Dragon Age: Inquisition (2014, Bioware)

dai

This is a short review for a very long game.

I spent approximately one hundred hours playing this game — exploring fen and mountain, slaying (endangered) dragons, talking to the members of my inner circle, reading backstory text logs, tweaking my party’s gear and abilities, trying to stop demons from pouring into the physical world — an amount of time I rarely come anywhere near in single player games.

I look back at all those hours now and I can barely explain what had me so enthralled. DAI subscribes to the Ubisoft/Assassin Creed gameplay trend of making everything a collectible or completionist checklist. A fair portion of my time spent was collecting magical shards, claiming landmarks for the inquisition, collecting random items for towns/countryfolk for minimal reward. In a word: busywork.

The plot does not bear up under scrutiny. The pacing is really awkward. You’re consistently foiling the one-dimensional villain and the ‘final’ battle is just putting him out of his misery, not stopping any pressing threat. The dialogue is undeniably goofy, often. The game tries to make single deaths a big deal — there’s plot beats based on revealing my buddies have murder in their past. Yet, this happened after I got an achievement for “kill 2500 enemies”, probably half of which were human bandits and soldiers. If you took all these story elements together and put them into a novel, I wouldn’t read it unless you paid me.

The combat and mechanics are fun but feature a major lack of balance. The designers tried to eliminate an antiquated mode of RPG combat — dedicated healers to reverse damage done by the player’s enemies. But in doing so, they just put more emphasis on a different antiquated RPG mechanic: the ‘tank’, or warrior who must soak up all the damage and keep enemies off the rest of the more fragile party members. Even on the hardest difficulty, fighting the hardest enemy (dragons), my whole group would die except my unkillable warrior who would slowly whittle down the dragon to death.

The game was also supremely buggy and forced me to reload several times; I missed one plot point because the major character involved disappeared and the game would show a blank wall and silence when she was supposed to be speaking.

And yet, no matter how nitpicky or damning I can write about this game, I enjoyed my time immensely. I was entranced. I thought about it at work when I wasn’t playing it.

I don’t know. Video games are weird.

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2 thoughts on “Dragon Age: Inquisition (2014, Bioware)”

  1. Short reviews are easily digested, but it must suck for reviewers to spend 20 – 40 hours on something for a review that will be the same length of a 1 hour game. I think you’re really the only review I read that mentioned the balance and the bugs. Everyone seems to be stuck on the story.

  2. Thanks. Sometimes I have a bazillion things to say about a game and end not actually writing about it due to that. It’s tough to find the balance of short but comprehensive enough to paint a decent picture.

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