Dragon Age: Inquisition Will Be Your “Dive In And Enjoy The Ride” Game For October, I’d Predict…

Dragon_03_WM_webHearing “Are there any questions?” after watching the Dragon Age Inquisition demo being played at EA’s media event a few days back made me laugh because after seeing the game in action, I just REALLY wanted to PLAY it myself and get any answers I needed. Clearly, BioWare was listening to player complaints about the series’ somewhat limited (albeit large) maps, so the demo was initially played on a map the size of Dragon Age Origins‘ entire game world. Additionally, while the demo was played in a set manner the two times I sat through it, I was also taking notes of all the little details such as plants and other things that could be gathered, the assorted wildlife that, save for one encounter, appeared in different numbers and places and a number of other changes small to large.

I was also thinking in terms of my own play style, how long it would take to merely get from one end of that even more massive and open map to the other. I tend to get easily distracted by off the beaten path areas, so I’m imagining taking a good deal more than a half hour to reach a simple mission objective or key story point. Thankfully, the new map and mapping system should set me straight if I ever get lost and the addition of mounts for the first time in the franchise means I can ride in and out of trouble (provided my poor horse or whatever other creature I end up with) isn’t stomped on or otherwise maimed in the process. Hmmm… that’s one question I actually SHOULD have asked. The new “be a leader” gameplay bits should be grand, as the game world will evolve according to the alliances and enemies you make. As with previous entries, everything you do will play some role in how the plot spools out, but this time the number of possible ripples outward from your actions are much greater…

As for the demo, it showed off the optional and new more tactical way of combat quite well. Yes, you can still go in and swing your sword, cast spells and so forth and so on. But the game also allows you to switch to a scaled out isometric view where you can assign each of your party members a task and have them carry it out when you snap back to the game proper. This made me smile because it will allow for some of the tougher battles to go by smoother or let players who prefer thinking through each move do so without worrying about being trounced by a ticked off beast or boss. As every Dragon Age is dense with story and characters, I didn’t bother inquiring about every character making a return from the previous installments. Liliana was in the demo and played a significant role, I know Morrigan is coming back (she’s a perennial favorite and you can never say “No” to a witch) and we were told to expect some surprises.

And YES, dragons will be in the game (duh). There was a bit of a boss battle about midway into the demo that was quite spectacular in terms of it taking place in a map designed for player mobility while giving the beast room to fly around and blast fire, land on a massive outcropping where only ranged attacks and spells could hit it, or attack the party on the ground around it as they attempted to cripple the fire-breather’s limbs. The dragon was only disabled, however before the demo party hoofed it across a magic-raised bridge into a less frantic (but still deadly) new area. Demos like these tend to be hard to judge in terms of how well they tell a story because they’re sometimes cobbled together from areas designed to show off plenty of action as opposed to the slower-paced story chunks. That said, this particular demo seemed cohesive with a definite sense of what it wanted to convey. That cliffhanger at the end was a slight shocker, but only in a “well, I guess we’ll see if that in the game when it ships! manner.

I’ve intentionally stayed out of the loop in terms of the plot and players just because I like being surprised as I play the game, as opposed to going in knowing who appears where and how important they are to the overall story. I was more concerned with the game being bigger and better than before and the lush visuals alone convey a wonderful sense of scale that insures every inch of explorable space will get a look. There were a few selected outlets that got some hands-on time with the game, but I prefer to hold out until the final version is all set to go simply because I want noting at all spoiled for me and there’s always the case of a demo not being representative of the full product. Of course, I’m not dopey enough to write about anything bad about an in-progress build doing random things it’s not supposed to (as such is the nature of incomplete code).

Amusingly enough, as good as the PC demo shown at the event was, I’m actually more interested in the “last-gen” versions just because DA:I will be pretty much one of the last AAA epics on those aging consoles still owned by a good many million gamers. I’d gather it won’t look as lively as the PS4, Xbox One and PC versions by a few miles (the understatement of the month by far), but I’d bet BioWare isn’t slacking off on those versions at all. October 7 isn’t all that far away, so I’d bet that plenty of PC, PS3/PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One owners are setting aside some time to play this epic which just may be BioWare’s best modern game to date…

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