The Dragon Keep: Good or Bad for The Dragon Age Saga?
One of the most appealing aspects of Bioware’s RPG games has to be the ability to carry multiple saves (and with it, the choices you may make throughout the narrative) on to the latest chapter of a particular saga. To many, a particular game that has prided itself on such a trait has been the Dragon Age series; with the latest instalment, Dragon Age: Inquisition being released on 20th November. However, given the age in which we live, where new systems will understandably be used to play such releases, the question is just how will fan’s beloved saved choices be imported? Whether it be on a simply upgraded Xbox 360 to Xbox One, or going on a PS3 from PC, this is exactly where Bioware’s online Importation tool, The Dragon Age Keep, plays its part.
Similarly following in the footsteps of the Mass Effect: Genesis DLC, The Dragon Age Keep will be a heavily ungraded web-based interactive tool that will allow gamers to remake (or correct) the choices that they may have made previously in Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age 2. Subsequently, they will save such choices to be imported on to any system they desire, in order for them to continue/shape their version of Thedas as they see fit. At the other end of the spectrum, newcomers to the franchise are allowed to customise what would have been their actions in the previous games, instead of having to make do with the vanilla reality that they would otherwise receive from simply purchasing Inquisition. While this is currently in its Beta format, Bioware seem to have designed a fairly fantastical solution to what would otherwise be a massive problem for their narrative-driven titles; especially with such titles as Mass Effect confirmed to be having new instalments in the future. With the release of Dragon Age: Inquisition being imminent, and countless demo videos being shown at what feels like every possible gaming conference there is; it is understandable that speculation of what will actually be included in The Dragon Age Keep has gained momentum in recent months. So I hear you say, what exactly is it that Bioware has confirmed for this seemingly perfect importation tool?
According to the developers and what has very recently been leaked online (naughty, naughty!) of the Beta version so far, the Dragon Keep will be questionnaire-based in its overall format and will even grant fans the opportunity to make decisions from DLCs that they may or may not have purchased previously. While this may feel slightly like a slap in the face to those who invested time and money in the previous additions to the saga through game-play, the idea behind it is to simply to give the player full reign and enrich the chosen world-state; and is clearly not something that Bioware has considered lightly. Looking at it from a newcomer’s prospective, surely knowing as much about the lore of Thedas and the Dragon Age would make later gameplay in Inquisition that much more enjoyable? Or even those who have played the franchise previously and wish to brush-up their knowledge will all now be able to do so. This is probably due to Bioware wanting to make sure that all players, new or old, have an equal starting point, which will obviously be prone to change depending on their ‘in-keep’ decisions.
As this will be more of a re-creation of a player’s previous save file than a straightforward import, it also means that the character customisation of both the Warden and Hawke, Dragon Age’s existing heroes, will be kept to a minimum. With this being the case, it has been confirmed that merely the character’s class and race will be subject to change based on the player’s preferences, resulting in there being no way to personalise how they may look. Simply because there is no data in which a wide range of consoles could read character appearance through a cloud-like tool like the Dragon Age Keep. While the idea of this may not be a particularly big problem, however, as has just been confirmed through Inquisition’s latest ‘The Enemy of Thedas’ trailer (featured) shown at Gamescom last week, Dragon Age 2’s Hawke will make an appearance to some degree in this chapter to the saga. Whilst this is fantastic news for any die-hard Dragon Age fan, as we have pleaded with Bioware for months that a previous Thedas champion be included in Inquisition, using Hawke’s default appearance in the latter may not bother many fans as it is still not clear just how important they will be to this game. In reality it hinders not only a fan’s view of Hawke (quite literally), but also their very own experience inside Dragon Age and furthermore takes a step back from the saga’s mantra of bespoke storytelling. What we can only hope is that Bioware will give the option to change their appearance in Inquisition, rather than in the Dragon Age Keep itself.
Whatever your opinion of Bioware’s upcoming solution to those pesky importation problems may be, there are definitely many on either end of the spectrum. Ultimately The Dragon Age Keep is the closest fans will come to reconstructing their chosen world-state of Thedas. The Keep itself is still being heavily altered and in Beta testing at the moment and will no doubt be subject to change before its release one month ahead of Dragon Age: Inquisition. For now however, fans both die-hard and casual may have a chance of experiencing this in-progress version by invitation only through the Keep website.
Dragon Age: Inquisition will be released on 20th November in Europe, with The Dragon Age Keep being released due to be a month before.