There was a moment about ten hours into Dragon Age: Inquisition when I seriously considered packing the whole thing in and moving on. Every fight felt like a losing battle, and the story had all the gripping power of Jamie Langfield grasping for a cross (niche reference). It was only the fact that the game was already well over two years old and the knowledge that leaving it behind now was leaving it behind forever that convinced me to keep going. Thankfully, it turned out to be the right decision.
The third game in the Dragon Age series, Inquisition always seems to get a bit of a hard time. For everyone that loves it, there are two or three who hate it and believe it pales in comparison to what came before, or at least to Origins (no one appears to like two). Fortunately, I ain’t played any of them, so that meant fuck all to me.
While my ignorance of possibly superior games might have helped in some ways, it also played a big part in my initial bafflement. I’m sure if you are already emerged in Bioware’s world then the strings of jargon thrown your way in the opening few hours of this game make sense but it was all gibberish to me. There’s only so many times you can hear about the thingmy bobs wanting to kill the Jiminy Crickets before your brain zones out.
If I didn’t care about the story then the gameplay must have hooked me, yea? That only makes sense. Well, no. I hated Inquisition’s combat until I hit around 30 hours in and that only changed because my Qunari warrior had hit a high enough level that her and her merry gang were breezing through fights. I’ve never had the patience for pausing combat and artfully arranging my party into the best positions. I want to twat things with a sword and at the start of Dragon Age that wasn’t working for me. Even when it was working the constant loop of holding one button to attack with only the occasional switch to another for a special move quickly grew dull.
The story made me groan, and I found the combat dull. Why then did I continue past that 10-hour mark I hear you ask? Well, imaginary person, it was, in fact, the persons. Not you, the persons in the game. For what Bioware do brilliantly, and not only in this game, is make that merry gang something that you care about. You want to delve into their brains, and that is enough to have you coming back for more and more.
Take Sera, my romantic choice for my playthrough. An initially incredibly annoying elf with a chip on her shoulder; as you delve deeper into her past you discover someone rife with insecurities whose spiky nature is her way of keeping the world out. It’s a remarkably subtle piece of writing for a game that is nominally about whacking demons with swords.
It’s not just Sera either, I spent a lot of time wandering various areas with my gang of choice (Sera, Iron Bull and Vivienne if it interests you) mopping up side quests so I could hear the little snippets of conversation they would have with each other. Sera railing against the aristocratic Vivienne or discussing battle plans with Bull or that same Bull getting all tongue-tied in the presence of the well-spoken mage. You insert yourself into this dysfunctional family, and it’s that which binds you to the game.
All of which makes Dragon Age: Inquisition a tough game to recommend (particularly with the whole two years old thing). There were large parts of it that I was doing purely to get through them and not actually enjoying that much. Yet, when it all clicks together, there is a lot of great stuff in here. You come for the twatting demons in the face with a big sword, and you stay for the emotionally fragile elves.
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