As some of you know, I’m a huge Dragon Age fan, and I am (impatiently) awaiting the third installment in the series. Hearing all the details of the upcoming Dragon Age: Inquisition from yesterday’s PAX panel has made me way more excited than I already was. Now I know that the third game will have things like:
— An all-out war between Templars and mages.
— The ability to play as a Qunari.
— Vast landscapes to explore without as many loading screens.
— Keeps that you can occupy and designate as specialized strongholds.
— Enemies that don’t auto-level with you.
— Dragons. Potentially lots of dragons.
(Polygon has a great summary of all the goodies here if, like me, you couldn’t make it to PAX!)
But there was another announcement at the panel I wasn’t expecting, and it’s made me even more ridiculously excited for Inquisition: the return of Origins’ tactical combat view.
The first time I played Dragon Age: Origins, I played on Xbox 360, and with it being one of my first video games, I played on the Casual difficulty setting. This allowed me to whip through enemies in real time, dual wielding daggers and having a lovely time of it.
Then I played again as a mage, and I found myself wanting to take my time to plan my attacks. Some of the mage’s abilities require you to target an area to rain something like fireballs down on your enemies — so you need a second or two to plan and position. When I played on PC and used the overhead tactical camera, all of this made a lot more sense. I could easily hit the spacebar to pause the battle, see the battlefield from above, and click on the exact area I wanted to target with my Fire Blast or Tempest spells. I became a devastating crowd controller.
Another thing I’ve always admired about Dragon Age: Origins is that the greater the difficulty, the more tactical the game becomes. On Casual, you can breeze through in real time playing as just your protagonist. But if you play on Hard or Nightmare, it’s natural to want to pause combat and set up tactics more carefully to avoid getting your ass handed to you by a bunch of genlocks.
Plus, Dragon Age: Origins lets you jump from one character’s skin to another. You’re able to take up to three companions with you as you travel and go into battle, and at any time, you can switch to their perspectives and access all of their abilities that way. This allows you to go into battle as your mabari warhound, howl to stun enemies, and then switch to your mage to inflict frost damage before running in with your warrior to shatter one of your new icicles. It’s a lot of fun, and on the higher difficulties, it becomes necessary to at least set up your companions’ tactics, whether or not you choose to actually step into their shoes. The tactical combat camera makes this much easier, because you can easily select companions and issue commands while viewing the field from above.
Dragon Age 2 carries over a lot of the Origins fun when it comes to the combat. The main thing is that you can still bring companions with you and play as them if you wish. It also improves real time combat by making everything smoother. Combat is fluid and absolutely gorgeous. While Origins’ real time combat feels a little stiff and unresponsive at times — especially playing as an archer, I’ve found — Dragon Age 2 rewards you with instant action as soon as you press a button or click your mouse.
That’s all well and good. But all the fun of tactical combat — not to mention the overhead tactical camera — is gone in Dragon Age 2. I missed it.
At yesterday’s PAX panel, BioWare announced it’s bringing the tactical combat view back in Dragon Age: Inquisition. Although I’m not at PAX and wasn’t able to see the demonstration there, it sounds like the view allows you to easily zoom and pan to see the action from whatever perspective you prefer. You can still play over-the-shoulder for some fast-paced action, but anytime you want to pause the combat and get a bird’s eye view of the battlefield, it’s possible. Interestingly, the combat will also be slowed down a bit from Dragon Age 2’s flashy, in-your-face action, while still being faster and more responsive than the combat in Origins.
I haven’t decided what my console of choice will be for playing Dragon Age: Inquisition, but that doesn’t really matter, because the tactical view is coming to all consoles! I can’t wait to play Origins-style, taking my time to set up tactics and jumping into my companions’ shoes to vanquish enemies with combo attacks. I’m so ready to take on those dragons…