Dragon Age: Inquisition is probably the least casual-friendly game that I have ever played.
First, the game took me almost 90 hours to play, although some of those hours come from my leaving the game running while I went to do other things for a bit so that I could return to it later. Still, I’m probably looking at about 80 hours of actual play time, which is quite a long time playing one playthrough of one game. And a lot of the reason that I played it that long is that it tries to mix a deep story with the open world style of the Elder Scrolls games, which only meant that, for me, I spent a lot of time trying to finish all of the quests in all of the areas that opened up after each story mission to make sure that I had enough levels to be able to finish the next story mission (although they did helpfully suggest a set of recommended levels, which I tried to be at the top end or higher than). Ironically, at one point I ended up so overleveled for my current area that killing things stopped earning me experience, which I’ve now come to hate. There’s no reason in a single player game to do that, since overleveling doesn’t hurt anyone else or take any enemies away that other players needed to gain XP, so you don’t need to discouraged overleveling. It’s just annoying when you stop getting XP for the enemies that the game tosses into your path and insists that you kill before you can move on.
Additionally, the War Council sounds like a good idea but each mission — which you don’t usually run yourself, but instead send Leliana, Josephine or Cullen to organize to gain rewards — takes a certain amount of real world time, from 15 minutes to 15 hours. This is not good for the casual gamer, whose play times are going to have to be organized ideally to get all the missions they want to finish finished. Sure, on one view of casual it seems great to let them play for two hours a day and then leave longer missions for the next day, but “casual” does not mean “Can only play for a couple of hours a day”. It means that the time they can play the game is irregular. That could mean a couple of hours a day or it could mean, like in my case, that they have a full afternoon once or maybe twice a week to play, which means that they might only finish one mission in that session, depending on how long they run.
And ultimately, that’s why the game isn’t casual friendly. For the most part, you run missions and clear areas to gain the power and experience and levels and resources you need to advance to the next story mission and complete it. So you are constantly measuring your progress against how close you are to that, and there aren’t generally any deep secondary goals for you to pursue (outside of your relationships to your companions) like we have in the Elder Scrolls games. That means that you have to spend lots and lots of time doing things just to get closer to the next cool part of the story, and that you aren’t doing for any other reason. Thus, it’s hard to get a sense that you made progress in any particular session unless you, say, complete an entire area. Thus, it takes a long time to get a sense that you’re making progress in the game, which can be massively frustrating to a casual player.
Overall, the game is … serviceable. The plot is interesting enough, the characters interesting enough, and the areas interesting enough to make it worth playing … but not enough to make it worth almost 90 hours to finish. My character romanced Josephine, and that was, again, interesting enough, but the payoff for almost 90 hours of playing was, in fact, disappointing given how long it took me to get to that point. The story lacked the epic nature and choices of Dragon Age Origins and the simplicity of gameplay that marked Dragon Age 2. In my opinion, the move to the open world model did not help this game one bit.
The game was worth playing once, but if I never play this game again it will be too soon.