For this episode, I’m delving into the most realistic and potential character concept for Dragon Age 4’s main character, and that is the role of a spy.
Playing as a spy is most likely going to be the next player character because according to Kotaku’s report on the previous iteration of Dragon Age 4 - known as Project Joplin - we were initially playing as a group of spies in Tevinter, with a large chunk of the game centring on heists.
[You’d play as a group of spies in Tevinter Imperium, a wizard-ruled country on the north end of Dragon Age’s main continent, Thedas].
[A large chunk of Joplin would centre on heists].
That’s right, we were originally going to embark on heist missions throughout the Tevinter Imperium! With systemic gameplay built around many choices like persuading or extorting guards.
[The developers talked about building systemic narrative mechanics, allowing the player to perform actions like persuading or extorting guards without the writers having to hand-craft every scene].
There was an emphasis on “repeat play,” creating the world to be as reactive as possible to major aspects of the game like the passing of time and mission progress. Giving the player the incentive to revisit old areas, experiencing new and interesting things based on your decisions.
[There was an emphasis on “repeat play,” one developer said, noting that they wanted to make areas that changed over time and missions that branched in interesting ways based on your decisions, to the point where you could even get “non-standard game overs” if you followed certain paths].
We don’t know how much of Project Joplin has been scrapped, and we’ve been told that plenty of the previous work will pass on into Dragon Age 4’s next iteration - Project Morrison. So, we could still be playing as a spy in Dragon Age 4 based on the very initial concepts and prototypes of this game.
With that, I need to preface that this video has been made with the assumption that our protagonist is a spy based on Joplin’s initial work. The next Dragon Age project may be very different from Joplin’s concept. However, this video was made to speculate at anything the future of Dragon Age may convey based on that previous work (because that’s all we’ve got so far).
Even still, we’re at least talking about content that was originally going to be in Dragon Age 4, and it still could be! So there’s hope right there!
Anyhow… let’s delve into the dynamics of what it would mean to play as a spy protagonist in Dragon Age 4 and how heist missions would take the narrative into an interesting direction!
The first question that arises is why a spy, in particular?
The pinnacle reason Dragon Age 4 is set in the Tevinter Imperium is based on the Inquisitor’s final mission - to get help from someone Solas doesn’t know. We already knew that we would be somehow connected to the Inquisition or the Inquisitor because operating in secret is required in order to avoid getting infiltrated by Solas’ spies again.
The natural direction to go from the remnants of the Inquisition army is into a small covert group of spies. Someone who can get the job done unnoticed, without any hassle. Basically a nobody.
Secondly then, what would our purpose as a spy be?
Essentially, we’ll be tracking down influence, power and information about Solas in Tevinter. As a spy with no knowledge, understanding or experience with Solas, we’ll be the best person in Thedas for this task.
The title ‘spy’ implies a handler, someone who is in-charge and has given us the task of infiltrating and instigating an enemy for their bidding or personal gain. The question is, who’s in charge of us then?
Could our spy relate directly to the Inquisitor? Or are they among a new covert operation in Thedas, with a new leader?
Dragon Age has absorbed itself in the world of spies lately with the number of shady organisations in Thedas. It’d be a likely avenue that our new group of spies would come from the ashes of the Inquisition, however, it also may not.
We could simply be a contracted agent in an unknown Tevinter group with the mission of tracking down information on an Elven God or stealing magical artefacts by organizing strategic heists, and that’s all we’ll ever know until the narrative kicks in and we either have a new purpose or a new role.
What I love about Dragon Age is that in each game, you personally earn your title by completing a series of events that define your character. You’re not just given your title, you have to gain it through proving yourself and only then you can become the Inquisitor, the Champion or the Hero of Ferelden.
So, perhaps in Dragon Age 4, we’ll start as a small spy, until the narrative opens up and then through trials and triumph we become the defining hero of this game.
Next question, what do 'heists’ in Dragon Age look like?
A key element of this game involves setting up heists in the Tevinter Imperium, which in my opinion sounds epic! But I’ve seen some hesitation online as to what “heists” specifically mean for Dragon Age. I feel like “heists” are a negative buzzword for Dragon Age because you instantly think about robbing a bank or mugging old ladies like in a Rockstar Game.
In actuality though, I see heists in Dragon Age as set-piece quests very much like Wicked Hearts And Wicked Eyes in Dragon Age: Inquisition with its strategic quest design and key choices that set up a completely unique experience based on player actions.
A heist doesn’t necessarily have to be a standard bank robbery, if you look at Mass Effect 2’s suicide mission, to some extent I’d call that a heist - as a team, you’re each embarking on a mission that will most likely end in your demise, with a slim chance of success. However, as you make choices and the squad works together, you pull off one of the galaxies most renowned missions - to end the Collectors. So, think to this scale of a heist for Dragon Age 4.
In a similar fashion, Mass Effect Andromeda had vaults that were essential to the narrative, these dungeon-like set-piece levels that invoked a high risk, but a worthy reward.
Again, another example of a BioWare heist. Even though it’d fun to rob old orlesain ladies, there’s a greater aspect to heist-missions as BioWare have showcased in the past.
And judging the initial brief 'Joplin’ followed, it seems BioWare were originally going for epic choice-driven, set-piece moments.
So, ideally, for Dragon Age 4, we’ll be following a plot that centres on pulling off high risk and heavy choice based missions. Not just robbing a bank, or committing causal thievery, but operating heists with a greater incentive at mind - to stop Solas from tearing down the veil.
With that, what is the purpose of heists for Dragon Age 4?
The Tevinter Imperium exists largely on parts of the old elven empire and has many of its magical artefacts and relics. Potentially we’re searching and raiding said artefacts, and that’ll take the narrative’s centre stage. As we know from Solas, each of the Elven Gods have their own foci’s, like Solas had the Orb of Destruction, perhaps our new protagonist is on a race against Solas to reach these artefacts first.
The Orb of Destruction was supposed to destroy the veil once unlocked, however, since it was destroyed after the defeat of Corypheus, Solas will need another way to destroy the veil. Could he need another McGuffin item, like the Red Lyrium Idol or an Elven God’s foci? Is this the purpose of completing heists, to get to the weapon before Solas does?
It seems pretty likely, again especially with the fact that Tevinter was founded on the ruins of the Elven kingdom. It’ll be a hot spot for anything pre-veil, so the perfect place for both Solas and our spy protagonist to chase after ancient relics. Like I said before, it seems like Dragon Age 4’s plot could be a race against time.
The narrative going forward is all about The Dread Wolf Rising, it’s super exciting to see this original concept on how we’d stop Solas by taking on heists throughout Tevinter. I don’t think this will be canned, it sounds way too vital to the main narrative, so I hope we can still have this dynamic as a huge element in Dragon Age 4.
Attempting to wrap up. The Dragon Age games have always thrown us into the shoes of a new protagonist with a very specific role or characteristic that sets them apart from the other heroes. Each character has a somewhat distinctive quality about them. One of my worries with fulfilling the role as a spy is just that - what exactly would be strictly unique to our character?
That’s when I start to think about abilities, powers and other attributes that have more influence in the world. For instance, our Herald was “The Inquisitor” but also had the “Mark” which gave them special abilities, perhaps we’ll have something new for our spy? I think being a “Dreamer” would be pretty cool, and could play a vital part in the narrative…
Even if elements of Joplin are sacked for Dragon Age 4, there’s still a huge emphasis on spies and a future narrative involving them. The Dragon Age comics are giving me a sense that the narrative is building up a plot for a spy protagonist.
Currently, the comics characters are looking for red lyrium that has been imbued into a weapon. They’re heading on their own heist to Castellum Tenebris, a fortress of House Danarius in Tevinter for a further investigation. So, we’re just going to have to keep our eyes out on what the comics foreshadow for the future of Dragon Age’s narrative!
What do guys think about a spy protagonist, is this something you'd like to see? How about heists in Dragon Age?