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Dragon Age: Inquisition learns the lessons of its past

Monday, 2nd September 2013 13:53 GMT By Stace Harman

BioWare is drawing on lessons learned from Dragon Age: Origins and the much-maligned-but-actually-quite-good Dragon Age 2 to create Dragon Age: Inquisition, Stace Harman takes a look at this huge RPG to find out more.

Dragon Age: Inquisition

Dragon Age: Inquisition has been on show at PAX Prime over the weekend, check out some early game play footage through here.

The multiple playable races make a return from Dragon Age: Origins and this time you’ll be able to play as the imposing Qunari, too.

BioWare is tapping into the power of The Cloud with Dragon Age Keep, a customisable experience that enables you to tinker with historical world states and then import those choices into Dragon Age: Inquisition.

Dragon Age: Inquisition has dragons in it!

Dragon Age: Inquisition, the numberless second sequel to 2009’s Dragon Age: Origins, certainly has its work cut out. Not only is it the biggest game that BioWare Edmonton has ever made, but it will also be launching with the weight of next-gen expectations upon its armoured shoulders and must somehow satisfy fans of its two predecessors, which themselves felt like they were each intended to captivate different audiences.

A first look suggests it’s hitting a number of the important milestones on its way to its intended goals. Firstly, BioWare is packing its huge world full of things to do but allowing you to stumble across them naturally, rather than have convenient goals that funnel you though its hand-crafted locations. This has the effect of presenting what a more open world than Origins while offering a much wider variety of locations than Dragon Age 2.

During a 30-minute gameplay section unveiled at a preview event in London we were shown a town under siege and an assault on a keep. In both cases the surrounding area is packed full of potential diversions. From the traditional sight of the gaping maw of a subterranean cave system to a number of optional quest-giving conversations with NPCs, there’s much more to do than simply fulfil the critical path objective that has brought your party to this area of the world.

“One of the things we’re doing differently in Dragon Age Inquisition is giving the player more options in how and when they interact with characters and content,” explains BioWare’s Jonathan Perry. “There’s much more ambient stuff that’s going on in the world around you so there’s less of the player crossing an invisible trigger and us taking away control in order to direct them towards something specific.”

There’s also a greater freedom in how you approach a particular goal and with that comes a wider array of consequences of your actions. As a leading member of the titular Inquisition your primary objective is to establish the nature and cause of a number of Fade Rifts that have been cropping up all over Ferelden and the wider expanse of Thedas.

This focus on the bigger picture can sometimes clash with local interests, so when charged with investigating a Fade Rift in Crestwood you can choose either to aid the villagers directly to repel the advance of the Red Templars or instead pull back to the Inquisition’s local keep to shore-up defences.

The intention is to promote a feeling of having to choose the lesser of two evils and to have your role as Inquisitor defined by your actions, rather than by a series of binary dialogue choices. In this case, aiding the villagers is the more humane option but it also carries with it weight of the knowledge that you’re weakening the Inquisition’s position by giving up an established stronghold. Conversely, to choose to protect the keep is to abandon the villagers to a grisly end and either way you run the risk of upsetting one of your three companions, who aren’t shy about voicing their displeasure.

“I certainly want to stay away from kind of lace-underwear-Victoria-Secret-lingerie that was in Origins because that was a little out of place – I’d hate to imagine what underwear would really be like after questing all day.”

A number of new characters line up alongside returning cast members like dwarf Varric Tethras and human warrior Cassandra Pentaghast, and with those familiar faces comes the humorous interactions between party members in the form of incidental conversations and in-fighting. Of course, being a BioWare game there’s also the potential for love or lust to blossom and because he’s personally responsible for the direction and tone of the in-game cinematics, Perry is adamant that the team is mindful of the lessons of BioWare’s previous experiments in this area.

“The direction I’d like to take the relationship scenes in is like they were in Mass Effect, where you might have a character that’s nude but they silhouetted or in shadow, so it’s tastefully sensual and not graphic.

“I certainly want to stay away from kind of lace-underwear-Victoria-Secret-lingerie that was in Origins because that was a little out of place – I’d hate to imagine what underwear would really be like after questing all day.”

The improved graphical fidelity of next-gen machines and the Frostbite 3 engine will allow Perry and team to do more than render semi-convincing love scenes. You’ll also see your adventure reflected by the appearance of your character, with armour scuffing and becoming caked in mud and blood (although Perry is keen to steer clear of the comedic levels of splatter seen in Origins). For there to be blood splatter there has to be combat and it’s here that Inquisition is truly a product of its forebears.

While the default camera is an over the shoulder third person view, during combat there’s the option to switch to the tactical view first seen in Origins. In tactical view the action is paused, allowing you to pan around the battlefield and switch between the members of your party to issue commands, before unpausing and either continuing in tactical mode or switching back to the Mass Effect-style shoulder cam.

Perry guides us through a keep-assault section, showing how abilities of warrior, mage and rogue can be combined for some interclass combos and it looks familiar enough to satisfy franchise fans while offering greater flexibility than its predecessors. Upon liberating the keep there’s the option to install Inquisition troops and customise it with a specialty, such as espionage and politicking or military might, which will open-up more quest options later on.

A more comprehensive, hands-on exploration of Dragon Age: Inquisition will be necessary before any conclusions can be drawn about how it plays. However, this first look at some pre-alpha game play suggests BioWare has taken to heart the feedback it’s received to its previous Dragon Age titles and intends to deliver a game that captures the best of its output when it launches late next year.

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13 Comments

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  1. CyberMarco

    Don’t know if these were already posted but here you go:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-aK0z8xeAus&feature=youtu.be

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1WeZbGRglWs

    #1 11 months ago
  2. TheWulf

    There’s that feeling again of cautious optimism and impending dread. What an odd sensation it is.

    Still nothing about how much of a one-dimensional, save the world power fantasy it is, which is disappointing. I admit, back when I was very young, this might have sounded cool. So maybe they’re just targeting an incredibly young audience, but now I’m just very tired of one-dimensional villains.

    I think books and comic books have ruined me. Terry Pratchett in particular is absolutely exceptional about never, ever writing a one-dimensional villain. Every character can be sympathised with, and they are who they are for very good reasons. I like good writing. I don’t understand why that’s wrong.

    With BioWare though… even with Mass Effect and the Reapers, the Reapers were completely one-dimensional Space Invaders up until the end of 3. You couldn’t understand them, there were no sympathetic elements, they were just this Cthulhu-like space evil. Which is fine, if you’ve had any semblance of intellectual intrigue and/or imagination surgically removed, but I find that part of being the age I am now, rather than being my younger self, is appreciating depth.

    And BioWare has given me none of that depth in regards to their overarching plot and villains. Yeah, I could appreciate being The One True Hero when I was so much younger, I could have appreciated being Neo of The Matrix, which is basically what every fantasy hero is. Yeah, fine. But these days I want there to actually be some kind of intrigue and indecision.

    I guess the problem is is that the more one-dimensional a developer makes something, the more curious about them I become, and the more I want to learn about them. I’m a very curious creature, as I believe any intelligent being is, and as such if you tell me next to nothing about something then I’m more inclined to want to learn about it, rather than to kill it. Wouldn’t that be right?

    As such, I was more intrigued by the Reapers and the Collectors than I was murderous. I wanted to understand their intent and motivations, and what drove them to do the things they did. I suppose that I was a smaller voice amongst the many, as many gamers seem like they may prefer a more one-dimensional foe??

    I don’t know.

    It might have carried over from the 8-bit era, where every foe was understandably evil because there was no good writing back there. There was only awful writing and equally awful translations. The games were fun to play, so there was that, but there was no story as such.

    I’m not sure how to feel that Saints Row IV gave me a more layered and three-dimensional villain as a joke than most games have given me with a more serious, po-faced intent. I just don’t know how to feel about that. I was elated, of course, and I adore Zinyak. Zinyak is an absolutely magnificent bastard, which made Saints Row IV all the more enjoyable. Still, what state of affairs have we found ourselves in where a joke villain is more fleshed out than anything else?

    If you look at the Reapers or the Darkspawn, they’re completely one-dimensional, they’re totally flat. It’s like, I don’t know…

    BAD_GUYS : EVERYONE RECOGNISES THEM AS BAD_GUYS : CONSTANTLY REINFORCE THE NOTION THAT BAD_GUYS ARE BAD_GUYS BY TELLING THE PLAYER THAT THEY ARE BAD_GUYS : AMOUNT OF WRITING DONE ABOUT THE BAD_GUYS = 0

    Tell me that doesn’t sum up the Reapers and the Darkspawn.

    And that’s my problem.

    Give me something, BioWare.

    I’m cautiously optimistic, here, at least.

    #2 11 months ago
  3. Kabby

    “the much-maligned-but-actually-quite-good Dragon Age 2″

    Put the crack pipe down.

    #3 11 months ago
  4. Dave Cook

    @3 I liked it, but that’s the Streets of Rage fan in me talking. Wading into packs of identical enemies and hammering attacks is my idea of fun.

    Yet I can’t stand Dynasty Warriors.

    I’m a complex being…

    #4 11 months ago
  5. Froseidon

    @3 – Dragon Age 2 was good, but its not Dragon Age: Origins. It felt enough to be called a Dragon Age game in my opinion. Story was brilliant, the area it was set in was good (although unfortunately re-used a lot) and I’d say the companions were just as good as Origin’s companions. Granted, there was no Morrigan or Alistair, but I found the companions in DA2 well written, especially Fenris and Varric.

    Combat was a bit more hack and slashy but that didn’t bother me personally too much as I never put much thought into tactics on DA:O, probably due to the lack of tactical view (on consoles). That said, it means I am curious to see how tactical view feels on DA:I.

    On the article: I’m really excited for DA:I. It seems to be taking the best of both games and bringing it into one.

    #5 11 months ago
  6. DeyDoDoughDontDeyDough

    I’m with Kabby. If you think DA2 was a good videogame, you shouldn’t be writing about them. Everything is contrast, and in DA2′s case it has to be compared with Origins. It’s not 10% of what that game was.

    #6 11 months ago
  7. Bomba Luigi

    I really just don’t trust the Name Bioware anymore, and I for sure don’t trust EA, so I don’t expect anything here.

    The Game has to prove itself when its out, and People buy it and play it. People I know and trust, and when they tell me that DA3 is really Great I go and give it a shot.

    #7 11 months ago
  8. DSB

    @7 That’s where I’m at. I just feel patronized by their games, pretty much since Dragon Age Origins.

    And then even Origins had these ridiculous one dimensional characters like Morrigan or Alistair (or your neccessarily dopey looking mute self) but at least the gameplay was worthwhile.

    Mass Effect 2 was a parody of the first game, and I just haven’t bothered with anything of theirs since. It’s just gotten incredibly asinine.

    #8 11 months ago
  9. Darksider123

    They’ve fucked up too many games for me to trust them ever again. At best, I’ll wait and see how it’s received, and maybe buy it at 70% discount.

    … and something about EA being dickwads ;)

    #9 11 months ago
  10. Froseidon

    @6 – So because I liked a Dragon Age 2, I’m not allowed to talk about it because of your say-so. I know that was aimed at the article, but wow, tunnel vision much? If everyone who liked it couldn’t talk about it, only the negative things would be left.

    The first part of your comment has arsehole wrote all over it.

    #10 11 months ago
  11. FragileSurface

    @2 You weren’t intrigued by the reapers at all? I found myself wanting to know more about these mysterious beings than ANY of the characters throughout the trilogy. I hope more is revealed about them in future Mass Effect games.

    #11 11 months ago
  12. ayman03

    I too liked DA2
    It introduced a much smaller story than Origins but I took it as a build up to DA3

    now all i need is that Bioware release complete HD video from the 30min demo as it will help them build hype for their game since it looks so darn good

    @11 Leviathan DLC explained their origin completely although in a poor way with no relation to the ending

    #12 11 months ago
  13. Vice

    “Actually quite good”? Wtf you smoking…

    #13 11 months ago