2/10 Bioware RPG. 6/10 Action/MMO 'RPG'. An 18 certificated game made for 10 year olds.
(For a new traditional Bioware-style RPG, made by people who actually like role-playing games, this looks to be your best chance: Pillars of Eternity - Hero Edition (PC DVD)
I should have known better, but hey, hype and a discounted retail code drew me back in.
Writing - shockingly bad, really bland. The main story is incredibly short for a Bioware game, why it can take over 100 hours to finish is because of the overabundance of repetitive and shallow MMO questing. Very few good scripted moments, lacklustre writing overall, cringeworthy at times. The dialogue is so dull! Jokes are flat and lame. The character you are forced to play uses corporate-speak and has the personality of an accountant. 'Going forward', ugh! This. Is. Fantasy. Bioware - not your weekly self-abasement at EA's knee. Characterisation weak. Unconvincing romance, unconvincing friendships too. The main villain is barely present and overall is inadequate and incompetent - this applies to his deputy too.
Fun? For the first 30 hours it holds your attention whilst your own imagination fires-off the possibilities and you let the flaws slide, but the graphics can't hide forever how boring and flat it actually turns out to be. The makers obviously have lost the plot as to what makes an interesting or exciting game, there's even an EA achievement for picking plants.
Massive World - but not epic, underwhelming delivery... dozens representing hundreds, 'instances' rather than an interactive living world.
Pretty graphics, zombie hair, they obviously couldn't get the whole BF4 team to do all the work for them. Faces of old characters are usually worse than previous games. Very long loading times.
Levelling, armour and weapons so screwed-up.
Dragons - really are almost something special, but let down by limited actions and the combat.
Tactical Combat? - Nope, shallow action combat, doesn't know what it should be. One key attack, best as mage, 'button awesome' as warrior or knife rogue. Tactical combat and camera a mess. Party AI very restricted.
Music - great (except the main theme) and not obtrusive.
Art - quite good.
GUI - bad - made worse with bugs caused by console porting.
Full of potentially good ideas, some Origins magic in there, such a shame - it's a wasted opportunity.
Dragon Age Inquisition continues the noble Dragon Age tradition of setting the scene badly. The atmosphere having to be saved at the start by the impressive landscape graphics. Exposition is threadbare and each part of the story feels undertold. Particularly your character's history and rising status. As you are forced to play a character that never feels like your own (you get minor control of his or her mood) a lack of context and backstory is important. Build-up and suspense are therefore lacking. Narration and dialogue really needed an inspirational and competent editor. Team interaction is lacklustre (compared to previous games) sometimes it's alright, but the longer conversations are mainly Varric bitching at Cassandra.
The voice acting doesn't have any of the stand-out performances that the other games had (Cassandra's actress is probably the best, Freddie Prinze Jr. is ridiculous, but then so is the character he's paid to play) and some of the minor characters feel like they got a competition winner or their friends involved.
Having abandoned the winning Origins formula with DA2, the new Dragon Age is still not confident with itself - it's still in thrall to Mass Effect and DA is now also clearly in lurrve with Skyrim and Game of Thrones, borrowing Battlefield 4's graphical clothes for dates (except that they kept the old hairdresser and the horror of the hair will never leave you). The Dragon Age 2 gigglesquee corruption of the new hipster nerds lingers.
Quests, while they feel much more full of purpose than DA2, tend to be more MMO than ever, most are entirely disposable chores or otherwise immersion-breaking. Would we really spend weeks to cross a continent for your random aquaintances' whims then have to cross all the way back for something that looks important, but could ultimately be ignored? There's meant to be impending apocalyptic doom falling on our heads and this game still acts like you are the aimless Hawke just killing time.
Worst of all, I'm the leader of an army dammit - stop sending me to pick flowers. There's even a bit of dialogue at the beginning claiming that I won't have to find common items - they lied. I don't mind some ticklist quests (do x, y amount of times) it's reasonable when well thought out (rifts), but only in strict moderation. Make quests living things! Character! Story! Surprises! There are a few different epilogues but no alternate endings based on my choices. Consequences are DA2 style, with added but inadequate window dressing, so yes you are railroaded, there are no real choices. This could change with a sequel, but they have set themselves up for such wildly different possibilities in the future that you know they will cop-out like they have since Brent Knowles left after Origins.
There is so much crap for you to do you will develop a strong contempt for it. If the game actually had a strong and involving main story then perhaps you would want to linger around afterwards clearing up the mess, but by then most foes will be at such a lower level to you that there will be no challenge, no useful loot or XP in it for you. Nope, they don't scale to your level - it's like lots of little tutorial levels that have been left all over the place. One button kills with your one button attack.
Combat. It's an improved, less anime, version of DA2 combat, still too ADHD frenetic. The only reason to pause is to make a character drink a health potion. Knife wielding rogues are still ludicrous magic acrobats (though they do have 1 new character for whom it is acceptable, lore-wise). No weapon switching. Don't fall for the hype that combat has gone tactical again. Tactical view is a console ported mess, with a fixed zoom that is far too close. Controlling it is crippled with a mouse and keyboard, easier but still bad with a controller. The regular camera is a bit awkward, but I have got used to it. Even if the tactical camera was improved there is only the visual difference, there's no actual tactical need to go into tactical view.
AI is a simplified cop-out that has drawn many complaints, customisable options have been stript bare. DA2 had more options, including the Inquisition option to just throw it out and ignore it. Even if, like me, you like to micromanage, controlling the party is like trying to corral unruly children. Varric, who starts off as your ranged archer, always wants to get within humping distance of his enemies (briefly going to tactical and double clicking him to stay helps).
The game time is extended by respawning foes (the countdown timer is far too short), though you can reduce the respawning, you can't clear an area and relax and explore... though the marshes do have a great lore explanation for the respawning, the atmosphere is soon ruined by the 'button-awesome' combat, your party is like a bunch of over-excited hicks chasing a lone deer. Setting the game to normal should lower the repetition and game time somewhat.
And Andraste! What have they done to you Leliana? (She is back, almost immediately, not a spoiler) Botoxed-up and injected trout pout, she is physically unrecognisable, her personality so far has had the same treatment too. Mods really need to get to work on the animation of her mouth. The original voice actress makes it even more tragic. Still, she is turning full Aramis, which isn't a bad thing.
The conversation wheel is even worse than before, something I didn't think possible - as an actor in this drama, and the lead character, you'd think you would feel like you had some control over conversation - the opposite is true and often you have no idea what the paraphrase will make you actually say, the way you will say it (though it will usually default to bland and characterless), or the likely result of your interjection. Important plot-pushing conversations almost always feel prematurely cut off - and your dialogue choices still all seem to have the same outcome.
War Room - you set things in motion here and overall I like it - but it's not got a really open strategic feel. You can set missions to one of three divisions of your forces, I'm hoping there are actual game-changing consequences to choosing either soldiers, spies or diplomacy - other than the time it takes them and different lines of text, nothing yet though.
Crafting - this made sense in Skyrim - but not here where you have your own team of blacksmiths. It's also a tiresome time-sink. My character's spent most of his life in a mage circle, but now he can craft 'masterwork' armour instantly. So yes, items feel very cheap and disposable, you are never awed by a new magical weapon, they never feel earned and are soon superceded by the latest models. How any weapon could last long enough in this world to have an half-arsed legend story develop around it is a mystery.
There's no storage for items - and you need the space for some specially crafted armour and items to face a dragon (that is, if you attack one whilst still at a relatively low level or on nightmare difficulty - the game is so easy even on 'hard'). The clunky inventory system requires too much navigation, and the UI makes it worse. The DA2 junk folder now called 'valuables', but they decided to mix in useless items with important upgrade and quest items too, so it's not worth the risk to use the bulk selling option.
Marred by bad game design, bad direction, now with added humourless writing, it's an empty, disappointing and unconvincing experience. Throughout DA2 and Inquisition Bioware keep on harping about 'Change', but this change is from the role playing greats of the past to just another studio churning out same-old vague and stilted action stuff, with less flair but added political correctness and an over-fondness for right-thinking media and overblown drama akin to dire modern BBC programs like Merlin, Dr. Who, Sherlock.
The 'message' seems to be Bioware's raison d'Ítre now, the writing has fully succumbed to that; character, dialogue, plot, all have suffered terribly as a result (in their failed focus to create new strong female characters, the writers have let the men become emasculated wimps or one-dimensional, the ironic thing is that the strongest female characters, Morrigan and Flemeth, are creations from Origins, the 'ideologically improved' DA 2 & 3 fail to build on them or create even remotely comparable compelling women). Worship of change, as though it is an inherent good, like a fully paid-up sociology teacher, is self-blinding and does not make for entertainment.
Sadly this political mania doesn't seem to have a cure at this stage, we can't expect the insights of Oedipus to suddenly emerge in a sequel, especially when it is married with the lowest common denominator approach of EA; I have now fully given up on this series, that DA:Origins sustained me through two very bad sequels shows how good it was, greater than the sum of its parts. The old role players from the 70s to 00s had worse technology to work with, but they had a sense of adventure, and humour, that is sadly lacking now.
Quite a few people seem to be blinded by the pretty graphics, which although they do make the experience more enjoyable, can't hide what is an inferior game and story to Dragon Age: Origins. And even in many respects the godawful Dragon Age 2.
Strength, taste, creativity, organisation and knowledge were needed to tie this complex franchise together - Mike Laidlaw was not the man for the task, David Gaider (the lead writer) obviously needs a competent guiding hand to produce his best work.
If you have to play it wait till it's well discounted.