- Dragon Age: Dreadwolf’s shift toward action combat might not be what long-term fans of the series want.
- Dragon Age’s in-depth tactical combat and its party mechanics made it unique and beloved.
- Adopting the trends of action games can result in the game losing its novelty which made it unique and appealing.
A recent leak of Bioware’s next Dragon Age game brought to light the surprising shift to real-time action combat rather than the tactical cRPG we know and love. This leak has divided the fanbase into those who desire the original Dragon Age experience, and those who are looking forward to this new approach.
There are many like me who believe the franchise’s tactical combat and in-depth companion optimization and instructions made this series completely unique in its own way and because of this novelty, Dragon Age was considered to be among the best western RPGs.
An argument can be made that in an era with many action titles, it would have been a treat to see the tactical combat combined with modern innovations to provide us with the prime Dragon Age experience and a game that is both different in a good way and upholds the Dragon Age legacy.
Dragon Age, A Brief History
BioWare was once held in high regard due to its exceptional fantasy and science fiction RPGs like Baldur’s Gate, Mass Effect, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and Dragon Age. BioWare was one of the best in the industry in delivering masterful narratives in their games alongside unique and fitting core gameplay mechanics.
Unfortunately, BioWare fell from grace with one disappointing game after another. Their earlier games are still one of my favorites in western fantasy RPGs and it’s just sad to watch this illustrious and ambitious studio suffering a downfall.
Talking about Dragon Age, the first game in the series was Dragon Age Origins, which was a phenomenal fantasy RPG at the time of its release and is considered the pioneer of western RPGs. It provided a fantasy setting with a unique tactical battle system requiring complete party management.
BioWare masterfully crafted in-depth tactical combat and provided the players with companions for their journey, which play an important role in gameplay and are also very well-written characters whose relationship with the player is affected by their actions and decisions over the course of the game.
Moving on to Dragon Age 2, BioWare adopted a more hack-and-slash-like combat system and fast-paced action with less focus on the depth of party coordination as customization of companions was restricted. In addition, I believe the companion approval system was a lot more simplified with less intriguing interactions and dialogue.
Next came Dragon Age Inquisition, which again shifted the game towards a tactical approach albeit it was more fast-paced and action elements were retained. The game resembled an MMO in design and even though you could switch to companion characters, it felt better to let them play their role according to instructions issued.
With the upcoming Dragon Age: Dreadwolf, the game is shifting to completely real-time action combat, reminiscent of that in God of War 2018, especially with the over-the-shoulder camera alignment, and I believe it’s not something that long-term fans of the series want the game to become.
What Made Dragon Age Unique In The First Place?
Even though excellent narrative and storytelling were an integral part of Dragon Age Origins, what made it stand out the most was the complex and immersive tactical combat where you micromanage your entire party to surmount the obstacles in your adventure.
How the game handled companions and party systems was revolutionary. I still remember being in awe over the depth of the gameplay mechanics as you were actively forced into putting a lot of thought into your companions’ loadout and growth, gear and skills, and proper instructions in order to be victorious.
The gameplay that focused on the pause before action to review your tactics, and control your entire party strategically felt like a grand endeavor and you become really engrossed in the flow of battle. The pause mechanic was removed in later games, but the gameplay still retained various strategy elements.
In addition to their involvement in battle, the companions had an approval system that affected their dialogues and governed what opinion they hold of the player character. You could lose a companion if their approval falls low enough, and this was influenced by the decisions and dialogue choices you make over the course of the game.
I hadn’t experienced a strategic gameplay system of this scale before, and I believe it was the same for many gamers. This system also complemented the themes of the fantasy world very well and never felt out of place at any point. Dragon Age Origins is still considered to be the best Dragon Age game and BioWare’s masterpiece
Dragon Age 2 ended up changing the mechanics in the favour of a fast-paced action game and I still believe Origins did the combat better. However, Dragon Age 2 still retained tactical elements in combat with the ability to direct companions’ actions and their approval system.
Dragon Age Inquisition once again opted for a strategic battle mode with companion customizations and character switching to maximize variations, while maintaining a more fast-paced approach. Though considerably different from the original, both games still contained the impressions of a Dragon Age game.
Chasing Trends Can Lose Originality
Despite the changes made throughout the series, the later games retained key elements of the fantasy RPG series like tactical gameplay and companion involvement. Because of this, the games possessed a familiar feeling of what gave this series its novelty.
However, from what we know so far, Dragon Age: Dreadwolf is shifting to a complete action RPG, with you controlling only your character and the companions completely AI-controlled. The complete omission of tactical combat and ally control seems like a very different approach that many Dragon Age fans want to be avoided.
We have indeed seen a lot of successful action games in the past, and many of them are excellent games that execute their combat systems very well. I’m not saying ARPG is a bad genre in any way, but Dragon Age managed to excel in its tactical combat and it was a perfect match for this unique series.
I do think Dreadwolf has the potential to be a good action game, but with the omission of a strategic approach, it ceases to be a “Dragon Age” game. Moving away from the series’ roots makes the game similar to any action game and it loses the originality that made Dragon Age a big deal in the eyes of many players.
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