After being burned by Dragon Age 2 a couple of years ago, my mood towards Dragon Age: Inquisition could be best described as only cautiously optimistic as we approached the game’s release. From what I’d seen in videos, the game looked good, but the sequel to Origins left a bad taste in my mouth that prevented me from getting fully onboard the hype train.
The exception to this was for the game’s multiplayer component. One thing I felt confident about from seeing the game in action is that Inquisition’s combat looked solid. Combined with the fact that the co-op would draw heavily from the foundation laid by the awesome Mass Effect 3 multiplayer, I oddly felt that even if the single player suffered, multiplayer would be solid.
With the game now out, how does Inquisition’s multiplayer stack up? We’ll break down some of the hits and misses below.
As I expected, Inquisition’s combat is one of the game’s strongest points and multiplayer does a great job showing it off. The game leans a bit towards Dragon Age 2’s action combat, but there’s much more weight to it and it’s far less cartoony in terms of animation speed and visual effects. Shattering frozen enemies is as awesome as it has always been, and the impact behind moves like Mighty Blow has never been meatier. Tab targeting and the fluidity of movement could stand to be improved, but for the most part, Inquisition’s combat is incredibly satisfying.
Unlike Mass Effect 3, I don’t feel like players will be soloing Inquisition’s multiplayer any time soon. Of course, someone is probably going to prove me wrong, but my point is that the game emphasizes teamwork a heck of a lot more. The dungeon crawling dynamic is generally more punishing and there is a lot of interdependence between the different roles. As an RPG, this all makes sense, but the team could have easily made players more self sufficient if that was the goal. Aggro management and team support are all important aspects of gameplay and it doesn’t feel like any one class can handle it all on its own.
There are also treasure rooms locked behind doors that can only be broken into by specific class archetypes (Rogue, Warrior, Mage) so this encourages you to run with a varied group for maximum loot efficiency.
Variety is the spice of life and the launch of Inquisition’s multiplayer offers enough of it to serve as a solid foundation. Twelve classes, multiple environments and enemy groups, and a layer of randomization go a long way towards keeping things fresh. That’s not to say I’m not already looking forward to seeing what BioWare adds next. If you played Mass Effect 3 MP from launch, you’ll know the feature was expanded upon significantly with regular updates. New classes, maps, loot, and even enemy groups kept the experience engaging for months on end, if not longer. I'm eager to find out where Inquisition's multiplayer will go next.
I have no issues with the overall difficulty of Inquisition’s multiplayer. After all, I play the single player on Nightmare, but the curve is a bit awkward in the way the tiers are set up. In Mass Effect 3, you basically selected your difficulty tier and you had a relatively smooth and consistent experience. Things were too easy, just right, or brutally hard, for the most part. In Inquisition, levels matter a whole lot more, and the tiers are broken up for appropriate level ranges.
The problem is that in the beginning of a dungeon, enemy levels are towards the lower level of the range of the selected tier and then scale up towards the maximum of said tier as you get closer to the end. This means as you get closer to that maximum in your own level, the earlier sections feel trivial, while the reverse is true if you’re towards the lower end of the range. Feeling like you’re going through the motions in the first few sections of a dungeon or feeling almost useless towards the end can be a typical experience depending on where your class is in a given level range. I imagine this isn’t much of an issue at level cap, but it definitely feels like the experience could have been tuned a bit tighter to be more consistent in challenge.
Oh, and the Slenderman-looking Demon Commander is ridiculous. Dude needs a bit of a nerf.
This is another area that the Mass Effect formula doesn’t translate as well as I thought it would in Inquisition. In Mass Effect 3, you played rounds, survived, and saved up currency to purchase boxes that granted you new classes and the all-important loot. The thing is, loot in Mass Effect didn’t feel as crucial to the moment-to-moment experience. If you got an awesome gun in your first box, you could sit on that thing almost forever and still enjoy the game.
Inquisition’s dungeon crawling smacks of a Diablo-esque item hunt, treasure goblins, treasure rooms, and all. The problem is that your main source of loot is still the boxes. It’s smarter to save up for the larger boxes, but even if you didn’t, the game is still incredibly stingy with loot and it feels more like a slow drip than anything else. The treasure goblins and rooms are replicated in Inquisition, but more often than not, they provide gold and little else. Sometimes you’ll break down a wall to a find a small room consisting of a chest and a meager amount of gold you could acquire through smashing two vases found regularly throughout the level. Other times, you’ll have to fight off a Revenant, Arcane Horror, or some other monstrosity to unlock a chest, and you’ll still get a couple of coins for your trouble. Chasing down and killing a Golden Nug is also equally unsatisfying. Every treasure box and Nug should drop something. It doesn’t have to be a good something, but it needs to drop something, guaranteed. Playing a couple of matches to purchase a box as your primary source of items just doesn’t click as well.
I’m not going to spend too much time on this as it’s still incredibly early, but it’s already clear there are some class balance issues in Inquisition. Two of the three default classes are incredibly potent in their team roles to the point of possibly cheesing out any potential alternatives. If you need a tank, you really can’t do better than the nigh invincible Legionnaire. For team support, Keepers are invaluable, to the point of potentially being overpowered. For a small investment of skill points, Keepers can put up powerful team barriers, and if you bring more than one, these barriers can be staggered to keep them up far longer than should likely be possible. I’ve seen people argue for some sort of diminishing returns here and for the moment I’m going to reserve my judgment, but I can see barrier stacking becoming an issue. I’m really hoping team compositions don’t end up boiling down to one Legionnaire, two Keepers, and pick-your-Rogue.
Also, what’s with giving some warriors Challenge, but not War Cry? Single target tanking is fine and dandy, but the vast majority of the time you’re going to be up against big groups of mobs, where something like War Cry feels far more appropriate.
What’s your take on Dragon Age: Inquisition’s multiplayer so far? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!