New To Dragon Age? Start With The Third Game, Inquisition

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New To Dragon Age? Start With The Third Game, Inquisition
Image: BioWare

In honour of the Dragon Age games arriving on Xbox Game Pass and in celebration of today’s Dragon Age Day — and as some much-needed self-care, because the news surrounding this hallowed Day has been nothing if not depressing — I’m here to offer a tip to any Dragon Age newcomers eager to explore the world of Thedas for the first time: Play Dragon Age: Inquisition first.

I want the Dragon Age: Origins diehards and the Dragon Age II enthusiasts to put down their pitchforks for a minute and listen: Your faves (and mine) are terrible jumping-off points, and insisting a newcomer play the games from the beginning is a surefire way to warn them off the series altogether. Here are three reasons why Inquisition is the better starting point.

Honestly, I'd have taken dookie braids over this. (Screenshot: BioWare) Honestly, I'd have taken dookie braids over this. (Screenshot: BioWare)

Everything is prettier.

The Dragon Age games don’t have the best character creators but Inquisition’s is a solid upgrade over the previous two. As I noted in my attempt to replay Origins, I had to mod the game if I wanted to make a character as dark-skinned as I am. In Dragon Age II the character creator isn’t much better, with dark skin still on the fair side of paper bag and still kinda weird and splotchy. Inquisition improves on both. There are a wider range of skin tones and a robust number of face-slider options with a unique interface that, for once, didn’t intimate me. Hair choices, on the other hand, are a bit lacking even if you aren’t looking for a curly or kinky hair option (which — outside of the standard fade-looking buzz cut — there isn’t one).

Beyond main-character aesthetics, Dragon Age: Inquisition’s Frostbite technology is a marked improvement over II’s Lycium engine, which cast the world in a dingy, washed-out light. Environments were sparse, colourless, topographically similar — everything’s just kinda flat and brownish in Ferelden and Kirkwall. In Inquisition, the environments are varied, filled with all kinds of geography to investigate to find hidden codex entries or astrarium puzzles to solve.

Inquisition features a much more fluid combat style compared to its predecessors. (Screenshot: BioWare) Inquisition features a much more fluid combat style compared to its predecessors. (Screenshot: BioWare)

Gameplay is more beginner-friendly.

This is a controversial reason as there are a lot of fans who prefer the slower and more tactical combat of Origins and II over Inquisition’s more action-RPG playstyle. But for newcomers, the Dungeons & Dragons-like flow of the earlier games’ combat, which requires pausing the action to issue commands, might feel antiquated or unwieldy, especially for players unfamiliar with that kind of mechanic. Dragon Age: Inquisition strips the bulk of the old systems away in favour of faster, more fluid abilities-driven combat.

The open-world aspect is another controversial improvement, as players felt bogged down by the seemingly infinite number of quests (and bears) in the game’s notorious Hinterlands section. But having a full, populated world to explore is a vast improvement over Origins and II — games that felt like a lot of the environments were recycled and reskinned and locked behind loading-screen travel with a random encounter or two thrown in for spice.

Exit the Hinterlands, pursued by a bear. (Screenshot: BioWare) Exit the Hinterlands, pursued by a bear. (Screenshot: BioWare)

It’s the best Dragon Age story.

The Dragon Age series likes to hit players in the face with its story from the very first second. In Inquisition, the menu screen, depicting a peaceful scene of mages and templars walking side-by-side, literally explodes the moment you click New Game. Inquisition really ups the stakes over its two predecessors. There is a big-arse hole in the sky threatening to destroy the world and you are literally the only person who can stop it — oh, and the power that grants you the ability to save the world? It’s killing you.

You also don’t need to know the stories of Dragon Age: Origins or Dragon Age II to enjoy Inquisition. Of course knowing them fills in some useful background information, but any critical piece of knowledge is handily supplied by your companions and advisors — who are some of the best in the three games.

I get by with a little help from my friends. (Image: BioWare) I get by with a little help from my friends. (Image: BioWare)

It sticks the landing.

OK, I know I said I only had three reasons, but here’s a bonus one: Inquisition ends really well. Inquisition’s Trespasser DLC is some of the best video-game storytelling I have ever witnessed. It’s a beautiful epilogue to the game that offers a satisfying ending for your character and companions while providing a glimpse of the story to come. You can marry your love interest, adopt a dog(!!), and have a spa day with your homies all while discovering one of your allies has been plotting to destroy the world this whole time.

Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II are good games that I love, but I think it takes a certain level of dedication to open them up in the year 2020 and play them again — dedication I don’t expect a brand-new player to have. There are confusing and downright un-fun mechanics to learn, slow stories to overcome, and drab, ugly environments (like the Fade and the Deep Roads) to plod through before the story gets good enough to merit continuing. Playing Dragon Age: Inquisition first allows you to skip over the growing pains of its two siblings and get right to the heart of what’s so amazing and alluring about the series. Then, if a new initiate is eager to experience the rest of the Dragon Age story, Origins and II will be there, ready to hopefully keep them in the fold.

Comments

  • I never would’ve bothered to even consider playing any of the others if I’d started with Inquisition.

    Play Dragon Age: Origins. It’s a *great* classic CRPG.

    Don’t worry about the sequels – the franchise immediately nosedived off a cliff into the deep, dark ocean of bland garbage.

    Hit up Pillars of Eternity, Tyranny, or Pathfinder: Kingmaker after DA:O if you’re looking for something similar to play next.

    • It’s worth noting here that, were you so inclined, Pillars of Eternity and Tyranny are just about to come up as Epic Game Store freebies.

    • Or Greedfall! I’m playing through it now, but it feels a lot like what Dragon Age is to traditional medieval fantasy, Greedfall is to Treasure Island or Pirates of the Carribean (or Pocahontas), (but not at sea, land-locked).

  • Once again Ash Parrish with an awful take.
    Where does Kotaku US find these writers? Hanging out the back of a gender studies class with a sign saying “please hire me, ill write trash for food”.

    • I would rather read someone elses different experience of something I dont like, than presuming my take on something is ‘right’ as you seem to do.

    • You know that these are opinion pieces, right? And that some people like to read opinions that differ from their own? You’re also aware that nobody is forcing you to read these posts? Let alone forcing you to comment on them?

      • What is with you lot constantly going ” And that some people like to read opinions that differ from their own?”
        But when they read opinions different then their own in the comments, the other people must be right wing or whatever name you want to pull out of a hat and make sure your voice is heard.
        Its almost like you dont like reading opinions different then your own.

        Even with so far, EVERYONE has disagreed with this take.
        If they get to write shit takes and get to be paid, i get to write “this is a shit take”, now if only i could live the dream and get paid peanuts to say that.
        I would get paid alot of peanuts because Kotaku US has alot of bad takes.

        • what can I say I have an aversion to people who are incapable of using grown up words to articulate why they dont like something. If you want people to take you and your opinions seriously dont attempt to counter someones lengthy outline of something that interests them with a ridiculously dismissive and vacuous ‘OMG awful, trash!’.

          I may not agree with the author but I was more than happy to read through the whole thing.

          • I read the whole thing. When the first point is “Its pwetty” strap yourself in a shit take is on the way, when the 2nd point is “its easier” is like recommending someone to play fallout 4 before playing fallout 1. Whilst accurate, thats horrible advice. Points 3, whilst might be true, you also need to know things BEFORE 3, to understand the story. Bad advice.
            Point 4 is “….so?”

            Its an awful take.
            Could not care any less if you do or dont take my opinions seriously.
            Because they are opinions.

  • I would strongly recommend anyone interested in the Dragon Age franchise not do this as you’re going to have a very poor first impression of the franchise.

    This is like saying newbies to the Mass Effect franchise should play Andromeda first because the gunplay and graphics are better than the first one.

    Play Origins first and if you’re curious try the other two but be aware that the series instantly fell off a cliff.

    • Which is funny because I actually preferred the combat of Mass Effect 3 over Andromeda. Andromeda felt like a beta to Anthem’s system to me.

  • I thought the first one was simply amazing. Everything about. One of those rare long RPG that I played immediately to conclusion. Then two undercut everything brilliant from the first one. WHile three is one of the few games in which the UI was so appalling it made me quit the game. Its hard to explain, when I am actually playing, all the lore, the visuals and all that I am loving the game 8-9/10. Every time i went into the UI 2/10. It was an unfinished placeholder that they never got around to finishing.

  • These are all reasons NOT to start with Inquisition. You will find in the real world that most people are usually not willing to go backward particularly in terms of visual quality within the same series. It doesn’t matter how much of a damn masterpiece DA:O is (and it is), it feels old because it is old and for most people if they don’t start with it they won’t go back to it after DA:I. It’s precisely why I never played Mafia 1 until the remake.

  • What?

    Has this person played origins?

    If you start with this game there is so much lore and backstories you won’t understand at all.

    Such a normie take.

  • Inquisition has best story??? That’s crazy talk, Origins had the best story and it’s not even close. Inquisition had a great twist ending, but the journey to get to that point was not particularly great. Linear progression games almost always have tighter, more compelling stories than open world games.

  • I started with DA:O and then skipped 2 on the back of the poor reviews. I jumped back in at DA:I and, unpopular opinion warning, enjoyed it as much as DA:O. I went back and read the story from 2 and it seems rather unnecessary/minor in the scheme of things.

    So for my money, by all means skip 2 but at the very least give DA:O a try. The combat is admittedly pretty janky unless you’re happy to spend a lot of time on the AI (and it will put some present day gamers off completely), but the story was great.

    • Mileage varies, but #2 is actually my favourite of the lot, despite it’s very present flaws.

      #1 was good, but (to someone who’s read a lot of fantasy) felt a bit generic, nothing I hadn’t seen many times before. #3 was too mmo-y (especially for a completionist who likes to do everything), too little butter spread over too much bread (but might be good if you stick to the main campaign).

      But #2 (again, despite it’s flaws), felt more personal to me. You weren’t the prophesied saviour of the world etc etc, you were just a refugee, a member of a family, a mortal. The stakes felt more engaging, more personal, as you looked out for you and yours in this one town (and it’s surroundings, with the 1 cave…).

      Having a smaller scope is what makes it stand out to me: so many stories are about the 1 hero that has to save the world, with any sequels feeling the need to go bigger and better. But reducing the scope actually helps things hit home more. Avengers level movies are fun and well worth watching, but every now and then something like Antman (or Die Hard, or Dredd (2012)) with it’s smaller scope feels like a breath of fresh air.

  • Origins is a freakin amamzing RPG and well worth starting with.
    The second game was utter trash, and inquisition whilst a good game was a vastly different style game.
    Personally i’m hoping for a remaster of origins – if they can do it with mass effect why not dragon age?

  • This was my experience with the Dragon Age games. I played Inquisition when it first came out because I was looking for a new open-world fantasy RPG to play. I didn’t really know anything about the Dragon Age lore or world, but I really enjoyed the game – enough to want to go back and play the other two.

    Dragon Age: Origins was….. a love-hate relationship. I loved the story and the characters, I really enjoyed learning more about the back story. But the graphics were old and clunky, and the battle mechanics were extremely frustrating to deal with. Trying to beat the Broodmother in the Deep Roads nearly made me quit the game. I completely understand advising not playing DA:O first because it’s not hugely accessible, especially if you haven’t played many older RPGs.

    Dragon Age II was fantastic, I loved every second of it and I don’t understand why people hate it so much. It felt a lot closer to Inquisition in a lot of ways. I get that people were frustrated with how limited II felt, but to me it made the story really focused and well-written.

  • Origins is a shockingly poor game for several reasons and its continued popularity makes me think I might just have terrible taste.

    It’s like listening to everyone talk about how they love Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler comedies for years and constantly wondering how something that sucks so hard can be so damn popular.

    • I mean you do have terrible taste by the sound of it but to be fair, Origins and Inquisition are just two completely different games. I’d argue they are different genres in all honesty.

  • Dragon Age 1 / Origins was more closer to a classic RPG while Inquisition was trying to be more of a ACTION RPG. Quite a significant difference!

    I have no idea what Dragon Age 2 was trying to be? some kind of odd blend of the two or something, its only good to play for story filler between the two.

    Not sure if I will like Dragon Age 4, it might be like ME:A where its has sprinklings of good with a truck load of bad execution!

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