Yeah Magazine #10

GrogHeads Reviews Dragon Age: Inquisition

Kimberly Poet, 23 January 2015

Many dragons were harmed in the making of this review.

click images to enlarge (Images from Doug Miller)

Trilogies are tricky beasts. Much of their success depends not only on the original story, but also on its sequels. Dragon Age has had its share of ups and downs –  the promising epic RPG followed by a sequel which drew vitriol for its departure in tone and cobbled-together presentation.

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Dragon Age: Inquisition, however, not only exceeds its preceding games, it sets a new standard for Bioware entirely. The relatively open-world regions give you a chance to immerse yourself in Thedas and are both lush and diverse, from the moonlight deserts of the Hissing Wastes to the verdant tangle of the Emerald Graves. Crafting also makes its first appearance and allows you to tailor your character even further. The combat system is more fluid than Dragon Age: Origins and more strategic than Dragon Age 2. Its scope is broader, the relationships between the Inquisitor and their companions more intricately written, and the customization and graphics – sweet baby Andraste, if someone tells you they spent less than thirty minutes creating their character, they’re a filthy liar.

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Bioware truly shines in developing interesting characters and dialogue, whether you’re listening to witty party banter or helping your party members with a little soul-searching. All of the companions are fleshed-out characters with things that make them tick and things that tick them off. Thanks to the new approval system, your actions affect how they perceive and interact with you. Solas, for example, welcomes inquiring minds while Sera is impatient with introspection.  Bioware’s writers have a few tricks up their sleeves; be ready for your initial impressions of a few to take a drastic about-face.

 

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The story of the Inquisition focuses on a demon-spewing hole in the sky, and the war between the mages and templars, raising questions about the Chantry, its origins, and the validity of its doctrines throughout. To me, this was exactly the right conflict to focus on. Fighting an unrepentantly evil and relentless army of darkspawn is satisfying in its own way, but rather one-dimensional. Unfortunately, the main villain in Inquisition falls prey to this shortcoming, with little to develop them as a character but codex entries. However, the conflict stemming from different ideologies is what really drives the game. Inquisition asks the big questions throughout the game. What is the best way to keep magic from harming man? Where do you draw the line between pragmatism and fanaticism? Are you willing, for example, to send your allies to certain death to fulfill an operation? As the commander of a massive military and political force, what do you sacrifice for the greater good?

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Speaking of that massive force you’re commanding, Bioware has introduced an interesting feature called the War Table. The War Table offers dozens of potential operations that you can direct your forces to complete. Operations are carried out in real time and can take anywhere from nine minutes to twenty hours.  Gathering resources are generally short operations; silencing a mysterious enemy or encouraging diplomatic relations between nations can take more than a dozen hours or more.  Some operations grant you political influence or reward you with valuable items or schematics. Depending on how you direct your forces, some will lead you on a wild goose chase, slam the door on future operations, and leave you with nothing to show for it. Your agents may discover something in a ruin that your soldiers would pass by, for example, or your diplomats could wield influence in circles where your agents would stand out. Choose wisely.

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While your lieutenants are carrying out operations, you’ll be in the field. Tactical view is useful on harder difficulties or when fighting high dragons, but runs much more smoothly on PC than on a console. The game has several skill trees for you to explore, such as the reaver – an old favorite – the assassin, and the knight-enchanter. These trees come with useful passive skills as well as showy and devastating attacks, allowing you build your Inquisitor and companions into formidable warriors, mages, and rogues. The knight-enchanter tree, for example, not only allows your mage to fight on the front lines but deal massive damage while doing it. The Spirit Blade ability renews your barrier with each hit you deal, while Fade Cloak renders you temporarily invulnerable and – by unlocking the upgrade Decloaking Blast –  can deal thousands of points worth of damage if you rematerialize inside an enemy.

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Dragon Age: Inquisition is well worth your time – and with its sprawling regions, hundreds of quests, and indisputable replay value, it will take a lot of it. The story, characters, and combat make for a rewarding and engaging experience. It’s not without bugs – Dorian’s migratory mustache comes to mind – but overall it is a phenomenal achievement on Bioware’s part with a great deal of thought and skill behind it. Get the game, inquisit your way across the continent, and prepare to save Thedas in your best dragonbone armor.

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