September 3, 2018

5 Reasons why I’ve spent 60 hours (and counting) with Dragon Age: Inquisition

Holy shit.I recently covered the best way to prepare for Inquisition, in which I also detailed the merits of the previous two games – one universally acclaimed, one unfairly reviled by people blinded to a sublime narrative and incredible characters by a lack of environmental diversity. But telling people to ‘get over it’ just gets me pelted with rotten fruit (sometimes fresh fruit, but fresh fruit is firmer so actually hurts more), so I won’t do that here.

Instead, I’ll briefly urge you to play 1 and 2 if you can before wading into the hot swamp of sex juice that is Dragon Age: Inquisition. Think of it this way: Prisoner of Azkaban might be an awesome instalment in the Harry Potter series (and it is), but reading it without reading the first two sort of robs you of feeling every emotional beat of it.

Regardless of your drive to be a wild-eyed completionist or not, Inquisition is the best game I’ve played in years. The writing is second to none, the combat is fantastic… but here are the real reasons I think it excels. Also, here are the reasons that I’ve spent sixty hours on it since it came out on PC.

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It’s big

To quote Douglas Adams:

Dragon Age: Inquisition is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to Inquisition. The most insufferable complaint from critics of Dragon Age 2 was that it wasn’t big enough; that there weren’t enough varied places to go. BioWare has, in one fell swoop, created one of the biggest goddamned games, geographically, I’ve ever played. You still have to unlock new areas by way of the plot to access them, but each ‘zone’ is distinct, enormous, and every square foot is distinct. These aren’t just blankets of ‘stuff’ laid out to calm down fans, they’re living, breathing chunks of Thedas, locking together to fill out the continent like never before. Landmarks give lush codex entries filled with lore, so if you’re inclined to read them like I am, you end up not just exploring, but actually understanding the history of what you’re exploring. Also, the quests, errands and collectibles you have access to are pretty much the exact opposite of the brain-numbing collector-driven idiotic banality of Assassins Creed cities. Everything they give you to do – and they give you a LOT – has meaning and purpose within the framework of the game.

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The artwork is amazing

This might seem small, but it’s one of the most lovingly crafted aspects of Inquisition: codex entries aren’t just text anymore. Well… the text is there, but it’s all now excerpts from letters, forged documents, transcripts of gossip. Each entry is a document from within the game world, not some dry encyclopedia entry.

But each entry is on the ‘back’ of a hand-painted tarot card, meaning by filling out your collection, you’re really collecting cards, which look stupidly good. Some of the codex categories use a generic piece of art, but characters and creatures all get their own which, if I’m honest, I want to own in real life. So I can touch and stroke and hold them, politely ignoring the glares of my girlfriend.

Also, in a gorgeous touch, companion tarot artwork will change depending on major events that affect them throughout the story. It’s little touches like these that make the game really sing.

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The dragons are epic

In Skyrim, hunting dragons got pretty dull; they’d show up as initially operatic encounters, until eventually, you just sort of swat them away, or ignore them altogether. In Inquisition, there are ten elder dragons. Ten. Each with their own abilities, lore, personalities and associated quest chains to access them. I’ve taken down three so far, and I think I’m starting to get the hang of it, but it’s marvellous playing a game called Dragon Age and actually, you know, engaging with the lore and history and intrigue of Dragons themselves. Plus, you get some incredible loot and perks from hunting the big scaly bastards.

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Fan service (that’s actually good)

Normally, fan service is awful. Here, though, it’s superb: I won’t spoil for you the specifics, but some of the best characters from the previous two games make very clever appearances. These appearances never obstruct the flow of the plot, never hamper the story, they just sort of… rock. They rock balls. And what’s more, the choices you made (or imported via the Keep) really do come up a lot. This world is one you shaped, and it’s full of loving nods to all your hard work and investment in the series.

At one point, when asked about Kirkwall, Varric slyly replies “Oh, come on. Kirkwall wasn’t THAT bad”. If that isn’t shade thrown at Dragon Age 2 haters, I don’t know what is.

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