If we had an E3 Award for “Best Game for which we waited in line for 40 minutes even though we had VIP access but then were treated to a 30-minute demo that blew all other presentations out of the water,” then Bioware and EA’s Dragon Age: Inquisition would have cleaned house. The newest installment in the iconic Dragon Age series looks every bit the part as herald for a new era of single-player fantasy RPGs, and totally stole the show for me.
As expected, the story in Inquisition takes place at a time in which the conflict between the Templars and Mages has come to a head. Some foul magic has created a giant rift called the Breach, allowing demons to spill into the world and cause all kinds of mischief. Throughout the Inquisition, you’ll meet up with several returning characters from the previous games, as well as a whole host of new players, and will travel the world spreading your influence, setting up camps, forts, and working to turn the tide in the war-torn region.
At first blush, the world of Inquisition is absolutely stunning. The environments are lush and character models detailed, with a measured balance of fantastic beauty and gritty realism. Familiar areas like Redcliffe Village might take your breath away, with spectacular cliffs and waterfalls looming ominously in the background and charmingly-voiced NPCs chatting away around you. Our preview hosts indicated that you can travel to any location that you can see in the game, and that’s just as well, because the mist-shrouded mountaintops that we saw seem like they will provide for some sensational vistas.
From what we were privy to in our tour, it looks like Inquisition’s gameplay will incorporate a lot of aspects familiar to the series along with a good amount of refinements and innovations. You’ll be able to choose your main character’s gender and select from four races and three classes, and put together a full party that will back you up in combat and interact with your story-based decisions throughout the game. Like the previous games, combat will be active and tactical, allowing you to switch between party members and pause the game to utilize your team members’ strengths while exploiting the battlefield. The skills and spells that we saw were as hard-hitting as ever, and we were told that the area populations of wildlife and monsters will depend on your actions. Thin the bear population for their hides, and you’ll see less of them over time; spread your influence through your adventures, and more of your troops will show up in a given region.
Inquisition will offer over 200 talents and spells with which to customize your characters, and will have mounts and fast travel to help you get around the world more quickly, and in style. We got to see a tremendously epic battle with a dragon that showed off a bunch of flashy spells and skills, and illustrated how bosses (at least, the one being shown) have separate hit boxes for their heads, feet, hindquarters, and more. When hit, the dragon would react to the specific area from which it was attacked, which suggests some interesting possibilities for boss AI. At one point, one of the characters used a shared party resource called Focus to slow time for everyone except for the party, and this led to more spell-flinging and dragon-punching.
It’s a little hard to describe in a written account the gestalt of epicness that was inspired by the different parts of our E3 preview, but the feeling that I got from the hands-off demo is that Inquisition, more than the divisive Dragon Age II, could be the Dragon Age game we’ve been waiting for since Origins. Our tour was carefully crafted to show off the many sought-after elements of the game, from the immersive open world to the deep, branching storyline and party-based combat. The build we saw looked pretty far along in terms of polish, with a few animations that were a little rough around the edges, but I’m confident that if the rest of the game looks as good as our demo, Bioware’s next installment in the Dragon Age series could become a new benchmark for single-player RPGs.
Dragon Age: Inquisition releases on October 7.
Som Pourfarzaneh / Som has been hanging out with the MMORPG.com crew since 2011, and is an Associate Director & Lecturer in Media, Anthropology, and Religious Studies. He’s a former Community Manager for Neverwinter, the free-to-play Dungeons & Dragons MMORPG from Cryptic Studios and Perfect World Entertainment, and is unreasonably good at Maze Craze for the Atari 2600. You can exchange puns and chat (European) football with him on Twitter @sominator.