Dragon Age is a series long-beloved by RPG fans everywhere. Rarely will you find its equal in gore, depth, and tradition, three elements that have powered the story since 2009. The previous two Dragon Age games have pleased reviewers and players alike, and for good reason; Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II introduced wonderfully engaging stories, coupled with smooth combat and just the amount of choice-based dialogue. Dragon Age: Inquisition is much like its brothers in several of these ways, but falls somewhat short in a few key areas.
The medieval feel and a choice-based storyline helps to bring Dragon Age: Inquisition to life, but the true breath of fresh air lies in the graphic quality of the game. In a word, the world in which you wander is breathtaking. Trees look like trees instead of pixels; villages look like people could actually inhabit them. The people with whom you speak, and even those whose lives you end, are all incredibly lifelike. NPC believability only goes so far, however. No matter how pretty they look, they’ll never look quite right – mouth movements are awkward, and dialogue is choppy at best. If a person pauses mid-sentence, they aren’t necessarily done talking, but rather waiting for another person to interrupt their sentence. It’s a minor annoyance at most, but it’s one that happens constantly throughout the game.
Story plays a definite part throughout the campaign, mainly because the “Herald of Andraste” (your character) spends a large majority of the main and side quests closing “breaches,” recruiting others to the Inquisition, and building relationships that can turn into strong friendships or romances. It’s fairly easy to assume that if you don’t enjoy reading or engaging in dialogue, you won’t enjoy the game. It’s dialogue-heavy and choice-heavy – an element that seems strange, considering your choices are usually of little consequence. A few lofty decisions can change the course of the game, but for the most part, decisions exist for the sole purpose of building a romantic relationship with one of your numerous companions.
Relationships are a fun element to the game, but difficult to engage in if you’re a heterosexual male character. There are only two female romance options for males, the most obvious being your first follower, a woman named Cassandra. The attempts to build a relationship with Cassandra actually became somewhat of a joke between my husband and me, because no matter what decision he made, we’d almost invariably see the “Cassandra Slightly Disapproves” notice pop up. If his character ever did decide to switch teams, we’d have a smorgasbord of takers, but in the meantime, it seems The Inquisitor is still looking for love in all the wrong places.
Combat is the second biggest element to the game, and it is very similar in action to that of the previous Dragon Ages. For the most part, it is smooth, fluid, and satisfying, but there is a steep learning curve along with it. The game could be played for 50 hours straight, but your character will only level up a few times. Bears and high-level Spawn are nearly impossible to kill in lower levels, not to mention the near-invincible dragons present throughout the world. No matter how good you become at tossing out combo attacks, it won’t do anything to a high-level enemy.
Banter among other characters is a secondary element to the game, but it does make the long walks a bit more enjoyable. As you wander Ferelden and Skyhold (among several other locations), your companions will banter about the war, the sights, and their opinions. This can become quite amusing once combat is initiated – while killing several antagonistic Templars or Mages, your companions will mutter things like, “they will stand in the fire, and complain that it is hot,” or “just let me do it!” Still, as is typical of PCs and NPCs, they have a bad habit of blocking your path, alerting enemies, or engaging in combat you’re trying to avoid.
Overall playablity of the game is high. Even through the annoyances and difficulty, the game itself is extremely gratifying. Nuances in movement and combat are generally funny rather than frustrating, with minor glitches galore that entertain rather than discourage. It is not a game for newcomers, nor is it a game for those looking for something casual to pass the time. It is demanding, difficult, and heavy; time, brainpower, and skill must all be dedicated to it if you want a result. In saying that, however, those things are exactly what make the game so addicting – nothing is quite as gratifying as destroying an enemy you’ve attempted to defeat ten times before. Regardless of problems, Dragon Age: Inquisition is one of the most deeply entertaining games of the year.