Game Review: Dragon Age Keep

Film & Television

dragonage2

Synopsis

Now in open beta, Dragon Age Keep is a free online application that allows players to tailor the decisions they made in Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II and import them into the upcoming Dragon Age: Inquisition game. This is a fancy way of saying that Dragon Age Keep is a program that allows you to set-up your own special “world state” for the next installment of the series.

Review

So, Dragon Age Keep is not a game per se but more like an accompaniment to what must be the most eagerly awaited RPG of the year, and the next-gen (shouldn’t we start calling PS4 and Xbox One as current gen already?) of consoles. This web-based app allows gamers to replay (or indeed play for the first time) the decisions from the first and second installment of the series and serves as a soft introduction to new players and a refresher for Dragon Age veterans.

Reminiscent in many ways to Mass Effect: Genesis (the interactive backstory comic provided to Mass Effect 2 players to allow them to set up the choices for the first game), Dragon Age Keep is a clever and stylish way of dealing with the issue of importing player choices from preceding games and across a console cycle. In a game series defined by choice and with a diverse set of endings, Bioware itself had no choice but to find some way to incorporate its previous two games in Dragon Age: Inquisition and they’ve managed to come up with a novel one.

For veterans of the series, it couldn’t be simpler. You sign in and the Keep simply finds your previous playthrough (or playthroughs, whatever the case may be) and then you have the option of watching a cool little narration of all the major events featuring Dragon Age’s unique art-style and narrated by everybody’s favorite dwarf Varric. A handy little pop-up appears on the right of the screen allowing you to confirm (or edit) any changes to the main plot points. The Keep also downloads all your achievements from past games, and it is beyond cool to see them all present and accounted for on your screen.

For newcomers to the series, you are asked to pick your hero for Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II. For Dragon Age: Origins, you have the choice of an elven, dwarf or human warden across the sexes and classes (mage, warrior or rogue) with accompany back-stories. For Dragon Age II you play as Hawke, albeit with an accompany choice of class and sex. The narrated video is the same, although this time you are forced to choose one of the plethora of options on offer. Does the Grey Warden live or die? Does Alistair become King or is he condemned to the fate of a wandering drunk and so on?

Trying to view this from a newcomer’s perspective, I must admit that the Keep perhaps does not do a particularly good job of conveying the nuances of these decisions and their outcomes, with many ultimately being nothing more than a stab in the dark. Are you going to save this village you’ve never heard of or not? Are you going to duel some guy or not? Dragon Age: Origins came out in 2009 and Dragon Age II in 2011, so even for someone who played both games multiple times, I can’t really remember the importance of some of the decisions I’m being asked to make in the main video section.

Following this; you’re greeted with a cool Bayeux tapestry-style tile system where you can review all the main choices, as well as a lot of minor ones, across both games. Who did you recruit? Who did you romance? You can confirm (or choose) all of this and more, while there is a handy mechanism in place to ensure that choices don’t clash with each other. But again, as with some of the more major choices, some of these minor choices could leave newcomers scratching their head. What difference does it make if you help Bella become a tavern owner or if you give Sten his sword back and so on?

Hopefully, that seemingly minor decisions like this are being included here means that the team at Bioware is going to litter Dragon Age: Inquisition with some cool Easter Eggs for veterans of the series. But is it going to be more than that—as many fans are hoping? Surely issues like who is King, and who is alive or dead, must have a major impact on the next installment of the series. So will Bioware truly be able to create a game where your choices from previous games matter, or will this all be dealt with in passing? Just how important will “world states” and past decisions be?

Ultimately, that is the question and it can only be answered after November 18 when the game is released.

Audio: 5 Stars

Varic, who “narrated” Dragon Age II (and returns as a companion in Dragon Age: Inquisition) narrates the cut scenes in style to a cool military-style backing. The narration is suitably epic and gets the juices flowing ahead of Dragon Age: Inquisition’s release.

Visual: 3 Stars

The “tapestry” system is undeniably cool, and features the unique Dragon Age visual style as perfected in the second installment of the series. The video features a simple visual styling to illustrate the narration—shields shattering, dragons roaring and so. Not bad, per se, but a bit basic and not a patch on the similarly Varic-narrated act openings in Dragon Age 2.

Gameplay: 4 Stars

So, it’s not a game, but Dragon Age Keep does what it says on the tin. For a veteran of the series, you get to see and confirm your previous playthrough (or if you like, set up a completely new world to your own particular specifications). For newcomers, it’s a soft entry to a complex series, but leaves many questions unanswered.

Verdict

Bioware manage to come up with a stylish and graceful way to deal with the jump to next-gen consoles, allowing new players the opportunity to see what they missed out on and veterans of the series to arrange everything as they like it.

Dragon Age Keep – 4 Stars

This article was originally published here.