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Dragon Age: The Veilguard Rights Inquisition's Greatest Sin

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BioWare's priorities are in the right place for its fourth foray into Dragon Age.

After 10 years, BioWare is finally letting you kiss Lace Harding, the dwarven scout who acts as your initial eyes and ears whenever your character uncovers a new area in Dragon Age: Inquisition. Though you can flirt with her numerous times and establish a strong rapport with Harding, she is not a romantic option in Inquisition--she's not even an official companion. That all changes in Dragon Age: The Veilguard--previously titled Dreadwolf--as Harding is not only one of the seven recruitable companions in the game, but she's a romance option, too.

Harding is, without a doubt, one of the best parts about Inquisition. Sarcastic and playful, she's willing to trade a few verbal barbs with the Inquisitor if the two establish a bond, and she's a bright and shining spot even during Inquisition's darkest moments, sticking with you and the Inquisition no matter where you choose to go. Fans have been pining for the cute dwarf ever since Inquisition launched in 2014, and I've often wished she could have had a larger part to play in Dragon Age's story. So I was pleasantly surprised to learn that she'll be a major player in the fourth Dragon Age game.

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Now Playing: Dragon Age: The Veilguard | Official 20 Minute Gameplay Reveal

At Summer Game Fest, I got to see the opening hour of The Veilguard played by game director Corrine Busche, who answered many of my questions about the upcoming RPG, including how romance would play a part in it. Unlike previous Dragon Age games, which included romantic partners of various sexualities and ancestral preferences, all of the companions in The Veilguard are pansexual and don't seem to have any racial preferences--you can smooch them regardless of who your character, Rook, is--so long as you raise your relationship status high enough.

Busche made sure to clarify that The Veilguard's companions have been written to be pansexual, not player-sexual. The romantic options don't reshape themselves to satisfy the player character's gender and sexuality. Instead, they have their own hopes, dreams, and desires informed by who they are, and if they can't find what they want with the main character, they'll find it elsewhere. For example, Busche warned me that if my Rook didn't go for Harding (as if, right?), she might find solace with one of the game's other companions in particular, akin to how Garrus and Tali explore their attraction to one another and end up together in Mass Effect 3 if Shepard does not romance either of them as, regardless of who Shepard is, both Garrus and Tali are straight.

The Veilguard seems to put a lot more emphasis on building relationships with your companions than in previous Dragon Age games. Though your companions will unlock their core abilities over time, the only way to earn special upgrades to these skills is to develop their relationship with Rook. I didn't get to see these upgrades in action during the preview, but I did see how The Veilguard's first two companions--Harding and Neve--perform in a fight. Harding fits the role of a long-range sniper, a rogue initially armed with a bow and arrow, while Neve is a detective and mage who specializes in close-range cold magic.

According to Busche, you'll meet and recruit every companion by the end of the first act, which should take players about nine to 10 hours--that's a tinge faster than the 15 or so hour recruitment time in Inquisition, which makes sense given The Veilguard only has seven companions and Inquisition has nine.

Players will recruit seven companions in Dragon Age: The Veilguard, including Bellara, shown here.
Players will recruit seven companions in Dragon Age: The Veilguard, including Bellara, shown here.

"Faster" seems to be the name of the game for The Veilguard, which looks to do for Dragon Age what Andromeda did for Mass Effect. Your perspective as a player has tightened even further--especially once combat kicks off--shifting to a view more akin to an over-the-shoulder shooter. As spells fly and swords clash, combat seems to pull you into the thick of battle where you must deftly dodge out of the way of an enemy's telegraphed wind-up to land a well-timed combo of your own. Whether you choose to go the way of the warrior, rogue, or mage, you have an assortment of speedy attacks, explosive heavy-hitting abilities, long-range shield breakers, and quick dodges.

In the opening hour, each battle wrapped up in a matter of moments, and even though Busche pointed out that a tactical menu exists to pause the action and direct Rook's allies, it didn't really look like that was even needed, almost like the feature existed as more of a reminder of what Dragon Age used to be, not what it is now. Real-time combat is not new for Dragon Age, but this is the first time I've seen a game in the series seem to lack much in the way of tactics. For combat at least, The Veilguard appears to lean more toward the action half of action-RPG.

Combat isn't the only thing that's different this time around. The Veilguard takes you to Tevinter, a never-before-seen location in Thedas. Unlike the more fantastical locations the franchise has visited so far, Tevinter has more of an arcanepunk vibe, incorporating themes of industrialization. My first look at Tevinter reminded me of Dungeons & Dragons' Eberron, where magic is common enough to be used by everyday people, not just powerful spellcasters. Neon billboards illuminated paved city streets and dark alleys like the backdrop of a noir detective story, and arcane runes powered the city like a faux-electricity. Even though The Veilguard takes place just after Inquisition, it feels like we've been thrown forward a full century to a more modern era.

Like in past BioWare games, choosing which allies to bring on missions can be about tactics or relationships--or both.
Like in past BioWare games, choosing which allies to bring on missions can be about tactics or relationships--or both.

The game picks up in Tevinter at what feels like the end of another adventure, as Rook--with the help of Varric--are on the tail of Solus, working to prevent him from fully destroying the Veil, an act that would surely destroy all life across Thedas. Harding joins their troupe and aids Rook and Varric in meeting with Neve, a detective also on Solus's trail and the trio eventually catches up to the fallen elven god in the midst of a ritual that is tearing the Veil apart.

The mission showcases plenty of Dragon Age staples (combat, choice-driven dialogue, companion approval) while also revealing what 10 years away have done for the series' visuals. Inquisition isn't an ugly game by any means, but The Veilguard is a cut above its predecessor with special care to particle effects and character animations. It looks like a damn pretty game, and I can't wait to get lost in it with my favorite forward scout at my side.

Dragon Age: The Veilguard is set to launch for Xbox Series X|S, PS5, and PC this fall.


Jordan Ramée

Jordan Ramée has been covering video games since 2016 and tabletop games since 2020, using his unhealthy obsessions to write what he'd argue is compelling content (we won't tell him if you don't). Do not let him know that you're playing Hollow Knight--he will take that as a sign that you wish to talk about the lore for the next five hours.

Dragon Age: The Veilguard

Dragon Age: The Veilguard

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