Returning to Dragon Age: Origins feels like coming home, and it's helping me navigate through grief

Dragon Age: Origins
(Image credit: BioWare)

I hear the familiar sound of the dragon's roar as it splashes onto the screen. The title for Dragon Age: Origins lands with a metallic clang just before the start-up menu appears to welcome me in, as though I'm standing in front of the door of a home I know so well. Then, as I watch an intro cinematic that I've seen so many times before, the heavy feeling hanging over me subsides a little for the first time in weeks. 

We all have those games that we've played so many times that we know them like the backs of our hands. You know, the games that you've spent countless hours exploring until you know its virtual world as well as the streets of your hometown. You learn what enemies lie in wait and how to defeat them, what quests have yet to be completed along your journey, and which choices you'll have to make. You've even committed to memory some conversations and all of the story beats, not unlike the way you know all of the words to your favorite song after playing it on repeat. With games like this, playing them again is like coming home. 

These past few weeks have been laced with sadness after a sudden loss in the family. This is the first time I've been through anything like this, and trying to come to terms with it away from my loved ones has made it all the harder. It's all so new and fresh, and I still find myself feeling like I'm experiencing it from the outside looking in... Like I'm not really present in the moment anymore. So on one particularly tough day, I returned to the Dragon Age series – a trio of games I know so well they've become my virtual home away from home – and found that Thedas provided me with the space to breathe and process everything in reality.  

Swooping is good, actually  

Dragon Age: Origins

(Image credit: BioWare)

I've spent so much time playing the Dragon Age series over the years, and Dragon Age: Origins was the first game that wholly consumed me. I first played it back in early 2010, when I was around 17 years old; I was so uncertain and scared about what the future held for me, but as I got lost in its story and the setting of Fereldan, I was more convinced than ever that I wanted to be involved in the world of video games in some way. I often look back on it as the game that made me truly fall in love with the RPG genre. I've played it many, many times since, and poured myself into Dragon Age 2 and Dragon Age: Inquisition with the same kind of all-consuming fervor. 

Each game has meant a great deal to me, and the series has claimed a corner of my heart. In a sense, by returning to Dragon Age in the midst of sadness and an increasing feeling of helplessness, I hoped I could start to feel like my old self again. That I could perhaps reclaim control and start to feel a little lighter. I found myself thinking if I can't really be all that present right now, being in Thedas – a place where I can actively do something – might just help me navigate through my feelings… or at the very least bring me some much-needed comfort. So, with a desire to feel at home, I dived back into Dragon Age: Origins yet again. 

Finding myself in Ferelden  

Dragon Age: Origins

(Image credit: BioWare)
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Dragon Age 4

(Image credit: BioWare)

Here's everything we know so far about our upcoming return to Thedas in Dragon Age 4

One of the main reasons I connect so deeply with Dragon Age is thanks to the companions you meet along the way. From Alistair in Origins to Varric, Isabela, and Fenris in Dragon Age 2, and Dorian and Cassandra in Dragon Age: Inquisition, I've fallen in love with the cast of characters who are richly fleshed out with their own unique personalities and ideals. I still remember meeting Alistair for the first time in Origins and just how attached I became to his character, with his loveable personality and sense of humor. As a fellow Grey Warden who helps you fight against the Blight, you go up against impossible odds together and have to deal with betrayal and tragedy very early on. 

Seeing Alistair again, along with Leliana, Wynne, Morrigan, Zevran, and the rest of the companions was like reuniting with old friends, and it was greatly comforting to just spend some time in the camp talking to them and reliving their personal stories. The different locales I ventured to also felt like old haunts I hadn't seen in a while, and for the first time in days, I wasn't thinking about all of the things I couldn't do or letting heavy feelings overwhelm me. I was instead lost in Ferelden and caught up once again in a quest to defeat the Darkspawn and save the day. From spending too much time picking dialogue options to traveling across the map, I even found myself laughing at the same jokes at a time when I didn't think smiling was even a possibility. 

My return to where my love for the series all began with Origins reminded me just how much I enjoy its writing and sense of world-building, and even now it continues to hook me in and transport me to a fantastical world where I can get away from everything for a while. A place where I can be strong. In spite of the great hardships you go through as a Grey Warden in Origins, you keep going and continue to fight for a brighter future for Fereldan, surrounded by companions that can become friends. It serves as a reminder, too, that there's always the hope that things will get better.

Recently, I've come to learn that there's no "right way" to deal with news that pulls the rug right from under you and puts things into perspective in a way that only loss can. By losing myself in a game I know so well, I somehow found myself again. By becoming a hero who could be courageous, I could somehow find my way back to feeling a little more together. It's comforting to know that if I ever feel like I'm losing myself, Dragon Age and the characters that inhabit its world will always be there, waiting for me to pick up right where I left off. 

As well as Dragon Age 4, check out this list of New games 2021 to look forward to.

Heather Wald
Senior staff writer

I started out writing for the games section of a student-run website as an undergrad, and continued to write about games in my free time during retail and temp jobs for a number of years. Eventually, I earned an MA in magazine journalism at Cardiff University, and soon after got my first official role in the industry as a content editor for Stuff magazine. After writing about all things tech and games-related, I then did a brief stint as a freelancer before I landed my role as a staff writer here at GamesRadar+. Now I get to write features, previews, and reviews, and when I'm not doing that, you can usually find me lost in any one of the Dragon Age or Mass Effect games, tucking into another delightful indie, or drinking far too much tea for my own good.