BioWare has been showing off footage from their upcoming Dragon Age: Inquisition at various gaming conventions, but for some reason hasn’t felt the need to share this footage with gamers in general. Developers seem to love doing this. I get not wanting to give stuff away, but showing some footage can get gamers excited. But thankfully for us gamers, someone decided to disobey the rules at Digiexpo 2013 in Finland by using their phone to record some gameplay footage showing off various aspects of the upcoming game. After watching this new footage, I wanted to give a general rundown of what I noticed & what the developers talked about.
Just an important note: all of this is from the pre-alpha build of the game, so things can change at any time between now & when the game releases in Fall next year.
So let’s talk about the good aspects I saw from the footage (& there’s a lot of good). First of all, the game is supposed to be much larger & more open-world. While not to the extent of something like Skyrim, each area is supposed to be much larger than in any of the previous Dragon Age games. Exploration is supposed to be more open & organic, with seamless areas to explore. For example, during the footage they came across several caves which the player is able to enter & explore without having to go to a new section like in the previous games.
The presenter talked a lot about the game being more dynamic in general. They want to give the player a greater feeling of control in the game, both over their own characters & the way the world evolves. It seems like, instead of characters directly handing you quests, you can come across them & make decisions on the fly. In the demo, they showed the Inquisitor coming across the town of Crestwood being attacked by Templars & instead of getting a dialogue option of what to do you could just decide by either going down & engaging the Templars or walking away. And it was obvious a choice had been made because the other party members responded to the action. The game also appears to take place through basically the whole of Thedas, as the map shows Fereldan, the Free Marshes & Orlais.
Most of the changes that I could see are more tweaks to existing elements. For one, you now have control over all of your party’s inventory, including armor & weapons. I know a lot of people were upset that they got rid of this in the second game. I also noticed then in the dialogue screen, hovering over a selection will give a description of what that option means. It was only in one scene where the Inquisitor can choose to have their soldiers leave wounded comrades behind, stay with the wounded or return to the Keep. It would appear that this only happens during decision options because these descriptions didn’t show up later in a general conversation.
Control seems to be the name of the game this time around, with making the player feel like they’re really making a difference in the world of Thedas. It seems you can choose which race you play as, as a saved game during the demo showed a race section. The presenter talked a lot about combat being both in real-time & a tactical view, which they’d already mentioned bringing back before. During the demo they showed that you can control your party in the traditional over-the-shoulder view, but you can also pull back into a tactical view to issue various orders to your party & essentially plan a strategy. What they showed during combat was pretty impressive, in my opinion. At one point they used their mage to create a wall of ice, blocking the enemies from a frontal assault & allowing the party to take on the rival mage by himself. There also appears to be environmental damage, as at one point they destroyed a bridge.
The presenter talked at length about the importance of taking Keeps, which give you a stronger presence in different areas & can open up new sections of the land. After taking a Keep for the Inquisition, you gain agents that can be used to do various things in that area. For example, in the demo they could clear out a section that was previously blocked off by poison gas, rebuild a monument to increase troop morale in the area, or open up a gate to a new land. You can also have different Keeps have different purposes, such as military strength, commerce, etc. Of course with this just being a short demo, it’s impossible to say what sort of long-term consequences this will have on the game. But I suspect it may be like in Awakening where you’ll have to make choices to either protect your stronghold or local villages. The definitely emphasized that you’ll be making choices that may cut off or open new paths.
The only thing I didn’t like that they talked about was that enemies aren’t always scaled to your level, so it’s possible you’ll come across enemies too strong for you & have to come back later. I personally don’t like when games do this. I talked about it a lot during my Dragon’s Dogma review. I just think it defeats the whole purpose of having open exploration if you’re going to block off areas until a character reaches a certain level. It silently implies there’s a right order to play the game.
You can check out the footage for yourself here.
Overall, while the demo didn’t show anything new about the story itself, I thought it was an interesting peek into where BioWare is taking the game. Unfortunately, the general response I’ve seen to this game is that people are still burned about how EA & BioWare handed Mass Effect 3. Personally, I think it’s always best to adopt a wait & see attitude rather than just writing something off before it’s even out. Yeah, the game could always fall flat & BioWare could fail to live up to their promises about Inquisition. But so far I haven’t seen anything that made me think, “Oh that’s just terrible.” At the very least BioWare has shown they’ve listened to the problems fans had with the previous games. Hence bringing back race options, tactical view & more open areas. I’m personally looking forward to at least seeing where this is going.