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Dragon Age: Inquisition review

AT A GLANCE
  • An extremely dense, gigantic world
  • Vibrant color pallet breaths new life into combat and exploration
  • Expands upon the previous game in almost every way
  • Tactical camera doesn't always work as intended
  • Can feel overwhelming for newcomers
  • Multiplayer doesn't live up to Mass Effect 3's

It's no secret that many fans of Dragon Age: Origins weren't pleased with Dragon Age 2. And who could blame them? As a sequel to Origins, Dragon Age 2 buffeted all expectations. Almost every aspect of the game - its scope, combat, even character customization - felt completely different. What the hell happened? Enter Dragon Age: Inquisition. Here, BioWare has struck a more harmonious balance between the size and substance of Origins and the streamlined action of its sequel. The result is what Dragon Age 2 should have been: a bridge, masterfully linking style with substance across 100-hours of high-fantasy goodness.

Inquisition picks up shortly after the events of Dragon Age 2. Mages (people with inborn magical talent that also opens them up to demonic possession) and templars (an order of knights dedicated to 'controlling' the mages) are in full-blown civil war against one another. A conclave is convened to try and establish peace between the two, but is cut short by a massive explosion that creates a green, demon-spawning rift in the sky. You emerge as one of the only survivors, with a mysterious power that will let you (hopefully) seal the rift. It's an explosive, if not simple, premise that frees you up to focus on far more interesting personal lives of the people who make up your Inquisition.

Sharing a pint of ale with Iron Bull and meeting his mercenary company, or listening to Varrick spin colorful tales from Kirkwall, is far more compelling than worrying about an evil hole in the sky. Inquisition puts eclectic, interesting characters at the heart of its story, and through them gives you a deeper understanding of what you're fighting for. However, getting invested in these characters can be tricky if you're new to the series and don't already know a qunari from a darkspawn. Too many of the basics about where you are or who you're dealing with are left to codec entries, which can make it difficult to get immersed in this world.

Inquisition is as dense as it is massive, uncoiled from the previous game's cramped city streets and stretched out across two empires. From the marshes of Ferelden to the deserts of Orlais, this game loaded with different regions to explore, each with its own style and expansive landscape. Along the way, Inquisition trips over itself to make sure you always, always have something - maybe a few dozen somethings - to do. These are your typical RPG fare, collect a certain amount of this or kill a certain amount of that, but it's the connections you build with your teammates that gives these tasks weight.

Crafts and customization

When creating your hero, Inquisition once again gives you free rein over your looks. Male and female options exist for humans, dwarves, elves, and, for the first time, qunari - the horned giants from DA2. Presets are available for each, but there are tons of sliders available too so you can get your earlobes and eye shape just right.

You also have greater control over what your characters wear and wield in this game. Crafting and customization exists for all weapon and armor types, letting you decide if you're rogue should have more dexterity or bleed on hit. And unlike DA2, this applies for all party members.

It doesn't hurt that combat in Dragon Age: Inquisition feels really good. Part of this is because of the game's vibrant color palette, an upgrade from previous entries. The landscapes are radiant, each drawing from a different set of hues that help set it apart from the rest, and the lighting bolts and fiery explosions your characters wield really light up the arena, adding to the excitement. Whether it's the arcane arts or just a big freaking mace, the weapons all have a certain heft to them that conveys a satisfying senses of devastation.

On the strategic side, the top-down tactical camera from Origins is back, giving you a bird's eye view during combat with the press of a button. From this vantagepoint, the action is paused, letting you survey the battlefield and assign orders to your party. You can then speed up and slow down time smoothly with the press of a button, giving you total control of the pace of the fight. This is great for planning out your team's next move, and watching the pieces fall into place is always satisfying. Sometimes, however, the tactical camera just isn't a viable option.

Battles will sometimes take place over a wider area than the screen resolution can accommodate, which prevents you from sizing up the fight at a glance. This means having to constantly scroll around the screen hunting for every threat, and building a composite image of the battlefield in your mind. Fighting in close quarters helps alleviate this issue - but tight, enclosed spaces can give the camera trouble when moving around boulders and other obstacles. Thankfully, most of my encounters took place in that sweet spot between large and small.

Like many other BioWare games, Dragon Age: Inquisition is one of choices, but this time you're not just some lone hero with his (or her) merry band. On this adventure, your forces are legion, and through them you can move mountains. And by 'move mountains' I mean sign complex treaties and launch military expeditions, but you get point. Such decisions are made at the war council, where you assign one of three advisers - diplomatic, military, and espionage - to address requests from kings and peasants alike. Will you deploy your spies to assassinate a rebel leader, or use diplomacy to help him change his ways? It's international intrigue with a personal touch, that's the Inquisition guarantee.

I really like the war council. Deciding which missions to prioritize, reading the after action reports, and just listening to your advisers banter about day-to-day scandals across the empire conveys a sense that you're running a small nation. It feels a bit like being on The West Wing, with the part of the President being played by - in my case - an elven wizard who argues about demonic rifts instead of new legislation (pretty much the same thing, really). As elvish wizard President, you have a hand in everything the Inquisition does. The way people treat you, the decisions you're given, and how you carry yourself all channel the weight and responsibility of your office.

My favorite moments, however, are the sentencings. These small vignettes have little consequence on the overall course of the game, but dammit if they don't make you feel like a boss. You sit on your mighty throne - which you can totally customize, by the way - fingers steepled, deep in thought, and conduct a sort of mini-trial. Some defendants are criminals, other are more… complicated, but all will face your judgement. This, along with the war council, the choices you make, and the fact that people start referring to as 'your worship’, all feeds back into the fantasy that you are the boss. And boy does it feel good to be the boss.

Even the multiplayer in Dragon Age: Inquisition feeds into your bossiness. You and a mixture of friends, bots, and/or strangers take on the role of an inquisition's strike team on assignment from the war council. If you've played Mass Effect 3's cooperative, Horde-style multiplayer, this will be familiar territory, even though it doesn't quite measure up. Controlling a single character in Inquisition just isn't as interesting as it is in ME3. Instead of switching between different weapons, managing your ammo, and dashing around between spots of cover, here you're mostly waiting around for the next cooldown to refresh. Inquisition also breaks up the action by having players explore a large dungeon. While this is an interesting idea, the execution leads to a lot of down time as you wander around a mostly empty environment looking for the next mob of baddies to kill.

Multiplayer foibles aside, Dragon Age: Inquisition is a robust and immensely enjoyable game with hours upon hours worth of quests to explore. It smartly expands upon almost every aspect of its predecessor, creating an engrossing experience that lets you emulate some of the power and prestige of being a war general.

More Info

Release date: Nov 18 2014 - Xbox 360, PS3, PC, PS4, Xbox One (US)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, PS4, Xbox One
Genre: Role Playing
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: BioWare
Franchise: Dragon Age
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood, Intense Violence, Nudity, Strong Language, Sexual Content

Dragon Age: Inquisition creates a massive, vibrant world on a scale far greater than its predecessors, and does an excellent job of making you feel in command. The heart of this game rests with its characters, who keep you invested in the action.

This game was reviewed on PS4.

27 comments

  • Cornholio - 23 hours, 30 minutes ago

    I'm loving the game so far. I got the game at the cheapest price from here http://bit.ly/1CcG5U7 Enjoy this is great.
  • Gamer_Boy - November 11, 2014 3:28 p.m.

    can you ride on dragons in this game
  • Psylockerules - November 11, 2014 12:46 p.m.

    DA2 was a step down in every way for me, except the characters Issabella, Varrick, Meryl and Aveline trump any DAO characters for me, except maybe Morrigan but thats due to Claudia blacks silky voice...
  • matthew-erik-simpson - November 12, 2014 12:14 a.m.

    I can agree there. I really loved Isabella and Aveline's banter--it reminded me of Morrigan and Alistair. Meryl was so adorable too; I practically melted when Isabella started affectionately calling her kitten. haha It's such a shame they were basically the only characters I liked, besides Varrick. Overall, I'd say DAO had a better cast.
  • Dangeff - November 11, 2014 9:49 a.m.

    I hate to be *that* guy, but this really doesn't sound like an 8 from the review. Also, the multiplayer you described is basically any group quest in an MMO - might as well take a point off of those if it's so bland and unengaging.
  • Darkhawk - November 11, 2014 8:59 a.m.

    Sounds wonderful... too bad it's so long! Sometimes I wonder about the designers of these video game epics: who's their target demographic? I mean, I used to think it was me: right age (if wrong gender), employed. Disposable income. But that also means: I work, I have a backlog of about 30 games (including other epic RPGs), and even with the cash I can't afford the time. If it was 30 hours, maybe. But not 80-100!
  • Benovation - November 13, 2014 2:39 p.m.

    You do realize longer games include more content which means more stuff for your money... right? The game isn't meant to be beat in a few days. Maybe a span of multiple weeks or even a few month and possibly years! It depends on your pace. But as a comparison you're saying I spend 60 dollars to get a game with more content, action,story, exploration, and great emotion filled content in general? That is around 80-100 HOURS! Nah, I'd rather by a game for 60 dollars that has 30 hours of bad gameplay. Really? We aren't forcing you to play it all in a limited timeframe. You should be happy it's longer. I get you may want a shorter game but in all honesty you know how you beg for a sequel after a good game? Because you want MORE content. When you could've bought a better game with longer content in general. Length is amazing it just means more content for your cash.
  • Schwacko - November 23, 2014 8:48 p.m.

    wow, I never thought I would ever see anyone complain about a great game being too long. I work too, and I have roughly 3 hours of free time every night which I have to be very selective about what I spend that time on. I love that this game is 90 hours long. I have gta5, and shadow of mordor that I still would like to play also but I will eventually get around to them but honestly theres no hurry I will just wait a month to play them. I hope the developers never take your advice
  • Syrasta - November 11, 2014 8:36 a.m.

    The main thing I would like to know is if all the secret explorey stuff is back. It was my favourite aspect of DA:O, that if I paid attention to the details of a codex I could often find a secret boss or some treasure off the beaten path, or if I figured out the logic of a puzzle that was left open ended (there's one in the Mage's Tower that is pretty great) I could summon a ghost who I could then pickpocket for more secrets. It made the world feel crazy real and made me want to explore every inch of it and scour every bit of text for clues, and this seemed really sadly lacking in DA2, which was super linear and didn't really encourage exploration. If they have littered this game with even half as many fun secrets as DA:O I would be really excited, can anyone confirm if this is the case?
  • Torack - November 11, 2014 6:46 a.m.

    Been looking forward to this for a while now!
  • antiAntag0nist - November 11, 2014 5:27 a.m.

    Omg, so excite, much boner. Seriously though, I am really looking forward to this. DA Inquisition is easily my most anticipated game this year and it is looking set to provide an absolute wealth of gameplay.
  • normanpleasant - November 11, 2014 4:40 a.m.

    "+Expands upon the previous game in almost every way" You realise that's not entirely difficult? A Top Trumps card game would expand on DA2 in almost every way.
  • winner2 - November 11, 2014 3:40 a.m.

    Hmmm, nice review but I'm debating how quickly to get this. DA2 left such a bad taste in my mouth that it killed the franchise for me and the dev talk about merging da2 with origins just sounded like they didn't have the balls to admit da2 was a bucket of shit. I feel obligated to play this to see what happens with Morrigan though.
  • normanpleasant - November 11, 2014 4:38 a.m.

    I echo your sentiment. That's why I'm waiting for the price to come down, that way any potential sting won't hurt quite so badly.
  • Rhymenocerous - November 11, 2014 3:34 a.m.

    This is where I'm at: Inquisition sounds awesome in this review (and others). However, I never got round to finishing Origins because (SPOILERS!) Flemeth kept kicking my ass, and I refuse to lower difficulty settings. I have, however, done about 80 hours worth of the game, and made significant decisions. I have not touched DA2, and doubt I ever will. How would all these (PS3) unfinished Origins decisions be transferred to Inquisition on PS4? And will I miss out on story elements since I haven't played DA2? Muchos gracias.
  • normanpleasant - November 11, 2014 4:39 a.m.

    Apparently, Origins decisions aren't factored into Inquisition in any way, only DA2 ones.
  • winner2 - November 11, 2014 5:26 a.m.

    is that true? If it is...disappointing would be an understatement. I'm really starting to think this is going to be a 30$ game for me. I mean how are they able to ignore the thing with Morrigan at the end of origins if she's clearly in inquisition? I would think that's important enough to give some closure on.
  • normanpleasant - November 11, 2014 5:57 a.m.

    Well I'm only going on rumour but the whole Keep thing seems to be the way to go. All that said, if Mass Effect was anything to go by I wouldn't get my hopes up of choices mattering too much anyway.
  • GR_AndyHartup - November 11, 2014 6:39 a.m.

    Just putting it out there... I really enjoyed Dragon Age 2. Yeah, it's linear, but the combat is more accessible, and I'm fond of the characters. I'm aware some don't like it, obviously. Plus, I'm a console player, and that game was designed for the console audience.

Showing 1-20 of 27 comments

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