Opinion – Dragon Age: Inquisition Has The Best Cast In The Series To Date
Dragon Age: Inquisition has my favorite cast by far. In the past two entries, I've only enjoyed a few select members from each game (cough, cough Morrigan and Varric), but I've never found an ensemble as powerful as Dragon Age: Inquisition, where even if I didn't like certain cast members, I still found their arcs interesting and impactful.
Usually when I play the series, I'm more hooked on the overall narrative and the higher issues it presents, but this time around the characters took the spotlight. Fans can attest that Dragon Age is all about rhetorical conversation and seeing different sides to those arguments through your party members. The only problem this presents is that sometimes characters feel more like issues than people, but Dragon Age: Inquisition avoids this pitfall with a well-rounded cast where everyone brings something to the table.
Mixing Old With New
Dragon Age: Inquisition mixes up its cast by both bringing back beloved characters and adding new personalities to the mix. It served BioWare well to have some of its stronger characters resurface, as this allowed you to have some initial familiarity and attachment. Varric was the shining star of Dragon Age II, always having your back, and his return in Inquisition made you feel like you already had a good guy on your side. Leliana isn't a party member, but was a big part of what made Origins exciting. Having her working with you at the Inquisition headquarters just sweetens the deal, especially as you found out how she's grown since the Origins. This also allowed BioWare the opportunity to expand on past characters like Cassandra, who ended up being such an awesome sidekick. Who would have thought the hot-tempered woman interrogating Varric in Dragon Age II would end up being so level-headed and idealistic?
At the same time, you have a bunch of a new faces all with different backgrounds bringing a new perspective to the ever-complicated world of Thedas. From Dorian, who gives you deeper insight into the Tevinter Imperium's problems, to Iron Bull, who shows you more about the Qunari lifestyle and the Ben-Hassrath's spy network. These new outlooks and backstories showcase the dilemmas and shades of gray inherent to different races and cultures. The introductions we have to these characters also hold more weight, reinforcing parts of their personality. For instance, meeting Sera is all about a game; a hunt to track down and piece together clues from Red Jenny.
The Right Balance
Having such a large cast can be worrisome, especially in an RPG. A few characters usually get lost in the shuffle, but BioWare wrote such interesting and complex characters that all stand out in some way. Solas loves talking about the Fade, Sera can't resist telling an inappropriate joke, and Cole is learning to balance the human and spirit aspects of his being. No character feels like dead weight or overused; it's the right mix of eclectic personalities. Sometimes the best parts are what you find out about a character in the banter, like when Varric lets on that Blackwall is interested in Josephine. Characters all have more serious dilemmas, like Vivienne's dealing with loss, but you can also just chat with her about luxury and decorating Skyhold. Not every conversation is about swaying you to a side, and it was refreshing to see characters focused on other things outside of the Inquisition. I hear Varric writes some pretty great romance novels. My favorite moments are the little scenes where you're just hanging out with members of the Inquisition, having a few drinks, and playing cards. The way the whole group interacts with one another is better than anything I've seen in previous Dragon Age games.
Standout Character Quests
Special character quests have been a Dragon Age staple, but few have measured up to Mass Effect's loyalty missions and romances. Inquisition, fortunately, has so many memorable character moments and developments. For instance, just because Cassandra is strong-willed doesn't mean she doesn't have a softer side. Dorian's character quest remains one of my favorites because it's about him facing his family, who don't approve of him rejecting the life they've wanted for him. It's a powerful moment to witness and influence. Even characters that didn't make the best first impression grew on me, such as Vivienne, who initially seems self-centered, but taking on her character quest brings out a different side to her. In fact, someone as straight-laced as Cullen even has his own demons to tackle. Previously, it only felt like you really got to know a cast member if you romanced them. Dragon Age: Inquisition makes you feel like you're developing a friendship with multiple characters (even if you're not hot for them), and the scope of the characters' personal quests no doubt help cement that feeling. You always felt like you were helping these characters overcome their own problems on the way, further strengthening your bonds with them.
Looking back at former casts, they were never this varied or evolved as much as the characters do in Inquisition. Even at the end, there's something about going back and chatting with the characters one last time because you feel the impact of that journey you've gone on together. I didn't think the casts of the first two games were terrible by any means (some of my favorite characters are in them), but the Inquisition ensemble is Dragon Age's best. I felt significantly more invested and connected with everyone. There wasn't one shining star this time around; each character shines for different reasons to create a superior whole.