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E3 2014: Dragon Age Inquisition Has Everything Going For It

BioWare’s Dragon Age and I have a love-hate relationship. Origins, the first title in the franchise, took me a while to get used to because of playability; the combat was subpar and the controls felt clumsy on my Xbox 360. Yet despite my discomfort with the controls, I forced myself into the game and was surprised by how quickly it drew me in. As an avid player of MMOs I was fond of the party system, but more than anything I was captivated by the richness surrounding the individual characters of the game. Especially Alistair. Always Alistair (I’m not biased or anything). Like picking up a good book, once the story pulled me in, I couldn’t put the controller down.

Given my experience with the Origins, I had high expectations for Dragon Age 2. Unfortunately, the game didn't live up to them. The game had lackluster repetitive environments and was only saved by the save transfers and combat improvements.

BioWare was unaware of the second title’s flaws however, taking in the feedback from a vocal community. When Dragon Age: Inquisition was announced, they promised fans they would use this criticism in shaping the game.

And learn they did. Inspired by titles like Skyrim, BioWare worked to make a massive and interactive world, a world successfully reflected in this year’s E3 demo. From what I've seen thus far, Dragon Age: Inquisition takes the best of Origins and DA2 and blends it into the scope of an Elder Scrolls game. Mark Darrah, executive producer of the series, said that you could travel anywhere that you see on the screen—and he wasn’t kidding. Within minutes of the demo we were traversing distant mountains on horseback, speaking with random NPCs hiking the wilderness, and fighting massive dragons.

It wouldn’t be a Dragon Age game without dragons of course, and the new combat system for the dragons turns fighting these beasts into more of an epic battle and less of an annoying grind. Arch Dragons can be encountered in the wilderness and are, more often than now, accompanied by their young. In order to take one down you must first take out individual limbs of the beast, using your party’s specialties strategically. Each member of your party holds a specific role, frrm an arch mage to a Qunari warrior, and similar to the previous titles, each one can help tank, heal, or provide dps. You can spec these characters according to how you want them to behave in combat and can also seamlessly switch to them during play as well.

During our demo, Darrah's main character was a human rogue but he switched to the mage (Vivienne) to caste haste, an ability that slows down time for the enemy. He then switched to the warrior (Iron Bull) and caused substantial damage to the dragon’s hind leg, bringing it down in time for him to switch back to his rogue and backstab for critical damage. Darrah also pointed out that all of this could also be done in planning mode, which in a manner similar to Origins allows the player pause the game to plan attacks and view enemy weaknesses and strengths. In short, the combat was gorgeous.

Aside from using your party members strategically in combat, each character is promised to also have a significant backstory that your character (the Inquisitor) can affect through in-depth personal quests. To me, the individual nature of these characters are what makes games like Dragon Age so different, and from what we saw of the random party banter as well as conversations, I think BioWare has succeeded once more in creating the characters we come to love.

Dragon Age: Inquisition promised a lot as a title, and as we know with some of the earlier titles this year, promises and overzealous ambitions can sometimes be a little too much to tackle. But there is always an exception. The environment is beautiful and reacts to your actions within the game. Your choices have direct consequence. The characters are there (also the romance, *cough*). The combat looks stellar. There's even a nifty weapons crafting system and a section called a War Table, which allows you to control troops and spies to help turn the tides of the Mage and Templar war. Right now, I’d say Dragon Age: Inquisition has everything going for it.

Katy Goodman is a freelance writer and graduate student in English. When she isn’t busy training birds of prey, horses, or freshman composition students, she can be found playing video games or climbing trees. She also really likes grilled cheese. Follow her on Twitter @InvizzyB or on her blog, Pixel Hearts.