As next-gen console owners around the world await a new wave of games to push the envelope ever forward, BioWare is looking to take advantage with Dragon Age: Inquisition. Set to take the franchise in a bigger, more open-ended direction, the newest batch of screenshots released tease a few new locations players will be able to explore, and the rival factions they can interact with – if they so choose.
Perhaps just as promising as the next-gen visuals fueled by the Frostbite 3 Engine is the shift in story structure that Inquisition will bring; rather than casting the player as a single soldier out to beat the odds and assemble forces, the player will step into the role of The Inquisitor, with an army already at their back. Assembling a larger force is still required, but the developers promise to be giving players more authority than they have come to expect.
From a mechanical standpoint, that means dealing with smaller factions (as past games have) to set aside smaller squabbles before the world of Thedas is swallowed up by a mysterious threat. Fans may disagree on how much of a misstep Dragon Age 2 truly was, but BioWare has confirmed that the feedback from the previous game has made them raise their ambitions.
Pair next-gen processing power and visuals with a more ambitious level of exploration, and what it means for players is more environments, more varied climates, and – hopefully – a greater opportunity for choice and consequences.
It’s still unclear how many new and returning factions will appear through the course of Inquisition‘s campaign, but at least one party opposing to the Inquisition has been teased in the new images. The Red Templars, a group of rebel Templars so named for their addiction to Red Lyrium have been confirmed to appear, and the screenshots showing the ‘Emprise du Lion’ seem to feature their stronghold. For the uninitiated, Red Lyrium is a variation on the normal Lyrium – a magical substance used by Templars to hone their abilities – that grants increased power to users, but at the eventual cost of their sanity.
The writers have not explained how large a role the faction will play, but the raw red ores seen in the screenshots of the snowy Highland areas of the Dales implies a connection (and some potentially devastating combat encounters).
The images show that crazed Templars aren’t all the player must worry about, as the presence of several hot springs has led to a few winged, fire-breathing inhabitants as well. Past comments have hinted that some areas and questlines will be required to advance the core quest, while others are merely present for players wishing to shape their own campaign even further. The location is said to include a “core story element,” so it seems to be yet another chapter of Thedas’ history set to be explored. Defeating the opposing forces nets the player a major boost to their army, not to mention a fortified keep built out of an ancient Elven ruin.
In addition to the snowy environment comes a glimpse at the ‘Emerald Graves,’ a mix of Orlesian and ancient Elven ruins. Throughout the forest will appear scattered refugee camps, but senior environment artist Andrew Farrell claims players will want to explore the area at their own risk:
“While adventuring through the upper regions of the Emerald Graves, you’ll come across some rather large caves. Don’t be surprised to find some ‘gigantic’ enemies using them as their homes.
“You may not be a high enough level to take down everything you’ll encounter at first, but you can sneak around and continue your exploration,” Farrell explained. “When you are strong enough, however, this is exactly the kind of place you’ll want to come back and do battle in search of better loot. You never know, there could even be a dragon nearby.”
Much of Inquisition is still being kept under wraps until closer to release, but the pieces all seem to be in place to offer an entry fitting alongside the previous chapters. The mechanics and gameplay progression have been detailed, and the story trailer provided enough hints to excite existing fans. But the writing and decision-making were what originally distinguished the Dragon Age brand, so hopefully these environments are a sign that the choices and characters will be widely variable as well.
What aspect of Inquisition are you most looking forward to? The next-gen environments and exploration, or the story? 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.