When Dragon Age: Inquisition launched last year, I called it my Game of the Year. A few months later, I backed off and retroactively decided to name Shovel Knight my 2014 Game of the Year instead. Does that mean Dragon Age: Inquistion is a bad game? Not necessarily!
However, my turnabout inspired me to look back on some of the biggest games of 2014 and ask a very basic question: Does it hold up? I would say some of them definitely have. Others probably haven't. We'll start with Dragon Age: Inquisition, though, since it was the game that inspired this question in the first place.
What we said at the time
From my review: "Dragon Age: Inquisition is a graphical showcase for the next-generation consoles—a sprawling, beautiful open-world RPG with a deeply satisfying exploration loop and just enough in the way of mechanical depth to keep hardcore adventurers happy. At more than 50 hours for a single run through the story, it packs in a tremendous amount of content across a wide number of locations. After stumbling a bit of their past few releases, BioWare has recovered to deliver a truly excellent piece of epic fantasy."
I really liked Dragon Age: Inquisition! I was skeptical going in, but it grew on me as I got further into the game. The environments were great, Skyhold was a nifty headquarters that reflected the progress of the Inquisition by growing steadily over time, and the Orlesian ball was one of the better RPG quests I had ever played. Having learned from their mistakes with Dragon Age II, BioWare had taken their time with Dragon Age: Inquisition, and it showed in a much bigger and more developed RPG.
Dragon Age: Inquisition garnered good reviews, but people seemed to turn on it fast. One of the more telling moments came in a post on Reddit titled, "PSA - Leave the f*cking Hinterlands," which urged people to get out of the game's opening area and progress the story. As it turned out, BioWare had gotten a little too zealous in frontloading DA: I with content; and as a result, a lot of people complained that it was a fetch quest-oriented grind.
What's more, it suffered from trying to make everyone happy, hardcore RPG fans and casual gamers alike. Casuals felt that it moved too slowly and found the progression mechanics opaque. Old-school RPG fans, meanwhile, complained relentlessly about the battle system, which was admittedly a weak point. The resulting backlash came to define the narrative around Dragon Age: Inquisiton; and when The Witcher 3 came out a few months later, Dragon Age: Inquisition was frequently used as a negative comparison against what CD Projekt Red had accomplished with their game.
Dragon Age: Inquisition is now remembered as a fairly divisive game. Even among my peers, it tends to get a lot of crap. The lesson, as always, is that BioWare simply isn't going to get the benefit of the doubt from anyone anymore.
The content since release
BioWare has released three major pieces of content over the past year - Jaws of Hakkon, The Descent, and Trespasser. Jaws of Hakkon is the sort of side mission that fits well into the Game of the Year Edition, which was released a month or two ago. The Descent is one long dungeon. The Trespasser is the most interesting of them, picking up from the cliffhanger at the end of the original adventure and wrapping up the events of Inquisition in preparation for the inevitable Dragon Age 4. If you haven't played Dragon Age: Inqusition yet, it makes for a nice all-around package and a very meaty RPG.
So does it hold up?
I'm of the opinion that at least some of the criticism leveled against Dragon Age: Inquisition is somewhat unfair. In particular, BioWare does a good job of limiting the fetch quests to the optional content, meaning that you don't have to slog through interminable collect-a-thons to advance the story. True, it's kind of a drag collecting a million items if you want to finish everything, and there's a definite whiff of filler to it all, but it's quite easy to ignore if fetch quests aren't your thing.
I'm a little more divided on the battle system. On the one hand, it's got a bit of Final Fantasy XII to it, absent the complex Gambit System, so I kind of like it. It's also undergirded by a strong crafting system and a sizable number of skill trees, which encourages you to think hard about how you want to customize your character. That said, magic is once again altogether too powerful - magic is presented as being incredibly dangerous and yet there's no practical in-game consequences for spamming it - and there's just a bit too much button-mashing. It's fun, but ultimately pretty simple.
While its weaknesses tend to get talked up a lot, though, its strengths tend to be ignored. Dragon Age: Inquisition has a strong cast fronted by Iron Bull and Vivienne, and it does a good job of making you feel attached to your party members via various sidequests and romantic options. It also has a great villain - a dangerous enemy from Dragon Age II who serves as a great foil for your Inquisition.
My favorite aspect of Dragon Age: Inquisition, though, is the moment you ride into a new area for the first time. Every area is different, and they usually have one entertaining main quest, whether it involves clearing out an important fortress or obtaining the help of some important faction for the Inquisition. Its made even better by its surplus of mounts, including a simply awesome Battle Stag.
I think that it ultimately suffers a bit in comparison to Witcher 3, which is a more focused game with a more interesting story and mechanics, but that it's a much stronger product that Dragon Age II, which was half-finished at best. If you haven't given it a shot yet because of its poor reputation, maybe pick up a copy of the Game of the Year Edition. You may be surprised.