It’s proven hard to predict whether fans of Dragon Age: Origins will have any desire to be won back by BioWare – after the disappointing reception of Dragon Age 2. In the time since, the developers have maintained that complaints and criticisms were heard, and would be helping to shape the future of the series.

Now those most loyal fans can decide for themselves if their words have been taken to heart, as the first details on possible plot, concept artwork, character information and companions for Dragon Age 3 have been leaked thanks to an online survey. Will rifts – metaphorical and literal – be just what the doctor ordered to make all players happy?

The details that have surfaced on the BioWare forums are still of the unconfirmed variety, having originated from a survey administered by Electronic Arts, as is usually the case when a major franchise is beginning to ramp up production. These details could all be just one possibility of many, but surveys like these tend to strike nearer the truth than fiction.

First off are not one, but two potential plot outlines giving the basic state of both the game world and neighboring states, as well as a brief introduction to the player-controlled character, the Inquisitor. BioWare had made a point of systematically getting input from their fan base in order to hone the direction of Dragon Age 3 for months now, but it’s unlikely that anyone expected the Inquisition:

“The great nation of Orlais, the most powerful empire in Dragon Age, tears itself apart in civil war. The stout men and women of Ferelden struggle to recover and reclaim their nation from the horde of evil Darkspawn that lay waste to its lands a decade ago. The Chantry, the once-unified faith of the Dragon Age world stands divided. the Templar order has broken away, claiming the church has become too lax in policing the dangerous power of mages. The Mage circles have rebelled, believing the Templars have become too strict, zealous in their duties, and too quick to slaughter those who step out of line.

“The world of Dragon Age is one on the brink of collapse, and when desperate gathering in the name of peace becomes the epicenter of a magical blast that decimates the Chantry’s leadership, it becomes clear that someone or something is manipulating events to drive the world into chaos.

“From the ashes of that explosion, something new rises: The Inquisition. As the Inquisitor, it falls to you to build up your power and martial your forces, uncover secrets and build connection across the world. You must explore forgotten spaces, uncover ancient mysteries and uproot those who would destroy the fabric of the world.”

Those brief paragraphs are more than enough to fuel both fan excitement and outrage, but a few more details on exactly what operating as ‘The Inquisitor’ will consist of:

“A portal between the worlds unleashes hordes of demons in the land, civil wars rip apart nations and the corruption is limitless. Someone is behind the shadows, pulling the strings which destroy the world. Time has come for the Inquisition.

“Take the Inquisitor’s cloak and lead the only force able of bringing light into the darkness. Choose the direct method and gather your armies, send spies into the shadows or engage in a political war, make friends and use your connections indirectly: it is up to you how you lead the inquisition. But you’ll have to take lead of it from the beginning. Make your player a rogue, warrior or mage and set up your crew from up to ten complex companions to lead them against those who attack you by systematically spying on, revealing and destroying them.”

Obviously the lands of Orlais, and the constantly-brewing conflict between mages and Templars are extremely familiar to players at this point. While the Inquisition is an interesting political and ethically ambiguous event to make the focus of Dragon Age 3, simply hearing the word ‘Chantry’ is one guaranteed way to divide any group of fans. The drama between gifted individuals and those in place to limit their power isn’t inherently boring or one-dimensional, but two games have already explored both sides rather fully.

If compelling voice actors were called in to make Templars more than just stereotypical knights, or sympathetic performances made the mages and their captors more nuanced and conflicted – as opposed to ideological opposites – then the politics of The Chantry could prove far more interesting. That would entail quite a hefty dose of story, though, and considering the player’s quest to “build up power” and “uncover secrets” BioWare might have their hands full.

Even if that plot synopsis sounds a lot like Mass Effect 3‘s, the companions on hand to aid the player in their mission are as promising as ever. The leaked information paints the roster of supporting characters at a robust ten, the early concept artwork on possible squadmates is as polished as would be expected. Armor and bears still abound, but given the genre, the art team can only do so much:

Dragon Age 3 Concept Art

In keeping with earlier promises, the leaked survey also sought feedback on various existing and possible additions and features. The chances of a multiplayer component being added as well were rumored months ago, and the mention of such once again could be a sign of things to come. The additional questions noted by the poster surround the inclusion of online/cooperative modes, special finishing moves, crucial decisions, player-controlled day/night cycles, four companions at a time and improved party management.

The idea of four party members at once seems a risky move, but the fact that the developers are even seeking feedback on the implementation of Dragon Age 2‘s day/night cycle could be telling. In a best case scenario, BioWare is considering doing away with the artificiality in favor of a more simulated, open world. That might be wishful thinking, but DA2‘s lead designer has already made it clear that no feature of the last game is beyond inspection or reevaluation.

Along with these story and mechanics hints, a few possible names for Dragon Age 3 were provided. A number, it seems, just doesn’t do the trick these days. ‘Dragon Age 3: The Breach,’ ‘Dragon Age 3: Exarch,’ ‘Dragon Age 3: Inquisition,’ ‘Dragon Age 3: Inquisitor,’ and ‘Dragon Age 3: Apocrypha’ were all provided for fan feedback, leaving the door open for potential DLC or expansion titles as well.

What do you Dragon Age fans (and former fans) think of this possible plot? Would you like to see the developers explore both a portal spewing demonic creatures and religious division, or just one or the other?

Dragon Age 3 is expected to release some time in 2014. For the entire gallery of grainy concept artwork, head over to NeoGAF. We’ll keep you updated as more details or a response from BioWare are released.

Follow me on twitter @andrew_dyce.

Source: BioWare Forums (via NeoGAF)