If I had to explain what BioWare's RPG, Dragon Age, is all about, I'd easily cram it all into one word: relationships. But that's my personal experience, and I'm not developing Dragon Age: Inquisition, so I couldn't tell you what the next Dragon Age will be all about. BioWare's executive producer, Mark Darrah, however, can.
During a press event last month in Los Angeles, Darrah stood in front of a room of journalists and explained that Dragon Age: Inquisition is about five main pillars.
"This is the biggest game in our studio's history," Darrah said as he introduced an on-screen presentation of the game and its pillars. "We've learned a lot from our past and brought fresh, modern thinking to our designs to deliver unsurpassed depth and freedom to the player."
Those may very well be little more than marketing phrases meant to glamor you, but Darrah promises that there's more story content in Dragon Age: Inquisition than any of their previous RPGs.
Even the concept of choice is expanded, he said, calling them more "grey" than "black and white." They're "moving beyond choice and into dilemma, forcing you to make difficult decisions. There are hundreds of these decision points and actions that will shape your story making it unique to you," Darrah said.
Yes! Relationships! So I'm at least one fifth right.
"It wouldn't be a BioWare game without a cast of characters that you can grow to care about," Darrah said, fittingly. He explained that there will be nine followers you can find and recruit, which is more than the previous Dragon Age titles. The nine followers will be a mix of both characters that are new to Inquisition and ones you are familiar with from the previous games.
So, of course, your story will evolve as your relationships with your followers do. But, Darrah said, your followers will have their own evolving relationships amongst each other that will also change as the story does.
A Multi-Region, Open World
Darrah already mentioned that Inquisition features more story content than any other RPG the developer has made. But it also features the biggest world that they have ever made. "This is a multi-region open world, a first for BioWare and it's going to set the expectation for all of our games moving forward," he said.
The world includes 10 open, living regions that span two nations. As Darrah explained that environments would range from forests and deserts to swamps, mountains and others, gorgeous-looking lands flashed quickly across the screen. "Each area has its own unique weather and ecosystem," Darrah said.
"Or gather your party and venture into a dungeon, searching for lost knowledge and hidden treasures."
Choices have always been a big feature in BioWare games, from dialogue to actual decision making. But they're hoping to give your choices a bigger, or perhaps wider range of impact in Inquisition. Darrah explained a bit about how they're going to do this.
"The world of Dragon Age: Inquisition will react to your presence and to the actions you take. Our brand new emergent life system changes based upon the decisions and actions you make, evolving the world as you progress through the story. The inquisition is your primary tool of influence. Use the war table to send your agents on missions and to decide where the story goes next. Rebuild and customise the stronghold and make it your own. Or use the judgment system to capture enemies in the world and decide their ultimate fate."
Customisation options are yet another feature in Inquisition that Darrah says is bigger and more expansive than ever.
"Four playable races, two genders, and a choice of voices, as well as our unique, brand new facial customisation system that offers over a billion possible faces...21 different combat skill trees...over 250 combat abilities, talents and upgrades, allow you to fight the way you want. 16 million armour combinations that can be equipped on both you and your followers. Craft weapons and armour, going all the way down to customising the hilt and the blade to make your weapons look the way you want and play the way you want."
You also have a choice in combat. You can control one character directly, in a close-up view of the battle, or pull out for commander mode to control more tactical options.
"Dragon Age: Inquisition: the most ambitious RPG BioWare's ever made," Darrah said, in closing. "Almost four years in the making and built on these five pillars. The biggest story we've ever told, more characters to care about, our largest world to explore, choices and actions that change the world, and customisation options that will personalise your experience."
Dragon Age: Inquisition releases on October 7 on PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4.