Played on PS4 (Also on PS3/X1/X360/PC)
Bioware’s latest entry in the Dragon Age series is the best effort yet.
Now to be clear, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Dragon Age to begin with – I played Origins, across many, many months, and when Dragon Age 2 came out, I played it for a bit, and pretty quickly forgot about it, never even finishing it. Neither really engaged me, and both ran pretty poorly on the Xbox 360. So when Inquisition was announced I thought it looked pretty, but it was never really on my radar, given the flurry of games being released within it’s launch window. Even after it started receiving rave reviews, I continued to ignore it, remembering my previous experience with the “critically acclaimed” first games.
Then one day I was buying a couple of games for a friend before their surgery, and got myself a copy of Dragon Age: Inquisition from a Buy 2 Get 1 sale. I literally had picked up all the big games of last Fall/Winter, so I figured at worst I could trade it in for more than I paid should I hate it.
And now, nearly 75 hours later, I can safely say I was wrong about Inquisition. It’s not only a fantastic game, everyone was completely right about it – it is easily the best game of 2014.
For anyone that neglected the game like myself, Dragon Age: Inquisition is a high-fantasy RPG. While the aesthetics are bright, bold, and creative like you would find in Lord of the Rings, the story and characters are much darker, featuring betrayal, violence, and romance akin to HBO’s Game of Thrones, without nearly as much sex though. There’s a variety of races and classes, all of which have in-depth backstories. Alliances, rivalries, and even pure hatred exist amongst the occupants of this world, and the lore is so deep you’ll truly feel that this is a living breathing world. The game features a lot of dialogue choices that change the course of the game, so every conversation matters, as does your initial character creation – given the deep history, a human warrior will receive different treatment from NPCs than an elven mage will.
All of this detail leads up to the most brilliant element of DA:I, in that the game truly lets you have the experience that suits you best. Aside from creating your own character and being able to choose your gear, skill trees, and story path, the game offers so much more. Looking for the core experience? You can zip through it in 20-30 hours, skipping cutscenes if you’d like. Want to explore all of the lore? Maps are huge, open, and loaded with side-quests and books. Ready for a hardcore strategy experience? Crank the difficulty up to Nightmare and utilize the tactics camera. With this you can freeze-time and individually control each character in your party, setting up the ultimate attack on enemies.
Combat naturally takes up a large part of the game, and it is wonderful. Like I mentioned above, you can opt for a pseudo-turn-based mode where you pause the action to set up what your party does, or else just utilize the standard method, which functions like what you could find in an MMO or previous Dragon Age games. While the fighting animations are a little bare compared to the rest of the game, the variety of ways to battle more than makes up for it. It’s hard to deny the exhilaration you get when taking on your first dragon. And if you decide you don’t like your main character, you’re free to take control of any party member as soon as you’re outside of one of the hub areas.
Customizing your party is another way that allows you to make the most out of your personalized experience. You can pick up most of the 9 party members within the early hours of the game, and I quickly decided which ones were my favorite. I developed an excellent combat flow with my dream team, and enjoyed their banter between battle. The game even remembers which characters were on certain quests, having them reference it later, or making absent party members bitter they missed a battle for their homeland or race. This carries over to a system of approval, where party members and other influential characters will like or dislike you based on your actions. Playing in a politically smart way can lead to bonus missions, fun cutscenes, and even romantic encounters.
Given what I’ve said about the rest of the game, it goes without saying that production values are top-notch in Inquisition. Outside the the incredible lore available, the world is lush, gorgeous, and varied, and the character models all look fantastic. The UI and menus are a little generic and clumsy, but completely navigable. Voice acting is also stellar, and one of my highlights of the experience. Hell, it even has Freddie Prinze Jr. voicing a part man/bull/dragon character (pro-tip: His name is Iron Bull and he’s the best party member for both comedy and raw power).
I could go on and on about why I love Dragon Age: Inquisition. The story is interesting, the gameplay and world vast, and for me, the combat was always interesting and engaging. It’s my favorite game of the year, and one I can see myself diving back into with a new character. Do yourself a favor and drop some time into it, at least until The Witcher 3 comes out.