Review: Dragon Age - Inquisition (PS4 ver.)

The latest installment in Bioware’s major fantasy RPG franchise is sure to be met with a great degree of resistance and scrutiny from gamers. While the first installment, ‘Origins’, was of a a decently high quality, Dragon Age 2 took a huge step back, and almost felt like an expansion pack at times. So how does ‘Inquisition’ stand up to the previous two installments? Well, I’m very pleased to say that, not only does it stand up incredibly well, I feel it’s quite easily better than both. At times, there’s so much going on that it feels as though it’s fully in a league of its own.

Read on for a detailed breakdown of all the major elements you’ll come across throughout the course of your one-hundred hour (plus) stay in the world of Thedas.

Graphics

Graphically, the game is heavily reminiscent of CDPR’s ‘The Witcher 2’, albeit with an almost comic-like tinge to the visuals. You’d often be forgiven for thinking the game is Rated Mature. The environments are vast and varied in scope and design, with locales encompassing everything from huge forests, to desert canyons, arctic mountains and everything in between. Visually, the scope is incredibly impressive.

In terms of character models and designs, there is a large amount of variety, though many enemies are obviously fodder and filler. NPC’s feel unique, with there being barely any rehashing, even amongst lower guards and villagers. The whole world feels unique and alive.

Ambient effects, such as splash back from spells, blood spatter, light reflection, mist and other environmental features are incredibly well done. Make no mistake, even on PS4, this reflects the best that even some top end PC’s can push out at times. Surface sheen and reflection are also of high quality.
The down sides I do feel the need to mention are the existence of visible anti-aliasing ‘blurring’ around character models, and at times, meshes fail to load properly. Though oddly enough, I only ran into the latter issue in the desert environments where there was a high light output.

Plot and writing

While the game’s main plot is your standard fare ‘ancient evil returns to enslave the world’, the uniqueness of Dragon Age’s universe allows the writers to flesh it out in different ways. There will be no actual story discussion here, because I do believe it can be fairly fun and thrilling at times, even for something so standard, but I honestly felt it was very well handled. The game really shines in some of its side-quests and subplots, exploring some fairly dark themes at times, though nothing too ‘out of the ball park’. Suffice to say, the writing is something that I feel both dark fantasy and high fantasy readers/players will enjoy, It manages to straddle the line well enough that it remains fairly blurred on where it stands.

There were one or two issues in the main plot, of course. For instance, a possible DLC bait cliffhanger, or a set up for a sequel. Part of y hopes they’re starting up an ‘Inquisitor’ trilogy, akin to Mass Effect’s Commander Shepard story. There’s certainly a lot of room left for the world to really breathe and flourish, but whether Bioware will do it justice remains to be seen. Everything displayed so far definitely shows a great turnaround for the developer. The scope can be incredibly impressive, and it seems they’re definitely digging deep into the world they obviously spent many years creating.

I won’t discuss any smaller details here, but characterisation is also handled very well, with the cast being the best Bioware line-up in years. There’s a lot for you to get lost in here, and each character has their own subplot, usually small stories of their own, filled with twists, turns and high degree of drama. Some of it feels almost ‘Game of Thrones-esque’. Definitely not a bad thing.

Gameplay

The game plays almost exactly like the perfect mix between Dragon Age Origins and Dragon Age 2. Though I feel I must add that it has taken many liberties with its inspirations from other series’. The influence of both ‘TES V: Skyrim’, as well as ‘The Witcher 2’ are very evident. One other game I do feel it could certainly sit perfectly alongside, however, would Capcom’s cult hit ‘Dragon’s Dogma’. The overall feel of the way the game plays is very similar to me, and I’m somebody who poured hundreds of hours into ‘Dark Arisen’.

The skill tree system is taken directly from Dragon Age 2, and is utilised in the exact same fashion, so no surprises there. Crafting, however, is a large mix of your standard fare MMORPG crafting system, but heavily influenced by Skyrim’s weapon/armour creation mechanic. I found it all to be incredibly addictive stuff, and considering there are no ‘pay to play’ mechanics that allow you to bypass the hunting/farming, it can really extend the life of the game and give you a great sense of gratification upon crafting the perfect equipment.
My favourite inclusion to the game would be the new tactical map function, which can be used to pause the game, assess the battlefield, line up commands for party members and other nifty little features. This mechanic is especially helpful for the higher difficulties, as enemies can be very unforgiving, even on normal difficulty. It’s an inclusion I feel a lot of the more ‘hardcore’ crowd will greatly appreciate.

Sound/Music

There isn’t much to discuss here. The soundtrack is standard fare fantasy orchestral, with some unusual additions of the ‘wub’ effect every now and then. An unfortunate addition, as it can make the game sound fairly mechanical, when it’s clearly very organic. I can imagine they were added due to the large part ‘The Fade’ plays in the game’s plot. It makes things sound very uneven and ‘otherworldly’. I still feel this is a series that would benefit greatly from the addition of Jeremy Soule’s masterful songwriting, though many would likely compare it too much to The Elder Scrolls’ at that point.

Sound effects are of a very high quality with the right speakers, with nice additions of bass and a good amount of ‘crunch’ upon contact of attacks. The audio fidelity can be great at times, but that’s all that can really be said. It’s swords and shields clashing against swords, shields and armour. Definitely sound effects we’re all familiar with at this point.

Replayability

It took me around 120 hours to finish just about everything the game had to offer, though there remain a few high dragons for me to slay (very tough post-game bosses). The keep allows for a lot of variance in the world’s intricacies, and the plot has enough forks to last you around three runs. I get the feeling there are many smaller nuances to be found that relate to the first two games as well. There’s definitely a lot of room for roleplaying.

TL;DR?

This game is definitely a fantastic way to kick off a new generation of RPG’s. Bioware’s future has never looked as bright as it has following this instalment in there mega-RPG franchise. I’m wary to state, but I feel we can expect great things from this new era of Bioware-RPG’s going forward. It definitely has enough content to warrant it’s RRP and then some. Let’s just hope they don’t mess things up come the inevitable DLC/Expansion pack releases.