Dragon Age: Inquisition has you starting out as a mysterious figure who walks out of a large tear in the fade, a rift. This rift is leaking all sorts of spirits and demons. You will meet Cassandra (a favourite from Dragon Age 2), who doesn’t take too kindly to you because the creation of it caused a huge explosion that killed many. This first encounter sets the story that starts you on your 100 plus hour journey through Orlais and Ferelden.
Those who liked the tactical view of the PC version of the first Dragon Age will be happy to know that it makes a full return here on all platforms. The new game engine has been graphically updated, and it shows. Bioware adopted to use a full landscape terrain engine to help show off the diverse environments you visit and this inspired development truly shines as all of the areas you visit look fantastic. I played this on the Xbox One and even though there was the odd glitch with lighting, generally I thought the graphics were superb. The console versions do a very good job but you do notice that graphics occasionally can be a bit rough around the edges. On a high end PC this game would look absolutely incredible. Still, this is a great first RPG for the new consoles and I was glad to finally be able to sink my teeth into one.
The sound and music does the game credit. Whether casting spells or smashing sword on shield, it sounds appropriately weighty. There is a lot of dialogue, as can be expected in a Dragon Age game, and the voice over work is excellent. As you meet more characters to join your Inquisition, they are varied and quite funny. Just like the first Dragon Age game, you can romance a variety of NPCs too. I had a pretty hilarious encounter with a female elf when I tried to flirt with her. This did not go as intended as the character, in no uncertain terms, informed me that like me she preferred women. These humanistic qualities endear you to the characters. You can have up to four in your party at any one time and just like previous entries, swap out and mix up the different characters you recruit. I did find though that on the odd occasion your AI team mates would definitely get in the way. I couldn’t seem to find an option to make them walk somewhere and stay put. There are some optional puzzle sections later in the game and the friendly AI just constantly got in my way which made solving the puzzles quite difficult.
Of course it wouldn’t be a Dragon Age game without dragons, and you do get to fight all manner of different shapes and sizes in terms of these majestic beasts. The larger dragons you won’t be able to tackle until you get to the higher levels (20+) but they are great to battle with and provides a good challenge. One of my favourite set pieces in the game was when, relatively early on, you run into a giant fighting a dragon. It is absolutely brilliant and I found it best to just hang back and let them have at each other. I actually wish there were more set pieces like this in the game.
One of my gripes though is that I wish there was a more cinematic feel to the conversations. On any main plot progression or character quest progression lines, you do get the proper cinematic Mass Effect experience when talking to an NPC but that is where it stops. Unfortunately in this game there are far too many conversations with just a static wide shot camera. You can pan around but much of what made Mass Effect great is lost here because only about a quarter of the conversations you have that cinematic feel. I was most disappointed with this and felt it lost some of the immersion. Overall, the main quest story-line was excellent, though I will say that the climax to the game left me a little underwhelmed. For all of Mass Effect 3’s contentious ending, at least it had a satisfying build up to it. I found the main ending to Dragon Age: Inquisition to be quite subdued, even compared to some of the earlier missions.
Another issue I had is that you had to be a certain level range to continue the main story. If you were under this level recommendation, chances are you wouldn’t progress because the mission would be too hard for you. You can change the difficulty level but even so, having to go and do filler quests to get to that level recommendation was a little annoying. Some of the side quests were quite good, however there were quite a few grind and fetch type quests that got old quickly. I was amazed at how many quest markers led to a scroll or book that ended up being a grind / fetch quest all too frequently. Loot didn’t seem to be frequent either, particularly with weapons and armour. The loot system also seemed to be tied to the progression of the main story rather than the character level. This may have been an intentional design decision by the developers though, as you do get the opportunity to collect various rare metals and items to make your own weapons and armour from blueprints.
Just like the earlier games, the world is broken up into different sections you can visit. These areas are huge and much larger than the previous entry to the series but it still lacks the open world feel of Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. Because of the size of some of these new areas in the game you can obtain mounts (via a mission in the game) I am really hoping that if they make another Dragon Age game they move it to this open world format because the level type design of this first trilogy is starting to feel a little outdated.
I have spent 126 hours on this game I still think, despite some of the issues described, this is a very good RPG. Dragon Age: Inquisition loads particular areas you unlock by working at a planning table) but Inquisition does a lot right and goes a long way to make amends to the poor second game in the series. If you are a fan of Dragon Age, you shouldn’t miss this. If you like complete open world games where you are for most part controlling one character (you have a wide range of characters to gear up and play in Inquisition) then I would possibly wait for The Witcher 3 out in the middle of this year.
Reviewed on Xbox One.