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Dragon Age 4 Could Easily Address Inquisition's Biggest Pitfall

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  • Posted on 12th Nov, 2022 05:59 AM

Dragon Age: Inquisition was a great game, but every great game has its flaws--and hopefully BioWare will fix this one glaring flaw for Dragon Age 4.

p>Even though there have been no official announcements since The Game Awards 2018, there's something happening behind the scenes at BioWare with Dragon Age 4. To that end, there are certainly a couple of things that BioWare will hopefully address and improve upon for the next game in its Dragon Age saga.

Dragon Age: Inquisition was an amazing game; it got great reviews and deservedly so. But no game is perfect, and if Inquisition could only get its absolute biggest flaw addressed, there's one that comes to mind: the maps that never ended, namely, the Hinterlands.

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The Hinterlands Problem

The Hinterlands is the first major map players unlock upon beginning the game, once its tutorial level is complete, and the area quickly grew a reputation when Inquisition released back in late 2014. The thing is, it's all too easy to lose 6+ hours to the Hinterlands without really knowing it's happening; the map just never ends. There are too many pointless fetch quests, too much ground to cover, and unfortunately, there are moments in the game where players may find themselves needing to grind for power points, which the Hinterlands is distressingly perfect for.

All in all, players began talking about how nearly each and every one of them had lost too many hours of their lives to the Hinterlands upon playing Inquisition, in a way that really throws a wrench in the flow of the game's plot. Then, there's the fact that some areas within the Hinterlands are too high level for players first arriving, which does even more to trap them into level-grinding until they can handle it, and also brings players back to the tedious map later on in the game to finish up quests.

Of course, the Hinterlands can't be mentioned without bringing up the bears. Every player knows the feeling of just trying to wrap up the Hafter's Woods section of the map, and being beset by giant, angry grizzy bears every step of the way. Heck, sometimes when one bear starts attacking, more bears show up in the middle of the fight, and then things just start feeling downright ridiculous. Those bears may not have been part of a proper DA boss fight, but they sure felt like it. Case in point: the Hinterlands had issues.

Additional Issues

The Hinterlands wasn't alone. All in all, Inquisition had some of the most truly interesting and diverse maps to explore out of the whole Dragon Age franchise. After all, it was a brilliant title. But a couple of later maps unfortunately followed the Hinterlands' lead: the Hissing Wastes and the Frostback Basin.

The Hissing Wastes were essentially one big, endless desert. The sheer number of wyverns scattered around the area is (almost) as bad as the bears, and the map is especially difficult to navigate because not only is it huge, but everything looks exactly the same. In wide open stretches of desert, it becomes extremely frustrating to suss out which places have been explored and which haven't yet, and there really isn't any point to the Wastes at all except as a map for further level grinding.

The Frostback basin was interesting: it's exceedingly beautiful, and BioWare definitely gets props for the overall design of it. But once again, it just feels unnecessarily large and absolutely overflowing with roaming monsters spoiling for a fight, to the point where certain areas are best avoided entirely because players are guaranteed to run into some pointless fight with a pack of gurguts or poisonous spiders. Why BioWare would want to make a new DLC Hinterlands-esque area is a mystery, but that's what the Frostback basin is.

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Potential Solutions

For all the Hinterlands' problems, one thing is clear: BioWare can't make another similar map in Dragon Age 4 and expect things to be different, because the company already tried to fix fans' experience with the Hinterlands without making any changes. The developer tweeted out around the time of the game's release that players could leave the Hinterlands, but that didn't really help anything. So, something in the gameplay is going to have to change.

For instance, BioWare could consider going more completely open-world with Dragon Age 4, like Assassin's Creed Odyssey or The Witcher. A genuine open world would preserve the feeling of explorative freedom that BioWare was clearly going for with big areas like the Hinterlands, while not putting walls around the playern and their companions; it'd be a silent way to demonstrate through gameplay that they can leave an area whenever they wish, because the area has no solid borders.

BioWare came close to open-world with Inquisition, clearly wanting to emulate that feeling as much as possible without actually making an open-world map. Perhaps it could be time for Dragon Age to finally take that plunge.

On the other hand, Dragon Age 4 developers could also just work on making sure none of the game's areas are like the Hinterlands in all of the ways that made it a frustrating place. If players are going to explore a new area towards the beginning of the game, and they're only meant to be doing so for a couple of hours, then make sure the area really only takes a couple of hours to fully uncover--not several. There'll be time for big areas later (presumably), and putting an area like the Hinterlands right at the beginning of the game probably wasn't the best idea in the first place.

The whole problem was completionists getting wrapped up in the many things to go and places to do in the Hinterlands, and losing the beat of the main quest. So, eliminating that possibility by designing a shorter first map might also do the trick.

Regardless, after all the time it's taking for Dragon Age 4 to be showcased, standards for it will be fairly high. At the very least, developers will hopefully take note of the biggest flaws and pitfalls of its previous games, and work to avoid them in the next title--though what, exactly, Dragon Age 4 will be remains to be seen.

Dragon Age 4 is in development.

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