Over the weekend EA developer BioWare marked Dragon Age Day, the annual celebration of the fantasy RPG series, with several online events and a small update on the next installment in the series.
News on Dragon Age 4 has been fairly thin on the ground since the game was confirmed with a flashy cinematic trailer during the Games Awards 2020. But the team at BioWare has reassured fans that they are still “hard at work on building the next single-player focused experience for Dragon Age” in a blog post (opens in new tab).
The same post also confirms that fans should expect to hear more about the game, which is tentatively titled Dragon Age 4, at some point next year. This does unfortunately mean that a fresh trailer at this year’s Game Awards is out of the question, but hopefully, we get new details in the early stages of 2022.
Confirmation that the game will be a “single-player focused experience” appears to corroborate a Bloomberg article (opens in new tab) from earlier this year. This report claimed series publisher EA had allowed BioWare to pivot Dragon Age 4 away from an online-focused game and remove all of the game’s planned multiplayer components.
This sudden change in direction likely came as a result of BioWare’s most recent project, 2019’s Anthem, flopping quite spectacularly. While there was initially significant interest in the online co-op looter-shooter, Anthem experienced a turbulent launch and a dramatic drop in player base post-release. EA confirmed that Anthem was effectively dead earlier this year and the game’s ambitious post-launch roadmap was abandoned.
Dragon Age has an extremely passionate fanbase, in fact Dragon Age Day was originally started as a community effort before being adopted by EA/BioWare, and the reaction to this latest scrap news has been overwhelmingly positive.
Unfortunately, it will likely be a while before fans get to actually play Dragon Age 4. Last month it was confirmed that the game’s creative director, Matt Goldman, had left BioWare. The developer admitted that such a key departure would impact the game’s development timeline, but to what degree is currently unknown.
Lessons have been learned
While by no means a significant update, getting official word that Dragon Age 4 will be a single-player focused title is still very exciting news. There was much fear from fans that EA would mandate that Dragon Age become an online-focused platform, similar to how Ubisoft is reportedly looking to overhaul the Assassin’s Creed series.
Instead, the lessons from the failure of Anthem have clearly been learned. Online-focused games are extremely popular but can be a tricky beast to tame. Not all franchises fit the multiplayer mold, and Dragon Age definitely feels like a series that is at its best when centred on solo play.
The proof of this can be seen in 2014’s Dragon Age: Inquisition, which included a tacked-on series of multiplayer levels. These gauntlets seemed a fun idea in theory, but didn’t quite connect with fans and were ultimately neglected by players who vastly preferred the game’s core single-player offering.
Although, Inquisition did still face criticism for taking inspiration from online games in other ways. Its quest design was notoriously considered to be heavily MMO inspired with bland objections that forced the player to perform video game busywork like collecting dozens of non-descript items and even herding cattle. Hopefully, Dragon Age 4 offers fewer mindless quests and instead focuses on quests that offer a substantial narrative component.
The news that Dragon Age 4 will be designed as a single-player experience first is most certainly welcome, but it’s still advisable to be cautiously optimistic at this stage. Hopefully, any fears of a repeat of the missteps of Inquisition are erased when more is revealed in 2022.