With Dragon Age: Inquisition, industry heavyweight BioWare is diving back into the gaming waters with their first full-fledged RPG since 2012’s fantastic Mass Effect 3.
Dragon Age: Origins was a revelation to gamers in 2009 (two years after the launch of the first Mass Effect), helping to firmly establish its developer as a founding father of the modern RPG—as though the creators of Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights really needed any further cred. While Dragon Age II was widely viewed as a step backward for the franchise, BioWare promised to take the criticism (most commonly, repetitive gameplay and a distinct lack of environmental variety) to heart and put to rest any outstanding concerns in Inquisition. Did they succeed?
Early indications are that yes, they did—in almost every way possible. Inquisition situates the player as the sole survivor of a massive explosion that wipes out all key mage and templar leaders attending a peace talk in an attempt to head off a costly civil war—and oh, by the way, also opened up a series of interdimensional rifts, leading to mass demonic invasions across the land of Thedas. Surviving the explosion has somehow marked you with the power to seal up these rifts, and so your quest begins.
Critical reception suggests that the game did a did a lot of things right. The environments are diverse and gorgeous, spanning searing deserts, snow-capped peaks, and everything in between. Maps are massive in scale: Just as you think a region is about to end, you go a little further and find a hidden castle, or buried ruins. Combat is described as an ideal middle ground between the complexity of Origins and simplicity of DAII. Gameplay depth is massive—almost overwhelming, as the number of quests and side-missions you will accrue escalates quickly. BioWare has done their best to alleviate the busywork feel of fetch quests by granting better rewards and attaching more import to side missions—a reportedly successful approach. All told, it sounds like there’s a good 60-100 hours of gameplay ahead for DA fans, very little of which will feel like a chore, and the majority of which will result in a current-gen Skyrim-type experience.
Dragon Age: Inquisition is available now for PS3/4, Xbox 360/One, and PC.
In other gaming news this week, Far Cry 4 launches, the Assassin’s Creed franchise had a rough month, and we learn some story details for Telltale’s Game of Thrones. Read on!
- Far Cry 4 launched this week, and while the game has garnered extensive accolades for its open-world universe and the sheer level of interactivity available to gamers, it has also received some moderate criticism for a weak story and shallow characters. The game looks incredible, and the universe itself will be enough to convince me to pick it up, but it’s disappointing to hear that Far Cry 4 might not be the total package.
- Ubisoft has had a rough few weeks. Somewhere between the massive shrug the gaming community gave to Assassin’s Creed Unity (a game that is already available for $40 in some places despite having launched only a few weeks ago) and the mixed reception to Far Cry 4, last-gen-specific Assassin’s Creed Rogue has also received a pretty tepid critical response due to an empty gameworld, repetitive missions, and just a general franchise-permeating more-of-the-same-ness. Not to pile on, but hopefully Ubisoft learns and takes a little time to reassess new content and innovation rather than continuing to run the franchise into the ground for the money.
- In related news, Assassin’s Creed Unity will soon receive its second significant patch to fix issues that probably should have been ironed out before the game launched.
- FromSoftware’s highly anticipated Bloodborne, a brand-new IP developed by the company between Dark Souls games, has been slightly delayed to March 15, 2015.
- Two former LucasArts game developers, Ron Gilbert (of Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island fame) and Gary Winnick (co-founder of Maniac Mansion) are teaming up once more to resurrect a lost genre – the point-and-click 2D adventure. Gilbert and Winnick are hoping to Kickstart a new venture: a spiritual sequel to Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island titled Thimbleweed Park. The basic setup will see a pair of detectives investigate a murder on the outskirts of a dying town. Players will be able to switch between five playable characters and access multiple endings depending on their path through the game. Kind of sounds like a point-and-click Twin Peaks.
- The beautiful, mindbending mobile smash hit Monument Valley received a significant expansion last week. If you’re on the lookout for mobile games, this game should be right at the top of your list. Every level is a work of art, and the subtle, ambiguous story echoes that of Shadow of the Colossus.
- Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris, a top-down dungeon-crawling take on the Tomb Raider universe, has officially gone gold and will launch across most digital platforms on December 9.
- Finally, the first episode of Telltale’s Game of Thrones game is coming soon for the PS3/4, Xbox 360/One, PC, Mac, and iOS; plus, we finally received a few story details this week. The game is set around the end of season 3 of the show, and will end just prior to the start of season 5. There will be plenty of familiar faces from the books (Tyrion, Cersei, Jaime, Roose Bolton, and Margaery, to name a few), but the player will assume the role of five different characters from House Forrester, a kingdom in the North that owes allegiance to the Starks. The choices of one character will have a ripple effect on the other four. Given Telltale’s mastery of story tree gameplay and dilemmas as evidenced by the Walking Dead series, ASOIAF fans should be in for a treat.