How Dragon Age Finally Lands On its Feet With Inquisition

By Adam Ma on March 10, 2014, 11:15PM EDT

When building an RPG it's important to decide what kind of experience you want players to have, not simply to have a guiding theme for your game but because Role Playing as a mechanic can be really hard to define. We all role play a little when picking up a controller regardless of the genre we engage in and if you really wanted to stretch the term just about every video game out there that isn't strictly a puzzle game is a role play experience. For RPGs it can mean endless level grinds, sitting just outside the looking glass of a romance, or building your own relationships from comrades in arms. Most developers days try to draw you in with their intricate world building treating the plane, kingdom, continent, or wilderness as a character in its own right; something we're meant to grow with and learn to love.

Dragon Age is no exception to this rule, and while there may be a lot of debate on why Dragon Age Origins was better or worse than Dragon Age 2 one could definitely say there were huge leaps from one game to the next on what the internal focus seemed to be. Character development was always the big 'thing' but the first game simply felt more grounded in the lore of the world rather than the political or personal agendas regarding each party member, and advertisements for the game leading up to launch were more focused on Hawke's abilities, combat prowess, and the upgraded combat system (which was never really a key point of enjoyment in DA to begin with).

But Ferelden is a character in its own right, and though we long to see the rise and fall of empires within her lands it's important that the land never feels secondary to plot or character design. When exploring in a game like Skyrim each dungeon, town, and wilderness adventure contributes to the personality and depth of the overall world; a rule that applies to any sandbox game, from the satirically modern take of Grand Theft Auto to the futuristic wasteland of Fallout. These games sell well because they never keep us too long in one place, never focus too long on one character, and encourage players for their constant exploration and need to learn more.

This is why Dragon Age Inquisition is so exciting, because when given the opportunity to give us absolutely any snippet of information about the game what we've seen so far is world building on top of world building. Cresting falls, dark lands exuding magic, untamed wilds and the glorious kingdoms that lay in between are more than things players want to see, they're characters we want to meet and learn about. When the world is immersive enough you'll find that there are a lot of mechanics that players are willing to forgive and forget.

We still have a long way to go in seeing how much Bioware has learned from their mistakes, but so far the signs are good. A pull away from linear storytelling, unique environments, and a consistent unified story background based on individual progress in the earlier games is an excellent start. Hopefully in the coming months we'll see a lot more on the depth added to the world, something to make us all want to dig into Ferelden just a little bit deeper; and if we're lucky it'll be the greater depth of the world and not the Deep Road that swallows us whole.

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