Bioware talks the future of Dragon Age

Penny Arcade Expo 2011 was a bit of a haven for Dragon Age series news if you knew where to look -  there was a panel and fan Q&A session as well as developers on hand for fans and websites to chat to who for once didn't have a specific game to promote - so they spoke a bit about how they felt about Dragon Age II and the directions the team are planning to take for Dragon Age III, a game which they casually mentioned on Twitter a few months back.

On hand at the Dragon Age panel at PAX were Creative Director Mike Laidlaw, Executive producer Mark Darrah, Art Director Matt Goldman and Writer David Gaider. 

In story terms the crew commented on how Dragon Age III will shift gears yet again, saying that while Dragon Age: Origins was about stopping the Darkspawn and the Blight and Dragon Age II was about creating a new conflict, Dragon Age III will tell the story of the conflict created by the story of Dragon Age II and will give players the goal of "saving the world from itself."

They confirmed that the world would be at all-out war during Dragon Age III, with the Templar and Mages now battling for control after so many years at each others' throats. In a move that sounds a little Mass Effect 3, the player is going to be traveling far and wide to make allies and try to bring peace to the world. When showing maps comparing the worlds of Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II, the team noted that Dragon Age II's world was significantly smaller. A larger map several times the size of Dragon Age: Origin's was shown, and indicated to as a future direction for the series.

The team said that while the Dragon Age world is Tolkien-inspired the team hopes that it can differentiate itself now it is established and become a standard for fantasy worlds in general. Similarities to Tolkien were deliberate and won't be wiped away, though. The team also confirmed an MMO is not part of their plans for series expansion.

The team also spoke a little on combat, saying that they are tweaking with Dragon Age II's combat for the DLC for the game to try to figure out where to go with Dragon Age III. The DLC will feature some of that new focus, which is on trying to make planning and positioning of where characters are on the battlefield more important. 

Another big focus will be on the party you venture into battle with - Bioware wants you to be aware of and make use of the strengths and weaknesses of your party members in Dragon Age III. One way this will be achieved is by having party bonus buffs for having certain characters with you that will encourage you to fight in certain ways when they're with you.

In terms of customization of your party, a sticking point in Dragon Age II for a lot of fans, Bioware is listening. They're shooting for a middle ground between the first two games, offering changing sets of equipment for party members which will change their appearance whilst also keeping 'iconic' looks.

What that means is your party members will still keep an 'iconic' look but there'll be different styles of that look available and unlocked throughout the game. They'll be more cosmetic, as Bioware want players to have the choice of how their party looks. Meanwhile, actual individual equipment slots will return, but equipment placed on party members will only effect them statistically - they'll keep whatever visual 'outfit' you've chosen for them for the ones available.

And who will you be playing as in all this? The team hinted that Hawke's story isn't quite finished with yet, but that could be resolved in DLC. What the team do go on to say though is that there's a chance Hawke and the Grey Warden lead character of Dragon Age: Origins could meet. Overall, though, it was hinted that the future of the series might be with an all-new, unseen hero.

Dragon Age III hasn't yet officially been announced but we'll obviously keep you posted on anything that comes out of Bioware on the title - they're being quite open about it! Stick with us for that and all the latest RPG news.