Dragon Age: Inquisition PC Port Impressions

I have a history with Dragon Age. I still maintain that Dragon Age: Origins is a great, clever, well-designed tactical CRPG, which turned up in an era when AAA CRPG games just didn’t happen anymore. Then there was Dragon Age 2, which was badly-written Dragon Age fan-fiction clumsily slapped onto a slightly ropey hack-and-slash combat engine, and failed quite exquisitely at providing either a good RPG or a good hack-and-slash game. Also, it had one slightly different level for each type of dungeon, which is insane.

But BioWare have been making all the right noises about Dragon Age: Inquisition. It’ll have a tactical camera, they say; it’s being designed primarily for PC, they say. Considering the ludicrous Kickstarter and post-Kickstarter success of several other tactical CRPGs (Project Eternity/Pillars of Eternity, Divinity: Original Sin, Wasteland 2, Torment: Tides of Numenera…) it’s not entirely impossible that EA has actually taken notice of this and said “oh, go on then, make a proper CRPG.”

I will not use the word CRPG again in this article, I promise.

Dragon Age Inquisition diamond nipples
Do your bloody shirt up, it’s freezing. That said, Varric’s okay; I mean, at least he’s not Fenris. Ugh. Fenris.

So now, three days after the US PC launch, I have access to Dragon Age: Inquisition. As per usual I haven’t bothered reading anything else about it before playing, because I don’t want to taint my perspective. As per usual, this article is focused primarily on the quality of the port rather than the quality of the game, though I’ll throw in some impressions later anyway.

First things first: I’m running this on an i7-3820 with 16GB of RAM, and an Nvidia GTX 670. Hopefully that’ll give you the ability to compare your own system and get a vague idea as to how Dragon Age: Inquisition will run on your silicon beastie.

Dragon Age Inqusition options 1
Ugh. Sorry, I just remembered Fenris again.

Second things second: graphics options. There are quite a lot, which I like; there’s everything from the vague “Graphics Quality” setting which changes everything to fit, through to manually defining the mesh quality, vegetation quality, ambient occlusion, etc. I am slightly bemused by the “Fade Touched” option in “texture quality”, though, which is above Ultra. I have no idea if that’s actually a specific and super-lovely setting, or a joke (because the Fade is a Thing in Dragon Age), or if it’s a filter, or what. I may experiment at some point, but…

Dragon Age Inqusition options 2

…that. I wouldn’t so much if it didn’t pop up on changing every single option that requires a restart, but it does. Yes, I know! I changed a setting so I have to restart! You don’t have to remind me again when I change another setting! Go away and stop making me click on small boxes!

Ahem. It’s a minor thing, but it’s sort of worrying when a game is going out of its way to annoy me when I’m going through the options.

I do, however, like that the game offers a benchmarking tool, albeit one with a very loud noise at the end that will make you shit yourself if you’ve got the volume up high and weren’t paying a great deal of attention while the game ran through various scenarios to test your system. Apparently even benchmarks do jump-scares now.

I ran these with quite a lot of memory-hogging stuff open, including Firefox, so the actual figures when my computer is doing nothing else will probably be slightly here. Nonetheless, here are the results from my system running the game on High:

Dragon Age Inqusition benchmark high
Not exactly a solid 60FPS, but still better than consoles.

And here are the results from Ultra:

Dragon Age Inqusition benchmark ultra
Still playable. Definitely more playable than any game involving Fenris, anyway.

In short, High is perfectly playable, and Ultra is mostly playable. I only saw it dip down to that 25 FPS once (and yes, I was watching the Ultra benchmark, mostly to figure out what the hell that loud noise was) so I don’t think I’d have too much trouble with it, but High looks nice enough that I’d rather have the higher framerate.

Graphics aside, there are a number of other options. There are subtitles for both ambient dialogue and full conversations, and there are separate options for text and speech language (although in my version the only available language is English, so that’s kinda superfluous to me). There’s even a Friendly Fire option for that full Dragon Age: Origins experience, but as it’s turned off by default, I’m not touching it. While I miss having to very carefully aim my abilities, if Dragon Age: Inquisition wasn’t designed around friendly fire then I suspect turning it on would make me very sad, very quickly.

Dragon Age Inquisition char creation 1
Ugh. I just want to hit him. So dull. So boring.

Next up, we click to start a NEW GAME and head into character creation, and omigod there are so many options.

This is the sort of character creation tool I like. It has lots of sliders and tweaks and I can adjust the height of the nose bridge and attempt to create a horrifying freak of nature. Like the human mage, below, who is fittingly named Dapper Steve.

I will not be playing with Dapper Steve when I actually review Dragon Age: Inquisition, but for the purposes of a test run, he’ll do. I can’t say anyone’ll miss him if he dies a painful and horrific death, after all. I couldn’t actually find an option to change gender and create a Dapper Stephanie, but I’m assuming that’s because it’s 5am and I missed a really obvious prompt. It’s either that or it’s tied to your race/class choices, but that would be hilariously stupid.

Dragon Age Inquisition char creation 2
Much better.

Immediately after creating Dapper Steve he’s thrown into a sort of horrible nightmare world where he’s running up some stairs while giant demon spiders scuttle after him. He reaches a giant glowing lady with a geometric shape for a head (alas, I did not see the option to have a geometric shape for a head in the character creation tools) and then he appears in the real world, where he’s promptly thrown in jail. In fairness, if there’d just been an atrocity resulting in demons appearing everywhere and someone looking like Dapper Steve was the only living person at the scene, I’d throw him in jail too. As an aside, if it turns out that giant demon spiders are actually the primary antagonists of this game, I am going to cry.

I’d like to point out that the cutscenes are hard-locked at 30 FPS while the game itself is happy to chug along at… well, at an average of 48.3 FPS, according to the benchmark above. I have no idea why games with in-engine cutscenes sometimes do this, but there you go.

Dragon Age Inquisition cutscene
If someone who looks like that is giving you that sort of stare, you may want to re-examine your life.

This cutscene then leads onto Tutorial Land. Dapper Steve is apparently marked by whatever the hell opened up the giant demon-spewing hole in reality, and so he might be able to close that hole. He’s escorted to a small breach to test this out by exactly one person, because if he was escorted by an entire battalion we’d never get a chance to find out how the fighting works.

The actual wandering-and-exploring controls pretty much like your average MMO. You view the character from behind, hold down the mouse button to rotate the camera, and run around with WASD. It’s not exactly what I expected from a proper RPG, but it’s comfortable and familiar.

Also, everything looks lovely. The opening snowy environment is really, really pretty; you can’t see it in the screenshots, but there are loads of bewitching little effects, like shimmering colours and reflections in the ice as you move along. Top marks for that.

Dragon Age Inquisition combat
Really, though. That ice. Gorgeous.

Then monsters appear and I have to fight. It doesn’t seem keen on letting me try out the tactical camera yet, so instead I get to play something that is eerily similar to Dragon Age 2. “Hold down either R or the left mouse button to attack the targeted enemy”, the game cheerily tells me. I do this, and Dapper Steve whirls his staff around like a majorette and unleashes blasts of magic cold stuff at the shades and spectres. They die. I move on.

Dragon Age: Inquisition then teaches me how to lock onto enemies (click on them or press Tab to cycle through targets), and lets me know that I can use skills by clicking on them in my hotbar, or pressing the associated number on my keyboard. Chain Lightning fries multiple enemies and is bound to 1, for instance. That’s very Dragon Age: Origins, although it’s also very MMO.

Then I found a hat. At a glance, the inventory seems like it might be a bit cumbersome to navigate with mouse/keyboard – the character creation tools certainly were, which doesn’t bode well for other menu-based interactions – but I manage to equip the hat with little trouble, and it even visually appears on my character, making him look even more ridiculous than before! So that’s good. I am hopeful that the inventory will not become a veritable nightmare to navigate when I have more than one thing in there.

Dragon Age Inquisition richard o brien
Solas looks like someone is wearing Richard O’Brien’s face as an unconvincing, oversized mask. He really creeps me out.

Before I go on, I want to reiterate that these are just my early impressions based on half an hour of the game, and things are subject to change. I’ll also point out that it’s very late, and I might’ve missed a number of menu options that will immeasurably improve my experience. Now, with that disclaimer out of the way:

I fucking hate the tactical camera.

It is incredibly, absurdly, stupendously useless. The tactical combat itself might be fine – it’s got auto-pauses, and I can select skills and click on enemies, and I can even see which other characters I’ve assigned to attacking that enemy and what skill they’re going to use. That’s pretty great. I still can’t shake off the MMO feeling for some reason, and I’ve still got worries that the game was designed to be played in the third-person view and the tactical combat was slapped on afterwards, but there’s clearly been at least some thought given to battling in this way.

I do not believe any thought has been given to the tactical camera. First, look at the screen below.

Dragon Age Inquisition tactical camera
Just because I want to micromanage them doesn’t mean I want to look at only them.

That’s as far as the camera zooms out. You will note that I am completely incapable of looking at my ranged characters and the enemies they’re hitting at the same time, which is a bit rubbish, because it means it’s completely impossible to actually get a tactical overview of the situation. Which is what you really want to do with a tactical camera. It’s in the name! When you’ve built a basic prototype of a tactical camera, the very first thing to do is to look at it and go “can I get a tactical overview of the situation with this camera?” If the answer is “no” then go and try something else!

I’ve just realised I didn’t actually try clicking on the compass in the bottom-left to move the screen around, but I’m pretty certain that won’t work because it’s a compass rather than a minimap. If it was a minimap, that might alleviate the first problem somewhat. And even if it does let me move the camera around, it still doesn’t change the fact that selecting a new character (to give them orders, say) immediately centres the tiny, tiny viewing area on them.

I will admit that this is something which might prove very useful in the middle of a pitched battle, but at the start of a fight when I’m trying to sort out all of my orders, having to slowly drag the camera back to the group of enemies is a pain in the arse – not least because the camera is so zoomed-in I simply cannot get my bearings in the environment from this top-down perspective. I mean, my characters are in a sort of white snowy area with some rocks around, and the enemies are… oh.

Dragon Age Inquisition tactical camera 2
A totally different battle in a totally different section of the map. Probably.

While I’m at it: I’m not sure who decided that holding down one mouse button should rotate/zoom the camera and holding down two mouse buttons should let you move the camera, but they should probably be shot. That is a terrible piece of UI design for a game where the view is completely top-down, but so zoomed-in that you have to continually move the bloody camera around – and no, you can’t just move the mouse cursor to the edge of the screen to scroll and pan. Holding down both mouse buttons brings up a sort of “second cursor” – an indication of your camera’s focal point, which I assume is the cursor on console – which is what moves the camera around. (You can see this as a crosshair in the screen above.) Now, this might make sense on a console where you presumably aren’t using an actual mouse cursor, but I can’t see any reason for this on PC.

Also, while holding down either mouse button lets you zoom and rotate the camera, it’s seemingly fixed on a sort of vertical rotation, which means that you’re probably going to get a view that’s even more zoomed in than if you were just playing in third-person. Which is ridiculous.

Dragon Age Inquisition yippee
Alas, Cassandra doesn’t react to you jumping around like a prat. Or to you having apparently been on the losing end of a fight with a makeup artist.

And that’s about where I finished, because it was very late and my first two battles involving the tactical camera nearly gave me a rage-induced aneurysm. I will investigate the camera further when I properly play the game for review, and I’ll perhaps get used to it. Maybe there’s a very specific and practical reason for this and it’ll all make sense when I play a bit further, and I’ll even come to appreciate it. Maybe I’m missing something crucial. Who knows? I don’t; I’ve only played for half an hour.

Right now, Dragon Age: Inquisition seems to run fine and look fine (and establishing that sort of thing is, let’s not forget, the main purpose of these articles) but 30 minutes hasn’t yet convinced me of the tactical combat or of the game’s PC-ness. We’ll have a full review up as soon as is humanly possible, and hopefully I’ll be able to address this stuff properly then.

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  • Tim McDonald

    Tim has been playing PC games for longer than he’s willing to admit. He’s written for a number of publications, but has been with PC Invasion – in all its various incarnations – for over a decade. When not writing about games, Tim can occasionally be found speedrunning terrible ones, making people angry in Dota 2, or playing something obscure and random. He’s also weirdly proud of his status as (probably) the Isle of Man’s only professional games journalist.

    • pc

      Are you fucking kidding me? an avg of 48 fps on high with

      i7-3820, 16GRAM, GTX 670!

      Either it is another shitty port or u maxed anti-aliasing and/or ssao

      • Graeme Willy

        Possibly a shitty port. Or it’s just early and they haven’t worked the kinks out in the game, that’s probably the most logical route. I guarantee you run the game another 6 months from now and it will be 50-60fps consistent. I don’t know, I’m not impressed with the graphics. The characters look great…albeit, a bit cartoony. The vegetation, on Ultra, looks like paper cut-outs…on low, the vegetation looks better.

        • campdude

          I used to be one of those people who said you can guarantee future performance with patches/drivers… but I learn the hard way. Then the idea is what is the difference between crappy port and not working the kinks out before release. Seems like both are similar. DAI got Mantle/Frostbite kind-of designed with PC in mind. DAO was hardware taxing when it came out and people still loved it. AA is a killer with recent games that have been coming out and its true for this game as well. I don’t know what to say really about this game yet there are a number of reviews out there but many good. I like DSO reviews he seems to be really angry when a game is not optimized.

      • Tim McDonald

        Like I said, I find 48fps to be fine (if surprisingly low for my machine) buuuut some people don’t. Which is why I quote numbers! So, some more details:

        That benchmark was run with the game’s “default” setting of High – that’s basically every setting on High (including Post-Process Anti-Aliasing), except for Tessellation Quality (Medium), Multisample Antialiasing (Off), and Ambient Occlusion (HBAO). I’m a little surprised that Multisample AA was turned off, if I’m honest.

        I went and did a bit more investigating, and ran the benchmark again without any background resource hogs open. This gained me an entire extra 1 frame-per-second on the benchmark, bringing it up to 49.4.

        I then went into the game proper with FRAPS open, did a little more wandering, and played another battle. I never really noticed the framerate drop below about 57 FPS, and it was generally constant at 59 or 60.

        As such, I’m guessing that the benchmark is dealing primarily with the really intensive scenes rather than average gameplay. It’s either that, or the start of the game is waaaaay less intensive than things that happen later on.

        It looks like that benchmark result may actually be slightly misleading. I’ll keep an eye on the framerate as I play further, anyway.

    • bobotheklown

      FYI, I was getting around 35-45 FPS with a 2700k at 4.8ghz and dual sli gtx 680’s and found out it was because I was in borderless windowed mode. Switching to full screen pushes straight up to 60fps everywhere without a hitch.

    • Derek

      You also cannot rebind your mouse keys…The game doesn’t recognize anything outside of left and right buttons. You cant hold both RMB and LMB to move forward like you could in the last 2 games. Its missing options on PC like walk toggle, you cannot zoom the camera out during normal play with a controller connected like you can with a mouse connected. When you select 1 method of input it disables the other….and you have to restart to main menu to switch input methods lol. Just about as clunky as a Console Port gets.

    • https://raptr.com/Minttunator/about Minttunator

      Did your check from EA not clear, guys? Why the objective article when every other gaming site seems to be fellating this game? :p

      Joking aside, I appreciate the honest overview – which seems to reflect the problems a lot of actual gamers are also having with this piece of shovelware.

      • Paul Younger

        Glad you appreciate our honesty, it’s super important that we get the correct information out to PC gamers.

        • Frank Gordon

          “The actual wandering-and-exploring controls pretty much like your average MMO. You view the character from behind, hold down the mouse button to rotate the camera, and run around with WASD. It’s not exactly what I expected from a proper RPG, but it’s comfortable and familiar”

          “Glad you appreciate our honesty, it’s super important that we get the correct information out to PC gamers.”

          This is when the whole review and your subsequent post lost credibility. Nothing about how the PC forums at Bioware and other sites are in flames because of the controller system and obvious port?

          The the controls are different to DA1 and 2 to the point of it really being made with a controller in mind and the controls don’t play anything like DA1 or 2.

          Simple things like not being able to highlight multiple party members to attack, or point and click to attack or even loot! What about when giving orders via tac camera, once you click on the party member, the tac camera moves back to them and you have to them move the camera back to where you want the party member to go or to do something. This has to be done for all individual party members.

          Bioware have even taken to their own forums to address the concerns of the PC fans because the control system.

          I would say DA fans to wait until a patch comes out to address this obvious port with EA probably putting time restrictions on Bioware to get it released, so the time spent on refining the control and the UI for the PC was practically nothing.

          These things aren’t bugs, they are game design features that obvisously says to me that the people making the game don’t really care about PC players and they are chasing the console buck.

          The video that Bioware put out about how they love the PC and that they never forget their roots etc, etc, is just PR spin and a blatent lie.

          Oh and loot not sparkling and the constant pressing of search to find the loot and then having to walk right up to it is annoying.

          All in all, I wish I hadn’t bought it until the fix the control system.

    • USMC03Vet

      two things

      1. The benchmark. I can barely even run it. In game however my frame rate is great once everything is loads into vram that is. There is something going on in the game causing massive stuttering when the game initially loads. This happens for the main menu, the benchmark tool, and when I initially load a zone. For the first 20 seconds it’s basically unplayable because the rendering goes to single digit frames and usually freezes entirely to unfreeze later. I’m not sure what is going on but in game settings seem to have no impact on this. I’m using a SSD drive as well so it’s not an issues loading assets in a timely manner. Something is up with how the game manages vram.

      2. Character customization in this game is the laziest and lames I’ve seen from bioware. Everything minus tattoos is shared between sexes and races. With the limited preset actual notable options your afforded having half the hair styles for the opposite sex is just retarded. This applies with the 2 voice options available. With voices you really have 1 choice or you can decide tha you want your character to sound like the opposite sex.

      I wouldn’t say its a bad port but there are technical issues that are obvious signaling EA’s terribly notorious QA on the PC. The tactical camera gets better once you’re out of the prologue but many areas seems to have low ceilings which means entering tact camera gives a very restricted view complete negating the suppose benefit your receive using it.

    • cloudkill22

      Tim, are you able to contact Bioware in order to find out when 1st patch will be released? Perhaps it will help your full review.

      Reason being maybe there’s a possibility PC controls might have been redone already but got rolled into patching because of deadlines.

      No I don’t have any proof, but if you played Dragon Age Origins for PC at all, it is clear Inquisition for pc was not beta tested AT ALL. It’s an almost direct port.

      • Peter Parrish

        I can’t speak for Tim, but I’ve tried contacting BioWare via a couple of routes to see if they have any explanation for the state of the PC controls. There’s been no reply (which is pretty much the norm for a games writer looking for answers, unfortunately.)

        • USMC03Vet

          Nah. Bioware like all EA debs just don’t give two shits and ignore you along with their consumers. You should see the troll responses dice has done on Twitter regading battlefield 4 and how they ignore their forums to play circle jerk over at reddit.

          EA’s devs are prett horrid. I remember when origin released and one of those bioware clowns responds to people asking for a helm toggle. He basically throws a temper tantrum because somebody dare questioned his perfect game and told everyone that wanted the feature to go to hell. Oh look. The feature is in dragon age 3……

    • Andrew

      My brother bought it and let me play. The game was pretty but not super intuitive control wise as noted by the review. Tactical camera was rather confusing and is rather useless because you can’t really see the enemy.

      I played on normal difficulty and thought I was playing on easy.
      “How could it be any easier than this!?” I said to big laughs.

      Combat wasn’t interesting at all, I supposed I could of raised the difficulty but what would of been the point (monsters with more hit points?)

      Was sort of surprised to see the mass effect conversation wheel. I knew bioware were conning us with the developed for pc bs video on youtube. You can always tell pr by its over-produced and hyped nature.

    • David Reid

      Haha, great screenshot captions :). Liking the character too.

    • Vortex

      Good review!!! Just what I expected from Bioware. I will leech the game when its cracked. Cheers

    • Yosharian

      Fucking hilarious

    • Anony-mouse

      Hi All, I must admit, this is the first time I’ve come across your website – in search of a believable opinion on DA:I. I am a long-time fan of what BioWare have produced, even with those parts that didn’t sit well with me. Growing pains happen, after all *LOL*!

      I appreciate the clarity and what seems honesty of your dragon-age-inquisition-pc-port-impressions 30 +/- mins summary; there’s a depth of actual concern in what you’re playing that all the Day-0 Professional reviews that seem overblown and understandable anger, frustration and loss of actual players upon first opening the game are almost opposite polarities.

      I am a firm believer in Pre-Ordering those things that excite me; books and games being the pinnacle. I’ve held back from doing so with DA:I, primarily because after the way ME3 ended up, I just couldn’t put my trust in them as a publisher. Where that is made obvious is The Witcher 3 – been pre-ordered for so long on the expensive Collectors Edition, without a worry over how CDProjekt will treat me as a consumer! I feel this way, even after the release of DA:I of what seems a MMO Console release (even from watching fans actually playing the game, for long periods – if interested, Jesse Cox on YouTube), when the hype and “No, we’re a PC Gamer friendly product, honest!!” type of statements, I still believe and have faith in CDProjekt (even with the alarming favouritism showm to a specific Console release of the Coll.Edition).

      I think that the game, once all of these PC problems and hopefully Tactical Cam (seen a CheatEngine Zoom fix for the zoom out distance) and UI fixes are in, the game will be on a par with the how DAII plays… For all its’ faults, it’s not a bad game; just not spectacular but worth playing all the same. It may be horrible for the fans, but hopefully the next game BioWare produces will be a true “Best-Of” each episode in the DA series. From the release of DA:I internationally right up to the 2nd of Dec., I’ve been reviewing the reviews so to speak *LOL*. IMO – and only my opinion, without playing the game myself – I do think it’ll be fun to play, regardless of all the problems.

      I enjoyed Kingdoms of Amalur, even though it wasn’t my usual fare. I enjoyed it for all it encapsulated and potentially could be, so yes I bought it when available at a reduced price *LOL*! This is sadly going to be the same for DA:I. I don’t think this game is worth the cost, when I can forsee a great deal of DLC being along the lines of MMORPG type things; Mounts with special abilities/animations/kudos etc., or just ridiculous amounts of price for meaningless things. Wait until they do A GOTY type collection of ALL of it bundled into one. In fact, I bought DA:O when it came out, Awakenings when it came out AND the Ultimate Edition! In fact, I could buy that version now – with ALL of that extra content – for £10.90! I think that’d last for the stated 100+ hours in playing DA:I *LOL*!

      So I am thinking that for all of the lure to play this game now, I shall wait and buy it when it’s cheaper and more complete, both patch-wise and DLC-wise.

      • Yosharian

        Believe me I wish I’d done that