BioWare have obviously never said this publicly, but the scuttlebutt has always been that "Dragon Age II" suffered from publisher EA's meddling and lack of support, funds, and development time. There'll be no such whispers surrounding "Dragon Age: Inquisition," though: during Gamescom, BioWare and Electronic Arts announced a Fall 2014 release for the upcoming role-playing game.
To mark the occasion, BioWare have released a new development diary that does a good job of sketching out the team's goals for "Inquisition" while showing off some of Thedas' new environments and their top-level predator.
(That would be the massive, flame-spewing dragon.)
A few things stick out. I like the idea of being in control of a vast system of "agents" -- spies, enforcers, mercenary captains, no doubt. It'll be like like playing a vaguely medieval Shadow Broker, a spell-casting Medici or zweihänder-wielding Richelieu. There's promise there.
I'm not so sold on the fact that "Inquisition" protagonist -- be it human, dwarf, or elf -- starts the game as the leader of the Inquisition (sporting a cowboy hat, no less). I'm not beholden to the idea that every RPG hero must start weak and become strong, but I'm also not crazy about being the head of a group that -- for now -- seems like hardline fundamentalist Chantry militiamen.
After years of skullduggering my way through Thedas with apostates, blackhearts, killers, and ne'er-do-wells, that's not exactly where my loyalties lie.
Also, about 45 seconds in, creative director Mike Laidlaw says, "We see the next generation of BioWare RPGs being all about freedom for the player. We want you to be able to take control."
I may be misreading Laidlaw here, but this sounds like a response to fans who bristled at the fact, for example, that it's all but impossible to keep Merrill from releasing an ancient demon or to prevent Anders from blowing up the Kirkwall chantry in "Dragon Age II."
I'm in the minority here, but this is one of my favorite things about the game -- by setting off on their own without consulting with Hawke, Merrill and Anders feel like fully-drawn, independent characters.
Some players accused BioWare of ignoring or whitewashing over their previous interactions, but I appreciated playing a protagonist whose political and social capital was limited, who wasn't allowed to micromanage every aspect of life in an ostensibly living, breathing world, who had to deal with repercussions outside her control and choose to support or condemn her friends.
To see BioWare move away from memorable, remarkable, strong-willed characters in response to some perceived desire for control from fans would be, I think, a shame.
So, anyway, it's obvious that I have some capital-O Opinions on "Dragon Age" as a series, but I also feel comfortable being capital-O Officially Optimistic about "Inqusition." It seems sweeping and expansive and responsive, and BioWare have comparatively plenty of time to work on it.
"Dragon Age: Inquisition" will be available for Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and PC in Fall 2014.
Joseph Leray is a freelance writer from Nashville. Follow him on Twitter