This is how Dragon Age: Inquisition is learning from the mistakes of the past
Dragon Age: Inquisition has, rather fittingly, questioned the issues and outright failures of the previous two games in the series – though with a focus on the second game, it’s fair to say. While Dragon Age II wasn’t bad, per se, it wasn’t the epic sequel to the excellent Origins we had all expected. It felt (whisper it) rushed.
Cameron Lee is the producer on Inquisition, and he brings a fresh set of eyes to the series: “I came in at the beginning of Inquisition, which was kind of good in a way,” he told us, “Because I could look at what we were planning to do with Inquisition – and what Bioware had done with the previous two games – and I could give a certain perspective that you can sometimes struggle to have when you’ve been working on a series of games for so long.”
But he’s not a hatchet man, brought in to chop up a series to appease the legions of angry fans – Inquisition’s changes are being made with solid intentions at heart: “We [make changes] because it’s right for the story, or it’s right for the types of players we want to have.”
Changes like combat, which now features the tactical camera from the PC version of the game on both Xbox iterations. This allows you to approach combat differently – more tactically, obviously – and opens up the experience to experimentation. This change to combat is a big positive, Lee said: “When you look at Origins and DA2, in a way we’ve tried to bring the best of both together.
“We’ve slowed down the combat a lot, it’s a lot more grounded and a lot weightier, from the combat animations to the spell effects, enemies etc. So everything feels a lot more grounded in the world.” This directly addresses criticisms aimed at Dragon Age II, where combat did feel somewhat ‘weightless’ and was reduced to just hammering buttons until you’d won an encounter.
That’s not the case this time around though: “It’s more involved in terms of how you use the environment, your abilities within that environment, how your enemies react to you and the decisions you make,” Lee said, “Then you’ve got the tactical camera, so you can bring up the tac-cam and look at how the combat’s playing out, what’s going on in the environment, lay out some strategies.
“Then you can either jump straight back into action mode and see that all play out, or you can allow time to flow forward while still in that tactical view and see it play out. Or any combination of those.” Why does that make a difference? Lee explained: “I think what we’ve found is that just by adding in that one ability of when you’re in tac-cam allowing time to move forward and at any point just pause the game it kind of blends the tactical cam and the action mode, so it’s no longer like a binary choice. It’s more tools for the players to get involved with and play, it’s a much deeper style of combat than either of the two previous titles.”
The thing is, this tactical camera isn’t a new feature – it’s just never been on consoles before. But Lee remained adamant it’s a big change that would see players more involved, getting more out of Inquisition. “It enhances – not just with the time dilation – but also with the information you can see on the enemies,” Lee said, “You can see where you’re sending your companions and your followers, there’s walk lines, icons there and stuff like that so it’s [greater] a level of information the player can get.”
It’s not just the combat that’s updated – you explore new regions, see new sights, read new chunks of lore and encounter new characters. But what about the old ones? Lee allayed our fears with a list of the returning cast: “Morrigan from Origins, Flemeth from both, Cassandra and Varric – two popular characters from Dragon Age II – there’s Cullen from both, Leliana… a lot of returning, favourite characters and a lot of new characters as well.” Though how your save game will transfer from Dragon Age II on 360 to Inquisition on Xbox One, we do not know – so some choices you made for the world may well be lost in the generational transition ether.
It’s always good to ask a developer for a general overview of their game, just to make things a bit easier to digest. Seems that’s not the way to do things with Inquisition, though, as Lee told us: “It’s always a hard question to talk generally about such a big game!” (How big, exactly? “The Hinterlands – just that one region [shown at E3] is bigger than all of Dragon Age: Origins combined.” That’s how big). “It’s a massive Bioware RPG with great story, continues the story we’ve been telling of the world of Dragon Age, albeit with a new character.
“It’s at a time in the world where there’s some really big things going on – the big fade rift in the sky has torn open, there’s a lot of civil strife through the world, a lot of corruption and wars going on. Someone is behind all of this. You are the inquisitor, you form and lead this big, powerful organisation called the Inquisition, with the goal of uncovering the truth and doing something about it. It’s a big game to explore, big story, which again you can be involved in as much as you want or you can explore the world as much as you want, it’s up to you.”
But the fact it’s hard to describe in general terms must be music to the ears of Dragon Age fans around the world. While the second game – which some did like – strayed from the epic RPG template somewhat, Inquisition is going back to what the first game, and what Bioware, is best at. Huge role-playing adventures. With dragons. And we’re optimistic this time around.