Dragon Age: Inquisition Used To Be A Way Different Game

Dragon Age: Inquisition Used To Be A Way Different Game

Just a year before it came out, Dragon Age: Inquisition looked very different. And I’m not just talking about trivial things — UI changes, line tweaks — what we saw in 2013 was almost an entirely different game than what we saw last year.

At PAX Prime in early September of 2013, BioWare showed off a 30-minute demo of the newest Dragon Age game. It was our first time really seeing it in action, and what we witnessed was spectacular: a big, beautiful RPG that tasked you with making important, tactical combat decisions like burning boats to prevent your enemies from escaping or smashing down a rickety bridge to take out the enemies standing on top of it.

What we actually got was something else entirely — Dragon Age: Inquisition did turn out to be a great RPG, but much of what we saw during that first preview session never actually made it into the game.

This isn’t that unusual. Game development is a messy process. Things change. But still, I thought it’d be interesting to go back through that old demo and dissect just how much they had to change — and cut — between September 2013 and November 2014.

Unfortunately, BioWare never released an official version of their presentation, so all we have is an off-camera recording, via YouTuber ShepardN7, separated into three main parts.

Here’s part one of the video, which takes us through the region of Crestwood (demo starts at 2:00):

If you’ve played Dragon Age: Inquisition, you’ll probably immediately notice that this doesn’t look like Crestwood at all. In this video we see a vivid, thriving area filled with soldiers and castles; the Crestwood we got in Inquisition was gloomy, rainy, and infested with demons — at least until we completed a certain sidequest. But even after that, it didn’t look much like the Crestwood in the video..

Aesthetics aren’t the only major change here. In the PAX demo, the player got to make some big choices involving his army’s movements, choosing whether to send the Inquisition to save Crestwood, have them stay with injured soldiers, or return everyone to a nearby keep. (Keeps were emphasised heavily in this incarnation of Dragon Age: Inquisition, as we’ll see in a bit.)

Dragon Age: Inquisition Used To Be A Way Different Game

The PAX demo also showed a timer bar called “Inquisition Keep Strength” — a visual representation of enemy forces attacking one of your keeps, which presumably would have a big influence on how quickly you had to complete missions and what decisions you could make. None of this is in the final game.

Dragon Age: Inquisition Used To Be A Way Different Game

There’s more. “Sometimes we wanna test whether or not you come prepared,” says Dragon Age executive producer Mark Darrah in the demo presentation. He then shows off a section where the player must set some boats on fire to prevent enemy armies from escaping.

Dragon Age: Inquisition Used To Be A Way Different Game

Of course, none of this happens in the actual game. Antivian Fire is real, but it’s a combat grenade — you never use it to burn down boats. There’s very little environmental interaction to the extent that was shown here.

Dragon Age: Inquisition Used To Be A Way Different Game

Wouldn’t this have been cool?

Dragon Age: Inquisition Used To Be A Way Different Game

Part two of the demo, which starts with a boss battle and then takes you through more activities in Crestwood, also shows a whole bunch of stuff that just never appeared in the real game:

Dragon Age: Inquisition Used To Be A Way Different Game

There are a lot of locations here that were either scrapped or used for different sections of the game, including a cut-scene that transitions into the aftermath of that decision the player made earlier in the demo. (He chose not to save Crestwood.)

Dragon Age: Inquisition Used To Be A Way Different Game
Dragon Age: Inquisition Used To Be A Way Different Game

One quick shot of the demo’s save files reveal a couple of locations that also never actually made it into the main game — Nahashin Marshes and The Southern Desolation. (Frostback Pass isn’t a thing either, but the main keep area of Haven is set in the Frostback Mountains, so those could be one and the same.)

Dragon Age: Inquisition Used To Be A Way Different Game

Maybe that will be DLC one day?

Part three of the demo video is set in the Western Approach:

This entire segment — perhaps one of the coolest parts of the demo and a major selling point for Dragon Age: Inquisition — is maybe the most jarring to watch today. In this section, Mark Darrah walks us through the invasion and capture of a keep in the Western Approach — which is a lot different than the keep capturing we saw in the final game.

As the demo player approaches the keep, Darrah notes that you can weaken enemy defenses by doing things like drawing out their troops or poisoning their wells. None of this actually shipped with the final version of the game, although in the Dragon Age we played, once you claim the keep you can get a quest called This Water Tastes Funny, in which your keep’s well has been poisoned and you have to go find fresh water. Now we know who to blame for that.

Dragon Age: Inquisition Used To Be A Way Different Game

During PAX, BioWare put an emphasis on environmental destruction: There’s a section during combat where the player can spot archers on a rickety bridge, then take them out by smashing a ladder and knocking them all down.

Dragon Age: Inquisition Used To Be A Way Different Game

But, no, we didn’t get any of that in the final game. [UPDATE (5:44pm): Some readers point out that you actually can still smash the rickety bridge in that keep, which is a fun little easter egg. It’s clear that environmental interaction in the final game isn’t even close to what they originally imagined, though.]

Of course, games change in development all the time. It’s fascinating to look at what Dragon Age: Inquisition once was, what the game BioWare debuted to the public could’ve been. We may never get to play some of this stuff… or we may eventually see it turn up in DLC. Either way, it’s a small glimpse into the development of the game, and a reminder that what you see in a preview is often not what you get in the finished product.


  • Welcome to the artistic process, people are always at molyneux for his ‘lieing’, truth be told when a team or yourself develops a creative idea professionaly, you have your simple mundane ideas and your outrageous, out of reach ideas and the reality lines up somewhere in the middle like the centre of a curve.

    Also, as an artist, be prepared to cut the things you love the most.

    • Or rather, cut the things that will take too long to develop and put you over the deadline the producer gave you with no regard for how the final product comes out.

  • Has there been any word on the PC patch that fixes the UI\Controls. Maybe u jorno’s could ask some questions about that is it still in the works? Played the game for around 2hrs not long after release but got frustrated with the shitty UI and control scheme (seriously that tactical camera was a massive pita to use).

    • Yeah, they did an article not long ago about it.

      It didn’t seem optimistic about there actually being many changes to UI/controls.
      I’m guessing not much has changed in the last couple weeks.

      Pertinent quote here:
      As for the improved controls, UI, and other elements fans have repeatedly asked for, BioWare was worrisomely hesitant to go into specifics. I asked if a better UI, an overhauled tactical view, click-to-move functionality, and better auto-attack were in the works, and all the developer offered was, “We’re continuing to work on further improvements to the PC experience for our players.” Huh. They also wouldn’t detail how long they plan to keep plugging away at the PC version of Dragon Age: Inquisition, instead merely saying that they’re “always listening to fans and are committed to giving them a great experience with our games.” If nothing else, on their forums BioWare said better mouse-and-keyboard controls and other “key” issues are “still a priority” for them. Patch three got developed over the holidays, they added, so it was tough to make any big additions or changes. That, at least, is encouraging, even if people are getting justifiably impatient after months of waiting.

      • No change and no comment from anyone at Bioware about what (if anything) they are doing about it. At this point, I think they are so swamped with GotY awards that they just don’t give a damn. From here on, it appears to be falling to the modders (who are making real progress) and Cheat Engine to make any useful changes to the PC experience.

  • I really loved the Crestwood from the core game. Such a good atmosphere and sense of place. Prefer it over what’s presented here.

  • Things cut would have made the game awesome and possibly stand up to witcher 3, BUT likely removed because there would be an additional 12 months or so of work, and clearly the people at the top just wanted their money sooner, since they knew the game would sell well regardless of how much more coolness they put in.

    Just one of those sad facts about business, at the end of the day its about the money rather then creative excellence that something could become.

    Good to know Witcher 3 developer is taking their time to get that extra cool stuff in and not just do a cut to save 12months of dev time/ money.

  • truth is expect this from any game company from now on. all the latest games have all had trailers showcasing the game which people will buy based on those trailers… then the game is released and its nothing like what we saw. Lies Lies Lies. I for one have had enough of theis generation of console games, if this is what its like at the start imagine how much worse its going to get. LIES LIES LIES all game devs are now are paid liars. never listen to a deve again and whats worse it people like KOTAKU are not hard enough on devs and just suck up whatever poo comes out their mouths like the hungry little pissants they are. I suggest all the people who work at kotaku and are talking to devs and games companies and everyone involved, STOP TAKING WHAT THEY SAY AS OK, QUESTION EVERYTHING, don’t stop don’t take no for a answer, push then for real answers. my god you are all to damn scared and act like little girls when talking to these people FFS GUYS GROW SOME DAMN BALLS CAN WE> its about time you lot STOP TAKING THIS RUBBISH AND PUSH THEM FOR REAL ANSWERS UNTILL THEy hang up on you, walk out the room or block your emails. FFS STOP BEING NICE TO THEM THEY RE NOT NICE TO US JUST LOOK AT THEIR PRODUCTS AND HOW THEY RUN ON PC. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH KOTAKU, your job is to report isn’t it? unless you are being paid to talk crap the ive lost all respect for any of you.

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