Dragon’s Den: Dragon Age Inquisition
I want to start this review off by saying that I love this series. I enjoy the settings, the stories, and the very lore of each title. The moment this title was announced, I was incredibly excited to see what this title had to offer, and even more so when they offered the choice to play the Qunari race which wasn’t an option in previous games. But now that the game has finally released and I’ve had the time to beat it, let’s get this review on the road.
The story takes place what seems to be immediately after the events of Dragon Age 2 with Cassandra and Vaaric leaving the tower and witnessing an explosion where a rift has opened. As they get closer to the rift, the hero falls out of said rift and you are immediately taken captive as you pass out. You awaken to learn that you now have something magical embedded into your hand and you are the only one with the ability to close the rifts where multiple demons have been coming out of. The combination of the multiple demons invading the worlds and the war between the Mages and Templars, it becomes up to you and your party to organize an army large enough to deal with all of these threats and learn what is behind the opening rifts and put a stop to it. Characters you recruit into your party are all likable as they each have their own story to tell and add to your own if you chose to. You’re easily able to care about your party because they show emotions to whatever you choose within the story which at this point is a given for a Dragon Age title with relatable characters.
Immediately I find this story a great improvement over Dragon Age 2 as it raises the stakes once again to the threat that just doesn’t affect a single person or it doesn’t build up to the next game in the final act. The threat is clearly affecting both Fereldan and Orlais with you being the only way to stop it. To avoid spoilers, I’ll say that the course of the story does reference things that have happened in previous games. This does not mean however that you are required to play those games as if you’re curious enough, you can talk to the relevant characters and will give you a summary of what happened and why; making it a great way to inform players if they choose to. But your race and class does not play a big part in anything outside of the beginning if you choose the Qunari. For the purposes of this review, I played a Qunari Mage as it was the combination I was most curious about, as Dragon Age 2 displays how poorly they were treated and I wanted to see if there was additional story to how I would over come that struggle. That is not the case as you are a Qunari outside the larger communities doing mercenary work.
The graphics are amazing and absolutely beautiful as you explore the world. Forests are full of life with vines, trees that realistically breezes with the wind, wildlife roaming through any landscape whether it’s the aforementioned forest, deserts, mountains, or the beds of snow. Dragon Age Inquisition actually fulfilled the promise that Skyrim made and actually made their world feel more alive than anything made previously. The music fits the great tone as well with great scores playing during cutscenes. There’s a scene where your group begins to sing, and it still sticks in my mind as the song is not only catchy, but it’s also very touching when it sets the tone for what lies in the road ahead. Outside of the cutscenes however, I can not think of any music that plays as you explore the world or and standard fights outside of some bosses. With the lack of any memorable music for the rest of the game, longer sessions could become more of a chore to get through unless you have something else playing in the background to keep yourself entertained for anything outside of cutscenes as you go through any main quests or side-quests.
The voice acting for just about every character is spot on, emitting emotion as the conversation sways from one way or another and while events happen around them. But the one voice that began to grate on me as I continued through the game was the hero’s. I can not recall a single moment when your character gives off any form of real emotion that’s not obvious anger toward someone, which is one of my main complaints for this game and I have the same complaint about the Mass Effect series. In any given situation that’s shocking or different happens and the only way your character responds is just neutral, and how can you expect the player to care about what’s going on when the hero doesn’t? You can maybe give it the excuse that he’s a leader or anything like that; but at the end of the day, your character is still a person. This grates on me even more so than Mass Effect because your character before the events of the game is just a person that happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I can not connect to a character I create if that character reacts to anything as if anything out of the blue just happens like any other day.
The gameplay itself is something I have mixed feelings about as it does a lot to improve on combat, but takes away so many others. As I said previously, you can explore multiple set locations throughout Fereldan and Orlais. You can gather multiple reagents like herbs, ores, etc. and use them to upgrade your potions or create and customize your own armor and weapons. This is a system I can appreciate a lot as it promotes character growth and still have the ability to look and fight how you like. The armor and weapons look more varied than previous titles and that’s a great addition to finally have as you have more options how you look as you create armor with different items and still gain bonuses to what you would like.
Between quests, you can also go back to your base and enter your War Room where you and three other people plot about what to do next with stray decisions to slightly affect the countries as you decide where to go, what person you want to send, what you want them to do, etc. A majority of these War Room quests give a set amount of real-world time along with a selection of text of what said quest entails. The end of each quest can give you more influence (which can give you more bonuses as gain more influence), more gold, a new area to explore, or more reagents for your party along with any extra accessories. I began these quests by reading through each one to see what I’m agreeing to go with and then come back later to see the rewards. But as time went on, I began to realize I still had multiple War Room quests after I completed every side-quest available to me and I stopped caring about reading through each one as no real consequence occurs from going a certain route instead of another. The moment you choose who to send based off who can do it quicker, the quest is an automatic success the moment the timer hits zero. Then I realized that whenever I have someone leave to gather resources, it’s still up to you to come back and ask them to maybe go off to the same place to gather more of the same resource. You have to delegate everything as no one can continue gathering resources after the ten-twenty minute timer set, which I suppose could be considered broken if you had someone go off to gather money or resources if you just turn off the console and come back a week later with thousands of gold and resources waiting for you. But if this is a concern for the War Room, I’d argue not to have any real-world timers set for quests at all as it will slow down and push away anyone who would rather finish all side-quests before continuing with the main game and just play something else while they wait for the twelve to twenty hour timer to finish, see if there is another open quest and start it, then go back to what they were doing before like I did.
The combat is where I have the most complaints about the game. While warriors have a new armor ability that acts as a shield you have to damage first before actually damaging the health bar, rogues continue to do a lot of damage with various means while keeping enemies off of them, the mages are the worst class to enjoy unless you use a specific exploit. For any role-playing game, I choose the caster first as you can easily tell what is innovated, how powerful you can be the way you’d like to play, and how your power grows the more you continue that route. I began using the ice spells, and at first I felt like I was the best character doing all of the damage in the group, but that quickly dissipated as between levels five to ten, I was still only doing between ten to twenty damage when the rest of the party were easily doing above fifty to seventy. This is because the game brings back Dragon Age 2’s staves of a specific element and you quickly learn that everything outside a specific creature has an absurd resistance to any given element making the Mage class almost completely a poor decision compared to the rest. But as a positive the combat is enjoyable for any melee or ranger class as it combines the strategic-ness of Dragon Age Origins, with the dynamic abilities of Dragon Age 2, watching the fights unfold is pleasing to the eye as your character charges, jumps around, etc. Another thing I don’t agree with is that you are given a set amount of potions to heal yourself which is also shared with your party. You can go through a hectic battle or a series of small fights and your party will diminish your potion supplies (and only leave you two left for yourself out of eight or twelve). It makes it seem like they were trying to borrow the Estus Flask from the Dark Souls series, but forgot that only one person drinks out of it, which makes you continuously fast travel to camps so you can replenish your supply and make any given quest last that much longer the more it occurs. This is even more evident when the game removes any form of healing from the Mage class which was head-scratching to me.
The ineffectiveness became so apparent the further I went into the game as I tried to branch out into other elemental spells to make basic fights easier and less of a chore to get through as I lost the will to continue playing any more of the game for a couple of weeks. During the course of my playthrough I tried multiple times after the game became more of a chore but I was just not feeling any enjoyment playing a caster anymore and wasn’t until I finally decided to rearrange my characters abilities to that of the Knight-Enchanter exploit as it is the only advanced class choice you can realistically use as the basic attack was that of a sword swipe that does not have any element and therefore no resistances enemies can use to lessen the damage. It’s even more so of an exploit as the Knight-Enchanter has abilities that destroys an enemies shield or armor and make it your own, and still continue to gain shields per strike. With this exploit, my character and Vivienne (For anyone that plays a different class) are both able to defeat dragons single-handed.
For the first time in the series, Dragon Age Inquisition has a multiplayer mode and it’s obvious that it’s a second thought. At the start, you’re asked to choose between a small selection of pre-determined classes and it’s up to you to gather the resources necessary to unlock the rest of the classes. This will sound silly, but you will need a full group of people to even have the chance to get a glance of success on your first run through of a dungeon. This is because the entirety of multiplayer consists of you and others going through a randomly generated dungeon for you to explore and defeat numerous amounts of enemies with no quest or any real end-goal. When you succeed or fail, you’re given a small amount of experience and gold to spend on chests with randomly generated loot that will either aid you or not along with more potions (which again you can only have a set maximum amount of eight or twelve per run). Each enemy is almost like that of a boss as you start out which enforces the fact that you need a full party to to run through, which makes it less fun to go through if you only want to play through dungeons with a friend as they do not scale in difficulty to the amount of people going through each dungeon. The multiplayer has nothing to offer the player to continue playing through with no real goals to meet outside of just trying to complete a dungeon.
The trophies are probably the easiest to obtain for Dragon Age Inquisition as for the first time, they have included separate trophies for beating the game on certain difficulties. But for the most part, you will get a majority of the trophies in a single playthrough; or if you wanted a challenge you could get the platinum in a single playthrough if you decided to go through the game on its hardest difficulty. Trophies consist of going through the main story, doing some side-quests, defeating dragons (which again you can just defeat them with a Knight Enchanter), to just upgrading your base and gathering herbs. There are no trophies for playing through the game again and making different choices or anything to promote playing through the game again outside of difficulty. So as long as you are aware of the trophies and you use the Knight Enchanter exploit, the game is a breeze to run through.
With all said and done, Dragon Age Inquisition is a joy to play as long as you are not a Mage class. The story is engaging and interesting as it mixes up the gameplay with politics and decisions you can make to alter the route you take to the end. The areas you explore are beautiful and lush with life and filled with resources for you to obtain as you explore. The combat is enjoyable as long as you conform to close-combat like the Warrior, Knight Enchanter Mage, with an exception with range-combat with Rogues. But with the absurd resistances to numerous elements for enemies, the Mage is not a good choice to play as for the story. The timer based missions for the War Room are questionable and doesn’t promote playing the game for longer than needed. Multiplayer is tacked on and a complete chore to play through even with a full group going through randomly generated dungeons and difficult enemies. There were a lot of aspects I was disappointed with for this title, but I can still recommend others to play the game with the warning of not to play a Mage unless you use the exploit.