Reviews went up pretty early for Dragon Age: Inquisition and the consensus appears to be that Bioware’s fantasy franchise is back on track. I want to believe the reviews. I want to believe the hype. I want to believe in Bioware again.
I reviewed Dragon Age II in 2011 and called it a great game with a solid story that was hampered by lazy level design and restrictive character progression. I scored that game an 8.5, a score I almost want to reconsider.
I actually took the chance and played a little bit of Dragon Age II last month. I never finished the final DLC package for the game, the Felicia Day starring Mark of the Assassin, and decided to fire the game up to clear some space. Boy was that a mess. Yeah the signature Bioware flare and conversations were all there, but without the sweeping overarching story, there was really nothing driving me forward to play the DLC chapter other than the goal of completion. What was left without that story was the mechanics of the game, naked in all its flaws.
I remember referencing the difference between Origins and II stating that the decision to streamline Dragon Age II’s skill progression and speeding up the combat both worked against the success of the game as a whole. This truth was even more evident in my brief playthrough as Tallis (the new companion in Mark of the Assassin) was a dual-wielding rogue, exactly like my Hawke. What resulted was an AI controlled character that constantly fought with me to keep spacing in fights and often found herself in trouble, leading to a couple ugly wipes against the harder fights in that game.
Any tactical advantage that would have been gained in Origins was negated by the decision to make Dragon Age II a frenetic, almost button-mashy, RPG. Complete with characters you are essentially locked into playing with.
So when review outlets are saying Dragon Age: Inquisition is a step in the right direction, I get the simultaneous sensations of excitement and dread. Because I want to believe that Bioware, some of the greatest storytellers in modern gaming, can remember how to actually craft a game.