So first off, I apologize that my “weekly’ update is about a month late at this point. This website was giving me a lot of issues, some plugin or another was keeping me from properly posting, plus making it hard to fight off the spambots (who for some reason locked onto my second book announcement and had the ability to beat captchas). I ended up overhauling the whole site. The new site is 100x more simple, and better reflects my intention to make this more of blog than just an advertisement for my book.
For my first post to really talk about something other than myself, I had a lot of ideas, from the MCU and the recent Captain America movie, to the comics themselves and Cap’s “Hail Hydra” moment, to the different books I’m reading (I promised a while back I would be starting my first Wheel of Time readthrough, but that has been delayed due to problems with my Kindle). So naturally, I’m going to talk about Dragon Age.
Despite picking it up the week it came out, I haven’t yet played Inquisition. That’s because I don’t like playing a game in a series out of order, and despite loving the game I could never get through Origins. Not just cause that game is long, but becuase I am such a huge fan of the world, storytelling, and lore.
When a game’s world and story really speak to me, I take my time with it. For Origins that meant hunting and reading every codex (how else would I be able to fully appreciate the dwarven caste system?), spending time observing and appreciating the work put into the level designs, and of course exploring every dialogue tree and companion storyline fully. Playing like this is why I had 80 hours invested over three different characters and never got to the Landsmeet. This time around, with a determination to finally get to play Inquisition, I forced myself to actually complete Origins. It took another 100ish hours to clear it, its expansion, and DLCs, but I did it. (I also beat Dragon Age 2, but I’d rather not talk about that).
I don’t know if I would say Origins has the best story of any game I’ve ever played (though it certainly is up there with other Bioware classics, certain SquareEnix games, and The Witcher series) but in terms of worldbuilding and lore it really is second to none.
Now, before you immediately ‘You are wrong’ me cause of whatever game you feel deserves that spot, let me just be clear as to what I am talking about here. Games, like books and movies and every other kind of storytelling medium, can excel in different areas. Some games have great overall stories (Chrono Trigger, Witcher 2), some games are great at storytelling (Last of Us, Alan Wake), and some are so good at building an atmosphere that they require very little storytelling at all to tell a great tale (Dark Soul, Bioshock). I’m putting the Dragon Age series in a different category, the world they constructed itself, its expansiveness and thoroughness.
Fantasy games often don’t focus on this area as much as a book does, and for good reason. A story told in a game is often much more focused, even if it is epic in scale, and only needs to focus on the areas a single character visits. Despite the Grey Warden never leaving Ferelden (and only visiting a handful of locations in it), I leave Origins knowing a great deal about the world at large discovered through codex entries, dialogue with companions an other NPCs from different regions of the world, and even certain items found throughout the game. None of this was forced on you; you can go on your merry way through the game learning nothing more than what was essential to your mission, but even then you would have to get an impression of the scope of the world. Some of it was even made difficult to learn, a reward for those who really wanted it; every time the type-lipped Sten told me a little more about the Quanari I felt excited to be learning what felt like a close kept secret.
Origins came out more than five years ago, and even Inquisition is more than a year old now, so most of this is probably well tread ground. I guess the point I have been trying to make in the most longwinded way possible is this: Very rarely does a fantasy game draw me so closely into its world the way a good book does. Even the games I enjoy tend to have worlds that are largely forgettable and are more memorable for gameplay or the storytelling itself. Dragon Age’s worldbuilding really left me hungry for more stories in that world (though the missteps in Dragon Age 2 kind of cooled that a bit).
I’ll be getting around to Inquisition soon enough, once I’ve gotten enough work done on ‘Die By the Sword’ that I can take a break. Speaking of which…work is still progressing there. I’ll have more stuff to talk about on that level next week, hoping to get some previews out soon. I’ve also got a new producer lined up to produce an audiobook for ‘Lesser Evil’, I should have more details on that fairly soon as well.