Upfront: I don't play Dragon Age. I'm not terribly familiar with it other than watching some long play-throughs, dabbling in the typical pre-release hype trailers and sometimes spotting screenshots here or there. What I'm about to write in regards to the game not having a dedicated healer class is purely based on the information provided by a BioWare employee and not because I'm a hardcore Dragon Age player. With that little disclaimer out of the way, it's time to properly discuss exactly why Dragon Age: Inquisition doesn't have dedicated healers and how you can play the game without them.
Now as far as I can tell – from the videos that I've watched – Dragon Age: Inquisition is like a new-age, zoomed-in version of Baldur's Gate; it has some tactical elements, it has some real-time battle elements and it has some strategic elements. The big difference is that Baldur's Gate had the option for playing as a dedicated healer... Dragon Age does not.
The reason for this is some small part due to the game focusing on a punishing but rewarding difficulty setup, and as a way to force players to think outside the box when dealing with various kinds of enemies and situations.
BioWare writer Patrick Weekes took to the forum boards to discuss the lack of professional healer in the game, stating...
“As we have shown and announced more of the gameplay features in Inquisition, some of our fans have voiced concerns about one feature in particular: the removal of healing spells from the game. Luke Kristjanson gave an excellent explanation of our designers' reasons for making this change, but because folks are still concerned, I asked if it would be helpful to give my perspective as someone who is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a hardcore tactical expert.”
Kristjanson gives the technical breakdown of exactly why there were troubles with finding a balance for DA: Inquisition in comparison to the previous games, as well as how the stats played a part in designing a dedicated series of spells that players could use to build a healer.
Weekes explains how and why the game is more challenging without the dedicated healer, from the perspective – as he mentions in the quote above – of someone who isn't a “hardcore tactical expert”.
Essentially, the gist – without having to reprint the essay-length post from the forums – is that DA: Inquisition becomes a much more challenging and thought-inducing combat experience without a healer.
Weekes goes through the usage of potions, skills, barriers and damage mitigation abilities to help players compensate for the lack of an actual healer, and how the game has been balanced around the aforementioned properties to make up for the lack of a holy one. Ideally it makes the game more challenging but without being too challenging, with Weekes writing...
“...it depends on what difficulty you're using. As Luke said, his seven-year-old son beat the prologue on Easy, so yes, if you're on Easy, I think you OUGHT to be all right. Most players will have a good time on Normal, hitting that sweet spot where they are pushed to improve their strategy without being frustrated by the punishment the game dishes out. I still feel happily challenged by Hard difficulty, though, and for Nightmare, you will want someone more like Sylvia "Man, I wish there were more dragons in the world, you see, I killed all of them already" Feketekuty.”
I can't really speak on the good or bad of this decision. I mean, I know from previous RPGs a healer makes the game a heck of a lot easier than chugging through relying on other factors to keep your team alive. However, in the same token, I didn't really have a dedicated healer in Shadowrun: Dragonfall and I thought it was pretty awesome and quite challenging. So I think it depends on your play-style, what you're looking to get out of the combat experience and how much thought you're planning to put into the actual battle tactics.
I've mostly only heard negative things about Dragon Age 2, so if the team is making this change to make the third game a more enjoyable and well-rounded experience, we'll see how well this plays out for Dragon Age: Inquisition.
You can look for the game to launch on November 18th, next month. For more info, feel free to pay a visit to the game's official website.