Sunday, 7 December 2014

Review - The Art of Dragon Age: Inquisition

Publisher: Dark Horse

Review by Richard Williams

I have wished for a Dragon Age artbook for as long as Dragon Age has been around. It baffled me that there should be such fantast
ic art books for Mass Effect and nothing at all for this icon of fantasy RPG gaming. Now, finally, Dark Horse have gotten around to addressing this missing element of my collection and I can say that it is everything I hoped for. This is a lovely, big, beautiful book which somehow manages to look bigger than it is whilst still being larger than most other concept art books.

The layout seems a little haphazard at first, I'm not sure if the book has been tackled in sections as they are discovered in the game, and so there are no 'character', 'locations' or 'monsters' chapters. Instead it's this wonderful melange which keeps the book fresh and interesting as you work your way through it.

There are several different art styles on display here ranging from a fine art approach to something closer to a comic book. But all of it is excellent. The locations in particular are gorgeous and inspiring and I just can't wait to get stuck into the game and explore them in depth. Likewise the architectural designs that make the real world seem unbearably dull by comparison.

One of the things I like most about the Art of Dragon Age is how thorough the creators have been. There is barely an element of the game's design which has been left out. Banners, tables, curtains, weapons, statues, thrones - it's as though they have tried to fit the entire world of Thedas into this one book. On top of this is the extensive iterations which comprise the design process, in particular regarding characters. There are pages of costume and armour designs and they are just a joy to look at. At several points in the book there are also storyboards so this really is opening the doors onto the work that went into designing the game, not just showing off the lovely art.

This point is carried across with the accompanying text. Normally in art books this is used to let the artists explain what they have drawn and perhaps explain why and what they were going for. With The Art of Dragon Age the text is more about the work carried out by the art department, techniques and processes, and less about the actual pictures on the pages. On the one hand this is good because it gives you a greater insight to the work that the art team creates but on the other hand I like to know about the pictures I'm looking at. I'm also not too pleased about the fact that the only place in the book where the artists are credited is at the very start along with the books publishing details and 'special thanks to...'. I'm a fan not only of the art but of the artists and I much prefer to see an artists name next to their work, or least somewhere on the page.

But this is my only real problem with The Art of Dragon Age. Dark Horse make excellent art books and they have done so yet again. If only they would produce similar books for games 1 and 2! (seriously Dark Horse, if you're reading this, my money's just begging to be spent on such books).

To sum up: I can hardly praise this book enough. The art is outstanding, the detail is breathtaking, the book itself it excellently made and if there were a prize out there for 'concept art book of the year' then this would be serious contender. If concept art books are your thing, then this book is for you.