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Dragon Age 2 just
announced its newest batch of story-based DLC. Bioware is beginning to wrap up Hawke’s story and before we
know it, it will be time for Dragon Age 3. Many fans of the first game didn’t
care for the sequel, in fact, Dragon Age 2 was widely considered to be the ever-reliable
Bioware’s first goof. Too much
focus on action and a simplified interface for the console crowd were often
cited as problems with the sequel, but Bioware has always been known for
delivering terrific stories in addition to their excellent gameplay.
All of Bioware’s big hits have used the “Hero’s Journey” story format. The main character leaves their everyday life and joins a mysterious group of special adventurers. Whether it’s the Jedi of The Old Republic, Mass Effect’s Spectres or The Grey Wardens of Dragon Age, Bioware tells players that their character is destined to enter a special world only seen by the chosen few.
Right from the beginning of Dragon Age Origins players knew that they were on a course to join the Grey Wardens and defend the world from the blight of Darkspawn. Dragon Age 2 on the other hand put players in the boots of Hawke, a refugee who was actually fleeing the darkspawn. When evil reared it ugly head, Ser Hawke bravely ran away…
The majority of Dragon Age 2 consisted of Hawke running errands for NPCs, just trying to get by and make ends meet. Eventually plotlines emerged about a Qunari revolt, an expedition to the Deep Roads, and a war between the Chantry and the Mages, yet these three stories were only loosely tied together and ultimately the game had the feel of several expansion packs that were hastily connected then released as a sequel.
Hawke’s adventure might have been an attempt to deliberately step away from the Hero’s Journey format, but this is an example of “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. Dragon Age 3 will need a story that hangs together from the beginning and gives players a clear adversary from the start, along with the sense that their character is special.
The concept of romance must change in the next Dragon Age game. Sex and Romance aren’t the same. It doesn’t matter how many elvish prostitutes, or “Desire Demons” your hero can have virtual sex with if there’s no emotion investment in it. Players are just clicking on the line of input that produces the desired video clip.
The first Dragon Age veered dangerously close to Nerd Porn by giving the player options to bed several NPCs and companions, but Dragon Age 2 surrounded gamers with a swarm of horny, eager-to-please bisexuals. Hawke could pick and choose from almost any of the companions, regardless of gender or race. These quickie escapades were much less meaningful than a single hard-earned romance.
Dragon Age 3 will need to justify its DLC too. Downloadable content has plagued the industry more and more each year, and players are pretty much stuck with it, but that doesn’t mean that the DLC has to consist primarily of Item Packs and pre-order bonuses. Six months after release, Dragon Age 2 has one story-based DLC pack out but Electronic Arts has offered several other packs that give players extra equipment.
In a first-person shooter, it’s easy to sell map-packs
because of the multiplayer element, but a solo RPG is an entirely different
matter. The first Dragon Age
offered a stream of DLC missions which told new tales, and focused on companion characters,
giving fans the chance to learn more about favorites like Leliana or Morrigan
(The Stone Prisoner DLC provides the most entertaining companion character in
the game, for my money). Without compelling missions in the DLC, savvy
consumers will be wary of pre-order bonuses, Digital Deluxe Editions, and might
even forgo the inevitable Game Of The Year Edition.
With Bioware hard at work on Star Wars The Old Republic, and the conclusion to the Mass Effect saga, we can expect it to be a while before Dragon Age 3 actually hits shelves, and this will give the fan community plenty of time to sound off about what needs to be fixed in this franchise.