The Dragon Age series is a different breed of roleplaying games. You’re not just building up your own character and going on your own personal epic. It’s about more than that. You’re living the world’s story and you’re just one part of that adventure. The sense of scale each of the previous entries has delivered is truly grand, living up to and in some moments surpassing the living breathing world feeling of the elder scrolls series. With Inquisition, Bioware’s latest instalment, this world feels more alive than ever.
The first thing I noticed about Inquisition is of course how beautiful everything looks. Whilst I lament that my pc doesn’t have enough juice to run it smoothly on ultra I have to say that on high it is still incredibly impressive. It’s a huge leap forward for Dragon Age and gaming in general. With all of these supposedly next gen games that have come out over the past year I believe that Dragon Age is one of the first to actually look next gen straight from the start.
After the shock from the shiny graphics dissipated and the glee at actually being able to jump (literally – you couldn’t in the other 2 games) in the world of Thedas at last, the next thing I was to see was just how bloody huge the world was. After the intro, which contained some incredible vistas and some brief but entertaining fighting, I stepped out into the first truly open zone: the Hinterlands; a lush green forested land, ravaged by time and an ongoing war. I roamed this land for hours before conceding to its vastness. I loved it…
…To start with. You see the problem with Dragon Age is that sometimes it tries to be a little too big and then falls apart when you realise there’s no substance to it. The world is great in Inquisition, you can tell a lot of time went into crafting it, in fact there are so many giant zones filled with things to do that it makes your head spin. But then, that’s the problem. It feels like death by side quest. It’s not trial by fire its trial by I-have-too-much-fucking-stuff-to-do. Of course you don’t have to do them at all. You could try to soldier on through the main story doing as little else as possible to get by, however that removes probably 90% of the game and it’s obviously there for something, right? So it leaves me with this kind of dilemma or conundrum if you will. Essentially the majority of the game is comprised of barely fleshed out ventures with little to no meaningful reward (finding all the landmarks for example – expect around 15+ in every zone you encounter and there are plenty of zones) but at the same time the story immerses you so much, it makes you feel like the threat is almost insurmountable so you relish every opportunity that may just grant you a little extra might with which to smite down your foes, trapping you in an endless cycle of fast travel, excessively long loading screen and an annoying but necessary hike, slowed further by random fights along the way, to get to a mostly pointless objective over and over again. Not the most inspiring thing in gameplay terms but I don’t know what to do. Do I leave potentially more than half the story behind and also risk being underpowered and weak or do I waste hours scouring the land for useless bits of exposition (The game ‘rewards’ you with tidbits of lore as you discover landmarks or find books in the world)?
Maybe it’s a problem with me. I want to do every single quest there is as I want to know the full story. I want to see the whole game but perhaps what Bioware have done is create a world that’s supposed to entice you with its deep lore, side quests and diversions only momentarily rather than have it being a central part of the game. Perhaps I’m just expecting too much. I mean, it’s preposterous for me to think that a game would entertain me rather than throw tasks at me in an attempt to try to fill in the necessary space to keep the story paced correctly. Everything is made out to be so huge and grand that when something takes you away from your goal in such a mundane way as telling you to collect a bunch of bottles for example or if it repeats mechanics over and over then that detracts from the experience as a whole.
The main game’s story, I don’t want to spoil so I’ll just say this: it sees you embarking on an epic tale filled with moral ambiguity and tough decisions. So far what I’ve seen is far more refined than the whole cliché ‘good and evil duke it out’ sort of thing that is copy pasted into almost every other game. The way it’s told makes the whole adventure feel truly extraordinary. Even taking into account that a large part of the rest of the game can tarnish the sheen of this experience it doesn’t write it off at all. Dragon Age Inquisition is still a must for those with a love of deep rpgs and also those that enjoy a casual romp in monster infested lands. Just don’t get hung up on the bloody side quests. That is if you can call finding a bunch of pointless things a quest anyway.