Sometimes sequels are so bad they threaten the survival of a franchise entirely, but this doesn't always mean the end. Sometimes the followup to disappointment means a new beginning; and from the ashes of something terrible you can occasionally create a masterpiece. BioWare has done exactly that with Dragon Age: Inquisition
In Dragon Age: Inquisition
you play as a normal nobody that happens to be caught in the right place at the wrong time. A massive explosion kicks off your adventure as you awaken to the character customization screen and after a quick session of selecting your gender, race, haircut and adjusting a nearly endless amount of facial feature slide bars, you're off to save the world. A short but linear hand-holding tutorial ensues and eventually you're given the freedom you've always craved in your favorite RPGs: to let loose to do, well... everything. Dragon Age: Inquisition's
biggest strength is its content, and that content is simply astounding. Split across nearly a dozen truly massive open world areas are enough side quests, collectibles, gorgeous vistas and enemies to keep you engaged for what may feel like an eternity. Of course you're given a main questline and a destination on where it takes place, but along the way you'll be tripping over crafting materials and all manner of villagers that need saving or caves that need exploring. When you set a goal to get something accomplished and come back hours later to realize you've made no progress towards that goal because you simply had to rid the countryside of demons, you'll know that you're playing in a world that's full of good diversions. While a lot of the random quests are to merely find something and report the findings to someone else, you will be surprised with how many turn out to be grand adventures that dazzle and amaze. From massive haunted mansions and caves frozen in time, to interesting puzzles and stopping enemy invasions, there's always a new story and exciting adventure waiting just over the next hill.
Further bolstering Inquisition
is its graphical beauty. The many realms of Thedas are truly a sight to behold and another great reason to make that jump to the next-gen consoles. As you peer from the mountaintops in the Hinterlands to spot a massive fortress in the distance, you can't help but give those bandits a few more moments of peace as you catch yourself soaking in the sights. From the lush forests of the Emerald Graves to the barren dunes of the Hissing Wastes, nearly every type of topography imaginable is here to explore and enjoy. Character models, while not quite up to par with some of the most modern games, look great and the enemies look even better.
Speaking of enemies, don't run off into that into that lush wilderness too soon, Inquisition
is not an easy game. Though it's gracious with its quick saves and checkpoints, the enemies here will not offer you the same courtesy; patience and tactics are needed. Thankfully your friends are here to help. Inquisition
follows the typical BioWare party system, in which you and a group of three AI teammates work together to achieve your goals. In a blend between the combat mechanics of the first two games you fight in real-time but also have the opportunity to pause the game and direct each party member to go wherever and do whatever you'd like them to. This tactics mode can be fun at times, like getting an archer atop a tall tower to have the best view of the battle, but is often unnecessary. Careful planning of skill and equipment loadouts is key here, and you'll be wise to invest time in building each character to fit their specific role in your party. Also beware, while they don't make their first appearance until well into the game's campaign, here be dragons; and fighting those dragons is an absolute blast. The challenge of even surviving for a moment but eventually working up and slaying the beast for the massive reward make for a tense and exciting showdown that is easily one of the biggest highlights of the game.
You will notice (since you'll be spending a lot of time in this world) a handful of bugs and glitches. Minor graphical loading errors and pop-ins or odd character movements may leave you scratching your head, but when the game crashes or one person in a conversation awkwardly stares frozen at the camera instead of reading their lines, frustration can set in. Luckily the more serious glitches are rather rare, but in a game that you'll be spending so many hours in, you're bound to see them eventually. Small technical issues aside, you'll be enjoying your experience throughout and remembering to be thankful that the game isn't completely broken... unlike a few of this release's peers.
Eventually you will find yourself getting along with the game's main storyline which is full of highs and lows, but is ultimately a satisfying adventure. That explosion that occurred in the beginning is just the start of a demon invasion and you are the only one that can stop it. Why? Because that same explosion gave you a "glowy hand" power that is able to close the portals from which the demons pour through. As a story crutch it's relatively basic and not an ability that ever really gets exciting. What does get exciting are certain points within the storyline that truly rival some of the greatest moments in any fantasy setting, gaming or otherwise. While the story's pacing and the final encounter can't quite keep up with some of the more thrilling moments of your adventure, it's an experience that you'll remember for some time. Unfortunately, a lack of knowledge of previous Dragon Age
games will hinder some newcomers, since a lot of the storyline and lore rely heavily on your knowledge of past experiences. Everything from not playing any of the other titles in the series or forcibly refusing to remember the details of the second installment will leave you at a slight disadvantage. This will not completely ruin your experience, however, as there is more than enough storytelling and gap-filling to make even the most novice player a seasoned expert by the end of it all.
Also built into the game is a multiplayer component for some reason. This mode sees you and three other players team up to fight through various dungeons amassing experience and gold so that you can fight through more various dungeons. Technically the mode does have its fun and is pretty well rounded, if taking the action online with other people is your thing. But in a single-player game with so much content, the multiplayer feels tacked-on. For the player that somehow manages to experience everything there is to do within the campaign and has exhausted all quests, exploration and difficulty options and still wants more... then maybe the multiplayer is for you. However, most players probably won't even notice that it's there, especially since there are no achievements tied to it.
Speaking of achievements, Dragon Age: Inquisition
has them in one of the best lists we've seen in a while. Kill Dragons? Check. Amass levels and money? Check. Do all sorts of things without being required to do all of them? Double check. In a game with over a hundred hours of content it's easy for the developers to fall into the hole of 100% completion achievements. Instead the game wants you to do "most" of what it has available, giving yourself the appreciation that you worked hard for a completion but not requiring you to spend months grinding to get it. There are a few that will catch the eye of the community, however. One that is cleverly disguised
but ultimately means "get all of a certain collectible", and another dreaded missable achievement
are likely culprits, but again, no multiplayer achievements!
When you take a step back and look at it, Dragon Age: Inquisition
isn't a retreading or even a revival, it's a rebirth. BioWare has taken a franchise that was on the ropes and invigorated it to the point of that it can stand up to the major powerhouse RPGs of our time. Look out Elder Scrolls
and Mass Effect
, this franchise hasn't surpassed you yet, but given the new direction, spark of life and massive scale that it needed Dragon Age
has made its mark. Ignore it at your peril.The reviewer spent approximately 68 hours completing the main campaign, earning 40 out of 50 achievements and itching to get back in and earn the other ten. This review was published using a digital copy purchased on Xbox One by the reviewer