With many notable critics already naming Dragon Age Inquisition a guaranteed 'Game of the Year' candidate (amidst a wave of underwhelming AAA releases), and the impending holiday breaks many consumers will be devoting to their chosen home console - or PC - it's safe to bet their will be more wannabe Inquisitors joining the fight with each day.
Given just how large, varied, open-ended and indeed, intimidating the world of Inquisition can be to even experienced RPG fans, we thought it wise to give a few pointers. BioWare has crafted an experience that welcomes nearly all levels of players and play styles, but if you're on the fence, or simply open to some advice, then we hope our list of tips and tricks will come in handy.
Use the Tactical View Early
Sure, it may not be as thrilling to some as simply jumping into the fight and letting your party members each 'do their thing,' but there's no question that on almost any difficulty setting, the Tactical View will ease frustration at some point in the campaign. The ability to pause the action, issue commands or attacks, and then watch them unfold - at a snail's pace, if you prefer - will prove useful eventually.
The developers themselves released numerous videos showing how the Tactical View wasn't just a throwback to older PC fans, but a means of making the most out of the more finely-tuned combat systems. No matter how much you'll end up using it, learning the ropes in the game's early stages (where progress is already slow) is highly recommended. If you need a refresher, check out the walkthrough below:
Always Be Searching
Where standard RPGs have turned to a variety of solutions in alerting players to loot - from Skyrim's on-screen prompts to the 'loot twinkle' of prior Dragon Age games, Inquisition sets the player's loot senses to a button press. Hit the button, and a gold wave pulses out - if it chimes in response, then loot sits within its vicinity, and the players must seek it out.
The advice here is simple: mash that Search button early, and continuously. It might seem like an annoying requirement (and we won't disagree), but whether it alerts players to new books, crafting resources, weapons or armor, every piece of loot comes in handy. And the developers have left few corners of the game truly barren.
Use The War Table
When the Inquisition finally gets up and running, it finds its first base of operations in Haven, among the Frostback Mountains. Besides a training camp and locations to interact with party members, players are finally given access to their very own War Council, complete with a War Table showing the goings-on of both Ferelden and Orlais. It's a means to gain influence, and time is the only real currency.
As story missions progress, more and more additional missions crop up on the War Table, ranging from aristocratic squabbles to missing scouts. Some require the player's direct intervention, but most allow the situation to be handled by Cullen, Josephine or Leliana (using strength, diplomacy or spies). The clock's always ticking, so any mission left open while adventuring is influence passed up. The mission time is tied to the console itself, so save the longer missions for overnight breaks.
Don't Wait - Get Crafting
It wouldn't be an overstatement to say that even seasoned RPG players tend to shy away from extensive crafting systems. Thankfully, BioWare has sweetened the deal by making crafted armor and weapons occasionally far superior to what's being found while scavenging. Acquire the schematics for the item in question (through looting or purchased for pennies from vendors) and watch how specific crafting metals and fabrics affect the stats - and, yes, appearance - of the gear.
Find a combination that works with the desired stat boosts (this is where you'll realize those Iron deposits scattered around Haven really are worth collecting), give it a fitting name, and start to enjoy. The crafting extends to upgrading hilt designs, leg and arm armor, and more. And with the smiths located just feet outside of Haven's walls, most players will be hooked before long.
Set Your Own Pace
Within just weeks of Inquisition's release, one bit of 'expert' advice has emerged with which we take issue: "leave the Hinterlands immediately." Besides implying that BioWare has crafted a comparatively weak environment for its early questing, it goes against the kind of players who have shown to be some of Dragon Age's most dedicated - the completionists.
Not every quest found in the Hinterlands is particularly thrilling (though it's easy to tell which will be straightforward), but the environment itself is incredible, and ridiculously vast. Containing a flaming dragon's nest, a burned-out forest filled with bears (and valuable Drakestone deposits), and far too much more to mention, follow no one's pace but your own. If exploring the Hinterlands from top to bottom before moving on makes the most of the story in your eyes, then do just that.
Outfit Your Party At Home
This is certainly a smaller bit of advice, but one that will save some headaches. As the player's party grows, and Follower preferences emerge (who wouldn't want Iron Bull at their side?) it becomes even more of a mental puzzle to assign the best weapons, armor, and accessories to the soldiers seeing the most action. Thankfully, a simple solution is just a quick Fast Travel away.
When playing solo in a friendly camp (Haven to start), the player can actually access every Follower in the inventory menu, making it far simpler to compare the equipment of one Mage, one Warrior, or one Rogue to another, and swap accordingly.
Try Your Followers in Combat
Every player is bound to have their own preference in character class - be it Warrior, Rogue or Mage (and the subclasses contained within) - but that doesn't mean their own class is the only one it's wise to learn firsthand. But instead of starting up multiple campaigns, it's worthwhile to spend time with each Follower in combat. You may discover a style of play you've been missing, but learning the strengths of each class is just as important as learning the weaknesses.
The little things matter more than ever, now that ranged characters can earn serious bonuses when firing from an elevated position, and tanks can be specifically commanded to guard choke points (to protect the aforementioned ranged characters). There's no need to spend hours away from your preferred class, but playing as a Follower will help explain why they behave certain ways when it's the A.I. piloting them in a fight.
Vary Your Classes
Just like character classes, every player is sure to have their initial concept of a perfect build for each. Although a fire-based Mage may be impressive visually, it's of the utmost importance that members of the same class are optimized for different situations. Those who've played past Dragon Age titles know that this balance can be tricky, since some two-handed or ranged attacks are always more effective than others.
That being said, diversifying the Skill Trees of class members can't be understated. Two-handed Warriors may seem more powerful when taking down a dragon, but a shield-equipped Tank is priceless in other scenarios (not to mention the magical barriers that are only vulnerable to a certain elemental attack).
Know When To Run
Having vast environments at your disposal is something of a double-edged sword in Inquisition; though new environments come with a recommended experience level for players. many are still likely to find themselves outmatched. Whether it's an overpowered dragon dropping firebombs from the sky, or Revenants capable of one-hit kills, it soon becomes clear that victory is not always a likely outcome.
Instead of pounding your head against a wall for hours on end, simply accept that the designers don't yet intend the content locked behind said enemy to be explored. If anything, the satisfaction of returning with a vengeance and smiting the foe with an over-leveled character is worth the price of a tactical retreat.
Now that we've passed some of our hard-earned wisdom on, we hope that new players will be able to approach the enemies and landscapes of Inquisition with a bit more confidence. A game this big is sure to have some difficulty learning curves, but following these pointers should at least allow the opening hours of the game to show their strengths to even new RPG players.
Dragon Age: Inquisition is available now for PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.