2014 was a good year for dragons— and dragon-themed games.
Dragon Age: Inquisition, the third instalment of Bioware’s well-received Dragon Age series, made a name for itself in the stomping ground of video game fanatics and fantasy lovers alike last November. Fuelled by teasers that had been coming out since early March, the game took off quickly and unrepentantly swept the market of its competitors. Dragon Age: Inquisition, these authors are happy to say, won Game of the Year from a number of notable video game publications. And for a good reason.
Inquisition is a visually stunning game with fun gameplay, challenging and varied combat, and huge open areas to explore for hours on end. The settings, history, creatures, and characters (both NPCs and PCs alike) all combine to create the beautiful, tragic, and enchanting world of Thedas. Expect to invest many hours in this game, as it is a tour de force of speculative fiction.
This game has been routinely praised for its gorgeous, humongous open world areas. They are not only wonderful to look at—favourites of ours include the Emerald Graves and The Western Approach—but they also have substance. Each area has a rich history spanning multiple centuries. For someone interested in the elves of Thedas, this game has particularly juicy information. Even simple farming towns, such as Crestwood, have their own charm and backstory. Each setting is far from the generic Medieval Castle #63 and Battlefield #145 that too often appear in fantasy. The regions are diverse, rich, and endlessly entertaining to explore.
This wouldn’t be a Dragon Age review without mentioning a hugely important aspect of the series: dragons. And, oh, they are beautiful. Each of the ten unique dragons in this game have varying levels, designs, and modes of attack, with only one thing in common: they are all damn hard to kill. They are hands down the most challenging combat in the game, and if you’re anything less than level 19—maybe 18 if you’re feeling lucky and have ample healing potions—you will get roasted. Or electrified. Or frozen. The dragons are completely inconsequential to the main quest, but don’t miss out on seeing these beautiful beasts, and definitely don’t miss out on taking Iron Bull with you (you’ll thank us later).
And now for characters. They, without a doubt, are the highlight of the game. Bioware is known for creating interesting and diverse characters game after game, and Inquisition is no exception. Each and every one of the companions and advisors has interesting and unique reasons for joining the Inquisition, and their quests make up for anything lacking in the main quest plot. There are old favourites, like the awkward prince charming-esque Cullen and the storytelling dwarf Varric, as well as new favourites, such as the charming pyjama-wearing elf Solas and the louder-than-life qunari Iron Bull. There are women of colour characters, such as the adorable Josephine and the ambitious Vivienne, and a fantastic transgender man, Krem, of Iron Bull’s mercenary group The Chargers (who will also capture your heart). The romances range from fun and flirty, to heartbreaking, to downright naughty. Getting to know these characters, through friendship, romance, or rivalry, has absolutely been the best experience of Dragon Age: Inquisition.
And just as the NPCs are wonderfully diverse and unique, so are the PCs. They are the most varied and customizable characters presented in any Bioware game thus far. Players can choose between four races, two genders (with room in between, as previously gender-exclusive customization such as makeup, hair, and, now, Adam’s apples, are open to any character), four voices, and endless facial features customization. But this is just one aspect of how to personalize your character—the options for how your PC responds to any given circumstance or conversation are also diverse, and can have substantial impact on the game’s storyline thereafter.
We thought we’d talk about our own personal experiences with the game to explain this a bit better. One of the writers of this piece, Emily, has dedicated over 300 hours to this game and has six characters so far. They are all vastly different, not only in terms of how they look and who they romance, but also their personalities, preferences, and opinions.
Emily: Each time I’ve played the game I’ve had an almost completely different experience. For someone who loves creating their own characters with elaborate backstories and complex personalities, there is endless potential here. There is also the potential to fall madly in love with the character you have created, as I have (very egotistically) done. Mina Lavellan is a tiny, sweet, open-minded, loving, and very sad elven mage who just wants to Do The Right Thing™.
There’s definitely the option to be a kind creator and make a happy, powerful character who is totally cool with being in charge of everything. I decided to take the road less traveled and create a character who always looks like she’s crying and leads by doing what her friends tell her to do.
I also have characters who are more the Daenerys Targaryen-type who just wants to get this End of the World thing out of the way to continue having a good time. But the character I fell in love with is my sad elf. I love Inquisition, and while part of the reason for that is the settings, history, dragons, and characters, it is mostly because I was given the chance to create my own character and I sadistically created the saddest and most ill-equipped leader in the history of Thedas, who still somehow manages to save the world with a little help from her friends.
The second writer (and illustrator) of this piece, Lorna, is new to the Dragon Age world, having clocked only 50+ hours in this one game.
Lorna: Consider this post and aforementioned illustrations a personalized love song from Emily and I—the drawn characters are, after all, representations of our own PCs. The art of Inquisition, which first attracted me to the game, is stunning and deserves more credit and space than this post will allow, but I’ll try. Each companion in Dragon Age: Inquisition comes with their own artfully rendered tarot card symbolizing his or her history, personality, and possible futures—and often it is only in retrospect that you will be able to glean all of the symbolism and meaning each one possesses. Not only that, but often types of characters or creatures will also feature stylized cards (though not tarot ones) that are equally wonderful to look at. If you have a strong appreciation for aesthetics, this game is for you. It was for me.
Dragon Age: Inquisition deserves all of its 10/10s, and 5/5s, and 8/10s (looking at you, Eurogamer). It is a masterful combination of setting, character, aesthetics, and interesting political plot, and I happily foresee another play through in my future.
Well done, Bioware.
-contributed by Emily Maggiacomo and Lorna Antoniazzi