Review: The Art of Dragon Age: Inquisition

the art of dragon age inquisitionThe Art of Dragon Age: Inquisition gives a detailed insight into how the defining aspects of the game came to be. The book illustrates how much time and thought was put into every part of the game. From countless iterations of character designs, to complex and beautiful landscapes, the Art of Dragon Age: Inquisition gives a behind the scenes look at game design.

As solely a coffee table art book, The Art of Dragon Age: Inquisition serves its purpose very well. The art is beautiful and unique, and gives an insight into a mysterious world. The finished pieces of art are incredible, but what I found more fascinating was all the trial and error work that went into creating the final pieces. For any given character model, sculpture, or piece of scenery there are twenty or more different iterations that were tried. What was more impressive still is that they were not quick sketches. Rather, they were fully fleshed out, intricately detailed and colored models of the given character or object. I was impressed at the level of detail that went into each drawing, even though all but one or two got scrapped.

I was particularly impressed by the characters. The artists were able to completely change or reform a character by adding the tiniest details. The slight curvature of the jaw, the placement and angle of the eyes, the stance and posture of the character. These are just a few examples of relatively prominent details that define a character. All that is without even delving into the character’s clothing and how drastically that changes the character. I never realized just how important the dress of a character is. Especially headdress. What the character is wearing, or not wearing on their head has a large impact on one’s first impressions of the character.

In the book, most of the iterations of the main character are just various helmets and hats on the same character. However, the artists of Dragon Age: Inquisition do not fall short in designing very cool armor and clothing as well. The characters were not all human either. As with any good RPG, there were incredible amounts of cool, and often horrifying and gruesome creatures and demons. I was sad that I hadn’t played the game, if nothing else than for the chance to fight some of the creatures.

The world of Dragon Age contains plenty of cool objects and gadgets. From terrifying battering rams, to intricately detailed idols and statues, much of the world of Dragon Age was defined by the objects and scenery within it. Every object, from cabinets to tapestries to carpets, was carefully designed to reflect its particular atmosphere. Similar to the character design, it was the small things that made each piece unique. One thing that surprised me was how much of the scenery seemed to be inspired by the religion of that area. It is described within the book how religion was used as a stepping stone when designing the small intricacies that accentuated the overall tone of the object or area.

Although the architecture was definitely impressive, I found that many of the buildings and areas were very familiar. Because I had seen them, or things similar to them in other games. The dreary broken down castle, the enamored golden city, the grand halls. All of these are common in almost any medieval RPG, however Dragon Age didn’t seem to make them unique to that world. Granted, there are always exceptions, and I found some pieces of architecture in the book that were quite extraordinary. The natural locations were much stronger. Intricate and creepy cave systems, rolling hills, hidden valleys and more. While many of these are stereotypical, they all seemed unique, and reflected the atmosphere of Dragon Age: Inquisition.

The Art of Dragon Age: Inquisition is a high quality, detailed art book that provides an excellent look into the making of the game, and the final result. It gave me a much better appreciation for the amount of work that is put into the art of a game, and how large an impact that art has on the final game. The artwork in this book has inspired me to continue forming my own fantasy world, and given me insight into how much more I have to do.

The Art of Dragon Age: Inquisition, published by Dark Horse, November 18, 2014.

Review by Ben Getchell.

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