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The New Age: Reflections on the 'Dragon Age' Series

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The New Age: Reflections on the 'Dragon Age' Series

Editorial - posted by VentilatorOfDoom on Tue 6 November 2012, 10:28:44

Tags: BioWare; Dragon Age II; Dragon Age: Origins

While the New Shit gets newer, Dragon Age and Dragon Age 2 are now old-school enough for retrospective articles. That's why Popmatters did one.
Every location visited, every sidequest undertaken, and every conversation carried out would somehow inch the Warden closer to her unambiguous goal. Still, even with the Blight’s inevitable end, there was an overarching sense that the world of Thedas was going through a permanent change. Everything the warden went through would have an impact on the world even after the Blight ended. Where Lord of the Rings ends with a new age ruled by the rightful king, Ferelden would bear the scars of the Blight forever. Origin’s journey was wide in scope and the consequences of victory were unpredictable and far reaching. There never seemed to be a “right” way to play it. Bioware’s other major release of the decade, Mass Effect, always gave the player a way out. Until the third and final game, the player almost always got what they wanted and Sheperd was always given a chance to be the uncompromising hero or the lone gunslinger willing to do the right thing no matter the cost. There is a romance to Mass Effect that doesn’t exist in its fantasy counterpart. Dragon Age was infinitely murkier, and the Warden never rose all the way to heroism or stooped all the way to villainy to stop the Blight.

The morality system of Dragon Age was probably the best of any Bioware game to that point. Instead of building points in either a paladin or badass category, the warden had to earn the admiration of each individual teammate. The warden had to learn the moral and philosophical code that each of her companions lived by and act—whether genuinely or not—according to each ally’s relative morality. The warden could agree with an ally’s outlook, defy it, try to change it, or ignore it, but she was always being judged by the fallible people closest to her, not by a cold and objective “light/dark” side. If a friend had a problem with the warden, she could prevaricate to earn their cooperation or insult their sensibilities and hope that they would get over it later on. This forced the player to create a character based not on what they thought the good guy or bad guy would do but based on how the game’s cast might react. And the widely different personalities of the varied characters ensured that somebody would always eventually take issue with the Warden.
Instead of building points in either a paladin or badass category, the warden had to earn the admiration of each individual teammate. - with gifts, fucking ingenious. Best morality system, like, ever.

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