Dec 25, 2007
Ten years ago, when the RPG masters BioWare released their first big game, Baldur’s Gate, we were content with the highest fantasy: to play along with template elves and grinning kobolds. But something has changed since then.
With authors such as George R. R. Martin producing grittier, bloodier takes on fantasy, and filmmakers like Peter Jackson emphasizing the war and corruption at the heart of Lord of the Rings, it’s no longer enough to fill a fantasy game with orcs. Fantasy has moved on, and games are only just starting to make the transition. Hence Dragon Age’s entirely new world of Ferelden, custom-written to emphasize the bleakness of existence. In the world of Dragon Age, magic is dangerous and weird, magic users are feared, and the consequences of great spells are still being felt by a downtrodden and broken populace. Gone are the D&D clichés: the flick-of-a-wrist fireball, the saving throw. In comes inter-species tension, religious hatred, and good old fashioned betrayal.
Consider the elves: tall, slender, smarter, almost idealized humans in most fantasy. In Dragon Age, they’re nothing of the sort: they’re terrorists or freedom fighters, depending on who you talk to. Dwarves live beneath society, literally and figuratively: those who choose to live above ground are treated like dirt, those who remain in their caverns are rarely seen. And no, dwarfettes don’t have beards.