Dragon Age: Inquisition - Full Review

BioWare's quality RPG will keep you immersed and entertained for a long time.

Dragon Age: Inquisition — ZAM's Complete Review

I'm sure most of us have a favorite genre or series that we currently or at one point devoted hundreds of hours of our life to. It takes a special game to grab our attention and keep us entertained for hours, and with the number of games that are released every month, there's a lot tugging our attentions every which-way.

As I mentioned in my impressions article of Dragon Age: Inquisition, the game showed a lot of promise from an early first look. Since then I've devoted a lot of time into the story, and still have some more to go, but Inquisition definitely has that "wow" factor. The world of Thedas has captivated me with its deep story, cast of characters and expansive world.

If you're looking for a tl;dr, then here it is: you should be playing Dragon Age: Inquisition the moment it releases on Tuesday, November 18th (November 21st in the EU). Now let's get into what gives this RPG the legs to stand above many others.

Inquisition offers the largest world the series has had to-date. The first area, the Hinterlands, covers more area than Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II combined. I found myself spending many hours in my first jaunt out in Hinterlands, partly because I couldn't figure out how to return to Haven (pull up your map, click on world map, click on Haven, then click travel... seems simple but for some reason it wasn't obvious to me at first) and otherwise because there are so many side activities to do that you'll quickly find yourself distracted from your primary goal and focusing on helping out with a plethora of tasks.

Not that this is a bad thing. In doing the many side quests you'll end up exploring the area, uncovering secrets, finding loot, gaining levels and power (needed to unlock some areas on the war table), and furthering the influence of the inquisition movement. Fulfilling requisitions will help out your cause and net you even more power. Set up inquisition camps for some influence, a fast travel point and a place to rest and regen, filling both your health and potions. Use the War Table in Haven to send advisors on missions for rewards or to unlock areas, spend Inquisition Perks you earn and explore the vastness of Ferelden and Orlais.

I love to explore and a couple of the side activities, Ocularums and Astrariums, played to this style of gameplay. For Ocularums, you find skulls and use them to spy a few mysterious shards out in the surrounding areas. The shards are then visible on the ground and you can go collect them. Sometimes figuring out how to reach the shard can even be a bit of a challenge. The astariums offer a constellation line-drawing challenge. Complete all Astrariums in an area to reveal a hidden cave, which will contain a great reward for you (mine in the Hinterlands had a powerful Rogue dagger).

Helping out the locals will net you some influence, power, and sometimes the respect of your companions. Some quests will have a visible impact on the world, which lends to the immersive feeling. At times dialogue choices will allow you to defer to certain companions for input, earning approval from them (but sometimes disapproval from other companions). You’ll also run into the occasional person that you can recruit (or turn away from) the inquisition. If you end up recruiting them, they will become an agent, serving the inquisition by providing various services such as alchemy or smuggling.

Your character will also be kept busy closing Fade Rifts, which are spawning demons and terrorizing the land, as you journey through Ferelden and Orlais. These are akin to a ring event, where you defeat some waves then finally can close it. During Fade Rift combat you have the power to disrupt the rifts, stunning and dishing out a bit of damage to the demons, assuming your companions can keep them off of you long enough for your disrupt ability to complete.

In combat, having a diverse party definitely helps. Some enemies will have immunities or vulnerabilities that different classes can play their strengths to. I now have a love/hate relationship with the tactical camera. It’s great to get your party focused on employing their abilities efficiently in battle, especially on more difficult fights. What annoys me is that when I’m using it at a distance, clicking on the next party member to tell them what to do snaps the camera view from the mobs all the way back to the selected member.

You can also engage without using tactical view, and battles flow fairly well, though aiming can be a bit clunky at times on the PC. Improve your character and companion’s combat performance by spending their ability points on (mostly) action-based skills that they can employ. For example, my dual-wielding Rogue makes frequent use of her flanking attack and spinning blades abilities, as well as a stealth skill that allows me to move to a tactical position during the fight. Defensively, Warriors will build up their guard in combat, Mages can employ threat reductions or barriers, and Rogues will find themselves making use of evasion tactics.

There are no healing spells in Inquisition, but you have limited use of potions to benefit your party in battle. If you feel yourself being overwhelmed, simply pause combat to take stock of what potions, tonics or grenades will best help you before resuming. You can slightly expand the variety of active potions you can carry by equipping accessories that offer a bonus and discover new consumables to add to your array of choices. Visiting those camp sites you've been setting up quickly replenishes your healing potion supply.

Occasionally the enemies you defeat will drop collectibles that you can bring to the researcher in Haven. Once you turn in enough pieces from certain enemy types you gain a combat or defensive bonus against them, which will give you the edge in combat. Another helpful feature is potion upgrading. Instead of just making different potions of varying intensity to clog your inventory, you can collect the required amount of herbs to unlock permanent boosts (such as healing amount or duration).

Another reward you’ll be picking up from quests and lootable items are schematics. These unlock crafting options for you to create armor, weapons and customizations for said items. Use the ore and leather you’ve been collecting to deck out your characters. If you don’t want to craft, plenty of gear drops through gameplay as well, but after I started crafting most of my equipment I was able to see a noticeable difference in combat performance.

Player usable mounts make their first-ever appearance in the Dragon Age series. The first thing I did was leap off a cliff with mine to see what would happen, and the horse collapsed on its legs for a few moments, shook its head, and got up again. Mobs can knock you off your mount as well, but your mount seems to be immune to death (which is great, I'm awesome at killing mounts). There are a few horse racing challenges where you get your first mount at Redcliffe Farm in the Hinterlands; these are a good way to become familiar with steering your mount around.

Story and dialogue are really at the heart of Dragon Age: Inquisition. I’m avoiding mentioning much about the story as I really don’t want to chance spoiling it, but with the main story and side quests combined you’ll find yourself devoting, at minimum, 40-50 hours to the game. If you like reading every bit of lore that comes your way and exploring all the available nooks and crannies, it will more likely be upward 70-90+ hours. BioWare has stated that they've written over 80,000 lines of dialogue and nearly one million words, spread out over hundreds of characters, more than all of the Lord of the Rings book trilogy and the Silmarillion combined.

The choices you make can sway the story in a multitude of ways. Favoring companions who are accompanying you, being brash or polite, remaining neutral, choosing to respond with various emotions or investigating the matter at hand more deeply are all factors in how you weave Inquisition's story with your own hand. Not all replies you offer in a conversation will have an impact, but enough do to make you ponder every comment you select - especially considering you will typically have some companions with you listening in on the conversation.

Through the course of the game you’ll end up with up to nine companions that can join your party, each having a backstory that you can delve into by speaking to them in your stronghold between jaunts out in the world. Interested in romance? It’s possible to have that too with certain characters in Inquisition, though you’ll have to work hard at it.

Some companions may judge your actions not only by your conversational replies, but also by your completion of side quests or even simply by you showing your interest in learning more about a subject. These approval/disapproval shifts are usually slight, but can add up over time. Greater movements in approval/disapproval come during critical decisions during the main story. What one companion greatly approves of another may greatly disapprove of, so if you care for a romance or strong friendship with a particular companion, choose wisely at these junctures in the story.

Finally, a stand-alone multiplayer mode has been introduced into the series for the first time. I didn’t have time to check it out, but it does offer additional gameplay beyond the story. Work as a team and go dungeon crawling while working toward successfully completing an escort, kill or retrieve objective.

Dragon Age: Inquisition offers an epic RPG fantasy adventure that will entertain you for many hours. Inquisition overall feels very well-polished, vast, immersive and highly entertaining. You can pre-order the game for $59.99 (there’s also a Digital Deluxe edition with a few extras for $69.99) and dive in when it launches on Tuesday, November 18th!

UPDATE: Dragon Age: Inquisition is our 2014 PC Game of the Year!

Ann "Cyliena" Hosler, Managing Editor


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