I've been meaning to put some words down about this game. It is however staggeringly hard to know where to start and what to say. First off, yes, I'm late to the party. This game has been out for a while, so most of the quality commentary has already been written, and most minds have been made up about this game. But I want to talk about a few things non-the-less. So, let's work it like this: I'll just jot down whatever I have to say about the game, and I'll assume that you, the reader, is well versed enough in the game, the story and the mechanics to follow along.
If you're not cool with that, unfamiliar with it or just "done" with this game, feel free to skip this article. And before we go any further: THERE WILL BE SPOILERS, YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
My fiancee picked this game up for me a couple of weeks ago. She was out shopping and figured that she would surprise me. While it wasn't anything I was particularly looking forward to playing (figures, since I hadn't picked it up yet), I was still happy to get it. After Mass Effect 2, Bioware games have left a sour taste in my mouth. I'm one of those guys who likes to talk about Knight of the Old republic and Jade Empire rather than Mass Effect or Dragon Age.
With that said, I do have some history with the Dragon Age franchise. I've played the preceding two to completion. I'm also one of those who will go to bat for Dragon Age 2 (DA2), which I thought was a pretty fun, and VERY flawed game. I cannot defend the recycled dungeons or the spotty writing in that game, I don't think anyone truly can. But I will say that having an entire game set in and around one city was a brilliant idea. I love the whole "Home-town-hero" feel of Dragon Age 2.
So, what's new with this one then? Well, a lot it seems. Dragon Age: Inquisition (DA:I) feels half like an apology about Dragon age 2 and half like a game that is truly trying to shed its skin and become something different. They apologize for the shoddy recycled dungeons in DA2 by making DA:I a great big open-world-ish adventure, with hours upon hours of content. And in the same token, they shed the old RPG skin of the series in favor of a more action oriented affair with seriously weakened mechanics.
It really comes down to that for me, mechanics. My biggest gripe, the one thing that really sinks this game for me, is mechanics. I'm not sure if this is only my imagination, or jaded sensibilities, but most of the games mechanics feels nerfed, or down-played. It feels like they tried to make the game "appeal to everyone" by making each and every character, class and skill equally useful (or useless, depending on your perspective). You wield giant hammers, throw fireballs, stab people repeatedly with knives, and it still takes about 10-20 seconds to kill each and every monster. It hardly feels like progression when the game ties its difficulty so tight to the players power level that it you never really feel powerful.
Another thing that has been severely toned down is the skills of each character. I can't in good conscious sit here and say that previous Dragon Age games had extensive skill trees. But this game takes "stream-lining" to a new level. Instead of having skill trees with interesting power-ups and skills, DA:I opt for having four small skill-trees per class. Each skill-tree contains three to five usable skills that feel pretty much the same, most of which has "upgrades" that minimally changes the way the skill works. To fill these trees out, they've put a couple of passive skills between the usable skills that take "minimal incremental increase" to new levels. I mean, one passive in the Pyromancy tree causes the Pyromancy spells to drain barrier (shield) to power up, but the drainage is huge (50% to be exact) and the increase in power is neither felt nor observed.
To move along to more positive pastures. They really upped their game in world and dungeon design. DA:I is probably bigger than both Dragon age one and two combined. The game opts for making medium-sized regions that are aren't interconnected, instead of having a true open world. But the regions are diverse and interesting, which leads to a lot of time spent exploring. Each region also has a decently sized pool of quests and collectibles. This is probably the saving grace of the game. It's just so damn entertaining exploring each region. The scope of the game is truly impressive when placed with its predecessors.
When the game came out, there were some... discussion about the characters. Some people loved them, some hated them. The internet debate soon went from heated to crazy and then back to heated. Playing this game so far after the fact does bring some perspective. I like most characters. They seem pretty well written and most of them are entertaining enough. I must say, though, that it feels like the writer front-loaded most character traits. Whenever you meet a character, it feels like the writers really emphasize their "quirks" without letting the player build up to them. "Hi, I'm character A and my personality is NR. 37" is what it feels like whenever they introduce a new character. This does lead to some strange introductions, but levels out pretty neatly when you get to know the characters a little more deeply. I must however comment on this simple fact: "IT IS NOT A GOOD IDEA OF HAVING THE MAIN CHARACTER DEBATE A SECONDARY CHARACTER WITHOUT ANY POSSIBILITY OF SUCCESS!" I swear, this drives me up a wall. Whenever your main character and a party-member have a debate with opposite stand-points, it ends in the party-member saying something snarky/overriding the main-characters point and you loosing approval. That isn't debate, I'm not even sure what it is. A brown-nose-function? No matter, I don't like it.
To end off, this game is by far from perfect, but it isn't bad. I'm enjoying myself, but not in the way I thought I would. Where I expected to be taken on an adventure, and to make tough RPG-choice, I found a much more casual and laid-back experience. Take that how you will.