumping straight into bed (well, in some cases anyway. Iron Bull is whole different story). Everyone on your team is unique with deep and encaging backstories and personalities. There are also old favorites returning for old times sake, which makes the time you have playing that more enjoyable.
For every great game, there is almost always some hiccups along the way. And with a game this big and on this grand of scale, you can’t expect things to always be perfect. Sadly, not all things are bright and shining with Dragon Age Inquisition.
I’ve said before that it’s clear that this game was made for the newer console with the graphic engine being pushed to very edge of awe-inspiring. Consoles like the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 have the hardware capabilities to handle such power but the same can’t be said for those who are still using the last gen models. Players such as myself who play Inquisition on either the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 will find that their system graphics card will not be able to keep up and will most likely experience technical difficulties such as clipping or complete sound failure from time to time. Where areas look alive and lush with colors on the next-gen models will unfortunately look watered and lifeless on the 360 and PS3. In truth, the game just doesn’t look good on the older systems…which means fans aren’t going to get the full experience.
And while we’re on the subject of glitches, there are lots of them that seem to plague both systems. One of the best things about Dragon Age is that while you’re out exploring with your team, you’re treated to some clever party banter. You’ll learn that Dorian gets seasick whenever he looks at the sea or Varric is feeling homesick or Cole commenting on the inner thinking of his team-mates. Unfortunately, a multi-platform bug prevents you from hearing any of this. This bug has also been known to halt completely scenes for minutes on end giving the player no option to skip or reply thus resulting in very long period of awkward silence.
The story in Dragon Age: Inquisition is by no means not interesting, but it’s not all that involving either. The game has you performing side quests in hopes of raising your status power for you to do the critical missions. However, at some point, that’s pretty much all you will be doing. Side quest after side quest after side quest; most of them not even all that important to begin with. This game feels weighted down with the amount of side quests with very little attention giving to the actual story. By the end it cumulates to this huge battle that easily be won which leaves you wondering just what was the big threat in the first place. The RPG element in Dragon Age 2 are argued to be lacking with very little imagination put into it and here, one can make the same argument. It’s still the same skill tree we saw in Dragon Age 2 with just a bit more skills thrown into it except one rarely gets the points enough to add anything to them.
Much like in Mass Effect 3, there is multiplayer in this game. Although fun and challenging, it does not have the same in-game transfer where your victories affect your single-player campaign. And, for as much as I hated that kind element where you felt forced to play multiplayer in order to get the best turn-out, it feels like this was the best time to have that. You play with a small group of players as agents of Inquisition sent to various locations to reclaim footholds and bases that have been overrun by enemies. The map are vastly larger than those seen in Mass Effect 3 and quite easy to get lost or turned around in some areas. As I said, this feature is enjoyable but adds nothing to your campaign and it is quite easy to forget that the game even comes with multiplayer. It is not the most imaginative multiplayer I’ve seen and you’ll quickly come to see the repetitiveness of it after a few rounds.
All in all, Dragon Age Inquisition is a staller game and perhaps one the best of the series so far. The world has been opened up ten-folds in terms of scale and lore, making a much more beautiful world than before. Would I call it Game of the Year? Eh…maybe. Even such minor hiccups such as glitches, not having as much attention be on the story makes the game feel slow. Yes, the game is supposedly to be over a hundred hours long, but majority of it is in side-quests that make it feel like busy work. However, the game is still enjoyable and I would highly recommend it to anyone!
OVERALL RATING – 8/10