Dragon Age: Inquisition: Review

Dragon Age Inquisition

Developed By: Bioware

Published By: Electronic Arts

Available On: PC, PS3, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox 360, Xbox One

Release Date: November 18th 2014


Many open-world games emphasize quantity over quality, throwing a multitude of amusing but generic tasks, collectibles, and missions at the player. Luckily, Dragon Age: Inquisition manages to strike a balance. While the different areas are all large, they are made entertaining with interesting quests and good character interaction.

One of the first things you’ll notice playing Dragon Age: Inquisition are the gorgeous graphics. Environments pop to life thanks to amazing textures and good effects such as rain. No two areas feel the same, verdant forests, sprawling deserts and snow covered peaks are all well represented. These areas aren’t just massive, but there is also a vertical element to them. From the top of a hill, you can survey a potential battlefield since most game elements first appear pretty far away. While I did find myself staring at the luscious environments, the character models are equally gorgeous. In fact, Dragon Age: Inquisition may feature the best looking custom characters in gaming, as the Inquisitor appears just as well designed as any of your party members. The in-depth character editor to lets you alter your character down to the smallest level. Character emotions are well displayed and  alongside the new companion approval system help the characters feel real.

The deep character creation system at work

The deep character creation system at work

I found it refreshing to control an entire army instead of just the typical ragtag bunch of adventurers. In the War Room, you’ll have to send your sub-ordinates on mini-missions with completion times that vary based on both the mission type and how they would attempt to complete it. Delegating tasks to your subordinates feels rewarding and each mission either adds to the story of the world or provides quantifiable bonuses to your team. These bonuses can be as small as a simple influence bonus to opening up a new area, or even finding legendary weapons. Once you gain access to Skyhold, you’ll be able to levy justice against the enemies of the Inquisition. It’s up to the player to decide whether these criminals deserve exile, the headsman’s axe, or a second chance. You’ll even have the ability to customize your castle to fit the tone you want set for your character. All these small things help add to the depth of the sidequests in the game.

Combat flows like a much smoother Dragon Age II. Skills all look distinct and feel appropriately powerful. I found it rather simple and satisfying to position my rouge behind my target to get the maximum amount of damage possible. Enemy A.I. pretty much always acted appropriately and targeted who I felt they should be targeting in battle. The odd exception in the enemy A.I. is that I often found wild animals with no intelligence charging across the battlefield toward my squad’s mage instead of the guy swinging a sword in his face. Fighting through the tactical camera is an interesting option as well, and in difficult fights is often your best bet. While this style of combat takes a lot longer, it helps you keep your ranged fighters out of the fray and set up devastating skill combos. Both combat styles feel rewarding and fun, and I surprisingly found myself using both frequently

Tactical camera offers a different feel to battle.

Tactical camera offers a different feel to battle.

Dragon Age: Inquisition might have the weakest story of any Bioware game. While it’s still decent, the villain is rather lackluster and boring, probably thanks to the rare amount of screen time he actually gets. The individual story missions are still good, even if the entwining story is not. I thoroughly enjoyed bringing the entire Inquisition to an Orlesian ball to solve a conspiracy against the crown. Smaller quests throughout the world are mostly interesting and help bring life to the massive areas.

While the overarching story of the Inquisition isn’t particularly interesting, the characters are all wonderfully written. Everything from full quests for your party members to the smallest bits of combative dialogue between Sera and Vivienne are thoroughly entertaining. Where the characters shine the most is the new companion approval system, which is almost entirely based around your decisions. Some of your characters demand you take revenge on a foe who has wronged you, and will disapprove if you grant your foe leniency. Additionally, Dragon Age: Inquisition does a fantastic job of integrating your choices from the previous games into the world. The fact that characters who are probably dead in the majority of world states and can show up and play a major role in the events of the game is a testament to the amount of time Bioware put into crafting the world.

All of the open areas serve to tempt you away from the campaign and do a great job at it. The variety of the tasks you’ll find in an area are as varied as the areas themselves. They range from eradicating demon plagued manors to simply closing rifts. Many areas also feature the ability to establish a base for your Inquisition forces by capturing a keep from enemies. These tasks are kept manageable by a solid quest journal that is easily accessible from the map screen. Travel is aided by the addition of mounts, though I often found myself preferring to run around on foot than on horseback. Of course, no game named Dragon Age would be complete without some dragon slaying, and there is a dragon lurking somewhere in each of the nine areas. Fighting against a dragon is an epic task, best tackled in tactical mode. Each dragon fight is a bit different too, including having to fight a lightning element dragon with pools of water everywhere, which can turn bad quickly. While some side-quests reward you with items or money, all grant you more power. Power is the currency of the Inquisition and helps you unlock story missions and new areas. Luckily doing side-quests never feels forced thanks to a combination of interesting quests and the multitude of areas.

A newly captured keep for the Inquisition

A newly captured keep for the Inquisition

If side-quests aren’t your thing, you can even take a break from the story by playing the decent multiplayer mode. This mode lets you create a character to play through multiple dungeons with friends. While the mode doesn’t add a whole lot to the experience, it’s worth playing a few games.

Dragon Age: Inquisition does suffer from the standard glitches that plague most open-world games. There are occasional bits of slowdown after selecting a dialogue choice. One of the most egregious glitches I found was a target for the Assassin questline not spawning leaving me unable to choose that sub-class. Another sent a giant flying up into the sky only to have it die from fall damage hitting the ground (this is the kill that got me to level 20 by the way). Other than these two examples though, most of the glitches were minor and don’t do much to hamper the experience.

During the fifty hours I’ve put in for this review, I’ve only fully completed one area. Despite all of the other games I have in my queue I find myself going back to kill one more dragon, or clear out one more bandit camp. The sheer volume of stuff to do is more than matched by the quality of that world, and that is why any fan of open-world games should have Dragon Age: Inquisition in their console (or PC) for weeks to come.