Oh, do I love me some Dragon Age. I’ve been a big fan since the premiere of Origins and I even enjoyed Dragon Age 2 a good deal, even though I had my issues with it like everyone else. The series has bolstered an impressive ability to build upon its own world and the events occurring within it. Numerous issues have been brewing amongst multiple factions: The Chantry, the Circles of Magi, the Templars, the Qunari, Tevinter, and others. All of it either comes to a head here or gives another major push towards an outcome that is sure to be spectacular. What Dragon Age: Inquisition has given is no small contribution.
Players assume the role of the Inquisitor in this new instalment. Originally accused of a heinous crime against the Chantry, they instead find themselves the only solution to a problematic anomaly that leaks demons into Thedas at the same rate of ale collecting in a dwarf’s beard. The odds are stacked against the Inquisitor and his/her small band while they struggle to reform the Inquisition and restore peace. This sees the return of Cassandra Pentaghast, our beloved lady of steel that spent most of Dragon Age 2 calling Varric all sorts of names. Of course, Varric is a big fan of being in the middle of chaos, so he tags along once more as well. Leliana is another returning face, as well as Cullen, the bumbling Templar turned competent commander.
The Inner Circle also quickly becomes home to a diverse group of allies, or would-be enemies. Each of them brings a feeling of being complex and realistic, with follies, hang-ups and feelings that feel genuine. The conversations with them are all worth it, even if you don’t necessarily agree with them or their views, and the banter is some of the funniest, saddest, infuriating and heart-warming I’ve ever experienced. This varies on who you bring along, but there doesn’t seem to be a mix that doesn’t play off of each other very well. I found myself consistently surprised by these characters and their personal developments; getting to know each of them made Skyhold feel like home.
The adventures of the Inquisition take place in both Ferelden and Orlais in an exceptionally expansive stretch of areas to visit. These areas are huge and give a near open-world feel that allows for exploration, discovery and fun. The size of the various locations isn’t for everyone. It breaks an age old exploration habit of wanting to complete everything while you are there, but it just sometimes isn’t possible. Fortunately, you can return at your leisure, even after the main storyline has ended; completionists do not have to fear forever.
On top of being ambitiously large in size, the lands of Ferelden and Orlais look absolutely gorgeous. Even in areas that are meant to be ugly or destitute or barren, there is something nice to look at. Inquisition is worlds above the choppiness of Origins or the general ugly block of tan and brown that was Kirkwall, and the stylized touches fit perfectly into this new makeover of Thedas. There is always something going on in these environments as well: Templars and Mages roaming about, bandits, wildlife, or the occasional dragon that I always seemed to run into five levels below where it’d be sane to take it on.
Despite sometimes being bedraggled and beaten down, continuing onwards to return a ring to a widow just felt like a fun challenge and a good opportunity to test my strategy skills. For returning players who have not played yet, be wary of your potions and the ability to upgrade them along with your armor and weaponry.
On that note, the crafting system feels like it was freshly delivered from Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. Collecting materials, breaking down old armor upgrades and crafting everything you want with the right schematics can be a great deal of fun (and not just because you can name a broadsword filthy names). Players are allowed the ability to select from their collected materials for various boosts and additions to their stats. Runes also make a return, despite no Bodahn and Sandal. Someone at BioWare needs to get on that; I was hoping to see Sandal take down a dragon without any explanation and then maybe have a cute romance with Dagna… Unrealistic fanfiction aside, the crafting system rewards taking the time to collect metals and hunt for leathers and furs. At higher levels, the crafting system and its open-choice options become invaluable.
BioWare may fail at some things – sometimes even a lot of things – but something players can typically lend them is that they know how to tell a good story and immerse players into the conflict. That is absolutely no different in Inquisition. The story is grand, dire and mysterious. It brings up interesting questions and leaves the path of the Inquisitor to the player as well as some decisions that are not to be made lightly. Where players choose to align themselves, and what they choose to do with people that have crossed them or on their companion quests are almost never dismissible.
Once the villain fully reveals themselves, the game takes an epic ascent from dawdling in various areas and trying to help people caught in the crossfire of everything to a full-scale war with an ancient force. Even players who have a difficult time becoming emotionally invested may find themselves having a moment or two. I will admit to having gotten a bit misty-eyed when my group began singing of their faith. It might be corny but it is one of the most beautiful instances of a game touching on faith I’ve ever personally experienced.
Overall, Dragon Age: Inquisition has got so much going for it. It’s beautiful, it sounds great, the story is epic, and the characters are relatable and fun. Everything you do feels like it makes a difference and as if you can play however you wish. The massive amount of detail, thought and effort that went into this game feels as triumphant as the Inquisition itself after Haven. It is not without its flaws, of course. The PC launch came with a good few glitches and bugs, though I will credit BioWare, who are working diligently on fixes for players, in addition to talk of further items and DLC in the future.
Dragon Age 2 made many fans upset for numerous reasons and, more so, it turned some off of the series entirely. I’m glad I got the game and I’m glad to be on my third playthrough. All I can hope now is that it tides me over until a Dragon Age 4 is announced.