Dragon Age: Inquisition
Following on the heels of the critically-acclaimed Dragon Age: Origins, and its horribly rushed sequel Dragon Age II, Bioware has clearly taken customer feedback to heart and created something wonderful in Inquisition.
To get it out of the way, I'll talk about the flaws first. I played the PS3 version, (it's also available in other formats) and it was filled with graphical glitches like slow-loading textures and falling through the ground. The crafting system is cumbersome (if occasionally hilarious/fabulous), my controlled character trudged through battle as if the field were drenched in molasses, and while I had no problems with the AI, I've read plenty of complaints from others who prefer not to play on casual with friendly fire turned off. Also, the real-time side missions have varied reactions, as I quite liked being able to send my minions out for five- sixteen- or twenty-four-hour missions that happen while I can't play, but those who have time to devote to playing a game continuously can find it grating to wait for agents to return.
That said, my overall reaction is more or less a high-pitched squeal, but that's not actually helpful as more than a general impression. Therefore, here are some of the things I absolutely head-over-heels love about this game:
The worldbuilding: The world of Thedas has always had a detailed history. There are several novels' worth of information packed into the codices, all of which add their own bits of depth and texture, and, much like real world history, are a confusing mishmash of legend, truth as written by the victors, and what actually happened. In addition to the lore contained in the games, there are comics, short stories, and five novels to draw from. This is a rich world, and the revelations about it in this game are oftentimes jaw-dropping.
The flexible background: It's perfectly fine to start this game having never played either of the previous ones, or any of the downloadable content for them. There is a history that comes pre-packaged with it and everything is explained for you. However, you are also encouraged to import your previous characters and the effects they had on the world. You do this via the Dragon Age Keep, which automatically records your previous games if you played while connected online, or you can customize things from scratch. You can set up a number of different world states to use for different playthroughs, so you can stick to strictly what you've previously done, fix your mistakes, or even set up best/worst case scenarios. Do you want to know what would happen if pretty much everybody died? You can do that. Would you prefer to have romanced a different character? You can do that, too. Feel bad about who you put on the throne? Wish you'd sided with a different faction? Didn't actually play any DLC but want to change the choices Bioware assumes you would have made? Yes, yes, and yes. Every major decision and quite a few seemingly minor ones are all there, and they all have repercussions of varying intensity. The thing that makes Dragon Age great is also what makes it difficult to talk about to others: no two experiences are alike. The main events will always occur, but any number of smaller events leading up to them or falling out from them can vary in so very many ways. Again, squee.
The characters: All of them. Every last one. Even the ones I hated. They are all complex, richly written people, some of whom are terrible people, some of whom are wonderful, and all of whom feel real. I could gush forever about the various characters and draw up essays on many of them. You have nine party members (three of each class) and three advisors, eight of whom are romance-able depending on the race and sex of your character. There's also a minor horde of NPCs of varying importance. I love every single one of them. My absolute favorite, though, is Cole. He's sweetly earnest, adorably naive, and quite possibly the deadliest companion you can have in your party.
So, gushing aside, what is this thing? Inquisition is another massive, save-the-world game in the vein of Origins, following on the heels of the smaller story in Dragon Age II, which laid out the beginnings of the Mage-Templar War. Inquisition opens with both factions going to the Conclave for peace talks...which literally explodes, leaving a vast tear into the Fade (an afterworld/other dimension, home of spirits and demons) and demons pouring out of rifts all throughout Thedas. Your character is initially accused of being the one who destroyed the Conclave, but has no memory of what happened. You do, however, have a mark on your hand that grants you the power to close the rifts, so you're immediately important. The process is slow, but you need to gain enough political might to have a chance to close the giant hole in the sky against the forces arrayed against you until you're a world power, not just some upstart with a magic hand. The ways to power are twisty and multitudinous, your every action alters how you are perceived, and sometimes there just are no right answers, or even lesser evils.
This is a gorgeous game in a wonderful series by a fantastic developer, and I highly recommend it to all CRPG fans. Also, I love talking about it, so please leave comments and I'll happily chatter DA with you at any time.