Dragon Age Inquisition: Meet the Dales’ Exalted Plains – History, Features and Exploration

Dales

The Dales are a vast area of Thedas located southeastern of Orlais to the west of Ferelden and it used to be the homeland of the elven race. BioWare has recently confirmed this territory as an integrant part of the Inquisition’s main maps. However, it’s not known yet if the whole land will be featured in the upcoming game, since only one zone has been unveiled so far – the Exalted Planes. This zone is particularly rich in history and it has been a ceaseless battlefield over the centuries. Blood is yet to be shed once again as the Orlesian Civil War spreads across the land.

History: A Land Forever Shaped by War

The Exalted Plains of the Dales are characterized by equal measures of beauty and strife. It was here, centuries ago, that the elven nation met its bitter end. On these fields, the holdouts of the elven army faced the forces of the human Chantry and died, defending their promised land to the last breath. This legacy of conflict has endured, and battle once again rages in the Dales. (BioWare, 7th April, 2014)

Dragon Age The Dales MapThe elves have a long history of slavery under the supremacy of the Tevinter Imperium but everything changed when they sided with Andraste and Maferath against the slavers. As a reward for their great service, the elves received an extensive land, the Dales, where they could revive their ancient civilization. Elven individuals all over Thedas tried to reach the Dales with just one goal in mind – freedom. United, the race founded Halamshiral, which means “the end of the journey” in Elvish and restored most of their ancient culture. However, peace didn’t last long and with the arrival of the Second Blight, the elves decided to cut off all the bounds with their human neighbours, more specifically Orlais. They remained neutral and watched from far away, while millions of humans perished to the darkspawn. Due to this, the hostility levels between the two races went out of control and war became inevitable. It’s not known what evidently triggered the war since each race has its own version of the events. Nonetheless, Orlais declared holy war against the elves and they’ve successfully taken over the land by force. Furthermore, the elves were forbidden to worship their gods or follow their culture. Those who embraced the Maker were sent to human cities to live in the slums known as alienages. Those who refused the Chantry’s offerings were either killed or exiled into small Dalish clans. Now, the Dales are an Orlesian colony and the Exalted Planes are the main stage of civil war, where human soldiers fight and die in the name of a future free of injustice and oppression.

Features: Dynamic Open World – Alive and Living

The first thing we [did] was try to portray the civil war and the impact it’s having on the environment and the people of that region. In these spaces, we try to provide opportunities for the Inquisition to come in and make its mark on the area. Then the people there rally around that. (Andrew Farrell, Senior Environment Artist, 11th April, 2014)

Dragon Age Inquisition the Dales’ Exalted Plains179_5253173064104393465_nThe Exalted Plains will foretell its own history through interactive and dynamic features. Players won’t need to read much in order to understand what’s going on in that specific land. After all, one image is worth more than a thousand words. And that’s exactly BioWare’s goal in Inquisition, to create a new level of environmental realism. Utilizing Frostbite 3 game engine and next-generation technology, the company is now able to create a deeper and more immersive reality with life of its own. It’s not enough to be alive; the game has to be able to live as well.

Now, it’s already known that Inquisition will feature a more intense choice-driven system, in which characters and factions will behave differently according to player’s decisions. This concept by itself will certainly increase the immersion and engagement levels of the game. However, to create an augmented environmental reality, other elements must be considered. Displacement mapping and interactive waters are two of the advanced techniques being used by BioWare to achieve this new level of environmental realism. The essence seems to rely on the replication of the world around us – every detail counts.

Displacement mapping adds a new level of realism to the environment. Normal maps [in previous-gen technology] brought great detail to surfaces, but displacement mapping actually pushes those details out so you can see them in the silhouette. (…) Interactive water is one of the key things we’ve added to next-gen. It’s got realistic reflections, and also realistically ripples and splashes as you walk through it. (Ben McGrath, Lead Environment Artist, 11th April, 2014)

Exploration: The Real Adventure is About to Begin

Get off the beaten path! Just like exploring in real life, look under all the rocks, under all the bridges, and in all dark corners of the map. Take the path less-traveled and you might something interesting… or surprising. (Andrew Farrell, Senior Environment Artist, 11th April, 2014)

Dragon Age Inquisition the Dales’ Exalted PlainsExploration has always been part of the Dragon Age series but apparently, this system is about to become really complex and challenging. Getting off the main roads and look around might be a good idea at certain times, at least there will be a good chance to discover something unexpected. Who knows what kind of things you’ll be able to find in Inquisition? In the previous games, companion gifts and lore items were the most surprising findings. But in Inquisition there will be much more to explore, which might indicate that there will be much more to discover as well.

Dragon Age Inquisition: BioWare Ensures a New Level of Environmental Realism

Dragon Age

BioWare has unveiled additional details regarding Dragon Age Inquisition’s environment mechanism. According to Lead Environment Artist, Ben McGrath, the power of the Frostbite 3 game engine and next-generation technology will provide a new level of realism. The improvement and enhancement of already existing features through displacement mapping will intensify the immersion, depth and vivacity of the incoming virtual scenarios, as McGrath explained:

Displacement mapping adds a new level of realism to the environment. Normal maps [in previous-gen technology] brought great detail to surfaces, but displacement mapping actually pushes those details out so you can see them in the silhouette. The place where it’s probably the most noticeable is on terrain. Pebbles, sand ripples, cobblestones, and other details all pop out from the terrain and make it far more detailed than ever before.

Another technique being mastered by the environmental department is the interactive waters in levels, whose main purpose is to create a more accurate displacement of water in its natural form. Water will certainly receive a special treatment in Inquisition since even the smallest details have been considered, as McGrath stated:

Interactive water is one of the key things we’ve added to next-gen. It’s got realistic reflections, and also realistically ripples and splashes as you walk through it.

Dragon Age Inquisition will ensure that all ecosystems are alive and living, it will be as real as possible without ever forgetting the Inquisitor’s influence in the world. According to BioWare, all zones will be affected by the ongoing conflict and the impact will soon or later become visible.

New Dragon Age: Inquisition In-Engine Screenshot Is Breathtaking

Dragon Age

BioWare are offering us just bits and pieces on the upcoming Dragon Age: Inquisition – a character here, a character there – and today they decided to brag a little bit with what the game’s engine can deliver and released one (JUST ONE!!!) in-engine screenshot. A beautiful one, I might add.

Looking more like a well made painting or just a photo of a serene area somewhere in the world, this new Dragon Age Inquisition screenshot clearly shows the best trees in video game history, plus an insane level of detail. And since everything has been brought to life by the game’s engine, we have all the reasons to be happy about the upcoming release. Check out the in-engine screenshots below:

dragon age inquisition in engine screenshot

Of course, there are doubts regarding the actual quality of the graphics in the game itself. The engine might be able to produce such eye candy, but probably we won’t get something identical during the gameplay. At least not the huge majority since you probably need a super computer to run the game at insane levels. But we’ll see when the game hits the stores – or even sooner if BioWare decides to give us more than bits and pieces and launches a full in-game gallery for our eyes to feast.

Dragon Age Inquisition: Alistair’s Return Confirmed

Dragon Age

Dragon Age Inquisition will count with another old character from the previous games, Alistair, the famous king of Ferelden. BioWare published today several images of Steve Valentine, Alistair’s voice actor, recording at Edmonton’s studios.

Voice Over Director at BioWare, Caroline Livingstone, released an image confirming that Alistair’s return is not mere speculation.

Furthermore, Steve Valentine has also published a picture of himself recording with the following statement:

Somethings come as a surprise, even to me, guess where I am today.

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Steve Valentine at Edmonton studios with Caroline Livingstone (BioWare’s Voice Over Director) and Jessica Merizan (BioWare’s Community Manager).
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Steve Valentine voicing Alistair at BioWare studios.

Now, what’s left to know is whether Alistair is returning to become an influential character or a secondary role, as it happened in Dragon Age II. But according to BioWare, Inquisition will be the longest and deepest game of the series, so there’s a great chance that Alistair will get at least more scenes than the previous game. Other old characters like Morrigan, Varric and Cassandra have already been announced to return in Inquisition.

Dragon Age Inquisition: ‘Vivienne Was a Truly Great Character to Build’

Vivienne

BioWare has announced that a new Inquisitor follower will be revealed every month and March will be exclusively dedicated to Vivienne, a human mage and possible companion in Inquisition. Senior Artist Rion Swanson unveiled the development process for this character and stated that “it was a truly great character to build.” Swanson strengthened the fact that it is a significant product that meets the high-quality standards of the studio. Despite the multiple reviews and back-and-forth processes, Vivienne ended up being a refined, detailed and complex character, as Swanson concluded:

In the end, I think we achieved quite a dramatic look for this strong new character. The combination of sleek and powerful shapes with the ornate gold and fine fabrics gives Vivienne a pretty unique appearance. Watching her move through the world with flowing fabric and using her awesome mage abilities is a real nice counterbalance to some of the other heavily armored characters in your party. Enjoy!

Dragon Age Inquisition Vivienne
BioWare’s development process of Vivienne’s appearance, clothes and ornament.

The Madame de Fer or the Lady of Iron, as Vivienne is known, will be the official enchanter of the Imperial court in Inquisition and she won’t let anything stand in the way of her goals, even if it means going against her fellow mages. As BioWare stated: “Vivienne fights to restore order in a world gone mad…so long as that leaves her among those left standing, once all is said and done.”

Dragon Age Inquisition: Three Companions Left to Be Unveiled

Dragon Age

Two more Inquisition companions have been revealed, which means there’s possibly three more to be officially announced. The fourth Dragon Age Inquisition companion spotted in a video last week has been officially identified by BioWare. After an image leak from the German PC magazine GameStar, Bioware’s lead writer David Gaider explained that the supposed Solace is in fact, Solas, a male elf mage companion in Inquisition:

Just FYI, however, it’s Solas. Not Solace. Not sure where they got that. And, since this seems to be a persistent notion: Solas is not the “Dorian” from the survey. He was never that character. As to who Solas is… well, I suppose you’ll all have to wait and see.

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A screenshot of Solas, an elf mage.
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A concept art of Iron Bull, a qunari warrior.

It’s also assumed that a concept art created last year by lead concept artist Matt Rhodes corresponds to the fifth Inquisition companion. His name is Iron Bull and he’s a qunari male warrior.Judging by his giant sword, he’ll probably be an aggressive warrior like Fenris in Dragon Age 2 and Oghren in Dragon Age Origins.

With five companions brought from the shadows (Varric, Cassandra, Vivenne, Solas and Iron Bull) there’s possibly only one companion left to be unveiled.This of course, if BioWare follows the logic used in the previous two games, which included eight companions per game and a balanced class distribution among characters:

Dragon Age Origins: Alistair (Warrior-Templar); Leliana (Rogue-Bard); Mabari War Hound (War Pet); Morrigan (Mage-Shapeshifter); Oghren (Warrior-Fighter); Sten (Warrior-Fighter); Zevran (Rogue-Assassin); Wynne (Mage-Healer).

Dragon Age II: Anders (Mage-Healer); Aveline (Warrior-Defensive); Bethany Hawke (Mage-Offensive); Carver Hawke (Warrior-Fighter); Fenris (Warrior-Fighter); Isabela (Rogue-Assassin); Merril (Mage-Offensive); Varric (Rogue-Archer).

Dragon Age Inquisition: Cassandra (Warrior-Defensive); Iron Bull (Warrior-Fighter); Solas (Mage-?); Varric (Rogue-Archer); Vivienne (Mage-Offensive).

Following this trend, one of the remaining companions is certainly a female rogue, since we already got three males, two females and only one rogue-archer. The other two companions could fit in any class and specialization role.

Dragon Age Inquisition: Fourth Companion Revealed

Dragon Age

Discover the Dragon Age, the latest Dragon Age Inquisition environmental video released by BioWare reveals a new unidentified companion. One of the many scenes in this video displays the Inquisitor along with Varric, Cassandra and a male elf running through a noble hall. Now, the question arises: who is this new companion?

The fourth Inquisition companion to be unveiled is a male elf with magic powers. Yes, he is a definitely a mage, judging by the staff on his back. His barefoot-shoes, that look like Fenris’ and Merril’s indicate that he is most likely from a poor family, something more than common among elves in this universe. It’s hard to make further assumptions since the only visual we have is his back.

Dragon Age Inquisition Companion

Officially, this character doesn’t exist since it hasn’t been announced yet. But that doesn’t mean he’s not a reality.

Dragon Age Inquisition: ‘Explore a Vast, Living and Multi-Region Open World’

Dragon Age

BioWare has recently released a new Dragon Age Inquisition environmental video, Discover the Dragon Age, revealing multiple scenarios from the “dramatic world of Thedas”. The upcoming next-gen action RPG will be the vastest and richest game of the DA series and it will feature a multi-region open world. Players will finally be able to explore the most remotely corners of Thedas, as BioWare clarified:

Welcome to Dragon Age: Inquisition, where you will take on the mantle of Inquisitor and lead a team of heroes on a perilous journey through a living, multi-region open world. Discover the dramatic world of Thedas, from war-torn plains to jagged coasts (…).

The video displays an incredible dynamic, immersive and living world, where environmental diversity seems to be the most prominent feature, since the two previous games didn’t have a huge amount of distinctive ecosystems. Inquisition will present a rejuvenated Thedas with more lands to explore and more variety to experience. However, BioWare hasn’t just been investing in quantity; quality is no less than a major priority. And this video is proof of that – quantity and quality are united in a very promising result. Inquisition will ultimately deliver spectacular visuals with stunning effects and a true next-gen definition level.