Dragon Age Keep: Open Beta Impressions

Not so much a game as a browser-based application, Dragon Age Keep was developed to circumvent the problematic issue of importing save data from previous Dragon Age games to the upcoming Dragon Age: Inquisition. In addition to allowing faithful continuation of players’ individual stories, the Keep allows us to craft world states from scratch or modify our existing ones. This spares us from having to play through the previous 2.5 games to make things just how we like them.

The Tapestry interface is simple and accessible, with each decision showing a thumbnail of the selected outcome so we don’t need to open them if they already show what we want. Decisions are grouped with the most relevant story quest or location, so finding a particular one in the sea of choices is fairly easy. Once you’re done, you can have the Keep play you a cinematic of your more major decisions throughout the previous games, narrated by everyone’s favourite tale-spinning dwarf, Varric. Even during this cinematic, you have the option to change decisions as they come up, which is handy for detecting any oversights at the last minute.

Of course I helped… for the exp, anyway.

Unfortunately, my cinematic froze about two thirds of the way through, and with no option to skip ahead, I didn’t want to sit through it all a second time. Such bugs and crashes remain frustratingly common in the beta at this time, drawing out what is already a fairly lengthy administrative process with frequent page refreshes, after which you need to check that all of your decisions are still there. To the Keep’s credit, it syncs every decision you make almost instantly, so despite these bumps in the road, you are unlikely to lose much progress, if any.

However, the selection of available choices seems a little odd at times. For example, no Lothering decisions carry over—save for the recruitment of Sten as a companion—which makes sense considering the town was obliterated in the Blight. However, Ostagar was equally ruined and yet two very inconsequential decisions from it are able to be imported into future games. Try as I might, I can’t quite imagine the caged deserter who almost certainly perished at the hands of the darkspawn playing much of a role in Inquisition. Furthermore, none of the work the player did to strengthen factions such as the Blackstone Irregulars or Mages Collective carries over, odd considering that Inquisition involves settling disputes between and gaining support from various such factions.

Oh yeah, this will definitely be a major plot point.

Interconnectedness of decisions mostly works well, as the Keep will pull you up on any narrative inconsistencies. However, it also demands changes on things that shouldn’t be inconsistent at all, unable to comprehend how a particular character could slay the archdemon, father a child and still be alive (which of those first two is more likely to cause the third I’ll leave you to speculate). Chain reactions of prompts also occur, and since exactly how some decisions affect others is not always apparent, Keep can present quite a struggle to create a timeline you desire that it deems cohesive.

On the whole, Dragon Age Keep is exactly what it said it would be, a way to create or recreate desirable world states to import into future Dragon Age titles. However, we won’t know for sure how well it has served its purpose until we try to import these world states into Inquisition in a few weeks’ time. With four world states and several hundred hours of previous gameplay on the line, I for one will be extremely disappointed if this new data-importing method doesn’t pan out.

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