As I’d not read any of the books after the horrid mess that was Mass Effect Deception, I thought I’d suck it up and read lead writer David Gaider’s Asunder so that I could form an opinion on whether the projected April, 2014 release date for Dragon Age: The Masked Empire indicated anything about the release date for the next game.
The argument runs thus: The Masked Empire’s plot covers the Orlesian civil war that was just beginning in earnest as Asunder came to an end. Thus it would set the stage for the events of the Inquisition and would be released before the game.
My response, having finished Asunder all of ten minutes ago, is, “Poppycock!” What follows contains some serious ending spoilers so if you don’t want to know, don’t click through. I won’t spill all the gory details though because you really should read the book, particularly if you want to see Wynne and Shale again. It’s exciting, filled with lore tidbits, and it’s from David Gaider so you know it’s well written.
Asunder takes place not long after Anders does his thing in Kirkwall. The book describes what further spark was needed for the rebellion of the Orlesian circles and leaves things precariously balanced with the Lord Seeker declaring the accord between their organization and the Chantry void. He also said he was taking the Templars with him, leaving the Divine with naught but her Mothers and Sisters for enforcement. Considering Leliana and her role in the novel he may have underestimated the ladies a bit but in essence he had a valid point.
The mages had run off to hide in some ruins far to the northern edge of Orlais. Empress Celine has far more important things on her mind, except that perhaps she could really use all that power to put down the rebellion, particularly if Divine Justinia supports Circle reform and the two most powerful women in Thedas can come to some agreement.
What more stage setting could you need for a game that still needs a story to tell? While I firmly believe the events that will occur in The Masked Empire (and who knew Orlesian nobles typically wore masks in public?) will play a part in Dragon Age: Inquisition I don’t think the civil war will take center stage. The book will flesh out the political intrigue, certainly, but it may be a much deeper book if Mr. Weekes need not worry about spoiling anything that the game will reveal. And then there’s that elven rebellion mentioned in the description…
Thus I’m considering the April, 2014 release for The Masked Empire to be an indication that the newest Dragon Age game will come sooner than that. In truth, after reading Asunder I’m much more excited to see where BioWare takes the story. I still have a soft spot for dusty old Ferelden and I still want to know what Prince Vael is doing in Starkhaven. I’m desperately curious about Knight-Commander Cullen and what he manages to pull together out of The Gallows in Kirkwall or if he just washes his hands of the Templars altogether. But now I’m a great deal more curious about Orlais than ever I was before.
The biggest questions for me lay in things Asunder didn’t mention. If the Lord Seeker rebelled against the Chantry, what happened to the Right Hand of the Divine? (That would be Cassandra.) My distrust of Justinia has been thoroughly undermined but what game is she really playing? Now that either end of Thedas has lost control of its Circles, what’s going on between? Has Tevinter involved itself or will they?
While the idea of the elves rising up from servitude and the forests to take back the Dales on the south end of Orlais holds a great deal of interest, I hope that’s not the main focus of DA: I. I’d much prefer to play an elf if that were the case, one involved in that fight who gets thrust by circumstance into a pivotal role. That character would have much more of a stake in the outcome of a three-sided war between the elves, the Empire, and that rascal Gaspard. Dragon Age 4, perhaps?
Now that I’m dreaming of further Dragon Age titles, my mind has wandered to a dwarven PC leading expeditions out of Orzammar to reclaim lost thaigs in the Deep Roads. Imagine the possibilities for Warden cameos, ancient lore, and answers to even more questions left dangling from the first two games, like what’s going on with that red lyrium!
All I can say is that I hope BioWare keeps making DA games forever because they’ve got a lot more to explain about Thedas. If they can’t do that I’ll keep my fingers crossed that, between Gaider and Weekes, they get to write a lengthy series of books to go with the games they do make. Now pardon me while I go get my hands on The World of Thedas Volume 1.
Edit much later: clearly, I was so very overly optimistic. That doesn't make what I said untrue, just wrong. I'm still intrigued by the idea of the elves and dwarves getting their own games, even add-ons like the Darkspawn Chronicles or whatever that horrible thing was called.