I was absolutely filled with hype for Dragon Age: Inquisition. I pre-ordered it (one of the only games I pre-ordered all year), got the deluxe edition and played for most of the December holiday. It’s now three months since the game was released, which feels like enough time for a re-evaluation. This isn’t a re-review, but it may add some new perspective on the game.
I can show you the world
Unlike previous Bioware games, Dragon Age: Inquisition feels sprawling and massive. There are a ton of varied environments to explore, and exploration really does pay off as you’re rewarded for finding landmarks, might pick up new side missions and even discover some cool loot. Gone is the curse of one cave – each subterranean area feels uniquely designed and specifically dangerous. Added to that is a self-awareness; characters will comment on the fact that caves always seem to contain spiders, or that the best loot is behind locked doors. It helps to make the choices feel deliberate instead of rote.
However, you may not feel compelled to visit the full range of environments. If you follow the main story, you will probably only ever visit about half of the available areas in the game. Of course you are meant to complete your companion quests, but even these do not require thorough exploration of each and every area. As a result, the landscapes may go to waste for many players who do not see the value in traipsing through every single nook and cranny – something particularly noticeable after the first play through.
Story and Characters
As is the norm for Bioware, Dragon Age: Inquisition has some truly stellar characters. However, most of their real personality comes out during party chatter as you travel the countryside. This means that you might miss out on character development from those with the same fighting class as yourself. My first play through, I didn’t really appreciate Sera – she just seemed weird when I would talk to her at camp. However, having her in a party with Iron Bull, or Cole, completely changed my perspective on her. She is sarcastic and inappropriate with some of the best dialogue in the whole game. During my first play through, I was more entertained by the banter between Vivienne and Varric. Yes, your party combinations, as well as whom you choose to romance, can change your entire perception of your companions.
Unfortunately, the main story is rather weak and predictable. Oh look, there’s a bad guy who wants to kill you for interrupting his bad thing. You should go find and kill him, once you take out a bunch of his minions. Oh, and you’ll need to make some important choices that change your perception of how things progress but don’t actually seem to affect what your overall experience includes.
The companion missions can be interesting enough, although most of them aren’t unique enough to be differentiated from the bevy of fetch quests you’ll be forced to complete as side missions throughout the game. One notable exception to that statement is Blackwall’s companion mission – his has the most depth and variation in experience.
Gameplay and Aesthetics
There is no denying it, the game is gorgeous. Environments are beautifully crafted, character models are detailed and changeable and even the various enemies you fight feel differentiated. The sound design is equally stellar with fantastic sound effects inside and out of combat, as well as a gorgeous score that can help elicit true feelings. Between the dialogue, music and animation, I actually felt like my romance option was realistic – I found myself playing with a giddy smile on my face the whole time.
Unfortunately, that experience is often undercut by repetitive gameplay. Each area seems to include the same few experiences – go get that thing someone wanted, go kill a bunch of these enemies, oh, and go close a bunch of rifts that means fighting a batch of enemies. It’s mindless fetch-quest after mindless fetch-quest. While combat feels challenging at the start of the game, it eventually becomes ridiculously easy. I completed the entire game (including killing all dragons) on normal the first time around; by the time I got to the final boss, my gear and characters were so powerful that it didn’t feel like a struggle. I’m currently replaying on hard, which is obviously more difficult, but it’s still clear that once I can craft the necessary gear, it will become straight forward again. This makes the end-game experience feel weak and predictable instead of climactic and exciting.
While Bioware is working hard to fix the various glitches in the game, these can also undermine gameplay. I had one particularly frustrating battle with a glitch – after drowning in about knee-deep water, I kept respawning in said water, repeatedly dying in a perpetual loop that I couldn’t escape. My companions also respawned in the water; I actually had to reload from an earlier save and repeat a bunch of the mission just to proceed. Other issues include intermittent hanging dialogue (or missing dialogue) that makes the experience feel broken and frustrating.
During the December break of 2013-2014, I played the Mass Effect trilogy. It was fantastic and I keep thinking about how I want to go back and replay it. I’m waiting for a remastered version to arrive on new generation consoles, but I keep feeling that itch – the game is calling to me.
In the 2014-2015 break, I played primarily Dragon Age: Inquisition. I finished the game in approximately 100 hours, and then proceeded to create a new character for a replay on Hard difficulty. I’ve had review games to play since then, and other activities that are taking my attention, but I just haven’t been as compelled to carry on with my play through. I’m probably about 15-20 hours in, but the game isn’t grabbing me.. I’ve made different choices, and my character is rather different this time around, but it still just isn’t calling to me in the same way. I don’t feel compelled to keep playing; I’m more likely to load up a quick game of Resogun than throw an hour or two into Dragon Age: Inquisition. This could be because there isn’t any new content or DLC, or I could have Dragon Age fatigue. However, previous Dragon Age games were instantly replayable for me – I played Origins three or four times and even Dragon Age II got two full replays from me. I probably will finish this second play through, but I might just wait for something specific to draw me back in.
I think the problem with Dragon Age: Inquisition is that it requires a curious mind to enjoy it. I loved it the first time through because I was curious what I would find as I explored the world. Now I know what’s there, and I’m not all that interested in seeing it again, especially knowing how shallow the whole thing is.
Last Updated: February 18, 2015