98 hours, 15 minutes and 20 seconds.
No, that's not how long it took me to finish Lost and (finally) understand the ending. This is in fact how long it took me to eventually find the courage to hit the pause button on Dragon Age Inquisition. Long enough to then assemble my thoughts into some coherent words and tell you that this is indeed the sequel we’ve not only wanted, but the one we deserved some years ago!
Dragon Age Inquisition draws a perfect balance between past glories and failed ideas to create something spectacular!
Clearly taking some heavy inspiration from the developers much applauded Mass Effect series, this is perhaps the most action orientated Dragon Age to date, but without making the same mistakes as Dragon Age 2, because although this is an action RPG, you can choose to ignore this concept and play Inquisition like a traditional RPG and party like it’s 1992!
Much like Mass Effect, you’ll find that your core quest in DA: Inquisition is to assemble the avengers of …. all in order to battle a growing evil that is most definitely on its way, looking to destroy everything in its path. This isn’t a simple task however as you’ll find yourself the only survivor in a rather bloody battle, with all signs pointing to you as the villain!
As the game opens, you’ll be greeted with a huge magical explosion that tears a rift between the human world and that of the demon spawns home land. This explosion leaves host of rebel Mages and chantry slaughtered in the blink of an eye, while you (a rather mysterious stranger) are quickly sucked into the demons realm and evacuated twice as fast, with nothing but a strange mark left to show for it!
It’s a good omen then, thanks to the mysterious mark, that you’re the only one able to close these rifts tearing their way through Orlais and Ferelden, as this stops you being judged and executed on the spot. Or so I was told, but I did my best to be a cool/abusive cat during my initial conversations (thanks Bioware, I do love the chance to be more than passive aggressive!)
After much convincing, you’ll be allowed to wander the realm and help out before becoming such an asset, you’ll be crowned the leader of the pack (known as the inquisition) and swiftly become the most vintage James Bond since Sean Connery!
Once into the meat and potatoes of Dragon Age Inquisition, you’ll come to realise that the pumping heart of its world is your Inquisitor Headquarters. Here you’ll have the opportunity to unlock new sections of the map which in turn offer more missions and missions there are in a plentiful supply. So many in fact, you’ll find yourself lost fighting evil, creating partnerships and closing rifts while seemingly struggling to put a dent into the almost endless list of things to do.
As you would expect, or at least hope for, in any good RPG, Dragon Age Inquisition offers more than a good mix of surroundings. From small buildings to long dark dungeons and vast countryside. Ferrelden and Orlais have a lot to offer todays hip young adventurer, you’ll forever be distracted from your main quest in search of pastures new, without ever feeling like you’ve hit an inevitable dead-end or at a loss of what to do.
Exploring the vast world at the end of your toes is advised and even encouraged but while it’s a rewarding experience for the gameplay you’ll encounter, it’s also a treat for your eyes to feast upon! With some of the most breathtaking visuals I've seen this generation! Snow capped mountains, abandoned keeps, deep forests, huge castles, misty swamps, vicious yet gorgeous wildlife, it’s the tourists guide to fantasy and easily the best this side of a little known RPG that rhymes with Pie Rim.
All this isn't to say that Dragon Age Inquisition is an easy ride, far from it in fact. The first few hours of gameplay will test your endurance somewhat, almost refusing to open itself up to you. Feeling like a patchwork RPG, with lots of mechanics to get your head around and so much to do, all the while only dribbling you snippets of plot line that for the most part seem un-interesting, you can quickly get bogged down.
But while this might turn some off, if you can push through, and simply enjoy the exploration to begin with, Dragon Age Inquisition will slowly unfurl and start offering you tidbits of greatness, until you notice day has turned to-night, a few times in fact, and you've played for hours.
As you'd expect from a Bioware title, morals and ethics play a huge part in your decision-making as the story gets down to the nitty-gritty. Not content with simply defining your alignment with light or dark, you can decide who you’ll stand beside, who to get chummy with and even who you’ll invite to your quarters. For..well, you know. If you want to win favour with some characters, expect to go on a few personal errands to show your commitment, especially if you want to send out that invite to the pants party.
Like every Bioware title before it, this is where Dragon Age Inquisition really comes to life, offering vast array of characters that will share more about themselves as time goes on, not always during missions either, more often than not, the most heartfelt conversations will be had while wandering the land, really working to tie your group together.
When the call goes out for a good scrap, you’ll be glad to know that the action side of things takes almost no time at all to understand and offers you the chance to go old school turn based RPG or stick with full on, real-time combat. If you’re in for the fast and furious, you can swing your sword and release tour arrows with the right trigger, while the face buttons handle spells, special moves, buffs and power attacks, all of which can of course be upgraded and re arranged at your leisure. When you fancy a change of character, simply hit the D-pas and you’ll cycle through your A-Team, but fear not if you don't fancy shedding your skin as each thankfully comes loaded with some decent AI so they'll look after themselves pretty well.
If you want, nay, NEED to go old school, then you can switch to a top down perspective which will freeze time, allowing you to set up your next few moves for each of the team. Once you’ve sorted your initial battle plans, simply hold the trigger down to advance time and continue on. While I personally preferred being in the thick of battle, handling things in real-time, the option was great and both mechanics worked amazingly well, with no complaints for either!
It’s clear then, that Dragon Age Inquisition is not only a big leap for the franchise, but to my eyes it’s the Dragon Age fans have always wanted, standing shoulder to shoulder with Biowares big hitters like Mass Effect and Knights of The Old Republic. With stunning surroundings, amazing music to treat your ear drums, rich characters and an amazing, if slow burning, plot, what’s not to like! Sure, it’ll take a good few hours to get going, but well worth it for fans of the series and new comers alike!