STAFF REVIEW of Dragon Age: Inquisition (Xbox One)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014.
by Adam Dileva

Dragon Age: Inquisition Box art Yes, Dragon Age Inquisition is better than Dragon Age II. I know that was most likely your first question if you played the past two Dragon Age games, so if that’s all you came to find out, rest easy. Most people fell in love with Dragon Age Origins almost immediately for its epic storytelling, memorable characters, and fantastic RPG elements. Dragon Age II was clearly rushed out the door to cash in on its success and failed for numerous reasons. It simply didn’t have the same heart and polish we’ve come to expect from a BioWare title. They must have taken it to heart, as it seems they listened to what fans liked and disliked about both games and essentially provided the best of both worlds with Inquisition.

Inquisition is set once again in the land of Thedas, the same backdrop of the previous Dragon Age games, and starts off with a bang; literally. A massive explosion occurs, wiping out a massive amount of people, particularly some important political figures that were attempting to have a peace treaty formed between mages and Templars. Taking place after Dragon Age II’s events, the tensions between both factions are high, and when this magical explosion happens, you the player are the only sole survivor, as if you come out of it somehow. Now known as the Inquisitor, many questions surround your character, such as why were you the sole survivor, how was the blast caused, and why are there lingering portals left in the world allowing demons from the Fade to come through.

Not only have you survived, but a mark has been left on your body which you soon figure out that grants you the power to close these rifts and stop the demons from pouring through and taking over the land of men. Some people will perceive you as the savior, while others will accuse you of being responsible for what happened, since it’s convenient that you’re the sole survivor of the blast. With the two main factions of mages and Templars still locked in a political war, you and a handful of followers will begin an Inquisition to deal with the looming rift threat.

If you’ve previously played the past two Dragon Age games you’ll feel right at home with all the terminology, lore, characters, past events, and such, but if you’re coming into Inquisition completely fresh and having never played the past two titles, you might feel quite lost in the beginning. There’s no real recap of previous events aside from digging deep into the codex entries and reading up on it on your own. Even if you do know your Dragon Age well, you’re going to want to head over to and link your Origin account. The reason for this is because Inquisition has no formal save import feature, but at this website, you can have it scan your previous achievements and such, then keep or change your actions to create a World State which will be used as base historical facts in Inquisition. Since Inquisition doesn’t recap the past two games well on its own, the website was actually a great stroll through my previous choices and I even got to ‘fix’ a couple choices I wish I made differently when I originally played the games so that it was the way I wanted when I started Inquisition.

As you begin Inquisition, you’ll be asked to create your character to suit how you want them to look, male or female. The character creator is quite in-depth and while you’ll have all the standard options, they’ve made it simpler to use with a graph that has sliders so you can customize your Inquisitor exactly how you want by being less monotonous. I highly suggest taking your time with the creation of your character, as you’ll easily be able to spend well over 100 hours in Inquisition, and you will kick yourself if you aren’t completely happy with how they look hours in.

You’ll also be choosing their gender, class, and race during the creation process, all of which will affect how you are perceived and treated in the game from various people. The core story will always stay the same regardless of your creation choices, but relationships, combat, and how the world reacts to you can vary wildly based on what you choose to be. Classes and combat vary from the up close and personal melee Warrior, the Rogue whom can be a stealthy backstabber or an archer, or even a glass-cannon Mage. Being a human won’t have much racism pointed your way, but choose to play as a Qunari and the world will react vary differently towards you. This allows for some interesting multiple playthroughs and gives you the opportunity to play and choose dialogue options differently based on how people speak and treat you.

The Inquisitor is going to need help closing the rifts left around the world, and that’s where your Inquisition comes into play. As you progress in the game you’ll recruit (should you choose to) a handful of followers that can be taken with you into exploration and combat. In typical Dragon Age fashion, these aren’t simply throwaway characters either, as each one has a deep back story and a personality that will make them truly unique in your band of saviors. Sure I had my personal favorite personalities (I had to keep Sera in my party for the comic relief), but there wasn’t really any I hated this time around and blatantly avoided like I did in Dragon Age II. A few of the standouts to me were the always intriguing Varric that returns from the previous game along with Cassandra. Iron Bull (which I didn’t know was voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr.) is another awesome character that I almost always have in my party as well. There’s so much little banter and dialogue between party members as you’re exploring, that you’ll want to switch up your normal team composition just to hear everything you can.

You’re able to bring up to three other party members with you into combat and exploration, so while you’ll switch often, the ones sitting on the sidelines at times will still level up when the rest do as well. This also means that you’ll have to manage their inventory of weapons, armor, and accessories. This wouldn’t normally need mentioning, but the menu system makes this very cumbersome and is quite clumsy at the best of times. There are some bars at the bottom which will show you if the highlighted item’s stats are better or worse, but it doesn’t give all the deep details you might want to see without a few more button presses. So you’ll need to meticulously go to each character then down the list of weapons, armor, and accessories you have one by one.

Not only is that a pain, but it becomes even more of a hassle once you’re given access to crafting your own weapons and armor for your characters. As you explore the lands, you’ll need to hunt wildlife, pick flora, and mine minerals to get the materials you need to create the armor and weapons once you also find the patterns to do so. Certain armors and weapons also have slots that can be used to improve them even further, of which can be found or crafted as well. The crafting system itself works well, but it’s just really frustrating that you need to go in and out of menus constantly to do so. For example, I can never remember what my weapon I’m currently equipping is, so when I go to create a new one, there’s nothing to tell me if it’s better than what is equipped or not. Small annoyances like this make the inventory management something left to be desired, especially with how much loot you’ll be coming across.

While you’ll have an area you can initially explore and venture out to do whatever you wish, you’ll eventually need to head to your Inquisition’s War Table to access new quests and unlock new areas. Think of this as the galaxy map from Mass Effect, as it’s very similar mechanically. From here you can teleport to areas you’ve already uncovered and as you complete more quests and close rifts throughout, you’ll earn power, which subsequently allows you to open up more areas for exploration.

You’ll also be able to send your advisors (non-playable party members) to complete certain quests for you in real time. For example, maybe someone needs to be put in their place, so do you send a political message, a thief to assassinate, or a showing of your forces to get them to back down? Each choice may even be a “better” choice, and may complete quicker than one of the other options. I thought these time requirements would annoy me, but I generally never even thought about them when I was exploring until the message popped up saying they have returned from their journey. These missions continue even if you turn off your system, so get in the habit of choosing the longest timed quests before you quit playing for the night so that they are waiting for you the next day to be handed in.

Each of your party members will eventually open up to you if you pursue and engage them outside of forced situations, and this is a way to get some side quests, but the majority of your questing will be in the massive zones that open up for you as you progress. Each of these zones are truly massive and will have you exploring and finding new things hidden in many places. To put it into perspective, when I was in the first zone of the game, it took me roughly 10 hours or so to complete all of the quests within and I thought that was the main area of the game, only to find out it was a single zone. There are more to unlock and each one has a very different feel to them and encourages exploration and questing. I actually didn’t even start the main campaign until I was almost 20 hours into the game, that’s how expansive it can be if you want it to be.

New to the series is the ability to now jump. I thought this would help with exploration, and at times it might, but it eventually was more of a pain than I had hoped. Initially I thought that since I can now jump, that scaling a large mountain would now be something I would be able to do with ease. Not even close. Where there are a few parts you’ll need to jump if you want to access hidden collectables and quest items, the traversing on step hills is terrible and you won’t be able to bunny hop across the smallest slopes, leaving you travel long distances at times just to find a path to where you want to go instead.

Combat has evolved since you last played it, as it’s a blend of what was in both previous Dragon Age games. You can button mash and fight in real time if that’s how you want to play, but if you’re playing on the higher and much harder difficulty levels, you’ll want to employ the strategic camera that pulls back above the battle field, stopping time, and allowing you time to assess the situation and also send orders to each member accordingly. Once in this strategic mode, you can slowly inch forward time after they’ve been given commands to see how it’s going without having to react in real time if you wish. Keep in mind though, there’s no more heal spells in the game for your mages, but instead potions that can be used (and refilled at camps), so there’s no need for a dedicated healer any longer. Risk vs reward plays a much bigger part of combat this time around because of this drastic but workable change.

For the first time in the series, Dragon Age also now includes a multiplayer component, though it’s separate from the campaign and is standalone multiplayer co-op horde-like mode mixed with a dungeon crawl you’d find in an MMO. I was cautiously optimistic when I heard about this being included in Inquisition, as I was worried it might just be something tacked on to say they have multiplayer in their game. You begin by choosing one of twelve classes, each of which specializes in a specific play style and from there you team up with 3 other players to take on a dungeon.

Dungeons are segmented into 5 sections, of which you’ll need to clear in order to progress and becomes harder the further you delve into the dungeon. The dungeons are tuned for 4 players, as I’ve tried doing it solo when I was unable to find any matches, but it doesn’t seem to scale, as my support specialized mage got decimated quite quickly. A great inclusion though is the fact that all the treasures found during the match is shared among all the players, so there’s no need to worry about that greedy player that hogs all of the gold he finds as the rest of the group is fighting to survive. Also, while you’ll get all the XP for your own character during the mission, at the end you’ll also get a share of what every other player earned as well, so teaming up with some friends and becoming a formidable team will pay off quite well. While the multiplayer mode is a fun distraction, it doesn’t have the dialogue or story to accompany it to make it really memorable unless you form a fantastic group that works well together.

For all of the praises I’ve given the game, there were quite a few notes in my ‘con’ section while playing through. Multiple times I’ve had the game suddenly crash on me, forcing me to the Xbox One dashboard, though luckily I never lost too much progress as the game auto saves somewhat frequently when you’re exploring from area to area. There was a ton of small visual bugs that I encountered as well. Lots of items clip through one another, animations at times can look stiff, and I don’t even know how to describe the horse riding animation other than really ‘off’ and unpolished. Sure, these issues will most likely get fixed with a patch before or shortly after release, but when you’re putting close to 100 hours into a game, seeing the same issues over and over tend to break the immersion at times. Lastly, for being on current gen hardware, I was vastly unimpressed at times. Foliage and draw distance when exploring the zones is amazing, but there really isn’t that much detail on the characters themselves when not in dialogue choosing mode and it simply didn’t wow me aside from scenic viewpoints.

That being said, I’m really enjoying Inquisition. As I mentioned above, I played the first 20 hours and didn’t even touch the campaign for the most part; I was busy trying to find and complete every quest, collect every shard fragment, and solve the increasingly maddening star constellation puzzles. For the first 20 hours or so, I was honestly feeling underwhelmed, but it dawned on me that even though that’s how I was feeling, I kept wanting to load the game up and go back and explore more. Four hours pass and it doesn’t feel like it at all. As always, the voice acting and soundtrack is absolutely amazing, and once I hit a pivotal plot point, things became a lot more interesting. Like all Dragon Age games, the choices you make will shape how parts of the story will play out, and that’s what makes it the sequel that we wanted all along after Origins.

Overall: 8.7 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 9.5 / 10


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