Tom Awesome’s review score: 8.75
An extended Memorial Day weekend with my wife turned out to be an excellent time to catch up on some gaming and reading. I finally finished my long, happy romp through Dragon Age: Inquisition by Bioware. After being nearly the only game I played for roughly a year I left with a decidedly humdrum feeling.
I am a huge Dragon Age fan. I played the first two games on PC before making the jump to PS4 for Inquisition. I thought the story was pretty good. I’m not running out to buy any novels based on the game, but it was alright. Thrust into a leadership role by providence or blind luck, my fearless mage took a thoughtful, measured approach to saving the world. There are a couple key choices that dictate how the game will play out. As a mage, I sided with the mages against the Templars. After every couple story missions you can sit in judgement of characters the Inquisition takes down. I was decidedly lenient, often choosing exile over execution. Don’t tell my friends, I have an image to uphold.
I was surprised by how short the story was, to my recollection there were less than a dozen story missions. Out of my 78 hours playing the game, the bulk of it was spent in side content.
The companions really make this game shine. Even the characters I didn’t care for much were interesting to talk to back at the base. I was surprised by how deep their individual stories were. Each charter has a series of tasks you have to perform to get them to open up. Complete a quest here, send an agent to spend a time on an operation there. Get a trinket, talk to the person, watch a new cut scene and choose how to interact. I kept one of the initial characters, Cassandra, in my party at all times. I was also accompanied by the dwarf Varric (from Dragon Age II), and either the necromancer mage Dorian or two-handed weapon warrior Iron Bull.
I loved the click and direct tactical action of Dragon Age Origins. Even though most people hated Dragon Age II, I didn’t mind how they streamlined combat. In Inquisition, they definitely tried to move the needle back toward the more tactical action of the original title, but for me it played very similarly to II. I leveled up my side characters and more or less let them do their thing in combat. I don’t even know if there was a way to prioritize their actions. They drank health potions when wounded, but I almost never set off a combo between characters. Frankly, I didn’t need to. Either I could handle the baddies or they would kick my butt. A battle never felt close enough that pausing the game and issuing orders to each individual would turn the tides.
Most of my time was spent wandering around the wilds of Thedas. There was some reason to initially explore these regions, but I can’t really remember why. Each non-story area was packed with side quests, and I spent many hours happily fighting monsters and closing rifts.
There were 10 dragons to slay in the game. At first glance, this was very exciting. The first one smoked me several times before I conceded defeat. After leveling up a bit more, I was on even footing and the first couple battles against dragons were truly thrilling. It wasn’t enough of an appeal to track them all down however. I only defeated six or seven, even though I explored everywhere I could find in each of the areas. I’m sure I could have tracked down their locations online, but it got to a point where I just didn’t care anymore. If I couldn’t find them by poking around on my own, forget it.
There were also treasure maps, but I never took the time to find one. As near as I could tell, they give an image of a location in the area and you have to go find it. No thanks! I also collected bottles and mosaic tiles throughout the game. I have no idea why. The world is filled with tasks, completionists could easily spend more than 100 hours on the game.
I thought the skill trees were pretty weak. I pretty much maxed out one magic tree, then I unlocked a specialist tree maybe halfway through the game and then I maxed that one out. I pretty much only used five abilities the entire game, and I started with two of them. I used one ability from the specialist tree, and it was one of the first ones. Overall, I thought the skills were pretty blah. I didn’t even bother to level up my characters for the last time before the final mission.
The Inquisition also unlocked perks as you amassed power. These had varying benefits from discounts in shops to allowing rogues to unlock more doors. Early on it was really satisfying to unlock new perks, but the trickle was very slow. By the end of the game I was cruising, I wasn’t being challenged much so I didn’t feel the need to track down elite gear. I was sick of perks by the time I was doing the last few story missions.
Crafting was fun, and I enjoyed gathering resources all over the world, but after I built the best stuff available two thirds of the way through the game, I was pretty much set. Overall, the game had a Borderlands-feeling loot drop rate, but 99.9 percent of it was garbage. Every 10 hours or so I would check to make sure all my allies had the best available gear equipped, and I would dump the rest. Inventory management was both cumbersome and boring, and I ever felt like money was all that important.
I was really excited by the prospect of a base that grew with your forces. I had images of Suikoden II dancing in my head, and what I received was extremely disappointing. There were a couple “major” cosmetic choices, like do you build a mage tower or sparring ground, an herb garden or something else. Walking around Skyhold at the end of the game, I could tell you where my herb garden was, and that was it. I couldn’t point out another one of the “upgrades.” It was a cool concept, and I know at least one friend that really enjoyed it, but it didn’t do anything for me.
Multiplayer was a new addition for Dragon Age. It was kind of fun. You and up to three other people take on waves of enemies and try to survive. You start with a couple basic classes unlocked, and you earn more by random drops, or by buying packs of multiplayer stuff. It was mildly amusing, but I never had three buddies online with me at the same time, and I don’t play well with strangers. And if you tried it without a foursome, you were going to get your rump roasted.
To me multiplayer was little more than a temporary diversion for the players and a cash-grab for Bioware. If I could have wrangled my buddies tried all of the classes out of the gate, maybe it would have been more fun.
In all, this was a very difficult game for this stage of life. I thoroughly enjoyed playing Dragon Age, and when I did log in the game was incredibly immersive and time just flew by. Unfortunately, the days where I have time to play two or more hours of a game are extremely limited. I believe that I would enjoyed the game much more if I could have played it in a more abbreviated timeframe.
If you’re a fan of expansive fantasy RPGs, you should definitely buy it.