After what has felt like years, BioWare has finally decided to lift the veil of secrecy from Dragon Age: Inquisition, with the official story trailer released today giving fans some sense of the locations, characters, and threats that will be encountered. As the studio's first truly next-gen entry, the leadership knows all too well just how much of an expectation there is to exceed what came before. And for Inquisition, it begins with the new hero.
To this point, the exact details of the man or woman leading the titular 'Inquisition' have been kept to the background, instead focusing on the wealth of customization players can look forward to, and the variety of environments next-gen makes possible. But the trailer made it clear that the Inquisitor would be facing a monumental threat - and one seemingly unconnected to either of the games that came before. That's likely to change, but for now, the devastating 'Breach' threatening to swallow the whole of Thedas makes prior threats seem miniscule.
Speaking with both Gamespot and PC Gamer, executive producer Mark Darrah explains that while the events of Inquisition are sure to have an overwhelming effect on the future of the Dragon Age series, the role through which players will experience (and attempt to stop) it is something genuinely new to the formula:
"When we started this franchise, what we really wanted to always be doing was telling the story of the world, as opposed to the story of a single character. When we have a character, these events are big and world-shaking. We basically are trying to tell the story in the best way possible, rather than trying to have an arc for a single character.
"Because we’re going back to full races there’s going to be a significant difference in background between the different potential inquisitors. In Dragon Age: Origins you are a member of the wardens, but in a lot of ways you are the last surviving warden or at least the last surviving warden on the ground when he’s needed... In Dragon Age 2 Hawke is really a leaf in the wind. The story is very much about him reacting to the world pushing on him. In this case it’s much more about putting The Inquisitor at the head of an organization... This isn’t about being a Jedi, this is about founding The Jedi Order."
Those familiar with BioWare's most recent RPGs will likely get a nagging sense of familiarity, as the general plot hinted at for Inquisition - gaining reputation and allies to your side to take on a large threat - is essentially the exact one seen in both Mass Effect 2 and 3.
According to Darrah, there seems to be a bit more subtlety and nuance to the progression, not to mention letting players bargain from a position of power as opposed to "begging" as they had in the past:
"You're still the tip of the spear. You're the one doing the dangerous things. It's more about using the power of the inquisition to do things that are beyond the capability of a single person. So, for example, you might find a place where a bridge is broken and then you can actually use the inquisition to do an operation to repair that bridge. Or, for the critical path, you need to have a meeting with the Templars. They don't want to talk to you, so you're gonna use your agents to gather up the support of local nobility to essentially increase the weight of your presence, because now it's not just you, a ragtag party of guys. It's you and powerful nobles. It becomes much more difficult to ignore you. So that's really what you use your inquisition for more. It's about that next level of ability.
"Also, surviving this calamity has actually given you powers that other people don’t have. You have a remnant of this explosion in your hand that actually allows you to close these fade rifts that are around the world. This gives you additional influence on the world and additional ability to demand respect, demand that people listen to you, because you can do something no one else can."
Obviously fans will wait to pass judgement on how well the finished game executes on these ideas, but it's a safe bet that Dragon Age players are ready to be given serious authority in the game's universe. The need to listen to insufferable and closed-minded leaders bicker about their minor issues as the world sits on the precipice can only be tolerable for so long, so the chance to actually flex some muscles as The Inquisitor will be a welcome change.
As more story details arrive in the coming months, a better sense of how much players will be kept to the path, or allowed to wander will be possible. For now, what do you think of this promise of 'next-level' authority? Is it a long overdue feature, or do you have your doubts that Inquisition will differ from BioWare's other RPGs? 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.