Dragon Age Inquisition – The Review

Game Title: Dragon Age Inquisition
Developer:  BioWare
Publisher:  Electronic Arts
Director: Michael Laidlaw
Writer:  David Gaider
Released:  November 2014
Note:  The reviewer played the game on the Xbox 360, so some technical issues may not be present on other systems.

So I’m a little bit late to the game with Dragon Age Inquisition. It’s been a financially trying year, among other things, which pulled me away from reviewing and playing some awesome games. So yeah, I’m playing catch-up. But what a great way to get back into the swing of things than with BioWare’s next gem! And boy, they did not disappoint…

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The Good

The Story

BioWare has a signature storytelling style that is present in virtually every game they produce. The player gets to control a character whose decisions influence the the world. At the same time, the player interacts with his/her teammates and other NPCs to strength relationships / friendships. It’s amazing, really. BioWare, more than any other company, seems to create games with stories like this with ease.

This time, the player gets to control a character known as The Inquisitor.  Through events no fault of his/her own, The Inquisitor is thrust into the spotlight as the Herald of Andraste and chosen to lead the Inquisition (an independent political body with military and political power formed in order to put an end to the Mage/Templar war and take care of the current crisis threatening Thedas).  This is the beginning of a journey that can only be described as epic. The Inquisitor brings an end to the war, plays a critical role in determining the new leader of an empire,  controls the fate of the legendary Grey Wardens, and so much more. The scary part… it doesn’t seem like a big deal when these events play out. But in retrospect, when talking about it with your teammates, the scope of The Inquisitor’s actions are made clear… and everyone is amazed at his/her actions.

Leliana is very impressed with you

Leliana is very impressed with you

The story isn’t just epic in nature, it is also very personal. The Inquisitor builds relations with his/her teammates through a series of interactions and subquests. These quests humanizes the team and lets the player feel closer to them in a way that only BioWare seems to be able to do. The way Cassandra fangirls over Varric’s book series (while he had no idea how popular it was) makes her much more relatable and actually charming! She is giddy when Varric gave her an advanced copy of the next book in the series. She tries to hide her excitement, but she’s on the verge of dancing and singing the moment she got her hands on that book!

There’s so much more. If you decide that Hawke dies (like I did), Varric is absolutely crushed. And I mean crushed. His best friend died and you can feel what he’s feeling. The voice actor captured that moment perfectly when he realized that Hawke wasn’t coming back from the Fade. It made me regret the decision of having him stay there. And then there’s Iron Bull. I love Iron Bull.

Iron Bull Loves Dragons

Iron Bull Loves Dragons

And he’s always with me whenever I go fight a dragon. He loves fighting dragons.

Overall, I cannot say enough great things about the story. It’s the best BioWare made.

The Audio Experience

The voice acting used in this game was arguably the best in any BioWare game. The music flowed seamlessly with each event, adding to the general mood of the game. Of course, this is a staple of every single BioWare game. The voice acting and music brings the game to life.

The scene that captures this perfectly is just after the hero survives an attack by Corypheus at Haven. He/She wanders through the snow and mountains to find the survivors huddled together. The sudden appearance of the Herald of Andraste gives them hope like none other could. Their spirits rose and then they started to sing. It was strangely uplifting and spiritual, praising the Maker and giving themselves hope in something far greater than themselves. They needed that hope in the coming battle. And right in the middle of the song, some knelt before The Inquisitor while many others gathered. It was the turning point in the game, when they took Corypheus’ best shot and found that it wasn’t enough to keep them down.

The Bad (Well… not really Bad… but somewhat negative)

Open World / Narrative

Okay. This one will probably get me some hatred, and I get that. When I talked to fans of this game, one of their praises is how open the maps are. A lot of people loved how they could explore and find new and interesting stuff to do. So I get that. There’s quite a bit of small details in each map and it can be a treat to discover each and every one of them.

The World Map

Except… that’s not how Dragon Age games work.

In Dragon Age Origins and Dragon Age 2, the hero always had a clear-cut goal for every single area. There was never any question why the hero entered into the Deep Roads or entered the Fade. Each dungeon crawl was an extension of the story. This is the way the narrative functioned within the Dragon Age setting. This is not the case in Dragon Age Inquisition. In that game, exploration was emphasized far more than stories for every single map. The player runs to their goal, which could take close to twenty minutes, and watches the event play out. After that, the player runs to the next point on the map and watches the next event play out. The journey rarely, if ever, has anything to do with the unfolding of the narrative. It had the feel of an MMO, or maybe Skyrim.

Was it good? Sure. But was it Dragon Age? No.

Killing Time

I think 60-70% of the game is filled with BS quests in order to level up enough to do the next important mission. I wish I were kidding or exaggerating that. I spent fifteen hours on missions to get powerful enough to take on the final mission at Haven (fighting the invading army). Fifteen hours!!! And before I started the Grey Warden mission, I must have spent ten or fifteen hours running around map after map after map to finish everything up that I can in order to get to the right level.

Poor guy. He will be missed

Poor guy. He will be missed

A lot of the missions were pointless. Collecting herbs and metals. Herding farm animals. Putting flowers on graves. Collecting herbs and metals. Spreading ashes. Riding horses. Collecting herbs and metals. Gathering animal body parts. Blinding wandering into caves because they look cool. Stab a giant in the shin. Find a ring and return it to the owner. Did I mention collecting herbs and metal? Because there was a lot of that. Lord knows the leader of one of the largest and most powerful political bodies on the planet couldn’t spare the people to do THESE BULLS**T QUESTS. Oh wait. The Inquisitor could have his/her men go out to do that, but they absolutely suck at it. It takes them fifteen minutes to collect a fraction of the material that the Inquisitor could gather in one minute.

It was like the BioWare team was sitting around a table and spitballing every side quest they have ever played in an MMO while eating corn chips.

The Ugly

Technical Issues

In theory, each map is an entire world in of itself. There’s no loading time. Everything is already there. It’s not like the days of the PS1, where there would be a loading screen for every house that you enter or every battle you fight. The map should transition from cave to ocean seamlessly. It should. Sadly, it did not.

So… what went wrong?

What went wrong was that guy didn't disappear immediately and fried my ass

What went wrong was that guy didn’t disappear immediately and fried my ass

There were countless times when I entered Skyhold and it was 100% empty. No decorations. No tables. No people. Nothing at all. Then suddenly, everything pop into existence at once. This shouldn’t be happening. This is just one example. I’ve seen mountains, trees, horses, dragons, and entire towns appear out of thin air. There’s no excuse for this to be occurring at the end of the Xbox 360’s cycle. The game developers should know what the system is capable of doing and create the games that the system can support.

No DLCs for the PS3 or Xbox 360

It’s pretty convenient that BioWare decided to no longer support DLCs for the PS3 and Xbox 360 when it was clear that Dragon Age Inquisition (sold 4.15 million copies) would fall over a million copies short of their last hit: Mass Effect 3 (sold 5.63 million copies). Dragon Age Inquisition couldn’t even outsell Dragon Age: Origins (sold 4.86 million copies). If you consider that 1.04 million copies of Dragon Age: Inquisition was sold on the PS3 and Xbox 360, trying to get those people to purchase another game would certainly help close that sizable gap.

The Result

There’s a lot to love in this game. BioWare made sure of that. If you enjoy games which rewards exploration and has a great story, this is the game for you. While it does not give an exact Dragon Age experience like the previous games, what it gives is quite a bit of fun. There’s a lot to discover in the game. Just keep in mind that this game plays a little bit differently than other Dragon Age games that came before it. It was noticeable to me, though it wasn’t enough to diminish my enjoyment. My only real complaint was that the game took 90 hours to beat. Waaaaaaaay too long for my tastes. Outside of that, it was a great experience.

Trying to divide the bill

Trying to divide the bill

Definitely buy it!

 

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2 comments on “Dragon Age Inquisition – The Review

  1. Welcome back Michael.

    Bioware has been hit or miss for me since becoming an EA company but I can say I was pleasantly surprised with Dragon Age Inquisition. At one point I was ready to right Bioware off and the deciding factor was to be Dragon Age Inquisition. It is safe to say I am still on the Bioware band wagon, if only a foot still hangs off the side.

    The game is beautiful to look at. The music and sounds are fantastic. The open world feel was handle well though it could have been better. I disagree with you that the open world design was not Dragon Age. The problem wasn’t the inclusion of an open world but the execution of it. In the best open world/sandbox games the devs give you a clear cut objective that you can go to and complete at will. Exploration is a choice. What Bioware did wrong as you pointed out was making exploration mandatory in order to become strong enough to complete the next objective. Choosing to explore the world should have been an option that is rewarded with loot not a necessity in order to advance. however I love exploring in games so I did not have an issue with 100+ hours of wandering.

    The overall story was a bit thin but much like Mass Effect 2 the character stories made the game for me. As with the best Bioware games I fell in love with these characters. I wanted them by my side and I wanted to help them with any request they had for me. If I have to criticize I must say i had an issue with how love interest were handle in the end game. Some final scene at the end with your chosen love interest or some kind of acknowledgment would have been nice, not crucial just nice.

    As a side note though Josephine and Cassandra were my first choices I found that I absolutely loved Serah. I did not wholly agree with her ideology but something about her simple, straight forward nature endeared her to me. I found myself playing as a female inquisitor just to experience her LI story.

    Overall I did love the game. it is nice to at least fell that EA is letting Bioware do Bioware again. Hope it last but we’ll see when Mass Effect Andromeda comes out.

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