Spoiler alert! If you have not finished playing Dragon Age: Inquisition, stop reading now.
Most people finished the game months before I did. I’m a slow and methodical gamer, pecking away at games, sometimes playing for only half an hour at a time or once every two weeks. I also tend to wander open maps, getting lost and sidetracked. I die a lot, get stuck a lot and die some more. Everything must be looted and all quests points must be visited. The fog of war will fall away before my charge, leaving no map even partially obscured.
I’m not an achievement whore—long ago, I accepted the fact I would never clear every marker, turn every stone. Nightmare runs are beyond my skillset and few games warrant the several playthroughs required to unlock every achievement. But I do like to know what I’m missing, so I will visit all quests. How close I am to the end of the game—and how many hours I already have invested—is often the deciding factor as to whether I’ll actually complete the quest or not. If not, well, I credit Assassin’s Creed II with inuring me to the sting of failure—it was either lose hold of my sanity or accept that I couldn’t achieve 100% synchronisation on every mission.
Thankfully, no game requires you to dance every step in order to win.
Inquisition is a good game. It’s fun to play with witty scripting and dialogue. Many quests present a choice that requires you to think beyond the immediate goal, which is the hallmark of a BioWare game. The companions are interesting and each comes with their own set of baggage for you to rifle through. The combat mechanics are fairly simple. Most mobs can be defeated with a combination of mad clicking and luck. A few require strategy and teamwork.
The overarching story is fairly straightforward. There are a couple of twists that play on the fact the player began their journey with Dragon Age: Origins and played through Dragon Age II, but foreknowledge of the world isn’t necessary to play and that’s simultaneously one of the best and perhaps worst aspects of this game.
A player can leap into Thedas with Dragon Age: Inquisition and enjoy a well-crafted journey. Signature story telling sprinkled with humour, tragedy and a few tough decisions. But for those of us who have left our Wardens and Champions behind, DA:I starts out feeling like another go ‘round the carousel. The engine has been upgraded and the horses have been repainted, but basically we’re taking the same ride. We’re saving the world again.
That’s generally the point of most RPGs. Complete the main quest or everyone dies. But, in my opinion, the story of Thedas could be deeper. Richer. More interconnected. Just look at Mass Effect. One hero, one enemy (among several antagonists), three episodes—with the odds growing longer each time. Many side quests feed into the main story, affect it directly. The choices are hard, and the final battle is IT. There is no question that the only person standing in the breach is you.
Dragon Age: Origins captured this feeling perfectly. The journey from the beginning to the end of the game was directed by the urgency of the main quest. Many of the hard choices were emotionally charged. Consequences were a bitch, and at the end of the day, you could die saving the world.
Dragon Age II had a bigger story and a new hero. Given that many of us had sacrificed our Wardens to stop the Fifth Blight, that was a given. The way BioWare handled the other possible epilogues fell short of expectation, however. Praise given where due—the new combat and leveling mechanics simplified play. But the ten year time frame strained the urgency of the main quest. I think the game could have worked as written, it just needed more work (and fewer repeat dungeons and fewer blood mages).
On to Dragon Age: Inquisition. I didn’t get a good sense of the time frame, which is a problem when you’re supposedly saving the world. If time is passing unnoticed and quests are standing by, waiting for you to notice them, then there is a lack of urgency. Mass Effect dealt with this by having quests actually time out. If you didn’t check in with those people, they died, including possible companions. Same with Dragon Age: Origins. I’m guessing quests with time limits aren’t a fan favourite, but they do help pace a game.
Another part of the issue is that Inquisition feels like a new game—which it is. But if it had built more directly on the lore of the previous two, continued a single story line, that sense of urgency would have been inbuilt. Granted, this is a different game to Mass Effect. It’s a different world and a different team within BioWare. When I started my Dragon Age journey, however, I didn’t imagine it would be so episodic. Now that we’ve defeated Corypheus, the story of Thedas could quite conceivably continue, and I’m sure that’s the aim of the studio. Why stop with just three games, particularly when the latest is such a commercial success?
I did enjoy Inquisition. I looked forward to playing and thought about the game when I wasn’t playing. I would like to play through again, explore the other races and classes, connect more deeply with some of the other companions. I did miss the richer companion quests or Origins, but I did appreciate that this new round were easier to get through. Given that Inquisition is such a long game, that is probably a good thing.
The world is very pretty and the animation of the faces is wonderful. They’ve fixed the hand problem—no one has the hands of a gorilla anymore—but the women in Inquisition walk as if they’re hiding something between their legs, like…testicles?
The side quests are exhausting and even the developers of the game recommend you don’t attempt to complete them all. If you do, you will be over the recommended level for the main quest, which is nice if you suck at combat, not so nice if you enjoy a challenge.
The crafting is fun, but extremely time consuming. I don’t know if crafting your own weapons and armour gives you an edge, end game. Conceivably, you could craft a set just for collecting dragon heads and so on. Or, you could craft your way into the achievement hall.
Skyhold upgrades are another time waster. And, with a castle full of hangers on, why was I still picking herbs hours before Corypheus finally found us?
The romances required a lot of work, which does add to the illusion you are slowly building a relationship with your love interest, but you do have to go out of your way to make it happen. Given that I take my role playing seriously, having to pursue a romance saps the urgency of the main quest. Again.
I liked the war table. It’s a great device for managing and tracking the most important quest objectives. Having to walk down a long hall (through several) doors to reach this all important table was a pain in the arse. Having the war table and my advisors at Skyhold also threatened my immersion. I had to travel to and from this castle buried deep in the Frostback Mountains every time I wanted to talk. The map is sprinkled liberally with fast travel nodes, but it’s a game mechanic that is not covered by any story telling. You are literally popping from one place to the next, instantly, with no explanation. No travel, no time frame. No consequences.
Finally, the ending kind of sucked. No one died. I didn’t need anyone to die, but at no time did I even fear for the lives of my companions or myself. I was way over level and didn’t have to resurrect a single party member during the conflict. After one hundred and twenty hours of game play, the lack of fireworks at the end is a big let down. There are some interesting side notes, and the game does finally answer the question of the God Child. Flemeth pops in and out. But again, these are the elements that could have been deeper, in my humble opinion. These threads of story are what drew me to the game, have kept me interested in the world of Dragon Age. Flemeth is still out there and her presence remains sinister. Her story has been diluted so much, however, that I have the sense she’ll continue to remain a background figure. An element used merely to meddle in the plot of each episode.
I’d play it again, probably skipping a good chunk of the side quests. It will be interesting to see which aspects of the story are explored further in upcoming DLC.