Dear BioWare, About Dragon Age 4…

Dear BioWare,

My name is Athena, and I’m a huge fan of your work. I might have arrived a little late to your party, but once I saw what it was about, I jumped in and participated with gusto, which is a sort of big deal for a quiet person like me.

Dragon Age: Origins was the first BioWare game I played (and is my favorite game of all time), and it opened the door to the other amazing IPs you’ve created over the years. Honestly, even though Mass Effect came out before Origins did, the Dragon Age game was the gateway game into your science-fantasy universe, simply because I thought to myself, “Oh, look. BioWare made a game that takes place in space! It’s probably great and I should play it.”

I’m a simple gamer that way.

snoopy-hug

I’ve loved the Dragon Age series, even with some of the minor issues Dragon Age II had, and some of the over-sprawling of Inquisition. Your prowess for designing good characters regardless of gender, nationality, or sexual orientation, and your amazing storytelling ability has always kept me coming back for more.

I admit I was a little disappointed with Mass Effect: Andromeda, although not because it’s a bad game. It’s just not quite what I wanted from a BioWare game. And then I heard about Anthem, and I was both excited and wary. After all, you must know that this is the game that is somewhat blamed for some of the mishandling of Andromeda. Part of me wants to see it succeed, but part of me also doesn’t, because it’s still not what I want from a BioWare game. What about your fans who love RPGs and good stories over shooters? What about your fans who are afraid of seeing the originality synonymous with BioWare slowly drain away into another “Like COD but…” developer?

backlash

Well, I have hope. A fourth Dragon Age has been confirmed. You’ve been banged around a lot over the past few years, being absorbed by EA and then getting slammed after Andromeda‘s release. So I thought I’d write to you and ask you directly for what I want from a BioWare game, particularly one in the Dragon Age series.

1. Reset the Size

Bigger isn’t always better. I know you were panned after Dragon Age II for making the world too small, but it was frankly a brilliant move to avoid power creep. I think most of the anger was due to the copy/paste look of the environments, not the actual size of the game. Inquisition is… well it’s huge. And empty. Big worlds are not fun to explore if they’re empty. Dragon Age: Origins struck a good balance (most of the time), so I’d love to see you trade a beautiful, sprawling, but ultimately empty, world for one that’s smaller but much more full and alive.

Image result for dragon age origins map

And it’s okay if the game is shorter, too. Be a trend re-setter and show that games don’t need to be hundreds of hours long to be worthwhile!

2. Meaningful Side-Quests

I mean, I love returning rings of deceased loved ones to their mourning families as much as the next person (that is to say, hardly at all), but if I’m going to trek my little elf self halfway across the world, I’d really like for it to be meaningful to the plot, moreso than just getting a pat on the head and being told I let someone’s heart rest a little easier.

Image result for a winner is you

Again, I reference Origins, this time for its Chantry board: these were quests that were overall meaningless to the overarching plot, but it was pretty clear that you’d just be getting paid or gaining experience. And they were usually close by or on your way to something else (again, most of the time). Please don’t make “grinding” quests more inconvenient than they have to be.

3. A Believable Cast of Characters

You do this better than most, so please (continue to) write good characters who just happen to be (fill in the blank color, race, gender, orientation, etc.).

Oh, and a side-note about romances: if you’re going to animate one character with full-on sexy time, please animate the same level of detail for all the characters, or do the cut-away thing that you did in the original Mass Effect trilogy or in Dragon Age: Origins.

Image result for dragon age romance

You know it’s gratuitous and all fan service, so please serve all your fans equally, whatever you choose.

4. A Dog

Please? I have no in-game reason for this, other than I really liked the mabari in the first two games.

Image result for mabari dragon age
Happy bark!

5. Complex Villains

We need more Sarens, Loghains, Architects, and Arishoks, and fewer Corypheus’s, if you catch my meaning. Each line of dialogue from the first three gave us insight into their characters, and gave us reasons to both like and dislike them. Deciding what to do with the Architect was one of the hardest choices I had to make, because he wasn’t completely evil  and often made really good points about his actions. He had great intentions but fumbled the execution. He wanted to stop Blights, but wound up starting one, instead (which the Warden couldn’t have known). That, in particular, was a great way to pit the player’s knowledge against the “role playing” aspect of the game.

Or what of poor, misguided Saren, trying to be a hero and save the galaxy, only to be indoctrinated by the Reapers? Or Loghain, who wanted to save the country from Orlais so badly he didn’t see the Blight on his doorstep?

Image result for loghain

And then there’s Corypheus, who just wanted to make sure we all knew how bad a guy he was. The only time we ever get any backstory into him is during the (optional) quest to the Temple of Dumat. Characterization is so important; it shouldn’t be relegated to the list of optional quests, especially with such an interesting backstory.

Did he fight against the Chantry because he didn’t want anyone else to be as disappointed as he was to find the Golden Throne empty? Did he really think he was the Maker’s punishment? Was he just driven mad by the magic that allowed him to enter the Golden City in the first place? Was he so underpowered because of Hawke’s actions in Dragon Age II? No one knows! And that’s a shame. Tell the villain’s story, too!

5.5. A Relationship Between Hero and Villain

The Wardens took the death of the king personally because that particular battle wiped out the Ferelden Grey Wardens. Hawke took Arishok’s aggression personally because it involved his/her home city and friend/love interest. Shepard took Saren’s betrayal personally because of the mess on Virmire.

kaiden-and-ashley

To quote Marjolaine, it’s more fun when it’s personal, isn’t it?

6. Combat Adjustments

I’d love to have a little more control over my party members than we saw with Mass Effect: Andromeda. Firstly, I liked being able to cycle through the different characters in real time as needed (in Dragon Age), and being able to orchestrate combos by calling battle orders to my squad (in Mass Effect). Likewise, I also liked being able to tinker with each character’s tactics as in Dragon Age: Origins and II, so I had a team that – selfishly, I suppose – worked for my playstyle.

Image result for dragon age origins tactics

Likewise, I’d also like to see a little more freedom with how I build my character, again like Origins. I think if a player wants to build a dual-wielding rogue who can use two longswords and wear heavy armor all while dismantling traps, that should be allowed. I’d love to go back to tinkering with stats so the character can really be mine. It’s not difficult to learn how to level characters (I learned it on the fly), so newcomers will be able to figure it out, too, I promise.

7. A Silent Protagonist

Please, for the love of the Maker, go back to silent protagonists. I want to see what the person is going to say and not have a dialogue wheel making it easy to mash a button through all the “good” or “bad” options. No voice acting means more dialogue freedom and more chances for the player to project onto the character. There’s a reason people love their Warden more than any other main character in the Dragon Age series so far.

Image result for dragon age origins warden dialogue

7. Party Banter

I’d love to see this continue. It’s a great way to fill up the time walking from one place to another, and also lets the players learn about the characters and the world they’re in, without resorting to information dumps in cutscenes. Plus, seeing the characters develop relationships with each other is fun and makes the world come alive, as you know. It tells us about the character, but also tells us about the society we’re in.

Image result for dragon age origins party banter
“Well, they don’t let just anyone be king, you know. The don’t let evil forest witches be king, for instance.”

8. Party Members That Disagree

Which leads me to this. I really loved the friend/rivalry meter from Dragon Age II, because everyone isn’t going to agree with you all the time, and it’s possible to disagree with someone and still respect them. This was refined a bit in Inquisition with the approval/disapproval ratings, and folks disapproving of things the Inquisitor did, but no actual meter depicting approval/disapproval. This is great. I’d even like to see it go a bit further, with party members reacting to you as their “approval” rating dictates. If someone really hates the playable character, why would they romance them?

Image result for morrigan disapproves meme

That would upset a lot of people, I know, but it’s something interesting to think about.

9. Displays for Armor/Weaponry at the Main Character’s Base of Operations (if applicable)

This might seem silly, but players always wind up accruing some really awesome-looking armor or weapons but that eventually aren’t as strong as other items, and then we never get to see those awesome-looking things again. Could I possibly bother you for a few customizable armor stands or sword plaques at our main character’s home?

Final Thoughts

I of course have a few other really random requests that will never happen, like wanting to have concrete, on-screen proof that my Warden and Leliana are happily retired together, and to see both the Dalish and Chantry faiths explored a little more, since the Dalish gods seem to be being set up for a fall, and I’d love to see how the Chantry handles a similar shake-up, but I know my Warden will not see a Playstation 4 (barring Origins remake), and the plot of the game I leave in your capable hands.

Thank you so much for listening, and I’m looking forward to my next adventure in Thedas!

With love and respect,

Athena

What about you? Do you have any thoughts on the announced Dragon Age game? Have you ever wanted something specific from an upcoming game? What was it? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you soon!
~Athena

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39 thoughts on “Dear BioWare, About Dragon Age 4…

  1. I agree with so much of this! Especially the open world thing, The Hinterlands and the Hissing Wastes got so boring! I wouldn’t mind them bringing back the silent protagonist either, a couple of times I’ve selected an option that I think sounds good but my character will say it with a sarcastic or nasty tone of voice which totally changes the meaning of it. I can’t wait for Dragon Age 4! So excited for it!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. When the devs need to release a statement saying there is more to the game than the intro level, you’ve gone a bit too far, in my opinion….

      Me, too. Red Metal made an interesting observation about how established the character’s personality is, in relation to how well voice acting is portrayed/received. I think voiced characters are here to stay, though, so maybe we’ll at least get more of a hint about the actual *lines* in the future.

      I will say, however, that even though I have had a few moments of unpleasant surprise, the system for Andromeda has been overall pretty good.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Silent protagonists can really enhance a work, though I never really minded it when they’re voiced, though it seems as though the former is usually better for when you create a character and the latter is better for a defined one. On the other hand, Fire Emblem Awakening and Fates had you create a character only for them to have a canonical personality. In those cases, it was pulled off reasonably well because they’re likable characters. Similarly, I’ve joked in the past that the main character of Undertale has no visible dialogue, a vague gender, and no origin story to speak of, yet by a very significant margin, they manage to have way more personality than the average 2010s AAA-game protagonist.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t have an overall preference for one over the other, but I do agree that (in my opinion) it matters more when the character really is supposed to be a “blank slate.” I’ve been unpleasantly surprised by my Hawke, Inquisitor, and Ryder because their delivery just went in a direction I wasn’t expecting. My Shepard, however, was a little more tolerable because I thought she *did* have a bit of an established personality. Hm…

      While I don’t have a preference, I do think that silent protagonists allow for more projection, and at times required more expressiveness in the things they do, which makes them seem like they have a lot of personality!

      Like

      1. I think it ultimately boils down to the question of whether or not it fits the style of storytelling you’re going with. Undertale and Earthbound were cases where the silent protagonist trope worked while I would argue that Mother 3 and Link’s Awakening were cases where it felt that by keeping the protagonist silent, we were missing half of the story.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. True. I still haven’t played Mother 3, and am sadly not versed in handheld games, but yes, the type of protagonist (voiced versus not voiced) needs to serve the narrative first and foremost. That’s too bad it didn’t work for those games, though, considering how well-liked they are in spite of that!

          Like

    1. YES!!! Just because it has so many implications for the Grey Wardens! But I’m unfortunately not very hopeful about that… I have a feeling that’s been left far, far behind with all things “Grey Warden”… sigh… I think my wallet would start vomiting money at my computer screen if they did that, though.

      No. No, I don’t have a problem.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. This! ^^

      Even if that means bad news, because some of the outcomes from Awakenings are pretty depressing. And that is saying something, considering some of the stuff that goes down in this series.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. There’s quite a lot of generalizations about Dragon Age fandom but then again this is an opinion so that’s totally fine.

    With regards to map size and play time I do agree Inquisition was quite empty with all the filler sidequest and I do hope they write side quests with meaningful plots, not just courier work. However I’m a big fan of open world games and I would really like if they continued on that path as Inquisition maps were gorgeous. The filler content was a problem but I believe it is possible to reach a kind of balance between open world and meaningful content, as The Withcer 3 proved. I don’t like being constrained as to where I can go, and if a smaller map means corridor maps like Mass Effect 2, no thank you. I’d liek a moderately sized open world filled with quality content. Also, I wouldn’t like the game to be shorter than Inquisition was. The main quest chain was really short, before you knew you were in The Arbor Wilds finishing the game and I don’t want something shorter than that.

    Silent protagonists are allright but I’m big on voiced characters as they add yet another layer to the construction of your own avatar and roleplaying for me and it’s the silent protagonist what prevents me from calling Origins my favorite game of all time and why the warden is not my favorite character. Frankly, silent characters bore me.

    Anyway, I’m also excited for Dragon Age 4, can hardly wait for it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I was talking about an “average” of the entire series, so I can see how some things would sound generalized. This wasn’t meant to be a full-blown analysis, but rather a few observations and a few wishes for the next game.

      We seem to have some different opinions as to where the next game should go! Hopefully we’ll each get a bit of what we want 🙂 The maps of Inquisition were gorgeous, but I can hardly imagine that scope of game being full of meaningful sidequests – at that point, to me, the game becomes almost too big to be finished. I liked the 60 hours of Origins and the similar time of DAII, but I can see the draw of larger games, as well. Either way, like you said, I’m excited for the next chapter!!

      Like

  4. I agree so much with pretty much all of this. Especially about the size of the worlds, the party banter, the dialogue options, and being able to display weapons — that would be so cool! As for the approval ratings, I agree that there should be differing dialogue or tones depending on how characters feel about you. I also always found it strange that if you got a character in DA2 to hate you enough, THEN you could romance them. I get the love-hate thing but it was weird to me.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah… I think if they had termed it as something other than “rivalry” it might have made more sense, even though I got the concept that they just had differing opinions yet still respected Hawke. Anyway…

      I always knew you had good taste in Dragon Age! 😉 Hopefully we’ll all get at least a little of what we want from the next game!!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes!! I can fully appreciate most of this post since I’m playing Origins now 😀

    I agree with all of your wishlist items! Big, empty, side-tracking worlds are a common problem in games today. There is nothing wrong with a more linear story-focused game once in a while. Most fetch quests are tedious, annoying, and need to go away too. I remember reading an awesome article somewhere about why silent protagonists rock (I also chose that same response to Alistair’s question, haha). I felt like I was actually carrying out conversations in Origins, when compared to DA II’s system. Oh and party banter adds so much character to the game 😀 I take a screenshot every time they say something amusing.

    I have high hopes for DA4! Hopefully, I’ll be done Origins & Inquisition (and the world doesn’t end) by the time it comes out…

    Side note: I wanted to unleash the full wrath of my Snow Punch on Marjolaine for what she did to Leliana… but I knew Leliana wouldn’t want that, so I spared her. She’s right though! It’s much more fun when it’s personal, haha.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Excellent!

      I agree with there being a time and place for open-world, linearity, and a good, well-crafted combination of the two! The conversations were one of the things I liked best about Origins… it really was “me” in there. I think, like Baldur’s Gate, Origins tried to capture the feeling of a tabletop RPG (and did very well, in my opinion!).

      Ha! You should do a gallery of quotes when you’re done!

      I have high hopes, as well, especially since we might be going to Seheron (where the quinari are from), so it’ll be an interesting change!

      Yeah… that’s about as different from Marjolaine as you can get, isn’t it? We’ll have to talk about the ending once you get there, too… 🙂

      And yikes, remind me not to get on your bad side… hahaha

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think I may just do that gallery of quotes when I’m done. Great idea! 🙂

        I can’t wait to ramble to you about my endgame Origins thoughts, haha. I’ll get there, eventually…

        And, NO ONE messes with Grey Warden Ellen’s friends 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh my goodness you need to read “The Calling” if you haven’t! It explains all about The Architect…and why I can’t stand him!

    I love love love party banter…oh so good. The reason I had Dorian and Sera in my party. The giggles!

    One of my favorite things about Inquisition was Skyhold. I would love to see a home base like that again where you can easily interact with the characters.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. No, I know! That’s what made it so hard. I – as the player – knew he was a pretty awful guy, but my poor Warden had no way of knowing those things….

      The party banter is always great, isn’t it? And I loved that there was a base of operations in Inquisition (and sort of in DAII but Inquisition made the building a little more “alive” in a way). Hopefully we’ll have something similar in an upcoming game, but I didn’t mind having to travel to people’s houses to find them in DAII… as long as the playable character has a place of their own! (haha)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes! I loved having my own space in Inquisition to decorate, but that may be my past love of Sims coming through.

        Also, I may have just started a new Origins game…I swear I’m not addicted. I also got the new coloring book and am reading The World of Thedas. 🤓 Okay, yeah, I’m addicted.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Nothing wrong with that! 😀 I’m (slowly) making my way through another playthrough (even though i’m also trying to play through a bunch of other games haha), because my goal is to platinum it! I’m not too far away, so you’re in good company haha.

          The World of Thedas is great, isn’t it??

          Liked by 1 person

  7. In terms of map size, I think Dragon Age II and Dragon Age Inquisition really had the same design problem, applied in different ways. It was all an issue with the amount of real content. In II, it was because a small amount of content was stretched out through the cut and paste environments and the constant revisiting of locations. In III, you had a decent amount of content in a world way too big for it, like a kid in her father’s shoes. Just match the size of the world to the amount of content you have, and don’t try to push it too far.

    And yes, dog. In fact, I hope the next game has a party entirely of Mabari hounds. An entire world of Mabari hounds. In fact, take all the other character design bits you asked for, and apply them to the Mabari hounds. That is the game I want.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, and for the record, I was actually rather fond of Corypheus as a villain. I thought the idea of building a main villain around one central flaw and watching that flaw screw him up at every point in the process was a really unique stroke, one that you don’t see very often in any sort of media. He was pretty much a wiener, yeah, and never really threatening, but as a character, I really enjoyed being put up against him, and I loved watching how his story developed.

      I’m not usually one to be plugging my stuff in other people’s spaces, but once upon a time I did put together a post on the topic that I would pretty much be copying here were I to talk about it at any length, but yeah. Corypheus is a very, very different type of villain than what you usually see, and he definitely wouldn’t stand up if the main villains were ever the real focal point of Dragon Age, but he does get a very solid treatment of his own that I think really does contribute to the quality of Inquisition.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s true that the maps had similar problems, just manifesting in different ways. And I’d play the heck out of a Dragon Age mabari game, just for the record.

        In regards to Corypheus, I don’t have a problem with him on a personal level (that was the weirdest thing I’ve ever said about a game villain), as most BioWare villains are based on some sort of flaw, usually pride (like you mentioned in your post) or arrogance (or both). But I think what irked me about Corypheus is that the reason behind his arrogance was never really explored, other than the fact that he was one of the magisters who entered the Golden City. They did more with the Architect in a shorter period of time than they did with Corypheus, to my eye.

        Again, not a bad villain, and he *was* a threat, and the idea of an inept villain bumbling around and creating the “problem” (cough cough) of the Inquisition is fascinating. Maybe I’m heartless… I wanted to feel bad for him, like he had all these noble ideas or misguided thoughts and just kept failing at bringing them to fruition, but his repetitive failures with no “motivation” other than being power hungry (?) wasn’t enough for me, and was ultimately what made me wish for more.

        I’m a sucker for a backstory, what can I say? haha That might be unfair of me, because like you said, he did *work* as a villain for Inquisition.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That is true, he may be deeper than first glance, but he’s not exactly all that well developed. You would think showing up in the game before would give him a little bit more backstory, but it really doesn’t.

          Liked by 1 person

  8. Great post! Someone should put this wishlist up on change.org. 😛

    1) I wouldn’t mind a big map if the world were more inhabited and alive, but I agree with you that quality > size. And this ties with your second point. I like side-quests that make sense spatially. And a lot of quests in Dragon Age II and Inquisition (to a much lesser extent) didn’t.

    5) Nooo, you made me agree with Marjolaine on something. D:

    6) Man, I miss the freedom from Origins.

    I am not sure how likely it is for the Warden or anyone from Origins (other than Leliana) to show up again, but:
    A) I would loooove for a happy ending for her and the Warden if she was the romanced character.
    B) I would love for a return of the Warden either way.
    C) And a return of whomever the Warden romanced.

    Since that seems like asking for too much, I will settle for a little closure on everyone (particularly, I want to know what happened to Alistair/Hawke/Stroud in the Fade).

    Another thing I personally want is more Flemeth, obviously. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Haha I doubt my little list will change anything, but I appreciate the sentiment 🙂

      I’m not going to lie, I thought of you when I wrote that quote from Marjolaine. And I’m sorry for all the cognitive dissonance I just caused!!

      I almost hope Leliana doesn’t show up, as much as I love her. She seemed so weary by the end of Inquisition, and even suggested it be disbanded. I think she just wants a nice quiet retirement. Having said that, I wouldn’t mind seeing some “flashbacks” to the Blight where we can see our Warden and all our old friends again, on the PS4, without having the bother with voice acting for the Warden, etc.

      I, too, want to know what happened to the Warden left in the Fade, since they would only “likely” die, but I don’t think that’s going to happen, either… It would be nice, though, especially if the game begins to focus on some of the unrest with the Wardens…

      Well, yes. More Flemeth is always better 🙂

      Like

      1. Apparently a third of my country’s draft laws in 2016 came from concerned citizens with a change.org page. So you never know who may read your petition. 😉

        My hate for Marjolaine is the stuff of legends, but I can admit she is smart without twitching much. I mean, she is completely evil an unhinged, but smart.

        I keep assuming that the next game will be about the Inquisitor and company trying to stop Solas, so in my mind of course Leliana will be there, but yeah, for all we know the game could focus on a new main character.

        OMG, yes, I would love to see what is going on with the Wardens in general.

        Anyway, if the change.org thing is a bit too outlandish, maybe I’ll try my hand at getting some hashtags trending, I am thinking: #JusticeForFlemeth #RetirementForLeliana

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I’ll consider the change.org page… And I guess that’s good that your country’s laws had citizen input. It works, then!

          You’re right that she’s smart. Insane, but smart. At any rate, I’m fairly certain the Inquisitor’s story is over, even though the Inquisition might still exist during the events of the next game. The devs are pretty committed to having new protagonists in each game.

          I’ll try to push those hashtags, too, haha

          Like

  9. I love almost all your points. The only one I disagree with is the silent protagonist. I hated that. I hated hearing all the other people talking and I never said anything. It drove me nuts from an audio perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! And that’s fair. I guess I have a habit of saying the responses out loud and talking back to the other characters, so it didn’t bother me!

      You’re not alone though, since all the characters are voiced now 🙂

      Like

  10. you summed this up pretty good. Definitely agree with bigger is NOT better. I’m playing Andromeda right now, and although I’m enjoying it, I wish it was a bit more focused and stream lined.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yea the main story is good from what I’ve dealt with. Things is for side missions, is there is this really cool boss fight I encountered fighting this massive huge robot work thing on Eos. It’s pretty intense, but it’s hidden behind these mundain side quests that are randomly scattered on the planet. I mean, there are some highlights in the side missions, there just no real way of knowing what’s quality vs filler. They aren’t categorized very well.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I came across one of those things as well. I’m not sure it was on Eos, though. It might have been on Voeld, because I remember there was a temperature hazard. I’m not a big fan of thresher maws to begin with, and definitely did not complete that boss fight…. oops… I know what you mean, though. I sort of stumbled across it after just aimlessly driving around for a while after some pretty blase quests. I’d have been okay with fewer “filler” quests, that’s for sure! I mean, maybe a few to break up the intensity… or maybe a bit of a smaller map would solve a lot of problems.

          Liked by 1 person

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