I am sure we all know that DA3 is "in the works" now. It is our duty as DA players to make sure we tell BioWare what we want to see from DA:O and DA2 to be reimplemented or done away with if we want the gaming experience that the real fans of the franchise deserve. Now, criticism is one thing and it has been discussed and rediscussed for DA2 over and over. I don't want to see that...well, only that. I would like to see CONSTRUCTIVE criticism. Simply complaining about the issue you believe the game has is not constructive and it only points out flaws (which is fine...at first) which is destructive only. I would like to hear interesting ways in which you, the player, has to fix said "pet peeves" with the DA franchise and build upon this IP's ideals and gaming mechanics.
This may be personal preference but you gotta bring it back full circle to Origins or even better. I want to be able to suit and customize my entire team down to the letter. I've seen interviews with Mike Laidlaw at Gamespot and other sites saying "he didn't like how he would see end-game screen shots of player's games of DA:O and 90% of them had the same characters wearing the same armor" so he wanted to change it. The logic there just seems empty to me with what DA2 had in its final product. You didn't like the possibility that there COULD be a chance that every single player equips their team the same so you made the companions wear the exact same armor for the entire game? What? DA:O had it right. Mages that can wear plate or wield swords and shields if attributed correctly. Like I said, Origins had it right with many equipment choices and flexibility to customize your team for a malleable personal experience.
Both games have had room to be improved upon when it comes to combat gameplay. Personally I like many of the changes in DA2. I think the implementation of class effects-- stagger, disorient, and brittle--was a great addition to team tactics and added the sense of importance to your team effort as a group and made skill-tree abilities feel paramount to victory by crossing them with your other teammates. On the other hand, I do not like the ability to "close the gap" with a single press of an auto-attack button. I enjoy the way it looks and whatnot, but I believe that closing the gap should be part of the decision making when fighting. Rogues and Warriors are the melee classes in the game and they both have talent-tree abilities to arrive at their enemy very quickly; if that ability is on cooldown so be it. That is part of being a hand-to-hand class; you have to take travel time to your target into consideration. You should not be able to simply hit auto-attack and go charging forward or flipping twenty feet forward to instantly be at your attacker.
These aspects go hand-in-hand when it comes to creating the gaming experience that the player manipulates and forges their own unique experience. Origins had huge flexibility when it came to equipping your teammates and the skills they had at hand. Sure, the addition of class and cross-class debuffs was a new level of sophistication to combat but the variety in the different "jobs" the classes could do was made finite. In other words, in DA2 the lack of personalization of companion's equipment and skillsets made it feel as though they only had a single role to play. Aveline felt as though she could only be a "tank", Varric was ranged DPS, Anders was a healing mage, and so on. In Origins people were coming up with all kinds of crazy team mixes. Mages or rogues that could tank, bow warriors, sword and board warrior, duel wielding warriors or rogues, rogues with a shield, a dagger and a sword, two swords or two daggers, mages with swords, rogues in plate armor, and so so much more. This combination of what you could do through the variety of the equipment you could put on your team and the skills they could choose through their trees made for a much higher level of customization, personalization to playstyle, and (a big one) replay value was HIGH.
I know it, you know, and Bioware knows it. Environments look a bit better, at times, but are used and re-used far too often to an almost shameful point. The mini-map doesn't even try to give an illusion that the maps are the exact same over and over. This disillusion makes for the a lack in the feeling of an open world and asks a lot of the player to be okay with saying "go to cave A, come back later to section B of the cave which includes some of A, and yet several more returns will yield parts of B and D sections of the cave, but A is closed off and this whole thing is trying to be passed off as several different places". The environments felt flat; I never really felt like I was scaling a towering construct or descending a treacherous labyrinth. One of the catches of DA2:Legacy is "ALL NEW ENVIRONMENTS" to explore. So, it is at least good to see that BioWare is listening.
- BATTLE SCENARIOS
For me the largest drawback of Dragon Age II was the battle scenarios. Not so much the combat mechanics, but the actual battle situations themselves.The battle situations felt regurgitated. The battles (enemy encounters) seemed unchanging throughout the entire game. I never felt intellectually challenged throughout. The fights seemed to always fit a "formula" and contained many archers and melee pawns. Enemies would "pop-out" of nowhere making fights seem tactically childish and waves and waves of enemies would keep splashing you even after you defeated the first sighted foes. In turn, this made team placement feel like it was meaningless. Between the "formula" and the "pop-outs" battle's situations seemed as though their mechanics were extremely oversimplified from Origins. It felt like no one actually sat down and really thought of unique and interesting combat scenarios.
In combination with the reuseage of maps also made the battle scenarios seem pathetic. This is because you began to know every nook and cranny of each map from going there repeatedly and you began to know exactly where each and every "ambush" will take place. Furthermore, the "ambush" is used so often in DA2 that it is not an ambush...an ambush is only an ambush if you don't know it is coming and it doesn't happen 95% of every enemy encounter.
The reason I like Origins so much was because it felt like a single-player version of a MMO. Traditionally in a MMO you need a variety of several different archtype roles that need to band together to overcome a battle situation (or an instance in MMO speak). These archtype roles are a healer, Damage, and a "tank" (someone to absorb and keep damage on them). Another extremely important role is the ability for your characters to be able to "control" enemies when you're outnumbered. THIS is why Origins was so much better when it came to battle situations and scenarios. Origins felt like it implemented these gameplay qualities with the exception that I would control my "band" by myself. It sort of felt like the workings of a online community-based group effort, only I was controlling the entire team. Or, if you're as old as me, it felt like Baldur's Gate complemented by more modern systems of RPGs with the use of cooldown timers and potion chugs.
Seldom did any extra enemies just show-up to the fight after the initial group in Origins. Maybe a stealther here-or-there or an invisible mage, but never guys just showing up late to the party or falling from the sky. You had to mitigate damage and keep abilities spread out on the enemies to keep enemies in check. When I was outnumbered (often the case) I would stun a guy and shield bash another to knock him down. All the while, trying to damage other targets and keep my foes from overwhelming my group...and that was just for normal groups of enemies. I was in control of this team of people and Healing, Damage, Tanking, and enemy control made the battle mechanics imulate these gameplay mechanics of the traditional community-based game on a single-player setting.
Also, bosses in Origins had a larger variety in their battle mechanics as well. The Queen of the Blackmarsh comes to mind when I am thinking of a good boss fight with smart mechanics to overcome. The Queen of the Blackmarsh was an electric dragon of sorts. Periodically she would disperse into a handful of electrical balls of energy around the room which would form a circle around one large dome of energy in the center of the fighting area. The handful of electrical spheres would slowly make their way to the dome and you had to try and destroy all of them before they reached the dome or it was a huge heal for the dragon form of the Queen. Great mechanics and things like this seemed void in DA2. Simple mechanics like group positioning didn't seem important. For example, everyone knows not to stand behind a dragon because they'll kick you or tailwhip you, same with ogres, but none of this rudimentary aspects seemed to make an appearence in DA2.
DA2 seemed to have basically one single battle mechanic which was throwing additional enemies at you, "adds". More than often adds would be thrown at you which was a sorry excuse for a mechanic in many situations. Really the only boss in the game that had an interesting battle mechanic was the stone giant in the Deep Roads. His mechanic involved two different forms with different fighting styles and his "power blast" required you to position your team behind pillars to protect you from the power blast. Even though this fight ALSO had adds that would come out during certain health percentage intervals, it was by far the most interesting and intellectual fight in DA2. The other bosses of the game were far less interesting and acute in their mechanics with the same old "adds" scenario for nearly every major fight. What was the Arishok surrounded by? What happened when you fought Meredith and the Mature High Dragon? Oh that's right, adds came during health percentage intervals. Where are the fights that take some trial and error...or intellect? I want an actual challenge...intellectually. Not through my stamina in the ability to click the "auto-attack" or smash the "A" button. That is not intelligent; Origins felt much more sophisticated.
- CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM ON BATTLE SCENARIOS
The battle scenarios need to be stimulating even for "non-boss" pulls (trash pulls). When changing the difficulty from one difficulty to the next it doesn't need to be much different than it was for normal (enemy health and damage output-wise), but the other difficulties should have introduced unique battle mechanics. The difference between Normal, Hard, and Nightmare shouldn't just be the weak implementation of...you guessed it, more adds or higher HP. What i am getting at is, even these trash pulls should have intellectual mechanics and thought thrown into their development. The difference between Normal and hard shouldn't be just more guys, it should be a special battle mechanic. Maybe a single new special enemy among the group that wasn't there before on Normal mode. If this new found enemy is not killed first and if you kill the other peons first the special new enemy will actually absorb their souls and enrage itself making it next-to-impossible to kill. Perhaps vice-versa that situation. Wherein, you need to kill the special enemy last or when he dies it will explode and cover the remaining enemies with his blood which enhances their strengths. Maybe tie mechanics into the environments as well. Examples, water in a room with lava enemies and you need to make them path through the water which they are then super-cooled so they can be hit otherwise they burn you if you get too close if not cooled, cover or height advantages/disadvantages, enemies that puke acid making parts of the floor hazardous for a long duration. A real game about tactics and battle situations...not just throwing more adds and trash at the player and slapping a battle mechanics sticker on it.
I qoute an interview with Mike Laidlaw from PCgamer.com where in the interview Laidlaw states “If I’m going to piss you guys off, it’s going to be because I still firmly believe that RPGs do need to be more accessible to new players,” Laidlaw adds. “Not diminished, but made less imposing and less terrifying to new players. In part because I want more people to play Dragon Age, and in part because there have been a lot of improvements in gameplay and UI design in the past 15 years, and we can learn from them.”
Have you not heard of World of Warcraft? Don't worry, us gamers are all grow'd up and we can handle a challenge; in fact we want it. Games like Demon's Souls and World of Warcraft implement some of the most challenging and complex battle mechanics and scenarios on the market. WoW quite frankly revolves around end-game battle mechanics and loot and I am pretty sure you cannot argue that game's success or its variety in bosses and their mechanics.
I am not saying to make a Demon's Souls or WoW; I'm just saying don't cut your audience short because you think you want the game to appeal to a wider audience and you don't want to scare newcomers away with challenge, a jump right in feel, or with complex tactical gameplay. Your audience already exists...and it is huge.
The reason I loved DA:O so much was it was a fantastic introduction to this vibrant new lore and fantasy universe. In Origins I was learning about the nuances of the Chantry, the Dwarven Cast system, the struggle and persecution that elves undergo on a daily basis, and the thin ice that templars and mages walk on together. DA2 didn't feel as though it touched base on this nearly as much. In Act 2 you learned quite a bit about the Qunari and that was my favorite chapter. I know that is some lousy constructive criticism, but that is about all I can say on that front. I would like to hear more and see more of the introduction of new races/subcultures of races and or their intricacies through what makes them unique, taboo, or otherwise.
- IP IDENTITY
I understand that BioWare is BioWare and they make more than one franchise, but Origins distinctly felt like Dragon Age and Mass Effect was always Mass Effect. DA2's overall aesthetic of the interfacing, conversation choices, and even down to the way NPCs stood around an environment made DA2 feel as though it had borrowed far too much from its sibling RPG franchise Mass Effect. My constructive criticism here WOULD be that you need to find your own identity, BUT that is not true. DA already had its own identity. It just needs to be re-individualized.
When I play Mass Effect I want an other worldly space opera epic that takes me to strange planets and across the galaxy. When I play DA I want a big fantasy WORLD with medieval dungeon crawling and dark ethics.
- DRAGON AGE 3 IDEAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
- If you have followed BioWare for as long as I have then you know that they actually used to implement a four class system of Mage, Rogue, Warrior, and Cleric. I believe this is not only the perfect time for the DA game to implement the fourth class of a Cleric as a gameplay addition to mechanics but also a perfect time in the story as well. With the complete separation of the mages and templars it would now be a perfectly conceivable time to implement the new class because basically mages are the only healers in the DA universe and without the aid of the mage's healing abilities on the battle field, with the war between them, the templars are going to get crushed without any form of healing/magic. Sounds like the right time to bring about the caster plate-wearing zealot into the mix.
- Manipulate the environment with more interactive abilities. I'll elaborate. I see mages that can make rock form over their body or "trap" enemies in an ethereal prison. How come they cannot use these abilities to manipulate the environment to protect themselves? or cast a "Prison of Protection"? If you choose the skill (I am imagining this) "Rock Wall" you could then put your cursor on the ground and then hold a specific button down as you moved it across the ground to highlight where your cursor moved. This would highlight an area on the ground leaving a path in yellow. When you exited your "paused time skill interface...mode" the game would then have rocks jut up from the ground creating a wall across the yellow highlighted path you had just created. Maybe a mage could create a circle around your ranged combat characters to create that "prison of protection" I mention earlier. This mechanic could be used offensively as well. Maybe a "trail blazer spell" would allow for creating a custom designed fire trail on the ground that damages enemies when entering it. Perhaps a frost trail could be etched on the ground that could freeze or slow enemies as they walked over it. The possibilities in mechanics of this implementation are quite high if some good minds were put on it.
- What happened to those nice little quick-animation finishers from DA:O? You know? One sword in the gut and the other decapitates the enemy's head. I liked those. Enemy's bodies exploding into big polygon fragments of blood and squares is no substitute.
- Companion gear customization needs to make a return.
- Let the environment take us places that are amazing and tell a story just from looking at them. With a great variety.
- Implement more strategic battle situations and a larger range of enemies and their mechanics.
- Alchemy and trap making need to make a more in-depth return and possibly even add other additonal professions like; black smithing, rune crafting, wood working, enchanting, etc
- If a more in-depth crafting professions system were introduced the use of the internet should definitely be more thoroughly utilized. Make it so only one crafting profession can be obtained by any one player character, then make a "market place" where players meet together online to trade other crafting profession goods to to get otherwise difficult items for other things and they could discuss strategies for difficult sections of the game or bosses. If you don't have the internet you could make it so each character could could somehow mail items from character to character.
- I really enjoy when RPGs have sets of gear with different set bonuses where you can wear several parts to one set because you like the bonus and a few from another set to get different enhancements.
- I would like to see stealth make some changes possibly with adding a stealth one-shot kill. This would not have to pertain to only or necessarily be exclusive to rogues. Mages can cloak, maybe a specific potion can grant a cloak and so on. It should also only be possible if a group of enemies is completely unaware of your presence. After combat is initiated you've either taken one foe out for good or missed your chance.
- Weapon versatility needs a return. I actually like the idea of one-handed swords being able to hit several targets, but you took swords away from rogues and daggers away from warriors. Why not let swords do what they're doing in DA2 and bring it to DA3 but let any class wield whatever they want if attributed for it? For example, swords obviously do less damage than daggers when it comes to single target. So the player's desire to change weapons up could be a situational one. If I need to do more damage across more enemies because my group is scarcely outnumbered I might want two swords as a rogue or warrior. Whereas, if I am attacking a single target I would want daggers...makes sense to me.
I would like to see more personalized story/quest chains that pertain to your specific class. Quests that can go above and beyond simple "when I show up somewhere I know enemies are going to jump me and then I fight them". I love in Elder's Scrolls games when they have quest chains for the Thieves Guild and assassins guild like the Dark Brotherhood or the government sanctioned one in Morrowwind. Also, similar things for the Mage's Guild and Fighter's Guild.
That being said, I would like to see quest chains or series of events that are unique for the class you're specifically playing this time through. Personal trials that your protagonist overcomes or struggles with on their day-to-day basis. For example, at certain points in DA:Origins you would wake up from having a "vivid nightmare" about the archdemon and the Blight due to your "Joining". This simple yet effective detail really gave me insight into what it feels like to be a Grey Warden and the different sacrifices and trials they must endure. No matter what path I chose-- of mage, rogue, or warrior-- I was understanding the daily hardships of what it meant to be a Grey Warden and their struggle with becoming tainted.
I would like to see things like this for your chosen class. How come my created mage never deals with the trials of the temptations of the Fade like seemingly every other mage must endure with the seductions of power from the entities within? I would like to see a more intimate and personal struggle with my character and their gradual triumph over or yielding to their offerings of power in the fade first-hand.
If you chose a rogue I would like to see something with maybe an assassin's guild or...anyone remember the Antivian Crows? Once you're in you never get out. Possibly some type of establishment like that.
Possibly for a warrior you could go through the quite literally "mind-numbing" process of becoming an Ash Warrior. Or, some other trial for some sect that is not previously present in the DA universe.
I would like to see these implementations and have them be unique story features to your specific class. This would make replay value much higher with content that was never seen before because on a previous play-through you chose a different class. It would also give those moments that "wow factor". I am always very impressed when games go to the extent of having environments, characters, dialogue, and material that may not even be seen in a game depending on your specific actions or the uniqueness of your style of interaction through character customizations or dialogue choices.
- There you have it. I want to see what people have to say that could help Bioware make Dragon Age III a game that the true fans deserve to be delivered. This is not about my specific biases toward DA:Origins or DA2; it is about what great gaming ideas you've came-up with while playing both games that you think could help Dragon Age. Whether it be bringing back features from a past Bioware franchise or a change to the structure of the game with your fresh idea.
Let's hear your great gaming ideas for Dragon Age III.