Dragon Age: Inquisition Reviewed And Benchmarked

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Rise Of the Inquisition

For all its sense of scope, Dragon Age: Origins kept a very tight focus. There's no sense of what it means to be a part of a cohesive organization because while you've just become a Grey Warden, the events of the early game lead to the deaths of nearly every other Warden in the country. Dragon Age II is even more you-centric; the Champion of Kirkwall belongs to no other group or organization. With Dragon Age: Inquisition, BioWare wanted to creat a fundamentally different experience.

Skyhold Inquisition
Forget a campsite. How about a castle?

Thedas has always felt like a vast world -- and now, it is. Dragon Age: Inquisition doesn't just tell an epic story, it evolves in a way that leaves you, as the Inquisitor, leading an army. Creating that sense of scope required a fundamentally different approach to gameplay. Neither DAO or DA2 had a true "open" world in the sense that Skyrim is an open world. Instead, players clicked on a location and auto-traveled across the map from Point A to Point B. Thus, a village might be contained within a single map, while a major city might have 10-12 different locations to explore.

Inquisition keeps the concept of maps as opposed to a completely open world, but it blows those maps up to gargantuan sizes. Instead of simply consisting of a single town or a bit of wilderness, the new maps in Dragon Age: Inquisition are chock-full of areas to explore, side quests, crafting materials to gather, and caves, dungeons, mountain peaks, flowing rivers, and roving bands of monsters.

DAI Hinterlands
Not only is this all one map, I've only explored a fraction of it. You can spend many hours just cleaning up side quests in any given area
This dramatic shift in focus isn't without some rough edges -- the game's early chapters lag, particularly if you try to do all the quests in the first area, the Hinterlands, before moving on. Nonetheless, Dragon Age: Inquisition is as tightly woven as you want it to be. The majority of the quests, crafting, and map explorations don't need to be done to complete the game, allowing players to move through the story at their own pace.

And what a story it is. Dragon Age: Inquisition explores the aftermath of the Mage/Templar war that kicked off in the final moments of Dragon Age II. The game begins with the murder of the foremost religious leader on the continent and the end of any chance for peace. Her assassination punches a hole through the Veil, the magical curtain between the living world and the Fade, where demons, spirits, and the dead all dwell. With the barrier rent, demons and spirits from the netherworld poor forth into the lands of Ferelden and Orlais.

Varric Comparison
Some people like to claim that next-gen consoles aren't much more powerful than previous ones. Judge for yourself. These are PC screenshots, but the PC game is ultimately limited by console capabilities.

It falls to the player, as the only survivor of the explosion that killed the Divine, to close these rifts. Instead of putting that burden on a rag-tag group of allies, Dragon Age: Inquisition assembles an army. Logistics and supply considerations and big-picture strategizing are woven alongside the conventional exploration, character development, and plot twists that BioWare is known for.

Inquisition Perks  Jar Bees
The Inquisition offers a series of perks (11 in total) that can be used to boost your character. Want to terrify enemies? How about a jar of bees!

If you played Mass Effect 3 and wished that the "War Assets" concept, in which you built your forces and army to attack the Reavers, had been a much larger part of the game, than you'll like what BioWare has done with the Inquisition. From a virtual overmap, you can send missions and assign tasks to the various agents, scouts, spies, and military wings of the Inquisition. With the Chantry consumed in turmoil, mages running amok, and the Grey Wardens vanished, there's desperate need for a military order that can restore some semblance of peace and close the tear between this world and the next.

Ferelden map

Inquisition doesn't forget the small stuff -- the companion quests, the fleshed-out NPCs, or the rich storytelling -- it just seeks to put those events in a much larger context across a broad geographical area. For the most part, this works, though it does seem as though there's less room in the game for moral choices, or for non-violent solutions. All modern computer games tend to prioritize the "Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out" method of problem solving, but previous Dragon Age's often gave you the option of talking your way out of many scraps and snarls.

There's less of that here, though whether it was due to a deliberate design decision or just crunch time to get the game done, I don't know.

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