Dragon Age is another in a strong list of BioWare franchises that has a strong, loyal, and sometimes fierce following; when games in their franchises try to hit a massive audience outside of their core user base things often get kind of messy and, unfortunately, as a result, good standalone games and franchise entries get dragged through the dirt. Inquisition is one of those games and, in an effort to try and re-establish itself with that wider audience and show some loyalty to its core audience, BioWare releases a Game of the Year edition to give those who either haven’t played the game at all or haven’t engaged in any of the extra content that’s available for the game.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Like most AAA role playing games, the first twenty minutes is almost purely exposition and introduction to the setting, the characters, and the gameplay: what you’re getting and what you’re introduced to is a blending of the previous titles in the franchise and looks to wrap everything up. Even if you’re a newcomer to the series, there’s not a noticeable detriment to coming into the franchise as you have options; you can either work with the default world state or you can experiment on Dragon Age Keep, a website that ties into your Origin account and allows you to mess around with world states, which is really cool. Due to circumstances out of my control, Dragon Age Keep allowed me to recreate the world state in saves I had used in previous titles.
Introduction to combat doesn’t happen without too much hand-holding and it’s done within the narrative so it doesn’t feel as though it creates too much of a interruption in the experience. The first bit of this game is exactly what I expected to see from a BioWare title.
In my humble opinion, they took everything that succeeded in both of the former titles in the franchise and blended them together to provide the framework that this game is built around. BioWare knows that if they have a vision they know how to bring it to life and that’s something they’ve done for as long as I’ve known them and their role playing games have been spot-on for this. Inquisition is absolutely no different in this as it provides an experience that feels just as great at being a game as it is a wonderfully presented narrative.
One of the largest things that stand out for this game is that it was made with two ideals in mind: broad appeal and taking advantage of current generation technology. It’s very clear that they’re trying to create a singular type of experience and if you’re a fan of the franchise like I am, this is exactly what you want. I came in with a certain set of expectations and I feel that Inquisition hit every one of them. I feel that one could dive in as any kind of player and feel that you could be immersed relatively quickly.
The graphical and audio presentation is extremely satisfying – on current generation consoles, the game looks, feels, and sounds marvelous. Voice acting is very well done and, surprisingly so, the lip sync is actually done pretty well, most times. There’s rarely any slowdown.
Its greatest strength, however, is also its greatest failings: I feel that the experience does not transfer over in the same way into previous generation’s systems. The appeal is so broad that, at times, it feels watered down. It’s clear to me that Inquisition was tailored for a very specific experience and everyone else that has any different demands from the game gets to suffer.
There are trivial issues that I could list off that are nothing more than just pet peeves but there are enough of them to note that I feel they should not be featured in the game the way that they have been: the worst of all is the removal of mana and healing magics. This means that, between rest stops and reload points, you’re limited to a certain number of healing potions and that is it. That’s creating a false sense of difficulty and that’s a terribly lazy design choice. In previous generation systems, there are a massive amount of pathfinding and collision detection bugs that can break the experience of traveling between locales. Story progression happens in spurts and the spots in between those spurts really only cater to those who greatly enjoy the lore of the franchise.
While this defines me, gameplay and story progression only rewards those who greatly enjoy both. If you feel that one or the two are lacking, it will taint the other experience. This game would be awesome if only it were way more refined, smooth, and immersive.
The multiplayer experience is completely independent of the single player experience; this is probably the best way to do multiplayer for this franchise. This portion of the game could have been sold separately and I probably would have bought that as a trial before buying the single player experience. Like Mass Effect 3 before it, this multiplayer experience gives you a co-operative situation where you have to complete a set of missions without all of the party members dying. Think of it like taking a keep in single player with other players and you have a good idea of what to expect. Your character is built upon your accomplishments and your participation though the team is rewarded for succeeding as a team rather than as individuals. I have absolutely no complaints about multiplayer other than the fact that it seems to push spending real money like a lot of mobile phone games do, something EA is already extremely familiar with.
Well, to be quite honest, there’s not a whole lot that’s actually new in this edition of the game: what you’re given is a kind of season pass for a great deal of extra content and all story-based downloadable content. This is a great way for players who haven’t touched this game up to this point or are looking for a reason to get into the downloadable content without spending on them individually to catch up on what they’ve missed. For anyone who already has all the content, though, there doesn’t appear to be anything that would justify the purchase of this version of the game, which is kind of disappointing, honestly. I would have figured BioWare would throw in something to sweeten the deal but I suppose it wasn’t necessary this time around.
This game feels as though it benefits from bringing the best strengths of both its previous franchise titles to the table but it’s very clear that BioWare intended on giving players a very specific experience and while that’s a very strong point for this game, it also feels arrogant and does not work for those this game was specifically made for. It shows and it’s reflected in reviews and user opinions that you can find online. This can be refined, though, and fixed, through the course of time. The base experience is excellent and its failings just feel like BioWare did not account for gamer backlash; this kind of artistic and creative integrity has always kind of been their method, really, and they’ve been well known for it.
Coming back to the game, though, for the purpose of writing this review, I have to say that I feel the game has staled quite a bit. Once I completed all of the story content and engaged in just about all of the side content, it felt like the game didn’t have much going for it to keep me coming back for more. While Inquisition is one of those games that is very good with all kinds of variety and paths, once you’ve discovered them all, the drive to discover and return falls short, I find: actually, to be brutally honest, the gameplay got kind of stale before I even reached that point but I like taking in the lore of the franchise so that was my driving factor for the remainder of the content that I played through. Even the multiplayer gets kind of samey after a while and that feels like a gigantic shame.