Dragon Age: Inquisition
E3 2014 Impressions
"Combat seems to mix the best of both worlds from the previous titles."

I joked last year that the latest entry in the Dragon Age series should feature the subtitle "The Apology." Origins was so well received and the sequel, well, not so much. While one could argue that there was still tactical combat and great character customization in the quickly produced follow up, the absurdly small world size and repeating environments had many fans crying foul. BioWare talks about scale when it comes to Inquisition more than anything else, and it's hard to argue with that characteristic after seeing a hands-off demo that lasted nearly forty minutes.

Taking cues from The Elder Scrolls and Fallout, Inquisition features absolutely massive maps with tons of intricate details. We got to see the countryside by the city of Redcliffe (which fans of Origins will remember had a bit of a zombie problem a few years ago), and it was easy to feel lost and overwhelmed with the sheer size of everything. Encampments, lush foliage, giant hills, rabid bears, and the city itself all help make the world feel alive in the way Kirkwall never did in DA2. The density of the world was hard to gauge, but it would appear that you can't travel far without running into some kind of interaction (combat or otherwise). Exclamation points dot the mini-map, showing the locations of various quests and side tasks to complete.

Character interaction is a BioWare hallmark, and there were moments during the demo that had me chuckling at some of the awesome banter. It would seem the qunari warrior named The Iron Bull will stand next to other humorously written characters like Shale from Origins and Garrus from Mass Effect. His desire to smash things knows no bounds and his remarks against the use of bows and arrows establishes his personality in unique fashion. Another classic character from Origins (don't watch the latest trailer if you want to avoid spoilers!) seems to have changed quite a bit, and a decision made during a particularly nasty encounter could lead to rather dire consequences. Our presentation by lead series director Mike Laidlaw also stressed the fact that you can completely outfit your party in terms of armaments and skills, continuing to make strong connections to Origins rather than the streamlined process Hawk and crew found in the sequel.

Combat seems to mix the best of both worlds from the previous titles. Sword slashes feel weighty and impactful, while spells pepper enemies with color and various status effects. A favorite from Origins makes a welcome return, with cold spells freezing foes for maximum damage from a hard hitting physical attack. Synergy was extremely important in Origins, as was careful use of the tactical camera and assigning specific orders to the party. Our demo driver mostly stayed with the action oriented approach, but took the time to plan out a careful strategy when faced with some increasingly difficult odds. I didn't get a chance to see if the AI system for the party remains unchanged from the previous games, but it's my guess that the "intelligence" of your friends will directly correlate to how much you use the tactical camera. A sortie with a dragon featured multiple targets for the lumbering beast's limbs, though it didn't seem quite as dynamic as I was hoping for. Focusing on the legs and then switching to the head seemed the extent of real "tactics," though this may change on higher difficulties or closer to release.

Dragon Age is the type of large scale RPG that's very hard to demo. Things like story, narrative, and character are practically impossible to fully appreciate when you have a limited amount of time to observe. For now, I can say that the combat and world of Inquisition feels far more realized and fleshed out than either of the two previous games. Things feel handcrafted and specifically placed rather than procedurally generated. Admittedly, I groaned a bit when we were told the main conflict is, once again, between the mages and Templars. I feel like this story has already played out multiple times, and it felt better as an undercurrent to the original tale in Origins. Hopefully we can see some new drama rather than a rehash of the old. Whatever the case, I'm excited to take my qunari rogue (yep, you get to choose your race, gender, and class again) through this story.

You can expect the Inquisition to appear in October.

© 2014 EA, BioWare. All rights reserved.

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