Dragon Age: Inquisition Digital Foundry

Last-gen revisited: Dragon Age Inquisition

Digital FoundryLast-gen revisited: Dragon Age Inquisition

Do you really need a PS4 or Xbox One to enjoy BioWare's latest adventure?

The support that PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 continue to receive is really unprecedented. While it's not uncommon for older platforms to remain supported years after they've been replaced, it's rare to find so many of the latest AAA releases appearing across multiple generations. Those of us that are quick to jump to the latest hardware would never dream of going back and playing these games in a compromised state but, for many people, it's the only option. The important question here: are these games really playable and enjoyable on last-generation consoles? Or is a PS4 or Xbox One upgrade now effectively mandatory?

Dragon Age: Inquisition is an interesting release, then, as it marks the beginning of BioWare's new Frostbite 3 initiative and was designed first and foremost for the new console generation. At first glance, it's clear that from a visual perspective, the last-generation edition is a huge step back from other versions of the game. Many of the finer details are lost in this translation leaving the game looking somewhat plain and garish in comparison. While the same basic art direction still shines through, stripping away the polish lavished upon the more advanced versions of the game definitely has an impact on the experience. Yet, this isn't an action game, nor have BioWare's previous console efforts shone as a beacon of excellent performance. So there's an interesting opportunity here - this new title may not match the full next-gen experience, but it could well improve upon the mixed performance of previous Dragon Age titles.

As noted, this is a Frostbite 3 game and, as such, it's not surprising that the PS3 and 360 versions of the game share a lot in common with previous titles built using this technology. As with Battlefield 4, the game operates at 1280x704 resolution - basically 720p with eight pixels subtracted from the top and bottom - with a pair of comparable anti-aliasing solutions. The PS3 version uses an MLAA seen in the Battlefield games, while Xbox 360 features a standard FXAA implementation. The game is sharper but more aliased on PS3 while FXAA delivers a smoother, yet blurrier, image. The 360 version also includes an optional install disc which, as with other Frostbite games before it, allows for higher quality assets in line with the PS3 version.

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Face-Off: Dragon Age: Inquisition

Digital FoundryFace-Off: Dragon Age: Inquisition

BioWare's Frostbite debut impresses on all platforms.

For all their accomplishments, it's fair to say that previous episodes in the Dragon Age saga lacked something when it came to visual polish and technical acumen - but Inquisition is something different and something really special. BioWare utilises DICE's Frostbite 3 technology not just to produce a beautiful, well-optimised experience, but also to open up the gameplay.

While previous instalments in the series were limited to small areas divided by loading points, Inquisition now presents maps much larger in scale and detail. This new world is massive and ripe for exploration, complete with beautiful, detailed visuals - and as an added bonus, performance is much improved over previous BioWare console efforts. We've been spending some time with the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC versions of the game and each one offers an excellent experience worth jumping into - but there are some fascinating differences between each offering.

In an attempt to squash launch controversy developers have been increasingly open about rendering resolutions and BioWare is no exception. As the developer revealed, Dragon Age runs at 900p on Xbox One and 1080p on PlayStation 4. The console versions both appear to use the same post-process anti-aliasing technique. As expected, this looks significantly cleaner when paired with the native 1080p image of the PS4 release, but still works well enough on Xbox One. Both versions also utilise HBAO and implement decent anisotropic filtering, though the lower resolution on Xbox One does leave textures looking a touch blurrier.

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