Dragon Age: Inquisition - Review


Dragon Age: Inquisition has a lot to life up to. Especially after the general dislike and critical failure that was Dragon Age 2, Inquisition feels like a game that has to lead the franchise back to its former popularity and quality.
With a promised big open-world, impressive and memorable dragon battles as well as co-op multiplayer,
Inquisition sounds very ambitious and at least seems to have enough ideas to back it up. But are those ideas realized well enough in the final game to make Inquisition an unforgettable gaming experience for RPG fans?


The plot:
A devastating event has pushed the world of Thedas into chaos. Dragons begin to take over the skies and plunge the lands into darkness, Mages have started a war against the Templars to free themselves from the chains of oppression, and nations start turning against each other. It's up to you to bring back order to the world by leading the Inquisition and bringing down the forces of chaos - its your decisions that will change the Dragon Age forever.

Dragon Age: Inquisition picks up its story right where its predecessor Dragon Age 2 left off. Pretty much starting off at the brink of the war between the Mages and the Templars, Inquisition's storyline ultimately comes off as a satisfying yet not truely amazing (supposedly) final chapter of the Dragon Age trilogy. With that said, with so much lore and characters to back up the game's story, the story itself is more of an entertainingly okay and often even clichee experience rather than an amazing unforgettable journey. Sure, Inquisition's story features several great moments that are littered throughout the course of the game, but still in the sum of all parts one can't shake off the feel that the story tends to develop into fairly predictable paths and ways with few actual surprises in store.

Though Bioware's space counterpart to Dragon Age, Mass Effect, features a much stronger story overall, there are also some parallels between both franchise's story archs that become very obvious. The most obvious of those is the fact that recruting missions or missions focussing specifically on the backstory of one of your teammates / allies come off as the most enjoyable and interesting tales and missions of Inquisition's overall narrative.
What drags most of Inquisition's nevertheless mostly enjoyable story down is without any doubt the fact that the lives of your allies never feel like they are truely at stake. It comes off rather minor at first but even when facing the "end of the world" since demons start entering our world through Rifts, true tension through risk of losing a beloved character rarely really arises in Dragon Age's story. Storywise, Inquisition sure could've hit much harder, but given the fact that the game mechanics and side quests are the true selling point in the game, those make up for it for the most part. Forming your own character and personality to your liking greatly impacts how events play out and highten the replayability of the game quite a bit even despite standard storyline.

Also, it should be noted that newcomers to the franchise definitely will have a hard time with Inquisition as a starting point for the series, so that they are best advised to catch up on the background story of the past games before heading right in into Inquisition.

War is coming.


Core Gameplay Mechanics - "Singleplayer MMO RPG"

Inquisition at its core is a full on Action RPG, which it doesn' try to hide. Combat is therefore the primary focus in Inquisition and there is a whole lot of it involved in pretty much every single one of your missions and actions. The game uses a very simple formula for its combat including basic attacks, building up your resource meter for your class, levelling up, and using special attacks or spells. And even though it sure is somewhat satisfying to see damage numbers pop up above enemy heads and to level up, Inquisition's combat mechanics themselves often come off as too simplistic. In that sense, besides wildly running around the field trying to avoid (rather than dodge) enemy attacks, there is not all that much strategy or tactic involved in battles. In most cases, battles are a game of "who can throw how many spells and hits at the opponent first". Aside from basic and special attacks there is not a lot in terms of creative combo-chains or anything similar involved, making it justified to say that most of Inquisition's combat feels like a big singleplayer MMO RPG like World of Warcraft.

The "true tactic" in Inquisition's battles however only shows in the form of how to constantly keep inflicting damage upon your enemy. With that said, gearing up yourself and your teammates with increasingly stronger attacks and spells as you level up will eventually drastically increase your pallet of attacks to choose from. In addition to obtaining better armor and weapons, the true question in Inquisition's battles rather depends on who has the better gear and stats rather than who has the better skills. And while this combat orientation might be perfectly fine for RPG fans eager to grind their way up to superiority, gamers wanting to win fights through actual fighting skills should rather look elsewhere.
The combat in Dragon Age: Inquisition is a polarizing affair since it can be very satisfying to finally kill a dragon after you finally equipped that one far better armor and sword, yet it doesn't really make you a more "skilled" player, since combat in Inquisition mostly consists out of constantly spamming two to four different attack buttons (no matter the combos).

The core mechanics in Inquisition are definitely targeted more towards RPG (and MMO) lovers with the bigger emphasis on customiztation and levelling rather than truely strategic (and skill-based) combat. This is only further manifested by the fact that Inquisition offers a very impressive amount of gear, weapons, and other items to customize your characters. Most notably crafting armor and weapons is strangely addicting and fleshed out as different schematics for exmaple provide different looks of your equipment depending on what material you use.

Hit X, hit X, hit X, hit X, hit X...oh you can also just hold X.

Inquisition aims to give the game mechanics a more tactical edge through the addition of a tactical camera that can be triggered anytime during battles. Said camera gives an overview over the battlefield in a freezed time state and shows you exactly what weaknesses and strengths each opponent has in addition to other stats. While it's undoubtedly a nice feature to have, the tactical camera's actual usefulness is rather limited. The viewpoint of the camera is not always the best, especially when you use it in any indoor environment, and even though the tactical camera gives you the ability to take your time planning which of your teammates to send to attack which enemy, it rarely results in truely having an edge over the enemy forces. Oftentimes using the tactical camera simply feels like you are needlessly pausing the battle for no reason making them unnecessarily long. Especially when seeing that the actual command options to give your teammates are very limited in the tactical camera, further diminishes its actual usefulness in the game. What should have been THE main strategy tool during battles sadly turns out to be more of a pause button to drink some potions before heading back into the fight again.

Speaking of commanding teammates, accompanying the limited array of limited commands you can give your teammates, are the underwhelming parameters you can set for your A.I. comrades which once again don't really allow for too much actual strategy on the field. Teammates are still competent enough to handle themselves without the player having to babysit them through countless situations yet it would be much more immersing if Inquisition would've given the player more abilities to form how teammates act. Strategies like having one of the teammates attend a more defending position from afar while the other is more of an offensive type is only roughly present in the game. Most of the game's A.I. parameters revolve around how aggressive a character is or how many potions he keeps in store. What's further a bit disappointing is the ability to not be able to let the teammates A.I. choose for itself in terms of what spells and abilities it wants to have equipped, meaning that you always have to look over the equipped attack-pallet of each character. This might satisfy most players in regards to having complete control over your group, yet still it sometimes feels a bit needlessly complicated in some instances.

The tactical camera is not really as tactical as you might think.

Open-World & Quests - "Just do it!"

Inquisition offers players a huge world to explore with many unique and diverse areas full of animals and monsters. Although the world of the game is not truely open-world and rather split up into individual large MMO like zones, exploration is still mostly pretty fun in the game even despite lacking a certain organic interconnected feel like in Skyrim.

What makes each of the zones truely come to life and further gives you motivation for exploration is the fact that they are packed full with tons of quests. There sure is no shortage on things and tasks to do in Inquisition's world. However, while it's of course very easy to get distracted by constantly popping up new quests everywhere, the quests themselves are rather underwhelming for the most part and lack any real substance or meaningful background to them. Especially compared to games like Skyrim that give a big narrative context to almost every single one of the sidequests (often leading way to a big secondary story arch of its own), such context is extremely rarely given in Inquisition's quests making many of them feel like somewhat of a bit redundant busy work. With that said, most quests boil down to having you run to a certain location to press a button and to get a reward and leave. Sometimes obstacles like enemies are thrown in to make you battle something before completing the quest. Completing quests and getting rewards and as a result eventually leveling up and getting stronger is what it's all about though, and in that sense, quests do feel rewarding to some extent. It's just sad that especially when doing several quests in a row after already having spent quite some hours into the game, the lack of true variety in the missions starts to show rather quickly.

True variety in mission design only shows during the far more interesting and far more story related campaign missions, due in large part not only because they let you fight more interesting and more challenging bosses, but also because they wrap your missions and actions far better into a much needed narrative context to give it weight and reason. Though it of course still mostly revolves around battling your way through demons.

It's especially in boss battles when things start to get interesting.

The War Table - "Let them do the dirty work"

Being the head of the Inquisition and feeling like a true leader is accomplished in the game mainly through two things: being in control over your entire group during battles, and then...there's the war table.

The war table is a map giving you an overview over the lands and situation of the entire story's conflict. Accessing and using the war table allows you to send out agents to perform numerous tasks to assist and reward the Inquisition. In doing so, you can unlock new areas, find party members, get additional weapons or cash and crafting materials. Though it is far not as strategic (if even at all) as one might think, the war table still succesfully conveys the feeling of being in power of a true big force at your disposal. Though sending out agents and party members is nothing more than choosing a location and pressing a button, the fact that all of it happens in real time even after your console or PC is turned off somewhat gives your actions and commands a much bigger feel of "letting your fellow teammates do as you say". Additionally it somewhat feels gratifying to know that progress is being made in the game even after your system is shut off. This feel of power over an entire movement highlights even more when scenes regarding a trial arise, in which you are free to decide whether to let the accused person live, get executed or something else. Those are sure some of the most powerful moments in the entire game.

It's live and let die!


Inquisition's campaign might be a flawed experience but sure packs enough content and fun to make it worthwhile. Sadly, the same absolutely cannot be said for Inquisition's extremely disappointing and lackluster multiplayer component.

Playing a Dragon Age game with a friend via a co-op feature first off sounds very promising and fun, but sadly it's exactly this co-op multiplayer in Inquisition that fails miserably to evoke any real kind of motivation to keep on playing at all.
In Inquisition's multiplayer, you select a premade character, fight through three different settings killing enemies, picking up small amounts of gold and maybe an item here and there...that's it. There's no true exploration of big worlds in a large team or anything like that. Therefore, multiplayer in Inquisition is unfortunately as shallow and uninspired as it gets.
This only gets worse when taking a look at how progress is being made in multiplayer: items are mostly obtained through purchasing chests, which can be bought with gold that you can slowly accumulate and collect or with platinum....which is real money. Seeing how ridiculously slow of a process it is to earn gold and items without spending real money on chests, it gets clear that the co-op multiplayer of Inquisition is a complete afterthought in the game that is only there to make profit out of online gamers.
It becomes just extremely hard to make out any true fun in such a shoehorned in, boring and repetitive multiplayer experience.
Gamers expecting a great online feature in this new Dragon Age will be absolutely left disappointed and angered when realizing that it basically only seems to be in the game to make additional money for the publishers giving little to nothing in exchange.

Taking pointless and redundant grinding to a new level.


What Dragon Age: Inquisition lacks in narrative depth it to some extent makes up for with its beautifully realized environments. Both indoor and outdoor environments feature an impressive amount of detail and are nicely varied all throughout making exploring the nature and wildlife in the game alone a true joy. With landscapes varying from forests, to coasts, over deserts, snowy mountains and more, nothing in Inquisition feels recycled or samey. But also the various characters in Inquisition are nicely detailed as well.
Yet, Inquisition's engine isn't a marvel in every aspect: especially during conversations characters behave and talk in a very stiff and unnatural way. It unfortunately tends to make those scenes unnecessarily feel artificial and choppy. On top of that, most of the eventually occuring bugs and glitches in Inquisition happen to show up during conversations making their lackluster execution (at least technically) the more obvious.   


Soundwise, Inquisition holds up very well. A great and epic orchestral score accompaniies the game's story very well even though the actual background music mostly even sounds as if there was more at stake than it actually is the case (if that makes sense). Furthermore, voice-acting is also delivered very well and does a great job in balancing out the game's weird conversation animations. With that said, not always do great voice-acting and the conversation animations go well hand-in-hand though, yet in the sum of things it's servicable enough.
Sound design is mostly reliant on fairly standard sounds that rarely make things stick out too much. Although hearing a dragon scream from afar or blast its fire breath across the area is admittedly always pretty awesome.     

Khaleesi must be nearby.

The Verdict

Dragon Age: Inquisition is a satisfying yet not perfect third (and final) chapter in the Dragon Age franchise. Fans worried about the game after the critically inferior Dragon Age 2 can rest easy now since Inquisition without any doubt holds up as a far better Dragon Age experience overall.
Yet it has to be said that Inquisition is not for everyone: though combat plays a center role in the game's big array of mechanics, the combat itself is far not as strategic as it appears at first. Therefore, the combat in Inquisition is best described as feeling like a singleplayer MMO RPG in which grinding for better gear is what eventually will make you turn out victorious after a hard fight rather than actual fighting skills. The combat is therefore probably the most polarizing aspect about Inquisition itself.
But even despite this, one cannot deny how packed full of things to do the campaign is. With numerous varied landscapes to explore, tons of quests to do and an overwhelmingly big amount of RPG-oriented customization options for your characters, it's easy to lose countless hours in Inquisition if you happen to get along with its core combat mechanics that mainly dictate most of its mission designs. With so much stuff to do in Inquisition's beautiful worlds it's just a shame that not all of the game's ambitious ideas work or aren't realized to their fullest potential. While ideas like the war table are admittedly cool tools and fighting dragons never becomes boring, an "only" average storyline without any real tension or high stakes, mostly shallow quests without enough narrative context and the absolutely dissappointing co-op multiplayer show that there are indeed quite some dents and rough edges in the overall experience of the game.

Dragon Age: Inquisition has enough going for it to qualify as a good game even despite it's noticable flaws. Nevertheless, its flaws in certain areas definitely depend on how much weight you yourself as the gamer put on them. Hating the very basic combat mechanics in Inquisition is therefore just as easily the case as simply sticking to them and eventually even growing to like them. It's a drastic case of preference making the advice of "just try it out if you can" fit this game just right.
Yet, it's probably safe to say that especially gamers who are into playing fantasy MMO RPGs will probably dig Dragon Age: Inquisition and its mechanics the most.


 Final Verdict: 7 out of 10 

Status: Good / Try it out

Big thanks goes out to EA for providing us with a review copy of the game.

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