BioWare On Dragon Age’s Combat, Exploration, Choices

By Nathan Grayson on September 11th, 2013 at 12:00 pm.

BioWare’s finally taken the wraps off Dragon Age: Inquisition, and hey, it looks like it might actually be worth getting excited over. Far from the chaffingly cramped confines of Dragon Age II’s Kirkwall, Inquisition seems rife for roaming – a land that will whet your appetite for exploration and then stuff your intestines with intrigue until you have no choice but to physically ingest a Call of Duty game to correct the balance. Also, combat looks interesting again! There is tactical view. And rolling. Somewhat astonished, I sat down with lead designer Mike Laidlaw to discuss the resurgent role-player’s newfound confidence in tactical combat, wide-open exploration, and choices that actually bar players from a significant portion of the game.

RPS: Everybody first assumed your combat was inspired by The Witcher, but it almost looks kind of Dark Soulsy with all the rolling. What sort of basic rhythm are you aiming for?

It has elements of open-world for sure, but it’s something closer to the feel we had in the Baldur’s Gate or Origins.

Laidlaw: Honestly, a lot of it is stuff we’ve done in the previous DAs. We’ve upped the fidelity of the presentation. I don’t think evading lives in the realm of Dark Souls, nor do I think the Witcher owns strafing. But it’s abilities and movement that are designed to be smooth. They’re designed to let you focus on an enemy or pull back as you see fit. They fundamentally rely on things like your stamina. They have the elements of resource management throughout them.

The other big thing, that for us is a huge consideration, is making sure that stuff like “I’m rolling to the side!’ is workable within that pause-and-play and with the tactical. That’s something that people sometimes have trouble wrapping their heads around, but all you have to picture is, I trigger the evade ability, I get to drive a little AOE like a compass around, I say that’s where I want to roll, and that gives you the direction for where you go as soon as you unpause.

RPS: Another thing you really emphasized was the fact that now you actually have to manage your health and make sure you’re not walking away from every fight with a little sliver of it left. That sounded to me like it would add maybe an element of survival, almost. Is that what you were going for?

Laidlaw: I wouldn’t say survival is the key, but it’s certainly a factor as part of that. More than anything, what I want out of it is the sense that, as a player, I need to take the game seriously and consider my actions. If enemies are largely inconsequential in the course of a fight – I recover almost instantly! – then you could consider them to be bags of experience points that you want to tackle. But as soon as you introduce the idea that health is sustaining damage, you move closer to a pen and paper experience. You move closer to the more old-school, hardcore approach to role-playing.

Suddenly you’re challenging players and saying, “Well, you’re gonna go fight that dragon. Are you going to skirt around everything? Are you going to fight very carefully on your way there so you’re not low on resources or low on health when you go to fight the big guy?” That the kind of thing that I think creates really interesting challenges for the player. So I don’t see a situation where, necessarily, you’ll be so worn down by the game that you won’t be able to get home. That kind of thing, that works really well, but it’s not really key to the experience that we want. It’s more about thinking long term and planning ahead, rather than planning backwards.

RPS: Locations look nicely expansive and rife with side paths, but are you considering this an open world?

Laidlaw: “Open world” I think is a really loaded term, because everyone immediately thinks of Skyrim and assumes everything will be exactly like Skyrim. In our case, there are extremely large regions you can explore. It’s a multi-region game, which means that you’ll traveling with a world map. You’re traveling across this chunk of the continent in which the game is set. And each of the regions is purposeful. It has a reason you would be brought here. It ties back to the story, or at least to the overall themes of the game. “These are my enemies and they’re very active here. I should find out why.”

That kind of stuff. That means that they aren’t necessarily laden with story, because story is the antithesis of discovery, right? It tends to lead you along. But when you’re discovering things, you should feel like they’re part of the overall game and not random. I would say that it has elements of open world for sure, but it’s something closer to the feel we had in the Baldur’s Gate games or in Origins, even, where it’s larger areas, big spaces, and the chance for you to move around and see a wide variety of different terrains and locales and so on.

RPS: You were pointing out areas where you could go off the beaten path, but you ended up staying and doing more story-based stuff. How many areas are there like that in a given location? How much have you littered this world with things where it’s just, “Oh, go over there and do that”?

Laidlaw: It’s quite dense. There’s a lot of different opportunities in the desert area we saw, a lot of things we didn’t approach, but could have, and gone to explore and so on. It’s just a matter of time to show that off. But the goal for me is that when you arrive in an area, you should be able to spin the camera and see a bunch of cool stuff that makes you say, “What’s that?” And you start heading in that direction to identify it. And then over time, there can be reasons, or maybe you’re doing something for a companion or pursuing a lead or something like that, that will bring you back to spaces. Of course, the final stage, then, is things you’ve opened up as new opportunities because the Inquisition has had a presence here.

RPS: Right. So on any given one of those little side areas, how much depth is there? If you were to go into some random cave that you found, how long would you be in there? How much stuff could you do?

Laidlaw: It varies depending on the cave. You need a good mixture. Not every cave is going to be a seven-story epic dungeon. Actually no cave is going to be that. I think that our goal is always to try and have it make sense. If the area is full of bandits and smugglers, you can expect a lot of caves and grottoes and stuff where they’ve tucked their goods away. To me, you shouldn’t evaluate just a single cave. The goal for me is that we create an experience. If I feel like, “Oh, wow, this was an elven stronghold one day,” and I keep finding runes and all these things, they all should incorporate and turn into a larger experience where the area and the location is helping me see and experience something that builds up over time.

It’s a kind of environmental storytelling, rather than someone gabbing at you or handing you books. It’s something that, frankly, the crew working on the BioShock games, Levine and company, are exceedingly good at. Everyone remembers coming around that first area in Rapture and all the cancelled bathyspheres, and it made you go, “Wow! Neat!” Nobody said a damn thing, but I really understood what Rapture was about in that moment. I think for us, if the whole area helps lead you to a deeper understanding of what’s going on – whether it be ancient magical artifacts scattered around a desert and you start to piece together what that means – that’s asking the player to engage and think and to be critical in a cool way.

RPS: Will there be any cameos by the cave from Dragon Age II? The infamous cave?

Laidlaw: Oh, the cave. No, I don’t expect that cave will return. I think we’ve probably used it enough.

RPS: You were discussing all the potential repercussions for choices. You were saying that it’s very possible for content to be blocked off if you make certain choices.

Laidlaw: Absolutely.

RPS: How much of the game functions that way? If a player goes through and only plays once, roughly how much will they… I don’t want to say “miss out on,” but the nature of choice being what it is, making a real impactful choice, how much could that close off?

Laidlaw: I couldn’t say at this point. I think that’s something we need to be closer to final to lock down. But our goal is that it’s a significant amount, a fifth or a quarter or so, that’s showing some degree of exclusivity. And then you can layer on top of that a certain amount of stuff that you probably just won’t find. “Oh, you didn’t go east there. Wow. Well, you missed out on the big dragon carcass or what have you.” That kind of stuff is good.

I think that our goal, more than worrying about percentages, is that when I present a choice, or when my team presents a choice, to a player, our goal with Inquisition is that we honor that choice. This goes all the way to, “What are you importing into the world?” If it’s something that we’re going to tackle at all, I want it to be significantly different.

Similarly, if you make a choice where it’s, “Well, you’re going to have to side with one of these two groups,” or “Either that guy’s gonna die or that guy’s gonna die,” or anything that’s on that level, I would hate for a character to just say “Thanks!” and you’re done. Instead, we want it to have more depth than that. More than worrying about the numbers, it’s about a philosophy. It’s something we’re really working really hard on, to make sure that we either honor the choice or get rid of it. Sometimes you simply have to, because the ramifications are too big. But more often than not it’s just finding a good and interesting and satisfying way to say, “Yeah, that matters. I see how.”

RPS: One of the things I found really interesting is that you can toggle on and off the thing that essentially tells you, more or less, what the outcome of your choice will be. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Laidlaw: To be clear, it never tells you the outcome. It tells you the action will take. That’s a pretty distinct difference. The outcome is like, “This will result in war.” The action is, “You will behead him.” So you need to understand that. I would never want to tell you the outcome, because that’s annoying. There’s GameFAQs for that.

RPS: I think that is a very important distinction to make, because there’s something about… If you know roughly what’s going to happen because of a choice, then there’s not really a choice beyond what you want to see go on.

Laidlaw: Exactly.

RPS: That’s good, because I think my favorite choices in games didn’t telegraph their outcomes. I had to chew them in my mind over and over and over. And even then, I was like, “Well, a bunch of things could happen! There is no right answer.” I’ve stopped playing games for days because of choices like that, just to mull them over. I seriously love it when that happens.

Laidlaw: I think that as soon as you engage a player on that level, where they’re going, “Oh, jeez, I don’t know what to do here…” One of our great dilemmas is, do I go and rescue Kaidan or do I go and rescue Ashley, before the nuke goes off? In that case, you know exactly what’s going to happen. The nuke is going to go off and somebody is probably going to die. The game makes it very clear. And there is no right answer. Somebody is making it out and somebody isn’t going to appear in game three.

That’s a great dilemma, to me, because you have to ask yourself [to make a tough call]. There is no right way to do this. There’s just a choice to make. Those kinds of things can be very compelling, because they pull you in.

Now, sometimes, you need to be surprised. There needs to be a choice where it’s, “Okay, I’m going to do this,” and you may not understand that there will be repercussions later in the game. But I do think they are at their best when there’s some sort of immediacy to the change, whether it’s a different scene happens, or some element appears immediately, but long term it’s always a pleasant surprise when the game remembers and somebody comes seeking vengeance or what have you.

RPS: The one thing that I did notice about the main choice that you showed is that it was kind of a battle between “good” and self-serving practicality. It was defend the wounded or defend the keep, which will ultimately benefit you. That’s kind of a simple, relatively traditional binary.

Laidlaw: It is, except you’re dealing with three, right? So you’re dealing with, specifically, am I going to make this hard on myself and not have my men as reserves at all? Or am I going to preference the people or preference my forces? That’s one of those things where you could – if you think about the potential options – you could just not talk to those guys. That’s another option. In which case you don’t receive any benefit from being kind to them, but they also aren’t necessarily getting killed.

We’re trying to avoid a thing where it’s good or bad. These guys signed up. They knew what they were getting into. Sometimes you have to make that call. But I guess what I want players to say is, “Wow, if I’d kept the guys back and told them to heal up their wounded, and I lost the village… What if I hadn’t?” Right? And of course, at that point, if you really want to, reboot. See if you’re good enough to handle it.

And it also has a mechanical effect. It’s not just like, “I chose some things and got a news report later saying they were all killed.” You get to see how that all actually plays into the game.

RPS: You put a lot of emphasis on the scope of choices, as well. The ability to “change the world” and whatnot.

Laidlaw: Yeah. The physicality of the changes is something I’m pretty jazzed about. I think it’s neat to… It’s something we’ve never tackled before, and I think it’s very cool. It’s something the engine actually opened up as an opportunity for us.

RPS: I thought Dragon Age II did an excellent job of emphasizing smaller scale stuff, though – if not necessarily the impacts of your decisions. How much have you taken from that, er, less well-loved side of the equation?

Laidlaw: Well, small-scale choices are something that’s kind of our bread and butter. The moment to moment – is Varric upset, is Varric happy, what kind of responses do you give – all those things are kind of standard issue for us. It’s something we always tackle. As a studio, in a lot of ways, we’re very character-focused. Those small things are almost… We almost take them for granted. But certainly they’re present in Inquisition. It’s just that taking this to the next level and having a physical impact on the world is something that’s all new, that we’ve never done before.

Check back tomorrow for part two, in which we discuss sex/race choices and BioWare’s approach to issues like racism, the possibility of advancing the Dragon Age series to a wildly different time period, Inquisition’s revamped take on romances, and tons more. 

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104 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge

    Aquarion says:

    I like the concept of having to care about hitpoints, I really do. But the developers have to do the other side of it. If I’m hanging on by the skin of my teeth, I need the *ability* to avoid the next fight, to skirt the edges in the darkness, to charismatically charm the bandit into attacking my enemies instead. DA has not, traditionally, been very good at offering me – as a player – alternatives to a string of unavoidable open-street fights.

    • Premium User Badge

      jezcentral says:

      Could it be like some nineties games where you could get stuck, because you had saved when you were too low health to get past any more foes? Now, that definitely would be “old school”.

      I’d like to see a possible failure state if you make all the wrong decisions. If you carry on saving villages, and not minding the keeps, than it should be impossible to finish the story. One criticism of the Bioware games I have played is that you can be as angelic as possible, always ducking hard decisions and going for the easy options, but never making the final boss impossible.

      • Volcanu says:

        I agree with your sentiment here. From what I’ve heard about this ‘retreat to the keep or save the village’ bit it smacks of the recent Bioware tendency to always reward making the ‘white knight’ choice or give you a way to undo the negative outcome of your decisions, having your cake and eating it too. Mass Effect was often guilty of this.

        It’d be far more compelling if you have to make those hard choices that leaders are faced with in war and live with the consequences. Where you genuinely have to wrestle with decisions against the backdrop of a greater conflict. Your men are finite, you cant be everywhere -what do you prioritise? Tough as it is maybe you can save more lives in the long run by letting the town burn.

        Too often you know what ‘the right choice’ is and usually you can save people AND pull off the victory. Life is n’t always like that and I’d like it to respect that. Sometimes taking the ‘grey’ path might save more lives than taking the ‘white’ path. Give us the hard decisions and make us live with genuine consequences.

        • LionsPhil says:

          And then unlock an achievement for doing so.

        • VCepesh says:

          I would still prefer for the third option to be present on occasion – as a result of extensive preparation, completionist tendencies on the player’s part or, hell, just clever dialog choices or high stats.
          The majority of the real-life “tough-choices” arise as a result of our own faults, our incompetence, laziness or short sight, or a consequence that we could not anticipate. But a videogame is still an escapist experience, and a linear one – as such, certain amount of leniency could be justified, if you take into account hyper-competent protagonists. There was no lack of hyper-competent real-life characters, who could navigate their way out of a particularly torturous dilemmas through cunning, luck and foresight.
          Still, this should be an exception, rather than the rule. Better yet, an acceptable balance, that doesn’t rob experience of verisimilitude.

          • Volcanu says:

            I could go for that.

            I agree that having that option SOME of the time would actually be good, but only some of the time (as I think you said). Otherwise it just undermines the whole ‘actions have consequences’ vibe. I for one end up thinking “doesnt matter anyway I can just fight my way out of it/apologise to INSERT NAME once I’ve buitl up enough ‘blue points’ etc”.

        • Jeremy says:

          Agreed. I think my least favorite example of this was in DA:Origins the first time you go to Redcliffe. I felt like there was a chance at making some incredibly difficult choices regarding the possessed boy, but in the end, you can just delay and go to the Circle Tower and save everyone, and everyone is just happy as a clam. It’s not so much that I want to be forced to kill people randomly, but honestly, if you’re faced with a demon possessed child, you can’t just dawdle for a couple weeks and come back like everything will be okay.

        • JFS says:

          I hated it when I found out that there was a third “save everyone” option in DA1′s child-mother-bloodmage quest. I didn’t continue the game afterwards, as it felt too much like smoke and mirrors.

          Edit: Ah, exactly what Jeremy said above. Ninja, man!

        • Henson says:

          RPGs, in general, have a very bad sense of the passage of time. It’s probably because everything is designed around the player.

          Personally, I don’t think I mind a ‘third option’ so long as it’s executed well. For the Redcliffe demon choice, getting the mages to help wouldn’t be so bad if the game just acknowledged that this is a risky option, allowing more time for the demon to regain control. I would have liked the player return to Redcliffe town either in the middle of a new attack or clearly recovering from a recent attack of undead from the castle. This would make it clear to players that time matters, and that, had they dithered about rather than going straight to the mages and straight back, they might have returned to a burned-out village.

          Or you could simplify and make it so that getting the mages’ help automatically dooms the town. Either works.

      • Slazer says:

        I still remember being nearly dead in the mines in BG1 and tried to find a quiet spot where I could sleep to refresh my health and spells, I think I had to reload several times because I usually got attacked by Goblins during my rest. A little tricky, but I love the feeling that you really have to take care of your guys, and cant just press r to be fresh&clean after 3 seconds

    • Viroso says:

      In most RPGs I’ve played where you don’t insta heal up after a battle, and that’s the majority of them, you end up having no problem healing after battles, either that or a lot of battles are still inconsequential, enemies dealing tiny damage.

      I like when you heal up after a battle because then the game can make every encounter a potential game over encounter. Thing with the original Dragon Age is that even on the hardest difficulty the game was still pretty easy.

      If they don’t know how to balance difficulty, and based on their games I will say that mostly they get it wrong, then whatever way they approach this the game will still be too easy.

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      ffordesoon says:

      Oh God, this.

  2. gunny1993 says:

    The good thing about RPGs is that they aren’t hell awful dedication required time sinks that Mobas and MMOs are; meaning I can get this and Witcher 3 without any sacrifice.

    Although unless Merrill is in this one ima wait for a sale.

    • Premium User Badge

      RedViv says:

      You will have to wait for a sale because ALL MERRILL ARE BELONG TO MINE.

      • gunny1993 says:

        But … But … who am I going to encourage to do blood magic even though I know it’s evil as all fuck ?????

        • Premium User Badge

          RedViv says:

          Not evil, it’s just really fucking dangerous if you are a weak imbecile.
          Like 99% of the mages in DA2.
          Seriously.

          • gunny1993 says:

            Ah yeah ofc, like the leader of the mages circle (that fucker made me want to exterminate some mages)

  3. atticus says:

    I’m one of the few(?) who would rather have a more focused experience than say Skyrim and Far Cry 3 etc. Large levels and epic vistas sure, but whenever I’m free to roam the land I tend to get bored very quickly. I also often feel that an open world-approach destroys my immersion rather than help it, with hostile encounters and combat happening all over the place all the time. A world where nobody can walk outside the walls of a town/castle without being in mortal danger within two minutes is not a very believable world.

    • Svant says:

      That is one of the things that really ruins any immersion Oblivion/Skyrim could have had. Oblivion gates/Dragons every 5 m, massive bandit/ghost infested ruins every 10 m etc. Reduce the number of pointless dungeons and “epic” events so that the ones left actually are epic and cool. Dragon-fights becomes extremely uncool after 50+ dragon fights.

      • Drake Sigar says:

        I forget the quest the first lord gives me so dragons are never activated, then bugger off to Riften to become a thief and kill as few people as possible.

    • Volcanu says:

      I love elder scrolls games, but for me Baldurs Gate II got the balance bang on.

      It had a large world area with lots of different sub areas (many optional) but these were packed full of interesting content, characters and quests. Nothing felt copy & pasted or generic, it all felt interesting and made you feel as if you were discovering something unique. Even after mutliple playthroughs I still discover entirely new (rich) content.

      So Laidlaw is makign the right noises here at least.

      • Slazer says:

        Seconded! I have no idead if Gothic 1&2 are well known outside of Germany, but did a great job hiding custom-built caves all over the world instead of throwing generic stuff at you, and around the camps and cities you mostly had to deal with molerats and Wolfs while the big enemies were hidden far away from the crowded areas

        • Horg says:

          I just started playing Gothic 2 again last month and it really is a masterpiece of world building. I think the steep learning curve and plethora of bugs left it under appreciated when it came out, but still worth playing if you can spare a little patience. Also its aged better than I expected, just needed a few .ini tweaks to set the resolution and i’ve not had any issue running it on modern hardware.

      • Wulfram says:

        It seems more like BG1 than BG2 to me. BG2′s areas were pretty focused, really, whereas DA:I’s seem rather large and sprawling..

        • Horg says:

          I wouldn’t really want to call BG1s maps sprawling. There were a lot of small maps which you could cross from one side to the other in 30 seconds, and usually only had 1 – 3 significant encounters. Maybe it was the empty space that made them seem bigger than they were. Personally I thought BG2 needed a few areas like that to compliment the big hub areas, and make the world seem a little larger without adding too much bloat.

          • Volcanu says:

            Yeah BG1 had more areas but many were pretty sparse and they weren’t filled with as much interesting stuff as those in BG2. I did like the way you discovered areas in BG1 though, by passing through them and having new areas then open up on the world map- in BG2 there was perhaps less ‘exploration’ on a ‘world map’ level.

            There is definitely a sweet spot between exploration and rich content- BG2 wasn’t perfect but, for my money it made the best fist of it to date.

          • Wulfram says:

            You’re right that the BG maps weren’t sprawling, but I tend to assume that was technical limitations rather than intent. If you stuck ‘em together they’d be a pretty large open world map, particularly with the rather slow walking speed.

            They included lots of space that was there to be travelled through, rather than just showing the destinations, which is more what BG2 did. I expect DA:I to be more like BG1 in that respect. Though I’d prefer BG2, because I’m not keen on exploration at all.

    • alphyna says:

      Youare not alone, friend. I’m a hundred percent with you.

  4. Orija says:

    Nice interview. Relevant questions asked and pertinent answers given.
    Still, isn’t it about time we stopped falling for Bioware’s enticements? These guys’ prevaricating, and frequent lying, when peddling DA II, ME 3 and SWTOR is something that has me dismissing everything they say now when peddling DA3.

  5. Branthog says:

    Oh, EA-era Bioware . . . .

    Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.

  6. VCepesh says:

    Bioware has long since passed the line, that still allowed to take their words at face-value, as genuine opinions – conversation made way for PR-speak. It’s not entirely useless,though – at the very least, it shows, that they acknowledge and they intend to cater somewhat to our brethren. To what extent, of course, is unclear.
    Do not pre-order, do not succumb to hype and reserve your final judgement until after the game comes out – it’s as simple as that.

    • denthor says:

      Yup pretty sure they jumped the shark with dragon age 2. Well they did for me anyway. Mr Laidlaw can keep his action button and his new “target” audience.

    • mouton says:

      “Don’t preorder” should apply to any developer anyway. Unless you genuinely do not care about quality of the game and just want to support the devs because this or other.

    • Arglebargle says:

      Yeah, the number of developers that I’ll preorder from are less than the fingers on one hand, with room left over for a bad accident.

      Bioware’s not on that list at all anymore, and for good reason. And I certainly don’t believe any of their PR claptrap.

  7. Dariune says:

    It makes me a little sad that RPS, the blog which generally seems to keep a level head and read between the lines, get once again caught up in the gargantuan hype machine that EAware roll out before every release.

    Yes parts of it looks good. Yes it will likely be a shallow experience with all flash and no substance… again!

  8. RProxyOnly says:

    Too little too late.

    They’ve had three game to do something like this, but they’ve thrown us shit.

    This could be (but obviousy isn’t) the best game in the world and I still wouldn’t be buying it from Bioware.

    • Volcanu says:

      I share your scepticism, but surely you jest? If it really IS the greatest game in the world and everyone takes your stance, that would surely just result in them going back to the formula of the past 3 games that you didnt like? A sentence involving the words ‘spite’, ‘cutting’, ‘face’ and ‘nose’ springs to mind….

    • Molay says:

      Never forgive, never forget.
      Do it once and do it right.
      You reap what you sow.

      Yes, yes. We get that a lot. I’ll never understand the reasoning behind it. What does it benefit you to declare all-out war on a studio for having disappointed you?
      Surely, you loved them. And that love turned into hate. But don’t you think it is a better idea to follow your own desires and give your love a chance, than to hate it for the rest of eternity because it failed you in the past? You’re only hurting yourself… Go find some peace of mind, and follow what you truly want to do, instead of putting yourself in that dark corner where you won’t feel any better.

      Opinion, away!

      • NotQuiteDeadYet says:

        Should we forgive the Nazis for what they did?

        No! Of course we shouldn’t. Just like we shouldn’t forgive Bioware. Because these videogames are serious business.

        • Molay says:

          Playing the nazi card, that’s something I don’t get often, I admit.
          Comparing Bioware to nazis is pretty rare, too^^

          He obviously loved previous bioware titles, was let down by the last few, and is sworn to never touch them again. But he loves them, else he wouldn’t care, making a public stand against them. He cares. Still. He just can’t get over the disappointment. This only makes people sad, for no good reason.

          Any feelings towards Nationalsozialismus on his part is pure speculation which I won’t get into, as it is not relevant. :)
          (it’s pretty dumb to compare everything to nazis by the way – makes you look a bit like a fool when you throw around nazi out of context much)

          Addendum: I’m pretty much sarcasm resistant, so apologies if I missed it.

          • NotQuiteDeadYet says:

            Uuhhh, yeah, it kind of was sarcasm. My fault though. I guess I should have made it clearer. Poe’s law, and all that.

            On a side note, if I read what I wrote, and mistook it for serious, I probably would have reacted a lot less rationally than you did. I mean, I thought that statement was TOO dumb when I was writing it out, so good on you, dude.

          • Molay says:

            Sadly one can never be sure people are being sarcastic when writing… bizarre things. But that’s the way of the interwebs I guess :)
            There was that one race in the mass effect universe that lacked emotion when speaking, and had to add the way they meant what they said… Now that would be an interesting addition for anything written – and quite hilarious, in my opinion!

            The way people respond on RPS is actually one of the reasons I love it so much – there’s much more rationality than you find elsewhere, which is surprisingly refreshing. And people tend to be less defensive overall. Just think about the shitstorm any of our comments would have caused on youtube :)

  9. Drake Sigar says:

    I’m interested in knowing more about the player character and whether dialogue or areas unique to races will be expanded upon. The thing that enthralled my about Origins was that for the first time I could play a dwarf, by which I mean the game made you feel like one and immersed you in the culture. It made the PC less interchangable and a little more special to me.

  10. gganate says:

    Has anyone tried to roll in real life with a sword? Doesn’t sound like a good idea.

    • VCepesh says:

      It’s fine, actually. You can cartwheel with it. Not practical though, nor fast – unlike simply diving out of the way. Or sidestepping, while keeping your guard up, if you are in an actual melee.
      Not a single game ever did melee fighting realistically or plausibly, and I can’t even be assed to complain anymore.

    • Premium User Badge

      RedViv says:

      Cartwheeling/jackdiving is more appropriate, but if you’re only in lightest armour with fitting shorter and lighter weapons – sure.

      • Slazer says:

        Enven Witcher abandons rolling and replaces it with pirouettes

  11. Staf says:

    Still to this day play DA:O – in fact it is the main reason my PS3 isn’t in the attic. Pre-ordered DA2 and played only about three hours before i returned it to Gamestop. The main two reasons i did that was the combat and conversation system. None of those issues seems to have been addressed to convince me to buy this game. The combat looks as “actiony” as DA2, if not more, and the conversation system still does not tell you what your character is going to say prior to choosing the option which is too immersion breaking for me to roleplay with.

    I’m quite sure they will find a huge audience with this game – it’s just a shame i don’t happen to be apart of it.

    • Premium User Badge

      ffordesoon says:

      Actually, they do tell you what your character’s going to say in this one. It’s full sentences, not summaries.

      • Staf says:

        Not according to the footage they’ve shown. The “hovering” thingy they revealed will more or less show the outcome of the paraphrased dialogue. That, in my opinion, is an even worse feature than paraphrasing the dialogue options.

  12. Keyrock says:

    This all sounds good. I really want it to be good. It’s just that BioWare has done a good bit of promising great things in the past. They haven’t always delivered. Here’s hoping they deliver this time.

    As far as the combat goes, they need to go one way or the other and not try to straddle the fence like in DA2. They need to go full on tactical or they need to go the full Shepard. If they try to do a bit of both again, we’ll wind up with some crappy MMO-esque combat like in DA2 again.

  13. Premium User Badge

    Lambchops says:

    I was with him about choices until he said

    “One of our great dilemmas is, do I go and rescue Kaidan or do I go and rescue Ashley, before the nuke goes off? In that case, you know exactly what’s going to happen. The nuke is going to go off and somebody is probably going to die. The game makes it very clear. And there is no right answer. Somebody is making it out and somebody isn’t going to appear in game three.

    That’s a great dilemma, to me, because you have to ask yourself [to make a tough call]. There is no right way to do this. There’s just a choice to make. Those kinds of things can be very compelling, because they pull you in.”

    If that’s his benchmark for a great dilemma I’m a bit worried. It was a trite, cliched choice the sort of which has been done to death by countless games before and since and is entirely uninteresting. Well, there can be a slight bit of an emotional hit at the time if you’re invested enough in the characters, but for the most part it’s dull. Give me choices with unforeseen consequences. Give me something to wrestle with that has a bit more of moral quandary about it that “save X or Y” (Mass Effect itself did this later with the Genophage plotline, if he’d held this up as his example of a good choice I’d have been more enthusiastic).

    The Kaiden or Ashley thing was terrible, my thought process went (and one of my friends was the same) “well Ashley’s a little bit racist, I’ll save Kaiden then, even if he is a bit of a boring bastard.” If that’s the grand example of choice that we see then I’ll be hoping the combat and the plot hold up a bit more, because frankly even Dragon Age 2 did something a bit more interesting than that sort of tired shit.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      Interesting, in my opinion the Kaiden/Ashley dilemma IS the best example of choice presented by Bioware but they have never repeated it. Usually their choice events have an optimal solution which tends to be signposted in ten foot high neon signs. Provided you felt any emotional attachment to the characters and you have avoided spoilers (which I had) then the moment of choice was genuinely gut wrenching.

      Further, I can’t say I agree that it has been “done to death” in that I cannot think of another game in the past decade that has done the same.

      Whilst I agree that the choice was a bit binary – it did have an impact and it was not a choice you could game in any way. Given how rarely bad things happen in games I also half didn’t think it would really happen so it got me a bit there.

      My main complaint with Bioware and Mass Effect in particular is that after such a strong no win choice, the following game was a joke – suicide mission my arse – although ME3 did a better job.

      Was it contrived? Yes. Was it terrible? No. It was an effective choice in my opinion that showed pretty strong guts in design decision at a time when causing the player to experience any kind of loss is severely frowned upon by whoeverthehelldecideswhatplayersreallywant.

      • Slazer says:

        In the Witcher 2 tons of people die depending on your choices, especially in the last chapter when you risk missing your vengeance or important information about your past if you save you girl. Even Saints Row 3 pulled that off when you had the choice between stopping the baddie or saving your friend from getting blown up (though it doesnt get a very dramatic touch in that insane comedy workld).

        And I think it both works better than “1 dies, 1 lives, who do you like more?” If you look at it, there are no unforseeable consequences, the way the game communicates the choice to you it is clear what is going to happen

        • PopeRatzo says:

          The best kind of in-game moral choice is the kind where your best friend dies because you chose to visit the merchant and sell your junk instead of watching his back out front.

          Or you die because you were arranging your inventory to make room for that new battleaxe while the dragon eats your head off.

          Better yet, the world ends because you chose to save and quit and go to work instead of playing on.

          Everything else is just dishonest manipulation.

          • HadToLogin says:

            Heh, reminds me of Human Revolution, where hostages die if you don’t rush to helicopter straight away :P

        • SanguineAngel says:

          The witcher is probably the best and shining example of freedom of choice in role playing games and in my opinion outstrips bioware in pretty much every area. But I would not describe that 1 game as “done to death”, especially considering the relative release dates of the games. Still many of the choices come down to save someone or not, rather than a Sophie’s Choice which I really can’t recall happening very often in gaming at all – at least not with any central characters. The Kaiden/Ashley choice worked for me because I was emotionally connected to both characters and I HAD to make that choice. There was no get of jail free card – I could not bypass this and let everyone live.

          Now let me be clear – I do not think the bioware have ever done a particularly good job in the choice n consequence department. And I can recognise how mechanically the Kaiden/Ashley choice is pretty null and void. But from my point of view, it was a pretty good role play choice in a story sense (rather than mechanical sense) and was a moment that elevated the game for me. These things sure are subjective eh?

          • Sheng-ji says:

            I think you are right, I think playing a bioware RPG is charming in a funny sort of way, it’s like playing D&D with a really inexperienced DM and the optimism of their campaign shines through the flaws!

    • tnzk says:

      The problem with all Bioware choices is that they’re absolutely binary. It doesn’t matter if it’s flavored as good/evil, good/selfish, or grey/gray, binary choices feel contrived.

      Choosing between Kaiden/Ashley did not even feel like a personal choice. Why must one live and one must die? Why can’t you present me with an opportunity to save both? Why can’t you present me with an opportunity to save neither (or be incapable of saving either)? THAT is the key to rewarding players with choice.

      I hated so much this generation which belittled ‘choice’ to a preprogrammed mechanic. Worst of all, it was so-called RPGs that bankrolled the pathetic concept. Choice isn’t a mechanic, it’s a deeply embedded feature, and it should spring naturally from the game if you’ve designed it well enough.

      • PopeRatzo says:

        The problem with all Bioware choices is that they’re absolutely binary.

        True. What if they gave you a choice of which of your 4 friends would have an arm bitten off and which one would contract a wasting disease?

      • Horg says:

        I blame the recent obsession with full voice acting for that. If you start giving players multiple choice options for every encounter then the amount of dialogue they have to record for every potential outcome increases exponentially, and so does the games budget. Personally I don’t think the trade off is worth it. I’d rather have more options than every line spoken.

        • Volcanu says:

          THIS.

        • Arglebargle says:

          Absolutely, the expense and inflexibility of the vaunted Hollywood style voice acting craze has lead to a much shallower experiance in that realm. Changes that before would have required a minute or two with a text editor, suddenly become an expensive recording session that requires scheduling and extensive integration.

          While it offers gains in one direction, it causes some serious repercussions in others. I’d prefer something that has voice acting on character introduction, but mostly text afterwords. It fixes the character’s persona, but allows flexibility later.

        • Ender7 says:

          Agreed, I hate VO, or specifically what VO takes OUT of the game. When we can get machines to synthasize voices, perhaps we can create as much dialog as we want. Until then, I prefer no VO just so I can have actual choices outside of A and B.

        • Enkinan says:

          Yup, you nailed it.

      • SanguineAngel says:

        Whilst I agree that the binary choices Bioware constantly abuse are painful I do think that the option to save everyone is a bigger crime. Bioware actually DID do that in ME2, where you can easily have the perfect run. I think when that option exists it removes the gravity from any of your choices.

        • Premium User Badge

          Lambchops says:

          Concur 100%. I gamed ME2, purely because I was enjoying myself and wanted to see everything I could and in that way I ended up robbing myself of a hard hitting ending and instead got the world’s most anticlimactic suicide run, which was rather a dull affair.

          • SanguineAngel says:

            Thanks LC. I think for me that’s why the Kaiden/Ashley choice worked so well. I am very used to games letting me have my cake and eat it and I find it really dull, patronising and renders my choices a bit meh.

            Anyway, you and I differ on how we view that choice, which is good! Be a boring place if we were all the same. I liked relative to most other bioware games which I suppose is not saying a lot. I was disappointed with ME2 after that though. I was expecting further (more advanced) tough calls down the line and got none until Moridin and Thane in ME3

        • bleeters says:

          I’d sort of agree, but mostly because of how easy it was to walk away of that final mission without a scratch. The only time you were ever pressed for time in that game to the point that procrastinating would have an actual negative consequence was if you opted to not go straight for the omega relay after the abduction, and the game practically beat the player over the face with a sign that said “do everything else before you do this”.

          ME2 was a game where getting people killed was harder work than having everyone walk away. Hell, getting Shepard killed required far more meta gaming and organisation than having them survive. That, to me, doesn’t mean being able to save everyone isn’t a viable possibility. It means Bioware just botched the hell out of it in ME2.

          I personally found the Kaidan or Ashley choice massively contrived, but that’s a different topic.

      • Premium User Badge

        Lambchops says:

        Yeah it’s why I really like Alpha Protocol (in spite of its flaws). There’s a bit where it pulls the “which one will you save malarkey” and I was all ready to sigh and go “oh this shit again, for fuck’s sake Obsidian you were doing quite well up to this point” but then I got an option thanks to my background as a tech specialist to save both people by doing some fancy splicing of video feeds or some such and I actually went, “fair play Obsidian, keep it up, eh.”

        I still feel that (aside from Witcher 2′s ballsy move of a mega branch which is nigh on unheard of in recent games – probably more do to costs than anything else) Alpha Protocol was one of the best examples of choice as a mechanic, it held up the illusion well and while it all falls apart on a second playthrough (though is still kind of interesting just to see the nuts and bolts of it all and how nicely it’s constructed) it worked great first time around. Telltale did a decent job of The Walking Dead too, but that was more down to strong characterisation and reasonable plotting rather than the “choices” which were made.

      • kament says:

        Spoken like a true gamer. For some inexplicable reason many gamers actually believe they know how to make games. It’s easy, gamer says. I play them! I know what I want. Like a jaded child, he continues to imagine nonexistent things which of course are so much better than what he has to have in these games.

        Why don’t they make EVERYTHING I want? Because they’re lazy, and noncreative, and stupid, and vile, and want me to suffer through their poor excuse of a game with its terrible VO and binary choices.

        Sometimes I’m actually ashamed to be a part of this extremely self-entitled demographic.

      • Premium User Badge

        Big Murray says:

        And it’s thinking like that which has spoiled RPGs these days. Because RPG gamers have turned into, let’s be honest, spoiled people who are used to being able to do absolutely anything they want with the characters in the game. Save who they want, kill who they want, romance who they want … people believe that the choice to do anything is the pinnacle of RPG development.

        RPGs shouldn’t be a power trip. When you’re playing a role, unless you are actually playing the role of a god, then there should be things which you can’t stop from happening, or which you can’t make happen. You shouldn’t have the option to save everyone no matter how much you want. Not every character should be able to be coaxed into bed with you. Otherwise whatever character you play is simply going to be the Jesus of whatever game world you’re in.

      • Molay says:

        The problem with all Bioware choices is that they’re absolutely binary.

        This is absolutely not true.
        There is Red, Blue and Green!
        Now if this isn’t freedom of choice, what is? :)

    • Premium User Badge

      ffordesoon says:

      That I cannot possibly fathom why anyone would want to save Kaidan should indicate that it is, at least, a vaguely interesting choice.

  14. HadToLogin says:

    I wonder if then finally learned how to make right choices. In Mass Effect or DA choices are either GOOD or BAD – good gives you more content, bad (not always evil) block you from accessing parts of game without giving anything in return.
    Like telling companions you don’t want them – all you do is lose access to their skills and personal quests, but you don’t get anything in return.

    • HamsterExAstris says:

      Since when does Bioware lock away parts of the story based on choices? In Mass Effect 3, even when you’d made choices that should have locked off content (rachni queen, for example) they hamfistedly let you experience it anyways.

      • HadToLogin says:

        It mostly happens in Dragon Age series – you don’t let Sten or Zevran into your team, or you let Qunari take Isabela with them, you won’t get their personal quests later.
        Not much, I know, it’s not a big part of a game (not Act 2 from Witcher), but still, what choice is this when you’re rewarded for one choice and punished for another.

        • HamsterExAstris says:

          Ah. Whereas letting party members go/die just isn’t something that would have ever occurred to me, which is why I didn’t run into those lockouts. :)

      • Mana_Garmr says:

        Origins did it a little bit with Redcliffe.

        If you chose the “I don’t care about this crappy village” option and wandered off elsewhere then the town got overrun and, while the keep quest proceeded much the same, none of the quests you could normally pick up in the village later were available.

  15. huldu says:

    Is the game open world it’s a simple yes and no question. Any word jerking taking place means it’s not, simple as that. However it doesn’t matter tho as long the gameplay is there.

  16. seruko says:

    I hope rps is getting paid for all this da3 advertising.
    Da2 and me3 never forget.

    • Megakoresh says:

      Hey, DA2 wasn’t that bad if you could bear the copy-paste.

    • Dariune says:

      I am not convinced that RPS are getting paid for it.

      I do however imagine that their hits goes up every time they mention a mainstream game and anything by Bioware (Thanks to their dishonest and over budgeted marketing team) are very mainstream.

      • Jim Rossignol says:

        “I am not convinced that RPS are getting paid for it.”

        Nor am I.

        • Premium User Badge

          Lambchops says:

          But what do you know, eh?

          Now Jom Rissignol, I’d listen to him for sure.

        • Arglebargle says:

          As bad as the new Dragon Age is likely to be, you should be paid for this. Yes, you really should…..

      • kament says:

        From what I can tell, their hits go up thanks to the biohaters.

        I just don’t get it. You don’t like something. It’s fine. But why do you keep coming back to it over and over again? Why don’t you get over it and move on? Ugh.

  17. S Jay says:

    The most relevant question: Origins exclusive?

  18. Megakoresh says:

    I just hope they do the Action Combat right. Maker, I hope they do. The kind of slow-ass combat Origins had is easy to do since most of it’s elements are inherited by Action Combat anyway, save for control method and camera position.

    I really just want to be able to Get into isometric view, pause, give orders, get into action view, unpause and hack-n-slash at them myself without autoattack, with combos, with smooth action controls, with support of my party that i have given orders to, then repeat until battle is done. By the looks of it that is what they are doing and if they do it well, then it might just be the best party system combat ever created, because it’s taking the best of both worlds essentially.

  19. noodlecake says:

    Well I am excited. I was excited about DA:O coming out and it was fun, despite it’d dated and grindy combat system. I was excited about DA2 and it was fun, despite recycling maps. It had a lot less choice and scale than DA:O, but then the story was much more original, and the combat was less slow and dreary and dated.

    So yeah. I enjoyed both previous games for different reasons. Looking forward to this. Just hoping they manage to make the combat feel even more significantly different from the traditional and over used style of the first game.

  20. The_Great_Skratsby says:

    Grief the EA/Bioware hype train is strong on this one, dread to see how it’ll smother the gaming media next year.

    Either way I enjoyed DA:O and DA2 was an absolute disaster as an RPG and exercise in storytelling. After that and the third Mass Effect I think I’m done with giving them the benefit of the doubt, same goes for gushing critiques like that now atrocious PC Gamer DA2 review.

  21. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    RPS: You put a lot of emphasis on the scope of choices, as well. The ability to “change the world” and whatnot.

    Laidlaw: Yeah. The physicality of the changes is something I’m pretty jazzed about. I think it’s neat to… It’s something we’ve never tackled before, and I think it’s very cool. It’s something the engine actually opened up as an opportunity for us.

    Sounds about right to me.

  22. Ender7 says:

    Not interested, the mos important part of RPG’s for me is the immersion, multiple choices in dialog and actions, exploring the world..etc. This looks like some hack and slash wow/skyrim wannabe, with a little bit of movie style dialog with stupid three choices. DA2 2.0.

    Oh, and we have laidlaw who hates old school RPG’s and Gaiden who accused anybody of not liking DA2 as homophobes, making DA3. So the odds this will suck is pretty good. Not to mention, origin exclusive, ton of DLC that was cut…etc. Will pass.

    I miss PRE EA owned bioware. RIP bioware.

  23. Premium User Badge

    Big Murray says:

    Frankly … this game looks like it might rock.

    Which will really, really annoy a lot of people.

    • kament says:

      Sadly, you may be right. But I hope if they pull that off it will pleasantly surprise this lot and calm their anger. Constant hate threads in pretty much any discussion involving Bioware are getting tiresome.

      • NotQuiteDeadYet says:

        I don’t know man. Folks around here already seem to be pretty convinced that the game will suck. Remember when Mass Effect 3 unexpectedly got a positive review from this site, and everyone started throwing around corruption accusations?

        • kament says:

          Well, yeah. Maybe they’re convinced to a point when it doesn’t matter if the actual game is good. Still, one can hope, right?

      • CraftyBanana says:

        You know, I always tell myself that I’m going to stop reading the comments threads on any article mentioning Bioware. Having enjoyed pretty much all of their games, and perhaps DA2 and ME3 most of all, I find the amount of pure rage people seem to feel about them baffling. But I just can’t stop reading. It’s like picking at a scab: I know it’s going to be painful and messy, but I can’t help myself.

        • kament says:

          I hear you. I can’t stop reading those either. Guess haters are not the only ones who can’t let it go.

  24. iridescence says:

    Gotta say he said all the right things here to pique my interest and I’ve gone from not caring at all about DA3 to thinking it just may be a good game and the worthy sequel that Origins deserves.

    Of course, remembering that these people presumably also thought DA2 was a good game when they released it keeps some of my cynicism in tact, but we’ll see…

    If the combat is like The Witcher/Dark Souls but with a pause button and a party that will be very cool indeed.

  25. Gel214th says:

    Looking forward to this on the PC, or hoping they include an option to turn off that no-regenerating health thing. That does not sound like something I would find enjoyable at all. I’m hoping on the PC that there is some option for a trainer or code to regenerate your health…ye gods. Can you imagine having to micromanage healing potions across your entire party all the time??

    So it’s tactical management, inventory management, resource management, health management…I might as well be in work!

    Really hoping they give players a CHOICE.