Monday, May 31, 2021

Shot by Shot Analysis of the Dragon Age 4 "Behind the Scenes" Teaser #1 (August 27 Version)


SPOILERS as always on Dragon Age, and most especially on TEVINTER NIGHTS and LAST FLIGHT!

Greetings from the Breach!

As I warned on Twitter, this is... hilariously, tragically out of date. This is my analysis of BioWare's exciting Dragon Age 4 teaser, which originally premiered during Gamescom's Opening Night Live. Back in August. 2020. Yeah, that 2020. (Were we ever that young?)

I started this analysis so very long ago, back when the world was new, but sometimes I am my own worst enemy—I keep thinking I need to be as exact, accurate, and detailed as possible, and so I just keep writing and writing and never actually post the Actual Things. My recent Varric post took me five months, and don't even get me started on my analysis of Solas's Last, Worst, Date. I'll probably be buried with it, or something. Anyway, the bottom line is that I have a ton of rambling posts that I have not had a chance to post, and then they've just silently sat in my blog in draft format, judging me.

Like this one. And then of course, in addition to being lost in my own flailing addiction to Dragon Age research, the world intervened and got even scarier, somehow the holidays happened, my business took a dive, my anxiety went nuclear,  and then there was that whole heart failure thing in March. Although that turned out to be an amazing gift in so many ways (I promise to stop talking about it, but I swear to God, I was lying on the gurney in the hospital going, "Oh, man, if I die without posting that teaser analysis, I'm gonna be so furious...").

So! Please note that the aging on this is very apparent! Casey Hudson and Mark Darrah have since left BioWare, and have moved on to exciting new chapters and adventures. 

Now come back in time with me... back to September 2020! (CUE tinkly music and sparkly lights then our screen DISSOLVES...)

So what I figured I'd do here was to go through the video sequentially, person by person, and shot by shot. This way, it lets me honor all the lovely BioWare peeps who appear, and offer analyses or hypotheses on the art concepts they show us, as well.

Will this be the smartest DA 4 teaser analysis out there? HIGHLY DOUBTFUL, especially knowing that wonderful analyses are already out there from Evanuri like Ghil Dirthalen and LadyInsanity and many more. But hey, gosh darn it, it's gonna be the MOST COMPREHENSIVE! So I hope the shot-by-shot approach provides, at the very least, a good reference for some of you.

A Note on Concept Art

And one caveat—as Patrick Weekes eloquently noted on Twitter here, what we're seeing throughout this video is either static concept art, or very early animations/video footage in progress. The video we see may never make it into the game at all. And the concept art is quite often used simply to provide exactly that—concept for "this is how the scene might look," or, "What if we tried this?" 

But Patrick says it better, so I'll quote them here:

Much like box-art creatures help devs get an early feel for gameplay, concept art helps devs get an early feel for MOOD.

If the mood of concept art you're seeing excites you, cool! But please don't get attached to, or hung up on, specifics.

Then, further:

There are characters in the concept art who have since been cut, or changed significantly, or were never intended to be major characters to begin with. There are major characters who didn't exist yet when these pieces were made.

So these are all good things to keep in mind as we totally nerd out adorably together over these exciting and tantalizing new potential Dragon Age 4 tidbits.

Onward!

The Next Dragon Age: Behind the Scenes at BioWare

The video begins with BioWare Studio General Manager Casey Hudson, who looks back to 2014 when Dragon Age Inquisition won Game of the Year—then introduces what's to come with Dragon Age 4: "We're still in early production, but we thought it was time to give you the very first look at how BioWare's passionate team of developers are crafting this very special game."


And the simplest thing happens next, but it totally got me the first time I watched it—Trevor Morris's beautiful Dragon Age Inquisition theme surges over a lovely shot of the late afternoon sun through the trees and leaves—and like many fans watching, I went, "Oh, my God, the animation looks so REAL!" Er, cough. Because of course, those ARE real trees we're looking at. Nice one, BioWare!

Look, some of us have been inside for a loooooong time. Real trees look wonky and magical to me.


Next, we get glimpses of brilliant Twitter provocateur and incipient wizard Mark Darrah (Executive Producer), who talks about watching BioWare grow up through the years...


Then we meet Graham Scott (Senior Game Designer), who talks about the amazing stories still to be told... His thoughtful profile gaze to the right-hand horizon is also AMAZING here. Truly one of the best in the video.

And then we get a brief wonderful glimpse of a Zoom meeting that includes some familiar faces, including Lead Editor Karin Weekes, as they all bond over their love of a particular character who isn't named (curses!). 


On the above lovely Zoom image of BioWare folks, I reached out to ask for help identifying everyone and to get their permission to name them, so for now we just have this image of the team. Just suffice it to say that I love everyone's Zoom backgrounds, but I also love it when we can see people's actual offices. And Person at Upper Left? I am COVETING your bookcases and containers. COVETING THEM SO HARD.

(Also, I was sad nobody's pets were visible here. PET TAX, BioWare, get on it!)


We then meet Melissa Janowicz (Gameplay Designer), who is so visibly enthused about the creative challenges that you can tell she truly loves her work and is probably a superhero in real life. She talks about how much fun it is that BioWare is so experimental, and how they're "always coming up with new stuff." 


Jon Renish (Technical Director) expands on this, and he emphasizes that "we're always trying to improve, innovate, and bring new characters to life." 

Here, just as the Inquisition theme's drums kick in, we start getting our first real concept art glimpses of the game in progress. And... we're off!


There's some beautiful stuff in the image above, and I'm guessing the location we're glimpsing is Tevinter. First off, it has that ornate, Byzantine quality that I associate with Tevinter. 

I've also seen occasional evidence that Tevinter was inspired not just by the Roman Empire (of course), but to me it seems apparent that there is a lot of Eastern Asian (Indian) influence, as well, especially in Dorian's character design and other elements we've seen in the past, and this reflects some echoes of that Eastern Asian feel to me. 

Further, the presence of the beautiful cypresses lifting to the sky beyond the buildings (very reminiscent of Van Gogh and Starry Night) also points to a more temperate climate, and it's fun to point out that there are cypress trees in BOTH India and Italy! (Yes, I researched this! I'm a proud nerd.)

This concept art above includes the clustered buildings, domes, warm colors, and spires of the above influences, but what really intrigues me is that they're also so architecturally RUSSIAN. They are classic Central European architecture in many ways, right down to the onion domes.

I almost thought the Russian influences would be more Qun-focused for the obvious parallels, but now I don't think that will happen. I think the Qun stuff will be more monolithic and heavy design-wise. But we'll see.

Then, we get this, below:


Okay, so the image above looks to me like a classic ancient entrance to the Deep Roads, and possibly to one of the lost Thaigs? It's gorgeous and evocative of the dwarven architecture and sense of scale, but we can see deep slants of sunshine coming down, so it's not so far below that light is gone. The figure in the foreground could be our protagonist, but if so, I think it's a dwarven hero (I'm sure we will be able to play all races in DA4)—look at the size and structure of the person we see here.

Meanwhile, this area seems to herald a big fat fun challenge gamewise as part of a big specific questline, of course—we will have to decode the door itself, probably much like the Temple of Mythal, and/or fight some big ancient dwarven nasty thing to get access to begin with, just to prove our prowess and worthiness.

Other intriguing little elements—the gem glowing in the doors, the answering glow in the pointed artifacts to foreground right and middleground left—and what almost looks like a frozen river of sorts beneath the hero's feet. Not surprisingly, there is a slight blue tinge to the light of the gem and artifacts, but that also means we're looking at a potentially "pure" place—one untouched, as yet, by the Blighted red lyrium. Interesting stuff.

And yes, this image TOTALLY reminds me of Tolkien's description of the Chamber of Mazarbul in The Fellowship of the Ring. This means that it's pretty near the surface and is just the beginning of the journey down, down, down... to the secrets of the dwarves? To (finally) the lost secrets of the titans, teased so beautifully in "The Descent?" Inquiring minds.

I'll go on record as saying I do NOT think this is an entrance to one of Ghilan'nain's creepy army-building-centers. In John Epler's superb story "The Horror of Hormak," the Wardens had to navigate cramped and wandering secret passages and corridors down to finally reach the ancient chamber entrance, and while this could be that, THIS does not look ancient elven, but dwarven. So we'll see.

The cast of Dragon Age Inquisition INTERRUPTS this examination.

SOLAS: It is not dwarven, it is elven.

DORIAN: It could very well be Tevinter in origin. Perhaps a wine cellar.

BLACKWALL: I could do with a barrel of ale right now. Anyone else?

The Iron Bull raises his hand. As do the Chargers.

SOLAS: It is elven.

THE IRON BULL: So the elves were into really big doors?

SOLAS: From the Fade, I have seen that the ancient elves were capable of building a wide variety of entryways in all shapes and sizes. Including, yes, extremely large doors.

THE IRON BULL: Looks to me like they were compensating for something.

He gives Krem a fistbump. Cassandra glares at them. 

BLACKWALL: I wouldn't say it looks all that elflike. Elvish. Er, made by elves.

SOLAS: It is elv—

SERA: Phbbbbbbbbtttt! 

CASSANDRA: Varric, you are a dwarf, please resolve this for us.

VARRIC: Huh. Too much surface access, Seeker. Not much good for smuggling or hiding things.

CASSANDRA: Yes, but WHO BUILT IT?

VIVIENNE: Darling, I find it delightfully naive that you think I'd care. Look at this place.

VARRIC: Beats me.

CASSANDRA: Ughgh.



And then we get this, above. Tevinter again? Or Antiva? Definitely a port city. Note the spires and domes again, and that same lovely purple light. This particular image also has a definite feel of Venice. Now, according to David Gaider (per the BioWare Forums in 2009), Antiva overall was inspired by Venice, so maybe that's what we're seeing here:

Yes, Antiva is a fictionalized version of a medieval Italian city-state like Venice. It's not a perfect comparison by any means, but then none of the Thedas nations are meant to be. They're inspired by real-world history, but that's where it remains.
Keep in mind that we got a LOT of Antivan moments in TEVINTER NIGHTS, in some of the final few stories, including "An Old Crow's Old Tricks" (Arone Le Bray), and "Eight Little Talons" (Courtney Woods). It's apparent to me that crows (and Antiva) may be seriously important to Dragon Age 4. I just hope we get a glimpse of Zevran (in the playthroughs where he lived). 

Meanwhile, look at this glorious concept art below!


This concept art is a lot of fun—it's a rare glimpse of characters in motion, and also conveys personality and humor, with a more comic-book-style than some of the others. There's been a ton of speculation here, because of course, the mustachioed gentleman on the left could certainly potentially be a certain beloved Tevinter mage (if it is Dorian, I'm still positing that he's present as an advisor, not as a companion, for DA4, but maybe this is one of his advisory away missions, like Cullen's in DAI?), and the rogue to the right could also be Isabela.

But if we zoom closer, the figure above Dorian (upper left) certainly appears to have a skull for a face, so is that our "normally flaming-head" mystery companion, and the one I've guessed is our Mortalitasi friend Audric, from Sylvia Feketekuty's "Down Among the Dead Men" in Tevinter Nights


Next, Matthew Goldman (Creative Director), is excitingly presented as a possible Cylon, and meanwhile he notes what's exciting about the new game in development: "It's got frontier, stories, it's got mystery, it's got hard-boiled detective stories... and of course it's all wrapped up in kind of a fantasy setting."


Then this, above, an image that occurs on the mention of "detective stories"... a gorgeous concept image, and the idea of this? Solving mysteries in Thedas? I'm all in. And meanwhile, yay! We see our new potential Companions, certainly! Many have speculated on identities. I don't hold with those who think the woman with the braid is Scout Harding (although I would love that!). We see a Warrior, a Mage, a Warden, a female who, thanks to her bow and daggers, could be a Rogue?

Then this:


I love this and again, I love the slight Byzantine aspect to the architecture. Based on the architecture of the tower above (and below), I feel like both of these HAVE to be the Grey Warden fortress Weisshaupt in the Anderfels, right? And it's so gorgeous, if so! I love the stark and forbidding landscape, the ridges of the Southern Anderfels mountains, the Broken Tooth, the climate, the obvious sculptures and visuals, etc. And the huge staircase we see on the right, as described in Last Flight.

Weisshaupt was built in -305 Ancient, during the First Blight, so it's as almost as old as the surrounding hills. What's interesting is remember, we've glimpsed Weisshaupt before, in the Fade, all the way back in Origins! Here's what we saw then, from World of Thedas... 

Now, what gets more intriguing before Dragon Age 4 is the reminder that Weisshaupt has gone mysteriously silent as of "Trespasser," and when we factor in the wealth of lore we learn in Last Flight (and that the griffons will certainly return), everything gets tremendously exciting.

And then, again, this below. GRIFFONS FOR THE WIN!


Other fun landmarks to note here beyond the griffon statue—the fortress, the watchtowers, the rugged, arid terrain, the bridges and visible roads, the river (probably the Lattenfluss), etc.

I'm so excited by these potential concepts for Weisshaupt. It's all pitch-perfect: The desert, THE GRIFFON STATUE, the lonely fortress! Sigh. I'll be so excited if we actually get to see it, or go there. Especially after Last Flight!


Esther Ko (Lead Creature Animator) then adds, "You really feel like YOU'RE the hero in the Dragon Age world, and YOU'RE saving people." I love this. It's the heart of RPG isn't it? 


Going onward in the video, in this additional concept art, above, we're seeing some fun stuff in action, and most of all, we're seeing how combat might (MIGHT) work in the new game—the new bells and whistles! We've got a mage sending shards of metal off against an antagonist shooting ribbons of black malevolence (tinged with RED SHARDS). We also see what could be a second mage in a bubble of shards either holding off the attack (fist upraised, runes visible), although there is something roguelike about the stance.

It's tantalizing if we still need to see it as just, "What could be..."


Luke Kristjanson (Senior Writer): "Dragon Age, to me, is a wonderful world to play in." Luke is, for me, one of the best and most playful wordsmiths in Dragon Age. When writing for Inquisition, he basically invented a whole new faux-dialect for Sera, and it was glorious.


Then, now, this new tantalizing image above. Sigh. LOOK AT IT. Arlathan, honey, is that you?! The image above offers some tantalizing glimpses. First off, concept art. No pressure. All bets are off. BUT—given that, a few ideas:

I think it's Arlathan. I think it's a flashback, possibly in the Fade, or possibly via Solas. The airships are lovely—they vaguely resemble aravels with that combination of the sharp prows and curved sails, but these look bigger, bulkier and more elegant, and of course they float above a world filled with floating images. Look at the mountainous terrain soaring up to the one lone mountain (probably The White Spire mountain near Arlathan forest—note, NOT the mage circle), the waterfalls, the floating stones and obelisks so familiar for those of us who played "Trespasser." 

The little details are as fun as always. The noble sculpted head at the center foreground. The area to the left with the staircase could either be an altar, or (given what we glimpse) perhaps a mooring station from which airships arrive and depart after fuel or food?


Harkening back to David Gaider's comment that Rivain's city-state design was strongly inspired by Venice, once again, this one once again looks awfully Rivaini to me. This one, more than any of the others, also again evokes that Central European/Russian feel, which again really comes out of left field for me, but visually, it works so well. Look at all the domes and spires!

If you go back and look at some of the other scant sketches we've gotten, there is a similarity here with the World of Thedas sketch on Rivain, and it's certainly a gorgeous place—I would love to live out adventures here with my protagonist, playing the hero and running through the alleys and rooftops and waterways. 

As far as this image versus some of the earlier, rose-and-purple-tinted images we've seen (also with domes galore), to me this one seems... not the same? There's a difference to me in the layout, which feels more Italianate and less "Tevinter," somehow.

So my guess is, the "purple sky" images are Tevinter, and the ones that match this one are probably Rivain.



This is the part where, as the teaser progresses, Inon Zur's iconic Dragon Age Origins theme soars, as we zoom into a pretty tempting looking temple in what looks like a rocky, snowy region. There's something very monolithic and dwarven about the architecture here too.

And then we get  to that lovely zoom in on that tantalizing tree (which like many, I'm certain is a vhenadahl) that we saw in that earlier brief teaser:



This zoom includes a lot of goodies if we look closely. First off, we get the tree, which I've already noted I feel is an abandoned, lost or possessed vhenadahl. So, to quote my darling Solas, it's elven. That sweet twisted spiral with its spindly, expansive, reaching arms, is another lost elven legacy. And as I noted in my previous Dragon Age 4 teaser analysis, a vhenadahl (notably burned as a main objective in an early Origins DLCis a symbol in multiple senses: of the larger Elven loss of Arlathan, as well as of its local importance as a place for elves (even those locked in Alienages) as a community focus. 

So this glimpse hints back to those images of community for elves. But there's also something plainly funereal here—not a celebration of life (even if locked away in an alienage) but of death and memorial. This vhenadahl to me looks like a freaking grave marker, especially with all of those little urns and statues that we've seen before in World of Thedas


And then this cute creature above, as Matthew Goldman references the wildlife, architecture, and more (with a nice pan along the inside of another potentially dwarven-looking temple), that help make Dragon Age's worlds so much fun to discover.

To me, it just looks like another fun creature for us to discover out there in Thedas—and something about it and the way it's presented makes me think it might be a mount? Which WOULD BE AWESOME. It doesn't really seem malevolent to me, although of course it could be. I just see the forearms and keep thinking of TOY STORY and the dinosaur's teeny arms. It also does look a bit Tauntaun-like to me, as well. Does it to you?


Then some nice mountain passes, and look! A massive dwarven stone figure! Very much like those we saw in Inquisition. But seriously: You guys, we are so going to get Titans in the next game. Titans titans titans.


Mark Darrah returns with another big-picture comment that is rife with clues: "In the next Dragon Age, we get an opportunity to see new things, new places... and interact with people who lived and grew up in these spaces, as well."


So, in the above? Mark IS TOTALLY TALKING ABOUT TEVINTER and DA4 subtext, right? Also, the above image is really fun, because it shows us our potential companions in their roles as they navigate a market (and an encounter with some kind of ruler or deity). We've got the (Crow?) rogue all in black on the left, then a glimpse of the gorgeous Qunari female who will hopefully be joining us, probably as a warrior? My only request to devs: Please don't make the overweight ruler's weight be a symptom of their greed or evil. It gets old. Seriously.


This is one of my favorite new images as far as concept art, and I think it's important and key that here, there are living beings (presumably our hero and at least a few companions) in the picture. I also think it's interesting that we only have a few, which makes me think it's from early in DA4, before we've amassed all those followers/friends to adventure with. Or, of course, it could just be the adventuring party on a quest.

I've seen comments on social media (I try to avoid reading or watching other people's analyses until I'm done) that this could be Minrathous, and that's an intriguing idea. I like it, and there's certainly a ton of water, but—SO MANY WATERFALLS. I went back into previous works and lore, from the DAI Codices to TEVINTER NIGHTS, and I just don't see how this can be Minrathous. I grew up on sailboats, and no sailor in their right mind would be able to sail here.

STILL—it is possible that what we're seeing is a view from high on a mountaintop (our heroes are above the circling birds, most notably), and perhaps they're overlooking a kind of more sheltered bay or cove that we can't see, and that allows Minrathous to function as a port. But still—all that turbid water would make it really undesirable to sail into.

It's gorgeous, though, and as someone with a weakness for waterfalls—especially endless Escher-esque waterfalls—bring it on! And of course, since this is all concept stuff, it's such a pretty picture, and it definitely makes me want to Go To There.


Patrick Weekes (Lead Writer): "For the game we're working on now, we want to tell a story of what happens when you DON'T have power?"

NOTE: This is a frequent and effective theme for me in the Dragon Age games, since my canon DAO playthroughs usually start with more disempowered characters like City Elf, Circle Mage, or Dalish Elf. The Dwarf Commoner origin would fit with this as well. Then, of course, in DA2 we have Hawke's rise from the ashes as a penniless exile, and then the Inquisitor's arc in DAI, where they begin as an amnesia-burdened prisoner, rising to rule a powerful equivalent of small country.

But this theme would be even more powerful to me if we begin as a slave, as many suspect, in DA4, and perhaps do not this time actually rise to any position of high power? And in addition, it's a story that  would nicely mirror Solas's backstory, and what drove him to begin with—that determination to free the slaves of the Evanuris


They continue further: "What happens when the people in charge aren't willing to address the issues?"


Two things, here: One, Patrick had some hilarious exchanges with John Epler about shooting these moments on Twitter, and two? Again, they are TOTALLY talking about Tevinter here, right? Even Dorian has admitted that those in power there are pretty much the worst of the worst. So what if that flips? 


John Epler (Narrative Director): "The things you can expect in the next installment are going to be stories that focus on the people around you, and the friends and family you make."


And above, here's one of the most talked-about shots in the teaser, above—that big, wide hero shot! Presumably, a potential (POTENTIAL!) look at our companions.

My guesses, from left to right (please feel free to look back on this and laugh!) are:

Female Human (?): Rogue. Possibly Bellara, whom we hear briefly in the trailer? She could also be a mage.

Female Qunari: Warrior?

Human Male: From their build, I'm guessing, Rogue? Could also be an elf.

Executor? (It has to be an Executor!): I'd be so excited if this were true.

Silhouette With Big Stick: I don't know. Maybe a pirate? Sailor? But what about that gleaming eye, which seems to imply the supernatural?

Crow Assassin? Maybe Lucanis or Illario, for instance, from the story "The Wigmaker Job" by Courtney Woods in Tevinter Nights?

Avaar Warrior? Has to be!

Mortalitasi Spirit: Perhaps Audric from "Down Among the Dead Men?"

I know these aren't even confirmed as a Companion line-up and that they may change—for instance, we know from this trailer that there's a major character named Davrin who's a Grey Warden, and I don't see that silhouette here. 

And I also have to ask—where's Mae? I SO want Maevaris to be a Companion this time, so fingers crossed she shows up in some way! I'd also love it if she were an Advisor (I definitely think Dorian will be one, and possibly Varric too).

So who knows? 


And... an action shot... let's note potential classes here. The blonde (elven?) warrior center frame may be a Grey Warden, the warrior at left looks elven AND piratey, and left of them is what I'm betting is the Crow rogue, and to the far right is the beautiful Qunari companion (who here looks like she's wielding dual blades).


Jen Cheverie (Associate Producer) (AND HER ADORABLE DOG): "Something that we'll be able to look forward to in Dragon Age [4] is a really close relationship with game characters who really become real for you."


The above image is really powerful, and looks like a warrior protecting a woman shielding her baby. I see a glimpse of wing here, so is the warrior protecting them from... a dragon? And then...


"We want characters to be either loved or hated," adds Jon Renish. "One of the best examples of that is Solas. Half the community wants to kill him, half the want to marry him, and the other part want to do both."

Let's just get it out there: He's not wrong.


Then we get the already now-iconic concept art of my darling frustrating and probably doomed elven fiancé striding through a blue mist with a ginormous fluffy wolf next to him. There's magic emanating from Solas's eyes, hands, and entire body (it's like all that hotness needs a place to go) and from the ruff of the wolf.

And let's just get this out there once and for all. Anybody who STILL says Solas isn't hot is just delusional. LOOK AT HIM.

Okay. I'm okay. Just had to breathe out of a paper bag for a minute or two. No problem.


(NOTE: We see some 3D models evidently of Solas. They look amazing, but my only (small) critique is that the scar on his forehead appears to be been slightly moved toward center, his face is more muscular, and his upper lip is far higher, more indented, and more pronounced, so that lower and upper lip are almost equal. Solas previously had a full lower lip, but a thinner upper lip (I liked the contrast, personally—it seemed to imply a nature that was paradoxically ascetic and sensual). 


The next 3D model we see of Solas has similar issues for me. The browline is also different in profile, and again, his lips are just too protruding (especially that top lip).

I know character appearances can change from game to game, but I really hope Solas doesn't change too markedly, especially since we got that earlier concept art above showing him striding along (SMOKING HOT, LITERALLY) with a wolf beside him. Because that is picture-perfect Solas from Inquisition and "Trespasser." But we'll see! If there's a new, updated take on him, I'll look forward to that too.


Gareth David-Lloyd (Voice Artist - SOLAS) (speaking in character): "They call me the Dread Wolf. What will they call you when this is over?"

I promptly plotz all over the place, along with thousands of other fans, and answer... "Mrs. Solas? Or Ms.?" (My favorite answer from a fan-made meme: "Mrs. Dread Wolf?")

My favorite part here is the obvious parallel and callback to one of Solas's earliest lines of dialogue in Inquisition: "I'm just wondering what kind of hero you'll be."

Esther Ko then talks about the advances in motion-matching technology, in the way they "walk, move and interact," and we see quick shots of motion capture sessions and wireframes in progress (I always think they're so cool, with all the dots).





This is all tantalizing, but we have to acknowledge that all of the above is just... it's sketches and ideas (as in fact are all of these concept images). It's fun stuff, I just don't want to over-analyze what won't be a vital part of the new game (yet).


Next in the video, we hear from Sylvia Feketekuty (Writer): "Players want that suspension of disbelief that this wonderful collection of digital pixels is actually a living, breathing soul." On a side note, I've always loved Sylvia's last name. It's so percussive; it's like five typewriter keys being pressed in succession.


We then get lots of shots of motion capture and slips of early animation and combat clips. Among the most interesting to me is one that shows a warrior hero battling three Grey Wardens (Grey Warden insignia is clearly visible on their shields). 


We then get a tantalizing glimpse of our first new companion voiceover artist—Jee Young Han, Voice  Artist for Bellara. "No, no, no! It's okay. That's the good kind of rumble."


It's... a giant mindflayer? THIS IS SCARY! But super-cool!

Melissa Janowicz: "I help design bosses. I actually help the creature design team as well, so I do all the big threats that you have to go up against."

Then we see this guy below, and she must have been delighted! This guy is MASSIVE, and covered visibly in red lyrium.


Also, I'm thinking this is a Tevinter OR ancient elven boss fight. See farther down on this, but this is a wider view of a mournful area that includes some monolithic statues lifting their arms as if in supplication (maybe some ancient elven area in Thedas, near the Emprise du Lion, or near the  Dales?). Notice that the trap of the bowl/recess would make for a terrific, nearly inescapable boss fight.

There's a glimmer of potential Fade magic or simply magefire in the lonely light off to the left, which might prove interesting, and I still wonder about the snow. Is it a naturally snowy area, or one that is now nearly unlivable because Thedas is now out of balance?

Then we get a glimpse of THIS NIGHTMARE FROM MY NIGHTMARES...


Did I need this? A SPIDER WITH ARMS? As seen here, in footage of a giant spider attacking the hero, and the spider has HUMAN FOREARMS. Some DA fans love this creature and find it adorable, while for others (like me) it is pure nightmare fuel. A spider WITH HANDS can grab onto you after it jumps you! And then does horrible spidery things to you! (runs screaming)


This wireframe above shows us fighting some kind of super-cool multiple-fireball or AOE magical missile. So... cool for us MAGES if it's something we'll be able to do as well? (Sorry, #magerights always, peeps!)


Then we see Ike Amadi (Voice Artist for a character named Davrin), growl powerfully, "Nobody dies on my watch. For the Wardens!" 

This is SO cool! So it looks like we're getting another Grey Warden companion? Or a Grey Warden advisor, or guest companion? Also, it's awesome to note that Ike Amadi also voiced JAVIK in Mass Effect 3


Andre Garcia (Gameplay Director): "Choice is a big part of what Dragon Age is as a franchise. The decisions you make can affect change in the world."

Side note: I love the beardiness of this teaser. It's like, somewhere, the moment this aired, back in Thedas, Blackwall instantly becomes uncomfortable and uneasy (well, more than usual), feeling a prickling on his skin, and he wakes from a nightmare and yells, "WHAT IS HAPPENING? There can only be one!"


And then we get one of those tantalizing red lyrium-focused images... so many questions.

And this calls back to the one from EA Play earlier, with a zoom courtesy of @LadyInsanity—that infamous zoom on the way to another zoom into what may be a figure and/or the heart of a Titan.


My favorite thing about the newest glimpse of red lyrium above, is how organic it looks now. This absolutely looks like lyrium that is alive, and malignant, and that grows... and grows.


Katrina Barkwell (RPG Programmer): "Decision-making can mean that a party member lives or a party member dies! And it means owning your outcome, and reactivity to the choices that you do make."

(NOTE: As someone with a Media Production degree who once wanted to shoot movies, I just have to add that I love that everyone is looking off to the right—toward the future—versus to the left, toward the past. It's a subtle but very effective grace note.)


This is a beautiful shot of a potential adventurous path through the mountains, but I'm also seeing obstacles and breaks here, so what does this signal? To me, a clear sign that our new hero will once again be able to JUMP. Jumping for the win! Everyone loves jumping (even those who otherwise hated DAI, right?)!


And then we got this exciting footage that made me yelp and rewind because, y'all, this is totally a TITAN. And I mean, it's not a mountain, but more of a hill, so I'm guessing... BABY TITAN?

And I guess it's either going to attack us... or invite us to walk, er, into it? Me, I just want to give it little chin-scritches and call it George the Baby Titan. Hi, George! Your eyes are so blue! You look sad! May I tell you a joke?

Anyway... maybe it's a titan we awaken. Notably, it's blue-accented, so it's not corrupted. I plotzed when I saw this. (Yes, plotz a lot. I am a plotzer. I'm always plotzing about something. Also, I just really love the word "plotz.") I love the design here—look at the subtle suggestions of a face, complete with eyes, eyebrows, and mouth in this mountainous thing, as well as the "hands" in the rocks in the foreground.


Above, there's so much potential combination of elements here to point out. First off, the statues feel plainly Tevinter to me, as a clear echo of their occupation of Kirkwall, and as images of subjugation and supplication. But it could also, to quote Solas, be ancient elven. The ancient elves, let's face it, probably did a lot of supplication to the Evanuris. Supplication was probably a normal part of the daily routine under those jerks. So, add in the bare branches, bleak environs, and interesting, glimmering lump of red lyrium and... what are we seeing here? It's hard to know. 

However. This does look like it could be a different perspective on the same clearing in which we saw that massive red lyrium skeleton giant, above, as well.

Meanwhile, the most important elements to me are the statues, and some kind of potential entrance or passageway between them in the upper left—and the graceful bare branches intruding at right, which look to me to be identical to some of those we've seen on the vhenadahl, the sacred tree of the elves. It may even be a linked location/image to that very same vhenadahl we see and that I'll explore further down.

John Epler further notes, "I just love the possibilities that Dragon Age offers us, and I'm excited to explore a lot more of them." (Epler, you tease.)


Okay, so let's look at the above elements—obviously dwarven, ancient, and almost holy. So what are we seeing here? Interesting that sunlight seems to enter however—that it's not below the surface. So where is it? Beautiful design elements here, as always.


Luke: "To me, that potential is what gets you up in the morning. It's a fantastic opportunity, every time." Meanwhile, the Warden detonates what looks to me like a killer Shield Bash!


Then we got this tantalizing shot above, which I totally think gives off another "We are in Weisshaupt" vibe, this time from the interior. The architecture and arches match up pretty well, the altar sits up on a six-pointed star, it's high up, it's lonely and appears semi-abandoned, and is festooned with bravely waving banners and banners and banners with the Grey Warden insignia from the ceiling. The table in front of the hero character, to me, also totally resembles the War Table (and is possibly a twin, or from the same era).

Most importantly, WHAT is the green light we see outside those arches? 

What's interesting here is that it looks like the all-too-familiar sight of a Rift, like those we saw and conquered by the dozens in DAI. But what if it's something more insidious? Because it also looks an awful lot like those exteriors in "In Hushed Whispers," in which the world existed in a state with a "shattered" Veil. Where the world is green with those Veil remnants. AGHGHGH.

Which means—is this just a Rift? Or is it an apocalyptic "shattered" world where the Veil has basically disintegrated? Or is it a world in which Solas has entirely pulled that Veil DOWN? Or what if he left it up, and the Evanuris smashed it to pieces while they escaped their prison? (Yes, I am totally picturing Zod and his companions in Superman's Forbidden Zone).

It's really interesting to consider because all of this is a possibility.


Then we get this wonderful moment above (there's a vivid humor and almost cartoonish style to this piece that I love), which appears to take place among the Mortalitasi—most probably, Nevarra City? Maybe within the Grand Necropolis itself? The skeletons and green flames denote undead denizens, and I love the begging skeleton back-center, who appears for all the world to be pulling an Oliver Twist and saying "Please, sir, I want some more..." The mage we see at left may be actually controlling or animating them, given that we see that same green-colored flame?

Let's not forget that this almost certainly ties, even tangentially, to the wonderful TEVINTER NIGHTS story I previously mentioned a few times here—"Down Among the Dead Men," by Sylvia Feketekuty. I won't spoil you, but it is very purely about the wonders and delicate nuances of the Mortalitasi, and at levels we previously didn't suspect. The Dead, for Nevarrans, are still very much people, very much present, very much... who they were. And still are, even in death.


Okay, so... this is terrifying. That's a really really big creature, and OH HELLO, it TOTALLY reminds me of the monstrous boss Centipede (fused with the body of poor Warden Jovis) from Ghilan'nain's yucky army-creation machine from the TEVINTER NIGHTS story "The Horror of Hormack," by John Epler! This looks an awful lot like a massive centipede, exactly like what Ramesh and Lesha encountered there, and it... does not look happy, if so. 


This is another really tantalizing one for me. Looks an awful lot like a pirate character, but look at the SIZE of that ship! And the number of sweeps (oars)! That is incredible. What set it on fire? Where is this?

And... boom. The video ends.

So this was a lot of fun. It's so exciting to get this forward motion, and to see our potential companions and friends here! I'm definitely wishing the BioWare team all the luck on Dragon Age 4, with fingers crossed for new clues as more teasers are released.

But what did you think? And what did I miss—or get wrong? (I'm sure it's a very long list!)

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