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Dragon Age: Inquisition Review: Bioware’s Triumphant Return

Dragon Age: Inquisition is a game targeted directly at fans of the series, and that helps make it the best installment of them all.

After the stellar Dragon Age: Origins, Bioware stumbled a bit with Dragon Age 2. Many fans were skeptical that the developer could redeem itself, especially after the drama surrounding Mass Effect 3. If you’re one of those fans, you can relax. It took three and a half years, but at least in the case of Dragon Age, Bioware is back.

Dragon Age: Inquisition
Platform: PC (Reviewed), PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Developer: Bioware
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: Nov. 18, 2014
MSRP: $59.99

If you haven’t played the first two Dragon Age games, Inquisition may seem a little overwhelming at the outset. There’s a lot of lore being thrown around, and there’s very little explanation of any of it. The story starts with a massive explosion during the “Conclave” at the “Temple of Sacred Ashes,” which claimed the lives of the head of the “Chantry,” “Divine Justinia,” and everyone else in attendance. Well, everyone else except one lone survivor: you.

The explosion has left a massive rift in the sky; a hole called between the real world and the Fade, Dragon Age’s name for a metaphysical realm filled with spirits and demons, which comes to be known as “the breach.” In the immediate aftermath of the blast, you fall out of the breach, with no memory of what happened at the Conclave.

These little touches are just a small part of a world that feels (and is) huge and expansive.

Fade rifts begin popping up all over the world, allowing demons to roam the countryside. As the now-leaderless Chantry struggles to deal with this new threat, Seeker Cassandra Pentaghast (Dragon Age 2 fans should remember her) announces that the now-deceased Divine Justinia instructed her to reform the Inquisition.

Now, if none of that made any sense to you, you haven’t played Dragon Age before. All of that lore might seem a bit overwhelming at first, but if you stick with it, you’ll be rewarded with a very satisfying experience. If you don’t know what it all means, suffice to say that there’s been an explosion at the peace talks between two warring factions (mages and Templars) and now tensions are at a peak. Besides battling dragons, demons, and undead, you’ll also use your diplomatic skills to build the might and renown of the Inquisition.

In the wake of the events at the Temple of Sacred Ashes, the Inquisition is focused on closing the breach in the Fade. While your character can close the smaller rifts himself, he needs help to close the much bigger breach. That means you’ll have to forge an alliance with one of two groups: the rebel mages or the Templars. Neither of these groups is interested in helping out a ragtag band operating out of a ramshackle town like Haven, where you start the game, so your first mission is to increase the support for the Inquisition.

You’ll do this by venturing out into the world and completing quests, which earns you “power” and “influence.” Power unlocks the new areas that you need to visit to advance the story, and influence acts as your currency to unlock perks. Anything from discounts at vendors, to extra XP, to more inventory space can be had with a little work to unlock it.

The quests are largely quite good, although some fetch-quest nonsense still pops up in Inquisition. Helping gather food and supplies might make sense in the early game when the Inquisition is getting its feet under it, but once you’ve moved into a stronghold and gotten allies around the world, killing 10 bears seems a bit like make-work for a busy Inquisitor. Still, those types of quests aren’t common, and unless you’re a completionist, you don’t have to do every quest. For the most part, the quests are interesting, as they lead you to discover more about the world and the people inhabiting it, as well as its history. In many cases, you’ll discover new quests through adventuring. You might find a note next to a dead body at an abandoned camp, and later find the person who was waiting for that poor soul to return.

These little touches are just a small part of a world that feels (and is) huge and expansive. As mentioned, you’ll spend the power points you earn from questing to unlock new areas of the world — the zones are varied, with some being large desert wastelands holding the ruins of old mining operations, and others swampy mires filled with undead. Each zone has the same common quests, such as setting up Inquisition camps, and while it may seem like busy work at first, these camps are quite useful in the long run for a couple of reasons. First, they’re the fast-travel points you can use to move around quickly. Second, because of some changes to way healing works in the latest Dragon Age.