A deep dive into Dragon Age: combat, abilities, skill tree and more


If you’re familiar with the Dragon Age series at all, you probably already know that BioWare has experimented quite a bit with its gameplay. From the real-time strategy RPG in Dragon Age: Origins, to the action game Dragon Age II that takes place mostly in a single city, to the combination of strategy and action in Dragon Age: Inquisition, BioWare hasn’t quite defined combat in the entire series. However, there is a observable line between Origins and Inquisition: BioWare clearly wants this series to be action, but has tried to change that without abandoning its longtime fans.

With Dragon Age: The Veilguard, BioWare completed the transition from strategy to real-time action, but with an optional tactical pause-and-play combat wheel that harkens back to the series’ origins, I think it turned out to be a great solution to the (combat) space for Dragon Age combat. Of course, it’s challenging to say how Veilguard’s action will play out in an RPG that will surely last several dozen hours, but if what I’ve seen so far is any indication, the studio is on to something.

Change of strategy

Busche says players execute each swing in real time, with particular attention to switching and canceling animations. As for canceling, I watch Busche’s “save” combos to quick dash tabs. Thanks to this mechanic, players can pause the combo state when reaching a protected location and continue the combo from where they left off. In addition to dashing, there’s parrying for certain classes, the ability to charge moves, and an improved healing system that allows players to quickly utilize potions by pressing directly on the D-pad.

Busche says each character will play the same way regardless of class, in the sense that you perform lightweight and bulky attacks with the same buttons, utilize skills with the same buttons, and interact with the combo wheel in the same way . At one point in my demo, we utilize a Qunari Warrior with a sword and shield, who fires from the hip and aims the shield to throw it like Captain America while also dealing a lot of damage with the sword. Pressing the same buttons as a mage can cast ranged magic attacks instead of a shield.

Abilities such as the Warrior’s Spartan kick or the Mage’s firewall that deals continuous damage expand the player’s repertoire of combat options. Warriors can parry incoming attacks, stunning enemies in the process. Rogues have a larger parry window, and Mages cannot parry at all, instead casting a shield that blocks all incoming damage as long as they have the mana to maintain the shield.

“It’s just a reference point that allows us to get a level of immersion like, ‘I’m actually in this world; I am part of it,’” says Busche. “But again, skill, strategy, combining the skills of my teammates to pull off devastating combos – that’s where depth and complexity really come into play.”

Abilities and skill tree

Dragon Age: The Veilguard Dreadwolf Cover story of the game The Informant

Warrior Tower skill tree

This also applies to companions who, of your choice, bring three skills (out of five total) to the fight, activated via quick selection buttons or the combat wheel in pause and play mode. Each time you raise a companion’s relationship level, you unlock a skill point that you can spend specifically on that companion – thus unlocking recent combat abilities.

While the companion skill trees pale in comparison to Rook’s wide-ranging tree, which includes passive abilities, combat abilities, and more, as well as paths to three unique class specializations, there is still some customization available here.

You can find the Rook and companion skill tree in the Veilguard’s start or pause menu. This menu contains pages for the Veilguard map, journal, character sheets, as well as a library containing story information. Here you can compare gear and equip Rook and companions with recent gear, build weapon sets, and customize your skills and builds using the above-mentioned skill tree, which looks relatively uncomplicated to understand.

You won’t find any details here, “just real numbers,” Busche says. In other words, the recent unlocked perk can boost armor damage by 25%, but that’s as deep as the numbers can get. Passive abilities unlock jump attacks and guarantee critical hit capability, while skills add moves like net firewall and spartan kicks to your arsenal. Once you have determined this skill tree that is 100% tailored to each class, you will get closer to unlocking specializations (which does not require reaching the level 50 cap). Each class has three specializations, each with a unique ultimate ability. Busche says BioWare’s skill tree philosophy is “based on changing the way you play, not statistical details.”

Comrades in battle

Speaking to his Synergy companion, Busche adds: “I see all the abilities that Harding has and I see all that Bellara is capable of. Sometimes I exploit weaknesses in a synergistic way. Maybe I freeze or tardy down time with Bellara so she can launch devastating attacks with Harding, knocking down the enemy, and then I, as Rook, jump into action and reap the benefits of the build they’ve created for me. This is a game about creating an organic sense of teamwork.

Busche says there are more pronounced synergies, with intentional combinations in which specific companions can compete against each other, and their abilities can be queued to do so. This is what the Pause and Replay combat wheel in Veilguard is for.

On this screen, which freezes the camera and displays a striking combat wheel that highlights you and your companions’ skills, you can select abilities, queue them, and strategize using game-recognized synergies and combos, all while targeting specific enemies . Select what you want and release the dial to see how your selections perform.

Putting everything together

During the Arlathan Forest mission after the Veilguard’s prologue, Busche uses the Veilguard’s dual-equip mechanic. As Rook, you can create two sets of weapons that you can quickly change during combat. As a mage, Rook uses magical attacks to add three stacks of arcane elements to create an Arcane Bomb on the Sentinel, a mechanical set of armor possessed by the demon. If you hit the Guardian’s Arcane Bomb with a bulky attack, the enemy will take devastating damage. With the Guardian equipped with Arcane Bomb, Busche begins charging at his magic staff, then switches to the magic daggers in Rook’s second set, accessible by quickly pressing the D-pad, to unleash several quick lightweight attacks. then return to the staff to finish charging the attack. He then unleashes a bulky attack, and the Arcane Bomb explodes in a liquid swirl of green magic.

Former Dragon Age executive producer and Veilguard consultant Mark Darrah believes that Veilguard is the first game where combat is actually fun. “What I see in Veilguard is a game that finally fills that gap,” he says. “Unfortunately, previous Dragon Age games have gone down to the ‘the combat wasn’t that bad’ level. The combat in this game is really fun, but it maintains a thread that has always been there. You focus on Rook, your character, but you still have control and character that you bring to the combat experience from others on your team. ”

Watching Busche play Veilguard for a few hours, I got the impression that BioWare has designed a combat system that relies heavily on players getting what they want out of it. If you’re willing to button-mash and freely utilize abilities once their cooldowns are up, you’ll likely be able to progress without issue (albeit on the game’s easier difficulties). But if you want to plan your combos, exploit elemental faint points, min-max companions, and Tower equipment, you can do that too, and I think Veilguard will make up for it with a more enriching experience.

For more information about the game, including exclusive details, interviews, videos and more, click the Dragon Age: The Veilguard hub button below.

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