I am aware this game came out months ago. As it stands, Dragon Age: Inquisition currently holds an aggregated score of 85 on Metacritic from critics and a user score of 5.8/10. Why is this? In order to explain the strange discrepancy, I will have to take you back to December 2011 when Bioware stated that they were “checking [Skyrim] out aggressively” in order to inform their ideas for the next Dragon Age game. For some, that marked the beginning of the end.
In my opinion, the vast negativity directed at Inquisition largely comes from fans of the preceding games. Dragon Age 2 also received a huge amount of criticism from some people who loved Origins. Dragon Age: Origins has good user scores. Is it therefore a superior game? Well, I think so, yes. Still, that’s only my opinion. I personally prefer a more contained story and a more complex, considered combat system, which I believe Origins had.
The thing is, when a fan likes the particular elements of a game, they expect those elements to appear in any sequels the game might have. As a result, they have a tendency of feeling betrayed when games change and remove the features they love or add features they dislike. On the other hand, game developers are under zero obligation to churn out the same kind of thing in an effort to keep all their original fans happy.
In economics, the term loss aversion is used to describe the fact that people tend to prefer avoiding losses more than they like making gains. When we apply this theory to video game series—or any series, for that matter—we can see that people might dislike a follow-up even if the follow-up is of the same quality as the original because a feature was taken away that they liked (even if a feature that they like every bit as much is added). To use another comparison: have you ever heard a friend talk about their significant other in the most glowing terms and then speak about them as if they were the spawn of the devil the moment they break up? It’s people who are the most invested who can get the most heartbroken.
Inquisition is a game that’s a lot more Skyrim-esque than the previous games. I’ve heard it described as MMORPG-like. That’s a fair comment. You are given a vast, expansive world that simply doesn’t have the concentration of interesting side quests like Origins or DA2. Those who go in liking and expecting the detail of the previous games are going to be disappointed if they go in trying to engage with as much side-content as possible. Conversely, avid Skyrim players might actually prefer the sheer level of content.
Similarly, for those who liked the combat in Origins, Inquisition may be disappointing. In general, I found that the game was less ability heavy. In Origins, you get a great deal of abilities to play around with. In Inquisition, and DA2 for that matter, there’s more of a focus on improving additional ones. Not to mention, the tactics system was stripped down from Origins, too, so you (in general) have less control of your party unless you’re micromanaging them all the time. There are also fewer ability slots (8) on the PC version than there were in Origins. As a result, personally, I didn’t like combat so much. I found myself using the same few abilities over and over rather than varying my approach from moment to moment.
Therefore, I feel the game is better to play with limited use of the pause function and on a lower level of difficulty (than I tend to play on) so that the pause function won’t be missed so much. As a tactical player who loves to use the pause button and likes to take ages in a fight, however, I was disappointed. Having said this, I am totally sure that if Bioware was to put out a fourth Dragon Age game which had a combat system that was a lot more like that found in Origins, there’d be a huge amount of fans of Inquisition criticizing the game for featuring slower, more convoluted combat.
I remember, in the weeks leading up to the game, Mike Laidlaw (the creative director) made some comment that the gameplay would be better this time around because the system is the same for PC and console gamers. Thing is, equality means close to nothing to PC gamers. Sometimes I could feel, especially with the awkward UI, that the game had been made with console gamers in mind.
If you are like me and preferred the combat in Origins, what I’d recommend is that you don’t despair if Inquisition failed to live up to your hopes and dreams. Rather, I’d suggest that you look out for Obsidian’s Pillars of Eternity, a party-based, real-time with pause role-playing game coming out on the 26th of March this year. Additionally, Sword Coast Legends is a role-playing game made by some of the same people who worked on Origins, and that should be coming out sometime this year also.
Now, I should mention here that not all criticisms of the game were directed at the combat/UI. Some people didn’t like the main story where you are the chosen one here to save the world. Others didn’t like that their Inquisitor came across as having about as much personality as a tea towel. These are criticisms I largely agree with, because I am not only a fan of Origins, but I am also a fan of DA2, which featured a PC with a very defined personality (Hawke) as well as a story that was smaller in scope.
I remember viewing a Twitch stream of the prologue to the game which had David Gaider (the game’s lead writer) on. He made mention of a humorous line that the PC might have been given that didn’t get into the game. The reason the line didn’t make it into the game was because it felt, to him, “more like a Varric line.” In other words, it was removed because it was funny. Thing is, I like having a PC who cracks jokes. Yes, sarcastic!Hawke could sometimes overstep the mark, and Hawke in general could come across as downright scattered when they changed their tone midway through a conversation, but that doesn’t mean that the PC should become bland in order to avoid appearing inconsistent. I don’t know, game writing looks hard, man.
On the other hand, the conversation options come across a lot more like Mass Effect in their style. So, that’s good for fans of Mass Effect, I suppose. In all honesty, it’s almost like the game series that I love wasn’t made with solely me and what I want in mind. Which is a thought that horrifies and also shocks me.
I still like a lot of Inquisition—primarily the characters and the decisions—and, to be honest, if their new game proves to be more popular than Origins ever was, then I can hardly blame them if the next game remains like Inquisition in terms of its gameplay and writing. However, there are some flaws in this game that are just objectively flaws. I do have this one indisputable gripe about it that I’m just going to vent about now: the trees and the doors keep getting in the way of my view when I go into tactical camera. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be moving to a new engine but, consider this: in the next game, there are just no more trees. Or entrances. Is that too much to ask, Bioware? Is it? I’m sure you could provide some in-universe reason.