Dragon Age: Inquisition promises to be one of the more interesting releases of 2014. This third instalment in the franchise marks another departure in terms of direction, but this time it seems for the better. After the claustrophobic Dragon Age 2 it’s nice to see Bioware focus on a large and distinct world. The promise of Skyrim-esque size, combined with gameplay that mixes the pace of Dragon Age 2 with the tactics and depth of Origins (personally I’d prefer the combat was just straight Origins) sounds all rather promising.
So far Inquisition seems like it will be rather impressive. The game is running on DICE’s Frostbite 3 engine, so it will probably be good looking at least. On top of this, the things Bioware have been talking about sound super interesting. The proposed implementation of player choice is really intriguing, maintaining a keep and having to balance the welfare of that, the Inquisition and local villages and citizens sounds like a great moral quandary waiting to happen. They have set up the possibility for numerous situations where each option has a real consequence to it and no decision is easily made. If they pull of this part alone, Inquisition should be worth playing.
I’m putting a lot of faith in Bioware here, but personally I am really excited for Dragon Age: Inquisition. I realise this may be a foolish thing to say, as there is every possibility that Inquisition will be bad, but I’m holding out hope.
The reason for my interest in Inquisition comes purely out of my love for Dragon Age: Origins. Origins is one of my all time favourite games and is, in my opinion, the finest thing Bioware have put out. It really was a complete package, excelling in both gameplay and sotry. There was a nice amount of depth to the combat, classes were well designed, encounters were well put together and the tactical nature of it all really did make you have to think about what you were doing. It was a thoroughly engaging and satisfying experience that ranks up as one of the genre’s best.
On a narrative level Origins was sublime. The story took place in a well realised fantasy world, that felt authentic due to its levels of familiarity, yet distinct in a number of interesting ways. The lore was really fleshed, and I care about it and the world it belongs to more than possibly any game series to date. The core narrative that inhabited this world in the first game also had some really exceptional moments, even if the overall arc was rather standard. Uniting disparate factions or races to combat an ancient evil isn’t the most original plot line, but the intricacies of the fiction and the brilliantly realised characters made this take a truly special one. Couple this with numerous impactful choices that weren’t weighed down by a fixed morality system (leaving the work to your own moral compass) and you had a sublime game. A promising start to what could have been one of gaming’s finest franchises.
Then Dragon Age 2 happened.
I’m not going to say Dragon Age 2 is without merit. As a huge Dragon Age fan I was able to forgive a lot of the game’s shortcomings (and boy were there a lot of them) and get a decent amount of enjoyment out of being back in the Dragon Age world. I ultimately liked the game, but merely liking the sequel to one of my favourite games is rather telling.
Dragon Age 2 was just a massive step back, appealing to a presumed audience while neglecting the fan’s interests. Dumbing down and simplifying as well as just not delivering on what the original had already achieved. It was a huge disappointment and its existence is enough to make any person doubtful about Dragon Age: Inquisition. Bioware have proven that they don’t get what was so special about Origins and that they perhaps can’t replicate or recapture that brilliance.
On the other hand, people have spent a lot of time letting Bioware know exactly what they think about Dragon Age 2 in great detail. Bioware have acknowledged the major flaws in DA2; such as repeated content, an underwhelming narrative, lacklustre combat, a lack of customisation and a sheer lack of scale. In numerous press conferences they have owned up to these problems and promised that they are taking these into account when making Dragon Age 3. They have spoken about continuing the things that worked in DA2 (and there were some things, believe me) but also reintroducing the things that people missed from Origins, as well as just making a raft of improvements. It’s a promising picture that seems like it could result in an awesome game.
However I still have a few lingering concerns. For one, admitting to something and promising you will improve is worlds apart from putting out an improved game. Their past record is somewhat against them and good intentions can only get them so far. Secondly, reactive game design isn’t always a good thing. Trying to give people what you think they want rather than making what you (the developer) actually want to make isn’t always the best choice. Hopefully the two fall in line, but it is often the case that trying to please people ends up with pleasing nobody.
All this aside though I still think there is good reason to be very excited for Dragon Age: Inquisition. With the features Bioware have touted, and putting the series’ history in mind, it seems clear to me that Inquisition is going to be an interesting game. It has the potential to be something incredibly special, but it also has the potential to be a huge disaster. Whatever happens, I’m first in line with an open mind at the ready. Whether Bioware ultimately succeed or fail with this one it’s definitely going to be a game that’s going to keep people talking. Let’s just hope we find ourselves talking about how it was a glorious success rather than a glorious mess.