Dragon Age is messy. I’ve heard from multiple people who worked at BioWare over the years that if Mass Effect was a Navy vessel run in adherence to the kind of firm rules we see on the Normandy, Dragon Age was a pirate ship. It exudes a kind of lawless creativity, which is responsible for both its best and absolute worst qualities. I love Dragon Age, but even I can admit that some of the stuff we see in the series is Not Great.
Dragon Age 4 is, from the outside looking in, intensely turbulent. Multiple high-profile, long-serving devs and writers have left the project. Although we know a little bit about it - it’s set in the Tevinter Imperium, Solas is back, and the Inquisitor should have at least some role to play - trying to guess where the story is going is like trying to guess what monotonous drivel Blackwall is going to come out with next. And on top of all of that, who knows what inane demands EA is making of BioWare. Tenner bets there ends up being microtransaction-riddled multiplayer, eh (joking, EA already said that it's removing live-service elements from Dragon Age 4 - hooray!).
Regardless of all of this, I’m still pretty confident it’s going to be good - or maybe I’m just a wilfully ignorant idiot. Who cares, though? The idea to focus on Minrathous is an objectively great one given how much the Tevinter Imperium has been built up over the last decade, as well as the fact that all of the major conflicts established in each of the existing games have a unique ability to come full circle in this one specific location. I am almost certain that we will see a massive Qunari invasion, that Dorian will play an important role in Dragon Age 4’s main story, and that several of the series’ most beloved characters will make a return. I mean, Morrigan is in Origins and Inquisition, as is Leliana. Varric is in 2 and Inquisition, and even Hawke shows up in Inquisition after playing the starring role in the second game. A few of the Origins and Dragon Age 2 characters appear in Awakening as well, although most people consider the mainline series to go Origins, 2, Inquisition - that’s why the next one’s called Dragon Age 4, innit.
Do you know what I’m most interested in, though? The Antivan Crows, baby - Zevran Arainai, what’s up bud?
As I mentioned above, I reckon Dragon Age 4 will hearken back to all three mainline games in some pretty direct ways. Setting it in Tevinter links it to both Dragon Age 2 and Inquisition thanks to the Qunari and Dorian, respectively, while the Grey Wardens are confirmed to be returning to the action, connecting Dragon Age 4 to Origins - the best Dragon Age game - as well. There are obviously plenty of other links, too, but these are probably the most blatant ones.
Or at least that was the case until Sunday, at which point the Antivan Crows symbol appeared in the bottom corner of some brand new concept art. Even without the symbol, the character in the shot’s choice of clothing and weaponry evokes the instantly recognizable attire of the Crows, although the fact the symbol is there is a blatant and unmistakable hint towards their involvement in Dragon Age 4. Bear in mind that outside of Origins, the Crows have been conspicuously and mysteriously absent from the series despite being one of its most fascinating factions. Yes, both Dragon Age 2 and Inquisition imply that Zevran has taken on the persona of the “Black Shadow” and is wreaking havoc from within the organization, but getting to see them play a larger, more pivotal role is an enticing prospect.
The person in the new art quite clearly isn’t Zevran, by the way, plus I’m not sure everyone’s second-favourite Origins character is on particularly cushy terms with the guild of ridiculously skilled assassins he betrayed in the first game - like I just said, he’s probably the one killing them all. Still, multiple characters have reappeared in future games and Zevran’s relationship with both The Warden (good) and the Crows (bad) could serve as excellent narrative material in and of itself - provided you made time to speak to him throughout the story and didn’t make him want to slit your throat. Yes, Zevran turns on you and rejoins the Crows in Origins if you don’t laugh at enough of his jokes. This is part of why he’s so brilliant - he’s a bit murdery and more than a little treacherous, but once you’re willing to be proper pals with him, he’s actually a really sound lad.
I’m not necessarily holding out hope for Zevran. I mean, I don’t think it’s totally impossible, but I doubt the person who originally wrote him is even at the company anymore, and even if they are, what does Zevran in 2021 look like? We’re inevitably going to meet some old faces - Solas and Dorian are safe bets, while I’d probably be willing to stick a few quid on Morrigan, Leliana, and maybe Iron Bull and Varric - but acting as if Dragon Age 4 is going to be Smash Bros. except with iconic Thedas characters is a bit silly. What matters is that despite the fact development for an already messy series has somehow managed to look even messier, Dragon Age 4 has set itself up immensely well.
I mean, it could be shit. Maybe BioWare makes a balls of Tevinter, brings back characters nobody cares about, and writes an overly convoluted story that people who pretend Dragon Age 2 and Inquisition are bad also pretend to like (Dragon Age 2 is brilliant, by the way). Or maybe, just maybe, the devs are going to lean into what has the potential to be the best Dragon Age location we’ve visited yet and consciously populate it with new and old characters who are all legends. Dragon Age 4 has a unique kind of potential none of the previous games in the series have ever had - but potential comes with ambition, and ambition can lead to disaster.
Do you know what, though? Ambition can also lead to genius, and if BioWare plays its cards right, Dragon Age 4 could be the series’ best game to date. Just put Morrigan and Zevran in it, yeah?
Vi and Caitlyn's romance becomes official in Arcane's final act - and it's adorable.