EA Games has swapped sports and Sims for swords and sandals with the new fantasy role-playing game from BioWare, Dragon Age: Inquisition.
The continent of Thedas - an expanded version of the world from the previous games - has taken a turn for the worst. The religious order of The Chantry is in turmoil, the Templars and the Mages have turned on each other and a devastating rift into the afterlife realm, The Fade, has opened up killing thousands.
All across the land weaknesses in The Veil, the magical barrier which separates the world from The Fade, have caused smaller rifts to open, spewing forth demons and other nasties.
It’s a dark time indeed.
Fortunately the game’s main protagonist has the means to sort all out using a strange glowing mark obtained within The Fade during the game’s intro-come-character creation sequence.
After a brief prologue my newly minted female elven rogue finds herself promptly drafted into the newly formed Inquisition, charged with bringing peace and closing those Fade Rifts.
My rogue isn’t alone on this epic journey. Pretty much from the outset she was joined by a team of other characters made up from traditional fantasy archetypes. My initial comrades-at-arms were the stoic warrior Cassandra Pentaghast, the Dwarven rogue Varric and the Elven mage Solas.
As I progressed through the game I picked up more members for my company. Only a four member parties are allowed. Whilst it can be hard leaving your favourite characters at home, it’s nice to mix things up and try different combinations of characters and classes.
Dragon Age: Inquisition is all about exploration, and it looks so wonderful, you can’t help but get lost in it all. The game world is split up into a series of enormous open-world areas. The first area, The Hinterlands, is a mix of lush farmland, hills, mountains and streams.
The hub of the game world is Haven. It was here that I found the blacksmith who introduced me to the games crafting system. Using some of the metal I’d hacked from hillsides and skins that I’d hacked from various critters I was able to fashion my own armour. I could also use the smith to upgrade weapons with new hilts and runes. Haven is also the location of the war room.
The war room is where the Inquisition’s war council meets. Using the war map, agents can be sent out on missions to gather intel- gaining items, gold and sometimes unlock a new area. Often these missions will require power points which are gained through successful questing.
And quest you will. As well as the main story missions and the side quests, the land is dotted with interesting place and things to do.
When you are not taking in the game’s beautifully realised environments you are engaging in conflict. To begin with you opponents are both the warring Templars and Mages, as well as the demons and undead emerging from the Fade Rifts.
The game’s combat is a pretty standard affair that’ll be familiar with anyone that’s played an action RPG. You basically spam the attack button, which is either a range or melee attack depending on your weapon whilst occasionally hitting the characters special abilities, in between the cool-down times.
Whilst I had a lot of fun, I did come across a couple of issues.
Until I switched off the “Origin in game” setting in the Origin client I experienced a pretty regular stutter every minute or so. It was annoying because other than that, I was able to run the game on ultra with an otherwise accesptable framrate
There were also times when the audio played up. I first noticed it when I was about seventeen hours in. One location in particular had NPCs clipping the end of their lines. Teething trouble, perhaps, but again a bit annoying. With both of these issues, I have no idea if it was my machine or the installation. As the game progressed the audio sorted it’s self out. Oh, the joys of PC gaming.
These complaints were only very minor issues that I had during an epic gaming experience that was otherwise perfect.
The game also has a co-op multiplayer mode which, due to the early-access nature of this review, I didn’t get to play very much. Basically four players choose from a number of different archetypes and fight alongside each other through dungeons completing quests and obtaining loot. The characters are persistent and level up unlocking abilities like they do in the single-player campaign. It looks very promising, adding many more hours of gameplay to an already huge game.
Dragon Age: Inquisition is a marvellous experience. It’s accessible but deep gameplay is finely crafted- drawing you into a world that's difficult to let go of. From bracing coastlines to lush grassy meadows, and from foreboding swamps to opulent spires, the world of Thedas is a sight to behold.
This is a game that raises the bar when it comes to epic fantasy RPGs. With a gripping story, beautiful environments, a wealth of interesting quests and satisfying combat I really can't recommend it enough. It’s quite possibly my game of the year.