Ah BioWare my old friend, we meet again. After that Mass Effect 3 ending and the disappointment that was Dragon Age 2, it appeared that almost all enthusiasm for BioWare’s projects had ebbed away, never to be seen again. It would be fair to say not many expected great things from Dragon Age: Inquisition, with more than a few keeping their eyes firmly fixed on the imminent arrival of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Well, I hope you didn't blow your cash on something else in anticipation of DA:I not being all it was cracked up to be, because BioWare is back with a bang, delivering one of the most engrossing RPGs of our time.
The polar opposites that were the last two Dragon Age titles have been slung out the window, and in its place Dragon Age: Inquisition stands apart. It’s a sprawling, deep, and fascinating return to form that epitomises the spirit of adventure, for many of us the reason we fell in love with role-playing games in the first place.
The opening of Dragon Age: Inquisition is an imposing one. You’d best hope you’ve been brushing up on your Dragon Age knowledge because within a matter of seconds you’re spiraling down a deep, deep, rabbit hole of lore, a place where not knowing your Hurlocks from your Armored Ogres can result in a swift death. It can be overwhelming, but the Dragon Age Keep can help you no end, while the 100+ hour adventure will have you spouting fluent Tevene in no time.
The Never Ending Story
Dragon Age: Inquisition is set just a few short weeks after the events of Dragon Age 2, and the Mages and the Templars are busting each other up in a civil war, all the while a massive explosion tears a rift in the multiverse and has demonspawn flooding in. The player, as Inquisitor, must rally the troops of Thedas and explore the vast lands of Ferelden and Orlais, beating off an ancient force that has made its way into the world, gaining additional allies and growing in strength.
Ultimately its overblown plot is just the window dressing for the real nitty gritty, which is the adventures you’ll have and the eccentric characters you’ll meet, spinning yarns of distant lands and dark secrets. BioWare’s impeccable characterisation rings true here once more, whether having a chat with the brutish Iron Bull about his spy-hunting past or a chinwag with Solas, the self-taught mage with a wicked wit. Meandering your way through these characters can open all new questions and missions, bringing in new companions and earning upgrades that makes for a ridiculously addictive gameplay loop. It’s not long before hour upon hour has been whiled away in a single area, as you prod and probe at all the secrets contained in the world around you.
While out and about everything you do has a distinct purpose and offers practical advantages, whether its exclusive weapons or armour, upgrades for the Inquisition, new allies, mounts, or unlocking entirely new areas. Every single corner of the world is filled with things to do, and everything there has a place and and a reason for being. A simple quest can see you sidetracked for hours as you stumble upon fascinating landmarks and hidden caves, urging you to have a peek around just one more corner. The sheer amount of stuff you have to do ensures you’ll never quite know where to head next, as Dragon Age: Inquisition gets its claws into you from several directions simultaneously.
Stretching across many varied landscapes such as the searing deserts of Orlais, the rain-lashed coastline and the tranquil woods of the Hinterlands, Dragon Age Inquisition has both a huge and incredibly dense world. Not dense in the sense of Ubisoft: The Game, but packed with varied and viable content that you will want to do off your own back. There are about a dozen huge areas to explore, with many smaller areas contained within. The first area alone can occupy you for upwards of 6 or 7 hours, and there’s many more like it, putting Dragon Age: Inquisition in the same ballpark as Skyrim in terms of sheer landmass.
If Dragon Age 2's small-scale was the antithesis of everything you love then you're in luck here. It's easy to get carried away but everywhere you turn there's things you just can't wait to do. The side-quests for the most part are top notch, and can lead you down treacherous new paths and reveal secrets in areas you previously though conquered. Many are capped off with those all-important moral choices, and most are designed to show you something new. Sadly there are a few that verge on MMO-like, asking you to collect 10 pelts or to go and fetch something, but thankfully there's so much else to do that these can be easily passed over in favour of something else.
That's Fighting Talk
So the world’s great and BioWare is most definitely back in its groove, but the combat is also shining here. While a slight improvement on Dragon Age 2, you are limited to a choice of just four races and three classes. Luckily my ever-reliable pick of a Dwarf Rogue is available which made things pretty straightforward, but it’s certainly lacking a little bit of flexibility. The three classes on offer are Mage, Rogue and Warrior, which is about as straightforward as it gets, although multiple skill trees allow you to specialise them further. Who you choose matters little in the end, because you’ll inevitably have all your bases covered by your various party members.
Combat operates much like Dragon Age: Origins, granting you a tactical overhead view as well as the standard third-person action camera. The overhead view's going to be your friend here, and it’s here where you’ll be able to try out your more advanced tactics and dish out orders to all of your party members effectively. It’s slightly simplified over the previous titles, giving you less control over advanced party tactics, but it does speed the process up somewhat and keep things ticking along. BioWare has also taken the bold decision to remove any healing magic altogether, relying instead on a shared pool of potions that will need constant restocking. Characters don’t even regenerate health between fights, so it can really upend the dynamics when you’re forced to place such a huge focus on limiting damage.
There's so much to go into in terms of Dragon Age: Inquisition’s world, characters and content that ultimately boggles the mind. It’s a wonderful experience that deserves to be experienced as freshly as possible, so we won’t spoil too much of what it entails. It’s a grand adventure in the truest sense, and a great comeback for the blockbuster RPG, delivering upwards of 50 hours of content for the main campaign alone, and it feels like we’ve barely managed to scratch the surface of everything there is to offer in this world. Fans of BioWare and RPGs in general can do no wrong with this, one of the most outstanding games this year.