Dragon Age is Not About Your Inquisitor

Or at least, it doesn’t have to be.

The Dragon Age Setting

When the new Dragon Age info dropped towards the end of August — the first information in years, about a sequel to a game that came out in 2014 — my friends and I lost it. Most of us have mixed feelings in varying degrees about the series. There’s a lot to be mixed about — often uncomfortable and unhelpful deployment of real-world oppression analogs, inconsistently written lore and characters, stilted combat, poorly implemented open world design — the list goes on. Despite our reservations, all of us were ready to get back in the saddle and see what fresh new hell Thedas had in store for us. And, despite our many disagreements about a series that invites discourse like almost no other, we pretty unanimously agreed: We were so ready for new characters, a new part of the setting to take precedence, and for a new character to take the stage. While many of us still have a lot of affection for our various Inquisitors, we were all ready to move on.

It’s definitely a matter of preference. I can understand someone’s attachment to their character from the last game, can understand why one might feel like their story hasn’t concluded. In general, I’d agree. But I fully believe that their story can come to a satisfactory conclusion regardless of whether they play the starring role again, just as I fully believe that the series’ greatest strength is its focus on the world as a whole and its willingness to tell different types of stories within that world. Dragon Age is not complete without the personal, smaller-scale, and messy threads in Dragon Age 2 no more than it is complete without the epic, sweeping scale high fantasy story of the third installment. So much of Dragon Age’s joy is found in its scope, in creating new characters with new backstories who fit into a different niche in the world, and I will happily take the freedom found in that over wrapping up every thread as tidily as can be. To that end, I’ve enclosed both snippets of the conversations we had, as well as my own various reasons for preferring the ‘character jumping’ model. Enjoy!

  1. Part of the enjoyment of the game is changing characters, inhabiting new contexts, and pushing at different parts of ourselves and the setting. Sticking with one character for too long runs the risk of letting things go dry. Not everyone liked the story they got in Inquisiton; Dragon Age’s strength is that it can move on and try something new. Also, it helps mitigate the typical RPG problem of “why is this one outsider always wandering in to fix everyone’s problems/why is everyone else such a hapless fool till the Hero shows up?”

2. It conveys the feeling of epic fantasy far more effectively than a purely player-character focused story would. Whereas Mass Effect winnows possibility and character divergence more and more as it goes along, rubbing up against its sprawling space opera premise, Dragon Age gives both the setting and the characters more space to breathe and live in our heads, without the writers telling us things must happen this or that way. With a greater possibility space, and more backgrounds to choose from, it ends up being a richer experience. Plus, the only major threads with the Inquisitor have to do with Solas: The Trespasser DLC more or less puts an end to them as the Inquisitor, and while I have interest in seeing what comes next, I don’t think any of my Inquisitors want to be on the front lines anymore.

3. Related, it allows for a broader array of stories, with differing scopes, themes, and types of characters. A game like Dragon Age 2, with its smaller scale, focus on characters rather than lore and grand adventures, and interest in the lives of ordinary people, doesn’t happen in a series that can’t shift its tone and place so readily.

To be honest, I’ve played dozens of Dragon Age characters. I know lots of people will basically play the same character with the same choices every time, but to me that gets old very quickly. To play through Dragon Age 2 and only ever romance Merill or Isabela? To only ever see the world through human eyes, and never get the opportunity to tell Solas he’s full of shit from personal experience? Perish the thought. It’s hard for me to imagine wanting to stick with only one character the whole way through, or even to want to stick with one character from one game to the next. I want the freedom to be someone totally new, to approach the world from a completely different perspective, every time. That’s definitely a thin razor to walk when you’re also dealing with character payoff and encouraging player choice, but in my opinion, the feeling of excitement I get upon booting character creation is well worth it. I’m crossing my fingers for a Dragon Age 4 where we can gleefully tear down the Tevinter Imperium brick by brick — but regardless, I’m ready to learn to love (and hate) again with new traitorous mages, convoluted lore, strange environs, and troubled lovers. Dragon Age is ready to pass the torch, and so are my Inquisitors.

3stnd.

Credit to: bone dick energy (@emmab0t on twitter), wouldn’t you like to drive (@hunguponnothing), ornamental thot (@treebeansoup), and others for everything as always

Storyteller and story-breaker. I think about different worlds too much, and try to make sense of this one. They/them. @lightwoven