If I was a Bioware writer during the release of Dragon Age: Inquisition I’d have been scared as hell. Mass Effect 3 was the end of one of the biggest RPG franchises in the last 10 years but was met with major criticism because of its ending. Then there was Dragon Age II, which although I thoroughly enjoyed, it was also met with quite the backlash from fans for being too different to the original game. Dragon Age: Inquisition however is a spectacular RPG that will keep players coming back for more, months after they first load it up.
Without giving away any spoilers, the game starts off with the Mages and Templars attempting to find peace with one another, the Chantry are caught in the middle brokering the deal. Something goes horribly wrong and during an explosion delegates from all three parties are killed. The Templars blame the Mages and the Mages want revenge against the Templars, it looks like Thedas is about to fall once again into a bloody war zone. Oh and did I mention the big gaping green hole in sky? That’s a tear in the Fade and through it demons are spilling out across Thedas killing indiscriminately. Members of the Chantry’s delegation pull you (the player) from out of the rubble and through a series of twists and turns you are chosen to help resolve the mess all while being labelled ‘The Herald’. The Inquisition is born from chaos and it is down to you and a chosen few to restore order across the land. As with all RPG’s nowadays, who you recruit and how you choose to play is completely up to you. Keep in mind however that your decisions directly affect the world around you. Not always for the better.
There is an incredible amount of history and lore in the Dragon Age universe and it can be a daunting task trying to absorb it all, let alone remember what had happened during Dragon Age I and II. Bioware have you covered here and released the Dragon Age Keep prior to the launch of Dragon Age: Inquisition. With no save game import feature present for the latest title, Dragon Age Keep allows you to go back and enter all the choices and decisions you made during the first two games (including all DLC) and then save this against your profile on the Dragon Age servers. Start a new game on your console and import this file and the world around you is shaped to your choices. Of course this also gives you the chance to alter decisions you made in the previous titles to see a different set of results and lore unravel in Dragon Age: Inquisition.
Inquisition’s world is, for the lack of a better choice of words, bloody huge! You start in an area known as the Hinterlands. Those that played the first Dragon Age will be familiar with this part of Thedas as Redcliff is based here. I spent around 12 hours in the Hinterlands exploring, completing side quests and missions before I released this was just the beginning. As The Herald you lead the Inquisition’s War Council deciding what missions take place across both Thedas and Orlais, directing troop movements, espionage missions and diplomatic envoys. The more areas you send your scouts to explore, the more of the map you open up for yourself. From seizing control and rebuilding large fortresses to exploring arid deserts and snowy peaks, Dragon Age: Inquisition has enough content in the world to keep you occupied for 60 hours and beyond. Perfectionists can expect to reach triple figures.
Taking a break from the main part of the game, let’s discuss the multiplayer, which is very different from the main game. You and three other friends team up to explore dungeons and areas of the main game in smaller bite sized chunks. Your progress doesn’t have any effect on the single player campaign but can be fun due to the limitations in place. These limitations are there to ensure you work together as a team. For example, you will have limited access to weapons and potions and you can only succumb to the enemy three times before it’s game over. I spent a limited amount of time with multiplayer. It’s OK, but you’ll soon find yourself bored and craving the single player.
Gameplay is split into three main areas; exploration and combat, narrative and decision-making and management of your Inquisition and troops across the game world. Bioware have mixed these three elements perfectly, ensuring that no single type gets boring too quickly. There is a fantastic story line branch in Orlais which will see you in the Royal Court having to dance, spy, gather clues and impress the aristocracy to complete the mission. The pace is slower than the rest of the game but the gameplay is well thought out and keeps you engaged throughout. Completing missions like this and others will increase the Inquisition’s power and influence, which opens more areas for you to explore and more missions to undertake. Some missions/areas require you to spend your accumulated power points whilst others only open after certain prerequisites have been met.
I particularly enjoyed the combat mechanics in Dragon Age II and Bioware have improved these further for Dragon Age: Inquisition. You get to pick from two combat modes; either real-time or tactical mode. You can of course pick how you play through combat but I strongly suggest experimenting with the tactical view, there are particular missions that become a lot more manageable while using this view, which allows you to pause, scan the battlefield and assign specific orders out one stage at a time. Co-ordinating attacks like this when storming fortresses later in the game makes things a lot easier to control.
We all know the power of the Xbox One by now and visually Dragon Age: Inquisition is gorgeously detailed and stunning to look at. Character customisation is deep and detailed, the frame rate is steady throughout and there appears to be no obvious evidence of tearing on-screen.
One of my favourite bits of Dragon Age: Inquisition is the music. Trevor Morris was brought in to replace Inon Zur, the composer of Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II to compose the soundtracks for Inquisition. The tone the soundtrack sets is just right; from the opening cut screen through to dancing in Orlais, battles along the shore to just wandering around the Inquisition’s stronghold – the music helps place you in this world and fits right at home.
Dragon Age: Inquisition may have had a lot to put right for Bioware fans, but Bioware didn’t shy away from the challenge. The final result is a fantastic title. If you’re an RPG fan then this isn’t to be missed, especially while you sit around waiting for The Witcher 3 and/or The Elder Scrolls Online.
Thanks to Xbox for providing TiX with a download code
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