Disclaimer: The opinions and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions and viewpoints of Neoseeker.
Though not without their staunch followers, BioWare hasn't had the best time keeping the gaming community's favor. Not like they used to, anyway. Community complaints over Dragon Age II, fan rage spawned by Mass Effect 3's surprising conclusion, and the lukewarm reception to Star Wars: The Old Republic -- now free to play with heavy restrictions -- still hang heavily. Now all eyes are on BioWare.
Dragon Age III: Inquisition probably won't be out any time soon. Heck, we've even got rumors of it being for next-gen, and next to no details for the game itself except that it'll run on DICE's Frostbite 2 engine. But you know what? That works out, because the less we know, the more we can hope and dream.
Regardless of how much or little you liked Dragon Age II, anyone can see the game had its share of problems. And here are a few major (if obvious) features we'd really like to see improved.
1. "Haven't we been here before?"
Having more than three locations would be absolutely peachy. In Dragon Age: Origins, players were able to explore a variety of zones, from expansive cities to smaller areas scattered across Ferelden. The game didn't have the open world feel most modern games are so keen to adopt, but every instance was unique to itself and indicative of a particular region, whether you're talking forests, swamps, or farmland. In Dragon Age II, we were restricted to three large zones -- Kirkwall, Sundermount, and Wounded Coast -- that got old pretty fast, despite feeling so much larger than Ferelden did.
In Origins, BioWare never forced exploration in areas that didn't need it. For instance, the player comes across the same patch of forest several times while traveling from one city to another, but this doesn't actually feel repetitive. Why? For one, you're usually fighting when you stumble into these pocket zones. And secondly, they're quite compact, and players aren't made to navigate around some half-empty area over and over again just to get in and out of a single fight. That's right, I'm looking at you, Wounded Coast. You and your random Qunari and spider mobs, winding pathways, and mysteriously closed off caverns. If players are going to have to spend more than two minutes in any area, at least make that area somewhat interesting to look at. Do something other than cut off/open new shortcuts and hope we're not sick of seeing the same zone for the 500th time. Origins' environments felt much more methodical and deliberate, whereas Dragon Age II environments felt superfluous.
2. "This dungeon looks mighty familiar."
Ah, the dungeons. Who can forget this massive disappointment. You could love every other aspect of the game, but seeing the same handful of dungeons over and over again got old pretty quick. You had the generic house, the generic underground lair, the generic cavern... And just to keep things interesting, the level designers would sometimes open up or close off a passage.
See, Origins didn't have nearly so many dungeons as Dragon Age II, but what it did have was longer, more interesting explorable areas (kinda ties into the first point). The Deep Roads, elven ruins, and Circle Tower were all lengthy but were leagues more interesting than the quick 'n' dirty dungeon diving we saw in the second game. Really, this is a simple case of quantity versus quality. The sequel was constantly sending Hawke & Friends (Totally trademarking this.) into some bandit hideout or another, but when those hideouts look exactly the same as, say, a master necromancer's lair, we've got issues. Similarly, every noble apparently lived in the same exact mansion, which is just plain ridiculous.
3. "But I did everything right!"
BioWare games have always been highly regarded in part because their games really gave players a sense of control. Immersion has always been key, and major element behind this is storytelling, and making a game feel so personal we become emotionally invested. I'd argue Origins did this much better than Dragon Age II, namely because the latter kept taking the reins out of the player's hands, making Hawke's story feel, well, rather inconsistent. In some ways, s/he was able to control the fate of the entire party, like Aveline's love life or Isabela's ever-shifting moral compass. But major story events (Massive spoiler alerts!) like what happens to Hawke's mother and the Vicount's son? Completely out of your hands.
Oh, the spoilers are about to get even more massive here, so be warned.
Perhaps most disappointing of all these scripted plot events occur toward the end of Dragon Age II, where Anders goes completely insane and blows up the Chantry regardless of how much effort you put toward talking him down from his possession problem. After that, you're basically forced to choose between him or Sebastian (assuming you got the DLC), a character bought and paid for -- with money. Yet choosing to spare Anders sees Sebastian flip out and leave, again disregarding whatever relationship you and the character might share.
Then there's Orsino, another mage who suffers from poor decision making abilities. AND-... You know what? I think I've made my point here. Dragon Age III needs to give players back control of their fates. Not just the little things either, like who the hell your ally marries (unless it's actually relevant like Alistair and Anora's potential union), but the major world-changing events. The ending, be it good or bad, should feel earned.
4. "I had to use (hated party member)
because I played a (class) ."
You know what else needs to come back to Dragon Age? Character customization. In Origins, you were pretty much free to change your party members into just about any role. A rogue who started out with a bow could be respecced to dual-wield daggers, and shield warriors could be made into a greatsword-toting powerhouse. What all this boils down to -- aside from being a lot of fun -- is allowing players to fully customize their team comp. Maybe your Warden didn't get along with Morrigan, but you needed an offensive mage. No problem, just respec Wynne for the job.
Dragon Age II did away with this system in favor of something more streamlined, where party members were restricted to one weapon type and combat abilities. Everyone had a unique skill tree no one else had. But as with any BioWare game, you're going to have characters you like and dislike. In Dragon Age II, you sort of had to put up with them depending on your team comp needs. Perhaps the most infamous example is Anders, who grated so many nerves following his 180-personality change between Awakening and Dragon Age II. Unfortunately for the Anders-hating masses, this guy was pretty much the only healer if you happened to lose your sister (which a whole lot of people did).
Okay, so some you might actually prefer the simplified version Dragon Age II had, because it meant your party members were never stuck with mismatched armor. But there's a fix for this! Maybe reskin all armor pieces when they're applied to the character in question (weapons excluded), but keep the item's native stats. There, now you can go back to bringing whoever the hell you want without having to worry about a terrible team composition.
5. "So everyone's sexual preference is 'either'."
Relationships in video games. Kind of a silly notion to many people, but it's definitely picking up in RPGs. In some ways, BioWare's done a pretty darn good job of addressing the real-world issue of whether gay marriage should be allowed. In some games, anyway. Mass Effect, for instance, was pretty good about working sexual identity into character. Dragon Age: Origins even had its share of bisexual and straight characters (though none that were exclusively gay). In Dragon Age II, all of this went out the window in favor of making everyone (who was romanceable) bisexual. The real issue here, however, is that characters would change drastically in demeanor based on your gender, which winds up feeling more like pandering than any respect toward a character's sexual identity.
Not everyone in a game needs to be a romantic interest. Heck, some of the most interesting characters often aren't (to start with). Don't sacrifice the integrity of a character purely for the sake of fan service.