Dragon Age: Inquisition Hands-On

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Dragon Age: Inquisition. Credit: BioWareDragon Age: Inquisition. Credit: BioWare

NEW YORK -- Demons have invaded Ferelden, and the kingdom's rulers have launched a new Inquisition to find them and drive them out. In the upcoming video game Dragon Age: Inquisition, you'll play as one such Inquisitor, whose choices will shape the game's story.

The third in the Dragon Age series by developer BioWare, Dragon Age: Inquisition will release Nov. 18 for PlayStation 3 and 4, Xbox 360 and One, and Windows PC for $60.

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In a demonstration event yesterday (Oct. 9), I got hands-on with Dragon Age: Inquisition, playing through a swampy area teeming with Undead. BioWare representatives on hand explained that the events in the demo will be an optional side quest in the finished game. The demo version ran on a Windows 7 computer and was played with an Xbox controller.

As with previous Dragon Age games, players will be able to choose their characters' genders, complexion, species (human, elf, dwarf or Qunari), fighting styles (warrior, mage or rogue) and features. The demo launched with a human female warrior with freckles and a sweet undercut do.

The demo's objective is for the Inquisitor and her group (consisting of another warrior, a mage and a rogue) to traverse the swamp and fight a tribal leader who has kidnapped some of the Inquisitor's people.

Players can play as all four members of the Inquisitor's group, not just the Inquisitor herself, by pressing up and down on the controller's D-pad to rotate between them. A command menu also lets the player issue commands to the rest of the party.

For example, near the end of the demo, I was running into a castle, pursued by a crowd of undead monsters. Instead of fighting them all, I issued the "Disengage" command to my party so the other characters followed me through the press and up to a switch that closed the castle drawbridge. Once the influx of undead was cut off, we defeated the creatures that had made it into the castle, and then proceeded to the boss.

Dragon Age: Inquisition also lets players choose between two types of combat. The default method is in real-time: Each character has a basic attack using the right trigger button, and special attacks that can be used by pressing the X, Y and B buttons. Pressing the left trigger button switches to a second set of special attacks, mapped to the same X, Y and B buttons. Pressing right bumper also initiates a hookshot-like attack that dragged undead monsters right into my Inquisitor's sword.

BioWare reps explained that hookshotting larger enemies would cause the Inquisitor to be pulled to that enemy, and hookshotting enemies of equal size would cause the two to collide with each other in the middle. Rogue characters could also use the hookshot to escape battle.

Dragon Age: Inquisition also lets players switch into a top-down tactical display reminiscent of the prequel Dragon Age: Origins for PC. In this mode, the game is paused, and players can map out movements and actions for their party members to take. I preferred the real-time approach, but BioWare told me that many PC fans had requested this tactical perspective from Origins, which is why it's in Inquisition.

The graphics and textures of Dragon Age: Inquisition were the most nuanced yet in the series. The level I was playing was supposed to be foggy and dark, but metal objects and pools of water glittered in the torchlight and I could see objects far into the distance. I particularly loved the sound of squelching boots as I splashed through the swamp.

The Dragon Age series is known for its memorable characters and for letting players engage in complicated relationships with them. This demo didn't really showcase that side of the game; there wasn't much opportunity for my Inquisitor to chat up my other party members.

The most conversation I saw was some terse commentary the characters exchanged without prompting as we traversed the swamp. Anything more will have to wait for Dragon Age: Inquisition's full release in November.

Jill Scharr is a staff writer for Tom's Guide, where she regularly covers security, 3D printing and video games. You can follow Jill on Twitter @JillScharr and on Google+. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.