Dragon Age Retrospective
A full retrospective ahead of Dragon Age Dreadwolf
One of the most popular Fantasy RPG of all time’s fourth instalment is coming out soon to an eagerly awaiting audience. Since the first first Dragon Age game, all the way back in 2009, Dragon Age: Origins was one of the most popular and – still – beloved fantasy RPGs of all time. It’s had a number of sequels, spin-off stories in the form of novels and comics as well as an upcoming Netflix TV Series.
One of the biggest reasons as to why Dragon Age rose to becoming a cult classic was because from the very start of the game, all choices mattered. Something which many games claim to have, but in reality a lot of the choices offered – although seemingly different – end up spinning the story back to one of a few variants. Similar to its sci-fo counterpart (Mass Effect), Dragon Age had multi-game spanning consequences to ones actions. Something the player did in Dragon Age: Origins would later be mentioned and expanded on in Dragon Age Inquisition.
“We stand on the precipice of change. The world fears the inevitable plummet into the abyss. Watch for that moment, and when it comes do not hesitate to leap. For it is when we fall we learn whether we can fly.”— Flemeth in Dragon Age 2
It lead to each playthrough being vastly different, and this was no easy feat on the writers’ part, they had to create thousands of branching paths not only dependant on the choices of the current game but also on the decisions made in past games. But in total, the most important choices that could be made in Dragon Age Origins, Dragon Age 2 and Dragon Age Inquisition surmounts to a total of 300 core decisions. If players were playing all three games on the same platform, all of these choices would be automatically be implimented in the next game they play. However, players who were using different platforms and weren’t able to upload their save data would be able to use EA’s own Dragon Age Keep, an online tool that allowed people to curate their Dragon Age experience before uploading that data to Dragon Age Inquistion and see their choices in previous games unfold.
A Different Dragon Age Story
Bearing this in mind, you might be wondering what exactly is the story thus far going to be for the upcomign Dragon Age Dreadwolf? Well despite the many branching narratives, there is still one concrete storyline throughout all the games. And that’s the one that is going to be the most imporant one. It’ll be the story that Dreadwolf will follow on from, but of course Dragon Age Dreadwolf is a new game altogether, so while it will certainly make reference to your previous states, it will also stand on its own legs as a standalone game. So here we will go through the one concrete story line throughout the games, consider it the main skeleton structure to the story, where your individual choices and playthrough fleshed it out more.
But if you’ve not played any of the Dragon Age games, then this can serve as a story summary and context for the world ahead of Dreadwolf. As such, it should go without saying but SPOILERS AHEAD.
Dragon Age: Origins Story
You choose your Hero, you have the choice between Human, Elf or Dwarf and then the further choice of Mage, Warrior or Rogue. Each combination of race and class leads to a different origin story – hence the title! – and you begin your journey to become the Hero of Fereldan.
The Fifth Blight has begun, a possibly world-ending event wherein an Archdemon – an Old God manifested in the form of a terrifying dragon, corrupted and tained by darkspawn – awakens deep under the earth’s crust. Upon awakening, the loathsome monsters are able to command armies of Darkspawn, a race of humanoid tainted creatures believed to be soulless. The Darkspawn are vile and monstruous beings but ask the people of Thedas what they are and they will all have a different story. The Chantry believe Darkspawn are the unholy creation of when Magisters from the Tevinter Imperium tried to open a portal into the Golden City (this world’s equivalent of Heaven), but in doing so, they tained the realm of the Maker (the Chantry’s One God) and returned to Thedas as the first darkspawn, spreading their corruption across the world. With their increased numbers, the first darkspawn went underground and dug deeper into the earth until they stumbled upon the body of the Old God Dumat, and like all else they had touched, they corrupted him and turned him into the first Archdemon, who awoke and led the darkspawn to lay waste to the world.
‘No one knows what it is that drives the darkspawn in their relentless search for the sleeping Old Gods. Perhaps it is instinct, as moths will fly into torch flames. Perhaps there is some remnant of desire for vengeance upon the ones who goaded the magisters to assault heaven. Whatever the reason, when darkspawn find one of these ancient dragons, it is immediately afflicted by the taint. It awakens twisted and corrupted, and leads the darkspawn in a full-scale invasion of the land: a Blight.‘Codex entry: Archdemon
After the first and longest Blight in history came the emergence of the Grey Wardens. An order of warriors with exceptional abilities dedicated to killing darkspawn throughout Thedas. They are known for ignoring a recruit’s racial, social, national and backrgound if they deem the person valuable in terms of character, ability or skill. And despite their small number, the Grey Wardens have been instrumental in the defeat of each Blight.
That’s where you come in, you are recruited to join the Grey Wardens and proceed to go on a lengthy journey to recruit armies of Ferelden to help combat the Blight and kill the Archdemon. Two of your companions, Alistair and Morrigan, accompany you on your journey. Both of which have a highly important role in the overall story too, with Alistair learning he is of Royal blood and could even become King of Ferelden, and Morrigan being a highly powerful mage who learns of a method to end the Blight without anyone needing to die. The Blight ends when the Archdemon is killed, except when the Archdemon is killed, its soul immediately moves to the next closest darkspawn tainted thing, and only then, can it be killed, after that next vessel is killed. And throughout the game, you are believed that either you or Alistair will need to be that vessel, thus killing either of you. However, Morrigan suggest an alternative, to bear a child with a Grey Warden, so that the child will have the darkspawn taint and the Old God’s soul will move into it. Being too weak or even conscious to use this power, and thus Morrigan can rear an Old God child. Though this is a choice the player can make, it is very much implied and pushed onto the player to choose this path.
But the game can end in a number of ways, with Alistair becoming King, drunk or staying a Grey Warden. But Morrigan’s plot seems mostly fixed, and that she survives the end of the game and moves on from the Hero of Fereldan. A number of other companion characters are in the game but each of them can have a different ending and outcome.
So what’s the jist of Dragon Age: Origins? Well we can pretty much round it down to:
- You are the Hero of Fereldan.
- You help stop the Fifth Blight.
- Morrigan lives and leaves the party.
There is a lot more than happens in the game, obviously, but those are the two most concrete pieces of information. Pretty much everything else is entirely based on the choices you make in the game. Even the outcome of your companions are widely varying. Some can be dead by the end of the game, others might continue to live on. Even the outcome of your own Hero can be drastically different depending on your choices, the Hero of Fereldan could be dead, they could be the Father of Morrigan’s Old God child, they could be Queen of Fereldan after marrying Alistair or they could be King of Fereldan after marrying the current Queen. There are so many ways the game can go.
Dragon Age Awakening
Awakening is a story DLC for Origins, which continues the adventure of the Hero of Fereldan. It takes place six months after the events of Origins, you can either import your own Warden – as long as they survived the events of Origins – or you can play as a New Warden altogether. The main purpose of this game is to sow a little doubt into the player when it comes to the story of the Darkspawn because as you proceed in Awakening’s story, when it is revealed that despite the defeat of the archdemon, the darkspawn have not returned underground and a new variety of sapient, speaking darkspawn have been discovered. Two entities, named the Architect and the Mother, appear to be involved and the Warden may have to deal with them.
“I do not seek to rule my brethren. I only seek to release them from their chains.”The Architect
Here we learn of the existence of The Architect, one of the very Magisters who first entered the Golden City and was turned into a Darkspawn. However, he remains sentient and conscious, and this particular Architect wishes to cure the taint. He has learnt of a means to bridge the gap between the mindless hysteria brought on by the taint and to regain their humanity. In fact, you later learn that the Architect has managed to find a way to conduct his own ritual, using the blood of Grey Wardens, to sever the ties between darkspawn and the Song, the force that compels them to act the way they do. And it is even the Architect who finds Urthemiel, the Old God, and Archdemon who incites the Fifth Blight. It was the Architect who woke Urthemiel from her sleep when he tried to conduct the ritual on her, hoping to cure the Old God of the Blight’s taint.
All the while, The Mother, a Darkspawn who was once a normal woman, turned into a disgusting monster with the sole purpose of creating new darkspawn, being violated and tortured. The Mother is given her sentience and mind back, but in doing so she begins to remember the horrors inflicted upon her, the violation of her body, the transformation and the pain of it all. She doesn’t want the Architect to succeed, in fact she wants the lunacy of the Blight’s taint to take her, so that she at least will not have to remember what happened to her.
This DLC in particular is a world-building one, that expands the world and the story, particularly with the darkspawn and their effects on the world.
So what’s the jist of Dragon Age Awakening? Well we can pretty much round it down to:
- The Introduction of the Architect
- The Confirmation that Tevinter Magister did enter the Golden City
- The Architect unintentionally started the Fifth Blight.
- There is a way to grant sentience back to Darkspawn.
Dragon Age 2 Story
Considering Dragon Age 2 was originally meant to be a short DLC story for Origins, it’s story is a whole lot smaller. But it has a lot of in-world relevanmce considering the ongoing battle between mages and templars. In the world of Thedas, most mages are feared because of their link to the Fade, a metaphysical realm tied to Thedas, seperated by the Veil. The Fade is home to both spirits – the first of the Maker’s children – and demons, and mages are able to remain conscious when traveling there as opposed to most others who dream of the Fade but do not remember their time spent there. As such, mages are a lot more likely to encounter and interact with spirits and demons, and in some cases allowing them to possess them. Though this usually caused them to become – what is known as – Abominations.
Magic exists to serve man, and never to rule over him.The Chantry
As such, mages are feared by most, believed to be uncontrollable and impulsive. Thus most mages are – from a young age – imprisoned in what’s known as the Circle. Upon joining a Circle, mages undergo a process as apprentices of having a few drops of their blood taken by the First Enchanter and placed in a phylactery. This ensures the mages’ compliance as well as the ability to track down any mage who decides to run away, since a templar can track anyone through their blood. As a further measure, mages who are feared to be incapable of controlling themselves, or who fear their power, are made Tranquil: their connection to the Fade is magically severed along with their emotions and desires. Although Tranquility is supposedly a painless process, a neccesity for the safety of all, it’s more akin to lobotamy.
Needless to say, mages are an oppressed class who constantly battle for survival. With many even resorting to Blood Magic, a means of magic that uses the blood or souls of either themselves or others to empower themselves. This method of magic is seen as evil and feared among all, though the Magisters in Tevinter use Blood Magic far more regularly.
It’s in this game where the slowly growing rebellion between mages and templars begin. All the while you play Hawke, Champion of Kirkwall. You can play Hawke as Warrior, Rogue or Mage though reading into the lore a little further implies that mage Hawke is the ‘canon’ one. Throughout the story, Hawke meets Varric the storyteller and a number of other characters. Throughout the story, the main focus sits with the Mages and Templars before the penultimate moment where Anders – one of your companions – commits an act of terrorism against the Chantry. Anders, being a mage currently possessed by a corrupted spirit of justice turned vengeance, believes the only way to bring forth change is by forcing its hand and attacking the root of evil towards mages’ opression, but as a result killing innocents. At which point, Hawke has the option to kill Anders then and there or fight on as the tension between the local Knight Templar and First Enchanter has snapped and the two are to fight.
Hawke must choose which side they want to fight on, and depending on your levels of friendship or rivalry with your companions, they will either stand with or against you. All but Varric who will fight with you no matter what.
No matter the outcome, the damage has been done and the world is changed. People cannot ignore what happened in Kirkwall, and slowly the civil war between mages and templars is becoming greater. With more mages choosing to stand up for their rights and more people joining templars after fearing what they are capable of.
So what’s the jist of Dragon Age 2? Well we can pretty much round it down to:
- You play as Hawke, Champion of Kirkwall.
- The tension has grown out of control betwen mages and templars.
- The Introduction of Red Lyrium.
- The Introduction and development of the Qunari.
Dragon Age 2 Legacy Story
Another story-driven DLC package for Dragon Age 2. Targeted by a vicious criminal cartel that is hunting “the blood of the Hawke,” you must put an end to its relentless attacks. Leave Kirkwall and journey to an ancient Grey Warden prison in order to find the source of the aggression and uncover the harsh truth about the Hawke lineage. Playable from any point in the DAII campaign, face all new darkspawn, forge a powerful new weapon and come face to face with Corypheus. One of the other Magisters of Tevinter who entered the Golden City, in fact it was Corypheus who was the instigator of that crusade.
Here Hawke must choose whether to break the seals their father set up around Corypheus or if they should reinforce them. But later, Hawke and their party are trapped inside the prison, with the only way out being to break the seals. At which point the Warden-Commander Larius, warns Hawke of Corypheus and urges them to kill him. Whereas Janeka, and her group of Wardens, believed they can bind the powerful darkspawn mage to her will and compels Hawke to keep him alive.
Eventually, the final seal is broken and Corypheus is freed. He is confused, and demands that all present show him the respect due a person of his status, as any citizen of the Imperium owes fealty to a Magister of Tevinter. His confused ramblings reveal that he was in fact one of the magisters who entered the so-called Golden City and returned as one of the first darkspawn.
Regardless of Hawke’s intentions, Corypheus decides that they intend to bar his escape and attacks them. After a drawn-out battle, Corypheus is defeated. However, just as Hawke delivers the final blow, Corypheus looks at Larius or Janeka (depending on who Hawke chose to help) and faintly smiles. As Corypheus is struck down, the Warden can be seen shuddering before stumbling.
The Grey Warden survivor then ominously thanks Hawke for their freedom from Corypheus’s control and then leaves to inform the Grey Wardens of what has transpired.
So what’s the jist of Dragon Age 2 Legacy? Well we can pretty much round it down to:
- The Introduction of Corypheus
- Corypheus’s fate left ambiguous.
Dragon Age Inquisition Story
Dragon Age Inquisition sees you take on the role of the Inquisitor. Although, unlike the other games in the franchise, this one was a lot more open world and had a lot more to explore that didn’t necessarily contribute to the main plot other than world-building. There are many places in Thedas you can explore as the Inquisitor but some places are only there to add details to the world, whilst not being part of the core plot. As such, we’ll go through the main focus of Inquisition.
The game starts in 9:41 Dragon, one year after the events of Dragon Age II. Orlais is undergoing a civil war, threatening the stability of southern Thedas. The Circle of Magi have rebelled against the oppressive templars in a bid for independence, leading to all-out war, a direct consequence of Anders’ actions in Dragon Age 2. In a last ditch effort for peace, Divine Justinia V has orchestrated the Divine Conclave − a peace summit between the ambassadors of the templars and the rebel mages for the purpose of negotiating a peaceful compromise.
A massive explosion kills the attendees of the Conclave and creates a massive tear in the Veil called the Breach, allowing Demons to invade Thedas unchecked. The inquisitor is the sole survivor of the explosion and wielder of the “Anchor” − a magical mark that bestows control over the Breach and Fade rifts. The player’s miraculous accolades and ability to seal the Fade rifts leaves many to believe they are a messiah, specifically the Herald of Andraste. The player is inducted into the reborn Inquisition − an independent organization sanctioned by the late Divine Justinia to restore order should Thedas erupt into chaos − and eventually becomes its Inquisitor. Throughout the game the Inquisitor will learn that the instigator to this explosion and the tear in the Veil was caused by Corypheus, who had in fact survived the events of Dragon Age Legacy through the same means the archdemon can survive its own death, by body-jumping into someone else with the darkspawn taint. As such Corypheus has recruited and taken control of the Grey Wardens, giving himself an army that – should he ever be killed – he can body-jump across and continue to live.
It becomes later clear that what Corypheus wants to do is reach the Fade physically once more and restore Tevinter by surreptitiously seizing control of or disabling the most powerful factions in southern Thedas. Corypheus is even able to sway some of the most powerful Demons in the Fade to his cause, and most notably achieves an alliance with Nightmare, an exceptionally powerful Fear demon that had fed well on the banquet of fear Corypheus’s actions had created in causing the Blights. In fact, it is during an encounter with the Nightmare that the player will need to make a difficult decision, they will need to choose to leave either Hawke or Alistair (or Stroud) in the Fade to fend off the Nightmare long enough for the Inquisitor to escape. Essentially, Corypheus wants to restore Tevinter to its old all-powerful rule. He was only able to start his course of destruction after being presented with an opportunity to seize an ancient elven artifact, the Orb of Destruction.
At the end of the game, the Inquisitor defeats Corypheus and restores peace. The Grey Wardens no longer under his control and slowly the Inquisition can attempt to fix the damage done during this time. But it is around now that certain party members choose to leave the Inquisition, having accomplished what was necessary, this includes Solas, your elven master of the Fade and all things magical who – when the Inquisitor finally defeats Corypheus – laments the destruction of the orb as the loss of yet another elven artifact.
“You have to admit, the ‘fake your own death, travel through time, rescue your allies’ trick is a classic.”The Inquisitor
As the game comes to a close, and the player has high hopes that they averted world-disaster, a post-credit scene plays where Solas meets with Flemeth – a character who’s been prelevant since Dragon Age: Origins – who addresses him as the Dread Wolf and old friend. Solas tells her that he allowed the orb to fall into the hands Corypheus to unlock its true power—something he could not accomplish on his own, as he was too weak after awakening from his long slumber. Solas seems remorseful, and recognizes that he deserves punishment. He claims, however, that while “he should pay the price,” he cannot face this punishment yet, as the People – elves who have been opressed or enslaved – still need him. He apologizes to Flemeth, which she answers with an embrace and an apology of her own. Following this exchange, Solas seems to affect Flemeth in some way and strands of light emerge from her body. She collapses in his arms, seemingly petrified. When Solas raises his head, his eyes glow with the same blue light that had emanated from Flemeth.
To summarise Dragon Age Inquisition, you should just keep these points in mind:
- You play as the Inquisitor, Herald of Andraste.
- The Veil is torn.
- Corypheus returns and wants to enter the Fade physically to restore Tevinter to its previous empire.
- The Inquisitor leaves either Hawke, Alistair or Stroud in the Fade. ‘Supposedly’ killing them in the process.
- Corypheus is defeated and the Inquisitor is victorious in sealing the Breach.
- Party disbands, in particular Solas leaves and goes AWOL.
Dragon Age Trespasser Story
The final piece of the Dragon Age puzzle, Trespasser both concludes the Inquisitor’s story as well as sets up the plot of Dragon Age Dreadwolf.
After saving the world of Thedas by closing the Breach, your next mission determines the future of the Inquisition itself. Two years after the defeat of Corypheus and the closure of the Breach, concerns have grown over the power of the Inquisition, and much of the support and favor it curried has diminished. Ferelden wants dissolution, while Orlais wants heavy oversight. To discuss the future of the Inquisition, representatives of Ferelden, Orlais, and the Chantry call an Exalted Council at the Winter Palace.
To add to the turmoil, Qunari invaders have made use of the eluvians to attack the Inquisition, and the Inquisitor’s mark has begun to act up once more as they begin to traverse the seemingly forbidden pathways of the eluvians. In the midst of it all, Solas reappears to offer some long-awaited answers.
Solas reveals he was the one who gave Corypheus the means to attack Thedas, and begin his attempted entry into the Fade. He also admits that he is in fact Fen’Harel, the elven God who was responsible for the Veil itself. Prior to the Veil, the world coexisted beside the Fade, the two overlapping but the elven God, nicknamed the Dread Wolf, erected the Veil to “hold back the sky” to banish the Evanuris – the elven pantheon. This act to prevent the Evanuris from destroying the world with their excesses, and retribution for the murder of Mythal. However, since the elven kind were so heavily dependent on magic and the Veil severed the elven people from the Fade, the Veil’s creation led to Elvhenan’s demise and the loss of the elves’ immortality.
Now, after being dormant for years, Fen’Harel sees the turmoil and pain the elven kind are in. Enslaved, opressed and no longer the mighty people they once were, Fen’Harel wants to destroy the Veil altogether, plunging the world back into a blend of the Fade and the mortal plane, ‘restoring the elven people, at any cost’.
In fact, it’s revealed that if you played a female elf and romanced Solas in Inquisition, he even considered laying down this quest to simply live with you. But he was steadfast in his decision, wanting to reclaim the world the elves he feels guilty for leaving. In his last moments with the Inquisitor, Solas removes the Anchor from them, as a result removing their arm altogether. At which point, the Inquisitor chooses whether to keep the Inquisition in tact and pursue Solas, or disband it completely.
To summarise the entirety of Trespasser, you just need to remember:
- The party regroup, to try and figure out what to do with the Inquisition now that the threat of Corypheus is gone.
- Qunari are trying to use Eluvians to attack the Inquisition.
- Solas returns and reveals he is Fen’Harel and plans to destroy the Veil and restore elven kind at any cost.
- Solas removes the Anchor from the Inquisitor.
Dragon Age Dreadwolf
Well there you have it! You’re all caught up on the story, now it’s just a matter of waiting until the release of Dragon Age Dreadwolf. But what do we know of the story thus far? Well we know that you will play as a new Hero, as per usual Dragon Age fashion, though this time it will be mostly set in Tevinter. But other than that, it’s largely still a mystery. No doubt we will need to either thwart or aid Solas’ restoration plan.
Needless to say, we cannot wait and when it comes out, we’ll be covering all things Dragon Age, news, guides and theories! Stay tuned until then.
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