BioWare’s PAX Prime 2013 presentation of Dragon Age Inquisition seems to have gone over really well, showing a real turnaround from the criticized Dragon Age II. I however am still only cautiously optimistic of the developer’s claims heralding a return to the gameplay of Dragon Age: Origins.
If you watch the gameplay videos from the PAX floor, people are cheering almost all the way through it. On forums I’m already seeing a lot of vehement Dragon Age II haters get hyped for Inquisition, so BioWare is definitely doing something right.
For starters I’ll admit that even in the off-screen videos the graphics look really impressive — real next-gen stuff. The large hubs the game takes place in also look really expansive.
People seem to be the most excited for the gameplay though, but what I saw in those videos actually doesn’t look extremely different from what was in DAII. BioWare made a big deal about how Inquisition is gonna bring back the zoomed-out, strategic combat mode of Origins, showing some stop-and-start tactics in the Inquisition videos. The whole demonstration clearly showed off a back-and-forth switch between that style and something more like a hack n’ slash action RPG. That’s nice, but DAII never actually ditched the tactical combat style.
You could pause and give your party members specific commands in every version of DAII. BioWare even showed off videos and screenshots back in 2011 to try to placate PC fans of Origins. The problem was you never NEEDED to fight like that in DAII. On normal mode the combat sequences were so easy that you could just run around with one character slashing up enemies most of the time while your AI companions handled themselves. Pausing and applying any kind of strategy to the situation always felt like overkill, and as soon as a second wave spawned in any plan you put into action was out the window. BioWare needs to assure me this won’t happen again in Inquisition.
Other problems with DAII’s combat include how you could basically only customize equipment for the main protagonist, and how apparently the spells weren’t balanced for friendly fire, which was disabled in all but the highest difficulty mode. BioWare has said that friendly fire will basically be its own toggle, and that full party customization is back, but we still haven’t seen anything suggesting how Inquisition will be balanced. Origins really did require you to carefully plan out every battle to avoid getting pounded. I’m still not sure Inquisition will have the same level of challenge.
I already know Inquisition is going to be better than DAII just by nature of the development cycle. DAII’s problem was it came out 16 months after Origins — you could tell it was rushed because BioWare was caught off-guard by the success of Origins, which is still the developer’s most commercially successful game outside Mass Effect 3.
BioWare has acknowledged the fans they lost with DAII though and I’m sure they’re aware of how poorly it sold compared to Origins. The three-year development cycle of Inquisition alone should probably ensure it’s at least better than DAII.
Still, I’m worried about BioWare’s transition from an RPG developer to an action game developer, which doesn’t seem to have stopped since Mass Effect 2. That game and Mass Effect 3 really did try to be third person shooters with light RPG mechanics in their combat (outside the remaining RPG story structure). The last time I went back to play the first Mass Effect I was surprised at how much it felt like, well, an RPG. DAII replaced the menu-based attack system of Origins with a direct button-to-action system similar to Kingdom Hearts or Phantasy Star Online (even the UI on consoles looks a lot like PSO). Most of the combat you see in the Inquisition demonstration looks even more like that, almost like it’s trying to be a hack n’ slash game for general console audiences. I’d go into a talk about the viability of classic menu-based RPGs in today’s market but that’s probably for another time.
- The image above is fitted to be an iPhone 5 wallpaper by the way.
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- This is how you do replayability people: http://t.co/mNaDerDq24
- Has any JRPG world map ever actually been a sphere or globe: http://t.co/429xwfpVBO