Thursday, October 25, 2012

The missing Dragon Age origin

How embarrassing. In the course of thinking out this post i wound up disconsidering my own idea. Well, let's take it from the top.

Point 1: Of the six Dragon Age: Origins character origins, none covers the most basic obviously expected background of a human commoner.
Point 2: None of the background stories are set directly in the path of the Blight.

My question was why the obvious solution seems to have been deliberately omitted. Why not give the players a chance to start out as a human farmer whose village or isolated homestead in the south of Ferelden gets overrun by darkspawn? It would be dramatic and it would give players a view of the life of the commonfolk, creating a clearer idea of the game's setting. That's not what they were going for, though.

I hadn't considered it before, but each of the backgrounds was in some ways alien to Fereldan culture at large. The closest to mainstream selections, the human noble and city elf origins, are still alienated (pun intended) even within Denerim by their social status. Ferelden and Thedas as a whole are not given as a standard medieval setting where the 'rags to riches' fantasy hero cliche would play out normally, but slowly developed during gameplay in order to allow for more complexity and keep everything from revolving around the main character. If the introduction were to serve as the player's definition of Thedas, it would be limited to the stereotyped medieval setting for lack of time to develop each facet of the culture. Keeping players disoriented prevents them from resorting to the trite old yardsticks of fantasy. It lets them take DAO's own spins on various fantasy tropes as given instead of building up the usual expectations.

Also, though the darkspawn are presented from the start in most background stories, it's Ostagar that's supposed to serve as the true dramatic introduction to Dragon Age's central conflict. No one character background should have them as a central motivation because they're meant to be a world-sweeping disaster. Again, it keeps the game from falling into the 'unlikely hero' fantasy routine.

The background stories work because none of them are the expected beginning of the Warden's life story. They are on equal footing. A human farmer with a personal grudge against the darkspawn would be too cheesy a setup.

So, as always, my ideas are utter trash as worthless as their creator.

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