Dragon Age: Inquisition E3 Preview – Generic Fantasy Game

Dragon Age: Inquisition may turn out to be a great RPG, but if its buzzword-filled E3 presentation is any indicator, it’s trying too hard to be like everything else

This E3 was very buzzy with its terminology, with certain terms being repeated ad nauseum. This seemed to be the most co-op E3 I can remember, but thankfully that one doesn’t seem to be affecting Dragon Age: Inquisition, at least not yet. But as I sat in one of millions of dark theaters set up in the Los Angeles Convention Center last week, watching a Bioware employee play some Dragon Age, producer Mark Darrah did his best to emphasize the same sorts of things so many other folks had emphasized about their games: it’s a truly next-gen experience, not hampered by the need to be built for old consoles, and if you can see it you can walk to it, and everything is so dynamic, and the world is bigger than blah blah blah. You get the picture.

Inquisition may end up being great, but you wouldn’t know it from what I saw at E3 because the entire point seemed to be to reassure us that Dragon Age is going to try to be more like what’s currently popular, rather than a deviation from the norm like Dragon Age 2 was. This was perturbing to me, as in April I wrote this feature extolling the virtues of Dragon Age 2, an oft-maligned title that I’ve grown to appreciate because of how it’s not like other games. Instead of taking what worked in DA2 and fixing its problems, Inquisition appears to be Bioware going as mainstream and generic as possible, with some Bioware flashes here and there.

In Dragon Age: Inquisition, somebody has torn open rifts into the Fade (spirit world), and demons are pouring out and destroying Thedas. Your job is to ride around closing those rifts, sometimes climbing into them. Hurray, that’s the plot of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Great.

The reason you can close these rifts is because you, aka the Inquisitor, are special, marked with a tattoo of some sort that ties you to the Fade or something something. You have a destiny, and only you can fix this problem we seem to have. This in particular is in stark contrast to the previous Dragon Age games, which were never about characters who were special. The Warden in Origins and the Champion from Dragon Age 2 were never “destined” for great things; they did what they did because they did it, basically.

The Inquisitor has another purpose, as well: to end the war between mages and templars, and get folks around the world to like him/her. This means, then, that you personally must roll around the continent doing fetch quests and such. You are literally the most important person alive, the only one who can keep the world from falling apart — yes, this is another apocalypse scenario — but you and your posse must handle all business personally. Despite, you know, having an army at your disposal, and your death meaning the end of the world.

What we saw of Inquisition was mostly a dungeon crawl in the guise of an open world. Combat speed is between the sluggishness of Origins and quickness of DA2, and Darrah inexplicably made a point of telling us you can directly control any companion during battle, saying it in that “feature-touting tone” E3 presenters have even though that’s how Dragon Age has always worked.

Now you can also pause the game and issue specific orders to everyone. Cool, yeah. There will be lots of combat and probably it will be passably enjoyable at worst, as “decent combat” is one of Bioware’s hallmarks. They also showed a battle with a dragon, which I have to say was probably a bad idea given the extreme scarcity of dragons in previous games. Showing a dragon battle in a Dragon Age preview is like showing the end boss fight in a preview of most other games.

That said, there are dashes here and there of Bioware things. Darrah promised “emergent” world thingies, like how as people in an area start to like you because you’ve done quests for them, there will be fewer bandits and your Inquisitors will start patrolling the roads. (This is a “living, breathing world.” Take a drink.) Also, at some point Leliana was captured and tortured offscreen because of something the Inquisitor did (also offscreen), and so now she’s mad at you or something. It’s hard to really get into concrete examples of how branching mechanics work in a demo, especially when only like two minutes of the demo are dedicated to them.

So, in short, I’m not happy about what I was shown of Dragon Age: Inquisition. The demo was so generic and not very BioWare-ish at all — CD Projekt RED showed a gameplay demo of The Witcher 3 of similar length at E3 and it featured approximately 800 times more dialogue scenes than the Dragon Age demo did. So maybe Inquisition will end up being thoroughly BioWare and unique, but what I got most from the demo was “We are trying really hard to be just like other games you like.”

Suffice to say that I think most Bioware fans are not looking for what its games have in common with everything else, but rather what they do not. But since Darrah and company mostly went the generic route with this E3 presentation, I’m left with a bad taste in my mouth, while I assume, or hope, that the Inquisition experience will actually be very different from what I was shown.


You can keep up to date with all the E3 news over on our E3 channel.

Phil Owen is a contributor to GameFront. Find more of his work here, and follow him and Game Front on Twitter: @philrowen and @gamefrontcom.

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18 Comments on Dragon Age: Inquisition E3 Preview – Generic Fantasy Game

Franklin

On June 16, 2014 at 6:02 pm

Yeah no man this site just gets worse and worse with each month

Zing 45

On June 16, 2014 at 7:39 pm

Sounds like those demos being shown off at E3 were to show how it wasn’t like Dragon Age 2 considering Dragon Age 2 was a big, steaming pile of dog crap. Sounds like they are going in the correct direction from all that.

Dach

On June 17, 2014 at 9:40 am

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this game seeing as it’s trying really hard to be like a BioWare version of Skyrim.

the series itself was hit and miss for me, there was many a thing I enjoy and a few things that I despised.

I still think it was ridiculous that the second game ended with a boss fight involving a blood-magicked up Orsino after he’d spent the entire game refuting any situation that could require the stuff.

@Franklin
Wow, really?
What exactly brought on that little bit of venom?

T. Jetfuel

On June 18, 2014 at 3:57 am

It’s a rational calculation. They are appealing to their remaining audience, the people who thought “The Shepard” was a super genius move, or don’t give a damn as long as the combat ain’t “clunky”.

Ralemont

On June 18, 2014 at 1:46 pm

Erm, Hawke did have a destiny. Remember the Flemeth convos?

Blarty

On June 19, 2014 at 12:16 am

@T. Jetfuel

How do you figure they’re appealing to their ‘remaining audience’, by the looks of it they’re trying to make a game that rocks no boats, appeals to as many gamers and societal tropes as possible – we no longer have AAA games we have GGG – ‘generic genre games’

Perhaps we need to have a list of cool, controversial or challenging things that games journalists find acceptable or innovative to be in a game, so that devs know they can be ‘edgy’ without offending Twitter or stoking fan rage.

Holly

On June 19, 2014 at 1:10 am

Unfortunately, one of the only things Dragon Age 2 did right – setting its story in a more limited scale and making it mostly a personal journey instead of a world-defining one – was also one of the things that got a lot of criticism, mostly because people are used to playing as a hero. The real problems were the technical flaws. This time around, it looks like there won’t be as many glitches but the story is also far less interesting because there’s no way to relate to it. It’s too much fiat grandness. Even Mass Effect recognised that stories are made interesting and engaging by personal relationships (until the ending, that is, when they shat the bed and tried to make it as ‘big’ as possible and removed all importance as a result), but this looks so bland and uninspired that it makes me actually hark back to the non-existent glory days of Oblivion.

T. Jetfuel

On June 19, 2014 at 1:22 am

@Blarty

Well, that is a fair point I guess. But I was talking about the specific case of BioWare, who always made some heavy claims for their expertise in “story-driven” games, only to utterly abandon all attempts at coherence with the notorious Mass Effect trilogy finale, alienating a lot of formerly devout fanboys such as myself. What I’m suggesting is that they realize that what is left of their previous following is the folks who have convinced themselves that whatever BW releases is super great because of the logo on the box, and the ones who don’t care for the story in any case as long as the combat is adequate. So they may as well lift a generic “Chosen One” plot right out of Oblivion and be done with it.

It really has nothing to do with “edginess”. That’s just stuff game companies pour in the mix from a big bag marked “Industry Grade Grit”, not innovation or anything of the sort.

Blarty

On June 19, 2014 at 2:30 am

@T. Jetfuel

I think Bioware is in a place where they’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t – if they make their game have a wider target audience it’ll be labelled bland and generic (even though it’s going to be one of the first RPGs on this generation of consoles, and from a purely technical standpoint, it’ll be interesting to see how Frostbite fares in a setting such as an RPG), if they make the story tighter to the Dragaon Age lore, or emphasise particular characters with particular traits over others, or have a player character who strongly exhibits certain aspects of their character without enabling lowest common denominator, ‘this is my character and he/she will act and look the way I want it to’ choice – they’ll be labelled as not accessible to new players and not inclusive.

I wonder what the reaction would be if Bioware turned round and said – ‘Well, actually, we’re only going to have one protagonist, his name is Bob and there’s only one ending, because we feel like it makes for a stronger and more structured narrative’.

Ron Whitaker

On June 19, 2014 at 10:19 am

@Blarty – I think if Bioware said that, it would be great and no one would care. What has gotten people riled up is that Bioware has continually over-promised and under-delivered. Mass Effect 3 was a pretty decent game until the end, but Bioware’s big talk and poor follow-through led to a massive PR debacle for them.

If they backed off the big talk, they’d be a lot better off.

DarthEpitaph

On June 19, 2014 at 1:48 pm

@Ron Whitaker: I think you might be right, IF the game they were talking about was a new IP without any previous context. However, if they came out and said “DA:I is only going to have a male protagonist, and only one ending”, people would be (rightly) outraged, much like the Assassins Creed issue.

A brand new game could maybe get away with less choice, but it would still be going against everything BioWare has ever claimed was important in a game story.

I totally get why Phil is disappointed by the amount of buzzwords and “checklist” elements in DA:I; I’m a little worried about it myself. I don’t plan to pre-order it, but unless they throw themselves off a ME3-style cliff again, I am likely to buy it, even if it isn’t that different from the other RPGs around.

DarthEpitaph

On June 19, 2014 at 1:50 pm

PS Totally agree with this:

“If they backed off the big talk, they’d be a lot better off.”

Dratkin

On June 22, 2014 at 11:14 pm

Personally I think that the blending of Dragon Age and Skyrim if done well could be the best game ever made. I am glad that Bioware finally understands that Dragon Age 2 was definitely the wrong direction to go. I could have been more forgiving if DA2 was a spin off rather than the sequel to Dragon Age.

Nathan

On June 24, 2014 at 7:55 am

naysayers…everyone I see comment on every Dragon Age Inquisition article are just a bunch of whiny nay sayers. It is obvious none of you have done your research on the game. It is not generic or bland and is said to have the most stories than any other BioWare game. It is said to be the largest BioWare game ever made. It is said that characters still drive the plot forward and that the relationships between the Inquisitor and his/her companions is a strong focus as well as the companions’ relationships to each other and how/who you choose to go on quests with you also determines some plot/character development. The land changes as the Inquisition leaves its mark on the world. The graphics are amazing and the fact we get to play a character with a voice is amazing and is bound to have phenomenal cut scenes. If we stick to just the main story theres over 50 hours of gameplay!

All of you can judge all you want based off DA2 and ME3′s ending but that is just ignorance and childish whining in my opinion. If you actually take the time to do proper research on the game you would know that it is going to be amazing period. Who cares if it doesnt meet all your expectations? There job isn’t to make a game for you specifically, their job is to make a game that fits well into the Dragon Age world and moves the franchise in the direction they want to tell their story since the franchise is about the world and not any individual character. As for Oblivion…this game looks immensely better than any Elder Scrolls game if only for the fact that BioWare cares for story more than anything else and you can count on never really losing yourself to pointless and tedious side quests while wondering “what am i supposed to be doing again?”

Inquisition will have more characters and companions than any other BioWare game and even the choice making has evolved so whatever you do [or don't do] there will always be an impact on the chaotic world around you because of the Inquisition’s rise across the 2 nations. Relationships have also evolved to be more authentic and believable rather than a meter to determine your standing with any given companion. Adventure and exploration in the world of Dragon Age is going to be epic especially in a BioWare game BECAUSE they will not leave you wondering where to go or what to do next because you lost yourself to the exploration and side quests…no they will have important story content everywhere and anywhere you could possibly go.

I don’t care who you are and what your reasons are for not getting Inquisition or trusting BioWare, but you’re gonna miss out on the best RPG of 2014. Nobody is perfect, no one human being, or group of human beings is perfect. Nothing man made will ever be flawless. This game came from fans’ complaints and criticism and advice, wants and needs. It is not a generic game to please whats left of their fans…its the game their fans specifically wanted them to make so that they wouldn’t have to worry about all this bull trust issues everyone seems to arrogantly and ignorantly bring up everytime BioWare is mentioned. this is the game you all wanted after how much you whined and complained about DA2. So now what are you complaining about? The game you wanted? The game BioWare has spent years making…perfecting to make all their fans happy and to redeem themselves from DA2? All i can say is wow and shake my head. God forbid you whiny cry baby fans ever get a job as a game designer because whatever crap you could attempt to pull off will be nothing compared to what BioWare has done and what they can do and what Inquisition will prove. You people aren’t even worth BioWare’s time and they shouldn’t care what you think because no matter what game they made if it wasn’t a 3rd DA you’d still be skeptical and nay say all you can while conforming to the whiny ing DA community who have already decided not to preorder the game because “they cant trust BioWare” please, get over yourselves

Phil Owen

On June 24, 2014 at 9:21 am

@nathan Good work fighting the good fight against evil mass media by sticking up for a plucky underdog megacorporation like EA.

By the way, I LIKE DA2 and wrote a whole big thing about it on this very website this year http://www.gamefront.com/why-dragon-age-2-is-great-and-what-inquisition-can-learn-from-it/

T. Jetfuel

On June 24, 2014 at 10:44 am

Hah, lots of speculations about whether Nathan is paid by BioWare, or just working Pro Bono.

Quoting from press releases doesn’t really constitute “research”, you know.

Dach

On June 24, 2014 at 3:35 pm

@ Nathan

Really?!

What is with this attitude that if you offer criticism of a product or show anything other than 100% loyalty your not actually a fan?

I thought fans were people that enjoyed something but were able to admit that there were issues with it?

A lot of the people here were fans of BioWare and pretty much everything they’d made up until Mass Effect 3.

You must realize that the reason so much dust was kicked up about the ending to that Trilogy was because this mass of “entitled whiners” loved everything the series, and company, had given them up until that point, right?

You also must realize that when BioWare starts making claims and promises that are ad nauseam repeats of what they claimed about Mass Effect 3 may make some wary? This sort of thing especially create issues when the company catches themselves doing it ["40 different Endings"] and have to “clarify” what their statements meant.

Molly

On September 7, 2014 at 8:39 pm

Sounds like somebody’s mad that even Bioware recognized DA2 was garbage