I was a huge fan of the original Dragon Age. I would have been a sucker for any new BioWare IP, but DA captured me with its nuanced combat and stellar story. I even liked the sequel, even though it had a few obvious flaws. Okay, a lot of obvious flaws, but I played it all the way through to the end, so it must have done something right. The kinetic, if a little chaotic, third-person combat felt good, and I loved some of the ancillary stuff, particularly the skill trees and gear system. However, it wasn’t perfect, so here are four things we would like to see from Dragon Age III.
Better Level Design: This was one of the biggest knocks against Dragon Age II in my book. While some of the locales were pretty enough, and I liked the overall art style, the dungeon design was just lazy. Entire sections were literally copied and pasted multiple times, so even the few times you weren’t backtracking still felt like you were backtracking. The world map was laughable, and looked like something from a bad Genesis game. Since it only featured about four different areas, BioWare added a day/night cycle button that was meant to add some variety. It didn’t work. I hope that Dragon Age III remedies this problem, and early signs look good. They are using a longer development cycle, and the concept art looks incredible.
A Worthy Antagonist: Loghain, the antagonist from the original Dragon Age, is one of the most complex and best-written foes in recent memory. Dragon Age II introduced The Arishok as another stellar villain, but abruptly finished his plotline two-thirds of the way through the game. Instead, the fearsome…somebody…stepped in and became the final villain. I think it was a girl, but I seriously can’t remember. That’s not good. I liked the focus on a central character instead of a nameless Grey Warden, even if Hawke came off as Shepard-lite. BioWare knows how to craft a memorable villain. I know they do; I’ve seen them do it. Please don’t phone it in this time, guys.
A Happy Medium For Combat: Dragon Age featured some incredible, tactical combat that rewarded you for thinking and strategizing instead of button-mashing, but the console version was a little sloppy in its execution. Dragon Age II turned a 180, simplifying the combat and making it genuinely fun for consoles, but served to alienate fans of the first one. Dragon Age II should find some middle ground between the two. I really liked the instant gratification of DA II’s combat, and I loved the integrated skills, but Dragon Age was founded on its tactical combat. It seems like a shame to abandon that for some admittedly fun button-mashing.
More Control Over Your Teammates: This ties into the combat, but I am speaking of other facets as well. BioWare has already announced expanded customization options, and that’s a start, but I want to see deep options for both combat equipment and aesthetic options. I want better control of them during combat, but I want to retain the ability to switch between party members on the fly. I was a fan of the skill trees in DA II, and the individual abilities were a big draw. Let’s expand those for my teammates, and let me exploit them. And for the last time, no more Anders. Feel free to bring back Varric or Merrill, though.