Release date: November 18/21, 2014
PC, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4
At this particular moment in time, game developers have been focused on immersive and emergent game play and the refinement of storytelling elements in video games . Ours is the lucky generation that gets to watch them get better and better at it. Dragon Age: Inquisition, the latest title from BioWare, is a perfect example of just how lucky we are to be first hand witnesses of the advancements made in the gaming industry in this great age of technology.
Inquisition was originally intended to be a multiplayer only game, but an open letter by Executive Producer Mark Darrah revealed that BioWare was actually planning "to create the the best Dragon Age experience ever," and they have certainly delivered that promise, and then some, with Inquisition.
The war-torn world of Thedas in Dragon Age: Inquisition is not open world in the way Far Cry 4 by Ubisoft is, but BioWare has made up for this by making the map of Thedas extraordinarily massive . Yes, it is even bigger than the expansive world of Skyrim from Bethesda's The Elder Scrolls franchise.
There are 10 main locations in Inquisition, each with its own assortment of flora, fauna and wildlife. But the game world of Thedas is not just vast, it is also persistent. Everything the player does will have some sort of impact - and not just on the wildlife. As producer Cameron Lee explains on BioWare's blog, "The world’s population is based on an emergent system that adjusts what you’ll encounter based on how your actions tip the balance in the area. You’ll see towns attacked by bandits, deer fleeing from wolves, giants feeding on bears, and countless other scenarios." Throughout Thedas, there are caves to discover, mines to dig into, enemy keeps to plunder, NPCs to loot and a multitude of secrets to unearth. This means hours of exploratory adventure. By hours we mean up to 200 . That is a lot of content.
A full playthrough of the main game however, with no side quests or sightseeing will take roughly 20-40 hours - that is, if you can get past the character creation menu. Players will be able to choose from three classes: the brutal warrior, knavish rogue or powerful mage . This time around however, BioWare has given the players the option of picking a gender in addition to 4 playable races: human, elf, dwarf or the Viking-like Qunari . Players can even choose their characters voices, although this option is limited to an American or British accent. While body types will be assigned by the game engine based on the player's choice of race, facial features can be customized in incredible detail. Spend enough time working on your face, and you can play the entire game as Daenerys Targaryen .
Inquistion opens with a tremendous explosion that leaves a rather impressive hole in the sky through which demons are now happily invading the world of Thedas. To make matters worse, numerous rifts begin to open throughout the world. Now, the perk that comes with surviving an explosion of magical proportions is the inexplicable acquisition of special powers, like say, the ability to repair the tears in the fabric of the world. But there are downsides too. One of these is amnesia. The other is that when you happen to be the only survivor of a such devastating blast, sometimes you are suspected of being the mastermind behind.
In a world desperate for deliverance, the player steps into the role of Inquisitor, leader of the Inquisition - a group formed in an effort to defend and liberate Thedas. There are 12 playable Companion characters, each with their own race, class and skill combinations for players to choose from. These guys aren't your average role-playing game (RPG) party members either. As you're traversing across the vast maps of the game world group members will point out potentially interesting areas that the player might otherwise miss. But they are also fully fleshed out characters who will become your greatest allies in your mission to save the world from itself . From the looks of it, they are more badass than you think.
Players can customize the class-specific weapons wielded by their group members as well as the minutiae of their armor and shields, like color and pattern . Companion characters will form relationships that evolve based on the player's in-game behavior and decisions . Companions have personality and feelings. Treat them badly, and they may well leave the player in the lurch. Treat them well, and friendships and even romance will blossom - even outside traditional gender roles .
The combat system in Inquistion is a revamp of the previous installments, and while there is no wrong way to play, battles have gotten a bit more difficult and will require strategic thinking. Players going into a fight can opt for the game's Strategic View, which uses a pause-and-play tactical camera. The tactical camera provides a bird's-eye view of the battle field and also pauses game play, so that you have time to check out your enemy stats and plan your moves carefully. Characters no longer heal immediately after a battle is won. You're going to have to do everything yourself - including crafting your own items, potions, armor and weapons .
And what about the the multiplayer mode? BioWare didn't scrap that completely. Dragon Age: Inquistiion 's four player co-op mode is completely separate from the single-player main game but does use the same the tactical class combat and crafting system. What the player does in multiplayer mode will not affect the story or ending in single-player mode . In single-player mode however, just about everything you do matters. While there are a few completely unique endings, players can expect 40 major variations of those endings, depending on the story choices that are made and the character relationships that are nurtured or destroyed during the course of the game.
Now, watch the official E3 trailer and just try to resist.
Bioware may well have fulfilled their mission statement with Inquisition : "To create, deliver, and evolve the most emotionally engaging games in the world." The game promises a vast and responsive world, rich and round characters and some great storytelling. Go forth now, friends. Explore, fight, love and build your own story. Just remember to always be good to your companions and never, ever forget: Out there be dragons, and those dragons be dangerous.