Feature Article

Dragon Age: Inquisition Says Goodbye to Claustrophobia, Hello to Tactical Combat

BioWare wants players to be in full control in this role-playing sequel. Here's how they're planning to do it.

by

Dragon Age: Inquisition is big. It’s a fantasy role-playing world full of sweeping vistas and vast stretches of terrain just waiting to be explored. But to hear BioWare describe it, it's not size for the sake of size. It's a means to a different end.

"At the heart of all this is the idea of making sure you're in control of everything that's happening," says Mark Darrah, executive producer on Dragon Age: Inquisition. "In Dragon Age II, the story and combat happened at you. Here, you're making things happen. Everything we've done with this game-- exploration, combat design, deeper crafting--it's about giving you the ability to act."

Put a different way, BioWare wants to replace the claustrophobic basements and tunnels of Dragon Age II with a sprawling sandbox designed to let players create their own stories. The demo BioWare brought to Seattle for PAX showcased a couple different environments: the lush hills of Crestwood and the arid badlands of the Deep Desert. Crestwood alone, according to BioWare, is bigger than all of Dragon Age II while still "not even close" to being the biggest environment in Inquisition.

But don't go mistaking this for an Elder Scrolls game. Rather than offer a single, all-encompassing world map, BioWare wants to transport players between starkly different landscapes, each location offering a visually distinct look at the troubled nations and territories of the Dragon Age world. Your role as the leader of the Inquisition is to crack the proverbial whip on the warring factions of the world in order to unite against a common enemy, and to do that, you need to do your inquiring across a great many parts of the world.

"Inquisition keeps sending you to new places," says creative director Mike Laidlaw. "There are new spots that open up as the story progresses, as you explore more. You start to get more leads, more information, and that draws you to new and tougher locations."

But don't go mistaking this for an Elder Scrolls game. Rather than offer a single, all-encompassing world map, BioWare wants to transport players between starkly different landscapes, each location offering a visually distinct look at the troubled nations and territories of the Dragon Age world.

What makes these new regions tougher is the fact that enemies don't auto-scale to the player's level in Inquisition, meaning you might wander into a landscape full of high-powered enemies capable of wiping you out in mere seconds if you haven't put in the proper amount of leveling. But come back to that area after you've spent some time exploring other parts of the world and it might be a different story.

"I want players to say, wow, that's an enormous dragon and I can't kill him right now," says Laidlaw. "But I'm gonna gear up and bring the right party, learn the right abilities, and we're going to go dragon slaying later. Other times, you'll come across a few low-level bandits and you'll get the satisfaction of just taking them out."

Part of the move toward bigger spaces is the desire to give players more control over combat situations. Instead of funneling you through one enemy-infested hallway to the next, BioWare wants players to be able to be able to approach a group of enemies from whichever angle they want, plan their approach, and execute that strategy on their own schedule.

One tool you can use to plan those approaches is the overhead tactical camera, a feature found in the PC version of Dragon Age: Origins that was then eschewed from its sequel in favor of faster, more frenetic combat. In Inquisition, the tactical camera is available on all platforms--consoles and PC. It essentially allows you to pause time, pull back to an isometric view high above the ground, and issue attack and movement orders like a general on the battlefield. And once those orders are issued, you can either jump back into the standard third-person camera or remain in the overhead view for the entire fight, watching your orders play out in real-time and micromanaging your party until every enemy is dead.

Of course, you can simply remain in the standard third-person action camera the entire time if that's more up your alley. "Really what we're doing is giving you different ways to control the intensity of combat," says Darrah. "It's not that you need to play the game this way. It's just another tool in your toolbox to manage more intense fights."

Continuing that idea of letting players take more control over a fight, BioWare has reduced the general speed of combat relative to Dragon Age II. According to Laidlaw, the combat pacing of Inquisition sits "dead in the middle" of the first two Dragon Age titles. Just like the inclusion of an overhead camera, it's part of an effort to let players take better stock of the situation and not feel so rushed and frazzled during fights.

"Our goal is to ensure that combat feels tactical," Laidlaw says. "We want it to be memorable. We want you to get enough information to learn about enemies, learn their behaviors and abilities. That requires the pace to be brought down from Dragon Age II."

Yet it's not all about making things easier. In one important way, the combat has been made more punishing: your party no longer auto-heals at the end of a big fight. This means you'll need to manage your healing items and resources as you descend deeper into caves and enemy strongholds, ensuring you've done the proper amount of prep work before embarking on a lengthy quest into the unknown.

"Our goal is to ensure that combat feels tactical," Laidlaw says. "We want it to be memorable."

"What we want to do is say, stop thinking about the encounter. Don't think, if I can just get one guy to the end of this fight everyone will magically come back to life. We want you to think more about the adventure. We want you to think about the long term."

Indeed, being in control does have its drawbacks. It's not all about traipsing through a giant sandbox--there's an element of responsibility at play here. But ultimately, that sort of power over your own fate is what BioWare is really hoping players will find rewarding in Dragon Age: Inquisiton. Darrah and Laidlaw really seem to realize that Dragon Age II felt too cramped and rushed, the sort of game where players were prodded along by some force far greater than them. Here, they want players to feel like they're leading their own charge.

"Being the leader and exploring the idea of burden of leadership is really enticing," says Laidlaw. "It changes the dynamic you have with the game. Suddenly, when someone asks you to rescue their cat it doesn't make sense. You're bigger than that."

Discussion

1274 comments
BBGee05
BBGee05

I want to play my Warden again and have some serious face time with Morrigan.  The "Inquisitior" can stuff it.

clsbis
clsbis

i love dragonage story , caracter but i think i wait the review before buying this one because dragon age 2 was just average rpg not bad but not good either. the only game i wait at this moment is witcher 3 and new castlevania lord of shadow 2 i will see if new game pop of the hat.

ShinoRagnar
ShinoRagnar

Everything about DA2 was bad and i hope that they realise it. It sounds like they are taking a step back towards DA1 which whould be great.
Words are wind however, and only time can tell if DA3 will contain the strategic depth of DA1.

grove12345
grove12345

honestly never liked any of the DA games. Boring boring boring. Typical RPG experience with no flare whats so ever. Plus the lore wasnt really clicking. Another huge evil army?

But watching the devs speak about the game, and hearing them say they took out the 100s of potions options b/c they want people to be scared and think strategically and not rush into any fight really IMO changes the core gameplay into something im more attracted to. Live action fighting, deeper consequences, non linear paths, and chance of failure allure me.


downloadthefile
downloadthefile

i still play DA:O every now and then, it really was exactly what games like BG and NWN were leading up to all along.  DA2 couldn't have been more of a step backwards than it was in every facet from gameplay to story to the lore of the world.

MelodicMizery
MelodicMizery

dragon age 1 = badazz game but lagged horribly during fights but dealt with the lag because it was still super fun. dragon age 2 = no lag but the smooth graphics just didnt feel right seemed like a 5$ ps store graphic with copy pasted levels every cave looking the same. i hope all the time they saved on making part 2 gave them enough money and time to put into this new one

SepticScythe
SepticScythe

I'm pretty sure that what they were saying is that the player will have the ability to switch from controlling the party tactically, utilizing the ability to stop time and to view the battle from a top-down view, like DA:O; or if so inclined, the ability to control a specific character in third-person action, like DA2

rsnix
rsnix

One thing I am observing here is there is definitely a Dodge in combat & that there is some button mashing ...to fit the console market....reeks of a hack & slash.Dragon age is no DMC or darksider bioware. This things gonna bomb

sillycatsteven
sillycatsteven

why the first thing that pop into my mind after reading the first paragraph is: "That sounds like a lot of game breaking bugs in the making...."


don't really care about the fancy stuffs, as long as there are no mountains of bugs that average people like me can easily stumble into without even trying. with Bioware and EA RPG games, i dear not hope for a relatively bug-free game, but at least give us a playable game, or quickly release a patch that actually fixes the said bug without adding more bugs....

sieg6529
sieg6529

Good lord just give us DA:O with a newly progressed story and be done with it.  

Firelo
Firelo

O.K., you don 't auto - heal at the end of a fight.What I want to know is whether a mage will be capable of restoring his/her mana over time.And I don 't know what to say about combat, if Bioware is in doubt, let it be like dragon age: Origins.

jalen_222
jalen_222

Well .. they didn't get the gameplay right last time - namely the frenetic fight sim animations failed - for a lot of people. Otherwise Dragon Age would have been a good game. Doesn't matter though cuz Gamespot and PC Gamer still give everything by Bioware, Creative Assembly, or Blizzard make an automatic 9 - even if the game has major flaws. At least we might anticipate there won't be any 'Key Mashing'. Here's hoping. 

prime_pm
prime_pm

In summary: "Let me stress how much this game is NOT Dragon Age II."

Recondite505
Recondite505

Is this still going to feel like a console port when I play it on PC?  Because if so I'll just play the first one again and write the rest of the series off as a one hit wonder from a gaming company that used to be one of my favorites before they sold out and died. :/

The_luv_rocket
The_luv_rocket

This game has the stench and fingers of EA. If they only let Studio's be more creative instead of hog tying them whispering "now squeal like a pig!" from behind, we might actually get a decent game once and a while....

Pierce_Sparrow
Pierce_Sparrow

All I read is "our story is going to be just like first games", and considering I quit the first game halfway through because I got bored, I am not sure how much I'm going to enjoy this one. My major problem with the first game was that the story and characters were never strong centrally (go here, get this party member, do this quest, etc.). At the very least, DA II presented an interesting narrative driven by family dynamics and political intrigue. Of course, since everyone hated DA II and loved Origins, Bio is pretty much just going to replicate what people loved, which is fine I guess. But I'd rather they replace this whole open world, build your own story thing with a strong, original central story. As near as I can tell, from this article, this game will mostly be been there, done that.

Ambro2000
Ambro2000

Had this not been a EA-game i would probably have bOught it. EA and origin sucks!

MelodicMizery
MelodicMizery

@sieg6529  man i agree totally with this, if dao was so popular and such a success why the hell change it at all. fix the lag and have new weapons armor and story and maybe characters and thats all they need to do. i dont give a crap about anything else. once they change stuff it turns into a different game that i prob dont give 2 craps about. like battlefield once they changed to a cod clone i quit playing

Ervaine
Ervaine

@jalen_222 Murphy's Law : " If something can go wrong , it will  "

and after ME3 things will go wrong  .

Lotus69
Lotus69

@The_luv_rocket I see way more allowances for the abilities of the studio and designers to set their mark upon this series.  DA 2 clearly had the stench of EA all over it.  People lost their jobs over it which is sad because EA never game them a chance to make a great sequel.  DA 3 is looking more like Bioware put their foot down and stood up to EA.  Remember, this game was supposed to be ready this fall.  It's going to be another year in dev.  My fingers are crossed for this title.

r3flex0
r3flex0

@The_luv_rocket Well then dont buy it. I for one found DA: O set a new stamdard that very few games have even come close to immitating. The only games that beats da: o's portrayal of character development imo ia the bioshock infinite and the mass effect trilogy.

Cataclysmm
Cataclysmm

@Pierce_Sparrow and the sad thing about this is,that,s is people like you who don't give a d-mn about the game is the people these developers listen to,be turning a great game into sh!t,nothing was wrong with the first game DAO,everyone loved it,x out a few like you....anyways this one looks promising...a far cry from part 2.

1wikkid1
1wikkid1

@Pierce_Sparrow Well that's the whole reason for doing it Inquisition style... it doesn't need a story. It'll go something like "We are good, everybody else is bad, go kill all the bad ones." -- Lately RPGs are more and more losing what made RPGs popular in the first place. Look at some of the most popular RPGs (Planescape, Baldur's Gate, etc) they all feature a strong story with characters that matter. But as time goes one and technology matures it seems like the devs are just stuffing everything hi-tech they could think of into their games but forgetting the most basic elements: story, characters, gameplay. Heck, many of the recent RPGs have horrific GUIs with players having to click through multiple screens to get to information that should be available immediately upon request.

I think the whole tactical combat thing is genius, but it was somewhat poorly implemented. Some of the things that seemed obvious were missing, while a lot of the options that were available were nearly useless. The idea itself is very very good though, it essentially allows World of Warcraft type of gameplay but without the whole MMO aspect. What could be better? I love WoW, but I hate having to depend on others for my fun... and so I don't play WoW. If some studio would take the tactics system from DA:O, expand upon it a bit, add some smart options and make it really flexible, that would be amazing!

The_luv_rocket
The_luv_rocket

@Pierce_Sparrow  Everyone loved the Combat system from Origins and hated DA II for the lack of options and the overuse of the same dam room for the missions. Although, I do agree, DA II had a way better story then Origins.

The_luv_rocket
The_luv_rocket

@r3flex0 @The_luv_rocket I know DA:O set a new standard, built off of Baldur's Gate, however DA:O was pre-Bioware purchase by EA. Don't get me wrong, Bioware has created some amazing games(Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic[KOTOR, Not to be confused with SWTOR], Mass Effect Series[They Created more than just 3 "Mass Effect" games on different Platforms], Jade Empire, Dragon Age Series to name a few that all have a focus on Character Development....). However, it just seems like Bioware has stopped pushing the envelope after they were taken over, that's all.

Pierce_Sparrow
Pierce_Sparrow

@Cataclysmm @Pierce_Sparrow Hey, if people would rather be enthralled with boring gameplay over a solid story and well written characters, more power to them. I mean, Skyrim was a contender for GOTY and it's boring as hell. Gamers today are more concerned about looting, repetitive combat, and stats than they are a solid narrative. I am not. To each their own. But DA II DID have a better narrative and more interesting character development, and that is the reason I play this series, not so I can go kill a dragon for some rare armor or to raise my magic or level up to get that unique spell. I could care less. 

BBGee05
BBGee05

DAII had two seperate acts about Hawkes "rise to power" which basically was about one fetch quest after another.  And then a third act that had nothing to do with the first two.  As a storyline goes, DAII's was crap.  The old Bioware would not allow a game to be made with a weak, pointless story like that.

Pierce_Sparrow
Pierce_Sparrow

@The_luv_rocket @Pierce_Sparrow And that's fine, but I never cared much for the combat system in the first place, either DA:O or DA II. If DA: I can combine the storytelling methods of DA II and the gameplay of DA: O, that would be fine, but judging by this article, they are just going to copy DA: O with a larger, more open world, which is not what I want with the game. I'd much rather have a well told, linear story than an open world, make your own story kind of game.

linkster362
linkster362

@TheWatcher000 @grove12345 I agree with many points you have made, TheWATCHER000, and have been known to voice several of them myself. But I have to say that amoung my treasured memories of the old days are some newer ones as well. the Jak and daxter trilogy, the rachet and clank series just to name a few.  There have been many things lost but in some cases things have also been gained, not enough to completly balence the losses, but enough to give me hope for the future at least.

TheWatcher000
TheWatcher000

@grove12345 It Truly Was The Golden Age Of Gaming. I feel sad for the kids who did not grow up and experience that period, because they missed out on so Much.

Back Then, DLC was THOUSANDS of Levels and Total Conversions made by THE COMMUNITY, that made some of the greatest games ever made even greater.

And it was all FREE.  

Back then, this kind of work was your portfolio to gert a job in the industry.

Remember the stuff Neil Manke did for Quake and Half Life?  He was just a guy from Sweden, but that work he did for fun got him a job.

We had real community back then.  Anything was possible.

Back then, we had expansion packs that truly added hours and value on to the games.

Console Games were complete without all this Bullshit DLC.  

Some really classic stuff came out back then that has stood the test of time, and retained it's glory.

 It was NOTHING like it is now.   

 If you weren't there to see it, you really don't understand what we've LOST, despite what we've gained technologically.

 It hasn't been worth the price.

I agree with the other poster who posted the other day that he would rather go back to the days of cartridges than continue down the path we are on.


At least we were in control of what we owned, and got the most out of what was the best.

grove12345
grove12345

@TheWatcher000 sometimes it amazes me how hardware back in the day which is 1/1000 the power of todays manage to deliver more variety, innovation, strategy, etc than todays games.

and in the 90s there was like 100 games released a year for PC exclusive. Now its like only 15

morderwrath
morderwrath

@TheWatcher000 @r3flex0 @The_luv_rocket meh that's mean..the 80's was look tech! limited but who cares? the 90's trial and error gaming the 2000s hey the economy sucks so when a big budget game ships we expect a buy cause after all the variety isn't there anymore grins..There USED to be about 4-5 games minimum by genre from companys a year or so, now? lol, 1-2 every other year or so...

The_luv_rocket
The_luv_rocket

@Stemit Yep, a great list....  Only thing I would add is Goldeneye 007, cause it revolutionized FPS

Ervaine
Ervaine

@Stemit Same here nostalgic and still great games even now days.

Stemit
Stemit

@TheWatcher000 I love your entire list - and you, by extension. That list represents my childhood and why I will be a lifelong gamer.

TheWatcher000
TheWatcher000

@Rhys4Peace @TheWatcher000 @r3flex0 @The_luv_rocket You know, I'm really impressed by you.  I was really worried you could not possibly make yourself sound more stupid or ignorant.

You not only managed to do so, but you did so in a way that far exceeded even my most unrealistic expectations.

Now to address your comment, the following games disagree with you:


Half Life

Baldur's Gate

System Shock

System Shock II

The Secret Of Monkey Island

Interstate '76

Grim Fandango

Command And Conquer

Mechwarriror

Mechwarrior II

Doom

Doom II

Dark Reign

Sam And Max Hit The Road

Full Throttle

X-Wing

Tie Fighter

X-Wing VS. Tie Fighter

Civilization

Civilization II

Sim City

Sim City 2000

Star Control II

The Might And Magic Series

Heroes Of Might And Magic

Heroes Of Might And Magic II

Heroes Of Might And Magic III

Blood

Heretic

Hexen

Hexen II

Shadow Warrior

Duke Nukem' 3D

Syndicate

Syndicate Wars

The D&D Gold Box games

Diablo

Warcraft

Warcraft II

The Journeyman Project

Wing Commander

Wing Commander II

Wing Commander III

Wing Commander Prophecy

Privateer

Descent

Descent II

Descent III

Homeworld

Homeworld: Cataclysm

Freespace

Shogo

Total Anihilation

Close Combat

Close Combat II

Close Combat III

Master Of Orion

Fallout

Fallout 2

Dungeon Keeper

Dungeon Keeper 2

SiN

Another World

Age Of Empires

The Ultima Series 

Elder Scrolls: Arena

Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall

X-Com: UFO Defense

X-Com: Terror From The Deep

Starcraft

Thief: The Dark Project

Aliens VS. Predator

Roller Coaster Tycoon

Sid Meir's Alpha Centauri

Planescape: Torment

Myth: The Fallen Lords

Myth II: Soulblighter

Outcast

Star Trek: A Final Unity

Freespace 2

Starsiege: Tribes

The Secret Of Monkey Island II: LeChuck's Revenge

Jagged Alliance 2

Frontier: Elite 2

Realms Of Arkania: Star Trail

Betrayal At Krondor

Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II

Blade Runner

 Age Of Empires 2

 That's Almost 100 Examples of Why you Know FUCK ALL About what You're Talking about.

What makes you an even bigger fool is the fact that if it weren't for Baldur's Gate, DA:O Wouldn't have ever exiisted.

That isn't some random list either.  MANY Of the games on that list are considered to be some of the Greatest Games Of All Time.

Yes, the 90's sure were shit, weren't they?

Except for Quake of course.

You Loved That Shit.