5 Things We've Learned About 'Dragon Age III: Inquisition' So Far
On video games and the video game industry with a dash of RPG.
The once mighty, do-no-wrong RPG developer has fallen on hard times. Even with the strong sales of Mass Effect 3, the company faces a struggling MMO in Star Wars: The Old Republic, an increasingly jaded core fan base, and the resignation of its co-founders.
Will Dragon Age III be the game to turn it all around?
It’s hard to say, of course, but early information about the game brings both good and bad news for fans of the series.
Here are five things we know so far about the game.
1. Dragon Age III: Inquisition will have bigger maps than the previous game.
Specifically, Dragon Age III’s maps will be massive.
Cinematic Designer John Perry said that “one level in Dragon Age 3 is as big as all of Dragon Age 2‘s levels.”
This is certainly a step in the right direction given the limitations of DA2 levels.
Then again, it’s not just about size. Here’s hoping that the level design itself is better than in either of the previous Dragon Age games.
One thing sorely lacking in many modern games, and especially RPGs, is smart level design. Lovely terrain isn’t enough, levels need to be – in many ways – characters in the game itself. Levels not only provide room for exploration and adventure and challenge, they bring a world to life. Level design is just another way to tell a compelling story.
2. You won’t be able to play as other high fantasy racial tropes.
Personally, any game that says “No, you can’t play as a bearded dwarf or pointy-eared elf” I think is on the right track.
These racial tropes are some of the most annoying fantasy crutches used in fantasy fiction and video games.
That being said, the racial diversity in Origins gave players many more story options and a great deal more replay value than the second game.
BioWare could make up for the loss of racial diversity with a range of background stories for your protagonist and varying story lines. The linearity of the second game stood in stark contrast to the origins of the first and the way those origins helped flesh out the story later in the game.
Either way, I don’t mourn the loss of dwarves and elves, only the loss of narrative diversity.
BioWare does seem to understand the need for making the game personalized however…
3. Inquisition will have deeper customization than Origins.
Creative Director Mike Laidlaw has said that “customization is going to be bigger than Dragon Age: Origins.”
“Bigger” is an odd way to put this, but it basically boils down to a much deeper level of character customization than in the previous games.
Given that RPG fans like yours truly are basically obsessed with customization of our characters and creating truly unique people in these games, it’s always puzzling when customization options are limited.
BioWare is on the right track with this, especially since they’ve also said that followers will have deep customization options as well rather than the pretty limited customization options present in DA2.
Assigning your follower NPCs a unique visual identity is integral to the storytelling according to BioWare. I agree.
4. Longer development cycle than Dragon Age II.
“The Dragon Age team has been working on Dragon Age 3: Inquisition for almost two years now,” Aaryn Flynn, BioWare’s General Manager, said recently.
Two years is a good long time for a game to be in development, and it’s not even close to being out the gates. This is comforting.
Contrast this with the incredibly rushed development cycle of Dragon Age II. I still think the second game’s shortcomings can be mostly chalked up to pressure to put out the sequel as quickly as possible.
BioWare had only recently been acquired by EA, and the success of Origins almost certainly propelled the rushed development of the second game. Who knows how much content was cut or patched over in order to get the game onto store shelves? There were many good things about Dragon Age II, but you can really tell where they cut in terms of scope and depth.
5. Old characters will return, including Flemeth, and the previous stories will impact this one.
This is all still very vague and unsurprising. Of course the previous games will impact this one, and of course Flemeth will return in some form or another.
The real question is how the older stories will impact this one and whether it will actually matter.
In Dragon Age, you don’t carry over characters from previous games like you do in Mass Effect. There is no Commander Shepard.
This should take some of the pressure off the development team in creating a story that ties up all the loose ends of the first two games – a frankly overly ambitious goal for the Mass Effect franchise.
Of course, there’s plenty more that’s been hinted at or confirmed, such as the use of the Battlefield Frostbyte 2 engine, which makes those massive maps possible.
BioWare has mentioned the possibility of “taking control” of castles, possibly pointing to player-controlled bases of some sort.
There’s a political element to the story as well, though how that meta-game may play out is anyone’s guess.
And since EA doesn’t sign off on any single-player games these days and makes sure to be as cross-platform as possible, we can expect some sort of repeat of Mass Effect 3′s Galactic Readiness debacle. It wouldn’t have to be a disaster, of course – the concept of bringing the game and story to multiple devices and having a separate multiplayer component isn’t a bad one. It’s all about the execution.
So, what do you think? Does the lack of racial options tick you off or slide off your back? Does the promise of more customization and bigger maps ring a hopeful bell or is it all smoke and mirrors?
A lot of fans have given up on BioWare, but I think at least some of these early tidbits of information sound like a step in the right direction.