Bioware has had a rough few years. Following the critical and commercial success of Dragon Age: Inquisition, the studio moved on to Mass Effect: Andromeda and Anthem, two games that abandoned the tenets of previous Bioware titles under mounting publisher pressure. It’s been six years since Inquisition, and although we know Dragon Age 4 is in development, it’ll be a while before we see it. From the Dragon Age 4 release date to the teaser trailer to any news and rumors we could find, here’s everything we know about Dragon Age 4.
The Dragon Age 4 release date won’t be until 2022, at least
We know Dragon Age 4 is in the works thanks to the 2018 Game Awards teaser and some concept art released just a few months ago (more on both in the following sections). It won’t be coming for a while, though. During the EA Q2 2020 earnings call, CFO and COO of EA Blake Jorgensen said the following: “You should assume that there is Dragon Age out there and we’ve talked about it publicly that it’s in the works, and it probably comes after fiscal ’22 … you should assume that it’s out there and plans are underway for that product as well as some other products.”
EA’s fiscal year ends on March 31, so given Jorgensen’s statement to investors, we won’t see anything until at least April 2022. That’s the earliest we’ll see Dragon Age 4, but the wait could extend out to March 2023. If nothing else, the potential Dragon Age 4 release date all but confirms that the game will be on Xbox Series X, PS5, and PC, unlike Dragon Age: Inquisition, which launched on current and last-gen platforms simultaneously.
The Dragon Age 4 teaser trailer
The only official information we have on Dragon Age 4 is a teaser trailer shown during The Game Awards in 2018. Like most teasers, there isn’t much to go on in the trailer, short of a single piece of dialogue saying, “So, you found me at last. I suspect you have questions.” Accompanying this line is a tag that reads: “The Dread Wolf Rises.” You can see the teaser below.
We’re diving into some spoiler territory here, so if you’re interested in playing Dragon Age: Inquisition before the fourth entry in the series, skip ahead. The Dread Wolf in Dragon Age refers to the elven god Fen’Harel, with the “Dread Wolf” name showing up a lot during the Trespasser DLC for Inquisition. The lore is complex, to say the least, and users on Reddit have already started the long process of breaking down the trailer. In short, though, Solas, a companion in Inquisition, confesses to being Fen’Harel in the Trespasser DLC. He then explains the risks of the Inquisition becoming corrupt, before the Inquisitor is given a choice between stopping Solas or redeeming him. Solas also says the phrase, “I suspect you have questions.”
Of course, we don’t know the plot of Dragon Age 4, but it’s clear Solas is at the center of it. Further confirming this, Bioware tweeted a handwritten letter from Solas inviting the Inquisitor to tea in celebration of Dragon Age: Inquisition‘s fifth anniversary.
Happy 5th Birthday, Dragon Age: Inquisition. pic.twitter.com/mTIRc5HfDM
— BioWare (@bioware) November 18, 2019
The other thing the trailer touches on is red lyrium, and in particular, a red lyrium idol from Dragon Age II. If you haven’t played the second game, spoiler alert; after finding the idol with Varric and his brother Bartrand in the first act, it poisons Bartrand’s mind. We can clearly see the idol in the center of the mural, so although we don’t know what will happen in Dragon Age 4, it’s likely going to involve Solas getting his hands on the corrupted idol.
Another note from the trailer: It doesn’t ever say “Dragon Age 4,” just simply “Dragon Age.” Although a small detail, Bioware could call this new game just Dragon Age — it’s not a title reserved by the first game in the series, after all.
Early Dragon Age 4 art
During EA Play 2020, amid a hype reel for next-generation titles, EA chief studio officer Laura Miele said, “Bioware imagines and creates worlds where you become the hero of your own story,” set to the backdrop of the images below. Although there were no direct references to Dragon Age 4, Miele talks about Bioware’s “fantasy worlds,” which is enough for us, at least.
If the above images aren’t from Dragon Age 4, they’re from some other epic fantasy RPG out of Bioware. Given that we know Dragon Age 4 is in active development, though, it’s safe to assume they are from the fourth entry in the series. Plus, the images clearly show red lyrium.
Dragon Age 4 cancellation, and the “new” version of the game
The Dragon Age 4 we’ll hopefully get at some point isn’t the Dragon Age 4 Bioware started making a few years ago. In a report from Kotaku, Bioware developers confirmed they had started working on Dragon Age 4 almost immediately after the release of the Trespasser DLC. After the DLC, the team split, with the majority of workers moving to Mass Effect: Andromeda. A few, including Dragon Age creative director Mike Laidlaw, stayed behind to begin work on the next entry in Bioware’s iconic fantasy franchise.
This game, code-named Joplin, was smaller in scope compared to Inquisition, though more rife with detail. Following the development troubles of launching a game on five platforms simultaneously — the case for 2014’s Inquisition — Bioware had a much more streamlined development pipeline, which at the time, it hoped would lead to a new Dragon Age title in record time. According to Bioware employees who worked on Joplin, though, “that game will never get made.”
The Joplin team moved around a lot, first to finish Andromeda, then to Anthem. Following the tumultuous launch of Anthem, EA canceled Joplin, allegedly due to a lack of live service components, and shrunk the Dragon Age 4 team down to work on a new project: Morrison.
Morrison is the Dragon Age 4 that Bioware is working on now, though it’s unclear how much of an influence Joplin will have on the final product. Some shifts in management suggest not all of the changes are the best, though, as Mike Laidlaw left the studio shortly after the restructuring. A developer working on the game said that Morrison is a new project on EA’s balance sheet, free from the financial burden accumulated by Joplin. So, it’s a brand-new game, at least in the eyes of the suits.
Mike Laidlaw isn’t totally out of the picture
Although Mike Laidlaw left Bioware shortly after work on Joplin began, his mark will undoubtedly be on Dragon Age 4. In a response to a fan on Twitter, Laidlaw said that the team generally looks two games ahead when constructing stories for Dragon Age games. That means that during Dragon Age II, Bioware was probably already looking toward Dragon Age 4, even if the final product will have changes. Laidlaw went on to say that he “could tell you what could be in a theoretical game 5.”
There is no planned ending for DA. There is an evolving plan that tends to look 2 games ahead or so. https://t.co/6Tp1lP6d5G
— Mike Laidlaw (@Mike_Laidlaw) August 8, 2017
Work is ongoing, just at home
The video games industry has had a rough few months with the coronavirus, forcing developers working under already tight deadlines to start working from home. Such is the case for Bioware, but on a positive note, the team is working on Dragon Age 4. Mark Darrah, executive producer at Bioware and conductor of the Dragon Age 4 hype train, tweeted that the team is working on the next Dragon Age at home, and better yet, making progress on it.
I realize that most of you are here for Dragon Age news and there hasn't been a lot of that lately…
Let me just run down some things I an say:
1. We are working on the next Dragon Age
2. Yes we are working from home
3. Working from home is harder
4. We are making progress
— Mark Darrah (@BioMarkDarrah) July 22, 2020
Short of “working from home is harder,” Darrah doesn’t indicate whether the pandemic will end up affecting the Dragon Age 4 release date, but given the state of game delays, that’s probably a safe assumption. Prior to the pandemic, Bioware general manager Casey Hudson confirmed that the team in Edmonton was in the pre-production stages of an unannounced game, but that “the Dread Wolf rises.” If that’s not Dragon Age 4, we don’t know what it could be.
A “live” Dragon Age game
In the aforementioned Kotaku report, Bioware confirmed that the next Dragon Age game will have live service elements. This presumably comes from EA, who in past earnings calls has continued to stand behind games with a monetization life cycle after launch. Following the report, Casey Hudson tweeted the following:
Reading lots of feedback regarding Dragon Age, and I think you’ll be relieved to see what the team is working on. Story & character focused.
Too early to talk details, but when we talk about “live” it just means designing a game for continued storytelling after the main story.
— Casey Hudson (@CaseyDHudson) January 25, 2018
As a Bioware employee told Jason Schreier, “Dragon Age games shift more than other games,” so we don’t have a clear direction on the live service elements (even if we did, they’d probably change, as least according to Bioware employees). Reports out of the studio, though, suggest that they’ll be focused on multiplayer only, with the main, single-player campaign untouched by microtransactions.
Hudson’s tweet further confirms the lack of meddling in the main story, saying the live elements are “for continued storytelling after the main story.”
Dragon Age 4’s setting
If the previous games are anything to go by, Dragon Age 4 will take place in Tevinter Imperium, a much referenced but never visited nation in Thedas. The end of the Trespasser DLC all but confirms that the next game will take place there, as the Inquisitor stabs a dagger into a map centered on Tevinter. Several Dragon Age writers also released a short story collection earlier this year called Dragon Age: Tevinter Nights, so that’s probably a good indication, too.