To be fair, that headline is a little misleading. Since first diving into BioWare’s RPG Dragon Age: Inquisition in 2015 and playing it almost exclusively that year, I have been revisiting the world of Thedas numerous times over the past years. Now that the promise that is Dragon Age 4 is looming on the horizon, I could not BUT replay it once more. Or, rather, several times more. Beware, this is a very long post!
Thanks to an update I recently had to re-install my PS4 and realised that – in total – I had created 50 (!) Inquisitors over time. Not played them all to the end, Maker forbid, sometimes I would play just up to “In Your Heart Shall Burn” then delete the character again.
Back in the day I published two posts – Building Character I and Building Character II, but I found only recently that – all this time – I have been missing out on making the most of my party’s spezializations. Well, anyway, here is my long overdue review of Dragon Age: Inquisition plus some insights I have garnered over the years.
Please don’t expect an extensive compendium, there are far better sources for that online. Also, keep in mind that Dragon Age: Inquisition is the latest game of the series and the only one I have played thus far. Though I purchased Dragon Age: Origins for my PS3 I found the loading times atrocious and gave up shortly after my hero set out on her journey. Suffice to say I did not try to play Dragon Age 2 after that experience.
Dragon Age – The World Of Thedas
The fantasy world of Thedas offers a rich tapestry of nations present and past. There is the Empire of Orlais, where the Great Game is played to perfection, the Tevinter Imperium, where Mages rule, the kingdom of Ferelden, scarred from the Blight, the Free Marches with its city states, Nevarra, with strange customs surrounding the dead, and Antiva, home of Merchants and the infamous Crows. There are also the Dwarves, who – for the most part – live in a caste society beneath the earth, and the Qunari, who are more than a race of ox-men. All those nations, though, pale in comparison to a far greater one: the long-lost empire of the Elves.
In the current timeline the Elves as a nation no longer exist. The remnants of their ancient culture survive only in tales and impressive ruins. Thedas today is the world of Men. Still, all of the aforementioned nations have their own goals and ambitions, so politics and alliances play a major part in the world of Dragon Age. Each decision will have consequences, be the impact big or small. Which is something I absolutely adore about the series.
Apart from the nations there are factions, like the Chantry, the Templars, The Seekers, The Grey Wardens, The Carta and more. They all have their own interests and play their part in the game.
Dragon Age: Inquisition – The Story
When it comes to story, Dragon Age does not think small. While past heroes battled powerful magisters and archdemons in the shape of giant dragons, the hero of Dragon Age: Inquisition is up against – well – pretty much all of that and more.
In their quest they will have to lead the charge against a powerful evil. A monumentous task that will require the aid of allies and the support of the most powerful nations and factions. And one that will demand the loyalty of their companions.
The Characters of Dragon Age: Inquisition
As is custom in RPGs, characters will hail from all over the world and the party I mentioned will consist of members of the numerous factions. First and foremost, there is the hero of the game, the Inquisitor, who can be of Human, Elven, Dwarven or Qunari origins, male or female.
As for the companions, the greater part of which you need to recruit, they all come with their specific cultural backgrounds, prejudices and personal experiences. Knowing and playing to them the Inquisitor can gain or lose their approval. Of course, you can also stick to a specific origin story for your Inquisitor. For example, you can play as a pious human warrior who shuns elves and mages, as a Dalish apostate mage who despises humans and defies the Chantry, including the oppressive Circles of Magi, or a straight-forward, always pragmatic dwarf. There are many more possibilities. In most conversations you can choose from “kind and compassionate”, “clever and insightful” and “straightforward and pragmatic” answers. While some characters prefer the “straightforward and pragmatic” approach, others respond better to “kind and compassionate”. Although reactions vary regarding the context of the given situation. Which is great!
There are a number of warriors among your companions: Seeker Cassandra Penthagast, Warden Blackwall and The Iron Bull, a mercenary. Three powerful mages can be added to your party: Vivienne, a scholar and true master of the Great Game, Dorian, an altus and passionate historian hailing from Tevinter, and elusive Solas, an elven apostate who specialises in studying spirits. There are three rogues in total, each as different as all of the possible companions. There’s dwarf Varric, who already played a part in Dragon Age 2, Sera, an elf with a human upbringing, and Cole, who is something else altogether.
Three more characters make up the inner circle of the Inquisitor: Commander Cullen, who already played a part in Dragon Age 2, spymaster and bard Leliana, from Dragon Age: Origins, and Josephine, a new character hailing from Antiva, who becomes the Inquisition’s very capable ambassador.
In Dragon Age, you can choose from the three common RPG-classes Warrior, Rogue and Mage. Warriors come in two variations: Sword and Shield and Two-Handed. While Sword and Shield offers more protection, Two-Handed warriors are very powerful. Rogues come either as Archer or with Dual-Wielding daggers. Mages, then, have a couple of branches they can initially choose from, be it Fire, Ice or Spirit.
Later, you can branch out into Specializations. Those are Reaver, Champion and Templar for the Warrior class, Tempest, Assassin and Artificer for the Rogue class and Necromancer, Rift Mage and Knight-Enchanter for the Mage class. Unfortunately, all of your companions will come with their pre-determined Specialization. Cassandra is a Templar, Blackwall a Champion and The Iron Bull a Reaver. Varric is an Artificer, Sera a Tempest and Cole an Assassin. Vivienne is a Knight-Enchanter, Dorian a Necromancer and Solas a Rift Mage.
While I had my problems with that at first, since having two Two-Handed Reavers in one party is not necessarily a good match, I have since come to appreciate certain combinations. For example, if you play as a Necromancer, bringing Dorian along is perfect when facing a greater number of enemies once both mages are fully specialized. That was the case in my playthrough as an elven Necromancer when we were battling our way through the waves of enemies in the all-too short but very sweet DLCs The Jaws of Hakkon and The Descent. Where close-quarters combat is called for, two Dual-Wield rogues will be of great use, more so than a far-ranged archer like Varric or Sera. Having a well-rounded Templar or Champion along is key in every party. Although, to be honest, the best way of battling Rifts is having one warrior (preferably a Templar) and three mages in your party. You will have beaten that Rift in a couple of minutes, promise!
The world of Thedas covers continents, so you will travel mountains, shores, bogs, deserts and cities alike. Each map is beautiful in its own way, very detailed, and will entice you to explore every corner, as you will find original, funny and creepy secrets all over the place. I still do, even after having played this game over the past six years over and over again.
There is Haven, situated in the mountains, the first place you get to explore. There are The Hinterlands, also in the mountains, Val Royeaux, the stunning capital of the Empire of Orlais, The Storm Coast on the edge of the Waking Sea, haunted Crestwood, close to said shore, the depressive bog that is The Fallow Mire, deserts like The Western Approach and The Hissing Wastes, the beautiful green Exalted Plains as well as The Emerald Graves and the very cold Emprise de Lion. The DLCs, then, will lead you into the Deep Roads and the Frostback Basin, two new, unique locations. Overall, they all are a sight to behold and I never tire of them.
Gameplay and Combat
Dragon Age: Inquisition offers many choices. When it comes to Gameplay, there are basic attack moves that fit each and every class paired with powerful abilities. You can play alone or alongside one, two or three companions. Each companion can be controlled by you, too, so you do not have to play as the Inquisitor all the time. Which is great for having fun with different classes.
Tactical View allows you to set specific tasks for each party member and you can also assign favorite abilities that a character will try to use as much as possible. For example, Rogues and Mages are usually pretty vulnerable. Yet you can tell a Rogue to use their cloaking ability as much as possible to hide them from enemies before they strike. You can also assign a Warrrior to protect a Mage and tell that Mage to protect another character, for example your Inquisitor, if you are playing them during a tense battle. This is what I ususally do when playing on the highest difficulty, Nightmare.
The most powerful abilities of your party depend on a certain level of Focus. Focus builds with each attack of each party member. That is something to keep in mind. You may want to withhold triggering a particularly powerful ability until it is truly needed.
Speaking of abilities, they can be upgraded to deliver more damage, to grant a Warrior more guard or greater speed to a Rogue. The impact your abilities have often coincide with how powerful your weapons are. This is where upgrading your characters gets tactical. For example, during my first attempt at beating the game on Nightmare-difficulty I chose the Mage-class for my Inquisitor. Not a good idea at that time. Also, I really had no clue how to tactically upgrade my character. But, since I was only two achievements shy of earning myself the Platinum Trophy, I tried again this year. And I did manage with my Inquisitor being a Rogue Archer-Assassin wielding a super powerful bow, at times inflicting over 10.000 damage.
An RPG without romances? Never! So there are eight different characters you can romance, not all of them, mind you, and these are: Cassandra as a male Inquisitor, Solas as an elven female Inquisitor, Blackwall as female Inquisitor, The Iron Bull as male or female Inquisitor, Sera as female Inquisitor, Dorian as a male Inquisitor, Josephine as male or female Inquisitor, Cullen as human or elven female Inquisitor. My favorite romances? Let’s count all of them down:
Sera is hard to please and you will have better chances when playing as a Qunari Warrior or Rogue, since she seems to like big women but despises magic. The relationship with her is kind of weird and I have actually never played it through to the end.
Josephine’s romance is cute, in a way, but Josephine herself is not that interesting of a character. There is a plot-twist to that romance that is all too predictable. Which is why she lands the second-to-last place.
Number 6: Cullen is a nice guy, but haunted by his past, and that makes things way more complicated than they need to be. Still, a sweet and easy one.
Blackwall’s romance feels old-fashioned and you really have to dig that righteousness of his which makes the big reveal that much more punishing.
Solas’s romance is almost as complicted as Sera’s. I always feel like I am trying to please the head-master. Of course, this one also ends tragically because he is not really ready to fall in love.
Cassandra truly IS delightful when romanced, and very romantic at that. She is a passionate woman and very open about her feelings once she trusts you. Which is sweet. I especially love romancing her as a Qunari mage…
The Iron Bull is a kinky guy but also the most gentle soul-mate you could think of. Be it his Ben-Hassrath training or a genuine caring heart, he will always put your desires and wishes first. The best Iron Bull romance, of course, is the one between him and Dorian. If you flirt with neither of them, they will fall in love, and hard. That one is perhaps the most romantic romance of all the Dragon Age: Inquisition pairings, especially if you play through the Trespasser DLC.
Dorian, because his romance is the most complicated one, and that keeps things interesting. He does not make it easy for you, neither during your courtship or after. Which is bitter-sweet, and adorable both.
Thoughts on Dragon Age 4
Well, we think we know who the big bad of the game will be, right? But I will throw my own theory out there: In the very beginning of the game Solas will be out of it, be it by the hand of the Inquisitor or some other force. And we, the hero, have to foil the evil forces about to swallow Thedas whole…
There you have it.
Until next time, keep on playing!