Review

Dragon Age: Inquisition - The Descent Review

  • First Released Nov 18, 2014
    released
  • PS4

Really deep, man.

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One thing that everyone can agree upon when it comes to Dragon Age: Inquisition is that the game is big. Like, crazy big. The Hinterlands alone is approximately the size of North Dakota. So, when The Descent DLC came along and promised to scale things down to a dungeon crawl, you had to wonder how it was going to play out. I figured it was going to go one of two ways. I assumed the adventure would be either a nice change of pace via an old-school D&D-flavoured romp through underground caverns, or a mundane corridor creep, making the fantastic original game mundane and predictable. But I clearly underestimated BioWare, as the developer covered all the bases here and created an add-on that offers both some interesting new settings and an occasionally monotonous trudge through caves.

The area of Thesdas that The Descent focuses on is certainly intriguing. After installing the DLC, a new 16-power assignment shows up near the Storm Coast on the Skyhold war room map. Local dwarves are reporting mysterious earthquakes rumbling through the Deep Roads--a not-exactly-hiding-it borrowing of The Underdark underground domain from the D&D campaign Forgotten Realms. There are no drow to be found here, but plenty of dwarves and Darkspawn--that catch-all Dragon Age version of J.R.R. Tolkien's orc. Two dwarves actually accompany you on the expedition, although Shaper Valta and Lieutenant Renn don’t have a whole lot to say outside of the cutscenes. Given how much the party’s banter added to the original campaign, it’s disappointing that these two new characters clam up while wandering through the caverns.

Renn is one of a pair of dwarves who join the Inquisitor on his new DLC adventure. Interesting looking guy, but he’s not much of a conversationalist.
Renn is one of a pair of dwarves who join the Inquisitor on his new DLC adventure. Interesting looking guy, but he’s not much of a conversationalist.

You don’t have to know or even care much about the incredibly rich and detailed background mythology of the Dragon Age series to understand the motivations here, but it does help, especially when a mystery challenge is spun out regarding the Titans and the living mystical substance of Lyrium. As I’m more of a “click through most of the dialogue to get back to the game” sort of player, the story and its implications didn’t mean too much to me, although groundwork has clearly been laid to move the plotlines of future DLC or even full sequels into creative new areas. One big problem, though, is the lack of connection between this challenge and the main campaign's events, which makes for a pretty big detour if you take on the challenge while still playing the main game. It works better as a kind of after-dinner mint--particularly given the revelations at the end, which could have had a major impact on the campaign if it was still ongoing, but are pretty much just brushed off here.

Much of The Descent takes place in narrow caves and corridors, but the scenery occasionally opens up to reveal haunting images of the ancient dwarven kingdoms.
Much of The Descent takes place in narrow caves and corridors, but the scenery occasionally opens up to reveal haunting images of the ancient dwarven kingdoms.

At any rate, the story is a good excuse to get the Inquisitor and his gang underground. The Descent begins on a rickety elevator ride into the Deep Roads and then continues with the party going further and further into the old dwarven kingdom. This isn’t just a collection of dingy old caves and tunnels and tombs, though. The adventure turns into a sub-campaign, complete with an expedition table stocked with local operations mirroring what’s on offer in the main game’s war rooms. There is also a majesty to much of the jaunt befitting the legendary status of what the dwarves built down there, with cities, underground water systems and incredible ruins everywhere that turn almost every scene into a glimpse at ancient history. With that said, you're still underground and stuck fighting it out in close confines. That can be pretty annoying, as melee battles in such tight quarters become hard to follow, with a gang of combatants duking it out in what sometimes seems like a succession of dwarven phone booths.

Speaking of combat in The Descent: there is a lot of it. Battles start off intriguing, with a few new enemies and new loot drops featuring high-level gear never seen before, and so forth. But the scraps are very hard, even right from the beginning of the game. Enemies seem to be able to always sustain a ton of damage before going down, which does little more than drag things out unnecessarily. I hated the ogres at the start of the game and I hated them far, far more by the end of the game. The one saving grace with combat here is that it demands tactical thinking. I tried smashing my way to victory as I did in many engagements in the regular campaign outside of boss battles. I died. Over and over again. Everything is still a little too brutal for my liking. This is one of those expansions aimed at serious players of the original game looking for a more extreme challenge, which to me has always been a mistake in that it assumes too much of the audience. Still, I did gain added respect for the core Dragon Age engine and the control it affords over a party when pausing and issuing orders. It was a good reminder that there are really a couple of ways to play the game.

Ugly creatures abound in The Descent. You’ll never wonder why the Darkspawn hide themselves underground.
Ugly creatures abound in The Descent. You’ll never wonder why the Darkspawn hide themselves underground.

Saying that The Descent meets expectations may be damning this DLC with faint praise, but that’s also a fair summation of what it offers during its seven-to-10 hours of action. This is a pure sideline quest to the events of Dragon Age: Inquisition that plays out in a completely linear fashion and has no impact on the greater world. There isn’t anything particularly wrong with such a hack-and-slash dungeon crawl, especially one that features the fascinating background and backstory of the Deep Roads. But given the involving saga of the original game plus compared to the well-received and expansive Jaws of Hakkon DLC, which opened a whole new territory, it’s a little disappointing that this new adventure is rather too closed-off and insular.

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The Good
Interesting underground twist on the main Dragon Age: Inquisition campaign
Extremely challenging and forces tactical thinking during battles
Regularly majestic visuals jazz up the caves and caverns
The Bad
Turns into something of a grind with overly drawn-out combat
Close-quarters combat in the tunnels of the Deep Roads can be chaotic and monotonous
New NPCs don’t have much to say
No connection with the main Dragon Age: Inquisition campaign
6
Fair
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About the Author

Spending seven or eight hours underground in The Descent made Brett realize that he might be claustrophobic after all.
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DeadManRollin

This was boring, and not fun.

Finished game without finishing the DLCs.

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Gotmerked

seems like EA was happy with the base game , b/c these other installments are subpar and reek of EA just trying to appease fans but move on at the same time.

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Garnog

While it was nice to have another reason to return and take in some new scenery, endless waves of the same enemy, immune to virtually EVERYTHING with more hit points than a JRPG end boss... I spent less time taking down a dragon than just one of these meat sponges. It wasn't a challenge, it was boring and tedious. I think they dropped the nug on this one. Wait for a sale.

Avatar image for regulas
regulas

@Garnog: TY that's what I''m doing waiting for GOTY edition to get down to $30. Busy with Fallout 4 on PC right now. Looking forward to this on my PS4 since its 3rd person.

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Yoshikawa12

Surprised anyone still play this POS.

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ronan32

lol lolol lol lol bioware lol lol lol EA lolol lolol bioware lol lololol

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Stonedwolfed

Local dwarves are reporting mysterious earthquakes rumbling through the Deep Roads--a not-exactly-hiding-it borrowing of The Underdark underground domain from the D&D campaign Forgotten Realms.

Oh god there is so much wrong with this single sentence it's difficult to know where to begin.

(1) The Underdark was originally a World of Greyhawk setting, both in D&D terms (modules D1 through D3, D for Drow) and in terms of AD&D (Descent into the Depths of the Earth for 1st edition AD&D). Along with the G-series (Giants) and Q-series (Spider Queen) and was voted "the best module series ever", it's where it all got started.

(2) The Underdark then got manual-length treatment in the Dungeoneers Survival Guide (also for Greyhawk).

(3) After all that, The Underdark moved to The Forgotten Realms setting.

(4) All of this is irrelevant. It's all ultimately based on The Mines of Moria.

Avatar image for timeplayed
TimePlayed

WOW ! So much hate for DA:I !

I'm back playing it and now looking to finish it... This is after 300 hours give or take on Witcher 3.

I think Witcher 3 is just as boring as DA:I.

GERALT IS A COMPLETE CRINGE LIKE !!!

I literally had to go buy some masks from that weirdo to cover his face up cause the lack of head gear and customisation in witcher 3 is a drag.

I know what you all say about DA:I but really it's kinda what all WRPGs are about.

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gunnmetal

i bought the delux edition thinking that was the season pass or whatever then they stick me with a price on each dlc, plus this game really puts into a halt when you get to that big castle i have no clear path of what to do next.

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Reichmaster01

I just can't go back to this game after playing Witcher 3 for 150+ hours.

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Ferric24

It's a shame that the game was so nerfed in terms of difficulty because once you get used to some of the quirks there is a tactical and engaging gameplay to be had if you boost the difficulty. For anybody looking to somewhat recreate the DA:O tactics do yourself a favor and crank the difficulty to nightmare. Otherwise, it becomes very easy to be over-geared and over-leveled and take the challenge out of the game.

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Thanatos2k

And they're charging for this?

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UsernameOneTwo

Dungeons? No thanks. Dungeons ruined DA:O.

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Hurvl

"Turns into something of a grind with overly drawn-out combat" My main gripe with DA: O, making me hesitant to buy any other Dragon Age games, especially when there are so many other promising RPG's released recently. That and my already big backlog will put this further down my to-play-someday-list.

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jepsen1977

@Hurvl:

Dragon Age 2 and 3 are much faster paced than 1 - and much easier (less of a slog).

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ronan32

@jepsen1977 you're a slog:

Avatar image for nm_che56
NM_Che56

I tend to notice that the people who don't like this game:

A) try to clear out the hinterlands before moving on

B) try to do every side quest

C) played on normal ("hold r2 to win")

Not in these comments necessarily but in general. These issues are all easily remedied by the player

A) leave. Explore. Come back if needed

B) DON'T

C) increase the difficulty

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@nm_che56: So you're saying people that like RPGs don't like the game because they're playing it like an RPG?

Good to know.

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Mintfit83

@Thanatos2k: LOL, well said mate, well said.

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NM_Che56

@Thanatos2k:

No. Not playing smart

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Stonedwolfed

@nm_che56: You shouldn't have to "manage your play" to make a game enjoyable.

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jj2112

@nm_che56: Um... I finished the game on the hardest setting and all I had to do was press the button to fire arrows, without any tactics at all.

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UsernameOneTwo

@nm_che56: there's nothing to explore. I loved the story, but besides that there's nothing in this game. Yes the maps are beautiful but they're empty.

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HeavenGirl15

@usernameonetwo: I agree. I love DA from Origins to this one, but Inquisition while it keeps the core elements of the series it felt a little empty. I ran around collecting loot and completing all quests. The problem is that no decision affected the ending at all.

Skyhold had meaningless upgrades, and the recutring agents were offered additional perks that did not affected the gameplay.

My biggest "complain" is that the game failed to really make me remember a great moment like it did with origins. I do not regret the purchase since I am very much into the series, but I was left a little disappointed with Inquisition. Even the DLCs felt like they were just cut from the main game to be sold separately.

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Jasurim

@nm_che56: With the side quests, at least some of them should be fun though. I shouldn't have to space them out for it to be enjoyable and the empty side quests en-mass is where it really fell apart for me. I hate to do the whole Witcher comparison, but The Witcher 3 really did side quests right, DAI needed to be more substantial like that.

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NM_Che56

I enjoyed it. There is a story, but it's a side story. This was written by the Austin studio (the main game comes from their Edmonton studio). This reminds of of the Omega DLC from Mass Effect 3; nice story but not related to the main campaign and giving another studio a chance to show it's chops (Omega was developed by the Montreal studio).

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Jasurim

Hmmm...doesn't sound all that story focused. Might have to give this one a miss as well if that's the case, I really want a story focused DLC. I do not need another empty area to wander around fighting monsters in, got enough of that in the main game. Maybe another time...

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Yamakoichi

this is the score the vanilla da:i should of got.

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peekaboo0

@Yamakoichi: +100 9 for DA:I was a joke, while only one point higher is TW3 and MGS5

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UsernameOneTwo

@Yamakoichi: and it would've got if witcher 3 would've been released before lol

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peekaboo0

@usernameonetwo: Totally agree.

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NM_Che56

@Yamakoichi: Can't say I agree.

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handyman450

I really enjoyed DA:I but it suffers from the same issue as the Batman games....their DLC is so mediocre. DA:I is currently sitting on my PC taking up ~40GB of memory in hopes of a good DLC being released for it, but with every passing over-priced expansion Bioware release I find it harder and harder to justify letting the game stay there.

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TehUndeadHorror

@handyman450: I think the only DLC I've enjoyed from Bioware was for ME3. The rest have been really short and average, especially for the price. They just don't make substantial DLC, and I'd really recommend not buying any.

Avatar image for nm_che56
NM_Che56

@handyman450: This and Jaws of Hakkon are "good", they're just not spectacular. If you like the lore and want more Dragon Age content, then they'll scratch that itch a little.

Avatar image for elessarGObonzo
elessarGObonzo

@handyman450: leave it installed and keep telling myself i'm going to play it again or something good is going to come out but doesn't seem to happen. The White March is coming today so there's another couple weeks at least DA:I won't get touched.

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Grimkillah

I wish I could play this DLC but BioWare think I am not fit to play it since I purchased their game on Xbox 360, no new content for you peasant they say.

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TimePlayed

@Grimkillah: that's harsh.

Avatar image for nm_che56
NM_Che56

@Grimkillah: No. It was a business decision as to whether or not to support games on old systems. Apparently, there are things that they wanted to do that the old hardware couldn't support. Having played the DLC, I kinda see where.

Avatar image for Grimkillah
Grimkillah

@nm_che56: Could have told the buyer like what Shadow of Mordor did, inform consumers right from the start that the last gen version will not have nemesis system and will not be DLC supported. But EA/BioWare did not inform the buyer before release and only since last months, this is a scam if anything, my copy of DAI is useless now.

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Leeric420

Man dragon age is fun but it really doesnt do anything well, combat, meh, story meh, graphics meh, RPG systems meh, UI meh, im not surprised this is also meh....

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RS13

@Leeric420: Yeah, this is pretty much how I feel. I enjoyed the time I spent with the game, just not enough to finish it.

Avatar image for RS13
RS13

@RS13: In fact, after months of not playing it, the thing I remember most vividly is the insane choice to limit the quickbar to 8 spells and the removal of any way to cast spells that weren't in the quickbar.

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lordshifu

@RS13: yep its pretty shit!! i was like what the fuc!! but you can control it via character ai.... like if you leave the spells enabled, the get casted too by the NPC ai :) but still its a pretty shityy combo breaker..... and you will encounter unnecessary mana and stamina probs, although not much of a prob because by then you are pretty levelled to have a good mana pool.... but still it gets on my nerves when combat isnt fluid... utterly cluckey!

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elessarGObonzo

@Leeric420: what version are you playing? the one thing i did keep noticing during my playthrough was how good the PC version looked. everything else about it really is kind of mediocre, especially after loving Origins so much. can still start a new Origins\Awakening game and be impressed by the story and gameplay.

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Leeric420

@elessarGObonzo: Compared to what other games? Compared to a PS3 game sure, but other games I wasnt all the impressed outside of the faces.

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normanislost

@elessarGObonzo: the control scheme on PC was just fucking terrible, no point and click, no auto attack, only being able to queue up one ability at a time..... fecking console controls

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pyro1245

@elessarGObonzo: Yeah it looks pretty good, but that's about the only thing it has going for it. Origins is still a top-notch game.

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Stonedwolfed

@pyro1245: Agreed except the horrifying grind that is THE (fucking) FADE.

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Swoopalz

I couldn't even get to Skyhold before getting insanely bored with this game, and it sucks because everything looked perfect before launch. But Inquisition is just so... dull.

Dragon Age: Inquisition More Info

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  • First Released Nov 18, 2014
    released
    • PC
    • PlayStation 3
    • + 3 more
    • PlayStation 4
    • Xbox 360
    • Xbox One
    Dragon Age: Inquisition is the third entry in BioWare's epic fantasy role-playing game trilogy.
    8
    Average Rating1297 Rating(s)
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    Developed by:
    BioWare, Electronic Arts
    Published by:
    Electronic Arts, BioWare
    Genre(s):
    Action, Third-Person, Adventure, 3D, Role-Playing
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    Blood, Intense Violence, Nudity, Sexual Content, Strong Language