Dragon Age Inquisition – review, thoughts and tips

DA BannerDragon Age: Inquisition – Review

Ah, so long awaited.  In all honesty I was not sure what to expect from this game.  The developers said they were going to try and mix the good points of both Dragon Age Origins and Dragon Age 2, learn from them both and make something new.  I can say that in most respects they have indeed lived up to that since it seems like an amalgamation of those games and Skyrim in many respects.  There are bugs still, of course, that is only to be expected with such a new game, but they are not debilitating.  There are some UI annoyances as well, but more on that in a bit.

In some ways it is the plot itself that lets the game down a bit, and I find that interesting because it didn’t actually occur to me until after I had completed the game.  You don’t tend to notice it when playing because there is -so- much to do, but nearer the end of the game there are still bits I am baffled as to not have been explored more, Lilliana companion quests especially.  I won’t put a spoiler in here, but those that play the game will understand when I say there really should have been more to that.  Indeed, I think the game could have benefited a lot from having far more companion quests for each one.  I am thinking that more may be explored in a dlc or expansion, but the fact that it wasn’t left as a cliffhanger, things were just left as if forgotten, and that didn’t really sit well with me. Again, I am not sure how noticeable this is to other players.  (More on my thoughts about the story, plot and quests here.)

Another thing is that despite all the tactical work, it is fairly difficult to tell what impact your choices have.  In Dragon Age Awakening, the first game’s expansion, the tactical work had very real consequences that were felt really profoundly.  I didn’t get it in this game with the exception of the mage vs templars and one other choice later on.  Most of the tactical work you do in the war room seems to have almost no impact really at the end, not in a way that is felt by the player.

When the credits rolled at the end of the game, I was satisfied, but when you see what happens next (the cliffhanger of this game, a very real pointer towards a dragon age 4), the game took on a new light in terms of the story, and gave me a very real reason to play it again with a different outlook.  In that respect the game does exceedingly well for Dragon Age fans, because even those (or perhaps especially those) that have a good working knowledge of the lore get so much to put their teeth into.  As another review has mentioned, you will get more out of Dragon Age Inquisition if you have played the previous games and read the books, and people that have not may not get the same level of immersion or understanding of characters and motivations.

My general impression of the game is that it is good, even very good despite my above concerns, and yes, it is worth your money if you like rpgs.  Don’t expect to get quite as immersed in the game as quickly as in other rpgs.  This game is a slow burn at first, and it isn’t until further within the game (of which there is a LOT of game to get into) that you get that deep immersion and connection to the npcs.  Heck, I didn’t manage to get a kiss from my chosen romance option until 42 hours into the game!  It took me around 100 hour of play-time to complete the entire game, get all the quests done etc (in a rather ocd manner), and I still have bits left I could have hunted for, such as all the collections, not to mention replay value.  From what I can gather, between 80-110 hours is the standard for a single play-through, not bad for under £40.

In-depth Reviews

I won’t go into a full review here, that isn’t my purpose in this since there are a lot of sites out there that offer reviews and have had them out far quicker than this will be posted.  Check these ones here if you are interested, a general Google search will bring more:
Dragon Age Inquisition the review by Kotaku.co.uk
Dragon Age Inquisition Review by IGN


 Thoughts and Tips

Character Creation

The character creation is very good for details of the face.  You can make incredibly precise faces if you have the patience to work at it.  It does take patience though, since there are so many options to edit and change.DA character creation

What the character creation does lack, and lacks very noticeably, are the amount of hair styles to choose from.  There are so very few, and not even the variety of the ones from older Dragon Age games especially since about 1/3 of all hairstyles are shaven/close-cropped head types.  Considering how amazing the face customization is, this and the stick-on beards just jump out as awful.  I have been told it looks far worse on ps4 and xbox due to their rendering (I think the term was ‘hair hat’).

Tip:
When on the face customization page on an option that uses the cursor drag box (as shown in the image above) you can turn the head by using the space above, below or to the right of the box, not the left. Took me a while to work that out lol

UI

The user interface (UI) is pretty clean and I got used to the style fairly quickly.  I do feel it could use some improvements though:

  1. Second option keybinding
    It is not possible to have more than one keybinding for each task.  I cannot, for example, have a potion keybound to one of the side buttons of my mouse for those ‘oh shit’ moments that happen from time-to-time,
  2. Extra mouse buttons
    Currently, at least with my mouse, only the three basic mouse buttons work.  The game does not recognize extra buttons on the side of the mouse that I am used to using all the time.  This is highly inconvenient and makes gameplay annoying.
    Edit: It seems that pre-programmed mouse buttons work (like mmo mice) but not extra buttons on an ordinary mouse
  3. Inventory and shop sorting
    There simply is not enough options for sorting your inventory quickly and easily.  There is no designated junk bag option either to sort items for vendoring later.  Trying to sort out useful items from sellable items is also a pain. Many items are needed for requisition quests and research, and it is possible to sell those items, since they look like junk items.  The same sorting issues are true of crafting, as you will want to discount low level schematics when you get better, but they ALL show.
  4. Minimap
    The minimap, while sort of useful, doesn’t actually give enough detail.  So while it will show some nearby quests and locations, it won’t give them all, and gives no indication of the land, so I found myself shifting back and forth to the big full screen map way too much.  Sometimes less is not more.

Crafting and Loot

Crafting in the game is actually useful.  You can, with the right schematics and materials actually craft the best gear in the game (I think). It is better, right from the start, crafting your own stuff or at least upgrading items you do have. Sadly, I found the selection of armour to be minimal and not great to look at, and you don’t get to craft an armour type with a skin you like, they come attached.  Consequently I spent most of the game wearing great armour that I disliked the look of.

Tip:
When you are at your home base (not a camp) go through your items and equip the best ones you have on all your available characters.  Bag space is an issue in this game, and you won’t need those extra equipment items.  Sell all the ones not equipped after that.

Near the beginning of the game, you will come across more items that will be useful to you, but as you explore more you will find that the amount of useable drops decreases.  This is especially true if you explore more than you level.  Items do not drop based on YOUR level, but the per-determined level of the area.  This means that you can end up doing areas when you are level 15 and getting item drops of level 8 or something, which are really not that useful, no matter how epic they look or how historically important.  I think this is a poor decision in terms of a game this large, as I found more than once that I would go and do a sprawling quest through demon-infested ruins only to get loot that was useless to me, and that doesn’t breed happiness.  It does however make crafting your own stuff more worthwhile.

Tip:
Research table THEN the buy/sell vendor
When you are selling things, do not auto-sell all the items in your valuables section. Many will be used for requisition orders (+power) or research (+influence). Research items are generally yellow icons and can be handed into a research table automatically on click.

Unfortunately there is also no storage box in the game (so no sharing items with alts) so you only have your bag space.  Upgrades are available to purchase from Influence via the war room though, and you will want those.

I do feel that having a place to hang up key pieces of weapons and armour (as you do with collections) would have gotten around the issue of useless equipment, even if they were no longer able to be used when placed.

2014-12-04_00015You collect many historic and significant weapons, and it feels wrong to vendor them.  Very wrong, especially from a rpg standpoint.  Being able to put them up in your room or hall would both give a visible representation of the weapons as well as something for collectors to collect, like the mosaic tiles.  Perhaps something like this will be added in an update or dlc.

Requisitions (and those valuables you want to keep)

As I mentioned, there are many items that you will not want to sell to a vendor from your valuables.  Most of these will be used in requisitions.  You can see a list of most of the requisitions for each land here, but I have listed the items below since many are duplicated. There may be others that have not yet been found or noted down.

Dragon Age RequisitionsThe two highlighted in yellow are places you have to find, not items in your bags.

Skills, Talents and Leveling up

The skills are fairly standard when you look at previous dragon age games, especially initially.  Mages especially may well be somewhat disappointed by the range of skills available at the start since they are so similar to previous games.  Be aware that more options are available after a certain key story point has been reached, so do not despair.

Types of missions, objectives and quests

There are several different types of quests, missions and objectives that you will come across in the game:

War room and tactical questsDA war table
This is the place where you can see the different locations of tactical quests and story arc quests.  Tactical quests are ones done entirely on the table.  You have an issue and your three advisers will offer different solutions.  Which one you choose to employ will change the outcome.

Tip:
If you are having trouble with your mouse not working on the war room screen, do a right click then sweep your cursor broadly over the map options.  This seems to fix it for me. 

War room quests include these types here:

  • Main story arc quests
  • scouting areas and opening up new land (to be able to travel there on the world map),
  • diplomatic tactical quests that will influence what quests you may get, or what support you can gain in coin resources or manpowerDA story quest
  • gathering quests that give resources
  • story updates and responses

Main story arc quests
This is what moves the main plot onwards.  These are shown as little keeps on the map (in the war room) with a green rift marker above it.  All other quest or mission types do not move the timer on, so you can do those at your leisure between clicking these ones.

Companion questsDA approval
You get these by engaging in dialogue with your companions (like Solas and Varrik) in the main town/area.  You will generally have to have increased their approval of you before they offer you these quests by talking to them.  You gain approval by doing things they like and making choices they like.

Tip:
Companions do not need to be in your active party to get approval/disapproval effects, so if you do an action that one of them will dislike, leaving them back at town beforehand will not save you from their ire.

Local quests
These are scattered all around.  You know the type, ‘collect 10 rams for food’, ‘please scatter my wife’s ashes somewhere dangerous’, ‘please kill the bandits in the camps to the north’. Some local quests will gain you items, and in others if you do enough you can gain ‘agents’ from an area that will help work with the inquisition (reducing the timers for that agent type in the war room).DA puzzles

Puzzle, exploration and collections
You find these scattered all around the place in the maps.  Not too many puzzles, but lots of collections and things to find.  The bottles and mosaic tiles in particular are good because they get updated in your main building with each find, which is nice to see.  Wish there was more of these visuals in the game.

 Story pacing

I feel that the story pacing could do with some changes.  I don’t feel there are enough rpg aspects for character building at the start of the game, only action and reaction.  (More on the story pacing in my article here).

Another issue is the increasing time delays in the war room as the game progressed.  For most of the game, the time delays worked okay.  There were plenty of things to do between the war room timers, but as I got late into the game the timers for many quests increased massively, some to just under 24 hours despite my having done so many of the quests and got tons of agents to decrease the timers.  This ended up being problematic for me, and annoying, because I found myself with actually very little to do except wait for timers.  There is a way around it (see below) but use it sparingly, because ticking off the war table too quickly leaves it feeling largely pointless.

Tip:
The war room time delays are fine for most of the game, but if you are struggling with the ones late in the game and it is causing detriment to your enjoyment (some of the wait times are super long), there is a way around it.  Alt+tab to minimize the game and change the date.  Ta-da!  Mission timer complete.

Combat

DA combatAh, combat.  I have a rather mixed opinion about the combat, because currently the game isn’t functioning as smoothly as it should, nor is it really reacting quite as it did in previous games.  Here are the issues I had with it:

Keybinding
Part of this is because the game uses a system commonly seen in mmos, where the player uses the number buttons to activate spells or abilities.  This isn’t new in Dragon Age games, but due to the mouse button issues I mentioned earlier in the article, the functionality in games that I am used to using this system doesn’t exist here.  I would usually have potions and search facilities keybound on my mouse, as an example, but have to use the keyboard for that here.  Only having one keybind option per action is annoying not to have as well.

Response times
What is also lacking are the response times when in combat. So many times playing my mage when I saw this massive tank of a creature coming at me with a two handed axe and I try to move, try to run away, but my character resolutely continues to stand there casting before finally deciding it might want to react, only to have my head smashed in as I slowly turn.  This also impacts when playing melee characters, when you have to move after enemies but your character stands there slashing the air instead of doing something more useful when told to.

Tactical Camera
Ah, the tactical camera.  This seems to have been added to try and upgrade the pause function seen in earlier games.  Allowing the time to stop and let you command each member of the party to do one action.  This was in previous games, but it doesn’t really work as well here.  Part of that is because the tactical camera doesn’t move far enough away, so you can’t get a good overview of what is happening (and I am not over exaggerating on how close that tactical camera can go.. it is pretty ridiculous).  This makes trying to organize members pretty difficult.  It is highly possible that I just have not tried hard enough to learn the tactical system, but it just doesn’t seem to function as well as in previous games.

Tactic behaviour
I guess people will remember the plethora of different tactical options to pre-program your companions to act like in the earlier games.  However with DA Inquisition they seem to have moved away from this to try and make it simpler to understand and use.  Now there are only four different types of actions, and you can only edit each one within their type, such as healing potion, or target etc.  I haven’t had to use it much, since I have not played it on Nightmare yet, but it does seem to be rather restrictive.  A lot of the games these days are trying to minimize UI stuff to make it easier on new players and on consoles, but after previous games, this doesn’t seem to be that useful.  I am no expert though.

Hold!
What else doesn’t seem to work as well is the ‘Hold’ button.  There are times (thankfully few and far between) where you need to have characters hold position in different places for a puzzle thingy.  What is the problem with that?  In previous games, when you pressed Hold, all the characters would hold, and you could move them and they would stay there.  Moving a character after commanding the Hold in DA Inquisition will make them move again, and they will follow the character you currently have active.  Oh the rage.  Again, maybe I just didn’t understand the system properly, but either way, it was not fun doing those puzzles as a result.

Tip:
If you click the Hold button twice it will hold all party members.  Only just found that out.

Overall
I think, overall, the combat is okay.  It certainly needs some tweaks, but I don’t think there is anything inherently broken or unfixable with it.  I enjoyed a lot of combat, especially against small groups.  I enjoyed the spawning changes you saw in this game for example, where you think you have cleared an area, then just as you are starting to pick up loot someone yells ‘look out, reinforcements!’ instead of mobs being entirely oblivious in other rooms nearby.  I liked that since it was more realistic.  I don’t really pay too much attention to combat in games, (I tend to follow the creed of ‘hit it till it dies, level up more if you die’) but in general I think the combat is certainly workable.

 PC or Console, and FPS

The age-old question of PC or console, and I have to generally go on the side of the PC.  From looking at reviews of the graphics, I would say that a decently specced PC will look better than the PS4 and Xbox version of the game.  Watch this in full HD to see the differences (remember to watch it in full screen on full HD settings). They are not really that noticeable until you get to around 3 mins in, and then you can see some of the differences in the colour rendering on people better.  The PC seems to have far more depth of colour and realistic lighting, which backs up other screenshots I have seen.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftsvO-AaOf0

There seems to have been some worry by fans questioning whether the full ultra settings on the pc were being used in the above video, which means that some of these settings (as supported by the IGN staff after review) are at lower settings by mistake, which only goes to show just how different the gap is between the pc and the ps4 and xbox.  To see the differences between low and ultra settings on the PC you can check them here (remember to watch it in full screen on full HD settings):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R58l7trgMbE&t=3m10s

Tip:
If you are getting shiny hat hair on your PC, try turning up the Meshing option in the settings.

But before you run off to buy the PC version, be aware that this game is pretty harsh on your PC’s specs.  My computer is not shabby, and even I have been having some FPS issues when loading new cutscenes or maps.  My computer struggles unless I stand around and wait a while longer for the place to load before moving, and if I am launched straight into a cutscene I have been getting some stuttering.  However I have heard this isn’t merely a PC issue, but actually happens on PS4 and Xbox as well, though I didn’t look into that too closely.

Tip:
If your computer struggles and you don’t want to turn down graphics settings, wait at least 15-20 seconds before moving when you enter a new map.  In Skyhold I watch until 5 seconds after the metal bands on the roof appear and that seems to work.  Do not enter the war room directly on logging in (if you saved outside it), or it could crash you while trying to load up the town around you as well.

not-loaded

loadedWhat you do need to take away from this is that Dragon Age Inquisition demands a lot from your PC even on their auto-detect settings.  This is the first game in years I have felt my PC could really do with an upgrade to run better, but even so I prefer using the PC and I expect some clever people will introduce mods for it over time (as they have already) despite the lack of support for it from Bioware.  Either through mods or updates, I hope some of the niggles and annoyances I have with the game will be remedied.

Now.. time for playthrough number 2!

More tips and guides

For more general tips on the game from another perspective, I found these useful:

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One thought on “Dragon Age Inquisition – review, thoughts and tips

  1. Pingback: DA Inquisition – Story, Plot and Replay Value | Enriching worlds within the PC

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