I saw Dragon Age: The Veilguard up close and spoke to BioWare: Here are the 5 coolest details, including the best character creator the studio's ever put in an RPG

Dragon Age The Veilguard interview
(Image credit: BioWare)

Dragon Age: The Veilguard is about to bring us back to Thedas this Fall, and we've at long last gotten to see some gameplay in action. As protagonist Rook, we're about to set out with a group of companions to take on the infamous Dreadwolf, Solas. If you played Dragon Age: Inquisition, you'll know that the elf Solas seeks to restore the world of his people at the cost of many other lives. As a longtime fan of Dragon Age, I've been waiting for almost 10 years for the new adventure to arrive, and after checking out the opening of the game with creative director John Epler, I'm more excited than ever to at long last return to the fantasy setting and discover everything that's in store for us later this year. 

You can check out what GR+'s Dustin Bailey made of it in our Dragon Age: The Veilguard hands-off preview, but I'm here to interrogate the burning questions as a series superfan. From the new direction in combat, to the focus on companions, and the most in depth character creator I've ever seen in the series, there's already plenty of exciting details and additions that speak to my Dragon Age-loving heart. And with the opportunity to ask Epler more about the next instalment following the gameplay preview, I've gathered together some of the biggest highlights from my time seeing Dragon Age: The Veilguard. 


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Factions are a throwback to Dragon Age Origins 

Dragon Age: The Veilguard

(Image credit: BioWare)

Just like Dragon Age: Inquisition, we'll be able to choose to play as an Elf, Human, Dwarf, or Qunari, but we'll also be able to choose from a selection of different factions such as Grey Wardens, Antivan Crows, and four new factions that are rooted in Northern Thedas - where we'll be venturing to for the first time in Veilguard. What faction you choose will determine who you as protagonist Rook was before you were recruited to put a stop to Solas.

"Faction affects a bunch of things," Epler tells me. "Certain conversation options are only available to [you] so Grey Wardens, for example, get conversation options that are focused on the Blight; they know more about it than other people. It also impacts how people talk to you. So you'll get reactivity from characters and then faction reactivity from plots related to that faction." 

The factions immediately brought to mind the different origins you choose from in Dragon Age Origins, with Elves, Dwarves, and Humans and mages each having their own unique backstory that influenced how the story began and how the world reacts to you going forward, and I just had to ask Epler if that was an intentional nod back to the initial roleplaying roots of the series: "There's definitely intended to be that throwback. It's not the same, there's not the unique missions, but it sets the course for your character throughout the rest of the game, for sure."

Character customization is a huge step up for the series  

Dragon Age: The Veilguard

(Image credit: BioWare)

While I didn't get to play around with the character creator myself, I did get to check out the vast suite of options available, with Epler highlighting that "if you're someone who likes to dive deep into the character creator, you can pretty much adjust anything", including body customization and morphing. From more muscular characters, to curvier builds, and just about any shape you want to give your character, there are all sorts of toggles to adjust so you can give them any figure you want. There's even features that let you choose proportions, so you can alter their height, give them wider shoulders, and much more. All of the options are about "allowing you to build this character to someone that represents you, that makes you feel like you're in this world; whether it's a character who looks like you or a character who looks like somebody you want to play as." 

Along with makeup and tattoos, extensive hair options are also included that use a "Strand system" to make them behave and move in a believable way for the different races. Epler even points out a feature I'm personally incredibly excited about: lighting options. I can't count the number of times I've made a character in Dragon Age Inquisition, only to race over to the Black Emporium as early as possible to tweak their appearance once I've actually seen them in the world; they often didn't look as good outside of the character creator screen. Veilguard looks set to address this directly by bringing in a new feature in the creator: "We allow you to change your lighting options," Epler says, "so you can see how your characters will look in different lighting environments." Yes please. 

Minrathous looks as spectacular as Dorian made it out to be 

Dragon Age: Inquisition

(Image credit: EA)

Dorian Pavus is one of my favorite companions in Dragon Age Inquisition, and so much of what I know about Tevinter - outside of lore found within the world, and codex entries - comes from conversations with the moustached mage. Dragon Age: The Veilguard presented the team at BioWare with the opportunity to bring to life areas of Thedas we've only heard about before. 

"Honestly, that's [bringing these locations to life] been one of the most fun parts about building this game," Epler says, "even for us going to places we've never gone to before, really getting to find out what it looks like, what it feels like, taking those things that we've dropped in books, in games. Dragon Age has always been a story about spectacular situations, and for the first time, we're really getting to show it off in a way that's been, honestly, absolutely thrilling for me, and absolutely thrilling for the team as well." 

One such location is Minthrathous, where the start of The Veilguard takes place. In fact, from speaking with Epler, it was a line of dialog Dorian said at the Winter Palace - which sets the scene for one of my favorite main quests in Inquisition - that informed their approach to bringing to life the rich and spectacular setting of Tevinter, which is famously steeped in magic. 

"There's a line in Dragon Age Inquisition that we always like to call back to," Epler says.  "Dorian goes to the Winter Palace, which, up to that point, is probably the most impressive thing you've seen [as the Inquisitor], and [he] says something like, 'Oh, this is cute.' And we had to ask, what does it look like? What is Tevinter if Dorian sees that [the Winter Palace] and thinks that?"

From what we see of Minrathous in the gameplay, it certainly looks every bit as grand as Dorain implied, and I love that it's nodding back to that remark as a jumping off point. 

Tevinter gives us insight into the elves  

Dragon Age: The Veilguard

(Image credit: BioWare)

I've always been a big fan of the worldbuilding and lore of Dragon Age, and the chance to see new locations will also give us the opportunity to see new sides of Thedas and gain a better understanding of the world. In fact, there's a lot of detail in the design of Minrathous that speaks to what once was - the land of the elves. 

"You can see the architecture has changed. It's become a lot more elven focused," Epler says. "And something that we've kind of hinted at, but we've never really shown explicitly, is the idea that Tevinter is built on the bones of the ancient elven empire. Tevinter itself, Minrathous itself, all the magic you see, that's just a pale imitation of what the elves are capable of. So you'll start to see as you get deeper into the game, the elves, for example, worked Lyrium into their building materials. Tevinter can't quite figure out how to do that. So instead, you'll see more gold and gems, kind of imitating it, but not ever quite approaching what the elves are able to do, and really creating that continuity of the space. Obviously, Solas isn't too thrilled that this world is the way it is, because he lived in a time of miracles and magic, and even the most magical place in Thedas isn't magic like the elven people used to be able to do."

Scout Harding becoming a companion is a nod to the fans  

Dragon Age: The Veilguard

(Image credit: BioWare)

I fell in love with Scout Harding in Dragon Age Inquisition, and I know I'm far from alone in that. As a side character that features quite heavily in the story - with her introducing you to new areas you venture to as the Inquisitor - you even have the option to hit her with flirtatious dialog throughout your conversations with her. And with her appearance in The Missing prequel comic, she's a natural fit for a companion in Veilguard, and I had to ask if the fan reception influenced the decision. 

"Harding was one of the earliest characters that we wanted to bring into this because she was such a fan favourite," Epler says. "It's been a tradition in Dragon Age to bring back smaller characters and make them followers based on fan response. Obviously, Isabella in Dragon Age 2, Cassandra in Dragon Age Inquisition, and then Harding in DA4." 

Heather Wald
Senior staff writer

I started out writing for the games section of a student-run website as an undergrad, and continued to write about games in my free time during retail and temp jobs for a number of years. Eventually, I earned an MA in magazine journalism at Cardiff University, and soon after got my first official role in the industry as a content editor for Stuff magazine. After writing about all things tech and games-related, I then did a brief stint as a freelancer before I landed my role as a staff writer here at GamesRadar+. Now I get to write features, previews, and reviews, and when I'm not doing that, you can usually find me lost in any one of the Dragon Age or Mass Effect games, tucking into another delightful indie, or drinking far too much tea for my own good.