Dragon Age: Inquisition sees the return of the tactical view from Dragon Age: Origins, BioWare has announced.
The developer has also announced the RPG's fourth playable race: the Qunari.
In Inquisition the tactical view, available on all platforms, works as it did in Origins. You're able to pause combat and zoom out to a top-down perspective, issuing party members movement, ability and attack orders. The tactical view, which was ditched for the heavily-criticised Dragon Age 2, lets players micro-manage combat, enhancing the strategic element of encounters.
Eurogamer saw this in action during a recent preview event in London, where BioWare developers demoed a pre-alpha version of the game running on a high-end PC. You can see snippets of gameplay in the video below.
The encounter saw The Inquisitor (the player character), in this case a human warrior wielding a two-handed sword, and dwarf rogue Varric Tethras (ranged damage with signature crossbow Bianca), human warrior Cassandra Pentaghast with sword and shield, and human mage Vivienne, take down a number of enemies who are occupying an abandoned Grey Warden outpost in the Western Approach area of Orlais.
Inquisition's normal view is a Mass Effect style third-person perspective, which allows for action game-esque combat. We saw The Inquisitor use powerful sword strikes to deal damage and a chain attack to drag foes towards him. As in previous games in the series, you're able to switch to control a party member at any time.
Also added to the mix is limited environmental destruction. The example shown was inside one of the game's many keeps, where enemies were positioned behind cover on top of a bridge. BioWare paused the combat before issuing The Inquisitor an attack order, sending him charging towards the bridge's foundations. During combat The Inquisitor brought down the bridge, killing the hard to reach enemies.
"We always wanted to do it," producer Cameron Lee told Eurogamer of the decision to include tactical mode, "since we had the right amount of time to do it. Having the console generation change and the new technology with Frostbite 3 meant pretty much everything was created from the ground up. Every piece of code, everything was brand new. So you have the opportunity at that point to look at what you want to accomplish, look at feedback and try and find a common ground in a way that strengthens both of those things.
"You take what the players wanted, which could have just been, well, just give me Origins, right? And we could have just done that, but we wanted players to feel like they were controlling the battlefield and battle space through things like some of the destruction, smarter AI, which we've been able to write, and some abilities the characters have for barriers and area of denial and traps.
"So it was a good merge of where we wanted to go and what the players wanted. And I think it's stronger. It's a really interesting creative process within the team to get the feedback from the fans, and that inspires. It gets people thinking. You end up somewhere you may not have realised you wanted to go and it ends up stronger."
The PC version of Inquisition will have a custom user interface and control scheme for mouse and keyboard, but BioWare doesn't expect you'll be able to pull the camera back farther than you're able to on console during tactical mode.
"Having the console generation change and the new technology with Frostbite 3 meant pretty much everything was created from the ground up."
Dragon Age: Inquisition producer Cameron Lee
Meanwhile, BioWare confirmed Inquisition's fourth playable race, the Qunari, who join the humans, elves and dwarfs, each with male and female variants. Lee remained coy when asked if the game will feature more playable races, saying: "We'll see."
In Inquisition you play The Inquisitor, leader of an organisation charged with battling demons who are invading Thedas from within the Veil.
"The Qunari are obviously very different from humans in terms of religion and belief systems, as are elves, when you think about the persecution of the elves in the Dragon Age universe," Lee said. "Dwarfs are the same.
"So when you put a Qunari in charge of the Inquisition, which stands alone as a force that can actually have an impact and tip the scales, that's a really interesting scenario. The writers are really busy right now putting that in place, so when you play as a Qunari or as an elf, it is a different experience and there are different elements to the story that take shape based on these fundamental decisions you make about what race you want to be.
"It's not just a flavour. It's how people react to you. It's what opportunities you have in some discussions that take place that occur only because you're an elf or a Qunari. It's really interesting and complex about how it all fits together.
"But I will say for anyone who's worried, there is a rationale and good reason why a Qunari could be an Inquisitor. The writers have got a handle on it!"
Dragon Age: Inquisition is due out in the autumn of 2014 on PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.