Back in 2009, Dragon Age: Origins was released, and it was a masterpiece. That’s not just opinion, that’s fact. With the PC release (an RPGs main market) scoring of 91/100 on Metacritic, and a trophy cabinet full of Game of the Year awards, it was a huge success, loved by critics and players everywhere. Two years later, Dragon Age II came out amid a great fanfare of anticipation. Critics still loved it, but the important people, the audience, did not. If it had been a standalone release, it probably would have been universally lauded. But it wasn’t a standalone game. It was the sequel to one of the best loved RPGs of recent years, and the game’s inability to live up to that legacy felt like a slap in the face.
What stung even more was BioWare’s apparent disregard for their fans, with Mike Laidlaw, Dragon Age II’s lead designer, stating that despite the criticisms they would “continue to tune and capitalize on that fusion between the Origins experience and Dragon Age II” and that “the big key is to not adjust 180 degrees again”. These comments seemed to show a patent disregard of the franchise’s fan-base and did not make Mike Laidlaw any new friends. And so, as production began on Dragon Age III, most fans had already turned their backs on it, not wanting to be disappointed by another dose of stripped-down mechanics, nonexistent customisation, and unnecessarily visceral combat.
But all that began to change.
First came the news that BioWare had taken note of the success of Skyrim, and started to wonder if maybe an open world game would work in their favour as well. They promised that they would stop reusing the same basic environments (a huge criticism of Dragon Age II), and that the game would be so big they were thinking of introducing mounts. The open world aspect has since evolved into a series of huge levels linked together (with one level said to be bigger than all of Dragon Age II combined).
Combat has been given an overhaul as well, with emphasis being placed on the player’s ability to prepare, position, and form a cohesive team with their party members – a statement backed up by the recent announcement that the much missed tactical cam (an overhead view of the battlefield) would be returning. A recent demo showed that while the OTT attack moves remain, you will have to think about how you use them, rather than just mashing buttons.
BioWare have also announced that customisation will be making a comeback, and that party members will be able to receive armour upgrades, rather than just strutting around in the clothes they arrived in.
It had been initially announced that the playable character would be a fixed character, like Hawke, with a pre-set race and back-story. But that changed as well. It has since been announced that multiple races have been brought back, with Human, Elf, and Dwarf once again selectable, plus the addition of the previously unplayable Qunari.
All of these changes suggest that the game will be much more like a real RPG, rather than a watered down imitation. But perhaps the most promising change of all was when the numeral in the title was dropped and replaced with a subtitle, which seems closer to Dragon Age: Origins rather than to Dragon Age II.
Sometimes it’s the little things.
Dragon Age: Inquisition will either be a glorious return to form, or it will be the final nail in the franchise’s coffin. Only time will tell, but so far, the signs are promising.