I can’t help but be massively excited about Dragon Age 3. I am hoping that it meets its “late 2013″ release because it is my most anticipated title.
Much to the chagrin of many gamers, I am a fan of Dragon Age 2. I found it to be a rewarding experience and while I wished the story extended beyond the chained madness of Kirkwall, I was content with saving the city from its own damnation.
While players bickered about limited experiences, I kept glued to the TV as Hawke rose up from the ashes of Lothering and became the hero that the city needed in its most desperate times. I say bickering but only because I didn’t spend the time trying to either curse Dragon Age 2 or defend it. I just played it and in doing that found a game most worthy of following the more RPG-inclined Origins.
That being said, Dragon Age 2 did plenty of things wrong. It wasn’t the best follow-up to a spiritual successor to giants like Baldur’s Gate or Icewind Dale like Dragon Age: Origins was. Does that automatically mean that Dragon Age 2 was a bad sequel? I don’t believe so. It was obvious that in this day and age (pun intended) the gaming crowd just doesn’t care for the way those giants played. While I’d say a vocal portion of the first game’s fandom spoke out to defend the heavy RPG influence that Origins was so deep in, it was hard to silence the criticisms from reviews, official forums, and other outlets.
Dragon Age 2 was what it was: a more streamlined Dragon Age for the current majority of players out there. You’re never going to please everyone but when you’re a studio working for a software giant like Electronic Arts, you’re going to be forced to do what’s best for business. I love BioWare but it is painfully obvious that they do plenty of catering nowadays.
So now we’re eagerly awaiting the third game in the Dragon Age series. Inquisition has a lot to follow up to story-wise. The game will be a big topic at most major game conferences and will be featured as one of the most anticipated releases once BioWare starts to show it off.
How does BioWare ensure their Inquisition starts off strong and ends even stronger? I have listed five things that Dragon Age 3 should learn from the previous games and five things that it needs to forget entirely.
5 Things To Keep Doing
Break Up The Story
If I had to pick one story mechanic that BioWare hit right on the noggin in Dragon Age 2, it was the way they break up the story with Acts. There were three of them in Dragon Age 2 and each of them fast forwarded time and it gave the player a chance to see how their choices affected Kirkwall, its citizens, and the political game within the city. Love or hate Kirkwall, you can’t deny that it was an ever changing focal point. The city saw many changes, tragedies, and events happen within the entirety of Dragon Age 2 and, for me, that kept the game fresh in my mind the whole time.
Break the story up in Dragon Age 3 with some more Acts. Let us see how this war — err, Inquisition — pans out over the entire thing. The Fifth Blight in Origins ended fairly quickly (which is good lore-wise since Blights suck!) but the story of Kirkwall went on for quite a long time. Hawke had time to truly go from refugee to champion and it felt rewarding. Whoever we’re going to play as in Dragon Age 3 is going to need plenty of time. Give it to him/her.
The fast moving combat of Dragon Age 2 was a welcome addition for me. However, that doesn’t mean the game needs to sacrifice RPG elements. I think BioWare did a great job with the combat in Dragon Age 2 and I never minded getting into plenty of battles during quests. Origins felt slow and the time it took from seeing an enemy, pulling weapons out to engage, moving into position, choosing an attack, and seeing it unfurl was ungodly too long. Dragon Age 2 kept the pace quick and supplemented that with tons of quests to undertake. I’d like to see this same formula during the Inquisition.
Quick Map Access
I loved the map in Dragon Age 2. I seriously don’t know how anyone could hate it. It was so easy to go from Lowtown to Hightown to the Outskirts and change from day and night. That meant the game never stopped. There were tons of things to do in Dragon Age 2. Act 1 literally could be a few hours long to tens of hours long depending on how much you wanted to accomplish. That’s a lot of traveling and the map made it easy, quick, and accessible. Keep this map mechanic in Dragon Age 3.
However, I would love to see some periodic changes to the map over time. I was a fan of watching how the Darkspawn’s Blight marched through Ferelden with the change in blood on the map.
This isn’t really anything pertaining to Dragon Age but it sure has plenty to do with BioWare. Mass Effect’s Genesis comic was a very valuable tool for players beginning the space adventure with the second or even the third game. I really liked how BioWare updated the interactive comic for the third game to encompass everything that happened up to that point. I think Dragon Age 3 is going to need this. To make the game more accessible to people, let them pick how the past went. I liked how Dragon Age 2 gave us three pre-defined choices to choose from but there should be more. There needs to be a full explanation of what happens in Origins and the sequel and a chance to pick how things went down. This also needs to include important DLC quests like Return to Ostagar, Awakening, Witch Hunt, Legacy, and Mark of the Assassin.
Oh, but if BioWare makes another interactive comic, please give us the option to skip dialogue. I hated sitting there listening to Shepard slowly talk about the past during my third run through of the comic. Just let us hit the X button or whatever and see what is being said without listening to it and then continue on. Oh, and make Varric narrate it.
I was happy to see some recurring characters make a comeback or even just a cameo in Dragon Age 2. I think this is going to be an important thing for Inquisition. While the Chantry is searching for Hawke, I think Varric needs to be in this upcoming game. He was retelling the story after all and I’m sure the Chantry isn’t completely stupid to believe he told them everything he knows about where Hawke is. They’ll keep him around.
This also means Hawke needs to be in Dragon Age 3. Since BioWare was smart enough to make a default look for Hawke (both male and female) this should be plenty easy. Using that interactive comic to determine what kind of Hawke you played in Dragon age 2 (or would have played) will let players of this upcoming game see their old hero from a different perspective which I think would be awesome to see in a video game.
As for the Warden from Origins, I think it really depends on what happened in your story. Did he/she die? If not, I think the Warden needs to make a return but make it mysterious. Since the Warden could have looked like anyone the player wanted, keep he/she hidden under a cloak with the hood up. Have he/she seen off in the distance during big quests where the new hero always sees him/her and wonders what is going on. I think it would be a great nod to the Warden and Origins without sacrificing the player’s memories of their own created look and feel of the character.
As for party members other than Varric, I’d like to see Merril, Isabela, Alistair, Leliana, Shale, Zevran, and Sebastian make a return. They obviously all can’t be playable party members, though. Dragon Age 3 should have plenty of new party members to make the game seem fresh and its own story. After all, we are following a new hero again. I think Isabela would get tired of following different historical figures through giant events in Thedas.
5 Things That Need To Change
Partial Party Customization and Management
I tried to defend this in Dragon Age 2. I mean, I hated how Oghren looked like every other drawf when wearing plate armor. Zevran also looked just like every mercenary that I was killing out in the field. However, then I think about how awesome and gratifying it was to have Alistair in his brother’s armor set. I think about how masterful Sten looked in the Vangaurd set. The pros just outweigh the cons massively here.
Let us change the armor that our party members are wearing. While it was nice to have everyone look distinct on the battlefield, the subtle changes with the expansion items were unimpressive. Also, it made no sense how Hawke continually looked stronger and stronger with his upgrades while everyone looked the same. The dangers got bigger and badder yet I can still see Isabela’s bare thighs (which are nice, don’t get me wrong).
Armor and weapons meant something in Origins. There were plenty of lore objects we could take into battle and seriously, how good did it feel to put Alistair in Cailan’s armor set after everything that had happened in Ostagar? We need things like this back in Inquisition.
Why Only Human?
When I was creating my character in Dragon Age 2 it didn’t really hit me that only being able to be human sucked until it came time for me to pick an Origins story. I read through the pre-defined choices talking about a noble human, a dalish elf, and a ruthless dwarf. Then I thought back to how each race and origin choice in Dragon Age: Origins made that game bigger and better. It also gave the game tons of replay value.
I mean, I understand why BioWare chose to have a set character hero for Dragon Age 2. They probably realized where the story was going and that they would need to have a hero that could make a return down the line that wouldn’t break player’s own images of their hero, like the Warden. It is impossible to have the Warden make a return unless his face is always hidden by a hood or helm. Players will have their immersion of the Dragon Age world broken if BioWare all of a sudden decides to make a default look for the Warden two games later.
However, this is the Inquisition and probably the last Dragon Age game. Let us choose the race, origin, and backstory of our hero again. It made Origins so fun to play as you felt like you were creating your own hero. Hawke felt like BioWare’s hero, which was fine for Dragon Age 2′s story. Time to go back to the roots.
Forcing The Rogue Upon You
You know what sucks seeing in Dragon Age? Chests you can’t open. You know what sucked ever worse? Not having a party member who can open them, either. This was so annoying in Dragon Age 2 because you couldn’t help but let the game decide if you could open a chest or if you just regretted not picking the Rogue class.
At least in Origins you had the option of making sure your rogues could be trap experts, lockpickers, or stealth masters. This needs to be back in Dragon Age 3. Let us pick what our party members are masterful in aside from combat specializations. I know it’s another option and Dragon Age 2 was all about making the game more streamlined but this was important. I hate not being able to open things and just watching the chest glimmer in the distance because it remains shut. Screw you, chest! I don’t need your contents!
Okay, I lied, yes I do! Come on, OPEN! OPEN THE DAMN CHEST VARRIC! MAKE IT SO!
Ahh..sorry about that. Anyways, back to it.
You know what made Dragon Age: Origins so amazing to me? The lore. BioWare originally said that they loved going the Dungeons & Dragons stuff but they really wanted to create their own rich world. Well, they succeeded!
There was so much to learn about in Origins and you could see a ton of it in-game. Origins had plenty to do in the game and the dev team made sure that the cool stuff the lore team came up with could be seen in-game. I picked up the Collector’s Edition strategy guide which was way more than just a guide. The book contained tons of lore information about history, factions, countries, demons, the Fade, mages, and tons more. The best part? It was all awesome to read and I saw a bulk of it all in-game so I had an on-hands account for some things.
I remember reading about the ranks of demons and how the Pride Demon was the strongest and also the rarest in-game. In fact, you only saw a few of them and they were cunning, convincing, and very powerful. We need more stuff like this in Dragon Age 3. It was nice to see more codex entries in Dragon Age 2 but I didn’t feel like the lore was alive like it was in Origins.
More Party Member Interaction
I can sum this up with one sentence: Bring back the campsite! It we’re going to traveling throughout Orlais and the surrounding areas then we need either a base of operations or a campsite where every party member gathers. It sucked having to guess when you should go to Merril’s house or The Hanged Man to have some cutscene interaction with a party member. In Origins, I felt so close to the companions because every time I went back to the campsite there was a big chance that I’d get some new scene. Sten’s interactive with the Mabari hound, seeing the emissaries from the factions pile up after helping them all, and all the talks with Morrigan over in the corner of the campsite are things I want back in Dragon Age 3. I want to feel like my party is together and have an easier time making my relationships progress.
What do you want to see in Dragon Age 3? Tell us below in the comments!