Dragon Age: The Veilguard Has Me Hopeful It’s the Comeback the Series Needs

A new era dawns.

Dragon Age: The Veilguard

It’s been 10 long years since the release of Dragon Age Inquisition, a game that left things on a cliffhanger by revealing one of your most valuable party members is vengeful god that wants to destroy the world. A decade is a long time to wait, and in the course of those years we’ve seen pivotal games shape the RPGs. The Witcher 3, Bloodborne, Breath of the Wild, and Baldur’s Gate 3 have all released in those years. The landscape of games is completely different, so how do you make Dragon Age for a modern audience? What does the series look like now? After seeing a hands-off demo at Summer Game Fest, it’s abundantly clear The Veilguard isn’t the same Dragon Age we know. But that’s a necessary change. While a new art style and personality makes Veilguard feel modern, I’m already hopeful the secret sauce of Dragon Age is still there.

Our presentation of Veilguard took us through character creation, followed by the first hour of the game. Just like past games, Veilguard’s character editor is richly detailed, bringing a few new options that let players fully customize their body type and attributes. At least in this regard, the character creator shares a lot in common with the rest of the series, letting you choose a specific faction for your character that can heavily influence how their role in the story plays out.

The Veilguard features the return of both Varric and Harding. While Varric won’t be a party member, he still seems vital to the game’s story.

These backgrounds include well-known organizations like the Grey Wardens and Antivan Crows, as well as new ones that include The Veil Jumpers and Shadow Dragons, the latter of which we got to see in our demo. The Shadow Dragons are an underground resistance that engages in guerrilla warfare against the corrupt mage rulers of the Tevinter Imperium. Past your faction, you’ll need to choose a class, which again falls in line with what you’d expect. The three classes of Warrior, Rogue, and Mage return, with each having three subclasses from there. We won’t get too far into the weeds on all of that though, as we jumped straight into the action in the demo.

What’s perhaps most surprising about Veilguard, is how it builds directly on the ending of Inquisition. The whole thing is seemingly presented as another story told by the dwarf Varric Tethras, who plays a vital role. Varric has created the group called the Veilguards, recruiting a veritable group of weirdos to pursue Solas, who’s carved a path through the magical empire of Tevinter.

What struck me the most about the opening hour is how fast-paced and bombastic it all felt. A BioWare representative said the studio wanted to make the opening mission feel like the “finale” of another game, and set the tone early about how things were going to play out.

That idea seems to go hand in hand with the game’s entire ethos, from combat to storytelling.

For the first time in the franchise The Veilguard finally travels to Tevinter, the most advanced empire on Thedas.


The combat system feels much more fast-paced and action-driven. It’s a hard distinction to describe as Dragon Age 2 and Inquisition pushed the series more into an action feel, but with Veilguard, fast actions and off-the-cuff strategy is put front and center. The Rogue class in our demo had a bow with recharging arrows for ranged attacks, and dual blades that could unleash a furious flurry of instantaneous blows. But apart from that, Veilguard has a tactical abilities menu that you can bring up at any time, pausing the action and letting you choose skills for your character and party members to use.

This keeps a strategic element to combat, and according to BioWare, a new synergy system has been introduced that lets you combine a wide array of different abilities to yield new effects. Interestingly, this system seems incredibly similar to the toolbar of Mass Effect, both in appearance and use. It’s a clear sign that Veilguard is absorbing the lessons learned by BioWare’s other leading franchise.

By and large this is a wise change, one that can make Veilguard feel more satisfying to play on a granular level. But that could largely depend on the kind of progression and customization present, which BioWare isn’t showing yet. If there’s a satisfying way the combat grows, this could be the best-playing Dragon Age yet, but of course, that’s a big “if.”

An hour also isn’t a lot of time to get a handle on a game’s story but that’s the area that leaves me the most confident about Veilguard. There’s intrigue to the game’s tale already, with Varric hoping he can convince Solas to stop his plan of tearing open the Veil: a wish by the dwarf to save a dear friend. There’s a fascinating relationship that's already being set up, Varric and Solas as opposing narrative forces, with your character, Rook, pulled between them.

The dialogue systems of Inquisition seem to be intact here, with varying choices that shaped how scenes and the narrative play out. But there’s extra context to flesh out dialogue, with short descriptions that help give a vague idea of how things play out. The example we were shown was Rook trying to take down a gang leader inside a bar. We could choose to defuse the situation with either words or weapons, but the catch is you don’t know how effective those approaches will be.

Players can only control Rook in Veilguard, but still issue certain ability commands to party members.


I could keep going about each little element in Veilguard, but the point is that the game’s first hour presents a fascinating fusion of old ideas and new, a push to modernize the franchise but keep those classic elements that made it so popular in the first place. It’s a delicate balancing act that works — at least for the small snippet I saw.

Admittedly, I have some hesitation about this formula for Veilguard, based on BioWare’s most recent projects, Anthem and Mass Effect: Andromeda. While the new combat looks great initially, I hope it’s given room to grow. The juxtaposed forces of Varric and Solas are a fantastic setup, but with the game’s focus on party members, it’ll all come down to those individual relationships, and how they tie into the larger conflict.

I’ve been with the Dragon Age series since day one, it’s a world that fascinated so much that I’ve read every single spinoff book, comic book, and supplementary piece. This small glimpse of Veilguard feels like quintessential Dragon Age, filled with wonder and intrigue, which is exactly what I want. The game also looks fantastic in motion, with a strong art style that makes great use of dynamic lighting and colors, on top of some impressive character and facial animation. The magical streets of Tevinter thrum with neon energy, and it’s fantastic to finally see that setting realized after all these years.

I still can’t completely shake my reservations about the game at large, but boy it’s nice to finally see that Dragon Age is back.

Dragon Age: The Veilguard launches Fall 2024 on PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.

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