The direction BioWare intends to follow with Dragon Age III seems to have been the primary subject of a PAX East panel with lead designer Mike Laidlaw, at least according to this GameTrailers report. Less recycled areas, more customization, and decisions that really matter seem to be some of the areas on which the team will focus more on the next title:
"Suppose, in your party, you have a Gray Warden. And suppose you had a Seeker," he said, showing a male Gray Warden and female Seeker. "And you had this thing: a suit of armor, a chest piece, and it had stats and stuff."
Laidlaw showed that armor set applied to the Warden, then to the Seeker, in concept art form. The armor looked slightly different on each, with "thematic" aesthetic differences applied so "they don't lose their identity in the process." Laidlaw then showed a slew of concept art, with various armor pieces from helmets to shoulder guards to bracers, then full sets, each applied to the two different classes.
He also teased the possibility that players might be able to fully customize armor pieces, applying color and types of material (cloth, leather, mail) to armor sets.
On the topic of "decisions that matter," Laidlaw said BioWare is looking to add more character agency ("My character has an active effect on his or her world, determined by my choices") and player agency ("I have control over my gameplay experience") to future Dragon Age games.
And player decisions that carry over from game to game could be given more attention, he said.