Dragon Age Inquisition review (PS3)

>I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I started playing Dragon Age Inquisition. On one hand I have fond memories of Dragon Age: Origins, which remains one of the best games I have ever played (and I have played A LOT of games). On the other, however, is the more recent memory of Dragon Age 2, which I can only describe as a crushing disappointment. It followed a now familiar pattern – BioWare makes amazing game, listens to fans, then makes mediocre game next. Listening to the opinions of the people who play your games is useful, I think, up to a certain point, where you just have to ignore them and make the game that you want to make regardless of what they think or say. After all, who are the professional game developers here? You or them?

Fortunately, Dragon Age Inquisition sees BioWare right back on form, and is a fantastic, massive role-playing game in which there’s so much to do and discover that you may never be truly finished (especially when the inevitable DLC starts coming) – and that’s perfect, because I don’t think I ever want to stop playing it.

You start the game in the traditional RPG style of designing a character to play down to the tiniest detail – there are options for cheekbones, forehead size, outer AND inner iris colour and so on. Interesting, though, for a smorgasbord of so many options, some seem strangely limited. There are only about 10 different ladies’ hairstyles, for example, although there are a dazzling array of differently shaped bald heads to choose from if I desired. The same with hair colour and tattoos – there weren’t really a whole lot of options to play with. Still, it took me well over an hour to decide on a character and in the end I didn’t so much as finish the task as just decide enough was enough and I should get on with playing the actual game.

The game starts with a big bang – a massive explosion has shaken the Temple of Sacred Ashes, where the heads of the Magi and Templars had been gathered to try and broker a peace treaty between their two factions. You wake in the middle of this explosion with no memory of the events, and with a strange green glowing mark on your left hand. Not surprisingly, people are more than a bit suspicious at first, and assume that it was probably you that blew up the building and haul you off to prison. However, Truth Seeker Cassandra – who you’ll recognize as a character from the second game – seems disinclined to execute you. Instead she takes you and your glowing hand to one of the many weird green glowing rifts that have suddenly appeared in the sky, complete with demons pouring out of them, to see what happens. As you approach the rift, your hand glows and it closes. Seems you might prove more useful than alive rather than dead, after all, and so Cassandra goes against the powers that be to rescue you.

Since most of the great and the good are now buried somewhere underneath a pile of smouldering ash, Cassandra declares that she is setting up an Inquisition in an attempt to restore peace and some semblance of normality across the land. A good deal of the game will involve you securing supplies, money and troops for the cause and building your power to the point where you are respected enough among the people to actually be able to make this happen.

The game is set in a continent called Thedas, which is split into many different regions including a green, woody farmland, rugged mountains and a beautiful sandy desert. It’s said to be four to five times the size of Ferelden, which was the setting for Origins, and that was pretty big. So that would make Inquisition mind-bogglingly big, as Douglas Adams would say. You start with two solid goals – to build the power of the Inquisition and to find and close all the demonic rifts in the region. From there, of course, there are twists and turns and side quests, as well as plenty of crafting, chatting, songs and different weaponry.
A few characters from previous games make an appearance, notably the dwarf Varric (complete with his favourite crossbow, Bianca) and super spy Leliana. Although it gives the game a certain amount of continuity with the others in the series and it’s interesting to see their new iterations, I always prefer an RPG to start with a completely fresh roster of characters since part of the fun is getting to know all these weird and wonderful people. My one major complaint about the game is that the party characters especially weren’t anywhere near as fun or as interesting as they were in the previous two games, and the banter between them was sadly, nowhere near as hilarious.

Other than that, there’s really not much you can find to pick at in Dragon Age Inquisition. If you’re a fan of role-playing games, this is simply a must play.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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