The Dragon Age series of games are some of my favourite video games of all time (of all time), and the third entry into the series, Inquisition, is my favourite of the lot. There are countless things I love about the game, and here are five major reasons that I hope might appeal to you too.
I’ve got the dopest team in Leliana
Josephine, Cullen, Cassandra
Solas, Sera, Blackwall, Dorian
Cole, Vivienne, Varric, Bull, Morrigan
Call us the D A Team: the Dannish Inquisition
Vacancies, apply within if you think you can fill this grand position
“I Am The Inquisitor” by Dan Bull
RPGs (and a lot of other games, too) like the Dragon Age series live or die by the quality of their casts. Sure story and gameplay and graphics are important too, but if I’m supposed to gather a group of people to help me save the world they had better be interesting. And while I love the casts of the first two games, it’s Inquisition that has most of my favourite characters. Some are funny, some are serious, some are broody, and some have the sense of humour of a twelve-year-old boy.
Allegra Portia Calogera Filomena Get-On-With-It Pentaghast:
She first appears in the framing device for Dragon Age 2, interrogating the storyteller and companion Varric for the truth about what happened in Kirkwall. In Inquisition she takes on a lead role as one of the founders of the modern Inquisition as well as your companion (and possible love interest). A royal who prefers slaying dragons to politics, she is devout and driven in her mission, and very handy to have with you on the battlefield.
She’s also a total romantic with a soft heart and a fondness for smutty literature. Seriously: she wants to be courted by a romantic partner, and one of her friendship quests involves you getting Varric to write the next chapter of her favourite series.
Each character brings something different to the table, and shows themselves to be more complex than what their original character type seems to be – especially when you pair them up with others and let their banter (when you walk around areas, they’ll have conversations) fly. Grizzled warrior Blackwall displays a rather puerile sense of humour when paired with roguish Sera who’s an elf half his age. Take Solas, Dorian and Vivienne out together and you’ll need ice spells for the constant burns. The demon-hating The Iron Bull will initially be wary of Cole (a spirit with a tendency to blurt out whatever your thinking) before growing to be quite fond of him. They’ll express sympathies over lost friends, talk about history, argue over their favourite jousters, and tease each other over romances.
They are not just people who give you quests and fight alongside you; they are people with their own histories and motivations, own personalities, and by the end of it they can be fast friends, respected allies, and (in the case of one pair, and dependent on your choices) even devoted lovers.
Music has always been a major part of the Dragon Age series, right from the very beginning with Leiliana the Bard and her singing. New composer Trevor Morris (who also scored The Tudors, The Borgias and Vikings) ramps this up by a thousand and the result is stunning. From the opening notes of the main theme, to the haunting strains of “In Hushed Whispers”, to the rising call to battle that is “The Inquisition Marches” it’s just incredible.
But the standout is “The Dawn Will Come”, which appears in the game as a hymn sung by the characters in a pivotal moment (warning: mild spoilers in the game clip) and on the soundtrack performed by a traditional choir.
Now a lot of games would stop right there when it came to music, and that certainly is a fine place to stop. But let me introduce you to a little character called Maryden Halewell.
Maryden is one of many characters who decide to join the Inquisition and help save the world, even though they aren’t fighters themselves. As a bard (and not the stabbity-stab-stab kind that Leiliana is), Maryden can be found performing songs she has written in the Inquisition’s taverns, as well as in Val Royeaux and the Winter Palace (and in a nice touch, when in Orlais she sings her songs in French in a nod to the French influence on Orlesian culture design).
It’s So Damn Pretty
And I’m not talking about Dorian Pavus.
I don’t have the most amazing computer (one day I will… one day) but even I can see that the Thedas of Inquisition is stunning. Forget the brown and grey colour palettes of so many other games, Inquisition is so vibrant it’s ridiculous. From the wide brown desert and burning sun of the Western Approach to the snowy rocks and frozen river of the Emprise du Lion, the brilliant emerald forest of the Emerald Graves to the stone cliffs and crashing waves of the Storm Coast. These places do not just feel inspired by real places (for example, the Emerald Graves are very much like some parts of New Zealand), they feel real. And after saving a brown/grey Redcliffe from the Blight in Origins it is a wonderful shock to see it a decade later in Inquisition as part of the rolling green hills of the Hinterlands and set on a calm lake shining in the bright sun.
One of the trailers was simply called “A Wonderful World” (and yes, that song featured) simply to show off the gorgeous locations in the game. And it works.
It looked incredibly pretty on my can-barely-run-it computer, and for those with better computers or latest-gen consoles it’s impossibly stunning.
Of all the things to get me interested in Inquisition, it was this clip posted on Kotaku. In it, a love scene turns comedic when not one but three other characters walk into the room to various degrees of awkward, funny, and did she really just say that? Immediately I knew that this was a game I wanted to know more about, because with so many games being all grim all the time, anything that takes a moment to have a laugh is all right by me.
There are sequences where you can prank people with a character, or tell a funny story while seated around a card table. One advisor has had enough of your ridiculous schemes and requests. And no one likes your un”bear”able puns.
The best bit of the humour, however, comes from the characters’ banter in their various combination. They’ll tease whoever is being romanced, mock each other, and ask dumb questions.
Iron Bull: Hey, Solas, you ever do your Fade thing and pretend you can fly? Just flap your arms and zip around in there? Then maybe bang some hot Fade ladies?
Solas: No. Such behavior attracts the attention of demons.
Iron Bull: Aww. Demons shit up everything.
(Iron Bull is not the only one to ask about “banging hot Fade ladies”, as it were. Blackwall and Sera also get in on the action.)
But to really sum up how they do not take themselves seriously, one only has to look at their nomination clip for Game of the Year.
No, I don’t think video game culture is ready for transgender characters— not as major plot characters, and certainly not as a lead. It’s not ready for major characters that are gay, either. Heck, it’s barely ready for ones which are female.
Does that mean the industry should wait until it is? Probably not.
David Gaider, On Transgender Characters
Given that most major games these days have protagonists of the (grizzled) white male with brown hair kind, any game in which you can choose to play as a woman or person of colour (or even woman of colour!) is already winning in the diversity stakes. The first game in the series, Dragon Age: Origins, featured four romance options with two of them (Leiliana and Zevran, aka Sister Stabbity and Elf Puss in Boots) able to romanced by both male and female player characters. One character explicitly states they have no gender.
In Dragon Age 2, all romance options (save Sebastian
and his pretty blue eyes and sexy accent) can be romanced by a male or female Hawke, and some major characters of colour are introduced. It is a step forward, but not as much as they could do.
And then along comes Dragon Age: Inquisition, where it seems the writers and designers heard all the whines from dudebros about how “black people are unrealistic in fantasy based on medieval England” (never mind the dragons and magic) and decided to piss them right off.
Meet Vivienne, also known as Madame der Fer. Her titles include Enchanter to the Imperial Court, Leader of the Loyalist Mages, and HBIC.
As you can see by her trailer, she is a glamorous and powerful mage. And I do mean powerful. Her specialisation, Knight Enchanter, sees her striding into battle to cut down enemies with her light sword while protecting herself from damage. She is such a lethal pseudo-tank she can easily destroy high level dragons solo. (There’s a reason a Vivienne build video is entitled “Make Vivienne a Godless Killing Machine”.)
She is also one of three characters of colour in your Inner Circle, with the other being Dorian Pavus (the “really really ridiculously good-looking” guy from earlier) and advisor Josephine Montilyet (aka the Disney Princess of your group). Her early concept designs were of a white ice queen stock character, and while serviceable the team felt like something was missing. Everything fell into place with the redesign as a striking and elegant black woman, and with Indira Varma’s incredible voice she’s an instant icon as well as complex character.
While the Dragon Age series could do better with its racial diversity (where are the Asians? Is Sutherland Asian? Plus from the beginning there have been criticisms of the series which, like many others, substitutes a fantasy race (in this case elves) for real-life oppression.) it is nice to see these prominent characters of colour, plus multiple minor characters of colour (such as Mother Giselle, Ser Delrin Barris, Horsemaster Dennett, Stitches the healer) as well as crowds and groups of soldiers that are not 100% white guys.
Dragon Age: Inquisition also has a number of LGBTQ characters, including Bioware’s first gay romance option, Dorian Pavus. In total, your romance options include a gay man (Dorian), a lesbian elf (Sera), a bisexual woman (Josephine), and a pansexual male Qunari (The Iron Bull). furthermore, several other characters outside your romance options are also acknowledged as being LGB.
But what the about the T in the acronym, you might ask? Well, meet Maevaris Tilani and Cremisius “Krem” Aclassi.
After receiving criticism for the portrayal of drag queen Serenity in Dragon Age 2, the team at Bioware did something that seems like a miracle in gaming (and film and literature too): they listened to the criticism, took it on board and not only promised to do better but actively worked to do so. Which resulted in Mae and Krem.
Mae is a powerful magister (that’s a mage of the ruling senate in the Tevinter Imperium) who appears mostly in the comics but has a leading role in some war table missions in Inquisition (before appearing in an end slide). I’m hoping this leads to a major appearance in DA4. Krem is also from Tevinter, and the lieutenant of the Iron Bull’s mercenary company, the Chargers – not to mention wielder of a huge-ass maul. His role is much more substantial than Mae’s; he’s the first to make contact about the hiring of the Chargers, offers missions for the Inquisitor to send the Chargers on, and is mostly seen drinking wine from the bottle and not sitting on his chair properly. Depending on the player’s choices, he can even finally (and awkwardly) romance the girl he’s been crushing on.
Now, like with other inclusions of diversity in the game, Krem’s portrayal isn’t perfect; there’s a few really cringeworthy comments/questions the Inquisitor can make/ask, but they are met with stern correction by the characters. But Bioware has made it clear that they wish to do be inclusive, to listen to criticism and do better each time, and that’s more than the vast majority of the gaming community.
Diversity is not just for the other characters, though! Characters can be customised to a great amount (see r/InquisitionSliders for examples and guides), and even the defaults (head 1, head 2 etc.) include diversity. If you want to save the world AND romance the Disney princess and duel for her hand, you can do that as a woman of colour!
Or my new favourite, Temuera Trevelyan!
Expect a follow-up post discussing smaller things I like about Dragon Age: Inquisition, and perhaps even similar posts about Origins and Dragon Age 2. In the meantime, what are some of your favourite things about Inquisition? And if you haven’t played it yet, have I convinced you to check it out?