There was no question that BioWare had some work to do in removing any skepticism or concerns over Dragon Age: Inquisition, but our time with the game at E3 2014 put all our fears to rest. So with mechanical concerns out of the way, it's time to focus on what has always distinguished BioWare epics from similar titles: their stories and characters.
And today, the studio unveiled one character sure to chart a new course for the Dragon Age series.
The revelation comes courtesy of Inquisition's writer David Gaider, in a post on BioWare's official blog. The character in question is Dorian, a man featured briefly during the company's E3 demo as a sarcastic, but goodhearted addition to the Inquisitor's forces. Like all Dragon Age party members, Dorian has no shortage of his own demons, driving him from his homeland to add his magical powers to those of the Inquisitor, in pursuit of... well, Gaider is keeping the character's backstory under wraps for now.
What we do know is that Dorian is a powerful mage from the Tevinter Imperium, meaning he won't be the involuntary outcast or outsider in dealing with Thedas' ruling class and authority figures:
"He comes from a wealthy and influential family, one of many that arrange marriages and raise their children to become perfect mages… yet Dorian has rejected that life. He's seen the corruption to which it leads, and he refuses to play along despite the fact it's made him something of a pariah.
"Without spoiling the plot, I'll say that Dorian got wind of something that his fellow Tevinter mages were doing, and decided to intervene. As he sees it, someone from Tevinter needs to stand up and say, "We don't agree with what these people are doing. They don't represent all of us."
"Dorian is an outcast–by choice, but only insofar as he chose not to live according to the expectations of his society. There are a lot of aspects to that which I enjoyed exploring, and which I haven't had to chance to do with other characters."
An outcast would describe a majority of prior Dragon Age fan-favorites - BioWare tends to prefer their characters conflicted, broken, or oppressed as a means of making political or social commentary - but Dorian will be set to deal with prejudice in a genuinely unique way. Gaider explains:
"Dorian is gay–he is, in fact, the first fully gay character I've had the opportunity to write. It added an interesting dimension to his back story, considering he comes from a place where "perfection" is the face that every mage puts on and anything that smacks of deviancy is shameful and meant to be hidden. Dorian's refusal to play along with that facade is seen as stubborn and pointless by his family, which has contributed to his status as a pariah.
"I suppose this aspect of Dorian will make him controversial in some corners, but I was glad to include it. It made writing Dorian a very personal experience for me, and I'm hopeful that will make him seem like a fully realized character to fans in the end."
Gaider would later explain that his use of the term "fully gay" was meant to communicate that Dorian would only be a love interest for male characters, where previous romance options would be open to romance from both men and women. BioWare had previously explained that Inquisition would feature a "new take" on romance, and Dorian proves that it was more than just lip service.
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It's testament to BioWare's past games that this news won't come as a complete shock, as the developer has made it clear in the past that recognizing all forms of romance is a priority for several reasons. Not the least of which is acknowledging that in AAA video games, they're one of the only companies actively trying to be inclusive to all members of their fan base, not just those most easily marketed to. And at the end of the day, they're more interested in recognizing the fans who need it than tailoring their game to those who would oppose the practice.
There is plenty more to Dorian than his romantic side, and luckily, the new approach to romance in Inquisition means players who select a female Inquisitor won't have to miss out. In the past, getting to know a party member as much as possible often meant developing a romantic relationship, but Gaider has explained that this time around, the team has tried to show each character's personality and past regardless of romance. The results remain to be seen, but the direction is a wise one.
What do you make of the announcement? Are you happy to see BioWare not just apply an 'everything goes' mentality to romance, but give their supporting cast unique and complete identities? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Dragon Age: Inquisition releases October 7, 2014 for the PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.