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BioWare Aiming To Fix Dragon Age's Choices, Exploration

Dragon Age: Inquisition has pretty much stayed entirely under wraps except in order to briefly emerge and switch out its numerical nametag for a subtitled one. Also, it did the whole razzle-dazzle E3 trailer thing, but only the maddest of fans managed to decipher much from its cinema-tastic showing. For now, then, all we can do is snatch up whatever scraps might fall from BioWare's silently slithering brood. But how? And where? Well, by offering OXM as bait to the RPG behemoth's slavering jaws at PAX Australia, of course.

Word out of the convention is that BioWare's looking to turn a few fundamental RPG systems on their heads for this one - hopefully for better, though I kind of fear for worse. Apparently, the game's main goal is to feel like "our" story, primarily through decisions that matter a lot more than those of Dragon Age II. BioWare's panelists explained that the scene from the E3 trailer with Varric surrounded by bodies and a village obliterated is only one possible outcome of a situation - not some climactic foregone conclusion. Choices will matter, and their outcomes will be big.

Environments, meanwhile, will apparently be highly "diverse". Desert, swamps, mountains, grasslands, ruins, and snowy tundras were all mentioned. There will be plenty of dungeons both large and small, as well. And no, they won't be Plato's conception of the one true chair cave - aka, the real mightiest evil of Dragon Age II.

Perhaps most interesting, however, was BioWare's on-stage waffling about how it'd like to reinvent its tried-and-true dialogue system. Writer Patrick Weekes and a few others expressed fatigue at the idea of more simple red-or-blue Mass-Effect-style choices, noting that they might have another outside force influence the process as well. Options on the table include various stats, certain companions, and avenues pursued earlier in conversation. (Admittedly, those sound to me like areas BioWare has explored before with persuasion stats and whatnot, but it's good to hear that they're hoping to take it further.)

So yes, Inquisition is eyeing a much bigger prize than Dragon Age II. That's good news! However, I do hope that BioWare remembers to look backward as well as forward before while crossing this street. Origins' broader strokes (big exploration, more customization) seem to be in, but the beloved series starter exuded a confident old-school charm on top of all that. Tons of extra dialog options and stories and secrets just waiting to be uncovered. I think a lot of players miss that richness. It's not just about going big. You've got to have heart or it's all meaningless.

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