At this year's EA Winter Showcase, we caught up with Bioware's Robyn Theberge, Development Manager, and quizzed her about Dragon Age II.
Strategy Informer:Why did you choose to have such a focused experience this time around? Not only have you broken away from the main DA story line, but you've also restricted things so that you can only be either a human male or female.
Robyn Theberge: Well we wanted to tell a specific story, we wanted to broaden the Dragon Age world, and we wanted to introduce you to another part of that. So the Champion of Kirkwall, we wanted to frame that story and help you define that - so you get to define who that champion is - are they a good guy, are hey diplomatic - given the confines of that experience yeah we did narrow the scope of what you could play as. You can't be an elf or a dwarf, but you do have that iconic story and that 'rise to power', and that's why that decision was made.
Strategy Informer:Obviously not everyone was as impressed with the console version of DAO as the PC version - have you done anything to improve things there this time?
Robyn Theberge: The combat system is much faster, the PC is still quick, but on the console the changes to the combat are much more evident. The art style too is pretty consistent between the two, I don't know if you were at GamesCom but it's pretty close. And honestly I've heard some of our artists say that they prefer it on the PC, some prefer it on the console. Everybody has their own opinion.
Strategy Informer:Speaking of the art style, obviously it's changed in this game to make it more distinct, what influenced this particular direction?
Robyn Theberge: The lead artist, Matt Goldman, He said that he wanted to play with contrast a lot, so a lot of greys, blacks, reds.. it really gives it some shadow and some real-life effects. It looks very realistic - you could be in the city and look up at a window and think that you could actually be in there.
Strategy Informer:Because the two art styles are so distinct, do you worry at all that there's going to be some kind of disconnect between the two games? Even the enemies look almost completely different.
Robyn Theberge: It's still the same world, you still have that connection there. If you play the blightlands demo you meet Avaline who's a Fereldan, and she travels with you to Kirkwall and eventually joins your party, and she has that connection to home. You've got your sister with you as you travel around at the beginning, and it takes place during the Burning of Lothering, it's happening in the distance, so it really does have that connection to the first game. We're just, you know, giving it a new look, we've injected the franchise with a shot of adrenaline, we've given it a unique, ownable look.
Strategy Informer:I assume Bioware will want to return to the story started in Dragon Age: Origins, and obviously you have this separate thread here now. Are you setting these up to be two different franchise? How is it going to work from here?
Robyn Theberge: It's all within the same franchise, it's all within the same world - we're just telling a different element of the story. These are Feraldens that you didn't encounter, but they're escaping the blight much like everyone you encounter in DAO is. It's been said that you can import over some of the decisions you made in DAO so it will have an effect for those that have played it but it's also a new entry point for those who haven't played DAO.
Strategy Informer:Dragon Age Origins had a combination of the main Awakenings Expansion pack plus smaller DLC downloads - will you be doing something similar with DAII DLC wise?
Robyn Theberge: We're definitely committed to building our DLC library and learning from what we've done. Avaline, for example, is a direct result of our forums. We listen to our fans because they're our best and worst critiques. We'll do the same thing with DLC.
Strategy Informer:Announced at the showcase was Dragon Age - Legends, the facebook game. How will that tie in to Dragon Age II?
Robyn Theberge: That's a partnership with EA that we've developed with another EA Partner. It's not being done by Bio ware though, but If you play it you'll be able to unlock some items that we haven't revealed yet in Dragon Age II. It's free to play, it's in the same settings, but it's another story in the universe, but it's more a bit of a social game. Those games are all about customization and individualisation. Whilst Dragon Age II is all about the big story, Legends is more like you and your friends are building your own little stories.
Short and to the point, we didn't expect to get anything shocking out of Robyn, but we thank her for her time. It seems very odd, especially the 'pumping adrenaline' comment - that only happens when a franchise has gone stale, and whilst not perfect in no way has Dragon Age gone stale. Whilst we personally love some concepts such as the framed narrative, we can't help but think Bioware is trying to react to something that hasn't even happened yet.