dragon age

Bioware Launches “Dragon Age: Inquisition”

Dragon Age: Inquisition, the latest title in Bioware’s Dragon Age series, is an outstanding game, every bit deserving of the numerous “Game of the Year” rewards it has received. I’ve completed both prior Dragon Age titles, and loved both almost without reservation, even the extremely divisive Dragon Age 2. However, while Dragon Age: Inquisition may very well be the most well-designed title yet, I find myself partially dissatisfied, despite having played it all the way through and enjoyed it thoroughly.

 Dragon Age: Inquisition is high-fantasy with a dark political edge, comparable to Game of Thrones. The game features action/strategy gameplay, elements of social-simulation, and political decisions with profound narrative consequences. The player can design a character from an impressive amount of options: race, gender, appearance, and combat class are all customizable.

Early in the game, players are put in charge of an organization called the Inquisition, loosely associated with a religion,  referred to as “The Chantry.” Dragon Age: Inquisition is set in the fantasy world of Thedas, specifically in the nations of Ferelden and Orlais, which are based off of medieval England and France, respectively. 

Over the course of the approximately 100 hour game, players will deal with a variety of conflicts, with two in particular taking the center stage. The first is a conflict between Mages and Templars. In the Dragon Age universe, Mages are beings that are given great power, but are uniquely vulnerable to demonic possession, and demons can do a lot of damage (a demon-possessed Mage is basically a walking bomb). Because of this, they are tightly controlled/oppressed, living in tower’s called “circles” and guarded by the sometimes fair, sometimes corrupt Templars. At the start of Dragon Age: Inquisition, their strained relationship has devolved into war, and the player has to choose who to support.

The other overarching conflict is much less morally ambiguous and involves a demonic invasion across Thedas. The veil, a sort of barrier which separates the physical world from the Fade (spirit world) has been torn, and demons are pouring into Thedas. The main goal of the player’s organization is to make treaties and gather resources to combat that threat. One of the most important steps in attaining this goal is recruiting capable people into the Inquisition. 

The details of this storyline can be influenced by players before they even start Dragon Age: Inquisition. Choices from previous games can be imported, even if one hasn’t actually played any other titles in the series, via the Dragon Age Keep website. This service also provides players with a summary of past events in Thedas, which will vastly increase one’s appreciation of the plot. 

In your journeys across Thedas, you will likely notice a large number of LGBT individuals. LGBT rights is Bioware’s chief social concern, and such characters are featured prominently within their narratives. They go through great pains to present these characters in a manner that is politically correct and constructive to the LGBT image. They also provide romance options relevant to the LGBT demographic. 

In the past, Bioware has been both praised and criticized for this inclusion. Personally, I thought Bioware was generally realistic and respectful, although there were several moments where too much emphasis was placed on gender/orientation.

Companion storylines are a large part of Dragon Age: Inquisition. Depending on the player’s choices, friendships, rivalries, romances, death, and disassociation can come from them. As a whole, Dragon Age: Inquisition features very interesting characters, although I thought that there were a few weak links.

My only major complaint about Dragon Age: Inquisition is the main storyline. While there was an abundance of choice, it felt narratively weak as a whole. The villains, aside from one or two exceptions, were stereotypical and uninteresting. Some of the scenarios felt very corny and contrived. The worst offender was a scene, meant to be inspirational, where virtually the entire Inquisition started singing a religious hymn (or at least, that’s what it was supposed to be). It was difficult to sit through, let alone enjoy. On top of that, the ending felt rushed and dissatisfying. Given that it’s a Dragon Age title, a series known for the quality of its narrative, I consider the story to be highly relevant to the reception. That said, given how many improvements to the series there were, Dragon Age: Inquisition is still worthy of all the praise it has received, despite this major flaw.

Combat is the best in the series, with a perfect balance of action and strategy. The default difficulty felt a little easy, but that’s why there are multiple options which can be changed at any time. Aside from the main storyline, I felt that the side-content (which makes up most of the game) was narratively strong. The visuals were exceptional, and I felt that the music was solid but nothing special. 

My review comes down to these two points: If you haven’t played a Dragon Age game, Dragon Age: Inquisition is a great place to start. It’s one of the best games of the year, and one of the best series of all time. If you have played Dragon Age games before, the only significant disappointment for you will likely be the main narrative, and despite that, it’s still well-worth your time and money. Many reputable critics have given it their “Game of the Year” award, and while I personally wouldn’t, I can understand that. I’d give Dragon Age: Inquisition a 9 out of 10; were it not for the story faults, the game would be perfect.

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