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Dragon Age: Inquisition

I Killed A Dragon With Ice And Fire

I killed a dragon. It wasn’t easy, even with the Dragon Age: Inquisition demo set to “Nope. We won’t kill you.” I’m sure if I could perish, I would have died from the burns, or the claws, or getting thrown by the giant beast’s wing sweep. None of that matters right now though, because I killed a dragon.

In preparation for my preview yesterday, I spent most of my recent vacation playing Dragon Age II (after a quick refresher of the combat and basic mechanics of Dragon Age: Origins). Like many of you, I am finding the sequel to be a full pendulum swing away from what shone brightest in Origins. 

It’s with that understanding that I am happy to report that BioWare seems to have found a smart middle ground. Dragon Age: Inquisition’s combat blends the tactical mastery required in Dragon Age: Origins with the tactile and responsive action introduced in Dragon Age II. 

This thread of balance carries through most of what I played along with smart improvements to the series throughout. I had the opportunity to speak with creative director Mike Laidlaw (whom you heard in the Hinterlands post-E3 video) as I was playing, and got an inside look at some of the design decisions you’ll experience on October 7.

On Combat
The controls have been overhauled to fit the blended approach with this third installment. The tactical camera is handled with a toggle of the back button (on the Xbox 360 controller we were using for our PC demo). From there, I was able to freely move around the area (in three dimensions - the camera isn’t fixed to a specific altitude), cycle through each of the characters to move them or choose from one of eight different quick abilities (up from six in the previous two games), and plan for the fight ahead.

Unlike previous BioWare games, which require you to either queue abilities or play in real time, Inquisition offers a third option. By pressing the right trigger in tactical view, you enter what Laidlaw calls “engage mode.” This slowly winds the action ahead and can be immediately stopped by letting go of the trigger.

The benefit is more precise timing of abilities to maximize synergistic effects. For example, triggering Blizzard (a spell that swirls biting snow across an area as menacing clouds gather above) has a chance of freezing enemies in place. Slowly progressing the action will let you know if a fellow mage should use Stone Fist or a warrior should strike with a Heavy Blow, both of which will “shatter” a frozen enemy for additional damage.

I found myself entering tactical mode more than any other BioWare game I’ve played, largely because of the combined flexibility of the camera and engage mode. That’s not to say that playing things out in real-time isn’t fun or useful. Rather, using both at the appropriate time is far more intuitive in Inquisition. 

Encountering two Templars might not require much tactical maneuvering, but stumbling into a fight between them and mages (and drawing the ire of both factions) might convince you to take a breather and think things through. And should one of your party members fall on the battlefield mid-skirmish, any character will be able to help the teammate up.

On Crafting
While combat is the most obvious of changes in Inquisition, other systems see overhaul also. Crafting has been revamped and reinforced. Resource management is another balance between Origins and its immediate sequel. 

Each plant you pick, ore you mine, or hide you skin from a hunt counts as one unit (unlike Dragon Age II’s infinite resources). The plants will grow back over time, and even if you hunt an animal until its population in the region is low, they’ll come back. Like in Dragon Age II, you won’t be mixing potions mid-battle. You order them from merchants, as you did on your last trip to Thedas.

For the first time, you can craft armor for you and your companions (who can be fully outfitted once again). Each recipe you find can be used multiple times with better materials. For instance, a leather version of a cuirass might look similar to one made of drakeskin, but the latter will be significantly more durable. Laidlaw tells us that the recipe results will be improved by a multiplier determined by the material.

(Read on to find out how you'll move the plot forward and what happens after the E3 demo.)

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Comments
  • looks good

  • Man the game sounds really good... It sucks because there is already quite a few number of games coming out that I want and plan on buying immediately and this one fell into the category of "wait a little while" but with all of the games coming out I wonder if I'll find time for them.
  • All I really want to know about DAI is if there is going to be MP similar to what we had in ME3. If so...then YEAH!!!!! If not, too bad, but regardless, I can't wait for DAI...
  • The more info I see about this game, the more I'm glad that I pre-ordered it. It looks like it will be a pretty decent experience. The "ping" aspect of exploration reminds me of how the player revealed resources The Witcher 2. At least, it sounds similar. I can't complain, however, because it's a way to add more to general exploration as well.

    Also, the improved NPC interactions will be cool. It's interesting that you won't be forced to take certain missions that don't sound appealing, ect. And this new method will allow for better flow of events. Anyway, looking awesome!

  • Oi I am going to end up eking battle ahead piece by little piece and micro-managing exactly when everything is done. It will be glorious.

  • Man it was a really hard to choose Shadow of Mordor over this. Too many games that I want that will take my time in October. I will check this game out next year, this does keep sounding better and better.

  • With Witcher 3 on the horizon and Divinity: Original Sin already released DA: Inquistion seems to be incredibly bland without any real focus or particular strength. I've never seen a more "lowest common denominator" fantasy RPG before tbh. It has mediocre mainstream written all over it trying to cater to as many people as possible without going deep or really satisfying anywhere...
  • I absolutely love everything I've seen from this title, can't wait to play.

  • Honestly, the more I see of the combat the more reservations I end up having. I'm glad they brought in stuff like a tactical mode (not so sure about engage mode, will have to see that in action first) but the combat they've shown so far looked incredibly easy. Even the fight with the dragon, which in Origins would be an incredibly grueling challenge on higher difficulties, didn't seem all that difficult and looked more like it just had a higher health pool rather than utilizing any sort of complex strategy. Half of the time, the thing ended up missing the party by a mile (without little effort on the players part) and only started to cause any sort of actual damage when it got up close and personal. I'm also not sure about the new stuff like "power" and "focus". The former sounds like ME3's half assed galactic readiness statistic and the latter comes across as a stamina knockoff. Crafting sounds like a huge improvement though. Sounds more like a more robust version of Origin's crafting rather than DA2's really bland downgrade. Lastly, I'm kind of annoyed how I'm seeing unique weapon models from the previous games being re-used like Orisno's staff or Hawke's family key weapons. Hopefully, they're just placeholders for the Alpha/Beta version of the game but considering they were practically everywhere in DA2 I don't feel all that optimistic. it's not particularly bad or anything, it just comes off as particularly lazy.
  • This looks good, but then again, I'm still disappointed at how lackluster 2 was. Guess I'll wait for the reviews this time around.
  • Meh. I did not need 2's "action."
  • Great piece Mike. Of course, the fact that you got to try it out means you're my least favorite person today. I know, jealousy is an ugly thing, but there it is.
  • Shadows of Mordor comes out the same day. I reluctantly will only buy one (at first), but it will definitely be this one.
  • Hmm... after watching the video it seems there's a good chance this "Elder One" the Tevinter guy mentioned is probably the big baddy (or at least the initial one) for DA:I. Best bet is that it's and ancient demon of some sort. My bet's still on Flemeth being somehow involved since Morrigan is making a bigger presence.
  • Mod

    Great feedback, Mike. Thanks. I am looking forward to this.

  • Could you do any exploration with the camera in the overhead isometric mode or is exploration strictly over the shoulder?
  • I'm looking forward to playing this come October.

  • I'm far too jaded to get excited for this game.
  • Is it me or does this game seem kinda plain? It does not have the "wow" factor Witcher 3 has. I'm still going to buy it when it comes out because I loved the first one (part 2, not so much), but I just have a feeling this game is not going to erase the horrible memories of part 2.
  • Thanks for this, Mike. October can't come soon enough!
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