Dragon Age Keep Open Beta: Reading a Dragon Age Picture Book

Dragon Age Keep Open Beta: Reading a Dragon Age Picture Book

Bioware has a new method for bringing all your amazing and horrible Dragon Age choices into Inquisition.

Dragon Age: Inquisition is almost upon us. Inquisition feels like it should be the series' Mass Effect 3, wrapping everything up, but unlike Bioware's sci-fi franchise Dragon Age has been firmly focused on the world of Thedas, not a specific character. Dragon Age: Origins followed the Grey Warden, Dragon Age II told the story of Hawke, and Dragon Age: Inquisition places you in the iron boots of the Inquisitor. The lack of a continuous player character changes how Bioware's fantasy series approaches its overall story.

Despite that difference in storytelling, Bioware is still committed to your choices in Dragon Age: Origin and Dragon Age II carrying over to Inquisition. The only problem is the newest entry in the series is coming to two platforms - Xbox One and PlayStation 4 - that have not had the benefit of a previous release. Concerned with players being able to carry their worlds forward, Bioware had to come up with a fix. The studio had previously hit on a workable idea with the Mass Effect: Genesis interactive comic for Mass Effect 2 (PS3) and Mass Effect 3 (Wii U). Genesis allowed players to experience the basic story of previous titles and make the choices they would've made had they played them.

My default Dragon Age: Origins Tapestry.

Dragon Age Keep is a web-based expansion of that idea that just entered open beta yesterday. Bioware is banking heavily on Keep as the solution to its problem; the system is the only way to move saved choices over to Inquisition. That's right, there's no save copying for any version of Dragon Age: Inquisition, regardless of if you decide to play on new or old platforms.

I'm pretty excited for Dragon Age: Inquisition (I'm not reviewing it though, that's Bob and Kat's show), so I hunted down my Origin username, realized I had forgotten the password, finally logged-in to my account, and loaded up Dragon Age Keep. Despite what Bioware says, Keep does pull some information from the older titles. Based on the information tied to your Origin account, all of your created characters and achievements are transferred over. From there, Keep shows what appears to be a Flash-based animation of the basic plot of both games, narrated by Dragon Age II's Varric. This is the default world state.

A few changes to make things more interesting.

From here, you have free rein to choose between almost 300 choices in Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II, all presented in the form of the Tapestry. As you make your choices, the picture represented in the Tapestry changes accordingly, making your own personal story quilt. Not all of the choices will matter in Inquisition, but Bioware wants to keep track of your options for future titles. I'm inclined to believe that 300 number above, because doing a full run-through of every choice in the Keep took me around 2 hours. There are so many choices, but the real problem is that it's been years since I've touched any Dragon Age title.

Dragon Age: Origins came out in 2009, Dragon Age II in 2011. It's been three years and countless other story-based titles between me finishing DA II and now. While I remember the major choices I made, I certainly don't remember every choice and character I came across over the course of both titles. Who in the world is Ser Landry? Did I help Burkel create a Chantry in Orzammar? Did I befriend Cullen in Dragon Age II? Was I a smuggler or a mercenary?

The Keep's Tapestry does give you some insight into each choice. The art jogged my memory occasionally and Bioware offers additional hints if you click on the question mark above each choice, but half the time I just had to dive into a Wiki to get the full picture. It's a problem with any long-running series that carries story bits from one work to the next, one that Keep doesn't completely alleviate.

Pretty sure I killed one of them.

One major benefit of the Keep system is the ability to simply save a different world for yourself. Keep can store up to 9 different world states that can be imported into Dragon Age: Inquisition. I admit, I always try to do good and evil playthroughs in Bioware games, but time is a precious commodity these days, so I can rarely find the chance. With Keep, if I want to make a few changes to my overall story, it's easy to do. Leliana was my paramour in Dragon Age: Origins, but Morrigan's romance is tied to more interesting choices, so I went with that this time around. Merrill saved her mirror in my Dragon Age II save, but this time, demon mirror needed to go.

The interesting part is seeing the overall plot of Dragon Age at a macro level. Seeing all of these choices, which were represented in the games with movement and voice, as simple pictures to be clicked through. Former Bioware writer Jennifer Hepler came under fire for wanting a way to experience a game's story without combat, and the Keep speeds past that ideal to the other extreme. You're left with the bare minimum story needed to get you into Dragon Age: Inquisition. It's a cooking reduction of everything Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II tried to show players, burning away everything except the essentials. Crack to Dragon Age's cocaine.

Oh wait, I killed a ton of people.

At its least, Keep is a gateway back into the Dragon Age world, bolstered by endless Wiki entries and videos that can illuminate any dark corners that remain. At its best, Dragon Age Keep is picture book allowing you to relive some of the series' best moments in preparation for its next entry. And hey, at least you don't have to play through either of the games again to experience the entire story. That said, if you're a Dragon Age fan and you want to play with Keep, make sure to set an hour or two aside.

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Mike Williams

Reviews Editor

M.H. Williams is new to the journalism game, but he's been a gamer since the NES first graced American shores. Third-person action-adventure games are his personal poison: Uncharted, Infamous, and Assassin's Creed just to name a few. If you see him around a convention, he's not hard to spot: Black guy, glasses, and a tie.

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