E3 2014: Dragon Age: Inquisition Gives Power to the Player

Bioware has earned their place in the RPG Pantheon, and while gamers today might consider Mass Effect to be their magnum opus, the Dragon Age series remains a critical cornerstone of the studio’s influence in the modern age of gaming. Dragon Age: Origins burst onto the scene with a massive story, tight gameplay, and the acclaimed tradition of constant choice and player influence on the gameplay. Dragon Age II met with a less impressive reception, but Bioware are putting their best foot forward with the newest game in the series, Dragon Age: Inquisition.

At E3 this year, Hardcore Gamer got to see a live preview of the alpha state of Bioware’s next installment in the Dragon Age series, with series creative director Mike Laidlaw talking us through the expansive new world and all of the new Inquisition gameplay elements that make this Dragon Age one to look forward to. Even in alpha state, this looks to be another gem from Bioware.

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Like many other Bioware games, Dragon Age: Inquisition keeps the player customizability and choice at the forefront, offering different races, genders and classes to choose from when designing your protagonist. In addition to aesthetic customization, Inquisition allows for 200 different skills and spells across the classes, all of which can be assigned throughout your party. The Inquisition party is one of the game’s biggest features, allowing wide customization of your team and how they function both in and out of battle. The basics of equipping specialized armor and weaponry is a rather common step for RPG’s, but Inquisition’s War Table acts as the main hub outside of basic equipment as well. As the leader of your Inquisition, you can assign your party members to different tasks, whether it’s obtaining resources, exploring new regions, or completing missions. Bioware mixes traditional RPG customization with a touch of micromanagement, giving the player tremendous control over their team.

The combat also takes full advantage of Bioware’s commitment to the Inquisition gameplay. In the preview, the character organizes the formation of their party members to take out a dragon enemy. Support characters stay out of the fray for empowerment spells, magic and archery specialists stay at distant or high-altitude spots for sharpshooting, while steadfast melee characters man the frontlines. The preview also introduced us to the Tactical View, allowing for full arrangement and strategy even during combat. Better yet, the dragon’s limbs can be individually targeted, giving the player even more opportunity to strategize. The heightened AI was demonstrated in the alpha with an archer staying back out of battle, prioritizing ranged attacks from higher ground for the best effect. Laidlaw explained the development team’s commitment to making every battle purposeful, shying away from the random battles of RPG’s past, along with stronger enemy AI. Enemies will use teamwork just as much as you will, constantly offering dynamic battles.

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Dragon Age: Inquisition continues the series’ tradition of having key choices and events have consequences down the line. According to Laidlaw, new quests and content can be revealed by interacting with your different party members, even offering new dialogue and reactionary skills. Some characters can be earned through making a specific decision in game, and depending on how you interact with a party member, they can even change the course of your character’s journey. The preview showed a new character with a connection with an enemy force, a sequence that would play out different without that specific character on board. Inquisition holds the largest cast yet for a Dragon Age game, and Bioware promises that that your teammates have quite a bit of importance to the narrative ahead.

“How [your characters] feel about you will color your experiences with them,” Laidlaw said.

The world of Dragon Age: Inquisition is set to be absolutely massive. Laidlaw explained that the land seen in a single panned view in Inquisition is equivalent to the entirety of Dragon Age: Origins. Even more so is the player’s effect on the world itself. By completing different objectives in a region of the map, the player’s Inquisition gathers influence, reducing enemy vitality. By reaching new camps, strongholds and landmarks, players can even change the population of enemies in regions, thanks to the World Master System, which gives the player direct influence over how the world changes throughout the game.

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The preview alpha showed us a promising step forward in bringing Dragon Age to a new generation. With a tremendous focus on player choice and consequence, the classic fundamentals of Bioware RPG’s appear to be tighter than ever, while still providing a fluid and dynamic story. With so many progressive gameplay elements that heighten player influence, in addition to leading a team of warriors, making the story your own remains a strong focus for Dragon Age. Laidlaw closed out the preview by saying that Dragon Age: Inquisition “represents the next generation of Bioware RPGs.”

Dragon Age: Inquisition will ride into battle on Xbox One, 360, Playstation 4, Playstation 3 and PC on October 7.