What we want to see in Dragon Age 3

Dragon_Age_Flemeth

It’s official. Executive Producer Mark Darrah has confirmed that Dragon Age 3 is in the works, but at the moment the details are extremely sketchy. While the first game in the series was a big hit with RPG fans, the second received a much more mixed reaction, being criticised for both a lack of scope and for repeatedly re-using the same locations. A third game gives Bioware a chance to kick the series back into gear. With that in mind, here’s a list of what I (and many other fans) would like to see from Inquisition.

That same messy, fast-paced combat…

Including

all the blood. There’s nothing quite like a good scrum and the Dragon
Age games produced some tense, vicious and sometimes incredibly
desperate battles that put your life on the line. Seeing your party
begin their next conversation still wet with blood was a sobering
reminder of the kind of business you were in.

…but without wave after wave of monsters

What
was going on with that? Dragon Age 2 was terrible for repeatedly
spawning new monsters, creatures that would literally rise out of the
ground over and over again. This gave you no idea of the scale of the
combat you were in and ruined the sense of pace. Were you close to the
end of a fight, with victory within your gauntlet’s grasp? Were the
half-dozen skeletons that attacked you just an ambush, or the vanguard
of what would turn out to be a seemingly endless assault that spawned
over and over?

More non-combat resolutions to problems

If
RPG fans want to bash everything into submission, they can play Diablo,
but that’s not what Dragon Age (and Bioware) are really about. Their
best games and their most compelling storytelling has always come from
making meaningful choices, choices that are sometimes very difficult.
That choice could be letting another character live, it could be
changing your mind about an important issue, it could be compromising your values or even taking a
leap of faith.

While we enjoy a good fight, the
solution to every problem shouldn’t just be found in drawing your
weapon and exercising your swordarm. Even if Bioware want to demonstrate that life
is cheap, there are other ways of doing this.

Heroines like Aveline, Morrigan and Flemeth

Aveline
was one of the best characters in the series, not least because she was
a welcome antidote to the hypsersexualised Isabela. While Bioware and
EA have both said they care a great deal about how they represent their
characters and relationships, with particular regard to female and LGBT
characters, many players were unhappy with both Isabela and Merrill as
female romance choices, saying that they were borderline sexist and were
essentially male fantasies. Aveline had much more strength of
character, was far more independent of the player, had a better back
story and was a serious, decisive and mature character.

Morrigan
and her mother Flemeth also had much more bite to them, with the great
voice performance by Kate Mulgrew giving a particular sense of gravitas
to the latter. Although Morrigan could sometimes have done with putting a
few more layers of clothing on, she had the same sense of cunning and
ambition as her mother and, regardless of whether you agreed with her
morality or not, she was a much more respectable character because of
that.

Serious political decisions having serious, lasting consequences

We
keep hearing about the land that the Dragon Age series is based on,
with all its different nations and orders and factions, so it makes
sense for us to see these different groups butt heads more often, as
well as feeling the consequences of these clashes reverberate throughout
the game.

This
means consequences that are more than just exposition and explanation.
We need to not only seeing the consequences of these events writ large
in ostentatious cutscenes, but also feel their effects in the choices we
have to make and the outcomes we must endure. The unseating a powerful
character might bring about a serious shift in policy that affects how
you are forced to play the game and what options are available to you.
The Dragon Age series is all about epic adventure and big decisions. The
world really should feel like it’s changing around you, sometimes with
you, sometimes against you.

New monsters and playable races

One
of the best things about the series is the new and unusual races it
introduced alongside a slightly twisted fantasy canon. Characters like
Sten and Shale let us see the Kossith and the War Golems up close, while
the mysterious, rarely-mentioned Fex are still to be revealed.
Contrasted with the traditional elves, dwarves and dragons, these races
are fresh, original and interesting, and the next Dragon Age game should
try and make the most of them.

That
includes letting you play as some or all of them, by the way, bringing
their unique skills to the table. What’s diplomacy like as a War Golem, I
wonder, or just how good is a Kossith Qunari bard? It’d be interesting
to find out, as it would be to leap into a fight with something that
isn’t some form of skeleton, bandit or Darkspawn.

More inter-party squabbles and hidden NPC agendas

It’s
great to see your party members react and respond to each other, and
this is something the Dragon Age games have, more often than not, have
done a pretty good job with. Hearing your companions tease, compliment
or berate one another reminds you that they are their own people,
characters with their own particular needs and motivations. Sometimes
these conflict with each other, sometimes even with you, and Bioware
would do well to build on this.

Imagine
a last-minute betrayal by a companion who has secretly been holding a
grudge for the entire game, or discovering that your taciturn dwarf
warrior actually deeply admires you because of the way you tackled an
issue that was close to their heart. Imagine, too, having to make
difficult decisions about which party members to keep after they have a
big falling out, or even which prioritising quests because party members
are pressing you to do things they have a vested interest in.

A wider variety of places to visit

Yes,
that also means ditching anything that even remotely resembles those
god-awful repeating dungeons and recycled city locations from the second
game, but Dragon Age 2 didn’t just stuffer because of those same
dungeons appearing, it also had you treading the same streets over and
over. Kirkwall was a fantastic city to visit, but it quickly felt
claustrophobic and it didn’t take the game long to show you almost every
location it had to offer, forcing you to revisit them over and over.

The
Dragon Age world is absolutely bursting with potential and it would do
the next game well to display a scope and breadth that represents that.
Let’s wander into the wilderness, let’s board ships and set sail, let’s
sneak across borders and storm castles and get lost in strange and
foreign lands. After all, this is fantasy we’re talking about here.