Having completed the Mass Effect trilogy, BioWare has now returned its attention to its other RPG series, Dragon Age. That means the sci-fi setting of Mass Effect is replaced with a fantasy world where dragons roam the land and your skill with a sword determines whether you survive. Inquisition is the latest addition to the series, with BioWare promising a bigger game world compared to past instalments.
We caught up with BioWare creative director, Mike Laidlaw, to talk about where Inquisition fits into the Dragon Age franchise.
How similar or different is the development to Mass Effect?
BioWare creative director, Mike Laidlaw (ML): The similarity is in that they’re both character driven and there is a focus on having party members. Mass Effect was different because it was driven by the John Shepard character, while in Dragon Age it is about being among equals. Everyone in your party in Dragon Age is around the same level of power, and the focus of combat and encounters is working as a team. In Mass Effect, you could focus on Shepard and do very well even in the higher difficulties. Inquisition is also different in that it is more open. How you achieve the in-game objectives is entirely up to you. This can lead to a very distinct experience which differs from one player to the other.
Is Inquisition an evolution or a return to the franchise's roots?
ML: If you took the best parts of past games and put them in a blender, and added the open world gameplay, then you would have Inquisition. It’s not really an evolution from Dragon Age II, as we did some things with that game we shouldn’t have. It’s a closer experience to Origins, but again there are parts that feel different in Inquisition that it make it hard to draw the comparison. It’s definitely its own beast, but with the responsiveness of combat and the pacing of Origins. So it’s more of a combination of past games and we tried to distil it down to what worked the best.
What aspect of the game stands out for you?
ML: Being able to chart your own path and deciding how you proceed with the story. The game gives you an objective and it is up to you how to pursue it. It took a lot of work to try to figure out how to turn all that adventuring into a way of earning currency. It also consisted of a lot of different revisions, so I’m really happy with the way that turned out. Another good thing was crafting. I’m a fan of crafting and making my characters look the way I want them to. It’s nice to have a system that lets me customise within the game the same as I did at the start.
Any interest in re-releasing the past Dragon Age games in 1080p?
ML: I think the HD movement is really cool as it gives an opportunity for people and new generation of gamers to dive into something they had not played, or maybe did not meet their needs graphically. At this point we have been 100 per cent focused on Inquisition and working on it like a Death Star. Dragon Age: Origins is fairly recent, so I don’t know if it would need the HD treatment just yet. The way I look at it is something I would not rule out, just like when I get asked about a HD Jade Empire. But right now we’ve been 100 per cent focused on Inquisition.
How was working on Jade Empire?
ML: Jade Empire was my first project at BioWare, so there were many valuable lessons for me to learn. It was early enough in BioWare’s growth that I was working with a lot of the guys who founded the company, so I got to learn a lot from the same people. I’m blessed to be able to continue to work with a lot of those same guys on Dragon Age now. At the same time, Jade Empire was unique in there was a lot of firsts for us. It was our first console project and our first action game where you input your combat in real-time.
What lesson did you bring over to Dragon Age?
ML: The mix of tradition and innovation is one of the things I always considered as Jade Empire’s biggest successes. The big lesson I took away was even if you have success with something, you shouldn’t rest on your laurels. You should not stop there and you need to keep innovating. Not all the changes and innovations you’re going to do will work. However, it is necessary to be humble enough to learn from those mistakes and celebrate where you succeeded so everything can continue to grow and get better.
Any chance BioWare will revisit the Jade Empire universe?
ML: [Laughs] I know there are people in the studio and fans who are very intrigued with the idea of more Jade Empire. It’s something we’ll continue to explore, but we don’t have any solid plans for the moment.
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