E3 2014: Dragon Age: Inquisition Overcomes the Many Problems of Its Predecessor

Between a dragon and a hard place.

Dragon Age: Inquisition makes me question my own judgment. I was so taken by BioWare's half-hour presentation that I would have pre-ordered the game without a second thought, and yet there's a nagging feeling of doubt nestled in the back of my mind. Dragon Age 2 was a massive disappointment. Is it possible that BioWare has learned its lesson so completely that it can regain the trust it lost? Or is it going to pull the rug out from under us once again? Well, I'm going to throw caution to the wind. Inquisition is exactly what I want in an expansive role-playing game. An inviting world populated by a diverse cast of characters, tactical combat that melds action with strategy, and gorgeous visual design that leaves the dull days of Origins far behind us. If it turns out to be another dud, then there's no shame in being fooled by the master.

Bears are a finite resource. As you venture through the inviting world in Inquisition, the wildlife rebels against your presence. To you and I, a bear would be a formidable enemy. If you're a rogue accompanied by a mage, an archer, and a warrior, though, that poor bear is going to see his furry parents is ursine heaven. Of course, successfully felling that cuddly beast nets you a pelt, which make for great clothes if you don't mind the smell of death wafting around you. However, your mark is felt in Inquisition. Go hunting too often and the animal population will dwindle. Introducing environmental conservation in this mystical world gives permanence to your actions. What kind of inquisitor will you be? And how will you sleep at night?

Permanence is a major theme in Inquisition. Your choices matter in ways that make the world seem lived in, that things would continue onward even if you weren't sticking your fingers in the pot. The inquisition that you're a part of move in to territories you've conquered, erecting flags and making their presence felt. Your companions are affected not just by what you say, but what you do as well. If you treat people like garbage, you're going to wind up one stinky jerk. Life lessons from a video game, who knew? Of course, I didn't get to see that permanence take form in the presentation. But considering BioWare's history of creating believable relationships between characters, I have little doubt that will remain true in Inquisition as well. It's other elements that make me a little more wary.

Take, for instance, how amazing the world looks. Call it cliche if you must, but the scene where a woman walks through a wheat field dragging her hand across the crops? That's just breathtaking. And every place that the developer ventured down had a similarly enticing style. In one area, rogue mages had set fire to a village, and though I should have been considering with the welfare of the people, I instead marveled at the flaming, crumbling walls all around. Later on, inside a torture chamber (don't ask), there was such detail on the walls and surfaces that it looked as though it had been lived in, or at least dirty business was conducted there. Inquisition is one of those games that makes me happy that I'm currently upgrading my computer as I want nothing more than to stare at its sights. Still, the thought of fighting through so many similar-looking places in Dragon Age 2 is hard to forget. It seems like Inquisition has solved that problem, but I won't know for a couple more months.

And then there's the combat. This has always been a weak spot for me in Western RPGs. I must have strange tastes, because while others were enamored by "fus ro dah"ing in Skyrim, unleashing bionic hell in Mass Effect, or meditating like a madman in Witcher 2, I would finish as quickly as possible so I could get back to the parts I cared about. But Dragon Age: Origins was one of the few outliers. More tactics game than RPG, it required careful planning to overcome every foe you encountered. This kept me riveted in each new showdown, although its high difficulty could be frustrating when I wanted to know the next story point. This was a far cry from its sequel in which mashing A was enough to progress. There has to be a happy medium.

Well, Inquisition may have struck that balance. For those who love destructive chaos, throwing your weight around looks to be a viable strategy against weaker enemies. And once the medieval poop hits the wind-powered fan, you need to use a top-down camera to plan your attacks with precision. Not only can you direct where your mage stands or what tactics your rogue should take, but you can inhabit each member of your party midfight. So pound away at a dragon's leg from up close, and than switch to your archer to finish it with an arrow strike. I hope the combat isn't too button mashy, but from what little I saw, it looks to be strategic enough so you can't just tap away without any thought.

Dragon Age: Inquisition is in an interesting position. I so want to believe that what I saw was real, but I can't throw all my doubt away. Why did everything look so scripted? And how come it wasn't playable? I don't know the answer to those questions, but I can fully endorse what I saw. I know that I'm now looking forward to its release in October, and though there's a chance I'm going to get your hopes up for nothing, I don't think I will. Inquisition looks like a game worthy of its Dragon Age heritage, and might kill the lingering stench of the second entry completely.

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Discussion

127 comments
shooters125
shooters125

I hope I'm not the only one who'd rather have text dialogue options rather than a voiced player character. I hope it's not the wave of the future because I find voiced dialogue to be a little impersonal, confusing and a little bit cheesy sometimes.

Verenti
Verenti

How terrible Dragon Age II they tell us. Again and again and again. Will Inquisition fix what was wrong with that mess? Probably. It will probably also "fix" what the game got right, which seems to me to be more than you can hold against it.


Dragon Age II was a specific and personal story. It was story about Hawke and his family and the tragedy that followed the champion like a shadow. It was about the big philosophical argument behind magic in Dragon Age and how that debate transformed the space of Kirkwall and how that city and its denizens grew and changed over time. And you know what? I found the story shaped not only the NPCs, but my Hawke as well. It was the first time that my feelings for a character who had, for all intents and purposes, not changed, changed dramatically as I was strongly impacted by the story. And as that story unfolded, I felt powerless, which is exactly how Hawke must have felt at the time. Despite all of my skills, weapons and fireballs, I was unable to save the people who mattered most to me.


Dragon Age II wasn't about expansive open worlds that needed to, and would,  be saved by me. It wasn't about some villain or demonic entity threatening all life. How uninteresting would that be? If I say "you must save the world", then you know that the world will be saved. Because that's not a story that can failed and produce a sequel. Hawke didn't have to stop an archdemon or a reaper invasion. Hawke's story didn't have a villain. It wasn't a war between good and evil. It was a war between competing goods. It had intricacies and nuances. It was about people and how those people changed over the years. In terms of an rpg, it broke all sorts of ground and did things right-- despite the amount of Kirkwall's thieves who wait for you to walk down any given alley. But this will all be swept under the rug, why? Because its popular to say Dragon Age II is a failure. Dragon Age II didn't fail us. We failed it. And in DA:I, we will pay the price. We will get a passable fun game that fails to try to be exceptional because we decided to punish failure instead of complacency.

Fartman7998
Fartman7998

You know what....I am a mite bit confused on what some fans actually liked about Dragon Age: Origins.  My short story is this -- I played DA: Origins when it first came out on Xbox, because that's what I had.  I wasn't a PC gamer back then, admittedly, although that's changed now.  That version did not have the top-down perspective, and I frankly did not miss it or need it.  As a matter of fact, I loved it.  The combat was everything I loved about KOTOR and then some, and in my high opinion, KOTOR has the greatest combat system every invented.  Years later, when I played DA: Origins on PC, I tried the top down perspective, and I hated it!  It removed everything I liked about the game.  Your characters are these teeny little specks, you see the whole map, and it reminded me a lot of a mediocre real-time strategy game, you know the ones that are as numerous as the stars?  


So...maybe I'm a hardcore Bioware fan, because I happened to love DA2, but really this article sounds like they're building this game and leaning it more towards the real-time strategy side of things.  No bueno!  Bioware's mish mash of strategy, action, story, and role-playing is the most epic thing I have ever experienced!  I don't want another Baldur's Gate, I want the Bioware I know and love.  As a matter of fact, I haven't played a Bioware game yet that hasn't become an instant favorite of mine, and their stories are always the highlight of my experience, never just the gameplay. 


/rant 

dolfanar
dolfanar

So here is the thing... in the original game I created a character I became very tied to, and played through what felt like a very personal story. I played through all the expansions and ultimately followed Morrigan into some kind of void.


In part two I was force fed a generic fantasy dude, but over time I became sort of attached to the guy even though he never felt like my guy.


So now I have two characters that I would like to be able to play additional adventures with.


1) Just how much will we be able to customize our character? Are we stuck with a BIOWARE employees marie sue character?

2) It's all well and good that some of our favorite NPCs show up, but what about the two most important characters of the previous games?

Michael83917
Michael83917

Yeah, I want to believe in this too. 

DA2 was disappointing in many ways, but not totally horrible. IMHO a 7.5 or 8 to Origins 9 or 9.5. 

I think here they have a chance of hitting that mark again (origins I mean). They said a while ago they would be taking some notes from Skyrim - let's not forget that a lot of what we like to think is wrong with Bioware these days is the fault of the money people(+EA). And even they have to have taken notice of the relative disparity in success/popularity between DA2 and Skyrim. They can't afford to screw this one up. 

Zoberk
Zoberk

There are those who say the people who made Bioware what it is are gone. While that may be true, let us not forget that the creator of Dragon Age, David Gaider, is also the one who was the lead writer of KOTOR. 

Zoberk
Zoberk

I think you're being unfair to DA2. It wasn't that bad. It had fun gameplay and the story was awesome, not to mention extremely important to the lore. The only things that bothered me were some reused maps, but Kirkwall city design was quite good. That game is more of an urban story compared to Origins.

That being said, I have no doubt that Inquisition will make (almost) everyone happy.

LordCrash88
LordCrash88

I'm looking forward to Inquisition. I think they have pretty done everything to make it a good RPG in the tradition of their own company.

The art design is the only downer at the moment. I really dislike this weird mix of cartoonish and realistic elements... :-|

matthewalangley
matthewalangley

I think people are highly dramatic about Dragon Age 2.  Sure it had it's flaws but the combat system was basically a tweaked version of Dragon Age Origns.  People such as this author make it sound like it was a completely different beast when it simply wasn't.


I liked both games and disliked things in both games.  I think people put on rose-colored glasses when looking at Origins.  It was an amazing game (possibly my favorite game ever) though it had a lot of flaws in it.  The combat was good but needlessly slow, the animations were good though could have been a lot better and faster... certain builds and classes felt slower than they need to be, visuals were decent but not nearly as good as some of the other games of the time.  DA 2 improved some of these areas and of course made some mistakes itself.  Overall I'd argue Origins was better but they are both two pieces of the same puzzle, one not meant to override the other.  It's like a books series where some books hit a better note than others but you can still appreciate the overall series.


I can appreciate what Bioware tried... in DA 2 they had you stay in one area and see it change over a greater deal of time vs. making you run around a big area of the world in a relatively short period of time.  It didn't work perfectly but I can appreciate their creative vision and their guts to change up the formula a bit.


People are frickin drama queens about games these days, especially Bioware games.  Don't expect everything to be the same, try and appreciate different works for what they are and don't be so damned dramatic lol.

Jmalk
Jmalk

Is it all about magic in that episode ?

What about good old swords/daggers ?

dropkickcleary
dropkickcleary

Wind powered fan... I have a feeling this would be incredibly inefficient.

jasongm
jasongm

Still remembers when Bioware made games like Jade Empire and KOTOR... classics!

Utnayan
Utnayan

The biggest thing to remember here is the people that made Bioware what is was,  are gone. Bioware is dead at this point, and nothing but a shadow of a name to sell more boxes for EA before they just close it off like they did to Mythic. The sooner people quit buying this garbage, the sooner what's left of the talent at Bioware (And there isn't much) can get picked up by a development studio worth something and we can see a few good games pumped out before the cycle repeats itself. 

Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

Let's see what some of the major problems with DA2 were:


Terrible relationships

Gross amount of asset re-use

Horrible final chapter and ending

Choices don't pay off

City that was supposed to change over the years barely changed at all

Mages significantly nerfed and far less useful than other classes


None of these problems would be evident from a 30 minute presentation, so how could you call them solved?


Calling Origins "dull" betrays your pathetic bias.

moonlightwolf01
moonlightwolf01

DA2 and ME3 really made me question the skills of Bioware's writers more than anything else. I initially put DA2's clumsy writing down to the game being a rushed mess in general but then along came ME3. A few of the character focused sections of that game's writing were excellent but the main plot was based on a contrivance which was then compounded by adding a deus ex machina into the last five minutes and Shepard's character development was reduced to some laughably bad slow walk dream sequences that would even embarrass the writer's of Hollyoaks. I really want this game to be awesome but all I see in the trailers is pretty landscapes and all I hear from the writer is their need to include different characters ethnicity or sexuality. I have no problem with inclusion of these character, I'd even welcome it but Bioware's writing of such characters has been haphazard at best and if their inclusion is a box ticking exercise then I really don't hold out much hope for them being interesting or relate-able characters. (For good examples of writing such characters take a look at Veronica or Arcade in Fallout New Vegas). A lot of the time gameplay trumps story for me but Bioware games are so focused on story it's impossible to ignore it, ME3's combat was excellent but the terrible main plot left me feeling like the game was a failure I just hope that its not going to happen again with Inquisition.

therealFrek
therealFrek

I really hope you are right Tom, I was likewise disappointed in DA2. I'm going to pre-order DA3 but honestly the only reason I'm doing so at this point is because I want to see how the story ends. With the ME3 story line all wrapped up this is Biowares last chance for me. To date there isn't a BW game that I don't own (well except the Sonic one). After ME3 and DA2 my willingness to continue buying BW games has taken quite a hit.

corrus
corrus

Oh please this game will be garbage

g1rldraco7
g1rldraco7

Bioware has impressed me so far with Inquisition, but I am going to keep an eye out.

RC-Sev
RC-Sev

Whatever, gonna play it, won't buy it under any circumstances.

musalala
musalala

Not impressed, their arrogance after DA2 left a bad taste in my mouth, will by this when it hits bargin bin status

Asharel
Asharel

They have not impressed with their latest titles

Mass effect 3 was mediocre at best and had an atrocious ending.

SWTOR was also mediocre, doesn't help that they decided to rehash dialogue on the main character in a fully voiced game, made me cringe more then once when your answer to someone is weird and out of place.

DA2 was a cash grab, same caves, weaker graphics and an unsatisfactionary story to boot..


Needless to say i will wait until i am sure DAI is worth my time and money before i even think of purchasing it.

Swaghard
Swaghard

I hope there is a hard mode so every battle feels tactical. Get with the program Bioware. People like hard games today. People want to feel the Dragon's breath.

ANGRYWOLF
ANGRYWOLF

Agree that the Medival/Dark Ages on earth were bad times and don't understand the guy who said he was sick of fantasy rpgs being, I guess so dark and violent.

If he doesn' t want that he can go play the sims.

shrugs.

The game looks nice but there's always a tad of doubt back there.

So why rush.Wait for the reviews from independent reviewers before you buy.I will.

Jasurim
Jasurim

Well I hope you're right, personally though I'm still trying to keep my expectations low. I don't think I could handle another DA2 situation.

jimrhurst
jimrhurst

DA2 had plenty of flaws, but there was a lot I really enjoyed.  I'll definitely give this one a spin.  I have more trouble getting the shrapnel of ME3's ending out of my head than I do the irritating trash mobs and recycled environs of DA2, to be honest.

ahpuck
ahpuck

@shooters125 Ok. I told the gaming companies and they have all agreed to stop using voice actors and go with text. You can relax now.

jenovaschilld
jenovaschilld

@Verenti I also enjoyed Dragon age 2 - the character graphics were ugly and some locations reused  freq - but still this was one of the better games out last generation and well worth its cost. I played through it twice, then gave it to my nephews who also played through it.  Was it as good as the first Dragon age when it came out, why no but still it was better then anything else at the time and a worthy successor to DA. 

Geogyf
Geogyf

@Fartman7998  Baldur's Gate 2 story was NOT created by Bioware.


3 studios can rightfully say they created Baldur's Gate story.


Bioware was the publisher #1, they provided the Infinity engine. 

Interplay was the pubisher #2 (they were the main pusblisher).

Black Isle Studios created the Baldur's Gate story (Black Isle was owned by Interplay)


When Interplay & Black Isle closed, another 2 studios were formed.

Fargo created InExile (Bard's Tale, kickstarter Wasteland 2, Torment:Tides of Numenera)

The majority founded Obsidian (Kotor 2, Neverwinter Nights 2, Fallout: New Vegas, South Park, kickstarter Pillars of Eternity)


So the truly ones who created BG story is obsidian (who have the most remaining members) and some members from the other studios.

Fartman7998
Fartman7998

@dolfanar I basically did the same thing...hoping and wishing for that story resolution 

Geogyf
Geogyf

@Zoberk i think you are overly generous to DA2.

Why? because you love the Dragon Age brand (who doesnt?)


If Dragon Age 2 was a stand alone title, you wouldn't be so forgiving.

Utnayan
Utnayan

@matthewalangley What they tried? They shipped out a game with so many reused textures and tiles that the entire game was a copy paste of rinse and repeat with low effort to obtain the lowest development cost possible with, hopefully, generating the highest rate of return on the IP based of the first. It was a disaster of a game as a result of this, driven by EA. The people that made Bioware what it is today are long gone working at other development firms. The Bioware name at this point means about as much as a blueprint design doc for a new console from Don Mattrick. 


qioden
qioden

@matthewalangley i totally agree, but reasonable voice like yours are often drowned in the wholehearted condemnation of DA2...looking very much forward to inquisition, ordered collecters edition already

RevLux
RevLux

@dropkickcleary  Yep, the fan would just get in the way of the wind and lessen the amount of air flow. Now a river fed water powered fan...

majere613
majere613

@jasongm Jade Empire did, however, have the worst RPG combat system of all time. Paralysing attack- bash bash bash. Damaging attack- bash bash bash. Repeat until enemy is dead. And that was the final boss, for pity's sake.

benelori
benelori

@Utnayan 

The biggest thing to remember is that all that you said doesn't matter, if the game is good

RevLux
RevLux

@Thanatos2k  I believe he meant the artistic design of the fantasy world and characters in Origins and not the game itself. Personally I feel Origins was a rare masterpiece on the p.c. Let's be honest though, some of it's fantasy inspired character types and settings were quite generic and even bland in some cases. From the little I've seen of Inquisition it looks like Dragon Age may have finally found the right balance of style and form. I'm most worried about the combat though. Still, I'm cautiously optimistic that it will be a good game. Fingers crossed for greatness.

Geogyf
Geogyf

@moonlightwolf01


They pulled the main Mass Effect writer (Karpynsky) so he could work on Star Wars Online.

So Mass Effect 3 lacked vision. Hudson's team didnt know how to end it.


As for DA 2 it was extremely rushed (9 months of production).

Bioware employees have admitted it. 


I quite agree with you on what you said.


Hopefully they learnt their mistakes and will take their time now.

rhymesmatter
rhymesmatter

@therealFrek I am surprised to say this but for once i also share Tom's opinion.And As you correctly said DA 2 and ME 3 sliced my trust to BioWare SO HARD that there's barely any left for me to go on buying their games.And The studio making DA never seemed to understand this . They never seemed to have learned from their errors and they were cocky enough to keep at several things that needed to be changed. For one: Mass Effect's dialogue system (the one with the cycle) though it fitted ME very well and served Shepard's voice acting even better ... It never felt right for DA! It doesn't feel right to have a voiced character for this series! Mass effect-izing every single game BioWare makes does NOT mean it will be better for the narrative part! I LOVED DA:O's dialogue system and it was a perfect fit for the franchise.

What was wrong with that?Why did we have to suffer the blunt voice of Hawke , the most horribly presented main character for a Triple A RPG. I wish i never have to see him again although i know we will in this game.And this developer team ...They were like "No . We are not going to return to no voiced character.And NO we are not going to step away from the cycle dialogue system! We will most definitely keep those parts from DA 2 intact because that is the direction we chose for the game.." pompous a-holes if you ask me! and they said those things in their first press conference with the cosplayers and whatnot when they were answering questions for fans..

They seem to INSIST and TRULY believe that DA 2 was alright . And they really don't seem to have learned from their mistakes and that's what scares me with this game.Their arrogant attitude believing they achieved to "overcome" the alleged shortcomings of the second game is what's even scarier as they never really took a grasp of ALL the faulty parts that made DA 2 so bad. DA 3 has a lot of "making up" to do and i am afraid that it will be too much for it to handle.Let's hope i am 100% mistaken and this game proves to be BioWare's redeeming ticket

matthewalangley
matthewalangley

@corrus Bioware *never* makes garbage.  Their weakest game is still much better (especially in story, dialogue, and voice acting) than nearly any other game out there.

sepir
sepir

@Swaghard 

I like easy games with good story so I can sit back with a beer and enjoy it. Still, hard mode should be hard, and I have easy mode to cater for me.

gamefreak215jd
gamefreak215jd

@jimrhurst ME3 was the best in the series.The ending was all it took to ruin the whole experience.

matthewalangley
matthewalangley

@jimrhurst I enjoyed DA2 and ME3 ending (pre-extended cut, though I liked the extended cut better).


Quite honestly I don't think they could've ended the Mass Effect series in any ways that would make everyone happy, unless an entire game was dedicated to the "end" lol.


DA2, with it's flaws, still had better story and dialogue interactions than nearly every non-Bioware RPG.


Comparing the games to eachother is only one point of comparison.  For example Skyrims horrid voice acting, dialogues, and story (and talk about a weak ending, was just as bad as Oblivion).

RevLux
RevLux

@jimrhurst  I agree. DA2 had several glaring problems but if you are able to look past them, and the fact that it is not Origins, then there is a decent game to enjoy underneath imo. I for one can not wait to experience Inquisition.

Dexyu
Dexyu

@Geogyf Thank you this was very informative  =]

Zoberk
Zoberk

@Geogyf However, it is not a standalone title and is a part of the overall story. Thus, it is not really possible or preferable to see it apart from the whole series. Besides, why does there have to be another reason to like a game than to just having liked that game?

jimrhurst
jimrhurst

@gamefreak215jd @jimrhurst Amen brother.  ME1 was great but a little sluggish.  ME2 was easily as good, but too actiony and bit dumbed down.  ME3 was near perfect, IMO.  Then there's those last 10 minutes that make the whole 150 hours into a sad joke.  It'll be a long time before I forget that epic let down.

Geogyf
Geogyf

@jimrhurst @gamefreak215jd pulling the main writer out of ME3 really hit them.


He went to work on Star Wars online story


As such, Mass Effect 3 lacked vision, and they didnt know how to patch up the ending story.