Dragon Age: Inquisition feels like it’s BioWare’s Skyrim

Above: This vast expanse in Dragon Age: Inquisition is waiting for you to explore.

Image Credit: Electronic Arts

Some fans weren’t thrilled about developer BioWare’s Dragon Age II. The big complaint? It didn’t feel epic. From what I saw today, Dragon Age: Inquisition is not going to have that problem.

BioWare is showing off a live demo of its upcoming role-playing game for the first time at the Electronic Entertainment Expo tradeshow in Los Angeles today. For the first time, we learned that Inquisition is breaking from past Dragon Age games by giving players an open world to explore. BioWare creative director Mike Laidlaw explained that if you see a mountain in the background, you can walk to it. It was right then that I started to feel like Dragon Age: Inquisition is looking to borrow some ideas from one of the biggest RPGs of the last 10 years: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

“The open world is larger than all of Dragon Age: Origins,” Laidlaw said of Inquisition. “And you can go anywhere that you see.”

Previous Dragon Age games weren’t exactly linear. You could explore large locales and maybe choose the order in which you do things, but Inquisition is wide open — like Skyrim. The game also presents sidequests in a similar manner. At one point during the demo, a woman starts talking to the hero and explains that some evil dudes killed her husband and stole his ring. You can accept a quest to help her out and add it to your log.

“We had to do a fair amount of work, but [Frostbite] definitely was an opportunity to go open world,” Laidlaw told GamesBeat.

It makes sense that BioWare and publisher Electronic Arts would want to add open-world elements to Inquisition. The genre is home to some of gaming’s biggest hits. That includes releases like Skyrim, Grand Theft Auto V, and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.

But Inquisition doesn’t feel like Skyrim in a bunch of key ways. Like in other BioWare RPGs, you’ll have a massive party of characters that all impact the story. Your character also isn’t a blank slate. In combat, you can also drop out of real time at any point to control things in a tactical mode. This gives you an easy interface to issue commands to your party.

In other ways, though, BioWare is also borrowing elements from other open-world games.

Several regions make up the world of Inquisition. As you explore those areas, you’ll come across groups of enemies and strongholds that you can overtake. If you do, the region will reflect this change. You might see more of your banners as well as people friendly to your cause in these places. We’ve seen gameplay systems like this in things like Assassin’s Creed and Saints Row. It’s just one of the ways that BioWare is trying to make Inquisition feel larger and more alive.

Dragon Age is obviously at a turning point, but BioWare is saying that it will keep all the stuff that players love while exploring new ideas that haven’t appeared in Dragon Age before.

“More than anything, we’re going to be true to what we’ve done,” said Laidlaw. “From the interaction in the story and so on, but we also wanted to look at open world and make sure that everything feels purposeful.”

More information:

Electronic Arts Inc. (EA), headquartered in Redwood City, California, is a leading global interactive entertainment software company. Founded in 1982, the Company develops, publishes, and distributes interactive software worldwide for ... read more »

BioWare is a Canadian video game developer founded in February 1995 by newly graduated medical doctors Ray Muzyka, Greg Zeschuk, and Augustine Yip. BioWare is currently owned by American company Electronic Arts. BioWare specializes in ... read more »

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Falcon Stormvoice
Falcon Stormvoice

"but Inquisition is wide open — like Skyrim."

No, it's not quite as open. It's divided into maps. And I'd wager that story progression holds back free-roam exploration, because Bioware games are more story-focused than Bethesda RPGs.

Foo Barr
Foo Barr

Modding. All I care about is modding. Can players add their own content and extend the lifetime of the game? DAO could, DA2 couldn't. That, for me, was the biggest disappointment about DA2. 

Urgelt .
Urgelt .

DA2 was such a disappointment.  Cramped, tiny, short, far too pricey for the value delivered, not much replay value, and Bioware stripped almost all of the RPG elements out of the game.  It's just about what we'd expect Bioware to make after EA acquired it.

We complained.

Apparently EA is not entirely deaf to customer complaints.  That's a nice surprise.

DA:O and DA2 were pretty, though.  Bioware has good artists.  The plots were good, music was good, didn't much care for the wonky, illogical companion development.  Combat was too influenced by MMORPG buttons and cool-downs and felt artificial, but the combat animations were all right.

Still, the DA games weren't the RPGs they could have been.  DA2 earned 30 hours of my time.  Skyrim has earned several thousand.  Now that's value delivered.

So here comes DA3 on Frostbite, and Bioware promises a nearly-open world, the closest Bioware has ever come to creating an open-world game.  From what we've seen thus far, it looks like Bioware's artists are still on the job, and that's good.  The things I'll be hoping for are solid replayability, generous content, good RPG design elements, a less-artificial combat system suited to the game rather than yanked from MMORPGs, and good stories.

The one thing Bioware did with earlier games (BG, NWN) that they have abandoned in the DA series is player-run servers for small-scale multiplayer.  Boo on Bioware for letting that get away from them.  They drank the MMORPG massive profit Cool-Aid, and in so doing, lost a truly unique competitive edge and market power.  If you want a game to have legs, let players make their own worlds and play in them by releasing good modding tools and a robust small-scale multiplayer server-client architecture.

I don't expect that in DA3.  But I do hope EA/Bioware will come to understand that the way to generate high demand at AAA prices is to deliver unique, must-have value to its customers.  With modding and player-run servers, the value to gamers doesn't end when after the credits roll.

Aaron MacKenzie
Aaron MacKenzie

I think it's fairly tone-deaf to say that the big complaint RE: Dragon Age 2 was a lack of "epicness." 

keith maxx
keith maxx

If Zelda Wii U lives up to what was teased today, it'll be a good match up to the open-worldness of Inquisition as well.

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