Dragon Age: The Veilguard starts its prologue with a bang

Before throwing players into an expansive world, BioWare wants to establish that it's one worth saving.

Electronic Arts

Dragon Age fans have been waiting for the story's next chapter for almost a decade. The world is on the brink of extreme peril. Those who played Dragon Age: Inquisition likely already know this. However, for those who may need a refresher or for those who may be jumping into the series' storyline for the first time, Electronic Arts and BioWare want to waste no time in cementing that things are looking grim. Shacknews was witness to this when we got to take a first look at the first hour of Dragon Age: The Veilguard.

Dragon Age: The Veilguard follows the story of Rook. That's about as much as everyone's version of this character will have in common: It's a character named Rook. Everything about Rook, from their look to their backstory, will be up to the player. BioWare has instituted a detailed character creation system, allowing users to craft a character with Elf, Qunari, Dwarf, or Human lineages. Players can select from dozens of options for Rook's various features. This includes body shape and body proportions, which BioWare is touting as a series first.

Fighting as a Mage in Dragon Age: The Veilguard

Source: Electronic Arts

After settling on Rook's look, players can select their class (Warrior, Rogue, or Mage), each of which will have various specializations. For example, players can go through the game as a Rogue who's either a Duelist, Saboteur, or Veil Ranger with attributes that fit that class and specialization combination accordingly. For narrative purposes, Rook can hail from nearly a dozen different factions. Each of the factions will determine a major aspect of Rook's backstory and also determine how other characters see them, leading to The Veilguard's story playing out in a multitude of ways.

As noted, the situation is a grim one. Following the events of Dragon Age Inquisition, elven mage and the Dread Wolf Solas is on the verge of shattering the Veil that divides the world from the Fade. Needless to say, this would have disastrous consequences. This leads to the game's opening, where Rook's party has tracked Solas to Minrathous. Accompanied by Varric and Harding (the latter now promoted to companion status), Rook clears out a bar in a scene reminiscent of the recent cinematic trailer. The goal is to find a lead on Neve Gallus, the mage detective. Neve is a popular character from the Dragon Age comics with The Veilguard marking her official video game debut. As an expert on magic, Rook's party believes she can help them find Solas.

After finding and rescuing Neve (sort of... she makes it clear quickly that she was never in any real danger) from a group of blood cultists, the skies around Minrathous begin to deteriorate. Tears are opening in the Fade and demons have begun raining down on the surrounding lands, a result of Solas starting his dangerous ritual.

Ability Wheel combat in Dragon Age: The Veilguard

Source: Electronic Arts

One thing to note is that the increasingly stylized art style for The Veilguard has allowed BioWare to craft more detailed biomes and vistas. Minrathous, including the nearby Dumat Plaza, is illustrated as an advanced mage civilization, using magic to create a technologically advanced village. Rook's party is later transported to the Arlethan Forest with landscapes that include a thriving forest. The nearby caverns are run down and dilapidated but are illuminated by the game's natural lighting effects. Every corner of the game's world feels alive, which is part of one of BioWare's key goals. The world is on the edge of catastrophe, so the team wants to construct one that leaves a lasting impression and makes players feel it's worth saving.

Combat-wise, only a vertical slice was shown off, giving only a brief glimpse of the game's action-RPG mechanics. As Rook levels up, players will have more access to different abilities, which can be accessed through the new ability wheel. Opening the ability wheel will bring gameplay to a halt in order to allow players to chart their next course of action. Using Rook's abilities is just one part of the formula. Each companion can have up to three abilities and their synergies with Rook will vary.

This being a Dragon Age game, dialogue choices and consequential decision-making will be a major aspect of The Veilguard. Key moments, such as the initial fight in the bar, will have the player select between two courses of action. For The Veilguard, the game will spell out what each selection leads to, which can help players avoid (or start) fights with agitated NPCs. Various dialogue choices will affect your relationships with your companions, but there's only so much that can be shown off in such a brief glimpse. It'll take some more time to see if these systems match up to The Veilguard's predecessors.

BioWare is promising a rich story, not just for Rook, but for Rook's many potential companions. Companions will all have their own distinct storylines, which run parallel with the main story. They'll frequently share their counsel in big moments and some will have differing opinions when it comes time for the player to make a big choice.

This is just a small taste of what's to come in Dragon Age: The Veilguard. Storywise, it looks fascinating and it looks like the beginning of a rich and engaging tale. Of course, BioWare games are not short romps, and there are a multitude of systems at work, so there's only so much that one can glean from such a short peek. We'll be on the lookout for further information on BioWare's latest blockbuster. It's set to release on PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X|S this fall.

This preview is based on an early demo played live for the press during Summer Game Fest: Play Days 2024. The final product is subject to change.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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