e3 2014
Five Striking Dragon Age: Inquisition Features
by Kimberley Wallace on Jun 11, 2014 at 08:20 AM

Dragon Age fans have been waiting to take on the role of Inquisitor and save Thedas. At E3, BioWare showed off an extended demo exploring the environments and characters, showing how far your role as Inquisitor reaches. Here are the five parts that we found most compelling.

The Vast World

Dragon Age II received its fair share of criticism for overused environments; the world didn’t feel as impressive as Dragon Age: Origins. That's changing with Inquisition. The area we saw in our live demo alone is bigger than the entirety Dragon Age: Origins, according to creative director Mike Laidlaw. He says this is the biggest Dragon Age game yet. What’s striking is how much the war impacts the land and lets you see the conflict. NPCs react to what’s going on, and everything is in ruins. Even the enemies you fight and their relative population are influenced by how you play. For example, say you eliminate a lot of bears in one area. If you go back, the population dwindles.  Looking in the distance, the area feels grand and never-ending, from mountains to waterfalls. Fortunately, BioWare included a mount system that helps you to navigate it. We saw a horse, but Laidlaw says Inquisition has numerous mounts to find and collect.

Dragon Fights

It wouldn’t be Dragon Age if you weren’t fighting dragons, right? These dragons look and move better than ever. During our demo, the Inquisitor and company found a Ferelden Frostback in their path. As expected from previous iterations, dragons aren’t easy to take down – and this one did everything in its power to keep our heroes on their toes, including letting out terrifying screeches. He also flew to different vantage points and breathed fire across the battlefield. No matter how many hits our heroes landed, the beast took very little damage. This isn’t a dragon you can knock out in a minute or two. Each character fulfills a tactical role, so depending how you customize your characters (with the 200 spells and talents), different strategies will be effective. In the demo, haste was used to speed up our powers. Through teamwork, the focus option was unlocked, which slowed down everything for a time and ensured easier targeting. For all the effort, we only got the dragon’s health down halfway. Instead of taking more abuse, the dragon retreated and left us to continue our journey.

Companions Impact The Storyline

Depending which characters you choose to bring on certain missions, different storyline moments and relationships are affected. You unlock exclusive content with ripple effects, depending on who you choose. Also expect certain characters to react more strongly to certain situations. We brought Dorian, a mage who joined the Inquisition to restore honor to his homeland, into our mission that involved confronting a corrupt mage. Unsurprisingly, he had more of a story focus because he knew the mage, lending extra insight along the way. Leliana also was selected for the mission, and consequences ensued since she’s not the biggest fan of mages with the state of the world. She took a much more violent and unforgiving approach to certain situations. In the end, the party had to split up. Elven archer Sera and the qunari Iron Bull stick together to fight off one set of enemies, while the Inquisitor and Dorian try to undo the damage from the crazed mage. Leliana falls into some trouble when a slew of enemies bombard her. The Inquisitor is unable to help her, and the demo cuts out with her fate undecided. Let’s just say, it didn’t look like she was a good situation. We expect that regardless of what happens, some fallout is bound to occur.

Balancing Action And Tactical Combat

In Inquisition, you can approach situations by just heading straight into the action or stopping it to make some tactical decisions. The action combat looks really smooth, playing very close to Dragon Age II’s combat, but more refined. It puts you right into the fray with tons of things going on at once. Expect your elven archer Sera to dodge incoming attacks with backflips, and see powerful spells make their impact on the enemy. However, for those who want to make sure they have their positioning down, the tactical view pauses the action so you can strategize, survey the area, and put your party members in the most advantageous spots. For instance, maybe there’s a high ledge where you want to position your ranged characters, like archers. A tank like Iron Bull might serve you best being thrown right into the enemy line to absorb the bulk of the damage. If an enemy’s back is turned, you can set a rogue to perform a stealth kill. Then you set your selections into motion. If you’re not pleased with your choices, or see that maybe a positioning you thought would be good really isn’t, you can easily switch back and make adjustments. Also, you can switch between different party members and control them directly at any time. This offers up some variety in how you approach battles. At first, I wasn’t sure if I’d use tactical view, but seeing it in action changed my mind, as it can be extremely helpful in tougher battles. If you want to use your environment to your advantage, it looks super useful.

Your Reach As Inquisitor

As the demo-ending tagline said, “Lead them or fall.” You build up the Inquisitor’s power and influence throughout the game and the story is tailored to your leadership decisions. You gather your power at the war table, where you control your forces, spies, and agents.  This is also where you decide where your story goes next, and BioWare is promising different choices for how you want to build up your influence. As previously discussed, who you choose to bring into certain missions will have consequences and ripple effects, but you also have to make the tough calls. Do you want to rule with brute force, or diplomatically try to reason with enemies before drawing your sword? If party members overstep their boundaries, will you call them out, or trust them in the heat of the moment? Your character has so much power over where the story goes and how events will play out, and part of the fun is deciding what type of leader you want to be.

Want more on our impressions of Dragon Age: Inquisition’s live demo? Check out our discussion about it.