What we want from a new Dragon Age game

Something new is being made in the Dragon Age universe. We don't know if it's going to be another huge hundred-hour RPG or something a little different. We do know that Sunless Sea's Alexis Kennedy is involved in some capacity—here's hoping for a little Sunless Sea oddness in the new game.  Naturally, when news slips out of a new entry in a big series we start to comb over our experiences with the games we've played so far. Then, wishlists start to form. What should go? What would we like to see more of? Why is Dragon Age 2 definitely the best one? Here's what we want from a new entry in the series.

Better combat

I don't expect BioWare to reprise Origins' combat—that just isn't how big publishers make RPGs now, for better or worse. It would be nice to see a little more fine tuning when it comes to customising your party's tactics, though, which was streamlined in Inquisition with a system that wasn't quite as intuitive or useful as Origins' was. Origins let you program very specific conditions for when your characters use abilities. I'd like to see the next game offer that mastery. Players who want an easier time of it can just carry on playing Dragon Age like an action game, which is honestly how I've played it since the first game came out.

I don't mind that too much—Inquisition is more than serviceable as an action game and I can only see BioWare getting better at that in the years since its release—but offering more optional ways to strategise would please some parts of the series' fanbase.—Samuel Roberts  

Less extraneous sidequests

We thought Mass Effect Andromeda would learn this lesson from Inquisition, but it sadly didn't. Low quality fetch or grind quests may pad out an open world, but they also slow down the structure of the game's story, and some players may obliged to complete all of them before moving onto the best parts of the game. Inquisition had that in particular—hence Phil's cry to leave the Hinterlands in Inquisition.

I love the open world environments of Inquisition, and the party banter is so good that you enjoy the sense of journey, and the tension that comes when you know a dragon fight is approaching. But you can have that sense of journey without tasking the player to do a bunch of extra stuff.—Samuel Roberts

Open world areas that don’t feel like MMO zones 

They are pretty, but the zones aren’t terribly interesting to explore. There’s a nice variety to the game’s biomes when you consider the world map as a whole, but the areas themselves have little internal variety. The desert zone is endless sand and some rocky caves. The swamp is dark and endless. The Storm Coast is one of the few zones that has a believable flow—from rugged grey beach to towering strongholds—but it still suffers from DA:I’s other problems. Enemies roam in predictable patterns waiting to be cleaned up. Your characters’ clumsy traversal abilities fight with the uneven rocky geometry of the ground, sending you sliding awkwardly over rocks in a mid-leap manakin pose. Open worlds are getting better every year. Dragon Age will have to keep step.—Tom Senior 

Complicated villains

Inscrutable and numerous, the Darkspawn are good fantasy villains, but I’ve always preferred grey-area antagonists who work against you for their own understandable reasons. Dragon Age has plenty (Loghain, Flemeth, the Qunari Arishok) but I’ll take more. The backlash against Dragon Age 2 showed that fans expect epic scope from the series, so a new Dragon Age will probably need another angry demigod to destabilise Thedas and bring the races into conflict. That’s all good as long as we get to meet some interesting rogues on the road to the final boss fight.—Tom Senior 

Dragons!

Inquisition has the best dragons of the series. You have to match their varying strengths with party builds and carefully crafted elite equipment. Inquisition’s dragons demand planning and mastery of the combat system which, ordinarily sluggish and irritating, comes alive when you fight huge firebreathing monsters. It’s a shame that the quality of Inquisition’s RPG systems only emerges during the game’s toughest challenges, but Inquisition’s dragons are a good example for any sequels that may follow. They should be dramatic elite challenges.—Tom Senior 

New Game Plus

Despite the fact Inquisition’s Golden Nug statue facilitates gear migration across all playthroughs, a proper purpose build New Game Plus mode would work wonders in Dragon Age 4. After hours of accumulating neat equipment and wares—not to mention being forced into a fair whack of grinding and crafting along the way—the removal of a level cap and allowing gear to be carried over would save time and, crucially, my sanity. Seriously, who can really be arsed hunting and re-hunting for every wine bottle and song again and again and again upon replaying? 

While it’s unfair to compare Inquisition with The Witcher 3, they are cut from a similar cloth. The way in which the latter’s New Game Plus stands as a free-of-charge, unlockable game mode is perhaps something Bioware could implement this time round, and I reckon those inclined to replay would thank them for it.— Joe Donnelly

Big parties and lots of banter

Dragon Age stands out from other big-budget RPGs because it’s a proper ensemble drama. It is very rewarding to watch the series’ rich and broadening cast bump into each other in new adventures and Dragon Age: Inquisition’s cameos are particularly good.

There is an added benefit to having so many characters, and parties of four characters (rather than Mass Effect’s three). Dragon Age games have neat cross-party banter which triggers as you wander around.These simple chats tell you a lot about your co-workers. Character development in RPGs tends to mean moving through their conversation options until they’ve told you everything about themselves—an unnatural and, frankly, time-consuming way to get to know someone. It’s way more fun to hear Morrigan and Alistair swap insults.—Tom Senior

Companions that disagree

Dragon Age: Origins was in part an attempt to create a modern Baldur’s Gate game in a universe that Bioware owns. Some of that lineage persists in the games’ character relations systems. Dragon Age doesn’t assign heroes to Dungeons & Dragons morality categories, but companions do disapprove of your actions if you work against their individual set of values. Companions won’t leave your party quite as easily as they did in Baldur’s Gate, but there are consequences to being on someone’s bad side. When a companion does decide to leave you, it’s a very big deal, as it should be. Dragon Age companions should be fiercely independent and unafraid to argue with your decisions.—Tom Senior 

No more Deep Roads

The Dragon Age series equivalent of a filler sewer level. I'll never forget the Deep Roads in Origins; I was down there too long to forget. I remember that time I went down a big corridor and turned a corner and went down another big identical corridor. More Darkspawn. Another corner, another corridor. More Darkspawn. Hours later I found myself looking at the same cracked Dwarf ruins and fighting the same cracked underground highways. And, at the end of it all, a boss that's glued to the wall, which means my rogue couldn't backstab it. Misery.—Tom Senior

A good dog

The Mabari Warhound in Dragon Age: Origins is one of the best RPG dogs since Final Fantasy VII’s Red XIII, who is definitely a dog. The Mabari was loyal. He had his own skill tree. You could even equip him with warpaint and collars to alter his stats. Also, think of the time it saves to make a companion who hardly ever talks (though ‘Dog’ did have a few dialogue options in Origins). Imagine a new version of Dog who communicates only through his shining loyal eyes, powered by Frostbite. This, surely, the future of Dragon Age. —Tom Senior