Preview: Dragon Age: The Veilguard Is A Confident Return for BioWare (Xbox)
Image: EA

Pure Xbox's Craig Reid has spent the past few days at Summer Game Fest in Los Angeles, where he's had a chance to preview a series of upcoming Xbox releases. Today, we're sharing his thoughts on a hands-off preview of Dragon Age: The Veilguard, which provided a sneak peek at what's to come from BioWare's Fall 2024 RPG.

Our group journeyed into Dragon Age: The Veilguard’s preview with EA escorting us to a secluded industrial room that felt like Geoff Keighley’s secret on-site brewery. Once there, we perched our bums upon Summer Game Fest Play Days campus’ comfiest seats (you heard it here first!). We were then briefed by BioWare, who introduced us to the upcoming RPG, followed by a 40-minute gameplay demonstration.

As you’d expect of any good fantasy epic, our first port of call was the in-depth character creator. It’s been 10 years since Dragon Age: Inquisition and technology has come quite a way since, most notably the improvements in strand hair technology – you’ll understand it once you see it. Our first impression was that the customisation options were pretty extensive and we were presented with plenty of options to modify our protagonist with.

Preview: Dragon Age: The Veilguard Is A Confident Return for BioWare (Xbox) 3
Image: EA

Playstyles are broken down into three core classes: Warrior, Mage and Rogue. For this presentation the demoist opted for the scrappy Rogue archetype. Furthering this, one new feature to the Dragon Age franchise is a character backstory (similar to Starfield in a way) which can weasel its way into scenarios and drive the narrative down different forks in the road - all good stuff so far.

Our adventure began in a tavern with Rook, the rogue, who was hunting for a missing informant. During these first few seconds, a cagey barkeep squares up to our hero, and we’re presented with our first choice; to peacefully negotiate for information on the whereabouts of our informant, or to persuade our antagonists by cracking their heads in with a barstool. So of course, our demoist ‘Craig’ made an executive decision and proceeded to inflict a satisfying amount of blunt force trauma to achieve our desired outcome. It was at this moment that we noted our expectations, which was that this preview would be a hand-holdy demonstration presenting our group with the illusion of choice.

Except, that wasn’t the case at all. We actually got the impression that BioWare was feeling pretty darned confident about the state of their fantasy epic. So much so, they relinquished control of the remaining butterfly effect choices to the group. Now, we won’t spoil what these choices were, but the path we took felt quite permanent.

Preview: Dragon Age: The Veilguard Is A Confident Return for BioWare (Xbox) 2
Image: EA

It’s worth mentioning that all of this takes place in a location talked about in previous entries, meaning fans of Dragon Age will surely get a kick out of the fantasy-Arkham streets of Minrathous. Making our descent down the towering city and stopping occasionally to take in the city skyline was one of our personal highlights during the demo. Minrathous exudes a unique identity and feels almost like a character itself, and, if our demoist is to be believed, should be the standard for most locations throughout Dragon Age: The Veilguard.

We suppose we should probably talk about combat, right? We’ll preface this by saying that this particular writer has played roughly two hours of Dragon Age: Inquisition and that’s it, so the significance of real-time combat combined with attack shortcuts may be a little lost on us, but the group we were in seemed to “ooo” and “ahh” at all the changes. We’d describe the scraps in Veilguard as a streamlined take on the open-world action combat that’s everywhere in games now, where players must parry and dodge incoming enemy attacks. For what it’s worth, the ebb and flow of combat ticked most of our action boxes, but we’ll have to wait for a hands-on preview to put our final stamp of approval on the fighting.

Preview: Dragon Age: The Veilguard Is A Confident Return for BioWare (Xbox) 1
Image: EA

Companions are also an extremely important aspect of combat, and they’re utilised a bit differently in The Veilguard. You can have two companions join you in combat at any time, and they're controlled via the ‘Play and Pause’ menu. While combat always takes place in real-time, hitting pause will bring up a command menu with your character’s skills. You can either select these skills from the menu or map them to shortcuts for use in real-time combat.

The Veilguard also builds on companions outside of combat. In the post-Baldur’s Gate 3 world we live in now, there’s a new-found expectation of how interactive companions should be and how deep of a relationship we can build with them. Of the three companions shown during the preview, it’s fair to say at least two of them shot a look of desire towards Rook. They really wanted a slice of whatever our protagonist was putting down. And thank goodness too, as BioWare confirmed that all of the main companions in Dragon Age: The Veilguard will be fully romanceable.

We’ve got a few months to become the rizzly bear we need to be for our companions, and we think Dragon Age: The Veilguard is going to deliver – and not just on this front. The game launches in Fall 2024 on Xbox Series X|S, and it’ll be a welcome return for BioWare.

Looking forward to Dragon Age: The Veilguard on Xbox? Let us know down in the comments below.