BioWare's cautious trickling-out of Dragon Age 3: Inquisition details picked up steam this weekend, thanks to a panel at the Edmonton Comic and Entertainment Expo. Marginally, anyway. The takeaways boil down to three lavish concept artworks, a handful of hard details and a mass of helpful comments along the lines of "let's just say" or "in theory" or "we're not not doing that".
Fortunately, we here at OXM are skilled in the sorcerous arts of interpretation and prognostication, adept at distilling the glitter of gold from the texture of tin. Here are twelve things you need to know about Dragon Age 3, plucked from the panel video, prior BioWare chats and the Twitter feeds of Messrs Mike Laidlaw and Cameron Lee.
1. You're definitely human
Sorry, but other species will be off-limits in Dragon Age 3 for story reasons. There are two ways of interpreting this, off the tops of our heads. Firstly, it could be taken as proof that Dragon Age 2's human-only Hawke will return as protagonist. Secondly, this could be more evidence in support of rumours that the new game's lead is an Inquisitor, tasked with soothing the tempers of warring Mage Circles, Chantry agents and Templars. After all, it's hard to imagine a dwarf or an elf being elevated to such a position of power within the human hierarchy.
Lee has a few words of consolation for those who mourn the ethnic sprawl of Origins-era character customisation. "I think you'll be pleased with the options you'll see in DA3 to make your character your own." That'd better amount to something a little more comprehensive than an expanded array of novelty hats, Cameron. We're also told that "the team's goal is to give you choices that matter with a fully voiced character", which suggests that the logistical burdens of having several different, species-specific lead voice actors are to blame.
2. There are no playable backstories
But there are backstories, thank goodness, and the one you choose will "significantly impact" how the campaign unfolds.
3. The levels are massive
Allegedly, a single Dragon Age 3 environment is larger than all of Dragon Age 2's environments put together. Providing there's more than one of those environments, this should bring an end to complaints about asset recycling across several quest lines. Nice to see BioWare putting the Frostbite 2 engine to good use.
4. You should keep hold of your save files
BioWare's dancing an interesting dance on the subject of how choices in prior Dragon Age games will affect Dragon Age 3. We're expecting the implementation to be comparable to that of the Mass Effect series, but it won't necessarily be a question of importing a save - more evidence, perhaps, that the new protagonist will be an entirely new character. "We're exploring ways to import without necessarily needing saves," Laidlaw confusingly observes. "World imports will still happen, though." Explanations on a postcard, please.
5. Flemeth is back
Though to what degree has yet to be established. The old witch was more or less guaranteed to return, given (a) her ostensible immortality, and (b) her role as a sort of guardian of the Dragon Age universe, tweaking everybody's strings from afar after the example of Fable's Theresa. "It feels wrong to not have a "little" Flemeth in your game," Laidlaw pointed out during the panel discussion, adding on Twitter that it was important not to "over-use" the character. What do those inverted commas bode, do you think? Has Ferelden's most ferocious granny fallen foul of a shrinking ray?