Welcome to the Dragon Age Keep

Dragon Age: Inquisition has finally arrived, and it’s nothing short of spectacular. The triumphant return to the world of Thedas brings new characters, new intrigue, and a fantastic new open-world-style exploration mode that must be seen to be believed. Pretty much every reviewer agrees: Inquisition does an extraordinary job of continuing the Dragon Age saga, complete with all its rich history, fascinating locales, and masterful storytelling.

In fact, that backstory is so rich that it may lead newcomers to wonder whether they need to play the previous games to understand what’s going on – and it may lead veterans of Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II to wonder if they have to leave all their previous choices behind in making the jump to Xbox One.

The answer to both questions is found in the same place: the Dragon Age Keep. The Keep, currently in public beta, is a clever interactive website that both offers a quick primer for new players and allows returning fans to recreate the state of their previous games. Because the Xbox One is a new platform, BioWare knew it would be virtually impossible to import saves from earlier games – especially if those games were played on something other than Xbox 360. But as fans of the series well know, the choices you make can have far-reaching consequences, from births to deaths and pretty much everything in-between. So BioWare came up with an elegant solution: Via a series of multiple-choice selections, the Keep allows players to quickly and easily create a “World State” that perfectly mirrors their choices from the previous games.

All the major plot points are present, from the main games to the expansions. Character backgrounds, political allegiances, deaths, coronations, and even romance choices can be made, with the results laid out in a tapestry of stylized art. The site even keeps things consistent, alerting the user if one choice conflicts with another and automatically offering adjustments to remove the paradox.

Users can get as specific or as general as they like, micromanaging each individual decision or simply picking the big plot points and letting the Keep fill in the rest. Not every choice may have an effect in Inquisition, but anything from the previous game that would is present. Once all the choices have been made, players can export their custom world state to a server-side data file that can be imported when beginning Inquisition. And as an added bonus, the entire custom saga can be played as a simple animation sequence, complete with high-quality voiceover. You even get the opportunity to change your choices as they appear in the animation.

It’s this last feature that should prove particularly helpful to new players. By simply loading up the Keep and playing the animation for the default world state, newcomers can get up to speed on the most significant developments in the series, and alter any choices they’re not comfortable with on-the-fly. Of course, nothing beats actually playing the games yourself, but this serves as a fine primer for those without experience with one or both of the previous games.

Dragon Age: Inquisition is available now on both Xbox One and Xbox 360. It’s a huge game, and it’s worth starting out right. So, before you begin your quest, check out the Keep; a free Origin account will get you access and allow you to transfer your choices to Inquisition. Just a few minutes of getting up to speed can get you well-prepared to enter the newest Dragon Age adventure – and once you do, you can expect to stay there for a long, long time.