After revealing a new Dragon Age: Inquisition trailer at gamescom, EA and Bioware invited attendees to try the game for themselves. I didn’t require any further convincing; minutes after EA’s media briefing concluded, I was sitting down to go hands on.
My pre-rolled Inquisitor character, a human, female warrior, led supporting cast made up of Cole the rogue, Blackwall the warrior, and Solas the mage through the dark, dank Fallow Mire area, tasked with rescuing Inquisition soldiers being held captive in an Avvar fortress.
As soon as the controller was in my hands, I immediately noticed that the A button made my Inquisitor jump, something we haven’t seen in Dragon Age before.
“We went through, and we started making these huge worlds that you could just go and explore, and find all these secrets and caves and hidden places,” explained Producer Cameron Lee. “You want to explore, you want to feel connected to the world, so we’re like ‘hang on, guys. Why don’t we have jump?’ And so we put it in. We had the same reaction as you. Immediately, the first day when we put it in, this feels so much better, so much more natural.“
Other moves felt better as well, even just the basic swinging of her flaming, two-handed Inquisitor sword, a move now mapped to RT. What really sealed the deal for me with the warrior is Grappling Chain, a move right out of Scorpion’s Mortal Kombat playbook. The only thing missing is “Get over here!” While you can certainly play Dragon Age: Inquisition more tactically and deliberately, you may not always want to.
The party made its way through the mire, handling packs of undead and spindly, disturbing Terror demons. Swapping amongst my party members with a tap of the D-pad, I found myself gravitating towards Solas the mage. He controlled almost like an action game avatar, quick bursts of ice emanating from his staff as I pulled RT, with more powerful, visually impressive spells mapped to the face buttons.
Once I entered the fortress, the layout presented an excellent opportunity to try out the tactical mode. By setting waypoints, I sent Cole up a flight of stairs to take down some elevated archers, ordered Solas to cast a fire wall on them, while assigning Blackwall to own a choke point. Then I let things play out, while retaining control of the Inquisitor. We quickly cleared the courtyard, opened the gate and my demo time came to an end. In 30 minutes, I barely had time to scratch the surface of this one area.
Just wandering around the Mire, I found much to discover aside from the main quest. For instance, by finding and lighting Veilfire shrines throughout the marsh, my mage could lessen the impact of the many, many undead in the area. I later asked Producer Cameron Lee when in the game you’d enter the Fallow Mire, and it turns out that’s up to you.
“With Inquisition, unlike many Bioware games,” Lee told me, “there are many of these big environment levels you can explore at any time. If the player orders their inquisition and spends the influence and the power of the inquisition to essentially unlock the area, to get your scouts into it, they can do that at the beginning of the game, they can do it at the end of the game.
With exploration of areas the size of the Fallow Marsh completely at the player’s discretion, I believe Bioware GM Aaryn Flynn’s claim at the EA gamescom presser that “a recent completionist playthrough clocked in at over 150 hours.”
At present, it looks like Bioware has successfuly fused Dragon Age Origins’ traditional RPG exploration with Dragon Age II’s tighter, action-focused controls. You’ll be able to embark on your own inquisition when Dragon Age: Inquisition arrives on Xbox One November 18th and November 21st in Europe.