Dragon Age Appreciation

Since I started replaying Dragon Age Inquisition, I have been on a full-blown Dragon Age kick.

Mass Effect may have sparked my interest in game writing, but Dragon Age is what cemented it. I have always had a thing for fantasy worlds. I mean, I practically grew up on the Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter. I love worlds that have magic in them.

When I started playing Dragon Age: Origins, I had no idea what I was getting into. I knew it was a medieval fantasy world, there was something to do with Grey Wardens and darkspawn, and the world had magic. I knew nothing about the story or the tone. My roommate at the time knew slightly more than I did, even though she never played it before.

When it came time for both of us to start a new game, it was an easy choice. I had my PS3, she had her PC. With very little foreknowledge and nothing else to do, we dove right in.

By the time the intro was done I was absolutely hooked. It hit this sort of sweet spot both story and gameplay-wise that I didn’t even know I had. The more I learned about the game (from playing and from researching), the more I loved it.

The craftsmanship

Fun fact that I learned around the time I was playing DA2. The team that made Dragon Age spent 3 years crafting the backstory and the lore of the world before spending another 3 years developing the actual game.

And you can tell.

From the very beginning, you are immersed in this vast, open world that is embroiled in conflict, both social and physical. The decisions you make quickly begin to affect your story as you are recruited into the Grey Wardens. The level of detail when it comes to worldbuilding is astounding.

Throughout the three games, you keep learning more and more about the world, the people, and politics. You get to see life in Thedas from different viewpoints, and the NPCs surrounding you treat you differently based on your background and your race.

The complexity

As I said before, this world is intricate. From the start, there is a lot going on, the world is in chaos, and it is up to you to fix it.

Basically, when BioWare created this series, they were looking to create something dark and full of difficult decisions. They did a FANTASTIC job of this. I can’t count how many times I sat, staring at the TV for a full fifteen minutes, trying to figure out what I wanted to do.

Dragon Age 2 was especially good at this. It was a much smaller scale than the other two games. You weren’t trying to save the world, just save your family. The conflict still feels very large and real (and complicated) and you are smack in the middle of all of it. That’s not even counting the number of times I made inhuman shrieking noises when faced with some of those choices. It kills me every time and I love it.

Dragon Age Inquisition ups the ante even more, with you fixing the known world. You have to be very careful with your choices, else Thedas end up more screwed up than it started. And it started with a massive explosion descending the world into chaos.

Don’t even get me started on the Trespasser DLC.

The community

So, the Dragon Age fan community is ABSOLUTELY amazing. Any time I meet another fan, we become instant friends. I know people who could spend hours and hours discussing every aspect of the lore. We also have countless content creators both on YouTube and Archive of Our Own as well as cosplayers, graphic designers, streamers, and more.

Needless to say, the community that formed around this game is vast. Almost as vast as the open worlds of Dragon Age Inquisition. And it is only going to continue to grow as we introduce our friends to the game. Heck, this game has even inspired several women to become game developers.

These fans are dedicated too. The entire community exploded after BioWare released a minute-long teaser trailer for Dragon Age 4. It may not be coming out until 2021, but we are more than willing to wait.

Because we are Wardens, we are Champions, and we led the Inquisition.

We are ready for whatever comes next.

N7 and the Impact of Mass Effect

Happy (belated) N7 Day everyone!

In case you haven’t noticed, I am a bit of a BioWare fan. Especially Mass Effect. It was the first game series I ever played on my PS3. Can you blame me?

The love started long before that, though. My sophomore year roommate introduced me to the series. In fact, our bonding time included me knitting dishcloths (for Christmas presents) while watching her play Mass Effect. We made it almost all the way through all three games.

It wasn’t until I first played the games for myself that I was hooked. And man did I get hooked.

The music. The storytelling. The characters. The world. It drew me in. Enthralled me.

It was then that I decided that I wanted to write for BioWare. Playing through Dragon Age sealed the deal (more on that later).

I think one of the things I loved the most about it was the power of choice. I got to control the character. I got to control their personality, their morals, how they interacted with the world around them. I was Commander Shepard, and the crew of the Normandy was my family.

I wasn’t just going through the motions of playing a game, I was deeply invested. Even though I had already seen most of it, playing through it myself added more depth and meaning to the experience.

It was my first time ever being able to design my character and choose their backstory. The death of Jenkins hit me hard, as did Nihlus. I wanted to save them, but I couldn’t.

I felt a sense of validation when Garrus offered to help me take down Saren. Then Wrex offered to join after I took down Fist.

I was so nervous that I wouldn’t be able to get to Tali in time, and so relieved when I realized she was going to be okay.

I will never forget the sense of pride and accomplishment when I was made the first human Spectre.

The rest of the journey was a whirlwind of discovery and bonding with my crewmembers (especially Kaidan). Helping Garrus and Wrex right a few wrongs from their past further secured my feelings of friendship towards them. My heart stopped beating for a few seconds during the standoff on Virmire before I was able to get Wrex to stand down.

I will forever regret not being able to save both crewmembers on Virmire.

The second game was even better, with a wider diversity of characters and worlds to explore. Working for the Illusive Man felt a little weird, but the rest of the crew became family. There was a thrill that went through me when they revealed the Normandy SR2 (still does every time). It was tough, though, having to deal with the loss of two years. So much had changed.

The crew I gathered for the suicide mission soon became a second family, populated partly by old friends from the first game. The world became so much bigger.  

When we went through the Omega 4 relay, I could not take my eyes off of the screen. I hoped and prayed that I had not missed any of the upgrades needed to protect my crew, and I breathed a sigh of relief when everyone came out unharmed.

That entire mission was intense and satisfying. Though nothing was as satisfying as telling off the Illusive Man.

The third game was filled with heartbreak. I hated leaving Earth and cannot listen to that song without getting emotional. The whole process of building up the army and uniting the entire universe was tough, but oh so rewarding.

Having to play through Tuchanka and then going immediately to save the Citadel nearly left me in tears. How am I supposed to process the death of Thane when I am still getting over Mordin, who literally just died?

Then there is Thessia. I had no idea what was coming. I never made it this far watching my roommate. The pain in Shepard’s voice….

Don’t get me started on the Citadel DLC.

Long story short, this series was rich with ups and downs and events that I will never forget. That is thanks to the story and how it was told.

The story didn’t control me. I controlled the story. At least to an extent.

This was really powerful. It forced me to think hard about the situation, about what I would do. The game forced me to live with the consequences of my actions.

I honestly think this game made me a better person. It has made me more open-minded, more accepting of those who are different than me. It has also helped me form fast friendships with some really cool people.

The story of the game itself is kind of fascinating as well. BioWare had already published a few successful games, Jade Empire and Neverwinter Nights. They were basking in the spotlight after the success of Star Wars: The Old Republic (a great game). So they decided to take the leap and make something new. An IP that was 100% their own.

That is how Mass Effect was born. Since then a massive fan community has grown around it. It has helped people through depression, through loss, through very stressful times in college *cough cough*.

I also know for a fact that I am not the only woman inspired to become a game dev by these games. I was talking with a former TellTale game dev who is currently working on a new game with Mike Laidlaw, The Waylanders RPG, and she mentioned that she too was inspired by these games. Most of her friends were too.

This leap of faith has had an impact beyond anything the devs at BioWare could ever have expected. Today, people all over the world are celebrating this franchise and what it means to them. People whose lives have been changed for the better. People who have gathered into communities, who have come together to make a difference.

Mass Effect first released in 2007. Now it has a total of 4 games and a huge, devoted fan community.

It’s been one hell of a ride.

The best.