Following Anthem's multiple gaffes, many BioWare fans were worried about one of the next big titles the studio currently has in development, Dragon Age 4. BioWare released a short trailer at the Game Awards 2018, but considering that Dragon Age Inqusition was released back in 2014, many were confused about why so little was shown. Jason Schreier's Kotaku report concerning Anthem exacerbated this doubt, and now it seems even some at BioWare call the next Dragon Age, "Anthem with Dragons." However, it appears that was not always the case.
To be clear, the teaser shown at the Game Awards 2018 is for the code named "Morrison" project. It is the version of Dragon Age 4 currently in development, but prior to that, there was another DA4 code named Joplin. This version of Dragon Age 4 would be internally cancelled by BioWare upon Casey Hudson's return to stay the flames of Anthem, which led to the creation of Morrison, a much smaller team for DA4 that removed Mike Laidlaw, creative director of Dragon Age, from the project and placed him on Anthem. Laidlaw ultimately left BioWare.
Unlike Anthem, which did not have a clear vision, many loved Laidlaw's ideas for Dragon Age 4, and it was benefiting from the tools and production pipelines set forth after Inquisition. It's worth mentioning that Joplin was worked on as early as 2015, endured a small hiccup to help Mass Effect Andromeda in 2016, and was ultimately ended due to the stresses of Anthem.
In Joplin, players would have been spies in the Tevinter Imperium, and the game's goal was to put emphasis on choice and consequence and have smaller areas and fewer fetch quests than Inquisition did. One developer commented on the Joplin idea of "repeat play" for DA4, which would have seen in-game areas change over time with missions that had multiple branches (which would even allow for "non-standard game overs" if too many bad decisions were made).
Joplin would have also focused on heists as spies, presumably to circumvent the plans of Solas. While speaking to Kotaku, developers also mentioned systemic narrative mechanics that would have allowed Dragon Age 4 players to persuade, extort, or somehow abuse guards. One former BioWare developer who worked on this project even stated, "We were working towards something very cool, a hugely reactive game, smaller in scope than Dragon Age: Inquisition, but much larger in player choice, followers, reactivity, and depth. I'm sad that game will never get made."
It's possible that Dragon Age 4 is the next big game to release from BioWare after everything that has gone down with Anthem, and it's uncertain how much of the Morrison project will be influenced by Joplin since the two projects have different leads. Nevertheless, BioWare General Manager Casey Hudson appears to be devoted to doing better by the studio, so here's hoping that Dragon Age 4 will rise above the shortcomings of Anthem.
Dragon Age 4 is currently in development for unspecified platforms.