DA:I is a return to form from Bioware, it's a solid game in which I've invested upwards of fifty hours - and I don't play that many games that long, to be frank - and altough I do not find it perfect in all accounts, I posit that it's an amazing game full of content, story and choices to be made that will be a perfect way to spend an absolutely insane number of hours for any RPG fan and especially people who are invested in their Dragon Age universe.
The story is quite typical fantasy stuff with treasures to loot and dragons to slay on a typical Dragon Age backdrop with a multitude of conflicts that - of course - only the main character can solve all by himself. You have a cast of characters with you that fill some of the archetypes of fantasy characters - although some of them did surprise me - and you bring them around in quests, watch them talk to each other and then talk to them, picking choices and suffering the consequences of them liking you more or less. I'd kinda wish the game would tell you if a character had something new to say because it takes quite a bit of time to go around, talking to everybody. Then again, if it weren't for this, maybe I'd walk less around. Your party members can "approve" and "disapprove" things you do and say, as it is a staple in Bioware games now, but you don't actually see their approval of you. You just have a vague idea of how you're doing, until the point where you become good friends, then you know.
DA:I is a game about loot and gear, you find plenty of stuff during your fights across the world, but it's not all useful. The game doesn't scale enough to your character, so most of the loot you will find will be completely useless. I've had the same bow for at least 6 levels by now. Each character can equip weapons, armors and accessories and you can upgrade armor and weapons with various pieces, hilts for swords, legs for armor, etc. The accessories fall into multiple categories, belts, rings, amulets. The rings are a bit annoying since a huge bulk of them only improve one skill your characters might have, and even then it's either +30% damage or +30% duration. You also find valuable trinkets that can be turned in for research, or sold.
The game allows you to move anything to the "valuable" tab so you can sell your stuff quickly, but it's a terrible hassle. There is no quick way to compare pieces of gear with every member of your party, there is no way to quickly see if the gear you've found would be better with the currently equipped upgrades you have on your gear and the item interface loads slowly. So you have to check every piece of gear on every character, then when you're sure something isn't useful, you place it in the valuable tab. You better pick good perks for more inventory space, otherwise you'll end up deep in a dungeon, forced to destroy things because you got greedy, it happens.
For doing quests of all sorts, you accrue "Power" and "Influence", which are both useful for different things. Power allows you to unlock new things from the world map - whole maps for instance - and Influence is used to give you perks such as 5% more experience from enemies, more inventory space or additional conversation choices. The world map is full of mini-quests you can send your advisers to, they all have their own ways of solving problems and the reward you might get are different from sending one or the other. These mini-quests are completed after a timer runs out - a timer that is shortened if you have recruited agents on the field. You also unlock whole maps where you do quests in from the world map by spending power. That being said, I've never didn't have enough power to continue the game, in fact there were no 'Power' barriers that I had to work towards. The game opens many different maps at the same time during the game and I'm not sure if it is intended for you to do everything or just do one of them since you come out of everything so overpowered with overabundant resources.
During the exploration of such maps, you'll find many sources of loot. Some of which might be materials to craft items and upgrade your potions. I have to say that for a PC developer, Bioware didn't took the utmost care in crafting a control system that works 100% for DA:I. Clicking on things doesn't move your character to them (so if you're steps away from a chest and you click, nothing will happen) and pressing F to loot brings up a menu with 'Loot All' at the top, but you can't press F again to loot everything and you have to click or press enter. All the crafting items are used with blueprints to make gear. Each material gives certain properties if placed in certain slots of blueprints and more advanced blueprints have more slots, allowing for more powerful gear. Like with the things you loot, you have 0 idea of what your characters have when you're crafting and you have no way to see if you could craft something better than the gear your characters currently have. There are masterwork materials you can add for special effects like chain lightning on hit, increasing your magic after a kill, etc.
The skill system is quite true to the Dragon Age name, you have a few skill branches, you invest points into active and passive skills and upgrades for your active powers. I wish they put choices for active upgrades and I also wish they had put toggled abilities that reserved your mana/stamina, like in previous game. I want to keep Poisoned Weapons all the time, I don't want it to be a 10 second effect with a 30 second cooldown. Later on in the game, you get powerful Focus abilities that help the party even more. There are no healing skills, but you have Barriers - shields that mages can put up to take damage before you lose life - and warriors generate "Guard", another bubble over their precious hit points. There also are potions, the basic one heals, but you can also find healing grenades, regeneration potions or bee grenades. The range of abilities is quite varied, but you'll have to make some characters similar to each other since there are 10 characters, 3 rogues, 3 warriors, 3 mages, plus your own character, and you are either a dual-wielding dagger rogue, or an archer, for instance.
The battle system is okay. You press numbered keys and the attacks go even if you don't have a target selected and one is just right in front of you, that shouldn't be the case. Enemies move behind cover to avoid your projectiles and they try to flank you and backstab you if you're not careful. Usually it's a good idea to send warriors first and kill everything once they're properly taunted. There is also a tactical view, but I've never used it, too slow. There is still some strategy in battles, but they've clearly made it to be more accessible with a controller. The number of times I've attacked by mistake with the left mouse button...
Finally, the maps themselves are pretty great, you have camps to find so you can replenish your supplies and heal, you have shards to find, rifts to seal and dragons to hunt. People have quests for your left and right and you'll find notes in the woods about some rind a guy lost. The maps are fun to go through - with the occasional help from a mount - but they're a bit too vertical for my tastes, jumping around rocks trying to figure out if this is the right way and then fudging it by backflipping from a special bow attack in order to climb a mountain feels a bit wonky. I suppose nature isn't about staircases and clear paths, but do we need that many mountains and rocky areas?
With a metric ton of quests to do in vast maps that are all different from each other, with tons of dialogue trees to go through and with a lovable cast of characters, supported by serviceable gameplay mechanics, Dragon Age Inquisition is an RPG that is worth being played multiple times - but as of right now, you might still only be at your first time around!