Dragon Age: Inquisition hits soon. And when it hits, it’ll hit hard. EA and Bioware, tangled as they are like an unctuous Yin and Yang, have the eyes of the gaming world fixed on them. Worse, they have the eyes of RPG fans on them; after their jagged, uneven handling of Mass Effect 3 (which, years after the fact, came right), there’s a great deal of pressure for them not to screw up the third part in a trilogy that kicked off five years ago.
So what can you do to prepare for what is undoubtedly going to be a gargantuan, glorious time-sink? How can you reacclimatise yourself before returning to Thedas? Here are some foolproof ways to make the transition.
Stop going on about Dragon Age 2
Seriously. It’s boring. I’ve never seen a game so uniformly lambasted for its one admittedly irritating design flaw: reused maps. Dragon Age: Origins, the first game in the series, sent players buzzing around Ferelden, letting them visit a variety of fantastic, varied locales, whereas Dragon Age 2 was pretty much set in the same city: Kirkwall. Dungeons were carbon copies of one another, and grinding was repetitive.
Here’s the thing, though: you need to get over it. The story was top notch, the companions, their dialogue, personalities, interactions, backstories and voice acting was unparalleled, and Hawke was a deeply compelling hero. Also, despite being a frustratingly static location, Kirkwall was an evolving city; the game didn’t send you through new settings, but it did propel the one setting through time, letting you watch Kirkwall rise and fall over the years, along with your fortunes.
Long story short: stop bitching about the one glaring design flaw and start focussing on the rich, gorgeous, intricate lore and surprisingly arse-kicking story Dragon Age 2 has to offer. It’ll serve you well when Inquisition hits (Hawke will play a sizeable role, apparently).
Read the comics
David Gaider, writer of the games, wrote a superb trilogy of graphic novels following Alistair and a seriously compelling adventure he has with Isabella and Varric between the events of Dragon Age 2 and Inquisition. The trilogy contains The Silent Grove, Those Who Speak and Until We Sleep, and does everyone’s favourite Dragon Age companion, Alistair, superb justice; it also does so without stepping on your Grey Warden’s toes.
All three are available in most comic stores; there’s something really lovely about being able to leaf through a well written hardcover Dragon Age comic series. Get on it.
Use the Dragon Age Keep
One of the joys of playing Bioware RPG’s is the ability to take your carefully made decisions, chosen painstakingly and locked away into your save files, and importing them into sequels. This means that the game world you step into is one YOU shaped with the choices you made.
However, Bioware and EA have chosen not to give us that wonderful gift this time around. Instead, apparently because of how hard it is to correctly import save data to the current-gen systems, we have to use The Keep. It’s basically a browser app which lets you fill out a pretty questionnaire, thereby shaping your entire prior Dragon Age experience down to the smallest choices, effectively rendering the hard work of fans who’ve slaved over careful decisions and ferried their save games from computer to computer like wounded digital baby birds a complete waste of time.
The Keep does let you log in to Origin and ‘synch your data’, importing achievements and custom avatars, but what effect this actually has on the Inquisition game world is infuriatingly vague. It also begs the question: why can you grab that data, but not our save data? And why is this system not optional (like the Mass Effect graphic novel prologue approach), but mandatory?
At some point, The Keep may import actual useful data. As it stands, I synched and reviewed my 300 choices using the admittedly very pretty Keep app, and had to go through to correct almost every choice which had been flagged the polar opposite of those I made. It feels like a slap in the face for fans on several levels, but if you want to do what I did – pretend you lost your save games and could now miraculously recreate my choices – it’s a godsend. And maybe, just maybe, it’ll import saves sooner rather than later.
Dragon Age Inquisition is, I have no doubt, going to be a masterpiece. But time will tell if it’s a masterful Dragon Age game, as opposed to simply a technological marvel.