After a fall fraught with disappointments, it’s nice to see at least one major game deliver. While Dragon Age: Inquisition isn’t without its faults, reviews of BioWare’s fantasy epic are overwhelmingly positive. Many critics praise Inquisition’s deep characters, expansive setting, and seemingly inexhaustibly supply of content, while also noting that combat’s gotten a sizable upgrade from Dragon Age 2. Inquisition isn’t perfect, but it’s a big step in the right direction.
However, people aren’t talking much about Dragon Age: Inquisition’s new multiplayer mode. There are good reasons for this: for one, many media outlets published their Inquisition reviews a week ahead of the game’s release, meaning that the multiplayer servers lacked people to play with. Secondly, Dragon Age: Inquisition offers such a deep single player experience that gamers simply don’t have time to try out the multiplayer offerings. It’s taking many players over eighty hours to finish Inquisition’s main campaign; that’s a lot of Dragon Age, and nobody’s going to blame gamers for taking a break after such a huge undertaking.
All of this has the effect of making Dragon Age: Inquisition’s multiplayer feel like an afterthought. That’s ironic, since the game originally started as a multiplayer experience. In an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, executive producer Mark Darrah says that Inquisition evolved from a title that was in development well before Dragon Age 2.
It was a Dragon Age game, multiplayer only, that was in development before Dragon Age II came out. That became the core of what became Dragon Age Inquisition, the techlines, more than any of the development, so we’ve actually been looking at this a long time.
Darrah goes on to argue that, since RPGs grew out of tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons, the multiplayer experience is actually an important part of any role-playing experience. By including multiplayer in Dragon Age: Inquisition, BioWare is simply returning the genre to its roots.
As outlined earlier, Dragon Age: Inquisition’s multiplayer puts players in groups of four and sends them out on multi-part quests. Fighting monsters and collecting gold (which is also available via optional microtransactions) levels up characters. It’s very combat heavy, and while the dungeon-crawling and loot-collecting effectively mimic the mechanics of a pen-and-paper RPG, there’s one important element missing: the story.
See, unlike Dragon Age: Inquisition’s main campaign, there’s no plot to these multiplayer adventures. Given that the whole point of a tabletop game — and, arguably, the biggest draw of the Dragon Age franchise too — is telling an interactive story, that’s a disappointing omission. For all of its faults, The Old Republic proved that BioWare can effectively tell interesting, epic stories in a multiplayer space; it’s a shame that experience wasn’t used to give Dragon Age: Inquisition a similarly compelling online narrative.
Dragon Age: Inquisition is out now for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.