Dragon Age: Inquisition is a very rare type of game. It is one that devours your time, attention and any dreams you may have had for the immediate future, but you continue to feed Inquisition because what it gives you in return is a truly immersive and rewarding experience.
Directly following the events of Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II, Inquisition puts you in the role of (get ready for the surprise) the Inquisitor (surprise), a divine champion who stands as the only hope to stop an incursion of demons and other nasties. Like most Bioware games, the path you take towards the end is up to you. What to do, where to go and who to save are questions that you have to answer yourself. Answering these questions take on a new twist as the reach of you power goes far beyond a single band of adventurers. Entire nations now bend to the will of the Inquisition. However, the greater consequences of these decisions are also your responsibility and what Inquisition does, more so than any other Bioware game, is make you feel the impact of your decisions. Your companions and environment reflect the choices that you make across your journey, changing your relationship with them and with the larger world in unexpected ways. The story of Inquisition always feels like it is a direct result of the player’s choices, for better or worse.
The World of Thedas has similarly grown in scale. Inquisition starts the player off in a narrow corridor with little room to explore (a chilling reminder of the problems that plagued Dragon Age II), but the walls quickly fall away to reveal an expansive and detailed world. The main story guides you through a variety of unique maps, but those who are tempted off the main path are rewarded with interesting side quests, gorgeously rendered landmarks and a tome’s worth of vibrant back story about the world. Furthermore, Inquisition rewards this exploration with treasure, experience and in-game resources, encouraging you to get lost and find your own adventure. However, the sheer abundance of side quests means that many of them become tired variations on the MMO staple of kill X amount of Y for person Z. These quests feel designed to mindlessly consume your time and lack the passion that is poured into every other aspect of the game. Fortunately, the high calibre of the writing in Inquisition means that interacting with the most lowly of quest givers can its own reward. Your companions also benefit from the strong writing. Bioware, once again, displays its flair for creating complex characters. You may not agree with all of them, but every companion has a layer of depth that goes beyond what is expected from their archetypes and even what is expected from a Bioware game. Their perspectives and dialogue about the larger world add a level of depth to Thedas that is going to excite a lot of codex completionists.
These characters and the world around you are gorgeously rendered in Bioware’s best looking game to date. Character models are meticulously crafted and look gorgeous when they’re standing still. However, Bioware still hasn’t managed to fix the stiffness that accompanies movement in cut-scenes, which characters tend to do. Rather, it is the environments in Inquisition that are the true beauty queens. The broken, lightning scarred cliff-faces of the Storm Coast and the windswept deserts of the Western Approach are harsh locations, but the raw and dangerous splendour of them keep tempting you to cross over the next ridge to see more. Those with a current generation console or PC will be able to experience these well rendered models and environments with minimum load times, but those who are stuck with a PS3 or Xbox 360 get to experience the unintentional hilarity of constant character detail pop-in and the not so funny extended loading times. There is also the glitches. When a new game with scope of Inquisition is released, a few glitches slipping past the testers can be forgiven. But, Inquisition has more than its share of game breaking bugs. The autosave occasionally causes crashes, quest items dropped from enemies are loaded into walls and sometimes during the dialogue scenes the character models get locked into awkward positions with vacant stares, which crashes the game. While most of these problems can be fixed by reloading a previous save, it happens too often for Inquisition to get a pass.
Combat in Inquisition owes a lot to the previous games. The fast-paced flair of Dragon Age II has been combined with the patient strategy of Origins to create a system that is superior to both. The Mage, Warrior, Rouge system is back with new abilities and the old ones shifted around to keep things feeling fresh. An emphasis has been placed on making all the classes feel viscerally pleasing. The sound design of the martial combat makes every weapon feel weighty and strike hard and casting spells sprays a delightful amount of vibrant particle effects around the room. Additionally, the ability trees within your class are all built around specific combat styles and different trees produce noticeably different playing styles within the same class. No matter what path you choose, combat is flashy, fast and fun.
Dragon Age: Inquisition immerses you so completely in its world that you begin to lose your grip on the real one. Whenever you feel the urge to turn the game off Inquisition is ready for you with another adventure just over the horizon.
This review was conducted on the PS3. Dragon Age: Inquisition is available for the PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360 and PC