DAI The Manificant Four

True to Its Root, an Ambitious Attempt and Success – Dragon Age Inquisition Review

Dragon Age, when you hear it, what do you think of?

Is it the age of dragons? Some fantasy world? Or, you may know, and know very well–one of Bioware’s main franchises Dragon Age.

It’s a little bit strange for me actually to ponder around the game after I have read what had happened to the development. After 3 years of the game release, I have finally concluded the game, it’s a bit bittersweet to be frank.

I have played all Dragon Age’s titles, and Origins has to be the most original and memorable one. Inquisition, on the other hand, is a mild success I’d say.

Dragon Age 2 was rather a meh, don’t quite feel like a Dragon Age game if you compare it to the first. The reason it being a Dragon Age game is because the settings are in Dragon Age universe.

But in the third installment Inquisition, I’ve found the familiar feeling in Origins and Awakening.

Now I can’t possibly just sit down and lay out my hands to everyone and say: “Hey this is crazy, coz it’s Dragon Age!”

No, I can’t do that. I couldn’t possibly do that after I have read what had happened to the development and what I have experienced in the game.

The reason why I call it a mild success is that it didn’t fail to deliver the wishes from fans to be an exquisite Dragon Age game, but the flaws inside the games are also blatantly obvious.

 

Quests

Dragon Age Inquisition side questApparently ambitions have devoured the game, besides a few good side quests, many side quests in Dragon Age Inquisition are as frivolous as they can get.

I’ve read interview from Mark Darrah:

The Hinterlands was full of fetch quests—“garbage quests,” Darrah called them—that would send you off to deliver herbs and kill throngs of wolves. They were serviceable timewasters, but they felt like chores compared with Inquisition’s fascinating main story.

–Blood, Sweat, and Pixels    by Jason Schreier

And not only do these exist in Hinterland, in fact, they are all over the 10 open world maps. Completing them would be a total waste of time and thus why I stopped after I have completely cleared out 4 maps.

And here you may find out what’s the problem inside Inquisition. These side quests serve as the “explore triggers” for you to take a few extra miles delve into the other sides of the map, so that you won’t just stick around the center of it.

I remember I did a really worthless quest in Forbidden Oasis: There was this woman, a female NPC claimed that she was a scavenger salvage around the place. When I encountered her, I naturally interacted with her, and in the conversation, she mentioned a ring she hid in a cave herself. The reason for hiding is she just doesn’t want to see it anymore. And later, the side quest activated to actually request me to retrieve the ring for her?! This was bizarre at first and I just didn’t want to do it.

After wandering around the map awhile I came across the cave, so conveniently, I went in and killed whomever dwelling in the cave and got the ring. In the meantime, I found a door locked and it required a key. The quest menu didn’t say much about the key so I figured might be around the map somewhere.

Later, headed back to the lady who “wants and wants not” the ring and I gave it back to her. She said most thank you to me (OK, this is really weird.) and handed me a key. Turns out this is the frigging key for the cave after all! And I have to go back again for a long distance just to open a damn door, with only one loot box! And mind you the reward wasn’t great.

I really don’t get why level designer did this, filling this kind of garbage quest into the map, just to fill up the content. And Inquisition has this kind of quests all around the open world maps, it’s annoying as hell.

As a man of OCD, I am compelled to perfect all quests and maps, and these… These just make me reluctant to finish them at all.




These quests serve no meaning, and they are a waste of resources and energy. Think about it, the few writers have to squeeze their brains out to fill up the enormous amount of dialogues, texts and contexts of these quests. And most of them would be overlooked.

Specifically regarding on the texts, they all look like this: “Oh my god this is the end of the world! I am so afraid and I hide in a cave in xxxx, please find me!”; or “Hey I left you something, you should check it out!”; or “I found a secret chest in location xxx, don’t tell anybody!”; or “My love I am so afraid I will get killed, please meet me at xxx.” (And yeah you will find her/his dead body); or “Someone killed my family and I will battle him at xxxx”………

Not saying they are very bad, and it’s not that the theme of apocalypse is not good. It’s just that having too many of them and they start to wear out. This is not just Inquisition’s only problem, it’s for many many 3A games out there–THE fillers. A lot of games have this “tips and notes” feature that serve as a demonstration for the said world, through these notes reflect the world’s society aspect. However, they are not as useful as they look like. Because if you keep making these fillers with the same old same old everyday, people would get worn out, and the “tips and notes” would wear out too.

Instead filing tons of these frivolous notes into the world, it’s better to just file a few and crucial ones. The reason why they are frivolous is simply they are poor written, didn’t get too much care. If you can’t spare the resources, then cut then, make the minor ones better and quit this practice.

The above are what I call Tier 3 Content, the most negligible ones. Instead of letting these content free roam in the world, it’s better to just cut them out of the course.

The Tier 2, however, are the Inner Circle quests. They are good, but all suffer from too short quest time. Hence why I suggest to cut the Tier 3 and divert the the resources into the Tier 2. All Inner Circle quests are more or less interesting, since they had far more care than those feeble peasant ones in the lower level.

Inner Circle quests serve many purposes, mainly for improving relationships between your Inquisitor and his companions. Each companion has his/her very own quests for you to take, and the choices you make in between would have consequences to the main story line.

Dragon Age Inquisition Iron BullSuch as how Iron Bull’s quest would let you collect the alliance from the Qunari, and Sera’s quest may as well just end up kicking her out of Inquisition. (It always interests me that Sera is the only one you can kick out in any time once she joined, not sure what the devs think lol. SERA GREATLY DISAPPROVED INCOMING)

All of them are short, in between 5 minutes to 10 minutes, exclude the loading time, you can finish. Thus many environments, rooms, resources are wasted afterwards, can’t be reused. But if you like to stick a bit longer, you are welcomed.

Besides these frivolous side quests, the main quest is what devs have put most efforts in. And for that, you have to give props to these dedicated people that made this a great game.

The Story

The main story is incredibly sublime and epic. Even though the story of evil and justice has been told thousand of times, and literally everyone in the end of the war just wants to stick Corepheous’s name “Corepheous” everywhere to remind people you need to kill this Corepheous, he does evil shit and you need to stop him. This Corepheous is the evil mastermind of all and yes, all the blame, burn him in eternal hell. Actually it was Fade.

They pronounced the bad guy’s name so many times makes me think that is Corepheous actually a name for a villain? It doesn’t even sound Fereldonian! Or Orlisian! Why is this guy’s name Corepheous, it sounds so weird.

Dragon Age Inquisition MorriganJokes aside, the revelations of Origins are the most exciting! How I could possibly imagine I get to see Morrigan, and get to see Morrigan in her motherhood! The changes from motherhood really made Morrigan a different person, well not that different, couldn’t be more different than Leliana and the old bard. But really, that we can see all key members of the Origins really excites me and makes me weep a little. Damn I think I missed contacting the Hero of Fereldon.

Dragon Age Inquisition KieranWhen you approach Morrigan and Kieran her son while playing as the Inquisitor, you feel like you want to call him son but you actually can’t. Weird, isn’t it. 😆 But it’s at least comforting to hear from her that my old self, the Grey Warden hero is not dead but actually busy doing some other things instead. Ah, 10 years! 10 years ever since. And it’s actually 6 years later since Origins’s release.

I am most welcome that the reunion of the old and new. Seriously Morrigan in motherhood is real cute, REAL CUTE. Morrigan was and was supposed to be a pretty Goth and resentful woman, (Smothering in my bitter past of dealing with her and tried to romance her. Of course I failed.) and I think she still is such a woman. But motherhood really changed her, DA team got the job well done.

She started to not being that much “hateful” and became a much more approachable and peaceful woman. And I am really glad to hear from her “After all this, I think I might join my love on the other side of the world. Kieran misses his father.” (Damn my frigging tears! You have a heart Morrigan, you have a heart!!)

Dragon Age Inquisition Hawke
Dragon Age 2 protagonist Hawke

But I think the appearance of both 1 and 2’s characters has shown enough sincerity from devs–we meet Varric, Hawke, Leliana, Morrigan, Alistar even Flemeth! And she is a key character in the late story development.

And probably to every Dragon Age fan’s surprise, the revelation of Origins is incredible. Kieran, Flemeth and Morrigan become the new lead for Inqusition, and draws a “probably” good period for the previous game’s questions. Solas being the Dread Wolf, I wasn’t suspecting, neither am I surprised. The characteristics of Solas being very outsider I find very conspicuous, so I let him go in the end and didn’t care for him. And turns out he is the Dread Wolf, well well, together with Flemeth. And this paves the way for the next Dragon Age.

Well I think my Inquisitor did a great job, did being a good “king” and served all Thedas, I think yours too.

Aside from the main story being really an epic and sublime experience, one main quest has to be detailed here.

Winter Palace/Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts Quest

Dragon Age Inquisition Winter PalaceHow writers write main story missions is really applaudable. Never did I know the ending of Halamshiral could be this dramatic and fun to watch.

In the mission of Halamshiral, the Winter Palace. This is one of the most Dragon Age missions I’ve played. Dragon Age just consists of these fast pace, and slow pace missions in between their main story to keep players energized and lax, keeping the game entertaining.

Being the Inquisitor, you’re greeted at once you entered the Winter Palace by General Gaspard, telling you there’s a potential assassin in the palace trying to assassinate the Empress. Which is very conspicuous at start how someone’s trying to contend for the throne would tell you such information.

Following the story, you find yourself surrounded by the conspiracies between the three crown contenders–Celene the Empress, Briala the Ambassador, Gaspard the Grand Duke. And each one of them has an interesting background and they all would withhold the destiny of Orlais. And unsurprisingly, the decision is on your hand, Inquisitor.

While bickering and mingling in the Palace, I am deeply intertwined in the plots of each crown contender. Gives me really no time into finding out who’s the assassin and who should be the next crown.

After some field work, I started to find out the whole structure of the conspiracy and it has struck me right to the beginning, that Gaspard was plotting initially. The thought was right.

However, as my advisers hurry me into making a decision of letting whom win the Game, I hesitated, “wanting more answers and information”. And here, Florianne showed up.

Dragon Age Inquisition Winter PalaceAnd boom, a huge surprise. Florianne the Duchess is the mastermind all behind, and she’s a servant of Corepheous.

This twist is really unexpected and boy has DA team done so well.

The notion of every evil mastermind’s wishes is to dominate the world, and not excluding this one.

Weird that everyone wants the “power” over the world, but this writing here is how you show an evil mastermind’s capabilities. And even me, would give props to Corepheous being smart and sly enough to install such a puppet here among the three contenders.

And I still need to talk a little about revelations in the game.

Revelation

Dragon Age Inquisition Flemeth
The old hag, Flemeth, and a powerful god

Revelations from Origins are quite amusing. Read that Darrah wanted to inherit Origins’ legacy and make Inquisition a true sequel to the Dragon Age universe, because Dragon Age 2 was too rush on making.

I think they did a great job on bringing back the old characters and also revealing their secrets and questions from Origins.

In the end of Origins–the battle of Denerim, where you, the Grey Warden commander of Fereldon defeated Archdemon and became Hero of Fereldon. And that’s that, the story ends there. Although later expansion packs allow you to seek Morrigan, who ran far away right after the battle, but, you stepped into the Eluvian though. There isn’t much revelation after that.

Flemeth, also a character from Origins, is so mysterious we got a quest specifically for her–rescue Morrigan from her evil daughter-eater mother Flemeth. At the time, I only knew that she was some evil being, the lore didn’t expand too much about her.

And in Inquisition, the revelation is incredible. Flemeth is kind of a god-like character, she possesses an elven god Mythal inside her body, in the meantime, our son, Kieran also possess a god. The Old God. Most interesting how they connected the lore together.

Dragon Hunting

Dragon Age Inquisition Dragon
The dragon was stomping when I approached it, it was really cute.

What would be if in a medieval fantasy world there is no traces of dragons? In the previous two titles, we had few moments with actual dragons. The only memorable and possibly the only dragon scene in Origins is the final battle of Denerim. The Fifth Blight’s end. The dragon, was an Archdemon.

As for now, in Inquisition. DA team has brought to us a complete new experience, though not new for me, but this time, we can hunt the dragons.

I’ve been a Monster Hunter fan for years, it’s a series dedicated for hunting dragons–imaginary, fearsome, volatile and versatile dragons.

In Inquisition, we could have similar scenes. Every major map has one boss dragon. And they are very hard to kill should you not equip the right equipments or reach certain levels. And they require tactics. In many moments in Inquisition’s fights, I never really utilize the battle tactic mode, it’s unnecessary for the fast-pace combat, enemies are easy to kill if you choose your team composition right and your damage is up to par. A good team is always composed of an archer, a mage, a tank and a DPS. The DPS could be a Warrior mastered in Reaver like Iron Bull, or it could be a Rogue mastered in Assassin or Tempest. Archer and DPS can deal considerable damage overtime while mage supports, tank as a meat shield.

All dragons are immune to most of the debuffs, such as toxic, asleep, or weaken. And dragons differentiate between elements, fire, ice, electricity, spirit. I tend to pick the vulnerable element specialized mage to beat the certain dragon. If you’re not a mage, there will only be 3 mages for you. So the fourth element has to come from your weapons and teammates’.

The dragon hunting really brings back memories of Monster Hunter, while the new one Monster Hunter World would be on consoles next year, and PC is undefined.

Graphics

Dragon Age Inquisition Leliana
Maxed out graphical settings, ultra everything.

Amazing. Pure amazing. You can’t possibly look into every details of the environment around you. For a small team of around 20 environment artists, it is definitely a triumph and hard work for them to carry out.

Dragon Age Inquisition CullenThe amount of graphical details is enormous, put in such huge amount of work into every piece of environment requires pure dedication and possible many crunches. Kudos. Really. Appreciate the work.

Sometimes I’d think the work by the artists are such a waste that many scenes connected with these delicately crafted environments only last a few minutes. Many side quests take less than 10 minutes to conclude, however, these artists have worked their best to produce immersive environments for them.

Because of Frostbite, Inquisition can look much much more beautiful than the previous two, drawing itself into the next-gen era.

Dragon Age Inquisition romanceBut the story behind this, is that DA team had tried their best to adapt to the volatile and immature Frostbite engine–an engine wasn’t designed at first with the RPG games in mind.

Keeping up with Frostbite’s updates made Inquisition’s development much harder and Frostbite’s lack of basic features of RPG games made the development a disaster.

DA team had pondered for 2 years to get the engine work, I suspect they actually could implement the content into the folder just in the last one and half year. Same situation as Mass Effect: Andromeda.

However, even though Frostbite creates beautiful scenery, I still experience stutters in a few sequences, or cutscenes precisely. It’s about the optimization of the game, some sequences they just couldn’t put into that many fixed into it. But apparently they have stopped supporting the game anymore, it has been 3 years after the launch, and it looks like there are still bugs in the game unfixed.

Music

I’ve always loved how Dragon Age composed their tracks. The tracks always give you some profound and soothing effects. Typically the main theme is both a war song and a relaxing song.

You have to give props to the music team that composed the OST.

 

Conclusion

Dragon Age Inquisition EndingAn epic story drives you through the magnificent Thedas, while you wander around the world, you are bestowed to end the chaos. Aside from the repetitive quests and some other buggy experiences, this game is definitely a must-play for Dragon Age fans. New comers can also mildly enjoy in this world created by Dragon Age team from Bioware. 7/10.

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