Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Dragon Age – What I want to see next

I really like the Dragon Age series. Origins is one of my favourite RPGs, and whilst DA2 was clearly rushed, it also had a certain charm (and a rare case of retconning improving something, namely the Qunari). Inquisition had its plus points but also took a step in the wrong direction, I think. Size was emphasised over quality. Maps were enormous but the side-quests were shopping lists.

Inspired by this great article by Shinobi here’s what I’d like to see in the next Dragon Age game.

But first, a note. It’s eminently possible, probable, even, that a Dragon Age Tactics game will come out. I have no idea if this would be before or after DA4 (my guess is before). These suggestions are about a main franchise sequel to Inquisition rather than the intriguing Dragon Age meets XCOM game that’s been mooted.

Origins. I do like the increased mentions of race and class (mostly mage) in Inquisition, but the origin stories in the first game were a great addition to help make every combination of race/class feel more distinct, and I’d like to see them brought back.

Combat tactics. These were present in the first two games and inexplicably axed in Inquisition, replaced with a rather rubbish system whereby the skills were tagged as Use, Use Often, and Do Not Use. The Origins/DA2 approach of having, say, Alistair use an attack to knock down enemies but only if they were elite or higher was a straightforward and effective way of ensuring you didn’t have to micromanage companions in combat.

Weightier decisions. In Origins (I’m harking back to it a lot, but it’s a bloody good game) there were numerous stark choices to make, from a possessed child to werewolf attacks on elves who might not be entirely innocent. These choices affected who your allies would be in the final battle. Whilst there are decisions in Inquisition (who to put on the Orlesian throne, for example) they don’t actually seem to have much consequence in gameplay.

I’d also like more moral conflict within parties (this could tie in with the decisions point above). It’s an approximately medieval world, and this can (and historically did) lead to some difficult decisions. If you’re being besieged and there’s food for 10 days, or 40 if you force out all the non-combatants, then you’ve got a dilemma. Suppose you’ve accepted the surrender of a 1,000 men, but an enemy army has appeared and is blocking your access to fresh water, which is running out fast. They offer to let you past if you release the prisoners. Do you do it? Try and negotiate as your water runs out? Kill the prisoners so the men guarding them can join the army and battle the enemy? Or, on a smaller, more personal scale, suppose an arranged marriage could end a war, but one or both of the couple don’t want it. Do you force them to bring peace to many and misery to them? Or let them have freedom at the cost of ongoing conflict? Or what if you’re chasing enemies and they take refuge in a chantry? Do you burn it down or camp outside, risking being attacked by their followers? Difficult choices create meaningful decisions, and the potential for moral conflict.

I’ve already mentioned side-quests. The shopping list approach (fetch 10 dead rams to feed some refugees) is boring. It’s worse still when put alongside the excellent side-quests of The Witcher 3. Quality over quantity, writing little storylines over Fetch X, is much better as well as providing the opportunity to give more depth to role-playing and companions.

Add more weight to judgements. The judgement system in Inquisition was a good addition, capping off a questline by sentencing the defeated foe. However, the upshot was mostly you lop off the bugger’s head, throw them in jail, or they become your ally (which usually meant a small bonus side-quest from the war table). I think this should be expanded. If someone’s imprisoned, they could escape or be rescued, or even have a ransom offered for their release. If they’re killed, their followers/family might seek vengeance. If they become an ally, they could betray you, or (as a one-off) become a party member. I’m not saying have this for every judgement, just make them possibilities that have to be considered. In Inquisition, the ‘good’ option (make them an ally) got most approval and in-game bonuses. There’s no downside. Adding betrayal possibilities would help balance that.

Base improvements to be more substantial. I don’t mind if the cosmetic stuff has no gameplay impact, but other decisions (focusing resources on income or information, diplomacy or military) could be used to affect how things progress. Originally, Inquisition was going to have every conquered keep in the field be designated diplomatic, military or espionage, and something like that could work well.

I’m not a DLC fan. I didn’t get it for Inquisition, though I do know how things turned out. And when I buy a game, I expect the whole storyline in the game, not to be finished off in DLC. Extra content should be just that.

Bring back the murder knife. It was possible, and fun, for the Origins protagonist (the Warden) to be pretty damn evil. A bit more in the way of dark options would be good.

Frivolous stuff:
More armour styles. Some of the armour/clothing looked pretty nifty in Inquisition and I liked the customisation options, but there’s not much range.
Better haircuts. It’s a shame they axed the original set (also used in DA2) because there were only one or two I liked in Inquisition.
A photo mode. I loved this in The Last of Us Remastered.
Bianca and Scout Harding as companions.


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