Dragon Age Inquisition – As We Play

So, after having the release date pushed back, Dragon Age Inquisition has finally arrived. Many were left frustrated at the pushed back date, but Bioware promised big things with it and hinted that it would be an incredibly large game. Notably saying in development that they were going to take influence from Skyrim in making the game world bigger and giving it more depth in more ways than one. A big statement and undoubtedly a large undertaking. So, without further delay, let’s get into it.

First Impressions

The game places your player’s character as someone who has encountered a Fade Rift first hand and managed to come back from being sucked into one. Fade Rifts are a new hazard that are spawning all over Orlais and Ferelden, which give demons from The Fade a portal into the world to wreak havoc and be generally demonic. Straight after you find your character being held captive by none other than Cassandra, who spent the entirety of Dragon Age 2 questioning Varric about Hawke’s story and what really happened. She’s in cahoots with Leliana, who is helping interrogate as it seems the incident is also a Chantry matter. Divine Justinia got caught in the blast and no one knows her whereabouts.

Fairly soon you’re sent out with Cassandra to investigate the Rift once again, which is where you get your first taste of action in the tutorial section that many will remember from the first Dragon Age: The Frostback Mountains. The region is much larger than most will remember and that’s a constant theme I found in the early stages of the game, exploring both this and the town of Haven. It shows Bioware’s commitment to giving a larger environment and also shows that since The Blight in Dragon Age Origins, Ferelden has moved on, rebuilt and expanded. Shortly after I set off, I met up with another two new companions for my party, Solas an Elf Mage and everybody’s favourite Dwarf, Varric. Still under some sort of custody of Cassandra, he decides to help on the trek up The Frostback Mountains. Here’s where you get your first taste of combat.

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Combat and Gameplay

I was met with a slight shock. Combat has been slowed back down from the neck-breaking pace in Dragon Age 2. After a short while I found this to be a good thing. Seeing as the game can now support more enemies on screen at a time and with the different enemy classes you’ll encounter, it works well as you can better co-ordinate and observe what’s going on in the battle. Bioware have still managed to keep it as satisfying to pummel enemies as it was in DA2, but it’s more calculated and feels more solid and realistic. As a result, battles are easier to keep track of.

The controls are extremely similar to previous Dragon Age games, though you can map abilities to more buttons now, as they’ve included a shoulder button so you’re able to get 2 extra abilities mapped. Anyone who played DA: Origins on the PC will be thrilled to see that the tactical camera has been re-included and is now featured on every port of the game. This mode allows you to pause the game mid-battle and get a birds-eye view of what’s happening, after which you can give your characters orders to attack, move to a point, use potions or abilities and pretty much anything else you can do in-game. It’s an incredibly useful tool for co-ordinating your formations in battle and becomes especially useful when fighting dragons, who now can have different limbs attacked in order to help you gain tactical advantages.

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Your Fortress

For the first time in Dragon Age you have a fully interactive fortress to call home. Here is where you’ll be introduced to your war council. Comprised of Leliana, Commander Cullen formerly of The Templars who many will recognise from DA2 and Ambassador Josephine Montilyet, an Orlesian diplomat who specialises in helping with the political side of the Inquisition and dealing with bureaucracy from nobles and the like. These 3 greatly come into play when you gather at the War Table and can be assigned to tasks to help in areas of Orlais and Ferelden. The tasks are completed in real-time so that whilst you’re off on quests, these are being completed in the background. Though it sounds like a bad way of doing things in reality, it works well. You can choose shorter tasks when you’re playing for a period of time so you can get plenty done. When you’re about to switch the game off you can set a longer task to be completed so you don’t have them taking up lots of your play time.

A first for the series is the inclusion of an interactive blacksmithing area. You’ll be able to craft new weapons and pieces of armour as well as upgrades. Schematics for these can be bought or sometimes found in chests or dropped by enemies, whereas materials can be acquired by either scrapping old bits of equipment or finding mineral deposits by exploring the game world and mining them. Depending on what materials you use, your armour and weapons can end up being a variety of colours and having different attributes, so it definitely pays to look for the best materials possible. Similarly potions and bombs can be crafted and improved by vigilantly harvesting plants you come across on your travels whereas basic ingredients can be bought. It adds an extra sense of ownership knowing you’re wearing armour that you’ve made yourself and adds that extra bit of customisation which has been slightly lacking in past games.

In amongst your fortress, you’ll find all of your companions and assistants of The Inquisition who you’re all free to talk to. The main members of your party have an extensive amount of dialogue and most will comment on events from the past Dragon Age games which lends impressive continuity and gives fresh perspectives on those events. For veterans of the series who wish to carry over their decisions from previous games, Bioware have introduced the Dragon Age Keep which is a free online app which lets you create a world state of Thedas and allows you to alter all of the important decisions from Dragon Age Orgins and Dragon Age 2 as there’s no feature to import save files seeing as this is primarily a next gen game. So if you had Hawke romance Isabela or had the Hero Of Ferelden follow Morrigan through the Eluvian at the end of Witch Hunt, you can make sure all these things happened.

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What’s The Story?

Continuing after the prologue, the main focus is finding out what’s causing these Fade Rifts to appear through Thedas and moving to stop them. Shortly into the main story, you’re brought face to face with Corypheus, the talking Darkspawn which Hawke encountered and apparently killed in the Dragon Age 2 DLC Legacy. He’s back and has been busy uncovering ancient Tevinter artifacts which are allowing him to cause chaos with his ultimate goal being to reshape the world in his design and thus destroying it to effectively start over in the position of a god. Shortly after this point you’re bestowed fully as the leader of The Inquisition and given the title of Inquisitor officially.

 

Early on you’re forced to make a choice between siding with the Mages or the Templars which greatly affects how the game plays out from here. Whichever side you pick you’ll be facing the opposite side as your enemies as Corypheus will make them his pawns for the entirety of the game. Through the course of the game you’ll often get these decision points which force you to choose and make a tough call, this ultimately affects how your companions end up approving or disapproving of your decisions. It’s a clever device which leaves you feeling the weight of these choices and their outcomes and makes you feel the pressures of being The Inquisitor.

The story takes you through a big portion of Thedas, it’ll have you exploring the game’s large regions, fighting through strongholds and fortresses as you’d expect but it also takes you to attending an Orlesian Ball where you’ll be required to make a good impression on the nobles whilst sneaking around looking for signs of foul play and also time travel believe it or not? It’s mostly a fairly coherent story but in some cases especially in the case of the previously mentioned aspect it can lose it’s focus slightly and become somewhat convoluted. However, with the wealth of variety and the richness and vibrancy of the environments you’ll find this can be overlooked.

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So Much To See, So Much To Do

After a while, exploring the game’s regions, you can see Bioware fulfilled promise to deliver a much bigger game world. Every area is massive in scope and each can take a long while to explore and has many tasks to be completed. Among these tasks are to establish multiple Inquisition camps throughout the region which act as a place where you can restock your supplies but most notably act as fast travel points so that you don’t have to spend extra time traipsing across these vast expanses if you don’t want to. Although if you do want to spend the time seeing the sights there are now mounts available throughout a selection of steeds to help you get around a little bit quicker.

Each of these regions hold a plethora of side quests to complete and as well as gaining XP or loot for rewards you also gain influence which helps the Inquisition’s overall influence or power points which allow you to continue with progressing through the main storyline. The introduction of power points essentially means you have to complete a certain amount of side quests in order to continue with the main story. It’s a clever means of giving an incentive to explore the world to players who wouldn’t usually take the time to seek out what else the game has to offer.

Unfortunately the quests on offer seem to be half filler and half killer. There are some well thought out side quests which require you to complete multiple varied objectives which are accompanied with a decent narrative and have a reasonable amount of depth to them. Sadly, the rest of these side quests often boil down to little more than fetch quests and kill quests. They have the slight feel of being tacked on just to add a few more things to do which ultimately just end up getting slightly tiresome even for the most avid completionist.

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Graphics and Design

Bioware took to utilising the Frostbite engine for this game and it makes a big impact. It’s almost unrecognisable from the previous games and has far more detail to it. Each area has it’s own feel to it and has a great deal of variety to it. Character models have been improved and the lighting to huge scorching planes to dimly lit taverns look excellent. It’s easily the best looking Dragon Age game to date and a degree of care was taken in making it look great.

The sound is also fantastic, ambient noises give credence to the feel of the environments you explore to give them a greater sense of legitimacy and authenticity. The voice acting is also superb and there is more of it than there was before as each of your companions has a greater deal of interaction than before and a wider range of topics to talk about. The main criticism I’d have of interacting with characters is that facial animations seem to be minimal, it’s hard to tell sometimes on the context of what they’re talking about as sometimes their faces maintain blank expressions.

Sadly with games of this size glitches can often slip through the cracks and this game is no different. I’ve encountered texture pop ins/outs, freezes, in a dialogue choice the choice cursor failed to appear so I had to restart the game, dialogue sometimes gets garbled but luckily it can be somewhat remedied by skipping through it and in multiplayer I’ve had the level fail to complete after completing the objective which meant quitting the session. They aren’t usually frequent but they do have an impact on the experience but these will hopefully get taken care of in a patch sometime soon.

Multiplayer

A first for Dragon Age and for anyone who played Mass Effect 3 they’ll be somewhat familiar with how it works. You play in a cooperative team of 4 players pitted against waves of enemies as you fight through levels split into 5 sections with a small variety of objectives. You get the choice of playing a warrior, rogue or a mage and each have starting classes with more that unlock through crafting the appropriate armour or finding the armour as loot as you progress through the areas.

It’s a game mode that heavily requires cooperation and a diverse team in order to succeed. If you have a team of 4 legionnaires or 4 archers then you’re destined to fail, if you have at least one warrior, mage and rogue then you at least have a fighting chance of surviving. After completing or failing a wave you get XP and gold rewards as well as items if you came across any and from there can level up your character. You can craft new armour and weapon upgrades but you’ll only get materials for it by destroying other pieces of equipment for the material resources so you have to be pretty decisive with what you’re going to keep and scrap. In a good and bad way decent equipment drops are usually few and far between so it’s usually pretty evident which can be scrapped and which actually have some use.

The Good Stuff

  • Gorgeous graphics
  • Excellent voice acting
  • Great links to past games
  • So much content
  • Engaging multiplayer that works in this universe

The Bad Stuff

  • Repetitive and overwhelming amount of quests
  • Texture Pop-in and outs and some hardcrashing.
  • Some issues with multiplayer that forces hard-crashing and lagging.

Final Analysis

Dragon Age Inquisition is undoubtedly the most ambitious and expansive in the series to date and has some excellent new additions. Whilst it falls short in some of it’s ambition on the whole it delivers exceedingly well and is an incredible experience.

Technical Competency – 7/10

Graphical Quality – 8/10

Entertainment value – 9/10

Sound quality – 8/10

Overall Quality Grade – 8/10

 

About the author

Ray Willmott

Ray is the founder and editor of Expansive. He is also a former Community Manager for Steel Media, and has written for a variety of gaming websites over the years. His work can be seen on Pocket Gamer, PG.biz, Gfinity, and the Red Bull Gaming Column. He has also written for VG247, Videogamer, GamesTM, PLAY, and MyM Magazine,