The Dragon Age series is one I have a strong affinity with. On the one hand the original Dragon Age: Origins brought me hours of joy. Many criticised the game’s poor graphics and old school strategy based combat system but for me this was a trip down memory lane. A chance to rekindle my days playing Neverwinter Nights or Balder’s Gate. I probably sank 200 hours worth of gameplay into it for sheer nostalgia. However, the arrival of Dragon Age 2 left a bitter taste in my mouth. The combat had received a complete overhaul, albeit for the better, but the rest of the game left me wanting. Besides the odd character and flourishing story arc, the game was dull to the point where I almost turned the damn thing off, vowing to never play another Dragon Age game again.
Years later, and with a next-gen console in hand, Bioware announced that Dragon Age: Inquisition would be due in November 2014. I raise an eyebrow, take the occasional peak at the latest gameplay trailer but continually remind myself that I’ve been hurt before. Once bitten, twice shy. But with each trailer my excitement began to surge. Due to time constraints I’ve often put off lengthy RPG’s, but the more I saw of Dragon Age: Inquisition the more I wanted to get my hands on it. Well, way back in November I did, and I have already invested hundreds of hours in this game, and with good reason.
Dragon Age: Inquisition is simply massive, with tons of lands to explore and thousands of quests to stumble upon. As a result, Dragon Age appears seemingly endless. The game’s enormous scope can be quite daunting at first, especially as players have to take in its unique combat system, vast exploration, upgrading, companion relationships, tactical topdown view, loadouts and crafting. Couple that with an epic and complex end of the world storyline, and many may shy away from the time needed to be invested in such a game.
However daunting though, Dragon Age is accessible. The game’s story revolves around a character of the player’s creation. Gamers can choose from an array of species, male or female, and even get down to the nitty-gritty of picking out their preferred hair colour and set of tattoos. Once your character is created you are thrown into the story. The main protagonist miraculously enters the world through a magical rift with no real memory of how they got there. Your character soon discovers that a whole host of demons and other undesirables are all bursting into the world through various rifts and tears scattered across the lands of Thedas. By the power of a strange magical marking on your hand, you are able to seal the rifts. This encourages a band of heroes to aid you in your quest, by forming the Inquisition, in the hope of saving the world from impending doom.
Firstly, Dragon Age’s combat system, although unusual, is very simple. You hold down trigger to enter combat, where your character enters into a free-flowing attack. Players must then mash down on the main buttons (triangle, square and circle for us PS4 owners) to unleash your special attacks, which you unlock through levelling up your character. Some gamers will feel that they aren’t quite in control of their character by holding down trigger, but as they are commanding a group of four and constantly switching between each companion, this accessible combat system is a welcome one. However, if you demand something a bit more challenging, players can switch to a top down view, reposition their troops and really command the battlefield.
Sorry Skyrim purists, but Dragon Age is an RPG of the same ilk. Although both games have their differences in tone and gameplay, both games feature a huge amount of epic quests, magic, dwarves, elves, dragons and ancient lore that would have even the most committed Lord of the Rings fan turning their heads. If you are looking for a game to get lost in, then look no further.
Amongst the main missions and side quests you can also modify your group’s armour and weapons by collecting schematics and the necessary materials to craft each component. Players can also visit the war table to unlock new missions, send agents off to deal with political affairs, or upgrade your stronghold for the upcoming war.
Dragon Age is also a game about choices. You can shape the lives of those in Thedas. One part of the game sees you act as judge and jury as you must deal out sentences to those involved in conspiracies or conflicts that oppose the Inquisition. You can choose to be lenient, harsh or perhaps indoctrinate some of these transgressors into your fold. The decision is yours. Your actions also affect your companions. Depending on your group’s political, moral or religious views you can often make a decision that gains the approval of certain team members but at the same time gains the disapproval of others. Gaining their respect can have it’s advantages and open up other quests, but one of the most important aspects of this approval rating is so you can pursue a romantic relationship with one of your companions. Not all companions can be seduced, and sexual orientation does play a part as to whether you are compatible with a fellow companion, but straight, gay or bisexual relationships can all be pursued in this game. Just avoid the Iron Bull. He’s a bit kinky.
So what’s bad about Dragon Age? Well in the early stages side quests can be a bit mundane and repetitive. They often revolve around helping a dithering old man who claims to have lost some worthless family heirloom, but for the sake of his eternal gratitude, do we mind hiking to the other side of the universe and fetching it for him? Er…..yes we do.
Dragon Age also has some weird glitches. In the case of the PS4 the ‘X button’ is both the jump button and action button, which is used to initiate conversations with non-playable characters. This can often mean several conversations will be spent suspended in mid-air whilst your character’s arms and legs attempt some disturbing moonwalk. You can also exploit parts of the game as enemies are sometimes restricted to certain areas. This means charging enemies will often turn tail at an invisible barrier allowing you to dispatch them from range. Also, if your team mates perish in battle all you have to do is vacate the skirmish and your friends will magically re-appear, and looking much better off than when you last saw them. Fortunately though, very few of these glitches or quirks are game breaking.
All-in-all, whilst Dragon Age: Inquisition may not be bringing anything original to the table, it is one of the most polished RPG’s out there. The game continues to throw countless missions at you, and even after investing about 40 hours in the game, you’ll realise that you’ve only just scratched the surface of this amazing, in-depth and challenging RPG, which is topped off by some stunning visuals powered by the frostbite engine.
In the past the Dragon Age series has lacked the mass appeal of Skyrim, but Dragon Age: Inquisition has firmly marked its territory amongst the big boys.