Here is a spoiler free review of Dragon Age: Inquisition that also answers the question of how “Inquisition compares to Origins” in just about every conceivable way. After playing Inquisition for 140 some hours (beating the game once and starting Act II on a second playthrough) and playing Origins for about 100 hours…I think I have the necessary credentials.
In terms of gameplay, Inquisition is more actively combative but it’s also more simplified. In Origins, you always had an auto attack and could set the game to play itself with how robust the companion tactics were. Inquisition requires a more active focus (I’m playing on the Xbone, so I have to hold the right trigger to attack constantly with whichever character is being controlled). The companion tactics are incredibly simplified to the point of the options being “spam this ability, do this ability if you can’t spam the former, don’t do this ever.” While there could be some improvements with the tactical camera, overall the more active focus is an improvement over letting the game play itself.
Both games center around one person recruiting various people and factions in order to save the world from an ancient evil. Where the games contrast is that those people matter more in Inquisition. In Origins, the party camp was home only to party members, a merchant, enchanter, guy offering DLC and an emissary from each of the game’s main factions (Dalish Elves, Redcliffe soldiers, etc.). Those emissaries don’t provide a good glimpse of the scale of the forces the player was recruiting. Even in the end game assault on Denerim, it was completely possible to never use what allies you had.
Inquisition, on the other hand, makes players feel like they are the architect of an organization. The player’s main stronghold isn’t a makeshift camp but an actual village (and later, a fortress). In addition to merchants and party members, players can meet with the blacksmith forging weapons for the Inquisition’s army or the quartermaster. Finding materials out in the open world allows the Inquisition to fulfill requisition orders and improve their force’s equipment. Various individual agents that can be recruited also appear. All these forces are visible to the player whenever they walk around camp and can be used to handle matters via the war table. Inquisition is a game where it feels like other people are getting off their ass to help make a difference in the world.
The choices in Inquisition are also a lot harder to make, something very important for a setting aiming to be “dark fantasy.” Outside of a few instances such as deciding the King of Orzammar, it was never in doubt what the right thing to do in Origins was. Why wouldn’t someone recruit the mages to save Connor from demon possession (especially if they were a mage Warden)? Why not convince Zathrian to let go of his vengeance and end the werewolf curse? Why would anyone outside of a complete asshole poison the Urn of Sacred Ashes? Without going into spoilers, Inquisition’s main choices are all difficult and it’s worth playing through the game multiple times to see how they all pan out. Inquisition does an excellent job of merging dark fantasy with epic high fantasy, whereas Origins was only as dark as the player allowed it to be.
None of Inquisition’s party members are central to the plot like Alistair was in Origins but their interactions with each other make up for it. The scene where the entire party plays the Thedas equivalent of strip poker is one of the best Bioware scenes ever. It also makes sense for each of them to be with the Inquisition, as they have their own agendas to pursue and will try to convince the player to side with them. This differs from Origins where the main motivation for each party member was “you’re the best person to stop the Blight, so I’m going to stick with you.”
So that’s how Inquisition compares to Origins. The gameplay’s not as overly complex but it feels better for it. The Dragon Age setting feels more alive in Inquisition. Origins is still a really solid game and one of the best RPGs ever made, it’s just that Inquisition is better. This is even more impressive when one considers BioWare’s previous track record. After Dragon Age II and Mass Effect 3’s ending controversy, most probably left BioWare for dead…and now they’ve released one of the best RPGs of all time.