The Average Gamer

Dragon Age 3: Inquisition Preview

Dragon Age Inquisition - Combat
Dragon Age has mounts now! And dragons! Can you mount the dragons? BioWare are refusing to say*.

BioWare Producer Cameron Lee and Cinematics Director Jonathan Perry showed me a gameplay demo and Dragon Age: Inquisition looks absolutely brilliant. Most importantly, the tactical camera from the first game is back. You’re no longer stuck running around a battlefield without a clue about your periphery, though you can stick to the third-person action view if you wish. Also, there are dragons. Lots and lots of dragons. They’re proper, hard-to-kill dragons as well, since you’re far from being a dragon-born who just breathes a bit huffily to make them fall over.

Your Character

You’ll play as the leader of the Inquisition, one of many factions that have sprung up during the wars. Mage orders, Templars and other groups fight their local political squabbles around you, sparing little thought or energy on the Fade rifts that have been torn in the landscape. These are easy to spot, looking rather like aurora borealis only hovering around a lake instead of in the sky. Also, monsters come out of them.

You can choose one of four playable races: human, elf, dwarf or qunari – the horned, grey-skinned race we ran so many errands for in Dragon Age II. BioWare are as reliable as always, allowing you to choose male or female, with associated romance options. Since I was chatting to the cinematics director, I obviously had to ask what he had planned for the sex scenes. Romancing Isabela was, I think, one of the least sexy sex scenes I’ve ever watched, surpassed only by CD Projekt RED’s The Witcher for its comedy value. That said, at least BioWare were trying for comedy.

“I think one thing that we won’t do is have people wearing the lacy Victoria’s Secret looking underwear. In romance scenes, that looked kinda silly,” said Perry. “I think Mass Effect has done a really great job with their romance scenes and I think we’ll probably take the romance scenes in Dragon Age Inquisition in a similar direction. Specifically, maybe having nude characters or characters in a state of undress. Hiding things in shadow or showing silhouettes. It’s still very sensual, very romantic but still very tastefully done.”

He is, of course, referring to scenes like Liara with Male Shepard from the first Mass Effect here, rather than FemShep fully-uniformed in the shower from Mass Effect 3.

The World

Inquisition will be an open world, made up of smaller parts. Instead of Dragon Age 2′s collection of indoor and outdoor corridors, you’ll be able to approach pretty much everything you can see. The designers are hard at work placing all sorts of hidden goodies around the land. You’ll stumble across campsites, find hidden caves and even discover keeps for your Inquisition to invade.

Dragon Age Inquisition -Male Inquisitor and FollowersTo help with this, your party members will point out interesting things they may have heard of during their travels. Let’s hope they’re a little more useful than Dragon’s Dogma’s pawns who say things like “Castle walls” as you walk past the walls of a very obvious castle.

As a result of this huge world, we’ll now have mounts to ride about on. Hooray! The guys from BioWare refused to tell us whether or not dragons will be included as a option. It’s tempting to read into that as a teaser, but chances are that this far form release date, they’re still trying to figure out whether it will be technically possible.

In the interview video I posted at the weekend [link at the end of this article], you’ll see footage of a dragon attacking in a desert. That area is The Western Approach and we were told that it’s bigger than the entirety of Dragon Age II. Yes, the whole city and its environs. It’s only one of the playable areas, which will include Ferelden, the Free March, The Dales and more.

Combat

The tactical camera, as said, will be returning, allowing you to scout the battlefield ahead and plan your attack. There’s also an action camera option, following your character from a third-person viewpoint to get a close-up view of the brutality.

Dragon Age Inquisition - BehemothIn the gameplay demo, Lee and Perry used both, looking ahead and giving orders to party members with the tactical camera, then taking direct control. It looks to be a good blend and should be much easier to pull off those cross-class combos – ordering one of your party to freeze a group and then smashing through the icy statues with your melee attack. In the second game, these moments were more happy accident than real battle tactic.

Health management has changed as well. You’ll no longer auto-recover your health outside combat. Instead, you’ll have to buy potions or use magic. Running around the landscape, I did notice that HUD indicators popped up around many of the flowers, so there may be a potion crafting section coming to the game.

When using a controller, you give battle orders using a pop-up command wheel familiar to any Mass Effect players. The dialogue wheel returns as well and PC keyboard and mouse gamers will get a custom UI and control set.

Your Choice

As the Inquisition Leader, you need to expand your influence across the lands. One way to do this is by taking over the various keeps from rival factions in a set of optional side-quests. Choice has always been a major factor in BioWare RPGs and each keep will feature a series of possible outcomes.

In the demo, we saw a group of Inquisition soldiers who had just learned that their recent battle was merely a diversion and a battle against Red Templars was raging at their keep. Approaching the player, they asked for orders:

  • Tend to their wounded, leaving no man behind.
  • Protect the village near the keep
  • Regroup at the keep to help repel the invaders

“A lot of the choices in Dragon Age: Inquisition are gonna be asking you what kind of leader of you want to be,” said Lee. “In this case, we’re playing the hardcore inquisitor. We want to do what’s best for the Inquisition. We want to maintain control of the keep, control of this region so we’re going to send our men there.” He sends the soldiers back to reinforce the defences.

Your party members will mumble and grumble at certain choices but ultimately follow your lead. That said, actions speak louder than words. On learning that Crestwood does indeed come under attack, you can make another choice. “If we wanted to at this point, we could run down there and help them. We could totally change our mind,” said Lee, speaking for himself and us, his audience. “It’s your game. We want to give you tough choices because, ultimately, you’re going to have live with your decisions.”

Instead, he opts to defend the keep. This isn’t just by wading into battle, though that will always be an option. Instead, he walks down to the nearby lake, discovering a group of warships that the invading Templars have foolishly left undefended. Setting fire to them, to stop any hope the Templars might have of escaping, he then goes off to explore a cave. You can do whatever you want during a keep siege, including ignoring it entirely but there’s an on-screen status indicator that will tick down as your keep stays under attack.

Dragon Age Inquisition -Male  Inquisitor Conversation

When we finally reach the keep and wade into battle, Lee shows us the new environmental destruction that affects battles. Looking ahead with the tactical camera, he spies a group of archers on a bridge. He uses the mage to freeze the ground troops and rushes in to smash the bridge supports, sending the archers to their deaths. Not everything can be destroyed, so you’ll need to keep your eyes open for these opportunities.

Once the battle is over, the surviving soldiers make sure to thank the Inquisitor for sending the reinforcements. Between these environmental conversations and your party members’ ambient conversations, you should always know which of your actions affected the outcome.

You can find out more about the Dragon Age Inquisition keeps and their influence on the world in this video interview with Perry and Lee. I really want this game.

Dragon Age: Inquisition will be out in late 2014 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

*Uh… by “mount” I meant “climb on and travel places”. Not “romance”.