Dragon Age: Inquisition – Xbox One
Platform: Xbox One
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date(NA): November 18th, 2014
Genre: Action RPG
Nerd Rating: 4.5 out of 10
After Dragon Age II the last thing I wanted was another Dragon Age game. I was so frustrated and annoyed with II‘s lazy design choices that when Dragon Age: Inquisition was first announced, I was dead-set on never getting it. But, I saw it sitting on Amazon for like $15 for the Xbox One and decided to waste some gift card money to check it out. BioWare could sell another flaming turd on a disc (read:
Dragon Age II this game) and I’d probably still buy it years later on a discount shelf, used, just to see for myself whether it was worth putting hundreds of hours into. Luckily Dragon Age: Inquisition was a decent follow-up game to Dragon Age: Origins that Dragon Age II failed to be, too bad they still tacked on a shitty multiplayer.
Dragon Age: Inquisition takes off right after Dragon Age II‘s ending. The mage-templar war is in full swing and in order to seek peaceful solution, representatives from all sides of the conflict have decided to meet at a conference called the Conclave. Your player, for any number of reasons, just happens to also be in attendance, but unlike everyone else, when a huge explosion destroys the Conclave and everyone else is flayed alive, you survive. When the sole survivor of the Conclave awakens they have a mark on their left hand and there is a giant tear in the sky called the Breach.
Although the player successfully closes the Breach by the end of the prologue with the assistance of returning characters Cassandra Pentaghast, Varric Tethras, Leliana, and new addition, Solas, more of these demon spewing rifts similar to the breach have continued to open up. In keeping with the recently killed Divine’s last request, Cassandra and Leliana officially form the new Inquisition, roping the player character, now referred to as the Herald of Andraste, into it. Of course, right afterwards the organization is marked as heretics by the Chantry and every important power in the Orlais-Fereldan area refuse an audience with them. Thus begins Dragon Age: Inquisition.
Many characters featured in previous Dragon Age games make a return, including many members of the Inquisition’s Inner Circle themselves. And yes, Hawke DOES make an eventual appearance (which you can customize) in the game, and using Dragon Age Keep (the World Save Editor/Exporter), you can choose whether or not Hawke was male or female, who they romanced, who they supported, blah blah blah. There is even a War Table operation that has to do with the Warden Commander (Origin‘s protagonist), as long as they lived. So, Dragon Age: Inquisition does a decent job with connecting the three game universes and their shared characters here, and thank fucking god they choose to only mention the Dragon Age II cast (sans Hawke and Varric).
However, that isn’t to say I thought EVERY returning character cameo or whatever was done in good taste, and I’m really talking about the big bad here; Corypheus. If you don’t remember or know who that is, let me explain. Dragon Age II had several equally crappy DLC packs, the first of which was called Legacy was about Hawke and co being attacked by the Carta and having to go to this hideout only to find out it’s on top of an ancient Grey Warden prison with an evil magister, Corypheus, locked inside it. Back when I first played Legacy I absolutely hated Corypheus because he, himself, was recycled from The Architect from Dragon Age: Origin‘s fantastic expansion, Awakening, but about a thousand times less interesting. Now Corypheus, the famously recycled reindeer of Legacy has been re-recycled into Dragon Age: Inquisition and he’s even more boring with what is possibly the most pathetic boss fight ever programmed.
On the topic of being pathetic, the length and difficulty in Dragon Age: Inquisition are also pretty pathetic. Since I’m a glorified achievement whore, I opted to play the game on Nightmare (Mass Effect‘s Insanity) difficulty the first time around and it was pathetically unchallenging. I wouldn’t say I’m some sort of “master RPG player” either, I think I’m “just”competent, and only two battles in the game actually had me restarting; the boss battle at the end of the prologue and the boss battle at the end of the main quest “In Your Heart Shall Burn,” both of which occur at the beginning of the game. The easiness of this game felt incredibly off when compared to the other games created by BioWare, even the other two Dragon Age games, both of which provided a decent challenge. This isn’t to say that I live off of hard game modes or anything like that, but difficulty in a game, when done well, can be really satisfying.
Regarding the game’s length, Dragon Age: Inquisition takes a detour from Dragon Age II, and even Mass Effect 3‘s usual route. In order to start important main quests the player has to accumulate these points referred to in-game as “Power”. Power can be obtained from just about anything, from completing side quests, closing smaller rifts, claiming landmarks, setting up camps, etc, to the point that players will likely end up accumulating much more power than they’ll even need even after the main events of the game. If you played Fable II before, it’s basically a knock-off of the renown system, but uses a number that depletes after use instead. Anyway, each main quest and certain War Table operations to unlock areas (I’ll get to that in a minute), require larger, and larger amounts of Power to unlock, capping at about 40, although the final mission in the game requires zero Power.
I thought that the use of this separate numerical value to start main quests was an interesting change from the norm, but the thing is, the game only has eleven main quests anyway. To specify, two of the main quests in that total are either or, one of which is almost completely skippable if you make a very specific choice during one of the later quests, so really, at minimum the player is only going through nine quests, at maximum, ten. The actual quest size varies as well, with some quests being extremely short, at least one of which is only a boss battle or two which are just “talk to _” quests, while others are ridiculously long, such as Here Lies the Abyss which takes place in multiple locations, but also intersects with some other side quests (note that the boss fight for that main quest too is also incredibly pathetic). Now, I wouldn’t be so pissy about there only being nine-to-ten main quests in Dragon Age: Inqusition if there was either some kind of replay value (like the ability to start a new game with an existing character and continue to level up) or enough decent side quests to fill up the space in between them, but Inquisition has neither.
Before anyone attempts to correct me though, Dragon Age: Inquisition has many of these “side quests” if you want to call it that. In fact, the game has hundreds of them, the same “go to this spot find this item/person/corpse/animal/thing” then “return to __ for reward” all of which have little to no dialogue at all and most of which don’t further the story in any meaningful way like Dragon Age II‘s unmarked quests did. Then there’s the War Table operations, a new feature in Dragon Age: Inquisition that isn’t at all unique, basically it’s the un-fun version of Kenway’s Fleet from Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. To put it simply, War Table operations are timed “missions” which occur all over the Orlais-Fereldan map. In order to complete them, the player has to send one of their three advisors to complete said operation, with certain advisors “sometimes” returning with different rewards. Some of these operations would have made much better side quests than timed reading material, but the majority of these missions are completely forgettable.
Since I’ve spent the last 1000 words railing on about the bad, I think it’s time to talk about the good (not that there’s much good to talk about)… First of all, the game looks absolutely beautiful and unlike Dragon Age II, things have actual fucking textures and details! But then again, if this game didn’t look hyper-realistic and beautiful, most bigger reviewers not paid off hush money from EA would’ve given it an 8 instead of a 10 out of 10. Also, this time out, BioWare looked at fellow role-playing games developer Bethesda Game Studios for inspiration and created actual explorable, open worlds. Of course, they decided to fill these big explorable worlds with tons of garbage fetch quests and tons of other boring activities so….also not as great as it could’ve been. Well, at least BioWare’s system worked great in Fallout 4?
Dragon Age: Inquisition‘s companions were also not as amazingly boring as Dragon Age II‘s companions, but BioWare was too lazy to give everyone a decent personal quest…most of which are also garbage fetch quests and war table operations mixed together. The romances…also boring. Honestly, the only character and romance by extension that was actually worth playing the game to see was the apostate Solas’. I rarely play as elves, but not only are both his character and romance not horrendously boring, they actually further the story in a meaningful way. Everyone else’s? A little bit of actually nudity for once, but generally, fucking forgettable. Also, the optional tactical mode that was added to the combat system was pretty cool the few times I used it.
That’s about it I guess? Honestly when I first decided to sit down and talk about Dragon Age: Inquisition I figured I’d be all gushy about how it was a return to Dragon Age: Origin‘s greatness and all that, but the further I’ve thought it through, the more I realize how absolutely unremarkable Dragon Age: Inquisition really is. In the end, as much as BioWare touts that their RPGs are all about choice, I don’t think a single choice I made in Dragon Age: Inquisition actually mattered. None of them mattered in Dragon Age II where an entire race was retconed, a character that may have been dead was brought back regardless, and a fucking bug completely invalidated the romance my Warden Commander slaved through, so why should this game? I actually had more choice in Fire Emblem Fates, a strategy RPG where the player’s character actually has some sort of pre-determined destiny.
So my question now is, how is this lazily written piece of shit game from the endlessly touted “masters of RPGs” developer better than other RPGs that I’ve played that not only offered me more choice, but also an overall better story? Because Dragon Age: Inquisition‘s story (and even multiplayer) plays more like the shitty fantasy rip-off of Mass Effect 3 that it is, than Game of the Year material in any way. At least shit like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Fallout 3, both of which I ride for being subpar compared to their predecessors, actually deserve at least some of the acclaim they get. This game is just shit.
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