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Dragon Age: Inquisition

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: BioWare
Release Date: Nov. 18, 2014 (US), Nov. 21, 2014 (EU)


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Xbox One Review - 'Dragon Age: Inquisition'

by Dustin Chadwell on Jan. 9, 2015 @ 1:00 a.m. PST

Dragon Age: Inquisition combines the storytelling BioWare is known for, with deep RPG gameplay, all on a brand new RPG game engine underpinned by EA’s Frostbite 2 technology.

I wish I could say that I enjoyed every hour spent with Dragon Age: Inquisition on the Xbox One, especially considering the number of hours I put into it. This is easily one of the meatier RPGs I've played in the past year, and if you value quantity over quality when it comes to content, Dragon Age: Inquisition has you covered. There are moments when Inquisition manages to shine, and I certainly enjoyed it enough to see it through to the end, but I was ready to be done with it well before the end credits scrolled.

While Dragon Age 2 favored a more streamlined, action-focused combat system, Inquisition takes a few cues from the original Dragon Age: Origins. You can opt to play like previous console iterations, controlling one character in your party of four, using the right trigger to mindlessly spam your standard attack, and using face buttons to issue special commands and abilities. There's also a tactical option you can employ, allowing you to temporarily pause the action, assign targets for all party members, and even choose a specific ability for each member. This is helpful in a number of encounters, as certain abilities act as detonators and work in tandem with another ability or status effect to generate massive damage.

Combat in Inquisition can be fun when you're up against significant boss fights or larger enemies, like actual dragons. These encounters force you to think about how you're applying abilities, and in the case of the Warrior class, how you manage to keep your teammates alive. You also have plenty of mundane, run-of-the-mill encounters to wade through. They often feel mindless and can be quite boring due to the lack of challenge and the poor rewards at the end of the fights. This boredom would be lessened if the enemies didn't feel like a damage sponge, needlessly prolonging even the most basic encounters. It got to the point where I'd often try to avoid fights. Also, the experience rewards for basic encounters were often minimal, along with any loot that might drop from an enemy corpse.

You'll find that Inquisition also features a pretty complex crafting system, but it gets bogged down by poor menu design and implementation. I love that I could craft armor and weapons, and specific components of both could be slotted into existing pieces for enhancements. There's a fair amount of materials to uncover, with rare materials actually feeling rare, and they also providing sizeable benefits when used in crafting. However, with multiple crafting stations and certain items like Runes being held back until you reach a specific point in the story, crafting was often needlessly time-consuming and clunky.

Another complaint is that the main story isn't that great. It's a clear step up from the political intrigue nonsense that bogged down the plot in Dragon Age 2, but it doesn't make a clean enough break from its predecessor, opting to rely too heavily on some of the unresolved story points from the last game. The strife and civil war that begins with the opening events, which again pits the Templars and Mages against each other, isn't super compelling. When you toss different factions, political parties, an empress or two, and other mind-numbing details into the mix, you'll quickly have a tough time following how the different groups relate to one another. Could you imagine being introduced to all the major houses in "Game of Thrones" within the first chapter of the first book? That's what this feels like, and it's too much information too quickly. Unless you're really invested in the series, you'll become numb to much of the story before it fully develops.

All of the story elements that don't tie directly to the main plotline are pretty entertaining and fun. This is probably my favorite cast in a Bioware game since Mass Effect 2. While the combat classes boil down to Mage, Rogue and Warrior, every character manages to feel useful. The character-specific quests are worth completing, and I'd often switch out party members for different missions to sample the various dialogue options that the characters brought to the table. My favorites include the wildly neurotic Sera and Iron Bull, who's voiced by Freddie Prinze, Jr. Just about every cast member is great — even returning faces like Cassandra and Varric.

The most significant aspect of Inquisition that I enjoyed is the open-world experience. There are some story missions where you're funneled along a specific path, but when engaging in side-quests or uncovering secrets, you're given a lot of room to explore. There are a number of significant areas on the world map to uncover, each filled with side-quests, secret caves, and other activities. I may have found the standard combat encounters a bit of a bore, but I never tired of exploring the world. The map does a great job of detailing objectives but often keeps the location of objective markers vague enough so you aren't following a straight line. This kept me from feeling frustrated when attempting to hunt down items or enemies for quests, but it allowed me enough freedom to enjoy the exploration.

I also enjoyed the co-op multiplayer mode, even though I'd often encounter serious lag. I was a big fan of Mass Effect 3's multiplayer, and Inquisition essentially mimics that. You team up with three other players and choose a class comprised of various hybrids across the Mage, Rogue and Warrior archetypes. You have a handful of maps to explore and waves of enemies to wipe out as you advance from one area to the next. It's a relatively simple but challenging experience. The randomized loot you can gain, along with the limited crafting and skill tree progression, is enough to keep you coming back for more.

One of the more disappointing aspects of the game is how darn buggy this release seems to be. I'm not sure how the PS4 version of the game compares, but I ran into a number of issues, both minor and severe, over the course of 80+ hours spent with the game. Inquisition has been out for a little over a month now, and some patches have been released, so I was surprised by how often I'd encounter major issues. There's the standard, open-world jankiness, like characters floating a few feet above the ground, and I'd occasionally run into issues with characters springing into place right before and after a cut scene.

More serious issues would abound, including at least one side-quest where I couldn't complete it because I couldn't properly interact with the quest giver to turn in the quest. I also encountered an endless saving bug, which caused my game to freeze up every time I restarted it. I had to hunt down a solution on the forums, which had me delete persistent data through the Blu-ray/DVD setting on the console, along with clearing my alternate MAC settings. This allowed me to start the game, and thankfully, I didn't lose much progress, especially since this occurred right before the game's final boss fight.

There are certainly elements of Inquisition I enjoyed, but the overall experience was a mix of frustration and elation. The open-world setting and exploration are things that I'd like to see carried over to other Bioware titles going forward, but combat, specifically as it relates to unnamed mobs, could really use an overhaul in future Dragon Age titles. While I can appreciate a well-realized world filled with codex entries and lore, streamlining the plot into a more palatable experience would go a long way toward keeping players' interest across dozens of gameplay hours. I'm not looking for the story to be "dumbed down," but the pacing and introduction of different elements and factions could've been handled a lot better.

Dragon Age: Inquisition is one of the few western RPGs on the market right now, and it's certainly one of the more robust since the release of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. If you're looking to satisfy that RPG itch on your brand-new, current-gen console, you can certainly to do so with Inquisition.

Score: 7.0/10

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