BioWare has dropped a substantial 20 minute gameplay demo for the highly anticipated next entry in the Dragon Age series, Dragon Age: The Veilguard. While the name change is still somewhat divisive amongst fans, the fresh gameplay seems to have alleviated some of the concerns raised in the cartoonish companion trailer released previously. The demo introduces players to the world, gameplay, and our new protagonist Rook.

The Dragon Age: The Veilguard demo starts with you traveling through the Tevinter Capital of Minrathous, long teased throughout the series. With you is series stalwart and master storyteller Varric, looking into stopping Solas’ ritual that will effectively destroy the world. You’re on the hunt for Neve Gallus, a member of one of the game’s new factions: The Shadow Dragons. Neve is 1 of 7 new companions and you can only bring 2. The party is smaller compared with the typical 3 of previous series entries. You’re also teaming up with the Inquisition’s master scout, Lace Harding. Character backgrounds will have an important roll in the story. Our level 1 rogue is also a Shadow Dragon and has unique dialogue. Your companions cannot be directly controlled, but rather given orders. This means you will not be able to swap out between them.

An Apocalyptic Stroll Through Minrathous

An image from the gameplay reveal of Dragon Age: the Veilguard, namely of the location Minrathous.

The style of Minrathous is dark and grim, which is to be expected of a city ruled by mages known to dabble in blood magic. It will certainly come as a huge sigh of relief for fans who were a little underwhelmed by the hero shooter aesthetic of the companions trailer. Here the look and feel lines up more with Dragon Age Inquisition, the same goes for the character models themselves. Could it be that BioWare has finally given us decent hair options?! It seems so. As the party moves around we see massive rifts in the Veil and demons flood down from the sky, lending a distinctly apocalyptic feel. The early sections were noticeably linear, not offering much in the way of branching paths to explore and secrets to uncover.

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The inner workings of the more RPG elements of the game seem to carry over much from Dragon Age Inquisition. First, approval is back, with our Rook getting a ‘Greatly Approves’ from Harding towards the end of the demo from what appears like the first major choice you’ll make in the game, conversely gaining disapproval with Neve. Another key system is the dialogue wheel, carried over from Dragon Age Inquisition, with a litany of reactions ranging from Stoic to Fearful. For fans of the Dragon Age 2 personality system, which saw the protagonist fit into either a diplomatic, humorous, or aggressive bracket for dialogue not directly picked by your PC, this also seems like it could be making a return, as the humorous dialogue option icon was shown off in the demo. 

A Highly Customizable Rook With Streamlined Gameplay

The gameplay itself is streamlined, even more so than in Dragon Age Inquisition. Gone is the overhead, tactical view. You’ve only 3 ability shortcuts, down from 8. The radial menu is almost taken directly from Mass Effect Andromeda. Older fans who were hoping for a more slow and tactical approach this time around might be disappointed. The gameplay feels more hack and slash based. Each character has access to a ranged option, which for the rogue is arrows. There is also a generator system, for the rogue it is called Momentum. In order to use their abilities, the rogue will need to land consecutive attacks and build up their meter.

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You can also dodge, block, and parry enemy attacks. Enemies have multiple health bars in certain instances, like with the Pride Demon boss fight at the end of the demo, necessitating certain types of attacks to wear them down. The Rook here is level 1, so does not have access to many abilities. With each class having multiple play styles, combat could start out basic and get more complex as you build your character.

The Future Of Thedas Is At Stake

Cover Art for Dragon Age: The Veilguard, featuring all the companions.

Longtime fans of the franchise might be skeptical of the direction the gameplay is going, though perhaps they will be satiated with the depth of the character creator, the addition of backgrounds, and the plethora of romance options. Newer fans will likely find the controls more accessible. Though the nature of the story is sure to be the deciding factor. The world is on the brink of annihilation, again, but the stakes feel higher here. Solas is a much bigger threat than villains from games past, and your personal connection only heightens that. Will we see major character deaths? How will previous protagonists avail themselves? How will the choices Rook makes affect their companions and the fate of Thedas itself?

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We’ll find out when Dragon Age: The Veilguard releases in Fall 2024 on PC, PS5, Xbox Series X/S.

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