Opinion – Yoink!

I’ll take that.

Games steal.  Development often relies on the iterative improvement of previous concepts previously stolen by an earlier set of developers.  This is largely a good thing as it allows a large groups of individuals to enhance an idea beyond what the originator could do.  It allows leads to bland repetition of the same game mechanic, but what are you going to do?  Theft happens in all aspects of gaming, but this article is devoted to stealing in the world of Dragon Age.  The fantastic worldbuilding of this series can’t hide the fact that much of what we see has been done before.  Fortunately, Dragon Age does it well.

Tolkien

What it steals:  This is the obvious one.  DA’s primary races are elves, dwarves, and men who unite to defeat an encroaching army of evil, orc-looking Darkspawn.  The races largely behave like their Tolkien brethren with the elves possessing magic and a tie with nature, the dwarves dwelling in the mountains with their famed mining skills, and men covering the world in divided empires.  DA has magic, quests, artifacts of power, and enough Medieval Times props to reenact the year 1066.  Welcome back J.R.

What it changes:  DA narrows the focus of its fantasy to the lives of common individuals over the grand sweeping history of Tolkien.  There’s a greater focus on the reality of society and those living within it.  Perhaps the greatest example of this is the elves.  DA’s elves have fallen since a glorious earlier age and now reside on the lowest rung of human society.  They suffer systemic discrimination and live in ghettos.  Tolkien talked about mistrust between his various races, but DA takes the player down to the individual level to see that kind of hatred and the effect it has.  This is but one example of DA forgoing major battles in favor of individual stories.

Warhammer – The Warp

What it steals:  In DA, magic comes from The Fade.  The Fade is an ever changing realm of demons who are manifestations of emotion.  Wizards tap into The Fade and may traverse it, but are also vulnerable to possession and can return to the material world inhabited by demons.  Sound familiar?  It should.  The Warhammer universe uses a very similar concept called The Warp.  The Warp is the source of psychic energy for Warhammer’s magicians and represents great power and great vulnerability.

What it changes:  DA makes one big change.  Whereas The Warp has malevolent overdemons called gods, The Fade lacks any kind of structure or coordination.  As a result, The Fade is more like an unclaimed wilderness instead of the hostile territory that is The Warp.  This demotes the creatures of The Fade from a genuine enemy to wild beasts and so removes The Fade as the primary foe, unlike the gods of The Warp.  That being said, The Fade is still dangerous and the question of what to do with those with a connection to The Fade remains a real one.

Medieval Europe

What it steals:  The once mighty Tevinter Imperium (the Roman Empire) ruled over all of Thedas (Europe).  After several internal rebellions and the coming of the Darkspawn (Huns), the Tevinter Imperium (the Roman Empire) fractured resulting in a rump state (The Byzantine Empire) and the rise of the formerly conquered nations of Orlais (France), Antiva (Spain), and Fereldan (England).  Concurrently, Andraste (Jesus) rose in the name of the Maker (Christian god) to overthrow the old Tevinter pantheon (Greek gods).  Andraste (Jesus) was ultimately killed by the betrayal of her husband (Judas), but the religion she founded (Christianity) spread across Thedas (Europe).  The hierarchy of said religion, the Chantry fractured between the Tevinter Imperium’s Black Divine (Orthodox) and the successor kingdoms’ White Divine (Roman Catholic).  The events of DA occur during the invasion of the Qunari (Muslims) who seek to spread the dictates of the Qun (Koran) across the world.

What it changes:  Not a lot.  The history of DA and medieval Europe match up closely.  The only real difference of note is the effect of magic.  While the Byzantine Empire and Western Europe certainly had their philosophical differences, they never saw such a fundamental societal split like how the Tevinter Imperium and the rest of Thedas treat magic.  The result is the other difference of note.  Whereas the successor states of Europe sought to recreate the Roman Empire, the successor states of Tevinter seek to expunge its influence.

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