Review by darkfir
Reviewed: 11/26/14 | Updated: 01/05/15
A Big Letdown.
Dragon Age: Inquisition is one of the year's biggest releases and one of my most anticipated games since Bioware's Mass Effect 2. As a huge fan of the Dragon Age series I couldn't wait to get my hands on the game. Now 75 hours later I am ready to give my opinion on it and I am afraid it's not a positive one. I will start off with gameplay...
Bioware claims that DA:I takes the best of DA: Origins and Dragon Age 2 but in reality DA:I is easily the worst in the series. There are quite a few reasons for that. Let's begin with what you will notice first....lack of "Tactics slots" for your party members. Remember how we were able to choose what ability a character uses and on which target? well it's gone. Bioware replaced that with the new 'Tactical View'....which basically pauses the game and switches the camera to a Bird's Eye view. Then you switch between your characters one by one and issue commands like movements and attacks and then watch it unfold slowly...as in slow-motion by pressing the R2. On paper this is even better than the previous system as it gives you total control...but it is extremely tedious...considering this is an 80 hours game where you will be fighting hundred of battles, using this all the time is simply not an option. It would have been a nice extra option for when fighting Boss battles but not a replacement to customizing your companion's behavior. So I just had to trust my party's AI. This bring us to the next major flaw...
Dragon Age Inquisition has quite possibly the worst AI...ever. I am not kidding. You will pull your hair in frustration as you watch your characters do the dumbest most inexpiable things. Archers getting close to enemies all the time and getting slaughtered. Mages never using the appropriate spells. Never exploiting weaknesses, And worst of all...not getting out of harm's way...like do NOT just stand there while a freaking Dragon is spitting fire in your direction. This resulted in me having to constantly run around the battlefield reviving my fallen companions by pressing X next to their bodies. The only 'strategy' I always faced was deciding whether it was better to finish the battle solo or attempt to revive some of my companions. This is all made so much worse thanks to Bioware's decision to take out healing. We only get 8 (expandable to 12) potions and that's all. Ran out of potions during a tough battle? well too bad, you can still revive fallen companions but they will only have 1/10 of their life bar and will die very quickly again. What exactly was the point of removing healing spells? it doesn't even make sense lore-wise...did all Mages in Thedas forget how to heal?! we don't even get to horde healing items...or ANY items for that matter because Bioware didn't think having a chest or somewhere we could store our items in was necessary....in an 80 hours long RPG....no seriously...we have a huge FORTRESS as our HQ and an entire army but not one single chest to store our items?...you will constantly be forced to discard/sell items as you can only hold 75, and around 30-40 of the inventory is always reserved for the items you already have equipped.
And speaking of healing this brings us yet to another major flaw...the classes. DA:I's classes are simply put, garbage. Take the mage for example, has 4 skill trees. Not bad? well 2 of the trees are practically the same and the third is utterly useless. The Fire and Frost trees have the same abilities. Fire tree gives you Fire Wall which blocks enemies and burns them...the Frost Tree gives you Ice Wall...which blocks enemies and freezes them. Fire Tree gives you Fire Mine, a spell you can place anywhere on the battlefield and then it automatically activates when an enemy steps on it..and causes fire damage. The Frost tree gives you Ice Mine which does the same thing but freezes instead of causing Burn. Talk about lack of creativity. Spirit tree is the third and most useless tree in the game. It is SUPPOSED to be the Healing tree....except it doesn't have healing spells. I am not joking. Just bunch of useless spells like dispell and Mind Blast. Barrier is about the only worthwhile spell in it. Other classes don't fare any better.
Gameplay: Outside of battles
Bioware promised us massive and varied environments, no doubt trying to make up for DA2's unacceptable reuse of assets. Unfortunately, they got it all wrong. Make no mistake the areas in this game ARE massive, but also completely lifeless. I was reminded of Bioware's first Mass Effect, remember the massive planets? remember how each planet was basically the same but different color palette? and how every planet had THE SAME set of locations like the research lab? This is how it is in this game. While you will visit drastically different places like a desert and forest, they all FEEL the same. In every map you get the same 'set' of features, bunch of shards to collect, several locations to 'claim' and several set of caves/dungeons. There is also a SERIOUS lack of Cities in the game. You get to visit val royeaux, supposedly a major city in Orlais yet it is no more than 4-5 merchants and nothing else. I never even visited it except for when the story dictated so. Remember the amazing locations in Origins? the Blight-stricken Lothering? the grand city of Orzammar? the capital Dendrim? In comparison, the locations in Inquisition feel hollow. Even areas from Origins that we do get to visit in this game feel hollow. My biggest problem is that it feels like we never 'enter' a city...it always feel like we are 'outside'...for example, we do get to visit Redcliffe...but it is just a small area with 5-6 empty houses in the Hinterlands (forest) map...it never feels like I actually transitioned from the forest to the Village.
Here is how the game flows: you go to the 'wartable' and choose a quest to start. There are three 'types' of quests. Main-Story ones, Side-Quests and 'Missions for Advisers'. The game has well over a 100 quests. But there is a big problem here. Let me explain. This is a long game, it will take you 50-60 hours to beat, however the ACTUAL main story is EXTREMELY short. 9 Quests. That's right the main story is NINE quests, amounting for no more than 10 hours of playtime. Of course...Bioware can't have you beating the game in 10 hours so they required you have enough 'Power Points' to start a Main story mission...how do you get these power points you ask? by completing side quests of course. A quest can give you 1-3 points. There are other means to obtain points, like closing rifts (basically killing bunch of demons) and collecting shards etc. Some Main Story quests require 40 points...so you HAVE to do tons of side quests whether you like it or not. The majority of the quests are boring as hell, while the 'companions quests' offer a tiny bit more story and context. And then we have the third type of quest...the ones where you send your advisers to complete. Let me explain...you have three advisers, one commanding your army, one for secrets/spy network and one for diplomacy. You look at a quest description, and decide which adviser is best suited to complete the quest. Let's say one of our agents is kidnapped, you choose to let your army commander handle it and he will send soldiers to rescue the agent, or let the diplomacy adviser handle it and she will negotiate the agent's release. It doesn't sound bad right? well except for one small detail...these quests require several hours to complete...2-3 is common range but few can require as long as 10-15 hours...and I am talking Real-Time hours...once you 'send' your adviser to complete a quest you ACTUALLY have to wait several hours for it to complete. With hundred of quests of this kind, you can only do 3-4 a day. Isn't that just freaking brilliant?. At least DA: Origins gave us the choice to do side quests or focus on the main story. But Origins didn't have such an embarrassingly short main story that Bioware felt the need to come up with such schemes to 'hide' the fact.
Story & Characters:
What story? how I hopped from zone to zone getting crafting materials?...collecting shards? 'weak' is the first word that comes to mind when I think of the game's story. We play as the Inquisitor, who survived the explosion that ripped open a hole into the sky and the only one who is able to close these demon-spawning rifts. What really disappointed me about the story is how pathetic our main character is. In Origins, we played as a badass Warden. Even in DA2, we played as Hawke who risen to become a Champion due to his actions. The Inquisitor? he is just there, doing what everyone else is telling him to do. He lacks the character and leadership The Warden and even Hawke had. It's quite appalling seeing everyone bow to him and make him the leader of the Inquisition, when he has done NOTHING. Other characters in the game aren't any better. In fact this is probably my least favorite cast of characters in any Bioware game. Sera? the stupid elf that can't even say one coherent sentence? Cole? the child-like spirit? Blackwall? does he even HAVE a personality? hell, even Varric is ruined, making him all pessimistic and whiny.
Graphics & Sound:
The game looks great, one of the better looking games on the current gen systems, thanks to EA's Frostbite 3 engine. I especially like the facial animations. Weapon and armors also looks quite nice. What I don't like are the occasional and quite bothersome glitches. One in particular causes the conservations to 'pause' and the only way to keep going is to skip-lines by pressing Square, which sucks especially during important scenes. Voice acting is pretty good as with all other Bioware games, we even get to choose from TWO voices, one English and one American, of course female/male as well.
Overall: I think it's pretty clear by now that I don't like the game. As a huge DA:O fan and even as someone who enjoyed DA2, I can't quite describe my level of disappointment. DA2 was a mediocre DA game, but Inquisition isn't a DA game at all. I feel like Bioware tried too hard to 'redeem' themselves after disappointing so many with DA2, and instead of creating the game they wanted to make they were given a 'checklist' of things and they started knocking them off. This resulted in a very shallow and incoherent game that doesn't feel like a Dragon Age at all.
Product Release: Dragon Age: Inquisition (Deluxe Edition) (US, 11/18/14)
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