Due to technical issues and personal events, I have not been able to play Dragon Age: Inquisition to the lengths that I had expected. Yet even without these setbacks I wasn’t foolish enough to believe that I’d be anywhere close to done in time to write this first article (oh yes, there will be another one). Twenty hours into the game and having only really explored the Hinterlands—the very first area—I’m getting a good sense of what I’ll be in for, and I have to say that some problems aside, this is exactly what I wanted from this game.
Inquisition allows players to choose from four races this time around: humans, elves, dwarves, and the newest addition, qunari. Each race is reacted to differently within game so some inquisitors may be treated better if they’re human, others may gain certain notoriety if they’re qunari, and so forth. As is my MO with games that allow me the option, my first playthrough is as a Dalish elf rogue, so I’m looking forward to walking through the game with all that barely restrained prejudice coming from every human, especially from the Chantry, because who needs to believe in the Maker when you have your own set of cool Dalish gods. Just the person that should be leading the inquisition, right? Or, rather, I’m not the leader yet.
Spoilers under the cut.
Inquisition starts the player off as a prisoner taken in by the Seeker Cassandra. You’ve been accused of killing Divine Justinia V, the head priestess of all the chantries in Thedas and a huge political power, along with all of her replacements. With this huge loss, every devout worshiper of the Maker is in turmoil and the general public is panicking as well—is this a sign from the Maker for renewal, or it is a punishment? And certainly there’s much evidence against you: you were found in the rubble of where the Divine was holding her peace negotiations and now you’re sporting this lovely green mark on your hand that marks you as having some part to play. The question is: what is this part? At first it seems as if this part is a murderer, as no one seems particularly interested in what you have to say. Beyond the death of the Divine and the other Revered Mothers, all over Thedas ominous green splotches called rifts have appeared in the sky, opening the way between the mortal world and the world of spirits—the Fade—allowing demons to pour in and do as they please. It is, perhaps, understandable that your accusers are not exactly willing to listen to you. However, you and Cassandra quickly discover that the mark on your hand reacts to these rifts, and after getting close enough to one it’s revealed that you have the power to close these rifts; you are the only one around with this power. Thus far. So while many still believe you are a murderer, others now believe that you are sent from Andraste herself. No longer are you a criminal to these people, but the Herald of the Maker’s bride: a prophet and now, divine.
That’s about how far I’ve gotten into the story, and that’s just the prologue. I really appreciate the connecting threads between all of the Dragon Age games being about heroes who have situations forced upon them, and they’re, in turn, forced to react. It’s a personal preference, but I enjoy seeing characters turn into heroes—or villains—rather than it already being established from the beginning. I believe that Inquisition players will be able to experience this on a more nuanced level than, say, in DA2. This is because the dialogue itself is more nuanced this time around. Bioware’s writing has always been, for the most part, very good, so it’s not so much about a change in writing as it is about expanding on the player’s dialogue options. In DA:O, the player character had many dialogue options to choose from, yet since the character was a silent protagonist, it was difficult to get a sense of how they were truly interacting with their compatriots without a whole lot of meta. Conversely, in DA2, players could see and hear how their characters interacted with their party and the other people they came across because the protagonist was voice-acted, but there were only really three ways to respond to each situation: nicely/diplomatically, sarcastically, or aggressively. DA:I combines these two and gives the players more of a range of emotions than “happy” or “mad”. The newest emotion option that I’m getting the most mileage out of is the confused responses—given the situation the player character is in, why wouldn’t they be hella confused? In giving the players more options, I really do believe that Bioware has given us more of an opportunity to further immerse ourselves in this expansive world.
Going along with that, the actual words coming out of the player character’s mouth seem to be a lot more nuanced as well. The easiest way to explain what I mean is by comparing flirt options. As you go through the game, you may find you want to romance one of the party members, and you express this by choosing flirt options in the dialogue wheel. In DA2, usually every flirt option, when spoken by Hawke, ends up boiling down to “you’re hot, he he” which, while not without its own brand of charm, makes me dread picking them because I get second hand embarrassment something fierce.
That same dread filled me when I saw my first flirt option in DA:I, yet I was pleasantly surprised to discover that when the flirt option said “I will protect you” the character didn’t end up saying something about how they would protect the character’s hot bod or in bed, but actually made it sound like they would actually protect them. It wasn’t the flirting I had come to know in this series—it sounded much more… natural. This could be chalked up to DA2’s Hawke being completely inexperienced when it comes to romance, but I much prefer it DA:I’s way.
In terms of gameplay, if I could compare it to any other game it would, without a doubt, be Skyrim. Do you like walking around huge, beautiful maps picking up crafting materials and killing respawning enemies like bandits and bears? Then Dragon Age: Inquisition is the game for you! No really, I’ve spent so long merely traipsing about the forest harvesting embrium and iron with no concern for moving the plot forward. Who could even think about doing that when there are caves to explore and a map to fill out?! …Yeah, DA:I is hitting that special gaming spot of me being completely entertained without actual story. As much as I enjoy this kind of mechanic, it does make me worried. Completionists were given a 200+ hour game time from start to finish, but if 100 of those hours are devoted to picking up random collectibles scattered across the land, that’s not really gameplay. Sure, collectibles are fun, but I’d rather have more time devoted to actual story and characters than being forced to wander around for hours because I only need one more shard of something to complete my collection. I’m hoping this fear ends up being unfounded.
Outside of all this, the one thing that really brought down DA:I’s hype for me, and still continues to do it for some people, is the absolutely abysmal customer service. I know I couldn’t actually play the game for the first two days it was out simply because I couldn’t connect to the servers to import my data from the Keep. (True, technically I could have played, but I was going to use my data come hell or high water.) Yet no matter how many threads I looked on the support boards with people having the same problems, EA’s technical support seemed uninterested in doing much more than copy-pasting one set of solutions. If that ended up not working, then the thread was ignored. I’ve even heard stories of people calling technical support and getting little else than a “lol we’ve never heard of this problem.” This is a huge title, and while server hiccups and some problems are expected so close to release, the lack of communication between technical support/the developers was, and continues to be, inexcusable and frankly unprofessional. Even now I can only connect to the DA servers about fifty percent of the time. I can only pray that my game doesn’t have one of these oft-reported game-breaking glitches, because I can be sure that I’m not going to find a fix for it from EA’s mouth.
Despite the bad blood from tech support, the game is gorgeous. It’s also very graphics intensive, so I would recommend playing it on lower graphics settings. Most importantly, though, it’s engaging and keeps me coming back for more, making hours slip by when it feels like I’ve only been playing for minutes. That’s what I want from an RPG, or any game: I want to be so immersed that I no longer have a grasp on what time is. Come next article I hope to be far enough to actually write on the characters and representation, but I might just get stuck wandering around the coast, looking for landmarks and crafting materials. Don’t wait up for me.