Six Thoughts About “The Next Dragon Age”

The first official inkling that there would be a follow up to the wildly successful and critically acclaimed Dragon Age: Inquisition, was two years ago at the Game Awards where we got a minute long slow pan of the cursed artifact that caused so much trouble in Dragon Age 2. While it wasn’t much, it established that a new game was in the offing. It also used the intriguing hashtag #TheDreadWolfRises solidified that Solas, our once ally and future adversary, was going to be a major character moving forward.

My initial reaction to the announcement and video can be found on my Twitter feed, but after watching this juicy 4-minute morsel of content a second time I’m ready to share my more coherent thoughts on this upcoming RPG experience.

Casey Hudson establishes that Dragon Age is that girl. Casey invokes Dragon Age Inquisition’s 2014 Game of the Year Award win right off the bat. That’s savvy because folks have a tendency to equate their perceived BioWare misstapes with the totality of the brand. Mass Effect: Andromeda and Anthem may not have lit the core fanbase’s hearts on fire, but Dragon Age is not and never has been those franchises or those games. Dragon Age is its own thing, and she more often than not delivers the goods. Side note: Casey Hudson has aged like fine wine.

“We’ve been imagining new ways to use next generation technology…” This coupled with the assertion that they are in the early stages of development let’s me know once and for all that my Playstation 4 will not be seeing any parts of the next Dragon Age. It’s good to know years out that my current console will not be sufficient for this title as opposed to Inquisition which straddled the console development cycle forcing folks like me who had played it on the XBox 360 to pony up a few hundred dollars for a new gaming system in order to play the thrilling conclusion of the game which arrived in the form of the Trespasser DLC.

“They call me the Dread Wolf, what will they call you when this is over?” I cannot replicate the noise I made when Gareth David-Lloyd appeared onscreen and Solas’s cold fury emerged from his mouth, but suffice it to say, it was remarkable and slightly embarrassing. In the 2018 trailer, a line from Trespasser was reused to establish that Solas would indeed be a major player in this new story, and that was exciting. But in yesterday’s video, we got new content! It’s notable that his query in yesterday’s video is the darker side of, “Every war has its heroes, I’m curious what kind you’ll be.”

By making Solas, a former party member and possible lover, an antagonist (possibly THE antagonist) of this next game, it creates a richness that Corypheus and the amorphous ruin of the Blight never could. Even if this game takes place years removed from the Inquisitor and her Inquisition, the players have a personal connection to the antagonist, which should add an immense amount of poignance.

What a gorgeous explosion of concept art. I know from experience that concept art can be a double edged sword. Yes, it’s beautiful and sparks the imagination but so much of it doesn’t get used, forcing me to long for landscapes and character designs that live outside my reach. Still it was awesome to see environments that we’ve never seen before that fit seamlessly into what we know of Thedas.

The world of Dragon Age really has got it all…” Dragon Age 2 was unfairly maligned in my opinion. Sure, it suffered from cut and paste dungeons, but I honestly enjoyed the unusual way the story was structured. Since there was no big bad until the very end of the game, you were just a person living in the world, leveraging relationships, honing your skills, and getting into random hijinks. What made it work so well for me was the great characters who had their own compelling stories and motivations for palling around with the hero. “The things you are going to expect in the next installment are going to be stories that focus on the people around you and the friends and family you make.” Yes, excellent.

While Dragon Age Inquisition was by far a better and more fully realized game, I hope some of Dragon Age 2’s scrappy spirit makes it into this installment. “…It’s got frontier stories, it’s got mystery, it’s got hard boiled detective stories…” Yes. I’ll take it all and whatever else you have to throw at me!

“What happens when you don’t have power? What happens when the people in charge aren’t willing to address the issues?” This statement is heavy with context considering the world right now. It also makes me think that the player won’t’ be elevated to “Your Worship” at any point in the narrative and in fact might closer resemble Hawke and her plucky band of upstarts I mentioned earlier. Rising in the ranks of an underground movement within Tevinter/Thedas and challenging the powers that be definitely has its appeal. You will literally have the option to become the epithet so many internet trolls hurl at BioWare derisively, a Social Justice Warrior (I’ll probably wind up being a mage or rogue as per usual though).

Other odds and ends:

  • The scenery they all chose to do their interviews was lovely. Great production values all around.
  • The Beards of BioWare seem pretty powerful.
  • I have already welcomed Bellara and Davrin into my heart and am impressed that BioWare showed more VAs than just Solas who is a known quantity. I’m looking forward to enjoying relative newcomers, Jee Young Han and Ike Amadi in their respective roles.
  • I like how BioWare invoked reactivity and choices to wrap things up. I never get the impression that they are unclear about what makes their games special even as they cast about for other (more lucrative) specialties and experiment with new genres. They’re not perfect, they make mistakes, but they are clear about the core elements that make their brand of RPGs so special.

If you want to read what I’ve written about Dragon Age and BioWare in the past, check these articles out:

Slavery In Thedas: How Bioware Could Bring Nuance to Dragon Age

Dragon Age Predictions: Who Should Return When the Dread Wolf Rises

Battle of BioWare’s Best Boudoir Buddies

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