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Dragon Age The Veilguard is “just as grim” as its predecessors

The Dragon Age The Veilguard trailer feels very high fantasy, almost Fable-esque, but BioWare assures me that grit and grime will be there.

Dragon Age The Veilguard is "just as grim" as its predecessors: A pretty woman with black hair tied in a bun stands in a dark street, green lamps illuminating it in the background

When I saw the trailer for Dragon Age: The Veilguard during the 2024 Xbox Showcase, I cried – full blown cried. I’ve been waiting for the fourth installment in the ongoing saga for what feels like as long as I can remember, and while the trailer is everything I expected and more, it did feel very clean. For me, one of the best parts of Dragon Age is emerging from combat covered in blood, guts, and Darkspawn gore, but there’s a distinct lack of bodily fluids in the trailer. At a sunny picnic table – a quiet spot amid the chaos of Summer Game Fest – I ask creative director John Epler about the response to the trailer, and he assures me that the dark fantasy we love is still very much alive in Thedas.

During my demo session at Summer Game Fest (watch this space, preview coming soon) I was absolutely dazzled by Minrathous, Dragon Age: The Veilguard‘s starting zone and the heart of the Tevinter Empire. It feels almost like Cyberpunk 2077’s Night City, but instead of neon bathing the streets in blue, it’s pure, shimmering magic.

Given Tevinter’s focus on order and discipline, it doesn’t shock me that the city streets are pristine, but following a series of combat sequences I noticed that the fantasy game‘s iconic blood splatters that we’ve come to know and love are distinctly absent. It sparked a curiosity in me – and, indeed, a lot of fans – so I ask Epler whether or not BioWare plans to carry over the grittiness of the original trilogy, or if the team is taking a different approach.

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“Early in the demo and in the trailer, you’re in a part of the world you’ve never been in – Tevinter,” Epler tells me. “Tevinter is known for being a place of high magic; visually, it’s different. Obviously in Origins you’re in Ferelden, which was grubby, muddy, and very visually different and distinct.

“That said, it’s the first hour of the game, so we’re only seeing the prologue. As you go deeper, you’ll find that the game can be just as bloody and just as grim as Dragon Age Origins, 2, and Inquisition.

“For us, it’s that feeling of contrast,” he continues. “You get moments of higher fantasy magic coming back to the world through Solas’ ritual, but also things get pretty grim, and things get pretty dark in some spaces for sure.”

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One of the things that, for me, has always separated Dragon Age from its competitors is that grittiness. My mom bought me the game when I was very young (and definitely of age to be playing it), and when she asked what content could be disturbing, she was told ‘yeah you get covered in blood in fights.’ It’s a simple feature that’s become so synonymous with the game, and given it unlocks a sweet childhood memory any time I see it, I’m hoping it’ll make a reappearance in our new adventure.

With the Dragon Age: The Veilguard release date just over the horizon and all of this new gameplay, I’m far, far too excited. In the meantime, however, you’ll find me perusing our list of the best RPGs to keep myself busy.

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