Last week, after 118 hours of gameplay, I finished Dragon Age: Inquisition.
I went into Inquisition feeling conflicted. While Dragon Age: Origins was one of the best games I played, I had mixed feelings toward its sequel, and Inquisition was open world, not my preferred style.
Since I played it for over 100 hours, you’d think I’d be 100% in favor of Inquisition. And I did enjoy it. Dragon Age: Inquisition is a good game.
Nevertheless, I left it feeling decidedly conflicted.
Inquisition splits its open world into several large regions, rather than a single connected world. In theory, this makes it more appealing to me. There were distinct areas to explore.
However, the majority of those areas mean nothing to the overall plot. There’s a plot tie-in to get you there, but the main quest quietly waits in another area while you complete sidequests that ultimately feeling meaningless. You get power and influence, yes, but the quests felt more like a series of objectives to complete for completion’s sake, rather than part of my struggle to save the world.
In Dragon Age: Origins, your plot quest was usually in a large area with a variety of sidequests you could also pick up. Dragon Age 2 put everything in a single city and its surroundings. But Inquisition keeps the sidequests so separate from the main quest, they almost feel like two different games.
A few areas did it right. The Western Approach, for example, was a wide open area with a plot quest within it. I explored and did sidequests on my way to and from the plot event. It worked. I enjoyed it. But most of the game is not like that.
But Inquisition really wanted to focus on exploring its open world, so a lot of game content lies there… which makes its main story not only feel separate, but somewhat weak. I enjoyed its plot points, but there was so much nothing in between them, the pacing felt stilted. I was shocked to reach the end, because it felt like it came too quickly despite 100+ hours of gameplay.
On a more minor note, I have some criticisms of the character creator. Xenoblade Chronicles X is under fire because you can’t make your character’s chest size identical to yours, but what about Inquisition’s hairstyles?
Origins and DA2 may not have had the greatest hairstyle selection, but why take away half those options? And why are there so many bald/shaved/buzzed options compared to everything else?
And why, when I finally gave my Inquisitor black hair, did it look brown in most scenes? Oh well. Character customization is fun, but it’s not a huge deal.And the rest of the cast made up for my lackluster Inquisitor.
My party members were phenomenal, and one of my favorite parts of the game. Cassandra, the Seeker from DA2’s frame story, returned and proved to be a quite entertaining character. Iron Bull (the most laid-back qunari you’ll ever meet, and my romance option of choice) and an unusual spirit named Cole joined her as my favorites. The rest of the party also had shining moments (with the possible exception of Blackwall, whom I found rather boring).
You can spend a lot of time in Inquisition just talking to party members, and it was one of the things I liked the most.
On the other hand, my criticisms of the way Dragon Age 2 handled romance remained, and I missed the more organic, natural way of romancing a character that Dragon Age: Origins and Mass Effect used. I felt as though I simply had to pick a character and choose the right options (helpfully marked with a heart icon) rather than get to know the character and let the relationship develop, like another player explains in more detail.
And despite an ominous start, the main villain disappointed me. After the early portion of the game, I stopped feeling threatened by him. I didn’t feel Origins’ oppressing sense of being up against an unstoppable enemy.
The major choices also felt disappointing. Other than the first big choice, whether to side with the mages or templars (in a war which quickly ends, despite Dragon Age 2 setting it up as major plot point), I never felt like I was hard-pressed to make a tough decision.
(Part of this is because of the choices I made in previous games. What could have been a difficult choice at one point instead had me choose between a beloved character I spent hours with and an NPC I barely knew. Emotional impact gone.)
One last criticism, and then I’ll stop complaining. Dragon Age Keep. I knew going into this that choices couldn’t be carried over the same way, but I thought when I imported my Origins/DA2 saves into the Keep, it would register my choices. No, I still had to select them manually.
I thought it would at least import my previous protagonists’ appearances. No, instead of the exciting moment I expected when my Hawke would walk in, Inquisition sent me back to its horrible character creator to attempt to remake her as best I could.
(I also was really disappointed when the Architect didn’t make an appearance in Inquisition. I waited through all of DA2 for him and thought this was his time to return!)
After all this, it must sound like I disliked Dragon Age: Inquisition. I didn’t. I loved my party members and their interactions. Some banter and scenes made me laugh out loud.
I enjoyed exploring the world, even if its lack of relevance to the plot eventually made me tire of it. Despite the main plot’s flaws, it had some epic moments. And the epilogue’s twist struck me as so brilliant, I only wished the rest of the story lived up to it.
Although it falls far short of Dragon Age: Origins, Inquisition is a good game. In many ways, it’s two okay games. And if they worked together a little more, instead of making Dragon Age: Inquisition feel like it has a split personality, it could have been a great game.
As it is, I recommend Dragon Age: Inquisition with some reservations, and hope the next game learns from its mistakes.
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