Has Dragon Age Changed You?

The fourth of December 2019 is the second unofficial Dragon Age Day thanks to some dedicated folks to whom I will forever be grateful. Last year’s celebration asked what Dragon Age Means to me. This year it is a slightly different topic – how has Dragon Age changed you?

So Has Dragon Age Changed Me?

The topic this year is whether Dragon Age has changed me. Good question. Dragon Age has clearly changed a lot of people judging from many comments and stories last year, but has it changed me?

Clearly, with playtime well beyond 1000 hours at this point, the series has changed me in many ways. I would say mostly positive.

I daily glimpse a fantastic community, who generously share their art and stories with the rest of us. #DragonAge Twitter is fun and makes me a happier person.

Playing Dragon Age games is a way to relax and ease my mind when the world around us increasingly become a dumpster fire. I firmly believe escapism partially is about healing and finding the strength to deal with real problems.

As a life-long fantasy fan, I have never really found stories that capture my preferences perfectly before now. Dark high magic stories about real problems and consequences. A mix of Tolkien, Dungeons and Dragons, political conspiracy, and personal drama.

Dragon Age has made me a happier, stronger person, and a better storyteller.

The depth of the stories is amazing (well, not the fetch quests), layers upon layers of secrets, pride, and lies, where little is what it first appears. I have yet to clearly define my genre, but eventually, I will. Dragon Age has encouraged me to write and gives me a goal to strive for.

Varric’s Wicked Grace game is a screenshot from Dragon Age Inquisition. Dragon Age is copyright of BioWare Corp. http://www.bioware.com/

On a Related Note, the Dragon Age Fandom Rollercoaster, a Year in Review

The Dragon Age fandom is a rollercoaster, and the last years or so was no different. Trouble rarely happens overnight. David Gaider left BioWare in 2016, and Mike Laidlaw in 2017.

BioWare released Mass Effect Andromeda in March 2017 to an at best lackluster reception, but all this was at the end of 2018 a fading memory.

Then came the news of the new game, codenamed “Joplin,” was being rebooted as “Morrison” with “live elements,” which was addressed by Casey Hudson the following day in January 2018. There was also a corporate shuffle with Mark Darrah now working with both Anthem and Dragon Age. Something appeared to be amiss.

The drama passed however and then came the wave positivity of the Unofficial Dragon Age Day, and the Games Awards The Dread Wolf Rises teaser trailer, so overall 2018 seemed to end on a high note. There was plenty of reason to be excited about the future of my favorite computer game franchise.

The troubled launch of Anthem in February to more lackluster reviews, as accounted in an article posted by Jason Schreier. Worse, from a fan standpoint, was the follow-up on the state of what is supposed to become Dragon Age 4. The articles also revealed a toxic work environment at BioWare. The articles are upsetting, to say the least, and appears to be based on serious research, which later was partially confirmed by Hudson.

How can Dragon Age 4 be anything be worthwhile with this history?

Well, the comic books Mage Killer (2015), Knight Errant (2017), and Deception (2018) all point to the future, following Dragon Age Inquisition’s final DLC Trespasser. They are all enjoyable books firmly rooted in the setting.

The news of the short story anthology Tevinter Nights in July 2018, and the September reveal of the story titles, reaffirmed BioWare’s commitment to the Dread Wolf Rises story.

How Dragon Age 4 Can Be the Best Dragon Age Game Yet

The reboot and troubles at BioWare are all worrying. “Joplin” sounded like Dragon Age 2 done right. The second game is still my favorite in the series, despite its many flaws. But it is not all bad, yet. The fourth game can be great if the managers show some actual leadership, and they wrangle the multiplayer part without wrecking the game.

Here’s where I find some glimpses of hope for Dragon Age:

  1. The #TheDreadWolfRises teaser showed that the story continues in the direction #DAI started.
  2. They are not going to throw away two years worth of writing.
  3. The DAI multiplayer operations were fun, although underdeveloped.
  4. “Heists” can be a new mode for operations as well as single-player content. The interaction between players and opponents is where #DA4 can stand out from the loot shooters.
  5. Diablo III mixes single-player and multiplayer in a relatively seamless experience. It can be done. #DA4 is the game that should be compared with Diablo, not Anthem.
  6. The gameplay in Mass Effect: Andromeda and the Anthem demo (I opted out on the full game so far) has BioWare’s best gameplay yet.

Dragon Age 4 can be the best game yet. Andromeda and Anthem appear to have suffered from management problems, but shoddy work from the nuts-and-bolts devs themselves. I hope Casey Hudson and Mark Darrah figure this out. They have produced stellar work before and will do so again.

The Reading List

Green Ronin Publishing put out the Fates of Thedas (2019) sourcebook for the Dragon Age Roleplaying Game. Green Ronin consistently puts out high-quality products, and I wholeheartedly would recommend their books. That said, is a licensee’s take on Thedas for your home game, and should be considered another unreliable narrator, not the final word on Theda’s many secrets.

Dark Horse continues to put out beautiful Dragon Age books.

The excellent Deception by Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir was finished late in 2018, and collected in 2019 on its own and in a library edition along with Mage Killer (2015) and Knight Errant (2017).

Dark Horse has also continued printing illustrated deluxe hardcover editions of the novels.

Image Credits

The header is a composite of screenshots from all three games. Varric’s Wicked Grace game is a screenshot from Dragon Age Inquisition. Dragon Age is copyright of BioWare Corp.

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