I wanted to post my review for this game a long long time ago, don't know why I never got around to it. I purchased the GOT (or whatever is the equivalent of that) edition of the game about a year ago, but never really got around to actually playing all the DLCs, the base game was more than enough of a grind for me. So this review is based on my initial playtrough of the game between the release in 2014 and March 2015. Yes it took a while, and it will become clear why as you read on.
So where do I begin to dismantle this monstrosity, I have no idea. Not because it is that solid as to not have weak spots. On the contrary, there are so many bricks loose in it, I can't choose which one to grab onto.
I have a feeling, that Bioware has strayed from the path, and if they don't turn around very quickly, they'll end up on the list of once great but now defunct studios, we're not there yet, but the signs are already present in this game.
After seeing the problems with ME:A, and their shift from single player to the always online multiplayer garbage Anthem, I fear we're already past the point of no return.
So back to the game, as I already described it as a monstrosity. Multiple giant explorable areas, with hundreds of quests (I use the term as loosely as possible) because most quests really mean the worst kind of grind. This is a game, where the fetch quests are the breaths of fresh air. The game is basically about collecting shards, plants, and whatever garbage you can think of. There is even a quest that is basically about destroying rocks. I mean for fucks sake, we thought fetch quests were bad. This game is a perfect example of quantity ruining quality. If it was 3-5 times smaller with that much less quests it could've been great.
That said DA:I contains 10 explorable areas, some are huge, others are slightly smaller in scope. When I look at it, I think of this. It's like their goal wasn't to make a great game, but to make a game bigger than anyone else, but most importantly their direct competition, which was Skyrim then. And they went way overboard with it. I mean giant explorable areas are great, but pointless if they're not filled with enough interesting quests. And many of the tasks are exactly the same on each explorable area, sometimes with slightly different backstory, but you're still doing the same grind. Yes the areas look great, and they have their own atmosphere, but after the third or fourth you can't even be bothered to look around, because you know you'll just have to repeat the same shit you did on the previous maps.
Like find hidden items, which means spamming the search button indiscriminately in every area to see if it reveals something. Or close the 1000+1st rift the exact same way as you did the 1st. That shit got old playing oblivion, and it was better there. Or clear all enemies from an area systematically, which means killing 10 enemies then moving to the next room / clearing and doing it again, until you reach the end of the mission area. I mean this is MMO level garbage, not something I want to do in a story driven RPG.
And what makes things worse is that the main quests are exactly the same for the most part, with the only difference being that you get some cutscene with a few lines of conversation in between two waves of enemies. Of course #notall, there are a few (really really few) missions that give some fresh air in there, but the lot of it is repetitive as hell. That's why it took me over 3 months to finish.
And it doesn't help matters that the combat is extremely dragged out, apart from vastly lower level enemies you have to hack away at everything for long minutes. The worst offenders being dragons. Killing a dragon can take half an hour. And the game is otherwise not hard on normal difficulty, the biggest hazard of failure is from the game crashing. And of course it happened to me twice that it crashed when I was THIS close to killing a dragon after 29 odd minutes of slowly chipping away it's health.
But even exploration gets boring after you realize that there is nothing to discover apart from some generic loot items. Like they stopped to give a damn after designing the hinterlands, where there were a few hidden easter kind of eggs. And hunting for loot becomes utterly pointless after about level 10, because you can craft vastly superior items than what you can find as loot anywhere. And this defeats the purpose of most side quests because your reward for them is nothing but loot. The game acts as if side quests are important, to raise the standing of the inquisition but it just feels completely pointless. The only reason you need influence points is to open the next tasks related to the main quest. But if you do all the grind you can, you'll end up with about five times more points than you'll ever need. So here is my advice to you, if you're new to the game (fat chance of that after 3 years): Don't do it, ignore every goddamn grind in the game, and just do the minimally required amount. It's all pointless.
The whole game feels like doing some repetitive job on an assembly line. And the elongated grind casts a shadow over the main storyarc as well. After Haven, it lost it's "epic" factor completely to me. I no longer had the big picture in front of me, I was nothing but a fool in pajamas. I don't know which bright designer decided it will be a good idea to dress you as a jester in your HQ, while everyone else just wears their normal armor. And of course there is no way to customize your "casual" look.
I know the drill "look elsewhere if you want to play barbie dress-up" but no, just no. Having the option to customize doesn't mean you have to do it. So why do you want to take my fun away? I think it is an important part of an RPG to make your character yours, and not just by the choices you make, but also by the way it looks. Here the only thing you can customize is the face, which is more than nothing, but not nearly enough for me. Of course when you craft things the materials used will determine it's look, but you only look at stats anyway, you won't swap in a component that gives worse stats just because you want the blade to be yellow.
And talking of crafting let's have a look at the crafting/inventory screen. Which is terrible. People hated on ME:A's crafting screen, but that's like a million billion billion times better than DA:I's. It's so bad that I'd rather not even bother with giving new items to the squad until it was impossible to put off any longer. In order to upgrade an item you have to unequip it regardless if it's on you or on one of the squad. I could write a 5 page essay on what's wrong with the crafting in the game, but I'll condense it to one word: it is TERRIBLE.
With all the repetitive grind and running around looking for garbage, the playtime can go up to 70-80 hours, even without being a completionist. They could've leaned it down to about 30-40 hours, and then we'd have a much better game.
As I said the story works pretty well till you leave Haven, but it's like they fired the designers and replaced them with some rookies after that part.
And even the good things in the game have bad sides. Like the idea that you can send your people on assignments is great. What is terrible is that you have to go back to the HQ to be able to send them on a new mission. Why can't you do that by sending a message from the field? I was jumping so much from HQ to field to HQ to field to HQ that it was nauseating.
And the game has some technical flaws as well. Like the fact that it's completely unplayable from a HDD, you have to put it on an SSD, otherwise all cutscenes will be measurable in seconds / frame instead of frames / second. And loading times will be about 20 times more. And that's not an exaggeration but a conservative estimate. It also has mantle support but it might as well not exist,it doesn't bring anything to the table.
If anyone would've asked right after haven how is the game I'd have said "effing brilliant mate! " But the whole picture is not that sweet.
- epic story and great pacing before skyhold
- some really nice unique missions
- graphics and visual design
- huge explorable areas
- crashes at the worst times
- meh story, and terrible pacing from the point you arrive at skyhold
- bugs (clipping, npcs popping out of nowhere mid air)
- terrible inventory and crafting management
- repetitive and drawn out
- no real choices in the story
- close quarter combat is terrible, useless, you can't lock on to enemies properly you run around trying to hit something but most of the time all you hit is air. Ranged classes work much better.
graphics : 9
story : 5
atmosphere : 7
gameplay : 6
controls : 3