It was announced yesterday that Dragon Age: Inquisition would feature a cooperative multiplayer mode, and this came completely out of left field for me. I’ve since taken a deeper look into it and I couldn’t be more excited. In fact, it’s actually quite bizarre. You see, I loved the original Dragon Age, but like many other fans, I found myself insulted by the shoddy rush job and cash grab that was Dragon Age II. I felt so burned by that whole situation that I’ve been looking at Dragon Age: Inquisition only with cautious optimism. For me, it’s a last chance for BioWare to get it right, and while the gameplay has looked stellar to me so far, I’m not so sure on the game’s story. I’m just not feeling pulled in by what I’ve seen on that front. Maybe it’s the lack of urgency.
That’s what makes this all so weird. I’m more confident at this point that Dragon Age: Inquisition’s multiplayer will be awesome than I am about the single player game. Inquisition seems to hit the right notes in terms of enhancing the series’ combat without overdoing it and stripping things away like Dragon Age II did, and this bodes well for a multiplayer component that focuses squarely on the game’s combat systems. Combine that with the fact the multiplayer is being worked on by many of the same folks that put together Mass Effect 3’s surprisingly awesome multiplayer and that Inquisition’s co-op is building upon what worked for ME3, and you’ve at least earned the benefit of the doubt from me.
However, there are a couple of key differences between Mass Effect 3 multiplayer and Dragon Age: Inquisition’s co-op. For one, Inquisition’s co-op gameplay is more in line with Diablo-style item hunts than ME3’s Gears of War inspired horde mode gameplay. Arguably, this is more fitting for a series like Dragon Age that leans more towards classic RPGs, so it makes sense. Another example is the use of randomized maps. There will be three “campaigns” available at launch, but each will be comprised of 10 areas with a ton of random variables thrown in for replayability. Mass Effect 3 multiplayer featured static maps, which was fine, but the randomization definitely lends well to a Diablo-style experience that BioWare is going for here.
Aside from that, you’ll recognize a ton of similarities between the two. The multiplayer component comes free with the game and will launch with twelve characters, four for each class archetype (mage, warrior, and rogue) similar to how Mass Effect’s multiplayer had variations for each playable class archetype. Each of these characters will have two talent trees and cap out at level 20 (again, just like ME3) and you’ll acquire loot to trick out your character, including weapons, weapon mods, potions, runes, armor and so on. The one difference here is that you’ll find loot throughout your play as well as from packs you open.
There was definitely an itemization component to ME3 MP, but this takes things a bit further with a wider array of item types to acquire as well as the inclusion of more-or-less the same crafting system found in the game’s single player. The key difference with crafting in multiplayer is in the acquisition of materials. In single player, materials are acquired via exploration, while in multiplayer you’ll want to salvage your items for crafting materials. Crafting also allows you to unlock new skins for existing characters as well as unlock new characters altogether.
Throughout the course of live development on ME3 MP, BioWare ran a series of global events, challenging players to contribute towards a number of goals, with rewards granted to the community if they were successful. These events were often quite fun and helped drive activity in the game and the rewards were almost always worth the effort. It looks like these global events will be making a comeback in Inquisition and should hopefully be a good bit of fun.
But most of all, what I am really glad to hear is that EA will be approaching Inquisition multiplayer with the same business model used in Mass Effect 3. I feel EA hit it out of the park with the particular model used in ME3. The model was fair; you earned currency from playing and spent that currency on packs of your choosing to unlock new characters and items based on your own priorities.
The system was tuned so well that you never felt like you needed to spend money to buy new stuff, but the option was always there if you just wanted to buy a new pack or two (or you know, 20). EA recently used this model with Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare and its worked just as well there as it did in Mass Effect 3. I think EA has found a solution that works for it in terms of striking a balance between revenue earning potential and being fair to players who choose not to open their wallets. I’m glad to hear this model returns with Dragon Age: Inquisition’s multiplayer.
While Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer being great was a surprising bonus, it was BioWare’s commitment to continued development post-launch that really delighted fans who enjoyed this feature. Excellent DLC was released regularly for ME3 MP and it was all free. It looks like BioWare is, again, taking the same approach here with Inquisition, and I am looking forward to not only playing multiplayer with friends for hours on end at launch, but enjoying what the studio adds to it over the next year.
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