BioWare’s most anticipated project, Dragon Age 4 (not its official title) has induced both hype and worry among its dedicated fanbase. Since the teaser trailer was launched at The Game Awards 2018, there’s been pressure on BioWare regarding the quality and direction of the sequel.
There’s no doubt that Dragon Age is a big franchise, with the first game Dragon Age: Origins being such a hit since its debut in 2009, and followed up by powerful hitters Dragon Age 2 and Dragon Age: Inquisition. Not to mention the high-quality DLCs that came with them.
However, BioWare’s ability to deliver the expected magnificent product has been put into question. One would think that there would be an abundance of joy over the sequel to such a beloved franchise, but unfortunately, BioWare’s reputation has but stumbled a few times since, leading to some distrust. This is in reference, of course, to the Anthem fiasco.
But before we jump into the news, rumors, and speculation that’s arisen about Dragon Age 4 since the reveal, let’s dig into the information we have.
Sinister Greetings: A Glimpse At What Lies Ahead
"So, you found me at last. I suspect you have questions."
Solas, from Dragon Age: Inquisition, sent shockwaves throughout the fanbase when the 2018 reveal trailer ended with his dark-tinged voice.
The trailer gave us an intriguing look at the future of the Dragon Age series, warning that #TheDreadWolfRises and promising a satisfying continuation of the cliffhanger in the Trespasser DLC. Known as the Dread Wolf, the elven god of betrayal Fen’Harel caused some chaos through his shocking ties to Solas. It seems the story will pick up where that left off.
With the Inquisitor forming a group of allies to track down Solas, there’s much anticipation as to where Dragon Age 4 will take the story. After all, Trespasser gave so much screen time to that particular conflict.
Because of that, there’s just no doubt that Solas will feature heavily in the coming sequel, something that fans have wanted since that cliffhanger.
BioWare’s Capability To Deliver: An Investigation
Still, there’s a lot that keeps fans from simply rejoicing from the news, as previously mentioned. The Anthem fiasco, as many call it, refers to the failure of the 2019 game Anthem, which had too many bugs and unsatisfactory mechanics. To most players, it didn’t feel quite finished, both technically and content-wise.
Unfortunately, this was already the second flop in BioWare’s history. The 2017 Mass Effect: Andromeda was also a huge disappointment. For sure, this track record affects how fans think BioWare will deliver for DA4.
Amidst A Toxic Workplace Environment
Behind the scenes is a much darker story. Game development teams at BioWare go through hell and back to come up with games that will please.
From mandatory overtime to management’s demands for last-minute changes to an utter disregard for the workers’ welfare, it’s been pointed out that game development has become unbelievably toxic. This is the working culture of crunch time, which is sadly common in the gaming industry.
In response to the reports about workers going on doctor-mandated leaves for weeks or months due to stress, depression, and anxiety, BioWare also admitted that these cases were true and that the work environment issue needed some solving. For many, this is a major concern when it comes to how they might deliver on Dragon Age 4, and to some, a cause for boycott.
Initial Director Mike Laidlaw Leaves Project
This concern is speculated to be an element in what led Mike Laidlaw to leave BioWare, aside from what he said was a decision to pursue a different path as an experienced game developer. One of the original minds behind the franchise and having worked as creative director for Dragon Age: Inquisition, his departure left fans worried.
He had left in October 2018, after the cancellation of the 2017 take on the potential sequel (codenamed Joplin) and before the formation of the newer, smaller team. This team is the current one now working on the version that we will see (codenamed Morrison) using “Anthem’s tools and codebase.”
Many have said that too many of the most talented BioWare developers have left the company, leaving behind an empty husk. Again, this is simply not true, as Laidlaw himself has repeatedly said even as far back as 2017, telling fans that Dragon Age has never had a set ending or path but has always been part of plans that continuously evolve over several years.
Live Service, But Not A Repeat Of Anthem
Insider reports at Kotaku have surfaced quite recently, providing conflicting information and decisions regarding the game that ultimately are not yet final, given that the game is still in its early stages of development. The shift in teams and overall approach is speculated to spell trouble.
Controversially, some developers have called it “Anthem with dragons,” a scathing remark that stuck and made waves around the gaming community as proof of BioWare’s caving in under management of Electronic Arts (EA). After all, EA has been known to stuff live-service applications online for profit, a manifestation of the publisher opting to make money rather than please the existing fanbase.
However, other developers on the same team disagreed. They instead assured the Kotaku reporters that this was an exaggeration, explaining that there would be a live-service component to generate long-term gameplay and revenue, much like other EA games, but that it will still be quite different from Anthem.
Many are sure that BioWare and EA wouldn’t be so bullheaded as to completely change what makes the RPG so great. Online portions may be played with, yes, but it will still probably be distinctly Dragon Age.
Insider info has said that these games often change plenty of times over production, which has barely just started for Dragon Age 4. Whether the attempt at the game will be successful has yet to be seen.
What Fans Want And What We May Get
Sure, there are lots of problems abound today, but trusting in the developers is an important step moving forward, and it’s not like they’re steering a ship blind.
BioWare did great in 2009, giving us quality dark writing and badass strategic combat with Origins. They then provided action and pizzazz in Dragon Age II, with a storyline and gameplay that adequately satisfied many. Finally, Dragon Age: Inquisition showed the mastered graphics and high-quality RPG that all fans wanted, along with DLCs that wowed.
Disregarding the current state of BioWare and EA’s cracked relationship, these games are proof of plans that have carried the franchise throughout the years. Plans that, for sure, have not yet run out.
A Rundown Of AnAverage DA Fan’s Wishlist
First off is a continuation of the epic story. The trailer has showed, with the exciting promise of the enigmatic Solas’ reappearance, that this criterion can be checked off the list.
Another thing that can be picked up where Trespasser left off is the spot in a map where a dagger was shown to have stabbed—Tevinter Imperium. This place is the oldest human country in Thedas and ruled by powerful magisters, which makes it crazy to think that this area has yet to be explored in-game.
BioWare has lots of potential as well when it comes to building great characters. Aside from the wondrous setting and the remarkable foes, fans have also wanted to build better connections with allies.
Mass Effect, developed by BioWare as well, has loyalty missions that Dragon Age can also adopt. These missions would be a great way to build a strong bond with party members, and will fit in quite well with the RPG elements. There have been many requests for a player to be able to romance whoever they want, a sentiment echoed over forums and comment threads.
Of course, in response to worrying news about EA’s live-service plans, there’s been a clamor for the game developers to focus on single-player gameplay over multiplayer. This is a justified concern to keep what makes Dragon Age so good.
Story And World Construction
Story-wise, fans have always wanted to have more control over their journey in the game. Early Dragon Age had decisions matter and actions have consequence, changing how the story goes and its eventual ending.
Player agency has always been a fun, exciting concept, which has sadly been more absent in recent Dragon Age games. It would be great if Dragon Age 4 brought back this awesome aspect. Choices having weight contributes to the overall immersion and experience.
When it comes to world construction, Inquisition has unanimously done the best in the series. Its open-world structure gave players freedom to explore, take time with accomplishing side-quests, and relishing the really well-crafted narrative. It’s definitely an appealing aspect that makes the vast world of Dragon Age memorable for many.
If BioWare pulls this off again for the fourth game, it will surely be a success for fans. Although interconnected hub areas are a good focus for such games nowadays, it would just be a waste to ignore the strength of the previously established open world of Dragon Age.
Cut to the chase: When’s The Release Date?
Ever since the trailer dropped and Mark Darrah, the executive producer of the project, announced Dragon Age 4 in December of 2018 in a blog post, more news about it has been received with such relish and anticipation by followers of the franchise. Release date has not yet been mentioned thus far.
In the blog post, however, Darrah assures that they’ve been “building a new team around a core of Dragon Age veterans, people who’ve worked on Dragon Age, Jade Empire, and some from the Baldur’s Gate days.” If that doesn’t seem like confirmation that a whole lot of cool people is working on the project, there’s also writer Alexis Kennedy’s reveal in a 2017 interview with Eurogamer that he has been working on the story as well.
Sure, delays have happened due to the initial development team dissolving after having been pulled off to focus on other BioWare games, but with the plethora of announcements and news as of late, it seems Dragon Age 4 is a big priority and moving forward full steam ahead.
Alas, a possible release date may be thrown around even as early as now—a report by Venture Beat gleaned from an anonymous source states that the release may be in three years, with a final title still not yet decided upon.
Of course, this isn’t a hundred percent sure, so readers must take this with a grain of salt. This early on in development will see BioWare still taking caution about promising any kind of release window. What’s sure, though, is that Dragon Age 4 will release on PS4, Xbox One, and PC, with other probable consoles not yet announced.
Yes, We Have Questions. Lots Of Questions.
In response to our favorite enigmatic villain Solas’ closing lines from the trailer, yes, fans still have a lot of questions that have yet to be answered.
One is whether EA and BioWare will be able to cooperate with each other and heal their fragmented past enough to pull through with an excellent game that will both please the community and gain profit. It’s a testament to the current state of game development all over that such power struggles exist, but they do, and there’s no way around that.
The worst that could happen is that Dragon Age 4 may crack under the pressure of having to salvage tarnished reputations after the tragedies of Anthem and Mass Effect: Andromeda. This is a fate that many would hate to see happen.
More simply, fans just want a continuation of the epic story, further exploration of the vast world in-game, and awesome combat and missions that will bring out the best of the RPG elements of Dragon Age.
Perhaps the most important is something that everyone’s been clamoring for since announcements have dropped—please, please, please give us better hairstyle and eyebrow options!