Dragon Age Inquisition Review and the Future of BioWare
Check out the shorter rushed video review or continue reading below for the full written review.
After beating Dragon Age Inquisition I immediately wanted to restart the game and play through it all over again, thinking about each choice I made throughout the game. I first played Dragon Age Origins when it was released, after hearing glowing reviews and recommendations especially from RPG fans. I've never played Baldur's Gate or fantasy RPG games in the past and didn't know if I would enjoy it since I preferred JRPG games. Even though I played Origins on a sub-par PC that caused the game to periodically crash, I loved the game and spent a lot of time falling deep into the lore and characters.
I forgot most of the story when I started playing Inquisition recently, except for some key characters. I also didn't play Dragon Age 2, but despite that, I was able to pick things up quickly. The Dragon Age series is one of the few games that I feel you need to play the previous games to fully appreciate or do your research before jumping in. Even with little or no knowledge of the previous games, the story provides an exciting prologue that hooks you from the very beginning. It took me a good 45 hours to complete the main story, but I could easily put in twice that much to complete all the side quests and collectibles. Not mentioning the potential for hundreds of hours for multiple playthroughs.
The thing I enjoyed most was how this game felt like a true role-playing game. I felt that I was the main character building relationships, growing the influence of the Inquisition, and ultimately taking down the threat to the continent of Thedas. You can act as judge, jury, and executioner as you decide the fate of those you encounter. If you are not already familiar with the story of Dragon Age, there are letters and notes scattered across the different locations that describe the history, locations, key characters and more. These are stored in the Codex, which you can revisit anytime after you discover them by going to the pause menu. There is so much to collect that after completing the main story I only discovered 38% of the 668 items in the Codex. And to understand the ending of the game you will need to know the deeper lore instead of the main quest. I loved the dialogue between characters and enjoyed listening to the optional dialogue whenever it was available, it was also just as rewarding exploring dungeons or old ruins and reading pages of text revealing the mystery of what had happened to the previous residents. Parents should encourage their kids to play games like this. Improving literacy and stimulating the imagination, it's almost like reading a novel.
Similar to what I read about for Dragon Age 2, the combat system is more action based with still the option for the tactical camera. With Dragon Age Origins I remember playing a rogue where my position for flanking was important for dealing greater damage and I was a fan of the camera angle and slower combat. This time I played a tank warrior trying to build guard and taunt enemies to absorb the damage for my party. Even with the ability to assign priorities to your party, they will still occasionally be a nuisance by triggering traps, blocking your way, or not prioritizing defensive skills. The skills which consume stamina or mana, that regenerate over time, are also vast and diverse that I never got bored of combat. You are also free to switch to any character in your party at any time so if you ever get bored of playing one class too long you can switch your playstyle completely. On top of that, each character has a unique specialization tree so that even your characters of the same class feel different.
I did really enjoy the game and would give it a solid 9 out of 10, but there are a couple of things that I would have preferred that prevented it from being even better. The first is that in order to experience the full story and the most satisfying ending you would need to purchase the DLC of the game or purchase the game of the year edition. I feel that DLC should provide extra content for players that want to spend more time with the game, but not a requirement to complete the story. To be fair out of the three DLC released for the game, the last one titled Trespasser, is the only one that adds significant story details and wraps up the game. I watched a playthrough of this DLC because it would cost $10 to purchase individually. If you purchased the game at the full retail price and each DLC as it was released, it would cost $105 plus tax for the physical copy. I don't want to have to wait a year or more after a game's release to be able to experience a great game at a reasonable cost.
Even with Inquisition being the third game in the series, the story is going to continue in another game. This is where my concerns come in, with BioWare and EA. BioWare deserves credit for creating the lore and world of games like Dragon Age and Mass Effect, but their games have been hit or miss in the past. Dragon Age 2, I recall had mixed reviews which prevented me from playing it at the time. I want to go back and play it now that I've played through Inquisition. I was disappointed by Mass Effect 3, and haven't played but heard terrible things of Mass Effect Andromeda. Much worse would probably be EA's influence on the game. I already dislike DLC and the controversy with EA and loot boxes has me very worried about how they will try to squeeze money out of their fan base.
Dragon Age Inquisition did a lot of great things that had me engaged from beginning to end, but there some things that I would like to see return from Origins. During Inquisition while characters would approve or disapprove based on your choices, I never had characters leave the party or feel a sense of conflict between the characters. In Origins, recruiting one character into your party could result in another leaving forever. Another change I want to see is more options and customization for the tactical camera. The action combat is satisfying but I would prefer Dragon Age move away from The Witcher style combat and focus on improving the tactical camera. The strategy of managing your party around enemies, traps and the environment while making each encounter challenging would result in combat feeling more satisfying, like a game of chess, instead of just holding down a button to auto attack through most fights. Both the action combat and tactical camera can also be improved by adding more options to the behaviors and AI tactics section. It would love to see a Final Fantasy 12 style gambit system that allows you to control every detail of your parties actions.
With the next installment of Dragon Age already in the works and the story set up at the end of Inquisition, I'm really excited for the next game in the series. Based on the time between releases of the previous games, I hope a new game is announced in 2018. Let me know in the comments if you enjoy the series and what other fantasy RPGs you are looking forward to this year.