Fantasy Duel: Dragon Age: Inquisition vs. The Witcher 3

Games Lists

It was probably the greatest gift I have ever received.

Not only did my girlfriend (now wife) buy me Skyrim, but she was also about to spend the next month with her family in Florida. I didn’t even have to keep up the pretense of living like a functional human being while I dove headfirst into the world of the Dragonborn. It only took a day or two for a “meal” to consist of licking the insides of discarded Kettle chip bags. After two weeks, my apartment looked like a 700-square foot refugee camp.

But life has a tendency to intrude on the Big Games. Jobs. Kids. Naps. Taco Tuesday. There are many demands on our time, and while the idea of having 100 or more hours to wander around a digital fantasy world is appealing, it’s not totally realistic. Most of us don’t have the time to play even one of these games all the way through. What happens when there are many to choose from?

Having dumped some 150 hours into Dragon Age: Inquisition during the holidays a few months back, and now finding myself neck deep in The Witcher 3, I feel like I’m in a pretty good position to parse the relative merits of each game. If I had to choose to spend unconscionable amounts of time in one world or the other, which would it be?

What is your quest?

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Dragon Age: Inquisition: Demons fall through a hole in the sky, a guy is thrown in prison but then gets anointed as the leader of a holy army when they realize his hand can glow green and do magic stuff.

Witcher 3: Geralt of Rivia, albino monster hunter and vigorous lover, is haunted by bad dreams and sets off to find his sort-of adopted daughter. She’s being hunted for her special blood by an army of horse-mounted ghost monsters, although why a phantom would need a horse to get around is beyond me.

Advantage: Draw

Hoity-toity foreign powers

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DA:I: The Orlesian Empire has a long history of conflict with the people of Fereldan. Orlais is peopled by perfumed, masked aristocrats with a taste for nefarious plots and fancy shoes. The nobles also pride themselves on playing “The Grand Game,” where the most skilled adherents employ subterfuge, betrayal, assassinations, and other tools of a Littlefinger-y bent. That they spend much of their time plotting to screw one another instead of the rest of the world is the only reason they haven’t conquered the entire continent.

W3: Like Orlesians, Nilfgaardians also speak in an accent dripping with class antagonisms and croissants. They pay homage to Emperor Emhyr var Emreis, a fairly reasonable tyrant who is nevertheless determined to expand the borders of his kingdom. When Geralt visits their capital for an audience with the emperor, even the lowly chamberlain can barely conceal his contempt for this unwashed northern barbarian. Obviously, Geralt takes a shining to him immediately.

Advantage: The Witcher 3

More interesting Tinder profile

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DA:I: The Dragon Age series has always been in the vanguard of hilariously animated videogame liaisons, and Inquisition is no exception. Whether your tastes run more toward insecure religious fanatics, drug-addicted knights, or horned warlords with impressive man-boobs, Inquisition has something for almost everyone.

W3: A friend of mine tweeted this the other day: “Can someone explain how the lonely Geralt of the books turned into Geralt the Fuck Master in the Witcher games? The dissonance is absurd.” In the game, Geralt seems to recognize this unnatural state of affairs when he answers one of many propositions with the response, “I’m a witcher, not a gigolo.”

Advantage: Dragon Age: Inquisition

I hate these guys!

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DA:I: Every time you try to close one of the innumerable rifts in Inquisition, you’re forced to fight a gang of monsters. By far the most annoying of these is the despair demon, who often falls back to a safe distance and shoots you with a frost laser until you die.

W3: In a world full of monsters, wraiths are probably the most irritating. It’s really difficult to stab something that doesn’t have a corporeal form. But at least there are no frost lasers.

Advantage: The Witcher 3

Death rides a… horse?

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DA:I: Inquisition does not limit you to traditional steeds. By the end of the game, you can choose from among dozens of mounts, including bog unicorns, dracolisks, and the Gwaren Land-Hammer (whatever that is).

W3: Roach—who is, unaccountably, a horse—is as trusty a mount as Geralt can hope to find in this crazy, mixed up world. But he’s no bog unicorn.

Advantage: Dragon Age: Inquisition

Bosom companions

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DA:I: The Inquisitor’s inner circle is a tight-knit group, as only a progressive group of religious fanatics waging war against heaven and earth can be. Still, Inquisition’s lineup probably isn’t even the best of the series. They’d all be totally forgettable if it wasn’t for Freddy Prinze Jr.’s turn as the redoubtable Iron Bull.

W3: Geralt is kind of a lone wolf by nature, but that gruff exterior and collection of severed monster heads can obscure the fact that he’s always there for his friends; Zoltan, Vesemir, Vernon Roche, and the multitude of Geralt’s ex-maybe-still-current lovers. Dandelion the Bard is Barney to Geralt’s Ted Mosby.

Advantage: The Witcher 3

Pointless side quests

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DA:I: Inquisition is a great game in many ways, but it treats your time with utter contempt. There’s no other way to explain hours of mind-numbingly pointless missions like herding druffalo or finding a prized sheep named Lord Woolsey.

W3: Aside from the main quest, Witcher 3 has secondary missions, witcher contracts and treasure hunts. Because of the way the enemies scale, going through a large number of these is practically a necessity in order to build up enough witcher power to continue. The map is pockmarked with question marks indicating more missions and booty (one kind or the other). Generally speaking, though, the missions feel as though they’re at least somewhat related to Geralt’s greater purpose.

Advantage: The Witcher 3

And on the fifth day, the lord made the Tiddles Majoris

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DA:I: The Chantry is impotent and stupid, but they’re mostly harmless.

W3: When we first meet the cult of the Eternal Fire, they’re burning dudes at the stake for not being normal humans.

Advantage: Secular humanism


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DA:I: The elves are looked down upon by most people in Thedas, but we see glimpses of past glory that dwarf (no pun intended) anything that exists in the present day.

W3: People are constantly dogging Geralt for being a mutant freak. It never ceases to amaze me how many mud-caked ragamuffins start shit with this pretty formidable looking albino guy with two swords on his back. Guess no one ever accused virulent racists of being particularly intelligent.

Advantage: Post-racial society

A sword repair-based economy

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DA:I: You find so much crap during the course of playing this game that there is absolutely no reason to spend gold on equipment. Ever. If Corypheus doesn’t destroy the world, then hyperinflation probably will.

W3: Crowns can be a little hard to come by, and you have to spend money regularly to keep your equipment in decent shape. Some people pay you in foreign currencies, which you can then convert into usable cash, which is a nice touch. Geralt also has a fun exchange with one merchant trying to weasel out of full payment. The witcher tells him that someone is about to get slapped with the invisible hand of the market. CLASSICAL ECONOMICS BURN.

Advantage: The Keynesian school


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DA:I: It’s tough to see the russet mantle with that rift in space and time lodged in the sky, barfing monsters all over the place.

W3: Gorgeous, although watching a sunset in a game I’ve sacrificed numerous actual sunsets to play makes me sad.

Advantage: Am I wasting my life?

Conclusion: We should all probably get outside more, but if you’re going to binge play one of these enormous games, make it The Witcher 3.

Drew Toal is a writer based in San Francisco. His work has been featured in outlets like NPR, The Daily Beast, Mental_floss, and the A.V. Club. When he’s not busy fighting climate change (his day job), he enjoys watching his terrible baseball team (the Phillies) and drinking beers (cold ones) on the roof of his apartment with his darling wife (Stacey).

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