Ah, Dragon Age. There's a lot of conflicting feelings behind that name. The original was called a spiritual successor to Baldur's Gate and the second...

Well, it gets called a lot of things.

Naturally, there was some apprehension when the third installment was announced. It looked amazing, like the first, on an even grander scale. But whether it would live up to the hype was something only time would tell.

Dragon Age: Inquisition fulfills its promises. It is a game epic in scope, with a tutorial area that feels larger than the entirety of its predecessor. The game throws you head first into calamity. After crafting a character of your choosing, your avatar wakes up in the Fade, a place of dreams where demons and spirits dwell. You're hauled back into reality by a glowing figure that may or may not be divine in origin.

Once again among the living, you discover that you're the single survivor of an explosion that reduced a temple to rubble and ripped a very nasty hole in the sky. Smaller holes, or rifts, have popped up all over, spitting out hordes of demons. To make matters worse, the exploded temple was home to a summit meant to pacify the mage-templar conflict that came to a head in Dragon Age II. The Fantasy Pope is dead, as are most of the high ranking members of the Chantry and major players on both sides of the conflict.

The situation is crappy, to say the least. But luckily for you, your character came away with a souvenir from the fade: a magic glowing hand. The hand isn't just for decoration; it reacts to the rifts and can actually seal them. The giant hole in the sky? Not so much. Not without help, anyway. Your character gets a spiffy title, the Herald of Andraste, and an awesome posse in the form of the Inquisition.

The characters are the most fleshed out in the series. This party feels more organic, some of them get along with certain characters while disliking others. If you make a decision that a party member doesn't like, they will often call you on it. You can't please everyone at once but it's those differences and disagreements that make this cast stand out.

As the Herald, it's up to your character to seal rifts. The rifts spawn waves of demons and slaying them will weaken the rift enough to close it. The game offers a couple of ways to approach combat. You can use a tactical camera and command each of your four party members. Once you're satisfied with your commands, you press and hold a button to make time proceed until you're ready to issue new orders. If you're more action-oriented, you can keep battle in real time and control a single character of your choice. Like previous Dragon Age iterations, opening a radial menu will bring up your potions, party commands, and also pause the game; the ability to switch between party members on the fly has also remained.

Inquisition's systems are beautifully integrated. Running around in the world, exploring, vanquishing enemies, sealing rifts, and completing quests not only benefits the party, but also grants the Inquisition more power and influence. Both of these systems are utilized at the war table, a map that displays quests for your advisers to complete, often offering perks that directly benefit you.

Influence acts as experience points for the Inquisition itself. Once you've "leveled up", you can spend a point to unlock unique abilities. These abilities are split into four categories, Connections, Secrets, Forces, and Inquisition. The abilities often impact the party by offering more inventory space, opening up new dialog options, or granting extra EXP for uncovering locations or codex entries just to name a few.

Power enables your agents to complete quests on your behalf and each assignment requires a certain amount of power. If you don't have enough to initiate an assignment, then you have to go out into the world and complete quests or seal rifts. You have to expend power for scouting missions which open up new areas to explore. Similarly, it's also at the war table where you further the story, choosing who to ally with or initiating special quests and events.

Inquisition is a massive game. Every environment feels unique, from the terrain to the different crafting items scattered throughout. Thorough explorers are rewarded with hidden areas and items as well as quests that may lie off the beaten track. Certain individuals will join the Inquisition as agents and grant perks to the war table should you complete their quest and recruit them.

Each area also has its own dragon to challenge. These bosses are nothing to sneeze at; simply stabbing at the beast will most likely result in your party being reduced to barbecue. The dragons vary depending on the region and each requires a different strategy. Overcoming one requires you to utilize your party to the fullest and manage your meager supply of potions carefully. Felling a dragon feels like a huge accomplishment and the game celebrates and rewards your victory. The dragons serve as progression markers, which is sorely needed in a game as large as Inquisition.

After a while, the sheer scale of Inquisition is daunting. While the expanded environments are welcome after the rehashed postage sized ones in DAII, exploring them sometimes feels more like a chore. You'll have to pace yourself to keep from getting burned out on the myriad of quests, shards to collect, astrariums to solve, and crafting items to gather. Naturally, the place where you want to get to is usually on the other side of the map with no fast travel nearby. The mounts aren't exactly helpful either; they aren't much faster than your party on foot and they quickly become useless in mountainous terrain.  Scaling down a few environments or adding more fast travel stations would really help move the game along while keeping it fun. I want to do quests and collect everything I can, but I don't want the tedium of running all over creation multiple times in a single session.

Dragon Age: Inquisition melds its various systems together to form a cohesive whole where everything you do matters. No feature feels extraneous and the gameplay itself is satisfying. Facing a dragon is a true adrenaline rush and actually defeating one is cause for celebration. The writing is far and away the best of the series, with characters that have unique voices and motivations. Every choice is somewhere in a grey area, with no overwhelming right or wrong answer. However, the game shoots itself in the foot. While it's fantastic that the designers listened to complaints from the previous game, Inquisition is just too large. When you're doing story missions, the game feels streamlined while avoiding linearity. But when you're just out exploring, which makes up the majority of the game, it can get tedious. Dragon Age: Inquisition is still a decent game and worth a playthrough, just make sure that you're ready for a marathon.

Less expected than the Spanish Inquisition Out Of 10

 

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