We are the Inquisition.
Bioware’s third Dragon Age RPG has decided to leave the roman numerals in a cave somewhere, replacing the III with a grand and slightly imposing Inquisition in the title, suggesting that the developers wanted to distance the game even further from the slightly disappointing Dragon Age II. Despite all of this, be under no illusions that this is Dragon Age III, and it is a mighty beast to behold.
As the third game in the series, there is a lot of back story going on here that new players will not know of. Jumping into the game without the prior knowledge of the struggles in this fantasy land can lead to confusion. Some things can be picked up through the course of the early game, such as who the Chantry are and the fact that two factions – the Templars and the Mages – are at war. This is a developed fantasy world and information regarding what is actually happening in the world can be found if the player chooses to search for it. However, the important things can be picked up quite quickly should the player choose not to do the research and it is very easy to become involved in the game without any prior knowledge.
But what is the players’ place in Thedas? Well, I wouldn’t want to suggest the origins of our hero are generic, but they kinda are. Something went wrong at an epic meeting of faction leaders, including the head of the Chantry, and you are the only survivor. Not only has this event left a power vacuum in the world, but it has also given rise to the appearance of rifts through which demonic forces are coming and wreaking havoc. Of course, the player has no real memory of what exactly happened at this meeting, why they were there, or even who they are. But they did come away with a strange green mark on their hand which happens to allow the player to close these rifts, making them the single greatest hope at saving the world. No pressure then.
Following the character creation, in which the player will have a decent amount of options in creating their own hero, from race and class to some very in-depth facial tweaking, a short introduction to the core mechanics of the game will get the player up to speed with the relatively simple systems. The player will gather companions and will form a team of four for each excursion into the world, and are able to switch between them at will. The characters that the player finds along their journey are quite varied and mostly likable, each coming with different skills and abilities that will help the player along the way. The banter that flows between the companions whilst simply wandering along a path is quite entertaining, and the player will build up relationships with each character as they progress, through actions or choices made on the conversation wheel.
Players will be introduced to the combat in the game. Holding down the right trigger button will take care of the most basic attack for each character, but as they level up more interesting attacks will become available. Players will earn points to spend in a variety of different skill trees, which will then unlock new abilities depending on the players class. These abilities are then mapped to three of the face buttons, with the A button already being assigned to contextual actions, and the right buffer button. The player will also be responsible for choosing the leveling up route for their companions. Simple commands can be given to the companions for use on the battlefield, and the player can switch between them at will, which is handy should the main character be taken down and require resuscitation, but those not being controlled are then sent into action by the relatively competent AI.
There is also the return of the tactical camera from the original Dragon Age game, allowing the player to pause the action and then micro-manage each conflict as they see fit. Whilst this method of conflict resolution certainly has its benefits, being able to assess each threat and deal with it directly being one of them, it is quite messy and difficult to follow once the action heats up.
Once the player has made their way through the introductory segment and picked up the basics of combat, character leveling and such, then the Inquisition will begin their slow march to power, and the world will slowly open up to the player. And what a world it is…
Thanks to the remarkable green mark on the player and their ability to close the rifts that are causing chaos across the land, the player themselves are cast into the leading role of the Inquisition, but they don’t come without a few advisors. One of the interesting ways in which Dragon Age: Inquisition slowly opens up the massive world for the player to explore, which is broken up into sizable regions, is through the War Table found in the Inquisitions mountainous hub town. Here, the player will gather with their advisors and study a map of the entire world. Requests and other missions will show up on the map, and the player can send their choice of advisor to deal with these, with each taking a certain amount of real time. Once complete, the Inquisition will be rewarded with further reputation, actual goods, a new area to explore or even the possibility of alliance with another faction.
As the player wanders around the open areas, completing quests and the like, they will gain reputation, which translates into points that can be spent on accessing some of the more pivotal quests on the war table map.
The quests themselves are varied. As the player sets off into a region, the in-game map will be highlighted with plenty of things to do, from picking up quests to help the population or closing rifts, to setting up camps (from which the player can replenish their potion stocks and such) and claiming fortresses. There is a lot of collecting involved, both for the quests and to make use of the rather good crafting system in the game, but players will also be able to find dungeons to loot and cities to explore. Whatever the player ends up doing, there is a real sense of progression as they further the cause of the Inquisition and make them more powerful.
The first area that the player gains access to, the Hinterlands, is massive and filled with plenty to do, but it does progress at a slow pace. It is quite easy to wander into an area that is obviously designed for a higher level and fall foul to particularly strong enemies, and it is easy to get distracted from doing one thing by spotting something shiny and wandering off. But such is the price of an open-world game.
As if this isn’t enough, the world is gloriously beautiful as well. Dragon Age: Inquisition still feels somewhat last gen visually, but that doesn’t stop the wonderful variety of different environments from looking incredibly good. From savage coast lines and swamps, to epic forests and deserts, the world is large enough to fit in all manner of different settings, and they are each a joy to explore, dotted with points of interest for the player to find and enjoy. There is the occasional graphical glitch, but nothing really to write home about.
As a series first, Inquisition also includes a co-op multiplayer mode where the player joins a team of four to take on waves of enemies. Whilst this is a nice addition, it is not the most interesting and, I think, will largely be ignored by the masses in favour of continuing their epic single-player quest.
Dragon Age: Inquisition has taken the inspiration from both of the previous Dragon Age games, along with a few other RPGs, and created a wonderfully open world in which an RPG fan will be able to get lost for many, many hours. There is a lot going on in the game, and this can sometimes feel slightly overwhelming, but it is all tied together by the rising power of the Inquisition and the power struggles going on in the world, which is all overshadowed by the rift and demonic incursions. Once again, there is a world to be saved by the player, but it is a great world. Dragon Age: Inquisition is an essential purchase for any RPG fan.