What Dragon Age: Inquisition tells us about the Mass Effect 4

Outer space, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reminds us, is big. Maybe but it’s an impersonal, elusive kind of bigness, easily relegated to a skybox or the view from a porthole. If recent conversations with BioWare are any indication, the next Mass Effect is gunning for an altogether more tangible scale, drawing on the same, much-tweaked Frostbite tech that transformed Dragon Age from a series of feudal snowglobes into a Skyrim-esque expanse.

Dropping details during this November’s N7 Day festivities, the developer has revealed that the new game’s planetary maps will be large enough to encompass a number of cities apiece and “hundreds of hours” of roaming. That now-gunless Mako APC isn’t just for low-G wheelies without it, you’ll run out of oxygen long before you do ground to cover.

It’s not just a question of technology, though. The writers are now better able to bridge the gulf between overarching narrative concerns and what happens in the trenches. When pressed about which of Dragon Age: Inquisition’s key learnings will carry over to other projects, producer Cameron Lee says it’s “Definitely how you connect to an open-world experience the sort of story that Bioware tells.”

“Normally in RPGs you tend to have somewhat of a disconnect between those two it’s strong in one or the other. For Inquisition we worked a lot on [bringing] those two together.”

The breakthrough addition, it transpired, was the Inquisition itself a plot-driven strategic meta-game that furnishes you with side stories, resource considerations and perks. “It’s this loop between one and the other that feels connected and natural. I think that’s definitely something we could look at and take into future games.”

Mass Effect, of course, is already built around such a rapport between the micro and the macro, between the intricacies of planetside combat and the good ship Normandy’s quest to scan, probe and/or strip-mine every ball of rock in the cosmos. Oh, and head off some galaxy-wide invasion or other. With said invasion averted (insert preferred ending sequence here), there’s perhaps scope  for a more leisurely wander in the fourth title.

Shepard's Warning
The original trilogy’s lead won't return, but costume artwork suggests that the new protagonist is part of the same, human-led n7 program that gave us the good commander. Or that they’re a massive Shepard fanboy/girl.

Dead Spacious
A concept artwork shows a (lead?) character studying a golden holographic globe, which looks like a take on Dead Space’s in-game map system. He’s unaccompanied, but we’re assured that companions are part of the picture. 

Spartan ancestry
The game’s lead writer is Halo 4 scribe chris Schlerf, who has commented of his work that, “every day I get to play in a new corner of the universe.” Hopefully, the last Master chief outing’s wooden plot doesn't represent Schlerf at his best.

First contact
There are at least two new alien species, one of whom resides on a jaggedy, volcanic planet, the other in a fragrant paradise. rumour has it that the first lot are skellingtons with glowy eyes, while the second bunch resemble golems.

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