Game Review: Dragon Age: Inquisition

After a lackluster second outing, Bioware finally gives players a true sequel to Dragon Age Origins. How does it stack up? I’m prepared to offer an assessment.

Inquisition is set about a decade after the Grey Wardens battled the blight. The situation between the Templars and Mages has lapsed into full blown war. In the midst of the conflict, a rift in the veil between the material world and the fade has torn open in the sky, spewing forth demons. Meanwhile, the series’ ubiquitous “Darkspawn” have once again crawled forth from their subterranean hideaways. Cast in the role of the Inquisitor, an agent of the chantry (a sort of church/theocratic quasi government) tasked with cleaning up such messes, the player must unite the forces of Thedas against this menace. The plot is rather stock, by the numbers “dark fantasy” fare and is easily forgettable.

The combat system is a little more action oriented than I would have liked in a party based roleplaying game, and plays out similar to the console version of Diablo 3. Basic attacks are executed by tapping or holding down the right trigger and other abilities can be triggered by pressing one of the face buttons. All abilities, including mage spells, utilize a cool down time as opposed to a mana or a focus gauge. This helps render things a little closer to a pen and paper role playing game, meaning that playing magic based characters is not as much of a headache as it can be in some other CRPGs. The “tactical camera” from Origins returns, but is rendered rather useless by the game’s combat system.

Before the official unveiling of Inquisition, Bioware indicated that they were aggressively “checking out” Bethesda Softworks’ much vaunted Elder Scrolls series for inspiration, and that the game would be taking cues from that series open world design. Their research paid off to some degree. While Inquisition’s game world is still broken up into separate regions that must be traveled between using an over world map, the individual regions are much larger and less constricting than those found in Origins. While this was a welcome change, Bioware still has much to learn when it comes to designing an open world game. For one, the player can not simply travel between regions. New regions must be unlocked through the procurement of “power points,” which are then spent to send troops to scout out a new region. It seemed to this gamer to be a useless step that should have been left out of the finished product. The “inquisition perks” system, which replaced the first game’s racial and generic skills, also came across as a little stupid. Many of the perks just weren’t particularly useful.

Character customization is fairly in depth, but also user friendly. I found it quick and easy to generate an aesthetically pleasing character (I tend toward Elven rogues of a slightly grotesque look). Race selection includes the predictable big three of fantasy roleplaying: human, elf, and dwarf, along with a fourth option, the qunari (a sort of half giant with horns). Aside from aesthetics, your race selection also determines your family name (which NPCs will address you as from time to time), backstory, and even unlocks some special racial dialog options for non human characters. The player is also given a choice of three base classes: warrior, rogue, or wizard. Each class has multiple skill trees, and later specialized classes add an additional skill tree allowing for a fair amount of variety in terms of abilities. One complaint I would levy is that there is no real stealth mechanic in the game. This, unfortunately, renders playing a rogue as feeling like little more than playing a fast, weak warrior. Graphically, the game is fairly impressive. Utilizing the Frostbite engine, the frame rate stays smooth and the textures look crisp and well defined. Although, as with other Frostbite based games that I have played, the water does tend to look like vaseline.

Despite some of the minor annoyances, I quite enjoyed Inquisition. After a rough couple of years with the awful, phoned in ending to Mass Effect 3 and the lackluster Dragon Age II, Bioware have delivered an enjoyable RPG experience. One that serves as a great opener for the current console generation.

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