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BioWare Answers The Big Questions About Dragon Age: Inquisition's Final DLC

by Joe Juba on Sep 07, 2015 at 08:03 AM

Over the last year, BioWare has added to its fantastic RPG with DLC like Jaws of Hakkon and The Descent (as well as free updates and multiplayer content). At a PAX panel today, the studio revealed Trespasser, the final piece of content for Dragon Age: Inquisition. To get more details about this narrative-focused epilogue, we spoke with creative director Mike Laidlaw about what we can expect, including the status of the Inquisition and how the fates of characters like Cassandra and Solas figure into the tale.

This story was originally published on August 29 at 7:30 p.m. Central. Dragon Age: Inquisition - Trespasser is due out on Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC on September 8.

What exactly is the Trespasser DLC?
It’s a bit of an experiment on our part. It’s something we haven’t done before – we’re producing an epilogue. Like, an actual “after the game is done, restricted to players who have finished the game” beat that explores something that has always been fascinating to me: the adventure after. What’s it like being in an organization built to save the world after the world has ostensibly been saved? This comes after a number of discussions and panels where people said “It would be nice to find out what happens in the later beats.” We realized that we had an opportunity and a challenge – we created a lot of story threads, and we had a lot of fans keen to learn about certain characters and their outcomes. We don’t want to just wrap all of that up in a single DLC, but there’s a real opportunity to take the Inquisition’s story and rather than extending it forever, instead give it a real conclusion where you play through its last days and end the story in this series of events that happen two years after the core game.

Two years is a long time – how did you arrive at that?
We wanted to make sure there was enough time for the political situation to have evolved. For the world to have dealt with some of the immediate fallout. The Inquisition is not disregarded by any means at this point, but there’s still the fact that they are a military organization, they have spies everywhere, and they were formed to deal with the crisis of Inquisition. It was such a fascinating thing to ask the questions, “How would Ferelden react? How would Orlais react? What would happen in the later stage of this organization’s life?”

Do you mean it just follows these later beats in the story through, or are you saying that this is effectively the end of the the Inquisition as an organization?
Well, that’s up to you. Ultimately, one of the core goals approaching this experience was that you would decide what the final fate of the Inquisition would be. This is our final piece of content for the Inquisition chapter of the Dragon Age world, so it puts it in a unique space. We’re making a commitment that this is an ending, not a DLC slotted somewhere in the story. This is how it finishes. Of course, with Dragon Age, we’ve always been committed to providing an experience that has chapters, with new protagonists and news stories being told, because we see it as a series about a time and a place rather than an individual character.

It seems obvious, but just to be totally clear: You need to have a post-game save in order to access the content in Trespasser?
Yep, it becomes available to any character who has completed the core storyline for Inquisition. It adds an operation to the war table, and once you start that operation, you begin this content set years later.

I know they’re different BioWare teams, but some of the the goals of Trespasser remind me of Mass Effect 3’s Citadel DLC. Did you take any inspiration from that?
I would say we took some notes there. Citadel happens in the timeline – it happens mid-mission, before the end. It’s not an epilogue in the same way, though when it was released, for many people it was their last experience with Mass Effect. This big thing about Citadel that we found resonant was that opportunity to hang out with your friends again and saddle up for another mission. There’s a bit of a joy in seeing these folks again and seeing how they’ve evolved. How are things with Dorian now? How are things with Blackwall? Of course, we can change elements of that based on how you played Inquisition and the decisions you made. There is a chunk of Trespasser where you get to catch up with old friends, and that is certainly our most hotly requested thing for DLC. When we look at critiques for The Descent, it’s often “Well, I just wanted more out of my followers.” We wanted to make sure that you have the opportunity to deal with your advisors like Cullen and Josephine, but also that the followers are there and you have a chance to see how things have turned out for them.

Can you give any examples of how some of the characters might have changed?
For several of the characters, depending on where you took them with their personal plots, they may or may not appear at all. One that leaps to mind: If you didn’t really dig into Cole’s personality – if he remained a cipher – then he won’t appear in this. He won’t have that connection that would draw him back to the Inquisitor two years later. It also goes beyond that – it’s not just "do they appear or do they not?". One part of Cole’s personal arc is whether he’s more of a spirit or a human, and that’s going to change his circumstances. The more human Cole is going to look and feel quite different than the Cole that was pushed toward spirit. So, you get to see some repercussions with your followers. And, of course, we want to make sure that you have one great last adventure with them. It’s not just politics and so on; there is a threat that emerges, which brings interesting tension to the storyline. You have these characters who are concerned about the fate of the Inquisition who will bring up decisions and things that you did over the course of your critical path – in some ways as condemning actions. “How dare you take a keep in Ferelden!?” “Well, it was run by bandits. Do you want me to give it back to them?” The end result being these things are called up, and yet the Inquisition remains relevant as you play, so it creates this interesting tension between perception and reality.

Some characters aren’t accessible in post-game play, based on different factors. Will you get them back two years later?
It depends, yes. For instance, one obvious example would be someone who became Divine. Obviously, they’re probably not in a position to get up and galavant around, but we’ve accounted for that. We’ve tried to make sure that the characters who recognize the immediate threat – the Qunari have made a move, and that’s the challenge that comes up – that’s the kind of thing that the Divine would say “I’m going to put the armor on for one last round, because this is ridiculous.” We wanted that flashpoint crisis to make it possible for those rules to be broken, because it would be a shame if you had someone like Cassandra – who you probably liked and were maybe even dating – up there as Divine and she just says, “Good luck.”

How does Solas figure into all of this?
If you’ve seen the ending, you know Solas is a special circumstance. I’m not going to promise that he rejoins the party and things are great, but he will make an appearance. I know people are excited about that. Solas remains an exceedingly complicated and enmeshed character in the world. In the course of the DLC, we’re not going to wrap up his storyline – that’s just way too complicated. But we can add a lot of texture and information to it, so it isn’t just this one note of confusion. Instead, it’s an opportunity to learn more about his situation in a way that we may be able to explore in future games. If there are future games.

So, Solas is a factor, but the epilogue isn’t about him?
I would say no. You will certainly come away with a greater understanding of his situation by playing Trespasser, but it’s not just the Solas story. Instead, this is one where the crisis, the regrouping, a last hurrah, a chance to see your friends and followers, and Solas are all a part of it. Seeing how things turned out for Solas is just as much a part of the adventure as seeing how things turned out for Blackwall – it’s just that his plays out differently from the others.

What does the name “Trespasser” refer to?
In the course of the story, the Inquisitor is going to be involving the Eluvians – the mirrors that can be used to travel between spaces. In a way, the idea of Trespasser is that you’re entering into some places that no one has gone for thousands of years, so you are “trespassing” in that space. There are some other meanings to it as well, but I will leave those for people to mull over and uncover on their own.

If you’re traveling via Eluvian, where does Trespasser occur?
Events take place at the Winter Palace, but everywhere else you go is completely new, and completely constructed to tell the Trespasser story.

In terms of structure, is it like the Jaws of Hakkon DLC, which gives you another large area to explore freely? Or is it more focused?
It’s much more narrative in the way it flows. There’s clear goals, clear next steps to take, and it’s much higher in cinematic presentation than Hakkon was. We look at the feedback, and that’s something people have been looking for – something dealing more directly with the followers. We’ve had this cooking for quite a while; it was coming, and we knew this was there. Hakkon was a chance to refine some of what we learned about exploration, and The Descent was an opportunity for us to work more closely with the Austin team to make more of a dungeon crawl. This one is the more narrative heavy of the three.

Even though this is a wrap-up to the Inquisition story, do we see any hints about the direction Dragon Age may take in future installments?
Absolutely. One of the things I’ve always tried to do with Dragon Age is make sure we have our eyes cast one or two games ahead. That we have a good awareness of the kinds of stories we could tell…Again, this is all presuming we do another Dragon Age; I’m certainly not confirming that today. But I always want there to be a fertile world. I want there to be interesting mysteries, and I like to explore those. But I think the other interesting side to Trespasser is that it provides a lot of answers. It provides some fascinating looks into elements of the Qunari and the elves.

You mentioned that Trespasser is the final piece of official DLC. Are there any more features coming via free updates?
Yeah, knowing we were wrapping up Inquisition, we wanted to do a couple of treats for people. These will be available in the next patch [for PS4, Xbox One, and PC]. In addition to some bug fixes and code stuff that need to be done for Trespasser, the two big features are that players will be able to – it’s not quite New Game+, it’s a system we’re calling “the Golden Nug.” Once you complete the storyline for Inquisition, there will be a golden nug added to the undercroft in Skyhold. If you click on it, it synchronizes all of your collectibles to the cloud. Once you’ve done that, things like your potion recipes, tapestries, schematics are all synced up. In future games, even those in progress, you will be able to click on a golden nug in Haven, Skyhold, and Trespasser locations I won’t reveal, allowing you to sync again. Meaning any character [on the same hardware platform] who doesn’t have those high-end schematics – maybe you beat The Descent with one of your characters – you can now access that schematic and craft that armor at low levels. So, if you find a really rare schematic, you can share it across all of your characters – or choose not to. If you don’t click on the nug, it won’t sync.

The other big feature – and I know this comes a little late – we finally added a wardrobe to you bedroom in Skyhold so you can choose from about a dozen different outfits for your casual wear as you make your way around the castle. There are some that are a leather look, some that are a lightly armored look. There’s a couple variations on the formal wear. Hopefully, people find something they like and are comfortable with. Certainly people have asked for it. I know people will probably miss the current outfit, so it’s still there for the people who are in love with it – all three of them.

If this information below sounds exciting, you will also be happy to know that Trespasser releases “soon,” coming sometime in September for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.