An afternoon with Dragon Age Inquisition

The Mass Effect series is one my all time favourite, yet despite Bioware’s success with this series, it still wasn’t enough to convince me to try out Dragon Age Origins. This is in part due to my inconsistent reluctance regarding the fantasy genre. The Elder Scrolls, Game of Thrones, The Legend of Zelda; big fan. Lord of the Rings, World of Warcraft, and most other typical fantasy creations; just can not get on board, and believe me I have tried to get into Lord of the Rings.

Yet somehow EA have managed to convince me to give Inquisition a try. Was it due to all of the positive early reviews? Partly. But I think it is down to its approach with the political environment that is still developing which finally drew me in.

However if you are planning on getting Inquisition today (or whenever) and haven’t played the previous games, there are a couple of things you need to do before you start. First read this! This excellent guide from Kotaku does a great job of introducing you to the world of Thedas and its different inhabitants. Importantly this also does a great job of providing some context between two of the different political factions that have a big impact on the series and therefore Inquisition, these being the Templars and the Mages. Meaning if you choose to play as a mage, expect people to treat you differently. Especially if you play as an elven mage, as unlike in Tolkien’s world, in Thedas elves are the subjugated race.

After having read and digested that you then should complete what is known as the Keep. Like the Mass Effect series Dragon Age has previously allowed for save files to be carried over into the next game influencing the world and making it more unique to yourself. However because of the move to a different console generation, this is no longer possible. But because of how important this feature is EA and Bioware have come up with a pretty good solution (especially for those new to the series) which allows you to make the choices that were present in the previous games via an interactive animation, which can then be expanded via a tapestry. So far I haven’t noticed anything particularly different in my game, but I expect later on – due to my pro mage stance – that this will.

Yesterday I managed to get in around 4-5 hours and at about the 4 hour mark I did ask myself what I had got myself into. This is because the game is vast and I have only just visited my third location! There is plenty to explore and do, and it seems important, unlike the ultimately pointless egg hunt that is the Assassin’s Creed series.

Because of the preparation in reading Kotaku’s guide and playing the Keep I found getting into the game wasn’t too difficult, as the major aspects of the lore were familiar to me, although without this you will be completely lost. This was after having spent quite a good amount of time in the character creation screen creating a rather handsome doppelganger.

The first hour keeps things fairly simple and focuses mostly on the decision wheel and the combat. Talking of combat, the one universal criticism to come out of the reviews was the fairly lacklustre, but not terrible, combat; this is something I completely agree with. Mass Effect might have played like a fairly generic third person cover based shooter by the end, but that is still enjoyable. Holding down the right trigger to whale on enemies does get tedious after a while, saying that the diversity of the team and the optional tactical overview do help add something else to the combat.

However once the different menu systems, including the War Table, are opened up it does take a bit of time to get used to, as the game does not hold your hand and direct you to what you need to do. Whilst it might be confusing at first, this is ultimately rewarding once you work out how to navigate your way around. That does not mean that it is needlessly difficult, just that the game lets you learn by yourself what to do, and this approach helps you become more deeply familiar with it.

The decision wheel is an improvement over that found in Mass Effect as instead of the standard good, neutral, and bad choices which are sometimes supplemented by paragon and renegade choices, Inquisition’s main choices seem more tonal in their response. In addition many choices are identified by whether you respond confused, act defiant, or give your resounding agreement. So far I have really been enjoying how the game reacts to my decisions and is already reflecting my real life political rationalism. This is also helped by the fact that the main characters around me almost seem like they are trying to outdo one another to prove who can be the most rational; which is music to my ears. Furthermore the series seems to be taking inspiration from Telltale’s The Walking Dead, as after some decisions it will state that another character is pleased or angered by that choice, and it does make a difference.

It wouldn’t be a AAA current gen game without some bugs, and whilst there is a day one patch, there are a couple of minor problems. Sometimes the audio will do strange things, either the music will stop, or the sound effects will with music still playing. There was also an instance where the game wouldn’t let me exit the tactical view and therefore I couldn’t proceed. Luckily the auto-save system works well so I didn’t lose any progress. Otherwise so far it is a competent game and is by no means broken.

I have really enjoyed my time with the game so far, so much so that last night I was dreaming of decision wheel type choices. The combat might be kind of meh, but I can’t wait to load up the game. Dragon Age Inquisition feels like the kind of game that we should be getting this generation.

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