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The Rundown

As I cut down yet another cultist with my sword and clean my blade on his tabard I look back at those who accompanied me. I feel proud. I feel for them. I care for them. I may be the inquisitor, but there would be no inquisitor without an inquisition. And they… they are the inquisition.

Dragon Age Inquisition has been on my radar since its announcement. I always found the world of Thedas fascinating, but even more than the world, I found the characters of the Dragon Age games -as is the case with most Bioware titles- relatable, understandable, and ultimately very well done. This time around, I could not wait to see some of the old characters and at the same time see what Bioware could come up with. What new friends, allies, enemies, and romantic interests I could find and I’ll be damned if Bioware didn’t deliver. If you’re looking for a short review, here’s the verdict: Dragon Age Inquisition is a game that pulls you in, doesn’t let go, delivers a fantastic story, creates a rich world, and makes you feel real emotions towards virtual characters.

Gameplay

Bioware received a lot of criticism after Dragon Age 2 because of how they had dumbed down the very rich and deep combat system of Origins. I personally agreed in part with the criticism, but to be honest I also liked the very action oriented combat as well. In Inquisition, Bioware has managed to bring the best of both worlds (to an extent). While most definitely keeping the action oriented combat of Dragon Age 2, both in art style and in actual mechanics, they have brought back the tactical camera and companion AI in an effort to revive the tactical combat style of Origins. However, this came with its own flaws. The problems arise from the fact that at first glance (which is often how far the majority of the player base is concerned with) the AI system and the tactical camera seem too simple to use. This underlying reason is that the companion AI has been streamlined and companions have their own root AI, which makes it seem like it leaves little to the control of the player. This is where only enthusiasts will go far enough to enjoy the game. There has to be a lot of experimenting, researching, and learning to be able to use the new streamlined system to achieve the same level of complexity as Origins, but it is most definitely achievable. Essentially, speaking from a coding language standpoint, Origins was a series of “if/else” statements, while Inquisition is a jumble of apps. To be honest though, I would not argue too deeply with anyone if they were to claim fault with this aspect of the game. While bioware has done a good job of making it simple for people only concerned with easy, normal, and hard, playthroughs (which is the majority of the playerbase), in their redesign they have made it extremely complicated for anyone looking for any depth with companion AI which is an aspect of the game many fans looked forward to. If you are looking for more complex interactions with AI I would like to point you to this post: (http://www.reddit.com/r/dragonage/comments/2o8aqw/lets_make_a_list_of_great_ai_tricks/ ) which does a very good job of finding the AI quirks and the logic behind it and presenting you with several different setups to achieve what you want.

However, as Bioware games go the other half of the game is in the conversations, and happens out of combat. Outside of combat there are two important factors. Your home base, and the conversation system.

The addition of a central place is nothing new to bioware, but the level of depth is something never before seen in their games. While on paper, it isn’t that different, the design and the depth of individual aspects makes the entire thing more valuable. Specifically, the war table and the crafting stations are what add a lot of value to Dragon Age Inquisition.

The ‘War Table’ is new mechanic to the game. Here you as the inquisitor decide where to send your agents. You can send them on missions and gain different rewards in return, and depending on who you send, the amount of time they are gone, and the reward you may get, the resulting story may differ. As per my own personal rule of a first playthrough of a Bioware game, I made most of my decisions based on how I would like the story to go. There is definitely room for min maxing your agent choices and war table decisions to get better resources, better outcomes, or different story aspects, and the fact that the agent choosing screen on the ‘War Table’ doesn’t offer any numbers and makes you read in between the lines, I think adds to the complexity of the situation and makes the experience deeper. However, I found that I often took notes of where I wanted to send my agents next because there was so much to do before progressing to the next story arch, so a queueing mechanic wouldn’t have been bad. There is also the issue that one of the agents seemed to always present better results, but that may just be because of the perspective of my character, so I will have to pay more attention to that on my next playthrough.

As for crafting, it is one of the most satisfying aspects of the game. You gather materials for crafting as you run around the world with your party, and you come across schematics either in shops, hidden containers, or secret caves, and you can craft arms or armor for yourself or your party at your base. The most satisfying aspect of it all is when you hunt through dangerous land to find rare metals, and  after crafting your weapon, you end up with something that is well above anything you could find. The personal connection that you make with your crafted items is something rarely found in most RPG games, as you often have to “level” your crafting skills. If you don’t, your crafted equipment will soon become mundane as you find a super weapon as a quest reward. This is not the case with Inquisition.

However, the crafting system comes with its own flaws. While minor (and most likely fixable with either mods or updates from the devs) they do distract and detract from the experience. When crafting you have no way of knowing if the item is moddable after being crafted. For example you are able to craft a “Grey Warden Warrior Coat” which offers more armor than the other Tier 2 armors you can make. However you are not told that you can NOT modify it with arm or leg pieces while crafting, which significantly reduces the stat boosts armor often offers. The other issue is with weapons as an inexperienced player (aka everyone in their first playthrough) where you will often accidentally craft axe handles for swords (which you can’t equip together) or the wrong two handed handle or pommel. This results in lost materials, rage, and frustration, especially since the only description on the schematic is “T1 one-handed handle” rather than “T1 one-handed axe handle”. This becomes especially troublesome with daggers as they have two or three different handle styles, and the dagger style isn’t easily noticeable. Because of this lack of information, I found myself tabbing out of the game and sifting through different wikis to make sure of what I was crafting. As this is a very new game, you can imagine that some of the information is not available yet.

Friendly hint: If you have extra rare metals make a shield and equip it to your mage. Since shields count as armor, and rare metals remove class restrictions, you will end up with an interesting result.

I would like to give Bioware praise for the inclusion of “skill reset tokens” in your home base shop. This basically allows you to respec any character you want (the first one is free too!) and  due to this, there should be a lot less re-rolls because people didn’t like their character.

In summary, The gameplay is very satisfying. The mechanics are solid and after the player gains some experience with the game, they can definitely make it as complex as they want and min/max it to their hearts content. However this will most certainly not be achievable on the first playthrough because not all of the information is presented to the player. There is definitely room for improvement, but that doesn’t make the mechanics any less satisfying and as well done as they are.

Source: Dragon Age website: http://www.dragonage.com/#!/en_US/media/gallery/screenshots/image15

Source: Dragon Age website: http://www.dragonage.com/#!/en_US/media/gallery/screenshots/image15

Art Design

From the desert, to the forest, and to the snow,  Inquisition is beautifully designed with rich environments, shining with vivid colors, far away from the grey and brown monotone standard set by the industry. The armor designs are expressive, elegant, and make me want to buy some of them to wear every day. While the weapon design is not very diverse, it is still very beautiful. Unique (purple) weapons do a very good job of expressing their attitude. One specific thing that stands out to me is how everything has its own very distinct style. Anything connected to the Chantry is easily noticeable. Anything from Orlais is instantly recognized. And yet, everything is unique. I have nothing but high praise for the art design of Inquisition.

If I had to make one gripe with the art design, it would be the fact that your Qunari face paint stays on during cut scenes, and since they tend to look ridiculous, you end up in a lot of awkward situations. I eventually just picked one that looked nice rather than one that had better stats and went with that.

Graphics, well, that’s another story. For the most part the game runs very well. You are always immersed and nothing too drastic happens, but there are a few flaws. This may only be because I am on a low end system and the hardware had trouble keeping up, and if that IS the case then I apologize, however here’s what I saw: Sometimes the camera would glitch out during the cut scenes and show my chest rather than my face (I played a male Qunari so I was a tad bit larger than everything.) Spell effects on the environment (for example the blizzard spell effect on the ground, or the ground slam rocks of the two handed warrior) would occasionally flicker out of existence. Cloth would occasionally glitch out and start flipping in the wind. I’m sure there would be more if you made an active attempt to break the game, but these were the most obvious. My only suggestion would be to ignore these when they pop up. They don’t actively break your game and they only last for a very brief period so they are easy to ignore.

The music of this game is wonderful. The bards are fantastic and occasionally you may find yourself just standing there in your tavern, listening to the bard. If you haven’t yet, I would highly suggest you do. The thematic music is also very well done as it’s not intrusive, but definitely not too quiet. The style is very similar to Mass Effect 2 (which is a great thing) yet it remains grounded in its setting which is fantastic.

Story

Well this is a Bioware game, so what do you expect? The story was wonderfully written and makes you invest yourself in it. The world is rich, and the characters are realistic, well written, and adaptable, thus you care about them and want to fill their shoes  So far, in my opinion, Dragon Age Inquisition has topped all other Bioware games in regards to characters. The story also contains a slew of memorable lines and a fantastic villain. The last time I was this shaken by quotes from a villain was when I was talking to a million year old being capable of traveling the stars and here to eradicate all sentient life in Mass Effect 1.

Just like the art design, I have nothing but praise for the story and the characters and only one gripe: The ending. I personally felt like the ending was too quick and a tiny bit anti climactic however it offered great closure to this story and was a proper end.

Source: Dragon Age website: http://www.dragonage.com/#!/en_US/media/gallery/screenshots/image28

Source: Dragon Age website: http://www.dragonage.com/#!/en_US/media/gallery/screenshots/image28

Overall

I have to say that Dragon Age: Inquisition is definitely one of, if not the game of the year for me. The story captures you and brings you in, while the beautiful and rich world immerses you and the great mechanics offer you a fantastic medium of experiencing the world. So far I have 70 hours into the game with many more hours on the way. If you are an RPG fan, or if you are a fan of a good story, or if you’re a fan of Bioware’s style, then this game is for you.


The Rundown

6 word story

Save the world amidst the chaos

Strength

Wonderful story and brilliant characters

Weakness

Rare glitches and occasionally difficult controls

PLATFORM

PC

Pick it up

As soon as possible


For details on release dates and other related info, head to Dragon Age Inquisition’s game page.

** When is it worth the price? — In lieu of review scores, we opt to give our opinion on whether the game is worthy of it’s release day price, or if you should wait for a patch or a sale. **

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In lieu of review scores, we opt to give our opinion on whether the product is worth it's release day price, or if you should wait for a sale.

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