No One Expects The Thedas Inquisition!

As any subscriber knows, EA Access grants you a really cool option of playing up to six hours of an upcoming game around a week before the full release.  Well, in just under a week’s time (for us in the UK anyway) Dragon Age: Inquisition lands.  I’ve been dying to get my hands on this since it was announced back in 2012, so the chance to give it a go a little early was something I couldn’t pass up on.  Now I’m already a big fan of Dragon Age, but I wanted to try and give an objective view of my six hours in the new game, or at least as objective as possible.  Dragon Age: Origins was a masterpiece of its time and still holds up well now, both in terms of gameplay and story.  Dragon Age II had a really well crafted story but fairly repetitive gameplay and recycled environments.  It was the story and characters that got me through DAII, the lack of differing zones and incredibly limited options with regards to companion equipment nearly stopped me from playing it.

So here we are, just over three years after DAII and to be honest, I needed this trial before buying the new one to be totally sure that Bioware had taken the complaints on board.  Well, they have.  Big time.

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Now before we get into the game properly, I just want to say I had this really awesome post planned out which would be laced with my own gameplay footage but Xbox/EA said no.  I used the Game DVR function to record a stack of videos from my time in Inquisition, but I’m guessing since it was a trial before the main release I can’t view my clips outside of my Xbox and I can’t upload the clips to OneDrive.  Basically, without the use of a capture card, I got nothing.  Little bit frustrating for the sake of this post, but I get it.

So with regards to the story, there isn’t a huge amount on show in this trial to be honest, while the overall time within the game is limited to six hours, the trial also limits your movements within the world to two locations; Haven, the starting location, and The Hinterlands, where you’ll find Redcliffe and the surrounding villages and farmlands.  All in, I’d say you get somewhere between one and two hours of actual main story time and the rest is all side quests and exploration.  What we do get certainly has my interest piqued, the sweeping cival war between the mages and templars mixed in with the huge fade rift that has opened, causing smaller rifts to open and the hero’s link to it all has the potential to be one of their greatest.  But I have to keep my judgement to a minimum since one to two hours out of a possible 40 is really just scratching the surface.

Character wise, it’s another strong showing from Bioware.  This is not something that suprises me too much, Bioware have always had a knack for creating amazing characters and casting the perfect voice actors to bring them to life, and this is no different.  Even all the minor characters you come accross during the exploration and side quests are believable and well acted.  As I said, I had expecting this to be the case but it’s nice to get the confirmation anyway.

With regards to the exploration side, there are no more pathways or limited exploration of areas, that’s all been thrown out completely.  It’s pretty much a case of “if you can see it, you can go there”.  It feels like Skyrim in a way, just with permanent third person view.  There’s even a jump button!  The first time we’ve been able to freely jump in a Dragon Age game.  It might seem minor but in all honesty that one addition makes the game feel much more open and less restrictive.

On the side quests, there’s bloody loads.  I finished all the little bits and pieces in Haven during my six hours, but I don’t think I even got through half of the stuff to do in The Hinterlands.  So that’s roughly four hours, maybe just over, and I’ve done less than half the side quests.  And when you consider that The Hinterlands is just one part of Ferelden, and then on top of Ferelden we’ve got Orlais too, this game is going to be freaking huge.  Thankfully, on top of free roaming movement, there are mounts available.  I got my first horse during my time with it but I barely used it, I spent most of my time running, killing and talking.

To top all of this off, Inquisition comes with a deep crafting system which allows the creation of armour, weapons, potions, poisons, traps, bombs, grenades and also allows upgrades and enchantments to be applied to most of your equipment.  Equipment can also be supplied to your companions, so they are no longer limited to the arms and armour they start with.

Combat is hugely satisfying, slick and fluid but at the same time incredibly tactical.  I mean, in theory you could probably get by as a more casual gamer by only controlling your own character and letting everyone else get on with it, but if you’re going to be hitting up the harder difficulties then you’ll need to take advantage of everything you can.  There’s a feature that pauses the game during combat so you can select each character in your party and issue individual commands.  You can then move time forward from this viewpoint and watch everything unfold, either in real time or slow motion, allowing you to see the effectiveness of each order then alter tactics accordingly.  Within the main pause menu there is also the option to give each character a standing order based on certain situations.  For example, if you have a healer mage in your team (which you should.  Always.) then you can set them to heal you anytime your health dips below a certain level.  This is a feature that has been around since the first Dragon Age, but it’s good to see it’s come back.

Levelling has been streamlined somewhat, you now no longer have control over your characters attributes.  Instead, the game levels your attributes accordingly for your class and, eventually, your specialisation so all you have to worry about is selecting your skills.  The skill trees are pretty big, but thankfully none of the skills are limited to certain levels, all you have to do is unlock a skill that comes before it and is joined onto it.  On top of that, there are certain skills that when you unlock them, they add extra points to certain attributes.

So overall, I’m really impressed with Inquisition.  I think this will go a long way to helping people move on from the ending of Mass Effect 3 and Dragon Age II as a whole.  To be honest, I actually think this will help people get over their general hatred of EA too.  I assume that’s still a thing.  The next week is going to feel like an eternity while I wait for this to drop, I don’t think even GTA V will help bridge the gap between now and me getting this game for real.

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