I’ve never actually seen Game of Thrones. Sorry, guys. That’s why my colleague Grayson Hamilton has the pleasure of reviewing the Game of Thrones game and I’m not getting anywhere near it. Trust in his judgment. What I HAVE seen, however, is Dragon Age. It’s a high fantasy tale full of adventure, drama and questionably-written-and-performed dialogue! Think of it as the B-movie of fantasy games and you’re in good shape. The latest in the series, Dragon Age: Inquisition continues the series’ tradition of being fun as hell and unintentionally hilarious. Unless we’re talking about Dragon Age 2, in which case it’s just unintentionally hilarious. Anyway…
Dragon Age Inquisition’s single-player campaign follows the Inquisitor, a character of your design that finds xyrself branded with a mystical symbol on xyr hand. Xe realizes fairly early on that it’s capable of closing rifts to the Fade, the Dragon Age setting’s dream realm and source of all manner of demonic nastiness, and this leads to xem becoming the leader of an Inquisition to discover what’s causing the rifts to appear in the first place. You can customize your hero’s race, appearance and class to your liking; further, as Inquisitor, your hero is the leader of a significant organization, so you’re able to send agents on missions and engage in political intrigue to amass power and achieve your goals.
Before you even start the game, you’re offered the option to spend around half an hour messing with the Dragon Age Keep, a web-based application that lets you generate import data (or use actual import data) for the previous Dragon Age games, letting you decide what happened in those titles that will carry over to Inquisition. This is definitely an improvement over the Mass Effect games, where the game would typically decide Shepherd was just a giant racist asshole if you didn’t import save data. Definitely says something about how BioWare feels about people who don’t buy all its games, right? The Keep is good stuff, but if you’re not intimately familiar with the previous games expect to run into a lot of situations where you’re asked to make ambiguous decisions on past events with no context whatsoever.
This adventure is presented in the usual BioWare style, by which I mean it’s written at about the same level as a good Saturday morning cartoon or a bad summer blockbuster movie. Don’t expect life-changing performances here is what I’m saying, but it’s all solid popcorn fluff. You’ve got a motley crew of bros and bro-ettes who will team up with the Inquisitor to get some monster-killing and chest-looting done, several of whom are returning cast members from previous games and several of whom are new.
Naturally, since this is a BioWare game, there’s romantic options for your Inquisitor as well if you’d like to add ugly-bumping to the list of things you guys do together. Much like the last two games, I didn’t mess with any of these because the Uncanny Valley-inducing characters and questionable writing quality lead me to think it’s all kind of creepy and weird. There are homosexual and bisexual options available though (it’s 20-god-damn-14, why didn’t this happen years ago), so enjoy if that’s your bag.
My bag is less “making virtual people get it on” and more “making virtual people kill other virtual people and take their stuff.” How fortunate that there’s plenty of that in the single-player campaign! Maybe too much, actually. There’s tons and tons and tons of stuff to do. You’ll be hammering away with the game’s real-time-with-pause-a-la-Dragon-Age-2-but-way-better combat system for around sixty hours if you want to see everything, then you can go ahead and do it again if you want to try another class. Quests run the gamut from “kill ten rats” to “engage in ten conversations” to “fetch this thing” to “reverse-fetch this thing to that guy,” so basically it touches on all the RPG talking points. If you’re after some high fantasy romping and subsequent high fantasy violence, you can’t really go wrong here.
So the single-player is great and absolutely packed with content, but I’m going to be honest: I didn’t get this game to play the single-player. I’m happy it’s there, I’m glad it’s good, but much like Mass Effect 3 I feel the real value for your money here is in the cooperative multiplayer mode. In Dragon Age Inquisition’s multiplayer you choose from a selection of classes, team up with three pals (or strangers, as you like) and adventure through randomly generated dungeons to grab cash and loot.
There’s quite a few different classes to choose from so you’re bound to find something that suits you. The basic options (Legionnaire, Archer and Keeper) are all solid, balanced choices, but if you’d like something a little more advanced you can hope for a class drop from a loot chest or salvage unneeded loot to make materials and craft the one you’re after. Generally, two to three hours of play is enough to get any class you’d like; lucky players are probably going to find more, of course, but you should have everyone you feel like playing within a couple days. The classes are varied enough that switching between different flavors of fighter, mage or rogue feels like a significant shift and significantly shakes up the gameplay. Working to gear up your various classes is a great time and you’re bound to sink hours into it.
Unfortunately, and perhaps expectedly, this is a modern AAA game so of course it’s buggy as hell. The single-player has a bunch of lovely framerate issues that occur during cutscenes; these are tied to overlay programs like Fraps and Puush, so try disabling those if you run into problems. Friends that joined me for multiplayer sessions rapidly realized that the most dangerous foes weren’t the demons or Red Templars, but the vases full of gold. They’re smashable, you see. Eventually. It takes some swinging, and sometimes you’ll smash one and it’ll spontaneously reconstruct itself. I’m not really sure how the game launched with self-repairing loot vases, but so be it. The game also crashes sometimes and freezes sometimes and yadda yadda yadda.
The other big annoyance in multiplayer is the fact that the game automatically engages always-on voice chat and there’s no option for turning it off, meaning you’re going to hear tons of nerdvoice and tons of echoed nerdvoice from random strangers. Again, this seems like a pretty obvious issue that should’ve been fixed before launch, but I don’t think the games industry really works like that anymore, so you’ll want to find the mute button ASAP. Naturally, the microtransaction system works just fine. BioWare knows upon which side its bread is buttered. Still, though, it’ll probably eventually be patched, maybe!
All in all, the massive amount of single-player content and similarly massive amount of multiplayer content means Dragon Age: Inquisition is a great purchase despite the infestation of bugs. Long-standing Dragon Age fans can’t go wrong. Players new to the series will find a much more inviting experience than either of the previous games; it’s certainly possible to start here and still have a great experience. Go ahead and spend some time as the Inquisitor. Just watch out for the bugs, both demonic and otherwise.