Dragon Age: Inquisition, Story, Choices, and Gameplay

Borrowed from ytimg.com

Genre: Fantasy RPG

Synopsis: You were at a peace summit for mages and templars, which are at war. Unfortunately, the summit exploded and now there’s a big hole in the sky that spews demons. You have the power to close that hole, but not by yourself. So you get involved with the Inquisition, an organization dedicated to stopping this war and fixing those holes in reality. And it becomes your responsibility to use the Inquisition to put the world back to rights (whatever your definition of ‘rights’ may be).

Series: The third Dragon Age game, but it can be played by those new to the series.

Verdict: Excellent.

Dragon Age: Inquisition won Game of the Year. Congrats to everyone involved with it!

Story

Borrowed from gameranx.com

The main storyline is a quintessential fantasy storyline–a hero has to save the world. (This might be the result of fans of the series criticizing the previous game for having a less typical plot.) Still, the story manages to do some interesting things within that.

For one, the game doesn’t draw out the plot. It doesn’t hold you to an arbitrarily unattainable goal. Instead, it has you steadily making progress and succeeding in your smaller goals. As you progress, your knowledge of what actually happened and what you’re actually dealing with grows, until you reach the point where you can finally take care of the problem. This game also challenges a lot of the lore we’ve received in previous games, which is awesome, as it adds in a what-you-think-you-know versus what-is perspective. This isn’t necessarily lost on people who haven’t played the previous games, however, as it provides context.

The main missions have a nice bit of variety to them, which is very cool. The open world aspects pale in comparison to the depth of the story, but I understand that they’re there to appeal to a wider variety of gamers. I do enjoy the open world stuff, but personally, I’d trade all of it for a little more story. I felt that there should have been more story and less open world stuff (or more story contained in the open world stuff)–it would have felt like it better rounded out the events of the game. The templar/mage war could have been a stronger plot point, instead of just petering out. But that’s what happens when you have a massive game that you’re trying to make appeal to a wide variety of gamers, I guess.

As for the main missions themselves, they’re varied and they’re interesting. You’ll end up in a variety of unexpected situations that I don’t want to spoil. And you get to go to a party. Bioware does love throwing parties in its games.

Anachronisms abound, but they’re fun and deliberate–in fantasy, there’s a noticeable difference between when writers try to evoke a time period and fail, and when they choose to incorporate modernized language to convey meaning or for comedic effect. Dragon Age is doing it on purpose, and it doesn’t feel out of place. There’s also some cheese–I get the impression that the creators really love music–but again, it doesn’t feel too out of place, for the most part. There are also some plot holes, but plot holes tend to stand out more when the work is bad than when it’s good.

The final ending, by itself, felt a bit anticlimactic. Granted, part of that was because I didn’t want the game to end. But Bioware has definitely put together way more powerful endings than this one, which was very straightforward. Everything up to the last mission hinged on choices, consequences, and character work, so maybe they just needed to finish the game.

This is just a quibble, though. The entire game was so fantastic this barely registers in comparison. And of course, the after-the-credits scene completely made up for that. Wow, what a game changer–and what a teaser! When is the DLC that’s going to address this coming out?

Choices

Borrowed from imgur.com

Ah, choices. How much can you impact the game through your decisions?

First off, you get to customize the appearance of your character, choose between playing one of four races (with special dialogue options available for each), and play as whatever personality you wish.

While there is one major ending (a hero-saves-the-world story must end with the hero saving the world, obviously), there are variations in how you get there, and in what kind of world you help shape after. These can be major or minor variations–such as, how are mage/templar relations defined after the war? What kind of leader is guiding this country and what impact do they have?

There are multiple ways to go through the game–one decision early on in the game leads the player to one of two very different missions, the consequences of which are felt for the rest of the game. I didn’t realize how much so, until I played a second time. As per the Bioware norm, there are many decisions to make during each mission, which have different effects on the game.

I have totally sat in front of my screen at times, just staring at my decisions and wondering what on earth I should do. Sometimes my character didn’t have any way of getting enough information to make an informed decision (and in my first play-through, neither did I) and I just had to do my best. Sometimes, even after finishing one play-through, I had no idea how I felt about the decision. It’s cool that there are choices that aren’t very clean-cut–you can’t just say, ‘oh, an altruistic character would make that choice and a selfish one would make that one’. They’re more nuanced than that. Right or wrong isn’t necessarily clear.

There are times when your decisions matter beyond all reason–I guess that’s just what you’re supposed to get with RPGs, if the complaints of RPGers about the previous game are any indication. So expect to be guiding the Inquisition’s actions before you even have any official standing, and making major life choices for your companions that they then have to live with. At least the latter can sometimes be explained away as your input having a strong in-the-moment effect on characters while they’re in a stressful situation. And they are genuinely interesting missions, even so.

Companions will or won’t experience major events in their lives based on your relationship with them. And if those major events are resolved, or how they’re resolved, may lead to a change in the artwork on the cards representing them, which is cool. One thing I love about these characters is that some of them only want you to agree with them, while others actually like it if you make a valid point by disagreeing with them. Some of them want to be challenged, want that discourse that brings to light things they haven’t considered before.

Some of them want you to sympathize with them, some of them don’t. It’s awesome, and it’s not straightforward. I also love how they sometimes change their opinions about each other over the course of the game. And I really love how characters I don’t expect to get along because of how different their world views are, actually end up respecting each other immensely. And how some characters will like people who don’t like or trust them back. Characters might also outwardly support you even if they disagree (most notably Cassandra), which I find to be a pretty impressive trait.

Sorry–started ranting about how much I love the characters, again. Anyway, lots of choices available.

Gameplay

Borrowed from gamecrate.com

This game is supposed to appeal to wide audience, and it does it by including different ways to play through the game. There’s an open world component, but you don’t have to touch most of the content if it doesn’t appeal to you. The main plot is heavily story-based, but you can have all the random open world adventures you want. There are a lot of characters and many optional character interactions, but you don’t need to do them if you don’t like the character or just don’t feel like progressing their characterization. You can play combat tactically, or action-based.

And the upshot of exploring the open world is that you get to hear your companions bantering with each other, so it isn’t devoid of character work. You hear how they relate to each other, and how they change over time. One of the great aspects of the game.

There is also another optional feature to the game, the War Table. There, you get to send out your forces on missions you aren’t personally involved in. You choose how the mission is handled and they take care of it for you, with your rewards and mission endings varying depending on how you chose to handle it. It’s a nice feature that puts you at the head of a large organization and makes you feel the weight of the differences your Inquisition is making in the world.

Most of the game is combat based, but there are a bunch of optional puzzle quests in the open world. And at least one main mission makes your court approval a feature of the game play, with a meter that you need to keep above zero. You have a few non-combat based options for filling that meter.

PC controls are not great. Playing with a ranged character instead of a melee character lightens the burden. Tactics mode is nigh unusable. Origins used it way better, but I guess that’s the difference between being optimized for PC versus consoles.

Exploration can be nice, but it’s also annoying when features you can climb up are indistinguishable from those you can’t, and you have to use your bad PC controls to figure out if you can actually go up the hill this way. If not, you have to circle it for five minutes before you find a pathway up. This might not be so bad if I was playing with a controller, though. I don’t know.

Favorite Quotes (aside from the ones in my previous Inquisition post):

“Without fear, and pain, and failure, we cannot learn. We cannot grow.”

“Please stop stealing my kills.”

“You want to talk about me? I’m flattered. Also, inclined towards extravagant lies.”

“In all my years as a Seeker, I did what I was told. My faith demanded it. But now my faith demands something else: that I see with better eyes.”

“If I truly believed my homeland was beyond all hope, I wouldn’t miss it so much.”

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