Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Dragon Age Inquisition: early observations

With most every hardcore RPGamer, we're awaiting Bioware's 3rd major foray into the Dragon Age franchise. (Aside from Project Eternity and Torment: Numenera updates.) Most are impressed with what they've heard and seen so far of the next installment, a few have written off Bioware completely, and the rest are skeptical as always. But it's nice to be optimistic.

Unfortunately, pessimism leads to more accurate expectations. If a game designer looks to Skyrim's open world, for example, it is hard to grasp how to succinctly tell a well edited and focused main plot. (Skyrim's storytelling, due to the free-roam concept, made everything an unfocused menagerie.)With fetch quests surely to be present, the player will undoubtedly be running around non-re-purposed levels for Quest Giver n's Missing Object of Great Importance. One can only hope the numerous side stories all tie into whatever it is the main player is motivated to be doing; we currently don't know who the protagonist is, despite being told of various things they will be doing (saving or destroying a village, holding and protecting ones keep, sending ones companions/NPC army-followers on quests, Assassins Creed: Brotherhood style.)

According to producer Mark Darrah, DA:I won't be a pure open world concept, but it'll be closer to Baldur's Gate.
So I'm guessing no swimming, hunting or crafting.

One thing that sounds poor (from only my critical eye/ear) is an interview with Mark with Rev3Games
At 6:23: "Then we can actually establish the politics more, more gradually, as opposed to dropping you in and like Templars, Tevinter, and giving you all this lore upfront, we can actually drip feed it to you at a more reasonable pace; only give you the lore you actually need, to do what you need, and let you dig into it, if that's something you're looking for."

At 0:12: "'re reforming the Inquisition, not as part of the church, not as part of the Chantry; you actually stand apart from that based on these events, in opposition to it."
I'm curious to see how one is an institution of the Chantry, yet not part of it.

"You're that upstart group who everybody has to respect but doesn't want to."
Probably due to their shaky religious-political association.

I'm all for the slow build up of political conflict in stories. But once again, we are screwed over by Bioware wanting to streamline their stories, to let non-Dragon Age players get in by not "giving you all this lore upfront". Believing that people who play RPGs, actual hardcore gamers, who'd be interested in Dragon Age for the first time, can't handle a few nouns and descriptions they've never heard before. What will happen is a function-focused story: "only give you the lore you actually need", as opposed to what the writer thinks would be worthwhile or necessary for a variety of storytelling reasons (foreshadowing, description, immersion, drama, pathos, question answering, etc.) This is the exact opposite of Brian Fargo of inXile entertainment's opinion of those who don't like Infinity Engine games, or games he is producing: he simply does not cater to those not interested in what he's producing.

Still, the DA writers aren't monkeys. They did write some entertaining dialog, which made DA2 at least a palatable experience. Luckily, articles like this tend to renew my opinion that they aren't complete hacks, and that they do know what to be inspired by (and if they can't write, then at the very least, to know what to steal):

("The succubus tries to focus on her poetry." Say what? Okay, it's an old game, memories aren't what they were.  It's the thought that counts though...right?)