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"Keep"ing the Identity of Dragon Age Intact

BioWare has a nifty way of continuing your adventure, but does it work?

The Dragon Age series has something of an identity crisis, due in large part to its disjointed development history. Even though Dragon Age: Origins came out a couple of years after the first Mass Effect, it was actually announced way back in 2004 as a PC exclusive. The roots of Origins could be found in BioWare’s classic Baldur’s Gate series, and the design sensibilities of the game were far removed from the company’s more recent action/RPGs like Jade Empire and Mass Effect. Dragon Age 2 was clearly very influenced by the success of Mass Effect 2, and the input of now BioWare parent company EA was easy to see. While Dragon Age 2 alienated some fans of Origins it also created a new set of people invested in the world of Thedas. Now we have a third entry in the series that has the difficult task of keeping old players invested while trying once again to do a “soft reboot” of the franchise. How does BioWare hope to craft a new adventure but still make players feel like they made their mark on the world? Enter the Dragon Age Keep.

Ask any fan of the Mass Effect games why they love the series so much and they will likely give an answer along the lines of “having my story continue through all three games was great” or “I felt like my choices shaped the story”. Dragon Age has had some problems in this area; the protagonist of Origins was a silent, traditional cypher for the player that could be (nearly) any race, sex, and class in the Dragon Age lore. Dragon Age 2 opted for a named protagonist much in the vein of Mass Effect’s Commander Shepard. Hawke, who would become known as the “Hero of Kirkwall,” had voiced dialogue and seemed like he (or she) would have a story that would naturally continue into the next Dragon Age game. We now know this is not the case, as Dragon Age Inquisition tasks players as “The Inquisitor.” Straddling the line between Origins’ “choose your own adventure” protagonist and Dragon Age 2’s Hawke, the player character of Inquisition will forge a unique story, but with the Keep longtime Dragon Age fans can still inform the world that this new character will inhabit.

Dragon Age Keep is BioWare’s online solution for transferring data to the new consoles. While PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 owners should simply be able to carry their save data into the new game, players who have migrated to the PS4 and Xbox One won’t have that option.

If you’ve been logged into the EA servers during your previous Dragon Age adventures, the Keep will be able to pull a lot of that data, which it weaves into your “tapestry”. Viewing the tapestry begins an admittedly simplistic-looking animated account of your journey through Thedas. As the story arrives at crucial decision points you have the option of revising history, which will allow players to recant some of those choices that have haunted them for years (I’m sorry, Alastair).

Even if the animation of the Keep’s retelling could use some work, the style is very much that of Dragon Age. Well, it is very much like the style of the second game, which went a long way towards giving the series its own identity. The minimalist and symbolic nature of the Keep resonates with the imagery that was seen throughout Dragon Age 2, right down to the design of the achievements/trophies. It’s one more way that BioWare is trying to bring these disparate titles together, and in this it succeeds.

The Keep falters a bit when it comes to bridging the stories together and remembering everything you have done. I definitely encountered some spots where the Keep said I did something one way when it was definitely the other. Certain crucial decisions have a ripple effect that hinge on other choices, and some of these totally conflicted with my story. For example, I know for a fact that Alastair left my party and ended up a drunk in Kirkwall while my hero from Origins saved his own life thanks to a ritual with Morrigan, but the Keep says otherwise, and wouldn’t allow me to have these two outcomes stand. So I had to do some tweaking with my version of the world. Not a big deal by any means, but it does make me wonder if BioWare remembers how the story went, or if my own memory is faulty. Origins was back in 2009, after all.

Once you have recreated the events of your previous adventures or rewritten history as you see fit, you can complete your tapestry and save the state of the world. Once Inquisition comes out you should theoretically be able to import this data into your game and see what effect your decisions will have on the world. Considering that there could be some potentially huge conflicts (Leliana is in Inquisition but was a completely missable character in Origins, for example) it will be interesting to see just how well this works, if at all.  

As a big fan of the BioWare style of role-playing game, I am excited to see such effort has gone into bringing all three Dragon Age narratives together, as well as the implications this has on whatever the next Mass Effect game is. It also is a great way to be able to play around with certain outcomes of the previous titles and hit the ground running with an Inquisition playthrough that is far different from an earlier one. We’ll see how well it all comes together when Dragon Age Inquisition launches on November 18.


 

Comments

jgusw

11/14/2014 at 10:25 PM

The Keep sounds like it sucks.  I'm glad I have the 360 versions.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

11/14/2014 at 10:32 PM

Really? That isn't the tone I was going for. It has some issues, but I think it's a very clever way of getting to bring your world over, or play around with different outcomes without having to play through 160 hours of previous titles.

jgusw

11/14/2014 at 10:57 PM

I don't like the part where it gets wrong what I did.  If I played through 2 games and put in 100 hrs, that program, app, or whatever it is better get my story right. Laughing  

Michael117

11/14/2014 at 10:59 PM

The Keep looks nice, but I'm also going to be playing on 360 so I won't need it. Whatever year I end up getting a PS4 and buy that version of Inquisition I hope the Keep is still functioning so I can use it. 

jgusw

11/18/2014 at 05:34 PM

You have to use the keep.  There is no way to just carry over your games.  If there is a way, I missed it. Frown  And, use Google Chrome while using the keep.  I learned the hard way.  My blood pressure is still up. 

leeradical42

11/22/2014 at 12:27 AM

The keep is the only way unless your on pc but as far as consoles the keep is the only way.

Coolsetzer

11/15/2014 at 06:21 AM

I used it and agree with you. The Keep is pretty handy, especially since all my saves were on my old PS3 before it crashed. You forgot to mention that it is in beta still, so not all of the bugs are worked out. Plus it uses the data from your Origin account. The issues I ran into were no romance options for the previous characters and an incorrect character portrait for my DAO character. That aside, I love the concept of this, and really appreciate what they did. I would like them to make an app of this so I could put it on social media.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

11/16/2014 at 12:11 PM

I know it uses stuff from my Origin account, but I played DA:O before Origin was a thing and it definitely pulled data from that playthrough intact besides those couple of discrepancies. I did have to select my Origins character from scratch, but I kind of expected that.

Totally agree with you about the social media thing. I would also love an app along the lines of the Mass Effect codex that came out with ME 3.

Coolsetzer

11/18/2014 at 09:08 AM

Confirmed by me. There's no option to import any saves at all from previous games. I have all three on PS3. You have to use the keep if you want a modified world state. It must have been more cost effective for them to do it this way.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

11/18/2014 at 08:24 PM

Oh, I didn't expect there to be any way to transfer the world state besides the Keep. Besides being more cost effective I could see a lot of problems with saving data to a USB stick and transferring it to the PS4 that way.

If it works I actually think this could be the best way of going about this. I had that problem in Mass Effect 3 where it couldn't pull my Shepard's visual data and I had to remake him from scratch. I couldn't completely recreate the look, so for the whole game I felt like there was some half-baked clone running around pretending to be my character.

Coolsetzer

11/19/2014 at 10:46 AM

LOL! I had the same thing happen to me on my first DAO character. I had a pretty sick mage, bit couldn't recreate the look.

Anyway, I think that the whole thing is pretty clever. It's a step up from carried over saves. This way, it is more accessable to a wider range of people. Plus, people don't have to play through a 5 year old game in order to enjoy it. I did like all the possible outcomes that could happen, but really, I prefer to have some things canon to the franchise. World states are more of an option, really.

jgusw

11/18/2014 at 08:24 AM

The Keep freaking SUCKS!  I can't get the damn thing to work.  I've been playing around with the thing over 30min and none of my choices are staying.  I don't even care anymore.  I'll just have to play the game and "f" my choices. Yell

Julian Titus Senior Editor

11/18/2014 at 08:22 PM

Wow, really? It worked fine for me besides the choice descrepancies I mentioned in the article. I was wondering how it would fare once everyone started using it. I can't test it with my game because in my infinite wisdom I shipped it 2 day and will have to wait until tomorrow.

If I have issues getting the world state I created into my game I will update the article.

jgusw

11/19/2014 at 02:46 PM

Once I switched over to google chrome, the Keep worked better.  The browser I was using had issues showing everything on screen and there was no way of scrolling to the right.  I read someone had the same issue with Firefox, but that may have been fixed.  I did finish my tapestry and plan to play DA3 this afternoon.  

leeradical42

11/22/2014 at 12:33 AM

Yes google or your browser doesnt really work right Chrome and Foxfire worked great.

leeradical42

11/22/2014 at 12:30 AM

The Keep is the only way to carry over your characters from Origins and DA2 and although the characters are not carried over right the main thing is all the bonuses etc and experience they give you for bringing them into Inquisition. 

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