So after a couple months of on and off play, I finally just made the time to play through and finish it.
The TL:DR version is that despite some missteps and wasted opportunities, Dragon Age: Inquisition is a well done and good game. read more for more detail and massive amounts of over analysis.
- Table Missions – these were good when it was chain, I particularly liked the Venatori agents hunt ones that was with Tallis. Not so good as a multitude of one off missions, it did feel like you were really managing a massive operation to the finest details but it felt like tedious micromanaging. I realize that some will answer this criticism with, just skip it and make some stupid face with a sneer of contempt that someone dared to criticize a supposed work of art. However, the just skip what you do don’t like answer is like having a dish at your favorite restaurants and being told just to not eat what you don’t like when it’s served to you. Which is a fine way to deal with things but is ultimately a waste of effort and resources. If this aspect makes it into the next game, I’d suggest a less is more approach and make it a bit more meaningful.
- Uninspired Quests and Collectibles – The massive and beautiful environments led to a lot of empty space and the struggle to fill zones with terrible mmo type quests with a unnecessary amount of collectibles that did not amount to anything meaningful other than codex entries. Only a few of these were done well, in particular, there was a mission where you find an accurate account of the event that led to the exalted march on the Dalish and the results of the mission, if you gave it to the dalish was a table mission where the Dalish offer up a Halla the the village to represent mourning. Your 3 advisors offer 3 distinct approaches to the mission: Leliana suggests presenting it in such a way that both sides are unwittingly accepting and that each side has won something from the other, Whereas Cullen/Josephine either forcefully/diplomatically “persuade” the villagers to accept and honor it and overcome some prejudices. If you give it to the chantry where I assume it goes to some massive vault where “top men” analyze it while quietly sweep it under the rug as another example of a massive misstep by the chantry and a revelation that the reason for the exalted march on the dales was more fabrication and prejudice than reality. See? the amazing depth in the that quest and now compare it to fetch me these roots and animal parts or get these mosaic pieces that outline a rich amount of world lore that amounts to a decoration on your wall in skyhold and codex entry.
- MMO Type Random Drops, a lack of real customization, and uninspired crafting – Specifically dealing with schematics and crafting. You can craft some amazing gear to either min/max or make generally effective gear for your class and specialization, if you get the right schematics and drops. Also, lets say you get what you want and craft it to your specifications, it will look incredibly generic. For example, in my first playthrough playing as a Female Dalish mage, I get this cool looking Keeper Robe schematics and I think now I can show my characters heritage while saving the world from itself but no, the armor is horrible in stats and not worth using over a more generic looking but better in stats robe. Now there should be zero reason in this game with the amount of customization in it that I can’t just take the looks of a piece of gear and have the stats I want.
- Romances – Now this isn’t what you are thinking, most criticisms from what I’ve read is “omg stop forcing gay on me.” I think the options are decent but shoehorned pretty hard onto you. Bioware tried too hard to please everyone here, the notoriously fickle crowd that is quick to praise and quick to witch hunt and harass, and ultimately fell to the you can’t please everyone type deal. Example, Sera, a self hating elf lesbian. She hates her heritage of being an elf but is pretty open about her liking other women. It just doesn’t match up well. In my playthrough with a Female Dalish Mage Inquisitor, I romanced Sera and while difficult it was enjoyable to a point, I particularly enjoyed Solas’ temper tantrum at the news of it (more on this later.) However, after a mission set in an elven temple, Sera has a break down and forces you into a decision, you either throw away all your characters beliefs to be with her or you state that you really believe what you found out at the temple resulting in a break up with her. I thought it well done, the relationship with Sera at that point is fun and carefree but it ultimately fails because Sera is still self hating elf unable to come to grips with reality and wants you to believe what she believes without even making any attempts do the same for you. Now I could have romanced, as a female elf, a number of other people like Solas, Blackwall, Cullen, Josephine, or Iron Bull but I didn’t and I’m still pretty happy with the result because fuck Sera and her self elf hating nature. I liked the options bioware has given and I think they did a good job for the most part. My only problem is that they tried too hard to please the notoriously fickle crowd here, providing options for the extreme minority such as the asexual romantics and the chaste romantics. For most people (please read that again), romance and sex are intertwined, and Bioware did not have the romantic conclusions you’d expect. I also like that the game has the characters romances other characters if they are not being currently romanced by the Inquisitor. I’ve recently read about all the drama surrounding Iron bull and Dorian (overreact much?), and Sera (a lesbian written by a man “the horror, the horror”) and it’s just another example of the notoriously fickle crowd that bioware aims to please. The no dwarf romances are also a weird choice especially with Scout Harding right there being unused.
- Tactical Camera mode – Badly implemented and done. Tagged onto the game to try to evoke a feeling of the Origins gameplay.
- Multiplayer – Honest and upfront here, I did not play a single moment of it and don’t plan to at all. I see no need to shoehorn multiplayer to any single player rpg and call it progress or commendable. It is completely unnecessary. It could be the greatest single achievement mankind will ever do and unites the human fucking race in how marvellous it is, it is still completely unneeded and, personally unwanted.
- Wasted assets/agents/resources – Specifically who you save at haven are all wasted at skyhold. Agents that are recruited but don’t mean or do anything. Agents that are recruited but there only function is lower mission times for the table missions. I’d like to have seen Inquisition Agents in the various regions have a meaningful effect or result for certain missions or table missions. The Company that is founded by the inquisitor from just giving some assets to an adventurer being the perfect example, depending on how you outfitted them or how you used them they would have been useful diplomats/spies/soldiers that could have been used as an edge in various table missions that are unclear on how results decided. For example, in the venatori agents/operation that unlocks if you had Iron Bull remain faithful to the Qun, your agents would have yielded more predictable results depending on how you used them. If you used your diplomatic connections to expose them they would have been cut off from their secret tevinter allies and embarrassed Tevinter publicly at court or if the secrets approach was taken they could have been caught and captured in a bad situation that could be used to blackmail Tevinters cooperation in the war or using your forces to dispatch them brutally and efficiently enough to have Tevinter’s respect and cooperation.
- Story – it starts off well, struggles a bit in the middle but finds its way again and ends well. It ties up any unanswered questions and provides a pretty good epilogue detailing how things played out based on your choices and approval rating. A good story making the game worth replaying to experience the other possibilities.
- Characters – As is typical and expected of Bioware, good characters with good development and meaningful growth (except Sera.) They all have quite a bit of depth and are well done (even Sera.)
- Dialogue and Banter – Typical Bioware fare again, all well done. I especially like the special options and situational options.
- The “Sit in Judgement” – a great mechanic that adds to the story and really ties up the loose ends of certain quests. Extremely well done and a great idea that fits really well into the game.
- Main Quests – Specifically “Here Lies the Abyss” and “Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts,” extremely well done and great examples of bioware doing it right like the bioware of old.
- Gameplay – Abilities were good, some specializations are clearly better than others but still remain useful and productive enough for rp reasons and still be effective. The gathering, search function, and ability combos. They took what was good from origins and DA2 and made it better in Inquisition.
- Aesthetics – The game is great looking and the amount of detail you can go into customizing skyhold or the color of your armor is also good. The Environments are all wide open and fun to explore as well as great looking and inspired. Tailoring the fine details of your Inquisitor in the character creation is also well done. NPC’s are all pretty good looking. The armors, especially the orlesian ones, are good.
Overall and big picture mode here, Bioware made some good steps forward in regaining its former glory as the premiere western RPG Dev. There are some definite missteps and wasted opportunities but on the whole the game is well done and is a good game as a result.