Dragon Age: Inquisition
If you're trying to figure out where I've disappeared to the past few months, chances are that guessing Dragon Age: Inquisition as a reason would make you right. After clocking over a hundred hours since November, it's safe to say that I've gotten obsessed with this game, and the obsession hasn't even ended just yet.
Dragon Age: Inquisition is the third major installment of an already-popular BioWare franchise (previous installments are Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II, respectively). Having been repeatedly delayed and reworked, there was a lot of speculation about how well this game would do, especially after DA2 left a lot of fans disappointed by the story. While I was not of the majority who held strong dislike for the second game, I do admit that DA2 fell short of the grandeur that DAO offered from the get-go. So when the trailers for DAI finally came out, and the hype began to increase, I was still a bit wary about picking up this game.
I need not have worried so much.
DAI is the culmination of the Dragon Age series. It combined the grandeur of DAO with the fantastic graphics and gameplay of DA2, then mixed it with that open-world, choice-heavy feel reminiscent of another of their popular franchises: Mass Effect. As a big ME fan, I was completely ecstatic when the storylines gave you so many options. BioWare certainly has that down pat.
The game's plot occurs soon after the ending of DA2, which pretty much leaves the player off with the Mage Rebellions (which spurred on the Mage-Templar conflict). As head of the Chantry--arguably the "highest" power in most of Thedas--, Divine Justinia calls forth the Conclave on neutral ground, in the hopes of finding a peaceful solution to end the war between mages and templars. This doesn't go off as planned, because soon after the meeting takes place, an explosion kills off the Divine and many of those who attended the Conclave.
Suddenly, everybody dies. Well, except you, of course.
You, as the player, are the sole survivor of the Conclave. Through sheer luck--or so it seems--, your character gains the ability to close down rifts, thus saving the world from the demons of the Veil (the "otherworld"). Upon the formation of the Inquisition, your character climbs to become part of the inner circle, defeating demons, mages, templars, and politicians, one Inquisitorial decision at a time.
I could go on and on about the game, but I should probably just get to the great parts. Which is everything. Ahem.
Unlike the limited character selection afforded to players in DA2, DAI returns to its DAO selection, bringing with it characters from various backgrounds. The player is able to choose between male or female humans, elves, dwarves, or qunari. (Interesting note: DAI would be the first time in the major Dragon Age games where we could potentially see a female qunari). With each character "species" comes a different background that becomes ingrained in the game. Additionally, romance and dialogue options change depending on what the Inquisitor is.
Character creation is a great beginning for any BioWare game, but characters and their interactions with each other are certainly where the game draws its ultimate high for me. Each of the major playable and non-playable characters is well-rounded; often their storylines and personal quests are even more riveting than the main story. Save for one character, I pretty much adore all of the major players in the Inquisition.
Romance and Dialogue
This brings me to my second favorite portion of the game: the character conversations and romance options. As I said, the characters were a highlight for me, because I was involved in their storylines and backgrounds. Like previous BioWare games, I made it a point to stop by after every quest to speak with the characters in hopes of getting new dialogue to work with. Often they even talk to each other when the Inquisitor is running around in an open world.
And the romance? Forget it. There are so many options, yet getting through them all would require several playthroughs. I have to say, however, that romancing The Iron Bull was well worth the effort, even though I sort of kind of have a crush on Cullen. (Also, is it bad that I am willing to play a Male Inquisitor if only to romance Cassandra Pentaghast?).
As the Inquisition, your character is embroiled in several wars and conflicts throughout Thedas. The story--while ultimately linear in the big picture--is propelled through player choice, which means getting from Point A to Point B could vary from decision to decision. Siding with the mages or with the templars can change the player's main enemies. Picking the rightful ruler of the Orlesian Empire could bring about different supporters into your group. Every main plot point gives a choice to the player, and oftentimes these choices determine the course of the game.
There is also the tie-in from previous games. When playing a third installation, it is expected that the first two games play a role in forming the current world state of DAI. For those jumping straight to DAI without playing the first two games, there is a Default World State that is used for the game. However, for those hardcore fans who've played the Dragon Age series from the beginning, there is the possibility of uploading custom world states from stories and characters previously played. This in itself puts more investment in gameplay, because choices made in the past two games can very well affect the world state of DAI.
DAI was created with the new graphics engines in mind, because my goodness, the graphics are phenomenal. I have long admired the artwork of Dragon Age, but never more so than the tarot card illustrations added into DAI. I almost wish BioWare hurried up and came out with a tarot card deck to purchase on their store, because I'd totally buy the heck out of that.
Music and Miscellany
I will end it with my take on the music and miscellany that makes DAI a fantastic game. Throughout the game, the player is introduced to instrumentals and bardic renditions of music that make DAI entertaining to listen to. In fact, most of the music captures the tone of the scene or environment very well, from the epic search for Skyhold to the uppity, bouncy beats of a character's theme song.
As for the miscellany, I will merely end with a picture of my favorite nug mount, whose name is MR. TIDDLES. (Also, yes, I did choose to go Qunari my first playthrough, but I couldn't help it, I loved the horns!)
Game: Dragon Age Inquisition
Released: November 2014
Genre: Action role-playing adventure
ESRB Rating: M for Mature (for language and violence and nudity, so not good for the kiddies!)