Endings are difficult - but then, BioWare already knows this. After the mess of Mass Effect 3, the developer played things safe with the finale of Dragon Age Inquisition. That guy you were trying to stop for pretty much the whole game? Well, you stopped him. There was a boss fight, you won, you got cheered home. Everything was tied up pretty neatly - except, of course, for that post-credits stinger.
Dragon Age Inquisition: Trespasser
Publisher: Electronic Arts
So, dwarves. Dragon Age's subterranean dwellers were largely absent from Inquisition's main storyline - which sort of makes sense, since it was about fixing a big old crack in the sky. Instead, the underground race are centre stage in The Descent, BioWare's new DLC that is comprosed entirely of a sprawling six-floor dungeon, designed to appeal to and tax even the hardiest of Dragon Age players.
Dragon Age Inquisition: The Descent
Publisher: Electronic Arts
I'm still playing Dragon Age: Inquisition, months after it came out. I only came to it over Christmas, but most evenings that I pick up a controller I find myself setting out from Skyhold yet again, venturing into some wilderness or other to see what I can find. The followers I bring with me have mostly fallen silent, their dialogue exhausted after nearly 200 hours of adventuring. This is fine - if I was asked to constantly quip while somebody else poked around, mopping up stray side-quests and flambéing any sheep foolish enough to wander by, I'd have got bored too.
But I haven't tired of the game, even though I'm still playing far beyond the point that most players feel the need to. Fans have complained that there are too many distractions on the game's world map, and you could make the point that BioWare has cluttered its own game unnecessarily. But I'm reminded of something Dragon Age: Inquisition creative director Mike Laidlaw told me a couple of weeks ago - that assuming you needed to collect every little thing in the game was a "miscalibration". You'll finish the main story with a surplus of power unless you have a real aversion to exploring - BioWare has simply populated its world with further activities for those who do want to engage with them.
All of this is worth noting as I am currently staring at a large thread on BioWare's forum branding Jaws of Hakkon as "more of the same", arguing that it just adds another area to explore with a map that quickly fills itself full of side-quests and collectibles. You could make this argument, but it feels unfair - there's far more to the DLC than the icons on its map, while its design feels as if BioWare has responded to some of the early Inquisition feedback.
There's a definite end of an era feel to much of Dragon Age: Inquisition, whether or not BioWare has a fourth in the pipeline. This is what everything's been leading towards; all those choices, all the adventure, all the drama, and all the epic battles so far - of good vs. evil, of mages vs. templars and, of course, of RPG fans everywhere vs. Dragon Age 2.
Love or loathe that game, Inquisition feels like an open attempt to atone for its sins - a comeback play from a company that knows that still being one of the genre's heaviest hitters doesn't mean its reputation isn't on the line. Luckily, lessons have been learned. No longer does one cave try to pass for ten, or has streamlining taken all the choice out of adventuring. This is still firmly a modern BioWare RPG rather than a return to Origins' long abandoned old-school aspirations, but one bursting in ambition and scale.
That scale isn't just in its maps, though those are the first hint of it, and the difference between them and what came before is night and day. Finally, Thedas feels like a world rather than a series of glorified corridors - one open for exploration. It's not fully open, a la Skyrim; each major area is neatly packed in its own box, linked by a map as before. Those boxes however now stretch out as far as the eye can see, across valleys and mountains, with waves smashing the coast, villages, enemy camps, caves, swamps and temples all littering the landscape... along with a number of smaller maps for specific stories and major interiors... and both a horse and fast travel needed to zip around on your many jobs. How beautiful does everything look turned up to full? Enough that I put this review on hold for a day so that I could get a GeForce 970 to replace my old 660. It was clear it deserved nothing less.