Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Inquisition Is The Perfect Template For A Dragon Age MMORPG

One thing a lot of people have noticed about Dragon Age: Inquisition is that it plays a lot like a single-player MMORPG—or ”massively-multiplayer-online-roleplaying-game.”

That’s certainly a reasonable observation. The game’s quest structure, crafting, big open-world design, and combat (outside of pause-and-play tactical combat) all feel very much like an MMO—minus all those annoying other people running around, doing all the same things you’re doing and inviting you to duel. (Yes, I’m a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to MMOs. The type that likes games with housing options so that I can shout at everyone else to get off my lawn.)

For that matter, Inquisition actually feels like a very good MMO, with much better quests and stories than your average title, built around a wonderful, richly detailed world. You can wander to your heart’s content. There’s a constant sense of exploration and wonder. Crafting is pretty deep, and the whole thing just feels like a very polished evolutionary step in the MMO genre.

(I have griped about the crafting/looting/herb-picking systems, and I stand by this, but most popular MMOs feature some form of these systems because people love to craft.)

Of course, it’s not an MMO. And you can play it like a more traditional single-player RPG as well, hewing to main story stuff and primary quests and so forth (I often play my MMOs solo, so this is fine by me.)

Now, all of this has me wondering if BioWare isn’t just warming up, if Dragon Age: Inquisition isn’t just a test-bed for a Dragon Age Online. A blueprint of sorts, which we’re all beta-testing.

BioWare is no stranger to MMO design, of course. Star Wars: The Old Republic is one of the most successful MMOs out right now, and it blends BioWare’s more story and character-driven approach with the theme park style MMO design we’re all familiar with.

Is it possible the studio could take what it’s learned from SWTOR and mix that with the template they’ve built for DA:I and build an online game set in the Dragon Age? It certainly makes sense, though one wonders if publisher EA would be willing to make yet another huge financial investment and take another big risk on BioWare or on any new MMO, for that matter.

Then again, SWTOR in its free-to-play form isn’t doing badly, and Inquisition has been a major victory in terms of critical reception. Fans are widely praising the game as well, though its MMO-ish design has turned off some.

Even the multiplayer plays like an MMO dungeon crawl. The whole game feels a bit like Guild Wars 2 without all the other people, and with three companions in tow.

It’s the perfect template for a Dragon Age MMO. Even in the crowded MMO market, there’s room for big-name brands. A free-or-subscribe model like SWTOR would likely work really well.

I also imagine that using the multi-story-line model that Star Wars: The Old Republic uses—play as Jedi Knight or Imperial Agent, etc. and each has their own “campaign” to play through—could work really well for multiple class/race combinations in Dragon Age Online, actually expanding on the way Dragon Age: Origins handled its various stories.

Other than the inherent drawbacks with MMOs—which I’ll lament elsewhere—building on the hybrid of SWTOR and DAI could actually be pretty cool. I say this as someone who vastly prefers single-player RPGs most of the time. I can simply see how this would appeal to lots of people and could be a very smart business move for EA/BioWare if handled well.

On a side-note, has anyone tried out the Dragon Age pen-and-paper game? I’ve read the basic rules and it sounds kind of fun but I’ve never ran a session. I like the 3d6 system, in any case. Bell curves are marvelous.

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