Column: I Really Wanted to Like Dragon Age: Inquisition

col_drage_header[This piece may contain minor Dragon Age: Inquisition spoilers.]

When I first finished Dragon Age: Inquisition, my initial reaction was that it was underwhelming, and overall nothing special. A few busy days later, I am able to sit down and think properly about the game’s story, mechanics and closing moments and the opinion I have come to is… the game was underwhelming and nothing special. I guess first impressions really do last forever.

Let me make myself clear, I do not think it was a BAD game. It appears to be a competently put together, if slightly rote, experience, complete with the elitist elves and ground-dwelling dwarves we have all come to expect in fantasy fiction. Throw in some dragons, giants and a world-ending undead antagonist and you’ve got your average story done. But that’s the issue, everything about this game seemed to be just average.

As I have already mentioned in the proper review, the combat in the game was painfully boring. Maybe I am just spoiled having already played the likes of Dark Souls or Dragon’s Dogma, but a one-button, MMO-lite system for combat just doesn’t cut it in multi-million dollar, hundred-hour plus games anymore. There was very little difference between any melee classes; all of them just stood in minimum range, swinging their sword/maul/daggers away as numbers fly off the heads of the opponents. Each had a combat roll maneuver to escape when a potion was required, then it was a case of rinse and repeat. There was no skill required in parrying or blocking with a shield, and a single button press every few minutes for an acquired skill did little to break the monotony. I am not (necessarily) suggesting that the game should adopt a light/heavy attack system like numerous other games, but some sort of strategy aside from hit-and-run for EVERY enemy would be welcome.

The ranged classes were slightly more varied, because of the number of skills available, but both still boiled down to ‘hold trigger to attack’ and run away. The mage class, in particular, was highly disappointing. After Dragon’s Dogma has shown what magic in video games can do, there is no excuse for the standard ‘coloured orb flies from tip of staff’ attacking pattern that fantasy games fall in to.

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You won’t see magic like this in Dragon Age: Inquisition.

The world of Dragon Age: Inquisition is a mixed bag. It is more varied than Dark Souls, and much larger than Dragon’s Dogma, but it is just far too empty. There are too few distinct areas which make exploring each area more of a chore than anything, especially when each area seemed to be part of a group of three with the same theme (see: Hinterlands/Emerald Graves/Crestwood or Hissing Wastes/Exalted Plains/Forbidden Oasis).

The exploration itself, too, was seemingly very under-developed. The game encouraged you to jump often to access the tops of cliffs or bound from rock to rock to get to area, but there was no way to determine if the area you could see was actually able to be traversed at all. Several times I jumped and rolled up to a cliff, only to meet an invisible wall that prevented any further exploration, despite the map implying there was more to be found. Dragon’s Dogma was similar in terms of jumping and rolling, but it also featured the ability to ‘grab onto’ ledges your avatar jumped near to, which added much more control in terms of platforming.

As I stated at the beginning of my proper review, I have not played the previous entries in the Dragon Age series. Because of this, I did not know of the characters going in, but I was very surprised to find myself enjoying the company of many of them. Dorian, whom I had feared would be the ‘par for the course’ gay character in a Bioware game turned out to be enjoyable company, and my fears of Sera being the ‘so random and quirky “elf chick”‘ quickly proved unfounded. Add Varric, Cassandra and Iron Bull to the list and I was genuinely impressed with how those characters were able to make me like them. Cole, Solas and Vivienne, however, were never able to break their stereotypes, despite me putting significant time into talking to them and making decisions the game said they approved with. Maybe it was just my character’s background that they clashed with, and not my playstyle; I guess I’ll find out if I can bring myself to play the game through again.

Lo and behold, I seem to have forgotten Blackwall (another I never enjoyed the company of), which reminds me of one more major issue – the huge number of glitches I experienced, in both gameplay and the achievements. I am told that Blackwall disappears from the game at one point for his personal quest, and can come back after conditions are met, but in my game he simply disappeared with no objects to interact with, and such I simply never got to use him in my party again. After finishing the full game, my XB1 achievement tracker tells me I have killed less than 25% of the required demons for the Demonslayer achievement, and placed camps in zero of the ten areas. I cannot comment on the Demonslayer, because maybe it was my companions that killed the demons (in some sort of “exact word, monkey paw” scenario) but I have set every camp available in the game. Further more, the achievement for killing ten dragons unlocked, for me, after killing six.

Basically, Bioware’s Dragon Age: Inquisition COULD HAVE become one of my favourite games. It COULD have had detailed environments and exploration, and it COULD have had engaging combat and enemies. It managed to tick one box, in terms of companions, but unfortunately one out of three is not a passing mark, no matter how you twist it. Really, though, this outcome was inevitable… Bioware has never been good with the third entry of their action-RPG series’.

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4 thoughts on “Column: I Really Wanted to Like Dragon Age: Inquisition

  1. I did not experience the number of glitches during the play-through that you did, but I did have the issues with the achievements. I definitely killed all 10 dragons, but I’m still stuck on 90%. Hopefully when I play through again it will be able to get the achievement then. I liked this game… but I’m not as picky about my games. I loved Dragons Dogma, and definitely enjoyed the magic and fighting much more than this.

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  2. You see that giant black tornado in dragons dogma? Yeah that is a visual disaster in anything other than an open field, it is grand magic that takes an eternity to charge up and is why good magic is never done well in RPGs. They don’t know how to balance it any other way than a millennia for a cast time.

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    1. I do agree that they work best in open areas, but that is mostly what Dragon Age: Inquisition was. Even the manors/ruined castles and the like were most often several meters across. The DA magics were just visually unimpressive.
      The wind up time for powerful spells is an issue, as well, but I think it is better than being able to spam them. I actually liked the magic system in Fable 2, now that I think about it. Where you could chose what spells you wanted at ‘each level’, and so you just choose when to stop charging your spells.

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      1. Its almost insulting when they give you a passive buff that improves your super armour when casting spells in Dogma and it barely makes a difference. I eventually just play with the low to mid tier spells as the high tiers are often long casting attacks with weird attack formations like the meteors. High level magic in most games just feels unenjoyable to me for reasons like that.

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