Heroes are supposed to be praised and welcomed. They come to protect the common people from evil and harm. Throughout storytelling this has been the case, often a subtle asterisk applied to the term. Batman is a hero but not really, he is a rich narcissistic blowhard vigilante. Oh wait, they all are. America needs to reflect on its heroes but that isn’t the point. Heroes are good, so when they come we are saved.
Except for the Grey Wardens.
Heroes were given the right of divinity simply because they exist for one thing, to stop the blight. They are the champions that the masses don’t want to see. One of the most fascinating concepts to me is the fact, Grey Wardens are a reactive organization. When they show up the door to hell has already been opened.
This story is the encapsulation of the very first game of the Dragon Age series, Origin. DA:O is without a doubt my all-time favorite game, something I am not alone in. 9/7 on Steam, 8.7/10 on IGN it quickly ranked one of the highest Metacritic scores at 91. A harrowing tale of triumph and betrayal set in a brilliantly dark world with an equally outstanding soundtrack. Origin was opening the door to one of the greatest dark fantasy games to ever be.
Then it was all downhill from there.
Origin was followed by Dragon Age 2. In a tragedy following Hawke, the player is tasked with stopping a rebellion in the high-tensioned city of Kirkwall. It was seen broadly as an underwhelming sequel and while I agree with that, I will say the game is underrated. DA 2 gets a lot of hate but the story and sound make it a really strong game, the only real downfall is how micro the scope of the game change. Origin was about stopping a blight that would destroy the world as we know it. Two follows a specific person in a specific city tasked with navigating a political task to get an outcome where fewer people die. A jarring change, but for those who have played the games one that made sense to the overall story.
Followed by the current series, Inquisition. The player is once again tasked with a global issue. This time also includes Orlais not just Ferelden as a rift has opened in the sky and demons from the fade are invading the lands. Personally, the weakest of the three, Inquisition is a solid game with a decent story, charming callbacks to heroes of the other two games, and plenty to do outside the main story. It also allows the story to tie up some loose ends from the end of the second game.
Yeah, so why the fuck did I just rant about a video game trilogy for 500 words? Well mostly because I wanted to. But secondly because of a Netflix series that launched December 9th that for the first time in a while, a Dragon Age title that was pretty damn good.
Dragon Age Absolution is the result of a partnership between studio Bioware and Korean animation company Red Dog Culture House. A six-episode glimpse into a thieving crew tasked by the Inquisition to steal an artifact from Tevinter Imperium. One of the oldest human empires Tevinter’s social structure is controlled by magic. Unlike most of the DA world magic isn’t something that one may be hesitant to explore in Tevinter your rank in society might as well be based on how fluent you are in it. This of course leads to an environment that is hostile and inanely racist as slavery has been an open practice within Tevinter and human rights aren’t something they often fret over. This isn’t helped by the fact their empire is shadow policed by a ruthless group known as Venatori. Though noted as a fanatical cult by officials, these nationalistic radicals will do and kill anyone they see as a threat to their empire and they pretty much run unchecked.
We meet Elf assassin extraordinary Miriam. A runaway slave from Tevinter she does odd jobs for different crews to get by, usually aided by her Orlesian friend Roland. Oh, I should also mention they are both gay, Miriam being soft on a Tevinter mage named Hira and Roland becoming quite fond of a warrior named Lacklon. As before mentioned Hira is the main crux that leads the story forward.
Long lost lover Hira left Miriam to join the Inquisition only to show up in her life once again to ask a favor. One more job for the Inquisition and then they could be together forever, no more killing, no more running. Miriam and first is hesitant, then affronted as she learns her ex’s plan would lead her back to the very castle she fled years ago.
We then unfortunately learn Miriam is a massive pushover for Hira, a character that rubbed me the wrong way from the very start. What follows is a witty, action-filled blood bath as the two sides struggle over an artifact that can bring back the dead, something no one should ever have. A mixture of painful memories, blood magic, and a whole lot of betrayal Absolution did something refreshing to a series that desperately needed it. And did so in just six episodes.
I do want to mention real quick that there is a dragon and it looked horrid.
What Absolution importantly did is breathe life into a series that has struggled outside of the game world. Mediocre books and movies have followed the Dragon Age series around for years and for the first time an animated series that works. The Dragon Age world is fascinating in many ways, a textbook world that shows the beauty of dark fantasy and one that should have many more good mediums than it does. I hope the team at Bioware looks toward this short animated series and sees how far they can push the envelope. Though the series references the game I do not think it’s mutually exclusive, someone who knows little to nothing about the world could enjoy it just for what it is. A heartbreaking story in a heartbreaking world.
Or maybe I have some rose-tinted glasses I need to take the fuck off. It’s possible, though I feel I’ve been one of the most critical voices to a series I truly love. We are about a year off the next game Dreadwolf and while I think it will not be good, Absolution gave me a small glimmer of hope that the Dragon Age world may finally be standing up to its legacy again.
Thanks for the read!