Dragon Age Inquisition Review

November 21, 2014 by Tim

Five Things I Like About Dragon Age Inquisition

1) One of the biggest complaints I, and many others, had about Dragon Age 2 were the tiny, repetitive corridors that functioned as the game’s “dungeons/areas.” They had one linear stretch of cliffside, for instance, and you visited it fifty million times over the course of the game.

Dragon Age Inquisition remedies that in a big way. This world is vast. I haven’t explored enough of it to say that it’s “Skyrim” vast, but it’s plenty large enough to sink many, many hours into. Dragon Age Inquisition definitely gives you a world to play in.

2) The depth of DAI is fairly impressive. There are a lot of things to do. Places to explore, things to collects, dozens of systems to manage and manipulate for various bonuses, both lore and gear-wise. It’s an RPG for RPG players who love density. And this ends up being the game’s biggest strength. Despite all of the points I’ll make below about things I didn’t like, the depth of the game, after a few hours, had managed to obscure most of them.

The more I played, the more I got sucked in, the less I cared about the game’s flaws.

3) Combat and party management is accessible and fun. It’s a great blend of Dragon Age Origin’s more tactical-oriented combat, and Dragon Age 2’s more action-game combat. For simpler fights, you can just let your party members do their thing, and go to town with smashing/melting your foes.

For more difficult encounters, you can micromanage with efficiency and ease.

So now matter how you want to approach combat, DAI lets you do it. This is important because the multiplayer aspect of the game is pretty much all fighting.

I’ve also found I’m more willing to take control of and play a party member that is not my main protagonist, in order to participate in different aspects of the fight. Something I did not do very often in previous games.

4) Loading in DAI is relatively quick, which makes fast traveling from area to area (something you’ll find yourself doing often) pretty painless. I feel like fast travel actually does save time, and in a world this big, and in a game that could easily reach 60+ hours, you don’t necessarily want to tack on an additional 10 hours in unecessary traveling.

Fast traveling back to a camp to restock on potions (since there are no direct healing spells in the game) also becomes hugely important, so it’s nice that you aren’t threatened with awful loading times in the process.

5) The areas seem to have enemies of varying strengths, which I always love to see in a game world that aims to be immersive and engaging. What I mean is, you might go into one “zone” and find most things your level, but occasionally run into an encounter or group that is two, three, six levels above you. If you aren’t paying attention, you’ll get whalloped.

It’s a nice reminder that you are not all-powerful, and that leveling up means something.


Five Things I Didn’t Like About Dragon Age Inquisition

1) Dragon Age Inquisition is not an ugly game. However, it does feel like a game that was held back by a decision to release it on last-gen consoles as well. Or perhaps it was built for last-gen, and then added for next-gen during the process.

Either way, short of building two separate games, there’s no way the next-gen version isn’t limited in some ways by old-gen hardware. And it shows.

This may be exaggerated in part due to coming directly from Assassin’s Creed Unity, a game which was built specifically for the new hardware and, despite any other faults, looks every bit the part.

We’re about a year into the new console cycle now, and the grace period is over. I think it’s reasonable for our next-gen games to start looking like next-gen games, and DAI just… doesn’t. (By way of example, women’s skirts that are actually just a solid model attached to their legs, and “stretch” in the center when they walk, textures and all. Or a “fur” shoulder mantle, which is actually just a solid block of polygon.)

It bears repeating here, though, that while all of this was very noticeable at first, a few hours into the game I was beginning to get engrossed enough that I mostly stopped seeing it.

2) RPGs are, at least partially, about the loot. Finding new stuff, selling, crafting, swapping out and managing gears, etc. I’m generally happy when an RPG gives me a lot of “stuff” to loot for the trouble of slaughtering baddies.

However, when such a large portion of your genre is about loot, you should also make picking up that loot as easy as possible. As such, it’s hard not to notice the lack of a “loot all” or “loot area” or even an auto loot option in DAI. Having to run around the battlefield after a fight and dedicate 2-3 clicks to each pile of loot is just an annoyance that could have been avoided.

3) As seems to have become customary in a Bioware RPG, you have to fight with the character creator to come up with a protagonist that does not look like a mutant. And that’s just at resting, nevermind during the various facial animations you encounter at cutscenes.

And those very facial animations… actually all cutscene animations, feel stiff or wooden. Arms are still flailed and jerked in ridiculous ways and hands remain locked in claw-like positions because Bioware seems unable to animate subtler movements in their games. Whether that’s because they’ve had the same animators for years and they’re sticking to “they way they’ve always done it”, or because Bioware’s game engines and/or animation budgets are too prohibitive, I can’t say.

Maybe I just don’t love Bioware’s “style” of character design/animation. At any rate, it feels to me like this department is stuck in the past.

4) In DAI, you once again play a “chosen one.” A Grey Warden, a Specter, a Herald, whatever they’re calling it this time around, the world is in jeapardy and of course you are the only one that can save it.

I can only comment on the storyline as far as my fifteen hours in, but… it’s a little dull. It serves its purpose of course… a reason to go out and do things. But it hasn’t really engaged me yet, and I’m not expecting it will. And if it takes 20+ hours of playing for the story to really pull me in anyway, something is really wrong here.

Just once I’d like to play an average person in a Bioware game. Not “the one” just a guy. Because Bioware does smaller bites of story really well with all of their side quests etc, why can we just be a self-professed adventurer, out looking for adventure? Seeing what dungeons we can explore, and what mountains we can crest? And if, during the course of our travels, we get embroiled in some larger conflict or plot, so be it. But I think it would be fun to come about that naturally, as opposed to starting the game with “Hello person we’ve never met before, but showed up just as a huge crisis begins! You are now responsible for saving the world!”

5) This is a relatively minor gripe, but it ties into one of my points above concerning the ease with which you can control your party. That still holds true, save for one area in particular: If one of your party members goes down, you cannot count on anyone else to go revive them. Even if you issue them a direct order to pick up a fallen party member during a battle, they follow it for all of two seconds, and then seemingly forget, and go back to attacking.

It’s an annoyance.

Should You Buy Dragon Age Inquisition?

If you’re in the mood for a game that can easily devour 60-80 hours of your life… like for instance there are no other games coming out for the rest of the year you want to play… then Dragon Age should scratch that itch.

These days I tend to balk at games that tout “sixty hours of gameplay” as if it’s a selling point. For me, it isn’t. With limited time (and it being party of my job to play many games), I gravitate towards games that I have a reasonable chance of finishing. I also tend to feel that sixty hours in a game begins to grate. Get repetitive. Start “padding the stats,” so to speak.

With that said though, if there was any game right now that could wrangle that amount of commitment from me, I’d have to say it would be Dragon Age. It has, thus far, proven to be an expansive and enjoyable RPG. I still think it’s a shame that we’ll now have to wait 3-4 more years for a truly next-gen Dragon Age that builds in the incredible mechanical foundation they’ve laid here, but I can’t say that should hold you back from playing this game.

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