Weighty Decision Making
Like any BioWare game, the Dragon Age series has tasked players with making dire decisions now and again that have far-reaching consequences on the world and its inhabitants. Or at least, that’s the idea behind them.
In reality, few have felt like they mattered in the long run or even past the entry they’re included in. Sure, it felt big in the moment to decide the fate of every mage in Thedas or whether to irreparably fracture your relationship with a companion, but by the next entry, it becomes clear it was trivial to the wider lore.
As such, having choices that matter should be high up on BioWare’s priority list for Dragon Age 4. This could mean having lasting repercussions for choices made in past entries, new decisions that shake the foundation of the world itself by journey’s end, or both.
Doing so would go a long way toward immersing players in the world and getting them to think hard about their actions. Not only that, but it could make good on the ambitions BioWare has been known for not only in Dragon Age, but in the Mass Effect series.
Feature A Proper Antagonist
One of the most glaring flaws in the Dragon Age series has always been its lack of a true antagonist for the player. Sure, there have been promising enemies like Loghain and Flemeth, but they’ve only served to show how lacking each title’s true main villains were.
It’s a shame too, because BioWare has proven they’re capable of creating great main antagonists in the past. Saren from the original Mass Effect was a perfect foil for Shepard regardless of the choices they made, and the Reapers made for a perfect unstoppable force to try and stand against throughout the series.
If BioWare could create counterparts of these antagonists for the Dragon Age universe, it would go a long way toward satisfying fans and keeping them interested in the lore. They look to be on the right track with Dragon Age 4 already, with the teaser trailer giving a tagline that hints at someone or something known as the Dread Wolf.
Bring Back Fan Favorite Characters
One of the most iconic elements of BioWare’s titles, and one which fans look forward to more than anything, is getting to interact with the motley crew of characters that make up the player’s party; namely, those which have continued to pop up as the series has gone on.
From the wise-cracking dwarf Varric to the philosophically minded mercenary Iron Bull, many have made their mark on players’ hearts over the years. This has only been helped by BioWare’s dedication to building up their characters, with dialogue and quest opportunities available for most all of them.
As such, it would be great to see some of the more popular characters from the first three games return in some way for Dragon Age 4. Not only would it be great fan service for those who have kept up with the series, but it would also go a long way toward making the series’ lore feel established and continuous.
Flesh Out Loyalty Quests for Companions
Speaking of companion characters, the Dragon Age series is begging for more fleshed out loyalty missions the player can take part in to gain their party members’ admiration.
Since they were used in Mass Effect 2, BioWare game fans have been eager to see loyalty missions applied to the developer’s fantasy RPG series. Being able to change the character’s outlook on the world, and meaningfully change their role in the rest of the game, is an appealing prospect few would want to pass up.
Sadly, the Dragon Age series still hasn’t quite reached this point with its companion quests. While each title has had missions or moments that impacted a character’s relationship with their companions, many have felt too brief or inconsequential to really impact the game or its outcome.
Dragon Age 4 marks an opportunity to change that. Either through more involved companion quests or tying them to the main story line, they can see to it that players are rewarded for their investment in their companions’ loyalty.
More Nuanced Characters
For all of its stellar world building and lore, the Dragon Age series has started to lose some of the nuance in its character writing with each new entry.
Where the first game offered protagonists and villains alike who had morality in shades of grey, each installment has brought more characters that fall squarely on one side of the spectrum or the other.
Granted, there’ve still been characters with some depth to their personalities – namely the fan favorites like Varric – but their popularity among fans only goes to show how much people crave characters that aren’t flat and simple.
For Dragon Age 4, crafting characters with believable nd complex personalities should be at the top of the writers’ lists. Not only would it give the universe more characters for players to love, but it would bring back some of the believability that has been lost as the series has gone on.
A Fully Realized Open World
One of the biggest draws of Dragon Age: Inquisition was that it would be bigger than the entirety of its past titles. Players would be able to journey to massive sections of the world of Thedas to explore environments, find treasures and interact with NPCs at their leisure.
It was an ambitious undertaking and one which didn’t quite nail the landing. As big as the environments were, many sections of the game felt empty and lacking in proper content. NPCs with quests were few and far between at times, and players could spend long stretches of gameplay not gaining or doing anything.
It didn’t help that each area suffered from this issue, resulting in a series of interconnected, oversized sandboxes players couldn’t do much in.
Regardless, it did show the potential the world of Thedas had to one day offer a true open world experience. If BioWare dedicated their time and effort to fleshing out these massive areas in Dragon Age 4, they could make good on their original ambitions.
It also helps that the open world genre has blown up since the release of Inquisition, providing plenty of inspirations and missteps to consider while developing their own title.
Better Side Quests
For all of its strengths, the Dragon Age series has always had a bit of an issue with side quest variety. More often than not, players who take them on will find themselves traveling to an area, clearing out enemies, picking up a key item and then returning to receive their reward from quest givers, over and over again.
It’s by no means a new issue for RPGs, but it can still be grating after so many times of doing it in a row. It also does little to capitalize on the series’ world and characters, which could be further explored through the side quests players could embark on.
If BioWare really wanted to step it up for Dragon Age 4, a focus on crafting better side quests could pay big dividends. It would give players a better incentive to stay immersed in the game’s world too, and learn more about the setting and characters they so painstakingly crafted.
A Good Look at the Tevinter Imperium
Across the series, the Tevinter Imperium has remained an area shrouded in mystery. Once the strongest human empire in the world that stretched across Thedas, it has been reduced to a country wary of outsiders and often spoken of in hushed whispers.
Though it has been mentioned or discussed repeatedly in each entry through lore and the like, players still have yet to actually visit this dark and mysterious place themselves. As a result, it has slowly raised toward the top of players’ list of locations they’d like to visit.
We’d love to finally catch a glimpse of this location in some way, shape or form in Dragon Age 4. This could be through a side quest focused on the area, DLC added after the fact or even as the main setting players travel through during the game.
So long as we can finally catch a glimpse of the aged empire, it would make for a great payoff to years of teased lore and speculation on what it’s like.
A Dynamic, Customizable Hub Location
Though it had its flaws, one of the most well-realized aspects of Dragon Age Inquisition was its central hub in the form of the Skyhold. A base of operation for the player and their companions, it offered a wealth of options for customization and personalization to ensure it felt unique to each player.
It was an excellent distraction from the main story and had its fair share of depth for players to find in it if they so chose. It also had a decent number of choices tied to how it was used that further expanded on the player’s feeling of making each playthrough feel like their own.
While it would be cool to see this mechanic return at all, it would be even better to see it expanded upon for Dragon Age 4. Instead of just a castle or base of operations, BioWare could give players a city or country to manage and build upon as the game progresses.
This could mean anything from managing the townspeople as the player sees fit, shoring up defenses, decking out buildings with special materials or cosmetic alterations or any number of other small tweaks.
A Single-Player Focus
While this may seem like it should go without saying, Dragon Age is a single-player game franchise. Building a story for individual players to enjoy, and lose themselves in for hours on end, has been the focus of BioWare’s development on titles from the series, and in most every case it has been better for it.
Since the last title in the franchise was released though, BioWare has moved into new territory with the games they develop. Their next title, Anthem, is designed to be played with others online as a multiplayer experience, and a former BioWare developer has said EA has shifted their publishing focus to multiplayer games.
As such, we hope that the series will remain single-player focused instead of veering toward a multiplayer experience. Doing so would ensure the game maintains its focus on story, characters and lore, all of which could be lost if attention is moved to designing a multiplayer component.