Dragon Age Inquisition
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: November 18th, 2014
Gaming Platform: PS4
After the disappointing ending of Mass Effect 3, I vowed that I would never again purchase another Bioware game. I saw the game as a slap in the face of all the gamers that had spent so many hours pondering the moral implications of their every decision, only to have it all tossed out the window in the end. All of that planning, and resetting, and loading old saves to redo a decision you made long ago, was all for naught, as your decisions meant nothing, and all lead to the same ending no matter what you did. I suppose, in the end Mass Effect became a large analogy for the utter futility of life. Perhaps when all is said and done, that grim reminder of the futility of everything is probably the thing that made that game so rage-inducing. I play role-playing games to escape reality, not to be reminded of it like that.
Other than the image below, and the title image, all images will be taken from screenshots from my game. Why? Because I kept hitting the share button like it was the start button, that's why!
But this isn't Mass Effect. While parallels could be drawn, this is an entirely different animal. Through the course of the series, you have been a series of different characters. In the first game, you got the option of choosing a race, an option that was taken away in the second game, and has magically returned in the third game. For me, this is an important distinction between the three games. I'm not ashamed to admit, that when I play an RPG, the last thing I want to play is a human. Honestly, I get to be a human everyday, why would I want to enter this fantasy world where I can be anything, and decide to play as a human. I want the character I create to be just about as far from the me I am in my day to day life as possible. So in that second game, when they took my choice away, I have to say I was a little miffed. When this game brought it back and added in the Qunari as a playable main character, things got even better. Already, this game has one up on the previous incarnations.
Unfortunately, not everything is sunshine and happiness in the land of Dragon Age. There is a classic situation of two steps forward, one step back. In the original game, when you chose a race, you also chose a background, and class. Depending on the choices you made there, the beginning of the game changed to accommodate these differences. While the game eventually converged on the same story, you felt that there was a reason to replay the game, the choices gave you something different to sample. In this game, if you are a Dwarven Rogue, or a Qunari Mage, or an Elvish Fighter... all roads begin at the same point. A decision that I feel will limit any replayability, and also makes you feel a little trapped if you get far and decide you want to try something different. After playing as the Qunari rogue for a while, I decided I wanted to try something a little different, so I started up a Dwarf Fighter, only to find that I was going to be stuck slogging through the same 40 hours of gameplay that I had already done with my Qunari, with no real variance outside of a few dialogue changes. Anyone who ever had the displeasure of seeing my World of Warcraft account, would have known just how much I loved creating new characters, playing through their starting areas, and finding out just what made each one tick. When every character has the same introduction, I don't feel the same sense of discovery when creating a new character, and thus I feel limited, even in an expansive world.
Ah, but that world though. It is a massive undertaking to explore this world, and it is the nightmare of obsessive compulsive people everywhere. If you are at all like me, you're going to want to explore every nook and cranny of some of the massive area maps, an undertaking that can take hours per map. You'll want to search out each shard and mosaic piece. You'll want to gather up every last bit of loot, and then scream in frustration when you find your bags are full. You'll agonize over whether or not returning to your home base is worth it to sell off stuff, and then scream in frustration again when you sell off something you needed to fill a requisition. The size, and design of some of these maps is a breath-taking thing. Level upon level of twisting paths, and sprawling mountains. You can, and will get lost, and ... it's awesome when you do. That's when you find that shard you've been looking for for hours, or some strange rare herb you need for some potion upgrade. This game has a scope, that I feel puts most other console RPGs to shame.
It is not without it's fair share of glitches, and annoying issues. In the 50 some hours I have sunk into the game so far (haven't beaten it yet) I have experienced 2 game-crashing instances, that seem to have no real cause. I have had many issues that were directly tied to the ... Undesirable button layout. The particular button issue I have, is the one that makes the X button (on the PS4 controller) the general purpose action button, as well as the jump button. If the person you are attempting to talk to moves, as you are hitting the X button, you could end up jumping, and talking to that person while you float in midair, and in at least one instance for me, you will have to reboot the system because there is no way to respond to the people, or leave the conversation, due to some strange glitch. Not to mention, it is entirely too easy to slide down a cliff and get stuck in a spot, with your only recourse being to switch to another party member and magically teleport yourself out. The moral of this story... save a lot.
And what would a Bioware game be, without the romance options? Ever since the first Mass Effect game, one of the more odd things to be found in the Bioware catalog, has been the ability to romance certain members of your team, often culminating in an awkwardly animated sex scene, complete with cringe-worthy dialog. This game is no exception, offering up a small taste of digital nudity, as well the first strictly lesbian romance option that I know of in the Dragon Age series. I am sad to say, that the screen shot included here, is the tamest I could obtain of the romance option that existed between my rogue, and my favorite companion. I pondered using one with nudity, but no... I think that might be crossing the line. It is interesting how they allow your character to be flirtatious as hell, hitting on so many people in the game, even if there is no chance that the character will ever respond favorably to your advances. Sometimes, the joy is just seeing how your character gets shot down. Not to mention, each character also comes with their own group of quests that increase or decrease the way they feel about you, depending on what you do. It is a fairly complicated system, and one that adds even more depth to an already amazing game.
...I feel a little bad that my longest paragraph has been about virtual boning.
All in all, I find this to be an exceptionally pleasing game, that offers a scope that is refreshing, and offers enough side quests that there always seems to be more to do. I hope to weigh back in on this game after I have finished it, to see if there is any end-game content that helps to make the game even more amazing. Not to mention the potential for any new game features...
FINAL THOUGHTS: Despite some minor bugs, and a lack of differentiation between the character races, I think there is enough here that the game rises above the flaws and delivers a thoroughly compelling narrative. The world feels fleshed out, with enough lore scattered about to insure that the player could be reading bits and pieces for a long time. This is a reminder of what gaming has the potential to be.
PLAYER 2 SCORE: 9 out of 10