I adore the tarot cards in Dragon Age: Inquisition. Whoever came up with the idea, I could kiss you. I could happily look at the cards all day - and I have, sorry colleagues. I have bought them to frame and hang on my wall, and I've never done anything like that before. It's odd - Dragon Age isn't known for its art. Origins was ugly and Dragon Age 2 was all over the place, caught between old and new. They had art, but it wasn't important. But with Inquisition it changed.
Looking at places to live in games, it would be easy for the most magnificent, pompous and elegant palaces and castles to dominate any appreciation. But there is plenty of room to appreciate those residences that are tucked away, perhaps underrated, that are not major hubs or destinations and that are only subtle intrusions. Some draw a curious sense of attachment from players, eliciting a sense of pseudo-topophilia - a close relationship with a virtual land or place. The resulting effect is sometimes enough to cause the sentiment: if this place were real, I would live there.
Mike Laidlaw can still remember his first day at BioWare, even though it was over 15 years ago. He even remembers the date he answered the phone and found out he had got the job: 23rd December 2002. Laidlaw was used to answering the phone; at the time he was working at Bell, Canada's largest telecommunications company, in the province of Ontario. When Laidlaw first joined Bell's call centre, he worked the phones. Later, he got promoted to lead a team on the phones, "which was somehow way worse than being on the phones," Laidlaw told me last March, the day after his star turn at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. "I went in and said, I'm sorry, I'm quitting. I'm not coming in tomorrow. They said, 'you can't quit two days before Christmas! If you quit you'll never work here again!' I said, 'that is pretty much the plan, yes.' So I walked out, and a bunch of people high-fived me because - yay! - I got out."
BioWare's next Dragon Age game is supposed to be a secret - but it isn't, really.
There are few things less surprising about most fantasy games than how they portray magic, which is a pretty depressing state of affairs given that magic is, by definition, the art of doing the impossible. The impossible, it turns out, has a fairly limited set of applications. By and large, it means hitting foes with elementally-flavoured balls of fire, turbo-charging your stats or zapping wounded allies back to fighting fitness, in accordance with a collection of tactical rule sets derived from the works of Tolkien via Dungeons and Dragons.
Dragon Age: Inquisition marked a return to form for BioWare's epic fantasy series, with critical acclaim both at its launch and during the end of year awards season, when the role-player received numerous Game of the Year gongs.
Happy New Year to you! Having had a little time to recover, I hope your head's all fine and dandy - we're still druuuuuuuuuuuuunk, but that's pretty standard for a Friday morning.
It starts with the character creation screen and a choice between Human, Elf, Dwarf and Qunari. Despite feeling pressured to choose the latter - considering it's the first time the race has ever been playable in a Dragon Age game - I was put off by memories of never quite finding myself at home in Skyrim when I was playing as a Khajiit, so I went with a fairly safe Rogue Elf, specialised for dual wielding, after which the game allows you to do a frankly insane amount of cosmetic customisation. I spent too much of my five-hour play time deliberating over everything from what colour her outer iris was (violet) to how thick her eyeliner should be (Amy Winehouse), but what can I say? The result was a chosen one I could get on board with.
A couple of months before release, BioWare unveiled cooperative four-player multiplayer for Dragon Age: Inquisition - a first for the series, but not for BioWare, which made a similar mode for Mass Effect 3. To ease the transition, Inquisition's multiplayer will be cleaved off from the single-player game as a separate, standalone experience. If you don't want it, don't play it - it won't interfere.
I've always enjoyed the mystery and menace of the Fade, Dragon Age's twisted ethereal plane. It offers magical power, but it bites, fangs shaped as malicious demons ready to entice and deceive ambitious minds. And they do, and so the world fears magic for the corruption and destruction it tempts. Templars police the study and practice of magic but tensions, strained to breaking point, have snapped - torn by the events of Dragon Age 2 and the events of novel Dragon Age: Asunder. In third game Dragon Age: Inquisition, the world is at war. And the Fade is at the heart of it all, its demons threatening to spill through a great tear in the belly of the world of Thedas.
Xbox One has a mammoth 23 games confirmed for release on day one in November, more than many expected - but there's a distinct lack of role-playing games available to play.
The bombastic E3 show floor was packed with open-world games.