One of my absolute favorite gaming franchises is Dragon Age. I’ve mentioned that series a couple times already and today I want to go more in depth of why I like it so much. Around eight years ago I was browsing the shelves at Game Stop when I came across a copy of Dragon Age: Origins Ultimate Edition. I didn’t get it at the time because my siblings and I were there for a specific game, but I did find the summary intriguing and I have a love for high fantasy. So after some internal debate, I went back and bought it. I’m always leery about buying new games I virtually know nothing about because I’ve been disappointed in the past. I never expected to absolutely fall in love with the series. The story of the Hero of Ferelden sucked me in from the very beginning.
Like many Bioware games, the world of Thedas is morally ambiguous with decisions that are almost designed as a no-win situation. The main character constantly has to deal with political corruption and make questionable deals just to survive and gain affection from the companions who accompany them. Think of the Imperial Agent story from SWTOR and how the IA has such a diverse group of companions where their personalities have a tendency to clash with each other and then multiply that by ten. That is what each Dragon Age game is like. Every single decision you make as the character directly impacts the way your companions react to you. A single decision will gain approval from one companion in the party, while the other two most likely get offended by it. In order to gain approval from every companion, it can sometimes feel like a juggling act where you have to go back to your camp or safe place and swap out companions before you can get started on a quest. Dragon Age 2 is especially interesting because of this since the only way to gain their approval is by making a decision they’ll like. Origins is a little easier since you can buy companion gifts to make up for losing their affection.
The first game is more varied than the other two because there are multiple origin stories and multiple endings. I was able to play Origins several times and still feel like I was experiencing a new game because my decisions made different things happen through each play through.
There are those who don’t like the first two games because they think the graphics are horrible, I think I’ve already established that graphics don’t matter to me as long as the story itself is well thought out. The games have a way of making you feel connected, not just to the story, but to the characters themselves. Every time I play Hawke in DA2 I feel their pain as if it were my own…every hurt, every betrayal, every death…it’s as if I’m experiencing it for myself. Each game has their tragedies and their triumphs.
Whenever I play Origins I think of Alistair as my best friend — not the Grey Warden’s. In DA2, Varric is someone I know I can rely on to crack a joke when I need it most. Dorian is that lovable rascal who always makes time for me when the Inquisition gets to be too much. I feel more connected and emotionally invested in the characters and companions in Dragon Age than any other game I’ve played.
The music is another reason I love the franchise so much. Each piece goes so well with the settings of the game…right down to when the npcs’ begin to sing, The Dawn Will Come.
What amazed me even more was that nothing is as it seemed in Thedas. When I first played Origins and began reading through all the codex’s, I thought I knew how the world worked. DA2 taught me a few new things about the structure and history of the world and then Inquisition threw all that out the window. Everything I thought I knew to be true turned out to be wrong because the people had forgotten their own history. Some players were upset and accused Bioware of changing their minds, but looking back I began to see the subtle hints they left behind that had been overlooked. Unlike others, I was pleasantly surprised by the things revealed in the third game because I like surprises. If a story becomes too predicable than you clearly haven’t done your job right.
That is why I look forward to what the developers have in store for DA4 and why my faith in the team hasn’t wavered. As long as they continue to make the story and the characters themselves as impressionable as they have so far, I will always love Dragon Age.