Game Title: Dragon Age Inquisition
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Definitely buy it!