Embracing the Crafted Journey: How Dragon Age: The Veilguard Revitalizes Storytelling in Gaming

A time when open-world environments have become the central conceit for RPGs, BioWare has declared that its upcoming next game Dragon Age: The Veilguard will focus more on a guided, mission-based narrative structure. They’ve been open about this shift back to more deliberate and tailored stories in an interview with IGN at Summer Game Fest 2024 with the director of the project Corinne Busche. It was revealed to the press that the game was thoughtfully created to give players a totally immersive experience. The key to that is making everything in the game thoughtfully designed with an eye toward narrative.

A Curated Adventure Awaits

Balancing Exploration with Narrative Depth

The Veilguard sticks to a linear formula, with intentional contrast to the all-over sprawl of a Dragon Age: Inquisition. BioWare is simply going where it knows it excels, where it can indulge in moments of deep emotional resonance. Don’t let the cinematic montages fool you. As one of the director’s quotes made clear, the focus it takes to craft those moments is firmly founded on the curation it puts into its narrative.

The World Opens with Purpose

Photo courtesy of Gregor VossWhile it has an overarching mission-based structure, The Veilguard doesn’t lack for exploration due to the fact that some of the game’s levels open up slowly, have optional content in them and are filled with secrets to find. This enables the developer to create an experience that is varied, which caters to those with different preferences in how they approach games.

Companion Quests: A Personalized Traverse

Heightened Engagement through Curated Side Quests

In The Veilguard,’ Busche tells me, ‘you have one character whose entire side quest is exploring the greater depth of his relationship with another character, so he has a conversation – with the player basically being him – with the other character at different points. There are sections where the player is actually in the middle of the party running around doing things, and other sections where the player is not in the dinner and is not controlling the main character.’ In the protracted zone of this particular game, ‘it becomes more intimate, where you’re exploring the lore because of the exploration of the companions, why they’re the way that they are, why they’re where they are, what their personal mystery is…’ In this way, The Veilguard reorients questing as a concept, making it less about collecting items and more about collecting intimacy.

First Glimpses and Promised Innovations

Reimagining the Aesthetic and Combat

Aesthetic reinvention and gameplay innovation are the foundations for its first official gameplay demo, which introduces a whole new art style and new way to fight, on top of a diverse cast of companions, for what promises to be a whole new take on interactive storytelling. With The Veilguard turning the page of the book on how games should be played, we could safely say this is the finale of an EVE plot arc that raised the bar of video games like no other.

The Anticipation Builds

Scheduled for release in late 2024 for platforms including PS5, Xbox Series X|S and PC, excitement is mounting for the chance to dip into Dragon Age: The Veilguard’s epic world filled with characters players can invest in for potentially more than 100 hours in a game that will be defined by rich writing and exploration. If Dragon Age: The Veilguard fully realises the potential of its plot and game mechanic, it will be a sign of great things to come for the genre.

OPEN WORLD vs. OPEN HEARTS: Embracing Narrative Intimacy

Despite the continued debate over open-world formats, The Veilguard set the tone for the knowledge that narrative intimacy and geographic scale are not mutually exclusive, and that the merits of a tighter, more linear experience do not come at the expense of a more focused barnstorm. BioWare had nonetheless procured a profound insight into the essential nature of narrative, an insight that had taken them 20 years to earn. Could it be that The Veilguard redefines the open-world story, that a well-edited world can make the doors creak ajar to a new intimacy with the world and its inhabitants?

Unlocking the Essence of 'OPEN'

‘Open’ is often associated with alpha landscapes, impossibly vast vistas, and the power to range freely, leaving interpretive tracks along the broad back of the undifferentiated feminine. But in Dragon Age: The Veilguard, ‘open’ is something different, something more sophisticated. It’s the way the game’s branching narrative threads open up, the way quest lines fan out, and the degree to which the player forms deeper relationships with the characters and depends on them for gaining knowledge of the world. It’s the way the game spins itself out slowly, as secrets unspool, and invites the player into a textured, almost fetishised space of possibilities and limitations that, together, are carefully articulated for the purposes of the storytelling. By narratively positioning open-ended exploration in the context of a largely mission-based approach, The Veilguard hopes to deliver a version of the RPG experience that is both as fun as it is the transformative gaming experience its developer expects it to be.

Jun 14, 2024
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