The Dragon Age series introduces it’s newest game to the trilogy, Dragon Age: Inquisition, this Tuesday. The world of Dragon Age celebrates a traditional fantasy framework that has been reimagined by a talented team of writers and artists, building a universe and lore that are familiar to fans of the genre, but with it’s own unique twists. While Matt Rhodes has been known as a lead artist for the franchise (as well as the Mass Effect series), the book covers the work of several talented artists on the Dragon Age team, including Marc Holmes, Jae Keum, Ville Kinnunen, Steve Klit, Casper Konefal, Z Lin, Tom Rhodes, Ramil Sunga, and Nick Thornborrow.
The artbook is more than a collection of pretty pictures. It contains a wealth of written information for the fans, from the story behind characters, realms, and factions depicted in the game, to the decision-making process into designing the world in Inquisition. For example, one of the art team’s immediate challenges was designing the figurehead of the game: The Inquisitor. With several options fleshed out among of five varied races, three base classes, a plethora of sub-classes, hundreds of clothing/armor/weapon customizations available in the new game, the team had to do a balancing act in anchoring the narrative to a character that personally shifts from each individual player’s experience.
The scope of artwork that the book covers is particularly impressive. Character designs. Race designs. Enemy designs. Environmental art. Armor variations for the Inquisitor and companion characters. Weapons. Mounts. Skyhold. Dragons. Full bestiary from the darkspawn to the woodland creatures you meet. Storyboards from important cutscenes.
The world of Thedas encompasses many styles, from the rich, flamboyant masquerade culture of the Orlesian empire to the nightmare-infused world of floating monoliths and terrifying creatures in the Fade. The book has it’s fair share of locations familiar with fans: ancient temples reclaimed by nature, arcane monuments of hulking stone, and locations revisited from the previous Dragon Age games.. with a twist. The breach, the story trigger event in Dragon: Age Inquisition that tears open the sky and pours demons into the world, has a significant impact on the the world we grew very familiar with in Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age 2. The artbook covers this schism, and how the art team worked to address it’s impact on Thedas.
Needless to say, for fans wanting a “pure” experience of the game: this artbook is rife with spoilers. There are detailed storyboards that spoil core plot moments, character design notes (which spoil when and where you meet your companion characters in Inquisition), and enemy factions, some surprising, are also given away. I recommend resisting reading the artbook until you have completed your first playthrough.
This book is a recommended purchase if you are a fan of the Dragon Age franchise and love striking fantasy artwork.