Bioware’s Dragon Age series has had a bit of a rocky road as far as I’m concerned . Origins is without a doubt one of the most memorable RPG of the previous generation. The game boasted one of the best RPG combat systems I’d seen in a long time, but the world which it presented had a lot of problems. The scope in which it presented it’s world felt extremely off and the sheer amount of lore that had been written up for the story came off as being overbearing for both the writers and the player.
While Dragon Age 2 was unnecessarily stripped down in terms of the world, combat and mechanics, it delivered a much more cohesive experience and one that felt very suited for the type of game it was trying to be. It was rough as all hell around the edges, and it still came across as if BioWare didn’t really know where to take the series.
Dragon Age: Inquisition doesn’t take the series far from its roots, but it delivers one of the most well crafted RPGs in recent memory and an incredibly rich game of extraordinarily realized and vast scope.
Inquisition picks up shortly after the tumultuous conclusion of Dragon Age 2, where the conflict between the Mage and Templar factions had escalated to the point that full on war between the two sides was imminent. In the opening scenes we bear witness to talks of a peace treaty being interrupted by a giant magical explosion that decimates the hierarchy of both factions and leaves only a single survivor in the form of the player’s character.
Your character doesn’t escape unharmed though, you’re left branded with a strange mark that allows you to tap into the mystical energies that are threatening to tear the world apart by way of a giant portal through which demons are pouring out. Since you’re the only one around who may stand a chance at closing off this breach, you’re quickly inducted into the Inquisition; and organization with the sole aim of closing the Breach and restoring order to the land by any means.
The story that subsequently unfolds is stellar, featuring some of the best writing and characters in any BioWare game to date. It’s the first game in this series to use the massive slew of lore in a way that feels right. No part of the story or world is put to waste, everything and everyone has their own tale to tell and almost every yarn spun is a good one.
The cast is the most interesting and diverse of any game this year and each character is far more nuanced than they first appear. What’s more is that there’s a real sense of loyalty and mistrust between your fellow Inquisition members. Alliances need to balanced carefully and a thankful breakaway from the binary good and evil BioWare choice system delivers some much welcome moral grey areas to traverse.
As with all the BioWare games your party members serve to still be the highlight of the whole experience. Each of them is fleshed out with broad dialogue trees and fully fledged personalities for you to interact with and there’s not a weak link in the bunch. I had favourites to be sure but each party members was interesting enough to warrant you spending some with them.
This emphasis on smaller character arcs and conflicts serves as a great contrast between the larger scale of the overall story and the world changing decisions you’re expected to undertake as a key member of the Inquisition.
This is where the real scope of the game and it’s mechanics becomes frighteningly clear. It moves the focus away from you and your small band of warriors and finally brings attention to the fast network of Dragon Age’s complex politics and alliances and throws you into the middle of it all.
You engage with the various other factions and kingdoms by way of sending your advisers and agents out into the world to undertake missions on your behalf. These are undertaken in real time with the timer ticking down even if you’re not playing. Each missions reaps some rewards and serves to bolster the Inquisition’s power and influence.
You not playing an armchair general though, you can venture out with your own small party to acquire resources and fill requisitions for the Inquisition, which either add to the influence and power of your army, or expand your own personal suite of gear like potions and weapons.
Progression in the main story is actually locked behind advancing the Inquisition’s might to a certain point, meaning that the game practically forces you into exploring. While this could have been a cumbersome and annoying restriction on the gameplay it instead serves to be one of the game’s greatest decisions as it forces you into engaging with the incredibly enchanting areas on offer,
Each of the numerous zones you’ll be roaming around is gigantic and really serves to cater to the wanderlust the game instills in you. From a desolated desert to a verdant mountain range and the dreaded marshlands, there’s a stellar amount of variety in the environments and a staggering amount of things to do and missions to undertake.
Whether you’re hunting down rebels for the nearby mayor or seeking resources for the Inquisition to utilize, you’re constantly progressing and building your forces. There’s no sense that you’re ever wasting time and nothing you do is ever in vain as it all comes back to making the Inquisition a more formidable force.
Inquisition takes the a lot elements of both Origins and Dragon Age 2 to create the best combat system in the series yet. There’s still a foucs on the real-time, moment to moment combat that sees you engaging enemies in action-lite manner, but the more tactical orientated nature of Origins is here in full.
You can pause the combat at any time to bring up a tactical view mode that allows you to map the actions and movement of each party member individually. A single button press will make all play out, leaving you free to plan accordingly as things unfold. It’s a fantastic system that accommodates a large range of play styles and challenge level without sacrificing any of the fantastic depth.
The combat’s fantastic level of depth is mostly thanks to the wonderful amount of class variety that Inquisition offers. Classes are still divided into the the tried and true warrior, rogue and mage archetypes, but the numerous amounts of sub-classes and specializations available to each opens up a massive amount of variation to the combat and makes it just fantastic to engage with on so many levels.
This is the first game that sees BioWare making use of the Frostbite 3 engine and they’ve leveraged it to some fantastic results. The environments are jaw droppingly gorgeous at times, with the foliage, water and particle effects from spells standing out as some of the best in class.
The texture quality all round is just fantastic and the facial animation on each character is a serious and much needed step up for the series. Subtle nuances in the facial animation speak far more than a whole string of sentences and the game capitalizes on that reality very well.
When you look at the sheer attention to detail and the massive scale of the world it’s quite the achievement. The art style finally differentiates the series from hordes of other generic fantasy universes and lends the game quite a bit of unique flair, which was very lacking before.
Inquisition is the most fleshed out and fully realized Dragon Age game yet. It uses its massive amount of interesting lore, some incredible characters and gameplay elements that are as compelling mechanically as they are narratively to create a game that is extraordinarily gripping. It makes you feel the weight and impact of each choice like few other games can and the result is a world that I’ll be happy to return to for a good long while.
Lasting Appeal: 8.5/10
Ever so slightly unhinged, this one spends most of his time playing or writing about video games. Also dabbles heavily in tabletop, comics and the occasional bout of music creation.