Starting a new role-playing game is never easy. Which class should you choose? Which race? What kind of party should you make? Which gear should you buy, and what's the best way to earn some early XP?

Dragon Age: Inquisition is no different. It's a really good game, and also a really big one. There's so much to do that it can feel paralyzing, and it's never so daunting than at the very start.

Fear not, friends. I've got more than 100 cumulative hours of Dragon Age-ing under my belt at this point, and I'm here to help.

Ready? Let's go!


Brush Up On Lore

Dragon Age: Inquisition presumes a lot of knowledge of the land of Thedas, its people, and the events of the first two games in the series. It's worth brushing up on all that before you start. To that end, I actually wrote a spoiler-free primer that should serve as a helpful introduction for newcomers, as well as a refresher for veterans.

After you've read that, you'll want to do one other thing...

Do The Dragon Age Keep

BioWare has done something really cool for Inquisition: The Dragon Age Keep website. The Keep lets you go through all the events of the first two games, make or re-make all of the crucial choices in the story, and then import your own custom world-state into the new game. If you're new to the series, it's still worth reading a primer before you do it, but the Keep is absolutely worth doing before you play the game.

Go With Whichever Race Feels Right

Races in Inquisition are mostly defined by how they're treated in the world. Humans are generally in charge, elves are discriminated against, dwarves aren't seen that often and can't use magic, and Qunari are little-understood outsiders. However, each race does have a baked-in attribute that makes them better suited to a given role. Elves have a ranged damage reduction, which makes them good rogues; Qunari have a melee damage resistance, so they're natural fighters. Dwarves have a higher defense against magic, and can't choose the mage class. Humans get an extra ability point, which makes them more well-rounded. When it comes down to it, I'd say just go with whichever race you think is most interesting.

Consider Playing A Mage

All of the classes in Inquisition are fun, and they're all quite different. Mages, however, have something special going on. That's in part because as a mage, you'll probably feel like your character has a more personal stake in the whole mages vs. templars conflict that defines so much of Dragon Age. It's also because spells are fun to cast, and are varied enough that you can build a lot of different party-types to support your mage. Also, there's a mage subclass that opens up partway through the game called Knight Enchanter that gives you an powerful melee attack, effectively turning your mage into a hybrid spell-thrower/sword-swinger. It's overpowered, but is a blast to use. All of the classes in Inquisition are fun, and you can't really go wrong with any of them. But it's worth trying out playing as a mage, nonetheless.

Take Your Time With The Character Creator

The character creator in Inquisition is nice and robust, and it's worth taking your time and really customizing your character's hair and face. Remember that you can hit a button and make your character say a couple of different lines, which can help demonstrate what he or she will look like during cutscenes.

It's Okay To Restart

Look. We all do it. Everyone who has ever played a BioWare game has created a character, played through the intro, and then decided that they don't like how their character looks and gone back to the drawing board. Give yourself permission to do that in Dragon Age. Replaying the first few hours with a character you love is better than playing an 80-hour game with a character you don't love.

Turn Down "Lip Shine"

My biggest tip for character creation is this: In the Makeup section, turn down "Lip Shine" to zero. Trust me: If you leave it on even a little bit, your character's lips will appear iridescent in cutscenes.

On PC, Set Meshes To High

I've found the PC version of Inquisition to be pretty flexible from a performance perspective. However, there is one setting that you'll want to set to high: Meshes. For some reason, if you put meshes on medium, characters' hair becomes super shiny and looks like it's carved out of plastic. It may be a bug, or it may be unique to computers like mine, but if you're getting shiny hair, you can fix it by turning up your meshes setting.

Turn Off Helmets

You can turn off the helmets in-game, meaning that your character will still technically be wearing a helmet, and get all of the protection and stat-boosts the helmet carries, but the helmet will be invisible in the game. I found that approach vastly preferable. That said, if you like the helmets, by all means, stick with 'em.

You Can Re-Roll Your Character Once For Free

Down at the blacksmith in Haven, there's a small kiosk in the front-right corner as you walk in. There, you can buy an amulet that lets you reassign your ability points. The first one costs a single coin, which means that if you don't like your character's stats in the early goings, it's very easy to respec. My advice: If you decide to do that, save your game before you do. Respec, then go into the field some and see how you like your new abilities. That way, you can always reload and save the potion for later.

Respec Your Character Once In The Later Stages

It's also a good idea to go through and respec your character at least once in the later stages of the game. I found that there were a few abilities I'd purchased that I never used, and by respec'ing I could rebuild almost the same character, but save a few points for use in areas that were more helpful for my playstyle. Each respec only costs 345 coins, so it's relatively cheap.

Keep Multiple Saves

It's generally smart to keep multiple saves as you work your way through the game. That way, if you make a decision you really can't live with, it shouldn't be too difficult to go back and undo it. (Though it's fun to stick with your choices as much as possible.) Also, the game has some technical rough edges, and it's generally better to play it safe than risk losing progress. Every so often, save to a new slot, along with your running autosaves.

Explore Haven First

Shortly after the start of the game, you'll find yourself wandering around your home base at Haven. While you can technically head out to The Hinterlands to begin questin' and adventurin', stick around Haven for a bit, first. Check under "Haven" in your journal and see what quests there are, and do those. When you do head to the Hinterlands, you'll get a few more quests that tie back to Haven; do those as well. They're an easy source of early XP and can help you climb a few levels before you even begin to engage in combat.

Return To Base Every So Often

It's tempting to go out for extended sorties in the field, but it's generally a good idea to return to base every so often to check in. There are a bunch of things you can do at home, and each one of them will make your work in the field that much easier. Once you finish an objective or two, consider popping back in to see what's what.

Turn In Research Items

At Haven, there's a character who stands in Josephine's office. She's in charge of research, and you can give all of your yellow research items to her in between missions. You should definitely do so, as you'll be granted damage and XP bonuses when taking on researched enemies. Just add it to your mental list of things to do each time you go home, since it's easy to forget.

Sell Your Valuables

You know how most RPGs have useless items you find in the world that you sell at vendors? Inquisition has that stuff too. But you know how in most RPGs (including other BioWare games), that stuff is called "junk" or "loot"? In Inquisition, it's actually called "valuables." (I don't know, either.) You can even sort an item in your inventory to valuables, where you'd ordinarily sort it to junk.

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It takes a minute to get your head around it—because it's dumb and unintuitive—but it's the same concept—basically, free money. Every time you go to a vendor, sell all of your blue valuables for quick cash and to free up inventory space. However: Keep the yellow stuff, because those are usually research items that you can turn in for stat boosts. Better yet, just turn in your research before you hit up the store every time you go home.

Always Assign Operations

Your colleagues in the war room can be running three operations at a time—one apiece. You'll get a notification every time an operation finishes, but it can be easy to forget about that and keep playing the game. Try to revisit the war room as often as possible, so that you've always got all three advisors dispatched on one operation each.

Run Long Operations Overnight

Operations run in real-time and keep going even when the game is turned off. That means that you can strategically assign your longer operations to carry on while you're asleep.

Sleep

Speaking of that, it can be tempting to play Dragon Age all night and forego sleep. That is inadvisable, because your body needs sleep to function.

Buy Bianca Upgrades At The Market

Varric's crossbow Bianca is unique in Inquisition, as it's the only ranged weapon he's ever allowed to use throughout the game. That means that you'll have to upgrade it regularly to keep pace with your other gear. You can do that right off the bat, however—go to the main weapon merchant in Haven, and you can get one of each type of Bianca upgrade essentially for free. Then, go to the blacksmith and install the upgrades. It's an activity that, as it happens, is also a pretty good mini-tutorial for upgrading a weapon.

Craft Armor, Not Weapons

While the crafting system in Inquisition can be cool to use (though it's way too fiddly), you're just as likely to find great gear out in the field as you are to make it. I found that it was rarely worth it for me to craft weapons, though I did craft some pretty good armor, particularly once I started taking down dragons and collecting their valuable hide and bones. Generally speaking, though, you can skip a lot of the crafting and just use the stuff you find lying around, unless you really like to make your own gear.

Craft Upgrades For Your Gear

With that said, it's usually worth it to go and craft custom legs, arms, and weapon accessories. You'll rarely find what you need out in the field, and crafted weapon accessories can add helpful buffs to your gear.

You Can't Remove Runes, But You Can Replace Them

Runes are the other most useful thing about crafting; most weapons can accept one rune, which will add some sort of unique damage increase to it. Here's a thing about runes: Using one on a weapon consumes it, which means that you can't remove the rune and use it again on a different weapon. However, you can replace an existing rune with a new, more powerful one. I didn't understand that for a while, so I held off committing to runes when I should've been using them. Don't be like me! Use your runes.

Name Your Crafted Gear

You can name the armor and weapons that you craft, and you should absolutely do so. "The Thinker" is a much cooler name for a hat than "Ice Resistance Cap" or whatever.

Check Out The Shops In Val Royeaux

You'll arrive at the Orlesian city of Val Royeaux pretty early on in the story, and it contains some of the best markets in the game. In particular, there's a vendor there who sells blank runestones for cheap, which you can then use to start crafting runes for your weapons back home.

Talk To Everyone

It can be tempting to just run around fighting monsters all day, but keep in mind that this is a BioWare RPG, which means that it rewards those who take the time to talk with their party members. The characters in this game are great, and it's worth taking the time to fully explore the various conversations you can have with them. In time, those conversations will open up new dialogue options, new avenues for surprising character development, sidequests, and even (of course) romance.

Go Listen To The Tavern Bard

The tavern bard in Inquisition is pretty terrific. She sings a variety of different songs, and as you locate song lyrics out in the world, her repertoire will expand. You can find the lyrics under the "tales" section of your codex, and read along as you listen. Sure, she has the uncanny ability to play both rhythm and lead guitar at the same time, but don't overthink it. She probably just has a magical instrument or something.

Change Up Your Party

In past Dragon Age games, I almost always wound up playing with one party makeup for the entire game. Inquisition feels a bit different for some reason—while I definitely had my favorite groupings, I was much more likely to mix and match party members. As it turns out, that's a great way to go. Heading out to a region that isn't particularly dangerous? Consider taking out some of the characters that you rarely party up with. You'll hear all sorts of new banter and dialogue, get to know the characters better, and might be surprised to find that you really like fighting alongside someone you didn't previously enjoy.

Be Sure You Get Every Party Member

There are 9 companion characters in the game in total, and while it's not too difficult to pick them all up, it's possible to miss one or two. Two in particular that are easy to miss: Follow the "Friends of Red Jenny" quest in Val Royeaux and head to the Hinterlands when you hear about a guy named Blackwall.

Try Controlling Other Party Members In Battle

On normal difficulty, it's easy to focus on your main character and let your other party members just sort of do their thing. However, it can be really fun to change things up and take command of someone else in battle for a while. My first playthrough was as a mage, but I eventually began taking the time to play as The Iron Bull in combat. He was really fun to use, just wading around in combat dealing crazy damage with a huge hammer. It was, needless to say, a super different experience from playing as a mage. Trying different characters can also give you a sense of what the other classes play like, in case you decide to start a second playthrough.

Loot Everything

It's too bad there's no "loot all" button to let your character hoover up all the little bags that drop every time you defeat some enemies. But... there isn't. So, you have to go and individually pick up each piece of loot. Thing is, it's definitely worth doing that: Not only will you find some really useful crafting materials and weapons lying around, you'll also get valuables and other items that can be easily traded in for cash.

Use The Search Button

The search button is useful for more than just loot—it makes everything in the environment light up, and can make it a lot easier to find whatever items you may be looking for in a given room. I'd hit it constantly while I was exploring—if there's anything to be picked up nearby, it'll make a thicker sound effect than if there's nothing.

Listen For When To Find Hidden Items

Often times as you wander the wilds, your character or a party member will say something like "Let's have a look around!" That means that there's something hidden nearby, which you can locate by hitting the "search" button and following the beeps. Your minimap also lights up when you're in an area like this, but that's easy to miss, so it's generally better to keep your ears open for someone in your party talking about it.

Read

Between the script, the side-conversations, the codex, the journal entries, and all the reports in the war room, Inquisition contains an absurd amount of writing. While it can be easy to simply blow through new codex entries and other on-screen text, try to slow down and really read it. It'll explain a good deal of what's going on in the world around you, and it's all pretty well-written and fun to read on its own.

Try To Stick With Level-Appropriate Quests And Areas

Every area and quest in Inquisition has a suggested level range attached to it. You'll know if you head into an area that's too tough for you, since you'll probably get creamed. But while it can be easy to wander through low-level areas for hours after you've exceeded their suggested level, that can lead to accidentally level yourself beyond a bunch of areas you haven't yet explored. Then, as you explore them (and it's worth exploring in this game!), the loot you'll be rewarded with won't be as good as the higher level loot you have. It's a tricky balancing act, and probably impossible to get totally right, but it remains a good idea to head into areas that are right for your level.

Get Out Of The Hinterlands

The Hinterlands is the first major area you'll get to explore in Inquisition. It's a nice enough spot, full of little sidequests to complete, plants to harvest, and druffalo to herd. But it's far from the game's most interesting area. Rather than spending a dozen hours hundred-percenting The Hinterlands, get out of there as soon as you open up a new area and start to branch out. The Hinterlands isn't going anywhere. See what else there is to see!

Skip The More Boring Sidequests

Not all sidequests in Inquisition are created equal. Some of them are just boring collection-quests, particularly the requisition quests you'll get in each area. You can always do those if you like, but they're totally skippable. There are so many other more interesting sidequests in the game that you can earn all the power-points you'll need without really doing any collection stuff. In general, each area has one or two "major" questlines, as well as some other quests whose journal entries suggest that they're more substantive than just "collect X amount of [thing]." Focus on those, unless you really like collecting stuff.

Don't Fight A Giant In A Boulder Patch

This one's self-explanatory as well. If you're going to fight a giant, try to see if you can get him away from any nearby boulder patches. Things tend to get messy otherwise.

Use Tactical View For Tough Battles

It can be easy to get into a rhythm where you just sort of do battles on auto-pilot, only to come up against a tough enemy and get your ass kicked. If you feel the tide of a battle turning, immediately whip things out to the overhead tactical view and start issuing direct orders.

If You're Really Getting Whupped, Run Away

If you wind up in a no-win situation and have lost several of your party members, you can still run away, as long as you're out in the open world. Head for the hills, and your party members will warp to your location. Even the dead ones. I don't know, I guess it's magic or something.

Take Potions Before Refilling Them

Sometimes during missions, you'll come across a potion restocking box. These can be helpful, since potions are the only way to heal yourself mid-combat. However, before you refill your stock, go through and have each character take one of your remaining potions. That'll fill their health bar before you replenish your inventory, maximizing the amount of hitpoints (and potential hitpoints) you recover.

Roll With A Diverse Party

There are a few types of locked doors out there in Thedas, and you'll want to roll with a diverse party so that you can be sure to be able to open all of them. There are ordinary locked doors that your rogues can open, and there are the more advanced locked doors that you'll need an inquisition perk to access. There are also walls that only a warrior can bash down, and magical barriers that only a mage can destroy. So, you'll want to have all three classes with you at all times.

Fight A Dragon Alongside Iron Bull

That one's pretty straightforward. The first time you go fight a dragon, take Iron Bull with you. Trust me.

Actually, Just Keep Iron Bull Around In General

You know what? You can just keep Iron Bull in your party in general. He's the best.

You Can Totally Climb That Mountain

You can jump in Inquisition, which is a big deal for a BioWare game. That means that when you come upon a mountain or other obstacle and want to see what's on top or beyond it, it's possible to jump and climb your way to the top. Don't let a little slipping and sliding discourage you! If you truly believe, you can do that weird RPG jump-slide thing until you finally get to the top. Once you're there, your party will magically teleport to the summit beside you.

Eventually, You Can Start Skipping Normal Gear

Past a certain point in the game, it stops being worth picking up white-colored, "ordinary" weapons and armor. They're barely worth anything at the store, and they take up space in your inventory. Rather than picking them up only to have to destroy them later, just don't bother. Take blue and purple items only.

Don't Rush

I give this advice for most open-world games like this, but it's particularly applicable for Inquisition. Don't hurry! Slow down and explore. There is so much cool stuff in this game, and most of it is off the beaten path. You may have enough power points stored up to take on the next story mission, but instead, go exploring. You'll find new areas that you can spend those points to unlock, as well as interesting dungeons, exciting side-adventures, and some really good self-contained stories, all waiting for you out in the wilderness. Don't hurry your way through this game; take your time.


I hope those tips are helpful. If you have any more to share, I hope you'll do so below, and if there's anything good that I left off, I'll probably come in and update this list in the future. Good luck, and watch out for dragons.

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To contact the author of this post, write to kirk@kotaku.com or find him on Twitter @kirkhamilton.