Dragon Age fans have been waiting for updates on Dreadwolf, the latest action-RPG in the series, for years, only to receive the barest breadcrumbs. Last October, BioWare announced that the game was fully playable from beginning to end, but it hasn’t shown off any video or screenshots. But finally, thanks to an anonymous leaker who received 20 minutes of gameplay video, a small portion has been shared online. Now they’re all over the internet.
The original links have since been removed from the original Reddit post, though the leak was re-linked by VGC. The original leaker claims to have received the footage from a former Dreadwolf playtester who managed to capture early Alpha footage (meaning the gameplay came from last October or earlier). According to the leaker, the gameplay shown takes place at the in-game headquarters of the Grey Wardens, an extrajudicial force that has featured prominently in the series since Origins. The protagonist is an “elvish knight” who is fighting to protect the fortress from waves of Darkspawn (fantasy zombies who share an eldritch hivemind). The chapter ends with a fight against a dragon that creates environmental hazards. Since the leaker didn’t upload the full footage, their word is all that we have to go on.
The game features fully real-time combat and was allegedly designed as BioWare’s take on God of War. Sword-and-shield players can expect to do a lot of manual parrying. Players can perform combo attacks and a special attack once a bar fills up. Oh, and party controls seem to have been removed—meaning you might not be able to switch between party members like you could in every other BioWare RPG. That last design choice feels very odd for a series whose core appeal was always “adventuring with your witty queer friends.”
I have a lot of conflicting feelings about this. First off, this is Alpha footage. Which means that much of these assets are likely to be placeholders rather than the final product. The combat UI looks cartoonish, and the menu interface looks like every other AAA game. I’m hoping that changes when the game actually releases, but it’s not helping the impression that Electronic Arts is telling BioWare to make a standard blockbuster, rather than a sequel to one of the most critically acclaimed RPG series in the west. EA has garnered a reputation for being one of the more risk-averse publishers out there, and it certainly didn’t help that it had once tried to turn the latest Dragon Age title into a live-service game.
I’m glad that BioWare isn’t making a fantasy Anthem. But I’m not sure if trying to become GoW is necessarily it, either. Fans wanted Dragon Age 4, not Dragon Age: Ragnarok.
Another fan pointed out that Origins took creative risks, which doesn’t seem to hold true in the Dreadwolf footage.
I’m all for a Dragon Age game that actually plays well. Inquisition’s janky pathfinding didn’t age well, and I didn’t think BioWare could design great real-time combat until I played Mass Effect: Andromeda. Dreadwolf looks like a step up from its predecessor. But what concerns me is that BioWare is following in the footsteps of a much more commercially successful series rather than trying to come up with something unique to its role-playing roots. It’s true that Dragon Age’s most dedicated fans aren’t here for the gameplay—but they still deserve a gaming experience that doesn’t feel like it was grafted from a completely different genre.