I don't think I've stopped thinking about Dragon Age 4 since it was initially announced back in 2018. In fact, I haven't really stopped thinking about the prospect of a new installment since I first saw the credits roll on Dragon Age: Inquisition over eight years ago. With the official title of Dragon Age: Dreadwolf, one of the most divisive characters in all of Thedas is returning: Solas. I've already waxed lyrical about just how exciting it is to see that Dreadwolf moniker front and center, and with the promise of venturing to Tevinter for the first time, there's already a lot to look forward to. But with every teaser, update, and supposed leak that surfaces, my thoughts continue to swirl around one very big question that still remains: Who will we be?
Each Dragon Age entry in the series so far has put us in different roles that give us new perspectives on the world at large. Dragon Age: Origins saw us become a Grey Warden and fight to stop the Blight - earning ourselves the title of Hero of Ferelden; Dragon Age 2 shifted the focus to Hawke and their family, who are forced to flee to the city of Kirkwall where they get caught up in the ongoing conflict between the mages and templars; Dragon Age: Inquisition then follows the story of the Inquisitor, an individual who inadvertently gains a magical mark on their hand known as the Anchor that can seal tears in the Veil.
While all of the games tie together, they can be played as standalone experiences. With Dreadwolf set to follow this tradition as an entry that newcomers can step into, the window of possibilities for the next protagonist is wide open. Even so, there's a lot out there that may offer some hints towards who we'll be, and I just can't resist trying to theorize it all out.
*Some spoilers ahead for past Dragon Age games*
From the minute my Inquisitor slammed their knife into a map of Tevinter at the very close of the Trespasser DLC, with plans of pursuing Solas, I've thought about the role we may have. In the scene, spymaster Leliana points out just moments before the knife is plunged that Solas is familiar with how the Inquisition and its team operate. So, my Inquisitor declares that they will "find people he doesn't know" to put a stop to the Dread Wolf's plans. This was the first signal that some new faces are coming, and of course, a new protagonist.
Fast forward years later, and we got a behind the scenes at BioWare video in 2020 (opens in new tab) for the 'The Next Dragon Age'. In it, there was one line in particular that I immediately latched onto and still think about, and it was really the first time we got a solid little lead on the direction of the next lineup of characters: "For the game we're working on now, we want to tell the story: What happens when you don't have power?", lead writer Patrick Weekes says. "What happens when the people in charge aren't willing to address the issues?" This tantalizing tidbit suggests we'll be playing as a character who perhaps doesn't have authority because of their social standing in Thedas, or a distinguishing power like that of the Inquisitor.
A teaser trailer (opens in new tab) then dropped some months later narrated by none other than Varric Tethras himself - the loveable rogue and storytelling dwarf we first met in Dragon Age 2. In it, Varric teases that "It's time for a new hero. No magic hand, no ancient prophecy," but instead "the kind of person they'll never see coming." This again reinforces Weekes' words about not having power. If we're in pursuit of Solas, what better way to find him or try to put a stop to his plans than to play as someone who can strike from the shadows, or operate unseen? My thoughts immediately turn to well-known factions who fit this bill, like the Antivan Crows or the Friends of Red Jenny… There's also Tevinter's reputation for slavery to consider, too.
But before we even begin to theorize on what factions or groups could come into play, it's worth thinking about how Dreadwolf might allow us to create our character and whether it will follow the same route as Dragon Age: Origins, or, to a lesser extent, Inquisition and Dragon Age 2. The first entry in the series allowed us to pick from three different races (Human, Dwarf, Elf) and classes (Rogue, Warrior, Mage). In some instances, we could even choose different social standings.
What you chose determined how the opening of the game plays out, with various origin story prologues tied to each one that all eventually lead you to join the Grey Wardens. Inquisition also lets you choose your race and class, while Dragon Age 2 only lets you select your class and locks you into being a human. The class or race doesn't affect how those games begin, but the world at large will react differently to you depending on what you choose, and you'll be presented with unique dialogue options as a result.
We don't yet know too much about Dreadwolf's approach to character creation, but it's reasonable to assume that it will be building on what's come before. A recent update from BioWare (opens in new tab) explored different aspects of game design, with designer Luke Barret touching on some of the RPG systems and goals for the upcoming adventure. One part, in particular, from Barret stood out to me: "We really wanted to have something that allowed the player to character-build in a way that allowed them to reach their ‘player fantasy.’ And because we're supporting so many choices, we've designed something that can be customized widely, as opposed to a more linear progression system."
This sounds as if it will play into the strengths of the RPG series by giving us plenty of freedom to shape our own character and their story however we wish. It does also make me somewhat hopeful that we could perhaps see the return of an Origins-style beginning if lots of choices are being supported.
The Grey Warden
If we have the option to once again choose our class and race, perhaps we will also choose a faction this time around that will determine how our beginning plays out, or influence what decisions we can make. There have already been some interesting theories circulating about this idea thanks to a supposed leak that seemingly showed a player-character as a Grey Warden in Weisshaupt Fortress. It's hard not to get excited about the idea of factions… Just imagine it: What if we could choose if we're a Grey Warden, and that determines how the adventure begins and factors into what unique choices we can make, or reactions we can have?
It would certainly play into the idea of letting us fulfill our "player fantasy" by giving us the option to choose. Of course, it's best to take any leak with a big pinch of salt, but the presence of Weisshaupt Fortress completely makes sense given that it's the birthplace and headquarters of the Grey Wardens, and we also know something is going on there thanks to the ending of Inquisition.
The Antivan Crows and The Friends of Red Jenny
So if Dreadwolf were to go in the direction of letting us choose our factions, what other groups could be presented as options? Well, as I highlighted previously, it may make sense to see some of the more covert organizations in the world of Thedas pop up. Inquisition brought us closer to the Friends of the Red Jenny - thanks to the presence of Sera - who are a secret society spread out across Thedas that strike out against authority figures up to know good, or are perhaps abusing their power.
Being a Friend of Red Jenny would certainly fit with the idea Weekes teased - after all, if the "people in charge aren't willing to address the issues,'' the Friends of Red Jenny surely are. Likewise, the Anitvan Crows are another group that could fit the same bill. As an order of assassins in Thedas, you certainly wouldn't see them coming, and with concept art appearing to feature the Crows, they'll likely factor into the story in some way.
The Tevinter Slave
BioWare officially confirmed that we'll be going to Minrathos, the capital of Tevinter, in Dreadwolf. The topic of slavery in Tevinter has been touched upon throughout the Dragon Age games, and even factors heavily into the plot of the recent Dragon Age: Absolution animated series. As a codex entry in Dragon Age 2 reads: “the greatest consumer of slave labor is the Tevinter Imperium, which would surely crumble if not for the endless supply of slaves from all over the continent. There, they are meat, chattel. They are beaten, used as fodder in the endless war against the Qunari, and even serve as components in dark magic rituals.”
As someone who is without power, a slave could certainly make for a very interesting origin and offer us an entirely new perspective on Thedas... And if we're headed to Tevinter, it would make a lot of sense. Plus, it could make for an effective way to establish a character we're then free to develop and customize as we progress.
In the book Dragon Age: Tevinter Nights, which is made up of a series of short stories, there's one tale in particular that's worth paying some attention to: “The Dread Wolf Take You” by Patrick Weekes. The story follows Charter, an elven spy who features in Inquisition as part of Leilana's network. Charter has a clandestine meeting with four figures who all have a "shared interest in the wolf." None of the figures are named, but each is referred to in relation to the group they are associated with: The Carta Assassin, The Orlesian Bard, The Mortalitasi, and The Executor. There are theories that these could be factions we could choose from or be linked to, but I think it could also hint at some of our future party members. The short story certainly offers a lot of food for thought.
For now, all we can do is speculate, but there's certainly already a lot out there to unpack and theorize about. In my heart of hearts, I would love to see Dreadwolf adopt the Origins-style opening and bring factions into the fold. I mean, Maker's Breath, just imagine it. Choosing a group that determines how and where your story begins? And even maybe alters or influences what options and choices become available to you? Yes please. Whatever route Dreadwolf takes, I have every hope that we'll be able to customize our character however we wish. It's already been so exciting to see what ideas the community has come up with, and you better believe I'll be praying to Andraste that we get a closer look at character creation whenever BioWare is ready to show off more.
Keep track of all the exciting releases on the horizon with our roundup of new games for 2023.