Let me just begin by saying this isn’t going to be another article that talks about how Bioware went wrong. I think at the moment that would be too easy to kick this company when they’re down—and oh how they fell being the RPG giants (or should I say dragons?) they were—after two massive stumbles. Yes, we’re looking at you Anthem and Mass Effect: Andromeda. Instead, I want to focus on what made me, and millions of others, fall in love with Bioware to begin with.
A lot of criticism has surrounded Bioware and their loss of magic. But, I think it’s just What Pride Had Wrought and can be corrected by going back to their roots. Or simply put, listening to their fans as the Dragon Age games have arguably been the backbone franchise of Bioware.
Dragon Age: Origins (and I’ll throw Awakening in there for good measure too as it was just the expansion) is still my favourite out of the three games that have been released. Back in 2009, before I really did any research on games or obsessively watched trailers; I would just walk into my local EB, and pick out whatever I thought had an interesting cover and sounded cool. Little did I know, I was walking out with probably one of the best games I’ve ever played and something I’ve gone back to countless times.
I remember sitting in front of my television for months, painstakingly going through every origin story. DA:O had an insane amount of detail that was given to every character’s beginning and genuinely made you invested in their storyline. I think DA:O for me is the strongest out of the Dragon Age franchise because it was so innovative at the time. Nothing managed to wow me quite like that game. It truly felt like what you were doing and saying mattered and had actual consequences. Joining the Grey Wardens for my female Cousland was something she didn’t want any part of and oh, buddy, you were going to hear about it. But on the flipside, my female City Elf was ready to go for the jugular at a chance to join. I wanted to right the injustices in the alienage, and get some sweet, sweet revenge on the shems.
You could choose to be a Grey Warden that people (and your companions) either hated or adored. It brought a whole new meaning to the idea of Enemies Among Us because wow was there even dissent in your own camp—I’m looking at you Alistair and Morrigan.
And that’s where I think Dragon Age II is really outstanding in terms of creating integral characters. The game starts with you feeling like you’re a Long Way Home as you transition from Denerim to Kirkwall. Of course, Bioware is back to its usual but effective tactics of making you sacrifice one character over another and then that’s where it all begins. The companions that you begin to acquire really feel like a family because they all interact with Hawke in a way that makes you either love or hate them. I always looked forward to the different interactions with them or them amongst themselves. Dragon Age: Inquisition also absolutely gets this right too—Sera and Blackwall are the best comedic duo, their banter is unparalleled.
I was also so genuinely relieved to know that Varric was someone who was carried forward into Dragon Age: Inquisition (and not just carried forward but a main role to boot!). My reasons for being over the moon about having Varric back are simple. A) I really wanted my chance to romance that dang dwarf, and B) Bioware really knows how to write round and dynamic characters. The fact that I also got to see my Hawke, the Champion of Kirkwall, reappear even for a brief but impactful moment was monumental too. My only criticism there, was their lack of personality, which seemed like such a disservice to DA II.
All That Remains, or I should say, The Final Piece is to discuss what DA:I got right. And let’s be real, what didn’t it?
I think DA:I was so successful because this is a pure and earnest demonstration of Bioware taking everything that we, the fans, enjoyed from the past, applying it, and improving on it. Yes, some things still need some work as I don’t think any Dragon Age game quite hits dialogue like DA:O. Or has the same gravity in the decision making done by the player for that matter. But overall, there has been such growth in the series.
The diversity in characters that we interact with in DA:I is a wonderful beginning to the different types of characters we should be seeing in video games. Representation is important and I think that Bioware is on the right path to ensuring that their games are the epitome of what society should be including and acknowledging. It’s refreshing to see characters like Krem and I hope it’s not a one-off and Bioware doesn’t neglect the opportunity that they have here for inclusion.
Am I afraid for the future of the Dragon Age franchise? I would be lying if I said no, but I am hopeful. Bioware has done amazing things with this series over the course of a decade. Its brought impactful dialogue, diversity in both characters and romance options, and a world like no other. I know that many have said that Bioware has lost its magic but through the epic tales of the Warden, Champion of Kirkwall, and the Inquisitor, I think maybe you can believe that Bioware can rise From the Ashes again.
(And as an homage to Bioware, I’ve included some Easter eggs of my own. See if you can spot them.)