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Swooping is Bad: What's next for Dragon Age?

Nobody expects ancient elven gods

I know I missed last week, sorry about that, but sometimes life gets in the way. I wanted to review Antman and the Wasp, and The First Purge this week, but I haven’t had a chance to see either yet. I’m hoping to see them this week, by things are kind of crazy right now for reasons I can’t get into at the moment. So no movie reviews today. Luckily for me, there was an interview with BioWare general manager Casey Hudson recently, again. In this interview, he confirmed that BioWare is currently “figuring out what the next Dragon Age will look like.” Which got me thinking, what do we want to see in the next Dragon Age game? While not in the same dire straits that Mass Effect currently is, Dragon Age has had a bumpy history. And while the last game was a big success, I think Mass Effect: Andromeda killed most of the goodwill generated by Dragon Age: Inquisition. So once again, here are my thoughts about what direction BioWare could take this series in for the fourth installment. However unlike my last post, this article isn’t really about how Dragon Age could be “fixed,” since it doesn’t need to be. Instead, we’re going to look at how they can make DA4 even better. I will be discussing major plot points from all three games, so here is your spoiler warning. If you don’t want to be made tranquil, turn back now. S












If you’re still reading, I have no guilt regarding anything past this point. FYI, this article is written with the assumption that the reader has played all three games (or at least Inquisition) and is moderately familiar with Dragon Age lore. Because if I had to explain every bit of lore, this would be its own novel. And I’d probably owe David Gaider royalties.

The good news is that Dragon Age is in a pretty good place right now. Inquisition received critical acclaim and was a major win for BioWare after DAII and ME3. So before suggesting changes, let’s start with what Inquisition got right, because there was a lot of it. Just so anyone reading this understands the perspective that I’m writing from, 9 times out of 10 I play a Mage in RPGs. Dragon Age is no exception, and most of my experience with the Warrior and Rogue classes comes from the companions I bring along.

The combat. Dragon Age Origins played similar to the old Baldur’s Gate games, which was a major factor in it’s success with old-school RPG fans. Dragon Age II changed the combat significantly in an attempt to modernize it, essentially turning it into an action-rpg. The combat was faster paced and less tactical, this met with mixed reviews. Now I personally liked the combat change, probably because it was designed more for a console (which I play on) than a PC, and the changes to the Mage class made playing a Mage in DAII some of the most fun I’ve ever had in an RPG. You felt really powerful, able to wipe out entire groups single-handedly at higher levels. So while I loved it, I understand why a lot of people didn’t care for this change. Dragon Age Inquisition attempted to find a sweet spot in between the two, and I personally thought they nailed it. While combat was closer to DAII than Origins, BioWare brought back the tactical options for players who preferred that. I felt this was a good compromise, and while I usually played in real time, I would often use the tactical mode for major boss fights.

The specialization class options have been pretty good, giving you a nice variety to pick from. The Knight-Enchanter in particular was pretty awesome, although I’d personally replace Rift Mage with Force Mage. I’d also make the specialization have a larger impact on the story. They aimed for that with Inquisition, but other than a couple of sidequests I felt it came up a bit short. I think it was some missed potential that I’d really like to see expanded on in Dragon Age 4.

Dragon Age Inquisition got combat right and I don’t think there’s much they could to to improve it. That said, one thing that was supposed to be in Inquisition that ultimately got cut was destructible environments, and I’d love to see that. An early demo showed the Inquisitor able to destroy bridges with enemies on them, or rebuild the bridges using ice. They also showed the ability to create cover for allies. I don’t know why this was cut, but that happens in game development. Still, this is something I’d like to see implemented, and I think it could give the player a variety of new options for handling enemies.

I’d keep the dialogue wheel as is, I thought Inquisition had a pretty good range of options for tackling situations. However, I would like to see more options for being able to talk your way out of situations if you have either a really charismatic character, or you bring along the right companion. There was some of this in DAII and Inquisition, but I’d like to see it expanded on. I’ve personally always enjoyed playing charismatic characters that can talk their way out of situations, which more than likely comes from my penchant for playing bards back in my tabletop days. And of course, if charming your enemy doesn’t work, you can always resort to swords and fireballs, but it’s always nice to have the option of trying something else/

One thing I’d like to see brought back is the personality “stack” from DAII. What the stack did was give the player character (Hawke in DAII) a distinct personality depending on which dialogue option they used the most, in my case, snarky. The personality that your character had would actually change dialogue to more accurately reflect that personality even when other dialogue options were chosen. For example, if Hawke romances Merrill, then after the first time they sleep together you can choose one of two options, to either pursue the relationship, or end it right then and there. The normal relationship dialogue has Hawke tell Merrill that he (or her, you can be either) loves her and asks her to move in with him. However, if your Hawke is generally a more snarky/sarcastic character, instead he’ll joke about scandalizing the neighbors by having his Dalish lover move in. There is no snarky option for that scene, just yes and no, but it still changes the dialogue based on your behavior. I can’t think of any other game that’s done that, and it gave a continuity to your character’s personality no matter which choices they made.

Romances are a big part of the draw for BioWare games, and Dragon Age is no exception, and if you don’t believe me, feel free to read the thousands of forum posts about it. Which is why I think it’s a mistake to not include romances in the upcoming Anthem, but I digress. Inquisition had a good mix of characters available for the PC to romance, and I can’t really think of anything that would improve it, with the possible exception of more than one scene once the PC and NPC have officially become a couple. Reading this outloud, I know it sounds kind of silly, but it’s important to BioWare fans, and I think RPG fans in general appreciate it. So other than some additional scenes after the initial get together, I’d say “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Accept… maybe add a female Qunari as a possibility this time.

Lastly, we come to the world and exploration. More and more games have been going open-world now that the computing power exists to do it. BioWare games have not traditionally been open world, instead they’ve had different levels and areas to visit. In Origins there were different areas and dungeons across Ferelden; in DAII most of the game took place in the city of Kirkwall. Inquisition managed to strike a balance between the two, having several areas the PC can visit, with each area being a smaller sandbox/open world by itself, full of dungeons and hidden secrets. Personally I think this is the way to go, because it allows for both meaningful exploration, and allows for a greater variety of environments than one giant map allows. While other open-world RPGs still have different environments, how different they are is limited based on the geography of the map since there needs to be some type of consistency. You can’t have frozen mountains next to a desert, next to a rainforest. Inquisition was able to have all of those because they weren’t directly connected. Instead they were smaller open world areas on the map of the continent Thedas. I think the devs should stick with this since it allows for a variety of settings and dungeons, especially if the next game takes place where I think it will.

So what can we expect from the next game? As of yet, we know pretty much nothing about it, but I think we can make some educated guesses based hints from the devs and the previous games. At the end of Trespasser, the Inquisitor learns what the players learned at the end of Inquisition. Solas is actually Fen’harel, the Dread Wolf. The Trickster god of the Dalish elves who sealed away the other gods, except that’s not what really happened. The elven gods were super powerful mages who made slaves of their fellows. Solas (who is adamant that he is not a god) overthrew them by creating the veil, separating the fade from the real world. How he did this, we don’t know, but it ended the reign of the elven gods. However, it also greatly diminished elvish power, eventually costing them their immortality. Furthermore, elves are treated as second class citizens (at best) in human society, and the Dalish are constantly on the move to escape persecution. And any child born of a human-elven union is completely human, causing all sorts of drama and fears regarding “race mixing” and losing heritage and bloodlines, which could be a really interesting bit of social commentary if explored in the right way, and a fiasco if not. Your companion Alistair from the first game actually has an elven mother, but he doesn’t know it. This was also a major missed story opportunity in Dragon Age II for a player in a relationship with Merrill, but I digress.

Solas is determined to undo the veil and restore the elves to their former glory, although doing so will more than likely destroy the world. The Inquisitor vows to stop Solas and stabs a knife through a map of the Tevinter Imperium. This leads me to think that the Tevinter Imperium is most likely where the majority of the game will take place, and the main plot will probably involve stopping Solas from undoing the veil and potentially destroying the world. If this is indeed the plot they’re going with, it makes sense to set it in Tevinter. It’s a country run by Mages, its Magisters were supposedly the first ones to break through the veil into the Fade and set foot in the Golden City, and the villain of Inquisition, Corypheus, was one of those Magisters. Granted, the existence of the Magisters and the Golden City seems like it contradicts what we learn regarding Solas, but that’s one of the things I like about Dragon Age. Just whose beliefs are “correct,” is never established, which makes everyone an unreliable narrator. I’m personally of the opinion that whatever happened regarding the Maker, the Fade, The Golden City, the Veil and the Elven gods, is probably somewhere in between the two main conflicting stories (the Maker or the Elven gods). The stories have too many similarities, which I’m sure was intentional.

Whether or not we continue as the Inquisitor or play a new character remains to be seen. Seeing as every game has had a different PC so far, I’m inclined to think there will be a new PC. That said, the Inquisitor is still in charge of the Inquisition, in one form or another, at the end of Trespasser; and the devs have stated that originally Hawke was going to lead the Inquisition before the backlash to DAII made them change that. So I think continuing as the Inquisitor isn’t outside the realm of possibility. And if we aren’t playing as the Inquisitor, I’m almost positive they’ll at least make an appearance.

As for where else the story goes? There’s certainly plenty of plot threads to follow up on, such as:

  • Morrigan and her demon/god son, which could possibly involve the Warden from the first game (Warden-Commander Cousland FTW!)

  • Just what the hell did Solas do to Flemeth at the end of Inquisition? And did he take the demon/god soul? Is Flemeth even still alive?

  • What exactly are the Grey Wardens up too? The Warden-Commander is (potentially, depending on your decisions) trying to find a way to end the calling. Will anyone ever trust the Grey Wardens after what happened with Corypheus? The Grey Wardens are also potentially working with the Architect (again, depending on your decisions in Awakening), is that why Nathaniel Howe was in the deep roads in DAII?

  • Whatever happened to the Eluvian Mirror if Merrill fixed it? Mike Laidlaw said fixing it was a “bad call,” but it never made an appearance in Inquisition, which means its likely being saved for later games. And considering its strong connection to the Fade and the Elves…

  • Sten is now the Arishok, so, that’s going to have repercussions.

  • We found out at the end of the book Last Flight, that the Griffons weren’t entirely wiped out.

  • What about your elven companions? The end of Trespasser mentions that elves have been disappearing. Does that include Merrill?

NPCs who should return.

  • Morrigan, for obvious reasons.

  • Dorian, since he’s back in the Tevinter Imperium, trying to make it a better place.

  • Whoever you made Pope, I mean Grand Cleric.

  • Varic is now the Viscount of Kirkwall, we definitely need to follow up on that. Hawke should be there if they survived Inquisition, and how that’s affected those characters. For example, I don’t see Merrill leaving Hawke if they’re in a relationship, but whatever is going on with the elves could potentially divide her loyalties. But if Hawke is dead, she’s probably already joined Solas.

  • The Iron Bull. Because Iron Bull is too awesome to not be seen again.

The only other suggestion that I have for the Dragon Age devs is too take a lesson from The Witcher 3 (I know, I know, shut up) in that they should have side-quests that weave in and out of the plot and have an impact on the main game. And that’s not a criticism of Dragon Age, or even BioWare. I think it’s something every RPG should be doing from now on. Anyway, those are my thoughts, what about you guys? Do you agree with any of this or do you think my mind’s been destroyed by red lyrium? What do you want to see in Dragon Age 4? I want to hear your thoughts. Thanks, and see you next week.

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