Dragon Age: Inquisition Review
Dragon Age has gone through a bit of a renaissance in its brief but entertaining history. Dragon Age: Origins was lauded as a grand, world saving RPG epic that served as a love letter to the bygone era of Bioware’s PC-based strategy RPGs like Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights whilst its less than stellar sequel Dragon Age 2 told a smaller scale, personal story with a much more action-orientated combat experience which was unfortunately laced with all the trademarks of a rushed development cycle. Three years on, Inquisition picks up where the second left off with the general class structures and combat controls remaining… but after the second title, is it really worth checking out?
Dragon Age: inquisition begins with ye good olde amnesiac-themed introduction. After falling in battle the hero awakens, confused and without an idea as to what has occurred. It turns out we are the sole survivor of an event that sees a massive hole in the sky appear linked to the Fade, Dragon Age’s version of a demon realm and managed to snag a new ability to interact and seal breaches to the Fade in the process. The player character is immediately branded as both a hero chosen by the divine and a criminal responsible for the end of days. Soon enough, an Inquisition is launched with the hero at the helm and sets out to convince, win over and ultimately unite the fractured alliances of Thedas to prepare for and to confront the real threat behind the demonic invasion.
As with the previous titles in the series, players are given the option of one of three character classes each of which has their own strengths and weaknesses. The rogue specialises in physical damage output and can further focus on improving either close quarter melee or ranged bows/crossbow combat. The mage class can be specced to provide buffs to party members or all out magic and elemental-based DPS both ranged and over a wide area of effect. The warrior class are best suited to be used as tanks, able to taunt enemies and soak up damage whilst the rest of the party wails on enemies or alternatively can be equipped with high damage weapons to become a full-out damage dealing class with some high end figures. As players gain additional experience and level up, additional sub-classes and abilities become available to tailor how each character plays.
The levelling system has remained relatively in-tact from the older games with players still required to earn experience through examining codex entries, defeating monsters, exploring regions and completing quests to gain skill points. These points can then be spent on a range of skills and as Inquisition introduces a number of new specialisations for each class (although the mage skill trees seemed to have been streamlined somewhat), an improved range of abilities for sub-classes and more options than ever before, players are spoiled for choice and can create a character that best suits their play style. Whilst the move sets and available abilities seem limited early on, they really open up once players have started to explore and level a little more, making it a much more interesting and rewarding experience.
In addition to the main character, players can also recruit a large number of party members during their time with Inquisition and can take up to three of them out into the field to explore, complete quests and destroy hostile forces. As with any Dragon Age title, the party set-up is crucial to success and although the game’s difficulty is not as hardcore as it was in Dragon Age: Origins, it can still prove challenging if you don’t bring the right crew to a fight.
The game’s combat features a blend of the strategic elements such as behaviour macros present in Dragon Age: Origins and mixes it with the faster paced action-centric combat of Dragon Age 2. The controls, classes, enemy types and general flow of combat seem to have been brought across from previous titles and a balance between strategy and action struck nicely – veterans of both titles in the series will feel right at home. The biggest addition to the combat system is the strategic battle camera that enables players to depart from controlling a single character and instead direct the group as a whole. Using the battle camera, players can pause the game at any time to move freely around the area around the area to evaluate tactics and even directly control what each playable character is doing or is planning to do. Players can even stop and start the flow of time for more precise control over the action.
Whilst the battle camera sounds cool in theory and is invaluable in some circumstances, it unfortunately is lacking somewhat in execution. The camera will more often than not gets caught up on environmental objects, especially in enclosed spaces such as building interiors, ruins or caves and this can get quite annoying in the thick of battle. There are numerous situations where this ability proves immensely useful, however after playing with it quite a bit at the start, its limitations will likely prove too frustrating to use on a regular basis and most players will probably only wind it out a handful of times for tricky boss fights or during playthroughs on higher difficulty levels.
By far the biggest change to the series in Inquisition is the transition from closed-in linear settings to an open world the likeness of which you would expect from games like World of Warcraft or an Elder Scrolls title. Simply put, for fans of the series Dragon Age: Inquisition is a behemoth in comparison to its predecessors. The world is broken down into 10 smaller zones (similar to World of Warcraft) that reflect numerous themes. Whilst some zones are significantly larger than others, each of them is absolutely bursting with content. When I finally decided to move on from the first zone, I had played for just under 9 hours and still had 15 active side-quests outstanding in the area.
Not only is there a tonne of optional content in Dragon Age: Inquisition, but there is a decent variety to it as well, which means the game does not fall into the pitfall of repetition that many RPGs do. There are Fade rifts to track down and seal, landmarks to claim, camps and fast travel points to establish, oculus type look-outs to find hidden items, a large assortment of story-themed side-quests, resources to be found in abundance and then for the explorer – there’s always another cave, building or ruin to investigate. It is almost impossible to set a waypoint to complete a quest without getting side-tracked along the way.
Central to Inquisition’s happenings is the Inquisition home base of Haven in which players can use their downtime between exploration sorties to spend resources crafting new weapons and potions, track down and speak to party members off-mission to fill in additional backstory and build deeper relationships and utilise the War Room to control the Inquisition’s general comings and goings. The War Room is used to launch campaign missions, open up new areas for exploration and undergo a series of dispatch tasks in which players can use one of their agents to solve a series of crises and side-tasks that pop up on the map periodically. These tasks can be solved in numerous ways – either diplomatically, stealthily or militarily and depending on how they are approached can influence the rewards on offer and the influence/power gained.
The environments in Inquisition are exquisite with the boffins at Bioware having done a fantastic job at utilising the Frostbite 2.0 engine. The various zones cover a range of environmental types and range from the Hinterlands filled with sweeping vistas, farms and ruins, to the Storm Coast – an area dominated by rocky cliffs and beaches filled with wrecked ships to the shifting sands and beautiful waterworks of the Forbidden Oasis. Each of the 10 zones has its own unique look and feel and is meticulously detailed. On the other hand, the character and NPC models are unfortunately not quite as impressive and although they are a significant improvement over last-gen offerings, when compared to what can be seen in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare or Assassin’s Creed Unity, the developers still have a lot of work to do to catch up.
The audio side of things does a great job of setting the atmosphere with the music and ambiance matching the various zones quite expertly. As is to be expected from Bioware all of the dialogue is voiced and for the main character, there are two voice options for both male and female characters (that’s a lot of dialogue!). Additionally, your recruits, contacts and party members are all voiced extremely well with the voice actors delivering a unique sense of individuality to each.
Whilst it is certainly the best title in the series to date, it still exhibits a few flaws likely due to its complexity and ambition. For example, the main character’s animations look a little awkward (this however is a typical Dragon Age issue) and from a distance character and enemy animations look choppy. Whilst the environment is a joy to behold, the character models are much less impressive and as explored earlier, the combat camera had a few issues that made it frustrating to use. Unfortunately, the game is also a little on the buggy side with some visual texture pop-ins, NPC and enemy clipping issues and lengthy loading times. I even had one humorous moment where I must have double pumped the jump button near an NPC resulting in my character entering a conversation mid-jump and being locked in a falling animation afterwards until I switched to combat stance. Funny, sure, but it most certainly broke the immersion.
Dragon Age: Inquisition ticks all the boxes for a grand RPG experience – the huge game world, hundreds of hours of content, an excellent combat system, entertaining travelling companions and at times a compelling overarching narrative all fuse together to create an experience unmatched on current gen systems. Despite a few flaws here and there, Dragon Age: Inquisition is an ambitious, content rich title that is most certainly worth your time and money – I implore you to check it out.
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