Dragon Age: Inquisition – Vast World, Story Details, Playable Qunari

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Choice

The idea of choice-based outcomes remains something of a sore point for longtime fans of BioWare games.

After the linearity of Dragon Age 2 and the, shall we say <controversial ending of Mass Effect 3, it’s hard to hear BioWare talking about how choices you’ll make will effect your game. But based on what we saw, it at least looks like BioWare’s ambitions are firmly within its capabilities with the latest Dragon Age game.

First, the developer confirmed the endgame will have more to do with the building up of the Inquisition than who you romance.

“We didn’t want to make something like ‘This is five games in one!’,” one BioWare rep said during the demo. Instead, so we were told, “The fact that you’re in the Inquisition” matters more, ultimately, than your race or gender.

This doesn’t mean the decisions you make are meaningless. We were told there are numerous chances to dummy out content simply because of even minor decisions you make early in the game. This includes the selection of race, which BioWare says will open or close later-game content depending on who you choose to be. Further, the choices you make in game will impact your reputation, how the Inquisition is perceived, and how you can build it.

“We didn’t want to make something like ‘This is five games in one!’,” one BioWare rep said during the demo.

In the demo, we saw the player character’s party choose to ignore a village under attack by entities from beyond The Veil in order to explore a nearby cave. When they returned to the village, it was destroyed and its citizens all dead. One of the party members even chastised the player a bit for the decision that allowed this to happen.

Speaking of that, Inquisition adds a new system for analyzing the choices you make. When deciding how to assign your agents to specific tasks, the options presented in the dialogue wheel will include descriptions. You’ll know that by telling someone to defend a wall, for instance, that character will be unable to offer any support to citizens under attack.

This won’t tell you everything you need to know, however. Long-term consequences of your decisions will be experienced organically, and you’ll just have to choose and hope for the best. Further, by interacting with your party, you’ll get a sense of their dispositions and thus know, for instance, that Varric will not be happy with you if you choose the mission over compassion.

Added to all this is a far greater degree of customization — not only with (possibly) voice actors, but the ability to actually craft new armor and give it whatever name you want. Finally, the recently-announced Dragon Age Keep web app will allow you to set up your Dragon Age: Inquisition world based on the choices you made in the previous iterations of the series, similar to the motion comic included with the Playstation 3 version of Mass Effect 2. All in all, it looks like players are going to have a lot of things to grapple with as they seek to restore order to an unbalanced world.

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Gameplay

The first thing noticeable when BioWare fired up its demo is that Dragon Age: Inquisition is stunning. The screenshots included in this preview are essentially an accurate representation of what we saw in the demo (click for larger versions).

Unlike the recycled dungeons and drab castles of Dragon Age 2 or the (let’s be honest) somewhat makeshift graphics of Origins, Inquisition looks positively sparkling. Grass looks wet and green, desert is grainy, rocky and dusty, water ripples with realism that just barely skirts the uncanny valley. Armor looks heavy, blood has a viscosity bordering on “salsa,” and characters interact with the terrain in very realistic fashion (including leaning into a hill to keep from sliding down it).

Inquisition is apparently absolutely huge. One region of the game, so we were told, will be bigger than all of Dragon Age 2 put together. Not a particularly difficult task to manage, to be fair, but considering there are multiple regions as you play through the game, it indicates you’ll spend many, many hours in Inquisition. Regions will be modular, however — instead of wandering all over the map, you’ll move from region to region in a similar to, say, Borderlands 2. (And yes, I know that’s an awkward comparison to make.) Once in a region, the game will be seamless, with no loading screens when entering buildings or caves.

For the first time, I get why Electronic Arts is constantly bragging about the Frostbite engine.

In addition, there will be a wide variance in the types of missions you’ll be able to take on and in how you manage your world as it grows. No more attack-of-the-giant-spiders: now you’ll fight enemy armies, infiltrate fortresses, save villages, investigate bad things, and so on. You’ll also be able to fight dragons (obviously, this is Dragon Age), but instead of doing so in order to advance the plot, these encounters will be optional battles very similar to raid bosses. Once you know where a dragon has camped out, you can choose to take it on at any time, and by doing so, you’ll enhance your reputation as an Inquisitor, and the reputation of the Inquisition itself.

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Other changes have been made to the Dragon Age series that mainly appear to be for the better. “The idea of pressing a to do everything is something we’re trying to avoid,” BioWare said, showing off how players can micromanage every aspect of a battle, instead of the mixed menu/hack-n-slash of previous games. This includes the restoration of a feature originally available only on the PC version of Origins: an RTS mode that allows you to pause, then zoom to a bird’s eye view of a battlefield and take in the situation tactically.

This ability, included in all versions of Dragon Age: Inquisition, will then allow you to choose to play in either the normal, third-person perspective with your party controlled by AI, or stay in bird’s eye mode and control every aspect of your attack.

“No more stacks of a thousand potions,” BioWare said. “… You’ll now need to think about the adventure overall, more than about a single encounter at a time.”

Your strategic choices will also be far more affected by resources and party makeup. You will, for instance, no longer automatically restore to full health when a battle ends. Instead, you’ll have to expend health potions or travel to a safe space. (By the way, there’s no fast travel system in the game, so this could likely put you at risk.) “No more stacks of a thousand potions,” BioWare also said, suggesting you’ll actually have to carefully manage your resources to a far greater degree than previously seen in the series. The idea, as BioWare puts it, is that “You’ll now need to think about the adventure overall, more than about a single encounter at a time.”

Combat also doesn’t scale based on how powerful you’ve become. While there will be many parts of the game for which you’ll need to sufficiently beef before attempting to tackle them, if you return to an area you’ve already been to, the enemies will be as powerful as they were the first time you visited. This will make things much easier and, if you’re a sadist like me, more fun.

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The (Initial) Final Word

It’s hard to get a sense of how Inquisition will actually be from a non-playable demo. But based on what was shown, things look very, very promising. BioWare didn’t say so, but one can’t help but feel this game has been designed from the ground up to satisfy loyal fans and win back those who have been angry since the unpleasantness of 2012. I certainly find myself actually enthused about Inquisition for the first time.

At minimum, it doesn’t have the ominous feel of a game that has been focus-tested to be all things to all gamers. No “Galaxy at War” nonsense, no long-time characters replaced with a suspiciously similar substitute voiced by a popular media personality, and no severe drawing-down of role-playing aspects. Instead, it’s looking like a highly refined, fan-focused fantasy RPG that will require you to love the genre and its time-consuming trappings.

Consider Inquisition a warning shot across Skyrim’s bow. Or consider it a giant bouquet of flowers to BioWare’s longtime customers. Either way, at this early point, it looks like BioWare may have a very good chance of bouncing back.


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17 Comments on Dragon Age: Inquisition – Vast World, Story Details, Playable Qunari

Averia

On August 31, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Wow, the writer of this article is an idiot. They did NOT confirm that Leliana was going to be a companion, and they’ve already said that Morrigan will not be.

Top-quality gaming journalism as usual from the brilliant minds at Gamefront!

Aedelric

On August 31, 2013 at 4:10 pm

So how much of the game will be removed for release day DLC?

okay, I will admit it does look interesting, but I have read all the PR rubbish before and no offence Ross but the previews gaming websites gave for Dragon Age 2 sounded just like this at the time. `Better this´ `Better that´ `Lessons learned´ and so on. We ex-fans have a right to be skeptical and Bioware really has to pull out all the stops for this. Not just make a good game but not abuse/insult players with micro DLC, release day DLC or lack of support (patches etc)

I am skipping this one, if reports from payers are good after release, and if ME4 holds up and then maybe I will come back. I can not pretend the last few years did not happen or that I wasted a large amount of money on fairly bad games from Bioware.

fethski

On August 31, 2013 at 4:27 pm

I’ll admit that I was a massive fanboy of Bioware at one point. Games were day 1 preorders and I didn’t need to know anything other than it was being made by Bioware. Everything I’m hearing so far is actually getting me interested, almost excited, for this game. I’m also pretty damn excited that EA has tried to shove this game down our throats already and that it isn’t coming out until next year.

However things like the linearity of Dragon Age 2 and the pick your color ending of ME3 I still haven’t forgotten about. I also wonder how the mp is going to fit in. We were told players wouldn’t be punished for not playing mp on ME3 and yet they still locked out part of the ending prior to the EC.

And as petty as this sounds there’s also the fact that EA’s name is stamped on the box. I hope EA can do right with this game and not find a way to shoot themselves in the foot. In the end call me cautiously optimisitic.

Kevin

On August 31, 2013 at 5:50 pm

Going to have to echo what’s already been said.

What they’ve been saying seems like an honest attempt to actually get back on track, before ME3′s ending, before Dragon Age 2, Hell, before SWTOR. But I will not, no matter what they do, be buying this on release day. I used to pre-order them the moment they were made available, I got the Collector’s Edition of ME3 and SWTOR (Yeah, I felt real good about that £190 afterwards). Instead I’ll be waiting until all the reviews are in, until some of my more gullible friends let me know if they think the game is worth it.

Ross Lincoln

On August 31, 2013 at 6:00 pm

I totally understand what you guys are saying. Believe me, I’m particularly cynical. Until I saw this demo I wasn’t even interested in playing this game.

I can’t comment on any commentary regarding Dragon Age 2. I don’t personally recall a lot of people discussing DA2 as addressing any perceived problems with DA:O. If anything, DA:O was already a good game. I certainly did not talk about DA2 as somehow fixing anything wrong with DA:O. Full disclosure, I actually loved a lot of DA2 and it was only after subsequent playthroughs that its problems became apparent to me. (The way ME3 was completely screwed up only made DA2 look worse.)

BioWare (and, let’s be honest, EA really) have made a lot of tremendous mistakes in the last few years, and skepticism ad rejection from fans is richly deserved. But if the company actually managed to learn those lessons and apply them, and (as seems from the demo) they’re not trying to make a DA game that attempts to attract anyone except for core fans of the series, I think some benefit of the doubt is warranted. Perhaps this time, it’s not simply being rushed out because the parent company wants to meet quarterly earnings metrics.

It’s worth noting that we here at GF were among the first outlets to agree with the fans who called BS on ME3. Trust me, if I say this looks promising, I say that as someone who hasn’t had any interest in BioWare produced games since I reached the color coded endings. Which is to say, I hope I’ve reported the story honestly, as I saw it.

gasmaskangel

On August 31, 2013 at 7:31 pm

I’ll admit that some of the stuff in this preview has piqued my interest, however I’m still going to remain firmly in the “wait until consumer reviews are in” camp.

I really, really hope that this is a return to form for Bioware. I don’t want another ME3 debacle, because frankly no one came out of that looking good, and frankly I just want to play another really mindblowingly good RPG.

I’m just so tired of how damn depressing gaming has gotten lately.

SherwoodPro

On September 1, 2013 at 9:06 am

I’m pretty excited about DA:I. I know a lot of people were uptight and disappointed with some of Bioware’s previous games, but I think the harsh reaction is a bit much. Yes, there are legit things to be upset about – such as the smaller areas, fighting mechanics being changed, etc in DA2. But, the story was still very good I thought, the characters were memorable, and these elements did affect me emotionally and intellectually. To some that might be a cop-out, but I think one thing Bioware has been consistent on is their storytelling, character realization, and making them matter to us.

Indeed, ME3 had a terrific story. I was deeply moved by many threads in this game. Mordin and the genophage, Legion and Tali, how heart-breakingly hopeless the mission felt at some points in the game, and I thought the gameplay was fantastic. With that being said – the ending came off to me as an exercise in determinism. That’s not to say I was thrilled with the ending – but my real let down came from there not being a sense of closure with the various characters and the world. (My actual biggest complaint was that stupid reporter being in the game. I don’t even know that girl’s name off the top of my head, but that was just stupid.)

Now, I was not too thrilled at all with the multiplayer aspect. But, I ended up having some fun with that too when I finally forced myself out of my isolated box. I think in the end though – Bioware had made up for some of these short-comings when they released the extended endings. They also gave us the DLC Citadel which I think was a terrific send-off to some of our favorite characters in gaming.

The point being that yes, Bioware has made some odd choices in recent games. But – they haven’t failed at doing what they do best: And that is creating a great story, with believable characters that become a part of us. And if we focus so much on what they’ve done wrong – then we’ve sort of let ourselves miss the greater parts that were good.

Aedelric

On September 1, 2013 at 11:22 am

SherwoodPro.

Mordin, Tali and Legion all those scenes were memorable due to the fact the previous games defined those characters and made you care about them. Without that that right backstory, those particular scenes would not even have a fraction of the impact that was intended. ME3 as on its own was quite sub-par in regards to the story and very quickly deteriorated the further you progressed in the main arc.

As for DA2, I am not sure uptight is the right word to use, perhaps mislead and definitely disenchanted. The squeal DA2 was inferior to the original in almost all ways, the only improvement was in graphics, animation and a little with the combat, but people are still divided with the change from strategy to action game. First and foremost it was a roleplaying game and unfortunately that is where the biggest letdown was. Away was the exploration, away was the character race selections away was the dialogue choices that defined your character and the world around you. As for the story itself, it lacked in epicness and the quests felt mismatched or disjointed.

I would not say Bioware made odd choices, what they did was make -very bad- choices. You are not wrong for liking ME3 or DA2, but you really are quite in the minority with that belief.

Just to prove my point as fact here are the metacritic user results.

DAO user metacritic – 8.5
ME1 user metacritic – 8.5

DA 2 user metacritic – 4.3
ME 3 user metacritic – 4.8

M.A.

On September 1, 2013 at 4:31 pm

Ross:

Will you be reviewing Inquisition? I pretty much agree with your evaluations of both ME3 and DA:2, so I’m really looking forward to your final opinion on this.

Kevin

On September 1, 2013 at 5:09 pm

@Ross: No, I agree with you and I am more than willing to give BioWare the chance to make up for the previous years of bad decisions, but where-as I used to immediately pre-order the game at the first possible chance I’ll instead be waiting until friends play it and give me an opinion and reviewers start… reviewing (Especially you guys here at GF).

gamerboy

On September 1, 2013 at 9:48 pm

Did you really officially hear the Leliana is a party member? I thought the only confirmed party members were Varric, Cassandra, and Vivienne.

Lora

On September 2, 2013 at 3:02 am

” it was revealed that Leliana and Varric Tethras will both be able to join the player’s squad.”

When was this revealed? The party members shown are Varric, Cassandra and new character Vivienne. There was no sighting of Leliana, or did the developers mention her at some point that I missed?

Ross Lincoln

On September 3, 2013 at 6:25 am

During the closed-door demo, Leliana’s voice was clearly heard. Admittedly, I could have been mistaken, but it was the exact same voice. They may be holding that information back for the time being, but anyone who’s spent any time playing these games will have instantly recognized it, and I fully expect official confirmation of it soon. Also, Morrigan was specifically mentioned by the devs during the demo. Morrigan has never been ruled out to appear in Dragon Age: Inquisition, but she has not been stated to be a party member. In fact, it’s been said she will have a ‘significant role’.

Ross Lincoln

On September 3, 2013 at 6:26 am

Adding that I have now made these points a bit clearer in my article. Apologies for that. Also, in case it somehow isn’t clear, this article is based on a closed-door demo, not on the PAX panel. (I’m happy to share the audio recording of the meeting with anyone who doubts my reporting.)

Roy Batty

On September 3, 2013 at 9:41 am

@Ross

I don’t doubt you but I do doubt a company that has a proven track record of phucking over its customers/fans. Let us suppose Inquisition is stellar and makes the planets align with characters we care about plus a fantastic ending. The question is when EA/Bioware relaxes will the next iteration suck? Or the next? When will then rip our beating hearts from our chests and claim it is “art”? Why should I risk getting burned yet again?

I will wait for a compilation Dragon age 6 or 7 just to be safe. There are so many other worthy worlds to explore and conquer from other companies.

I feel the same way about ME – even if ME4 (or whatever they want to call it) starting sh!tting me tiffany cufflinks I would assume that somewhere down the line they will totally screw me.

My problems with DA2:
Game engine sucked
Graphics sub par
Terrible script
Lackluster characters (the only exception was Isabella)
Voice acting was substandard (due to the script)
Horns on the Qunari? Was that really necessary or was this a George Lucas moment?

“You have failed me yet again Starscream!” ~Megatron

Dinah

On September 4, 2013 at 1:32 am

As usual, not to detract from your article, it’s a lot of Bioware PR fluff. There’s absolutely NO way a company like this can reform itself from the evidence we have of 2011 and 2012.

If anything it’s more profitable for them to dumb down what’s come before and break up characters, storylines, and rpg “elements” like…weapons and armor as DLC.

A year and a half on and I am glad to be supporting many other publishers and developers other than EA/Bioware despite any high-res screenshots or PR bubbletalk they come out with.

king

On September 14, 2013 at 3:57 pm

almost looks 1/2 as good as my skyrim on pc does now.