Dragon Age now has millions of fans worldwide, these fans have collectively spent millions of hours living and breathing within this immensely detailed fantasy land. The big worry with any new release to such a well established series is will it still cater to its current fan base or will it lean more to the newcomer, taking a somewhat commercial approach?
Dragon Age 3: Inquisition is set in the continent of Thedas, the fantasy world in which the two previous games are set. The game covers more geographic territory than its predecessors, with one map being described as four to five times the size of Ferelden, the setting of the first game in the series. The first titles in the series released by Bioware were outstandingly popular. Each title massed more fans than the previous.
The newest entry into the main series, Dragon Age: Inquisition, launches this month. Powered by a new engine and the promise to incorporate players' past choices into a story framed by a vast new world to explore, the game has some rather high expectations to meet. Gamespot have managed to grab a chat with with BioWare's creative director Mike Laidlaw to discuss what fans can expect from stepping into the shoes of the Inquisitor, character relationships, and the future of the series.
Players take on the role of the Inquisitor and lead the forces of the Inquisition. As the leader of the Inquisition, players can make choices and decisions, such as choosing to post forces in an area by capturing forts or keeps. Once captured, new sections of an area can become available allowing greater exploration, new quests and rewards.
"We set down as a rule, let's not turn it into moving pieces around," Laidlaw said in response. "Instead, what we wanted to go back to was the feel of a leader and a commander who generally doesn't have to specifically layout troop movements...you have specialists who handle that. We thought it would be a much more satisfying way to treat it like it was almost a story beat. What they're looking from you is direction. They can handle it, they can take care of the details, but they want to know how you would approach this."
Dragon Age: Inquisition will be "saving the world from itself." The story in Dragon Age: Inquisition will be much more open-ended in contrast to its previous games, where the stories were more linear. It will primarily involve an all-out civil war between mages and templars, the foundations of which comprise the main plot of Dragon Age II.
"We've tried to make them more about leadership choices, leadership style, and more about reactivity to choices you make throughout the game. A lot of those operations appear in response to you having made an ally, or you having done this major thing and suddenly people are reaching out to you because they've heard about it," he said. I wondered if the conflict in that scenario would continue, regardless of whether the player chose to intervene or realign their focus on the main story. Would this area remain in a perpetual state of pause until the player chose to address it?
"It really depends on the conflict. In the case of that one, it would eventually go away. It takes a very long time, it's not on a timer or anything. A major story event would probably wipe it out at one point. But the world is fairly chaotic, it's a rough time. We don't want to penalize the player and say these things are going go away in the sphere of time. However, stabilizing the world fundamentally feeds back into the story."
Should players ignore side missions when a campaign mission threatens to obliterate my village or can i go rescue this kitten first and the campaign missions will wait for me to return?
"The nice thing about the nature of the game we built is that the Inquisition is essentially turning over rocks. They're investigating, they're finding the source of the chaos that's affecting the world. Because it's so entrenched, it's so hidden, it's not as immediate as 'there's an army coming over this hill, but don't worry I'm going to rescue this kitten instead.' What we've tried to do was make rescuing the kitten instead, [the player] should be doing something that helps the Inquisition. You don't necessarily have an immediate threat, but you have an immediate goal. The nice thing that balances that out is that at the beginning of the game, you can't go everywhere available. It's not like you're going to be like, excuse me for 200 hours while I make no progress at all. Instead, as you advance through the story it opens up new areas for you to visit."
The original is always the best, or is it? most people including me, prefered Origins over over Dragon Age 2. Will Inquisition feel more like either of these two previous titles?
"It's closer to Origins in overall feel. It's bigger, it's bolder. It plays slower than [Dragon Age 2]. That said, there were some things for DA2 that I felt were very powerful. The characters I felt did a better job of having their own stories or agendas. So we held on to a lot of that. We wanted to make sure they had their own arcs, whether you were romancing them or just friends. The other big thing that we kept from DA2 is that combat in general feels responsive. I think DA2 was very successful in making you feel like oh, I tagged that guy and moved in, I punched him in the face. Some people would get annoyed because they thought I was dismissing Origins, but when your character took a long time to shuffle into position it was like, 'you're a trained warrior, you can do better.'"
Combat is differs somewhat from its direct predecessor and the focus is more on a player's ability to prepare, position, and form a cohesive team with his or her party members, requiring fewer repetitive finger strikes but better thinking like the first installment. In Inquisition players can target specific areas of larger foes to weaken and even cripple an overwhelming adversary from further away.
"The way we developed them, we built the bases, and we had a team of level designers, and the creature guys, and the animators, and the visual effects guys, all of them would come in and play each dragon. They'd pick one dragon per day and it was about a two to three week cycle for them to go through them all. Then they'd go and make improvements, like making it so that his lightning breath electrifies the water."
While BioWare has already stated that Inquisition is by no means concluding the Dragon Age series, the game "puts a few nails in quite a few coffins" and "introduces some new twists." For Laidlaw, the introduction of a multiplayer mode into the game is something he would like to continue exploring.
"I'm not sure if it's a perfect story situation, but it might be. I think it's something that's worth at least an investigation, especially based on reactions to the mode itself. I would say we've covered most of the South, I think we've covered the Chantry enough. But I do want to look more toward the North, I want to see what happens to nations like Tevinter, Rivaine, and do more with the Qunari. We're going to go with the same process we did with Inquisition, which was where we have a core story idea that starts to form and drive where we're heading next... the darkspawn, they're still nowhere resolved, there's still multiple arch-demons underground waiting to be woken up by them, there's still demons on the far side of the Veil. Nobody really knows what happened to the Elves. The Tevinter Imperium is still locked in a war with the Qunari. There's so much we could do."
So, more to come even after you have exhausted all the natural and unatural rescources from the lands within Dragon Age Inquisition. The hardcore fans should feel right at home with this latest release but it will most defiantly be accessible to the newcomers.
Are you a hardcore fan of the series? Let us know if we have shone a light here on any issues you may have had with the impending release of Dragon Age Inquisition