BioWare has gone from one of the most highly praised and well-respected developers in the RPG genre to one of the most vilified by the hardcore gaming community. There are many, like me, that continue to be hugely impressed with their efforts, but then there have been quite a few angry gamers at BioWare as of late.
It all started with Dragon Age II. Dragon Age II ditched a lot of the mechanics and features that made the original game so popular. This outraged the hardcore fans of the original game and it also resulted in one of BioWare’s lowest-scoring games in their history.
Mass Effect 3 released to massive critical acclaim, but at the same time, there was a serious outcry from fans. Many were angry at BioWare for not delivering an ending that they were expecting. To be honest, the way BioWare handled their PR regarding the conclusion to the Mass Effect saga was a huge part of the issue, but at any rate, BioWare straight up lied to their fans when they said that the ending wouldn’t be as simple as choosing between A, B, or C.
Since these controversies, there have been big changes at BioWare. The studio is now split into different studios, and the Doctors, the guys that were the heart and soul of BioWare for the longest time, have retired from the gaming industry since the Mass Effect 3 debacle.
BioWare has everything to lose going into their next game. Dragon Age: Inquisition has a whole hell of a lot to prove if it is hoping to regain the fans that have been lost in recent years, and it also a game that everyone has their eyes on to see if BioWare can redeem itself as well as one of their more popular franchises. They say that they have no need to apologize for Dragon Age II, and that may be true, but Dragon Age: Inquisition is the last chance for this franchise, and perhaps BioWare’s last chance at redemption.
Sadly, Dragon Age: Inquisition is already off to a shaky start for me because it is a cross-generational game as opposed to a true next-gen title. What this means is that it is basically a seventh generation game, except the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions of the game are going to look prettier.
I feel like the franchise needs to make the true next-gen leap instead of playing it safe like this. I guess the bright side of this is that fans of the franchise are going to have a wide variety of choices to play the game when it comes out next year.
Dragon Age: Inquisition is going to be available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and of course, PC. I would be far more excited about the game if it was a true blue next-generation title, but I digress. Hopefully BioWare can deliver an experience that makes the game worthy of the next-gen consoles it will also be appearing on.
The first Dragon Age game was smart in optimizing the experience between PC and consoles. The control scheme for the console version of Dragon Age: Origins was way different than the PC version, and the game also played way differently as well. This philosophy was basically abandoned in the second game. PC gamers should be happy to know that BioWare plans to optimize the game to the strengths of both consoles and PCs yet again.
Since Dragon Age: Inquisition is over a year away, it will be launching for all of these systems simultaneously. The game will be released at some point in the Fall of 2014, though an exact date has not been nailed down quite yet.
Dragon Age: Inquisition isn’t using the same engine as its predecessors. BioWare has decided to start using the Frostbite 3 engine from their fellow EA brethren at DICE for use in developing the next Dragon Age.
This engine has been optimized to make the porting between the current generation and next-generation versions of the game much easier. In addition, it will bring a lot of other upgrades to the franchise.
One of the main functions of this new engine is its ability to allow BioWare give Inquisition a scope unlike any of the previous games. Expect Dragon Age: Inquisition to be the largest game in the franchise to date, easily.
In addition, the engine is obviously going to allow for visual improvements as well as destructibility in the environment. One of the hallmark functions of the Frostbite 3 engine is its amazingly impressive destructibility, and that will be on display in Inquisition.
Furthermore, individual pieces of a structure are going to be visible as players can not only destroy buildings and objects, but rebuild them as well. The purpose of rebuilding a structure will include creating strongholds and headquarters for the titular Inquisition to operate out of.
The worst of times…
The plot of Dragon Age: Inquisition takes place 10 years after the first game. The world of Thedas is in complete disarray. Factions are warring all across the land and there is plenty of infighting and conflict. This means that the most powerful organizations in Thedas are unable to deal with a looming threat that is once again threatening their lands.
That threat happens to be tears in the skies that open a portal between Thedas and the Fade. In Dragon Age lore, the Fade is the area where demons and magic originates. So basically, Thedas is becoming overrun with demonic hordes that players must contend with.
This results in the reformation of an ancient group that answers to none of these other organizations. This group is known as the Inquisition. It starts as a small group, but over the course of the game, it will grow in both power and size thanks to the adventures of the player character.
The story of Dragon Age: Inquisition is structured way differently than the second game. In Dragon Age II, the entire story was a retelling, which honestly took quite the wind out of its sails. Inquisition will feature a more traditional story, with players making choices and experience the plot as it happens instead of discovering the story as a story that is being told.
To progress the plot, players have to build up their Inquisition to a certain power level. This can be done through a variety of different means, with the ultimate goal of allowing anyone to make progress through the story no matter what their specific style of play happens to be.
With a plot that spans video games, books, and more, getting into the Dragon Age lore may seem like a daunting task to many. However, BioWare promises that the story is newcomer friendly, so anyone can jump into the franchise at this point and soak it all in. Of course, the plot is sure to be richer for those that have already invested their time into BioWare’s fictional fantastical universe.
One of the main criticisms launched at Dragon Age II was that it greatly restricted the character customization as found in the previous game. BioWare has heard fan complaints, and because of that, players will once again be able to create their own character.
There will be no preset name, identity, or personality this time around. Player characters will be fully voiced, and players will be able to choose to have their character be male or female. There are three classes to choose from yet again, which are the Warrior, Rogue, and Mage classes just like before.
Players were locked into playing as a human in Dragon Age II, which is the biggest reason why people were annoyed with the preset character that was featured in that game. This time around, there are four different playable races to choose from right at the outset of the adventure. Players can choose to be human if they so wish, but they can also control an elf, dwarf, or for the first time in the series, the terrifying Qunari race.
The player character is the Inquisitor, the leader of the Inquisition group. Players will be able to align with the various groups across Thedas, lay siege to the fortresses of those that do not want to comply with the Inquisition, and build their army.
Searching far and wide…
The scope of Inquisition far exceeds the games that precedes it. Players will be able to explore a land much larger than any that they have seen in the other Dragon Age titles. Multiple countries across Thedas can be explored, and there will be a day and night cycle in place as well.
The environments are huge and varied. While the game isn’t 100% a free-roaming game like, say, Skyrim, it will allow for far more exploration than ever before. Players explore areas freely, and while these areas are separated by loading screens and a world map, BioWare insists that they will be full of things to discover.
In fact, players will be able to just walk upon dynamic quests if they go out of the way to explore. These optional, dynamic side quests will pop up and be a part of the players’ adventure if they happen across the correct areas in the game.
Since these environments are really large, BioWare has decided to implement a mount system for this game. No more details have been given beyond that, but it will be interesting to see how mounts are implemented in Dragon Age.
Another new wrinkle being added to in-game exploration is weather effects. The weather in the game will not only have an effect on traveling, but it will also influence battles. Some weather effects, I assume one example is hail, will even cause damage inside and outside of battle unless players take refuge from it in some way.
Mightier than the sword?
Combat has always been a major issue in the Dragon Age series, in that BioWare hasn’t really nailed down a gameplay combat mechanic that has given the series an identity. The first game plays very similarly to Mass Effect with the “pause and play” style. Dragon Age II is more of a straight-up action game. Now Inquisition is tasked with finding the sweet spot between tactical and action to deliver the most satisfying experience.
BioWare says that players are going to be able to choose if they want to play through the whole game tactically or going in “guns blazing”, for lack of a better term. The way the balance is going to be found is through the smarter, more strategic combat at work as opposed to the mindless button mashing that plagued Dragon Age II.
In Inquisition, the combat is much more rooted in the timing of attacks and abilities. Enemies are going to be a lot smarter, and work in groups in an attempt to take down the player and their party. Pacing of the combat is also going to be tweaked a bit to hopefully better the experience, with very few situations in which enemies just keep constantly spawning to pad difficulty and game length like we saw in Dragon Age II.
Besides the demons that players will be fighting throughout the game, they will also have to deal with undead as well as other races. Certain enemies won’t be enemies based on player choices throughout the game, but I will get into that in a little bit.
In addition, enemies will not be scaled to the players’ level. This means that players can encounter enemies that are vastly superior to them in ability and level if they venture somewhere without the proper preparation. There is no regenerating health this time around either, so item management is much more important in Inquisition that it was previously.
It’s all about who you know
BioWare is all about characters. Their games usually feature very rich, complex characters that are morally ambiguous. In turn, this creates an exciting and wonderful storytelling dynamic. Even though Inquisition is being built with Dragon Age newcomers in mind in terms of plot, that doesn’t mean those that have invested hundreds of hours into this universe will be left in the dust.
If anything, taking the effort to experience the other games and the novels and what have you will only make one’s time in Dragon Age: Inquisition that much richer. This is mostly due to the fact that the game features many returning characters, and while having prior knowledge of them will not be necessary to enjoy their character arcs and development, obviously having experienced them in prior games will be a big help in appreciating their appearances and cameos throughout Inquisition.
Two returning characters that have been confirmed as playable party characters are Varric and Cassandra. After the events of Dragon Age II, these two have decided to travel together, and it is this path that will eventually lead them to the player character so their journey may continue.
Morrigan has always been a fan favorite character, and while she is not returning in a playable form, she will still be a big part of the game. BioWare hasn’t gone into too deep of details regarding Morrigan’s involvement in the plot, but they have said that her role is greater than a cameo. Considering that they use her in promoting the game at events such as the previous E3, I would bet that Morrigan is going to have a significant role in the game by the time the credits roll.
Of course, brand new characters are being introduced to the universe as well. One such character is named Vivienne, and she is a Mage. She is just one of many characters that can be added to the Inquisition over the course of the game. Players will be able to speak with their party members and their army just like before, developing relationships, and, BioWare hopes, emotional bonds and ties to these characters as well.
BioWare is obviously putting a huge focus on character development for Inquisition. We will see these characters grow and go through their own story arcs throughout the game. One of the major players that has yet to be revealed, however, is the primary antagonist.
We know that the tear that leads into the Fade was not just some random event, but rather an evil plan hatched by a villain that is as of yet unknown. BioWare are masters at creating compelling and intriguing villains, and I have no doubt they will deliver again once we discover the “man behind the curtain”, so to speak.
BioWare wants to make sure that everyone’s Inquisition experience is special and unique to them. They have been able to accomplish this with their past games, most notably through the Mass Effect franchise, but it isn’t a feeling that I’ve ever had playing a Dragon Age game. With Inquisition, they are aiming to change that.
We will see this implemented in a number of different ways. For example, players will once again be able to upgrade their characters through skill trees (obviously) as well as choose specializations to learn even more abilities outside of their primary class.
Furthermore, each character in the game is going to have their own distinct look and style. What this means is that a piece of armor will not look the same from character to character, but rather each character will maintain their own iconic look, which I think is a pretty cool idea personally.
Speaking of armor, crafting is a huge part of Inquisition. Crafting will allow players to not only create new items and armor, but to improve upon pre-existing armor and weapons if they grow attached to them. What this means is that players could keep the first weapons and armor they receive at the very beginning of the game and just keep crafting with them so that their stats are on par with the late-stage loot. All armor and weapons can be maxed out stat-wise if players put in enough effort.
Another way that Dragon Age: Inquisition is going to be unique to the individual player experiencing the adventure is through player choice. Choice has been paramount to BioWare’s success, and of course, we will see it in action in Inquisition.
Choices made throughout the game will determine the allies and enemies of the Inquisition throughout the game. Choices will also have a huge impact on the story, with different events happening based on player choice.
This has always been a feature of Dragon Age games in the past, so it’s not surprising to see it return in the least. That being said, BioWare hopes to improve upon the experience in a number of ways, mainly by allowing for clearer dialogue options that make more sense than before, where the player would choose one option only for have Hawke (the protagonist of Dragon Age II) act in a completely unexpected manner.
A feature that has remained consistent through BioWare games as of late is having these franchises be influenced by every player that plays them, giving each player their own spin on the same universe and story. This has been done by having save files transfer from game to game, with the first Mass Effect game hugely influencing Mass Effect 2 and 3, and with choices made in Dragon Age: Origins having a direct effect on some of the world events in Dragon Age II. Dragon Age II had some choices of its own that will need to be carried over to the next game as well, come to think of it.
BioWare is currently working on a way for players to transfer their saves from the current gen consoles to the next-gen ones, even if that means someone is going from Xbox 360 to PlayStation 4 or PlayStation 3 to Xbox One. Expect more details over the next year as we get closer to the release of the game in fall of 2014.
More on the horizon
Dragon Age: Inquisition is still quite a way’s off. The game is not expected to release until fall 2014 at the earliest, and by then players will already have their hands on the final two eighth generation systems to be released, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
There is still a lot we don’t know about the game. BioWare is purposely keeping some details underwraps to avoid spoilers, such as the identity of the main antagonist of the game, but there are other details regarding Inquisition that we can expect to know at some point in the future.
For example, Mass Effect 3 introduced multiplayer to a franchise that was mainly single-player focus and reached a pretty decent amount of success because of that. BioWare has yet to deny that Inquisition will feature a multiplayer or co-op mode, so maybe we will see how multiplayer works in the Dragon Age franchise? I do have to say that it would probably a very interesting venture for BioWare to explore.
It is a little disappointing that Dragon Age: Inquisition isn’t a true next-gen title, but that just means that Dragon Age III will probably be the next-gen version of the game we are all waiting for. That being said, Inquisition looks to be a huge improvement over Dragon Age II and even Dragon Age: Origins, but only time will tell if BioWare is able to redeem themselves.
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Dragon Age: Inquisition releases in fall 2014 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
Stay tuned to CheatMasters for everything there is to know about Dragon Age: Inquisition over the next year!