Dragon Age: Inquisition’s Semi-Open World is A Step in the Right Direction for Fantasy RPGs
As a gamer who loves exploring open-worlds in video games, sometimes the amount of content in them can be overwhelming and as a gamer who doesn’t really bother with collecting achievements etc., the majority of the time I play the main quest, mess around the game world a little bit and then set the game aside. From there I’ll come back periodically to play side quests or seek out collectibles when I feel like picking up the game again.
I’ve never been an avid fan of the Dragon Age series. The gameplay just wasn’t really my forte as I enjoy more action oriented RPG’s like The Witcher or Skyrim. I love games with deep and engaging stories which is why I’m so disappointed in the fact that I just couldn’t push myself to play through the entirety of either Dragon Age: Origins or its sequel. However, after going through Game Informer’s cover feature for Dragon Age: Inquisition, I’m more than willing to give the franchise another chance.
The game is set in a semi-open world and as James explained in our first details post, the game is not a seamless open world. There are different areas in the game, two of which are Eastern Ferelden and Western Orlais, and each area is larger than any of the open areas that Bioware has built before. There’s a ton of variation as well, ranging from mountain ranges, bogs, deserts and as we’ve seen from various screenshots released, cities and other demonic areas to explore. Each area is filled with everything you’d expect such as loot, new quests, hidden areas and of course, monsters that inhabit the land.
The leveling system in the game also doesn’t scale, so at times you could end up finding yourself in an area with a foe that is way out of your league. As great as all this sounds, the best thing about what Bioware is doing with Dragon Age: Inquisition is making sure that the narrative of the game is front and center. The team is giving players more freedom, but not enough to impede on the directed narrative that Bioware is crafting for Inquisition.
This is very similar to the way that The Witcher 2 was made and that excites me about Inquisition. People for ages have been complaining about stories being too linear and not allowing more freedom and quite a few of the next-generation releases seem to be taking this to heart. Killzone: Shadow Fall, Dragon Age: Inquisition and The Witcher 3 are all leading the charge in implementing a much more directive narrative in an open world. Obviously they aren’t the first, titles such as Infamous 2 did this, but that open world isn’t quite the scale that fantasy RPGs have become over the last decade.
Bioware is describing their main storyline as a campaign, which to me has a much different meaning than calling it a “main quest” etc. To me that means it’s not going to be another Skyrim where the narrative is shallow and uninteresting due to having to stuff the world with so much filler content. Some of the sidequests were more exciting in Skyrim than the main quest, to be completely honest. What Bioware seems to be doing with Inquisition is making the open world part of the game an accessory to the main storyline, and as with other open world RPG’s the main idea of the game is for the player to explore and create their own path. Inquisition allows you create your own path through the choices you make, but unlike most open world games, since the narrative drives the game forward these choices have a much bigger impact than deciding against doing a fetch quest for a random NPC in an open world.
Having the player feel like they’re playing a linear campaign in an open world would seemingly give the player the best of both worlds. You get a game with a directed narrative that is compelling and allows the player to take breaks when needed, but also drives them to finish the story. To me, having an open world feel like doing a bunch of different quests to get to one final goal is just tedious and uninteresting.
If Bioware can create a campaign in an open world setting similar to the likes of The Witcher 2, they may make a fan out of me yet.