Welcome to Dragon Age: Inquisition, the third in the medieval action and role-playing series developed by Bioware and published by EA. It follows Dragon Age II and Dragon Age Origins. For someone who has never played any of the series previously, and who tends to be more of a casual then a diehard gamer (there’s a reason I never got into Skyrim!) Dragon Age Inquisition has been an experience to say the least.
Dragon Age: Inquisition really does have an expansive and detailed history and it’s utterly bewildering to start the game being completely unaware of all of it. From the very beginning names and places are thrown at you with the expectation that you understand it, couple this with learning the gameplay, combat, herbs, metals, and some crazy hole in the sky and a weird green thing up your arm and it all gets a little much. Even if we take a step back to designing your character, the species and type are confusing enough especially if you decide to be Ox Man, or Qunari. Those dudes are badass. It doesn’t take long before you’re roaming around Haven and the Hinterlands, having no idea what you’re doing or where you’re going. There’s new information thrown at you left right and centre and frankly I just ignored most of it in those early stages. As is often the case with rpg’s I neglected lots of quests I could have done earlier and it took me far too long to get companions and Skyhold because I was too busy roaming the wilderness confused. Here’s the thing though, although I was lost and confused, I didn’t want to stop playing. It took a while but I started to figure things out, and before I knew it I started to fall madly in love with this game.
Games take you to other worlds, some more than others, but Thedas was so expansive and immersive and so complete, that it almost felt like I was in a choose your own adventure novel that was the size of the Lord of Rings series. I’ve played a lot of role playing games, and the element of choice has always appealed to me, but too often regardless of what you choose the game plays out in the same way. Dragon Age: Inquisition isn’t like that. The decisions from the beginning (I really had to think about the Mages v Templars) make a huge difference in how the game continues. Sure some, like the choice between Bull’s Chargers and the Ben-hassrath feels heartbreaking and lame and doesn’t seem to do much besides make Iron Bull sad, but for the most part I felt like I had made the game my own.
The party combat system made me feel like I was playing the Knights of the Old Republic, one of my old favourites growing up, and the interaction between party members were invariably amusing. Having Sara and Blackwall in your party always lead to some interesting and sometimes childish discussions, Solas makes you want to be wiser and Dorian is, well, narcissistic but likable. So too the relationship options with other characters make the game worth playing. Each character is written so in depth and so well, their story interacts with yours and you find yourself feeling for them way more than you think you will. The choice of who will be your ‘kadan’ as Iron Bull would say, ends up as a really difficult decision, and it’s about more than just who you choose, it’s also if they choose you in return.
Dragon Age: Inquisition is a game where you are never short of something to do. Along with playing through the main storyline there’s a huge number of maps to explore, each with multiple side quests, herbs to gather and landmarks to find. Your companions and how much time you spent conversing with them will also unlock extra quests and it’s really up to you whether you’re a completionist, finding every agent, following every lead across the map and slaying every dragon. There’s also the war table which allows you to use the power you’ve gained to send your advisers to complete missions and you have the ability to chose your strategy based on your advisers suggestions, diplomacy, intrigue and spy craft or just sending in your soldiers. You can also find resources to assist you in your crafting and potion making.
There’s so much more you could say about the quests, even purely discussing the main story missions could fill pages, so instead I’ll say that the main story has plenty of action, more discussion and intrigue as well as some pretty intense boss fights. Some may find the political moves tiring and a little annoying, and there’s certainly plenty of dialogue, but it was something that sets them apart from other games and highlights the strength and depth of the story you find yourself in.
The multiplayer expansion however, is a bit of a miss. You play as a scout or soldier of the Inquisition and complete matches with or without other players. There’s a usual series of goals for each match, like finding and protecting inquisition allies, clearing out hostile forces, looting treasure rooms and finally placing and defending the Inquisition banner. You are given a number of options to play as, like an archer or keeper, and unlock more characters with better abilities and strengths the more you play. The matches are impossible to complete alone when you start, but you start to level up and earn treasure to get yourself better equipment fairly quickly. Loot isn’t straightforward as you share all your finds through all your characters and can only buy chests in game currency not specific items or potions. There’s also premium items for in-game purchase (thank you EA) but wheres the fun in that? The missions get repetitive fast and there’s the usual multiplayer issues like kill steals, when you level up you would rather play alone instead of fighting 3 others for experience points. The matches don’t have much detail, there’s essentially no story beyond ‘kill those guys’ and honestly once the novelty wears off its not particularly fun. Unfortunately the expansion seems to have neglected all the strengths of the main game in pursuit of easy money and perhaps in a rush to get it playable. By all means play it for the achievements but don’t expect much more!
Ultimately though I fell in love with Dragon Age Inquisition because although I didn’t necessarily understand the story from the start, it pulls you in, and in, and in. You find yourself at the end of the game and your first thought is wanting to do it all over again. When I did start anew and saw the characters I had grown to know so well I found myself feeling nostalgic, left trying to feel out their story and pick up all the detail I missed in my fumbling first attempt. This game will capture you, pull you in, and not let you out. You will be angry, sad, lost, confused and your emotion will shape the world around you. It’s a beautiful and rare thing to find a story and a world so expertly done in a game and it’s no wonder so many others feel the same as I do!
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