Monday, July 31, 2017

Easter Eggs & Secrets, Dragon Age: Inquisition (Part 2)

As part of my examination of Dragon Age: Inquisition's secrets and Easter Eggs, here's an additional list of some of my favorites, below:

Sera Approval (Red Jenny's Caches)

Bring Sera with you to recover the Red Jenny caches across the various regions for additional "slight approval" points. These can come in handy—especially if you made certain "elfy" decisions at other parts of the game. Note: These caches are only findable if Sera is in your party.

Sera's approval can be a little tricky to manage, so finding her
Red Jenny caches can help you repair your friendship.
You can also get an extra quest with Sera if you bring her along to "Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts" which is already worth doing simply so that you get to hear her introduction in the palace—which is typically, wickedly Sera (and hilarious).

Sandal Sighting

In the "Trespasser" DLC, if you explore the Shattered Library thoroughly, behind one of the shelves, you'll find a dead Qunari... and the diary of Sandal! Three guesses what it says...

Lord Trifles Minutiae and "The Quizquisition"

Lord Trifles Minutiae is an odd character who appears around Skyhold, and who will immediately question you on trivia relating to Thedas. If you answer three questions successfully, you will be awarded "The Boon of the Spoon" as a prize.

Lord Trifles Minutiae can be found at one of the following locations:

  • Near the stables
  • In the basement vault near the kitchen (if you have the Elite Clientele perk)
  • On the uppermost floor of the Herald's Rest tavern
  • In the closet of the Inquisitor's chambers (eek!)
  • At the top of the mage/Templar tower.
  • In the first cell of the dungeons. (Bugged, see below)
  • Near the front gate, at the end of the narrow ledge to the right
  • On the rooftop near the ramp leading to the kitchen
  • In the last of three rooms that are accessed from Vivienne's quarters (for this location, you must have progressed far enough in the main storyline for the scaffolding blocking the way to be removed).

Wear the Token of the Packmaster to become Lord of the Wolves!
(Or better yet, put it on Solas... for... reasons.)

Check out the Dragon Age Wiki for the list of questions and answers Lord Minutiae usually asks

The Token of the Packmaster

The Token of the Packmaster is an amulet in Dragon Age: Inquisition that is dropped by the Lesser Terror Demon you fight during the Hinterlands side quest "The Trouble with Wolves." It's one of my favorite little perks of the game because—if you equip it to your character (I personally like putting it on Solas for... reasons), the wolves you encounter across Thedas will not only not attack your party, they will help you in your fights.

The only downside to the Token is that I've found it to be pretty buggy and inconsistent. You can ensure that it's working by unequipping and re-equipping it each time you fast travel to a new area. I've found that sometimes the wolves will still show up as foes (red dots) on your map, but they'll approach you and won't attack. You'll know when the Token's power is working because the wolves' eyes will glow a bright green.

The Flower Crown (or "Ardent Blossom" Helmet)

The "Ardent Blossom" Helmet, or "Flower Crown," is a wonderful hidden quest item that takes real effort to acquire. You'll have to trigger the quest by going to the small rock formation hidden behind some bushes east of Direstone Camp in the Emerald Graves. It's a short way east of the river, and not far from a mural.

Once you find the tiny cave formation (which has flowers around and in front of it), jump on top of the rocks about fifty times, until you hear a voice. If you run away and come back, you'll trigger more dialogue. Keep talking to it until it says "Need more!" and then "The Tiniest Cave" quest will show up in your quest journal. Gather the Crystal Grace it requires until the voice tells you it's enough, and directs you "down the stairs." 

Then go to the secret passage under Suledin Keep in Emprise du Lion (entrance to the South side of the Keep). Go up the plank of wood, through the tunnel and down the stairs, and you'll find a chest containing gold and the "Ardent Blossom" helmet.

Mercy's Crest (the Bandit amulet)

Upon your arrival at the Storm Coast, after speaking with Scout Harding about the Blades of Hessarian bandits, you'll be confronted with some bandits to fight. Go south, and in a shack at the top of the hill, you'll discover the bodies of several dead Inquisition scouts, as well as a  "Bandit's Notes" that talks about the Mercy's Crest, an amulet you can Requisition.

If you craft Mercy's Crest and then wear it when you approach the main bandit stronghold on the Storm Coast, you'll only have to fight the group's leader. The rest of the group will instantly pledge loyalty to you, and from then on, you will find them throughout the hillsides of the Storm Coast, fighting darkspawn, Templars and Venatori on your behalf. This will also open up additional War Table missions, as well.

The Missing Tomes (Codexes)

You can purchase several codexes you may have missed from previous areas of the game by purchasing them from the book vendors in Redcliffe (not far from the docks) or Val Royeux (the upstairs book vendor at the end of one of the halls).

Under the Undercroft

There's an occasional glitch where you may enter the Undercroft and fall down beneath Skyhold into a creepy no-man's land. Before you exit and restart the game, look around. It's a kind of a cool area, and yes, there's a jack-o'lantern there as a joke by one of the devs.

The Krogan Heads

There's one on the left-hand upstairs wall in Caer Oswyn, where you take Cassandra in the quest "The Promise of Destruction."

Mordin Solus Reference

In The Hinterlands, near the Crossroads, you'll find a small circular hut near the back of the town. On a table are a Healer's Notes that seem to be written in the style of Mass Effect's Dr. Mordin Solus, the wonderful fast-talking salarian scientist.

Cheese, Cheese Everywhere

Random cheese wheels can be found all over locations in the game. Explore the areas in Crestwood and you will come across chunks of cheese here and there. Meanwhile, you can also loot a cheese shield, "The Wedge of Destiny," if you go to the top of one of the hills in Crestwood. It's on a table near a cart, just West of the Three Trout Farm Camp.

Companions' Secret Fears

In the Fade section of the questline for "Here Lies the Abyss," travel to the water's edge and go all the way left. You'll find a graveyard with graves for all of your companions—and on each tombstone is the name of a Companion and their greatest fear.

The elf-sentinels of the "Trespasser" DLC become a lot nicer if
you've drunk from the Well of Sorrows.
The Well of Sorrows

If you drink from the Well of Sorrows, you'll not only get some creepy and hidden dialogue that may disclose secrets about Mythal, but you'll also go into the "Trespasser" DLC with a huge advantage, as the Well's abilities mean that you will be able to talk to the ancient elven spirits (and never have to fight them). 

The "Victim of Fashion" Amulet

Pick up the Fragment of Inadequate Chain Mail on the dragon island off the Storm Coast. Give it to Dagna, and she'll create the "Victim of Fashion" amulet. 

The stats are hilarious: +1 Cunning, -100% Magic Defense, -100% Melee Defense, and -100% Ranged Defense. So basically: Don't wear it. But if you do, I suggest plaidweave. Lots of plaidweave.

Sulevin Blade

The Sulevin Blade is a powerful sword obtained from completing the quest "Ruined Blade." Start the "Ruined Blade" quest by reading the elf's journal found on a corpse in the camp slightly Northeast of Valeska's Watch, near the edge of a cliff in Emprise du Lion.

Complete "The Ruined Blade" and that should trigger the War Table operation "Rumors of the Sulevin Blade." Complete that operation, then travel to the Cradle of Sulevin and gather the weapon fragments from all four altars. Then bring the fragments to Dagna and ask her to repair the sword. This will complete the quest and provide you with the Sulevin Blade.

"One time, Storvacker met Alistair Therein, fabled warrior of the
Fifth Blight, and he told her she was pretty."
Skyhold's Origins

There's a reason Solas knows the way to Skyhold—it was once his home, and in fact may very well have been the site of where he created the Veil, where he imprisoned the mages he was fighting against—and where he left for the Fade. The Archivist in "Trespasser" notes: "After he held back the sky to imprison the gods, the Dread Wolf disappeared."

Solas also further confirms this in his final conversation with a low-approval Inquisitor in "Trespasser." When an antagonistic Inquisitor thanks him (sarcastically) for Skyhold, Solas responds, "Enjoy it while you can. It was mine once."

This also adds poignance to the fact that Solas is in fact painting the story of the Inquisition's accomplishments on the walls of his own castle. 

Mean Girls Reference ("Jaws of Hakkon" DLC)

If you rescue Storvacker the bear in "Jaws of Hakkon," don't miss Storvacker's hilarious Codex entry (which is also a fabulous reference to the film Mean Girls).

Looking for more Easter eggs and secrets? Check out Part 1 of my rundown of secrets here.

Easter Eggs & Secrets, Dragon Age: Inquisition (Part 1)

Dragon Age: Inquisition offers a wealth of hidden secrets and Easter Eggs, so I've assembled a list of some of my favorites, in case they're helpful.

Solas's Frescoes

Solas's ancient and beautiful fresco paintings, which fill the walls of his round tower room as the story progresses, actually tell the story of the Inquisitor, and each panel reflects a major choice or decision the Inquisitor made so far. Solas's paintings will also actually change subtly from playthrough to playthrough, depending on decisions you make. I've posted a complete analysis on each in the links here.

Solas also leaves a final fresco (unfinished) at the end of DAI. First off—why is it unfinished? My own theory is that it is unfinished for several deliberate reasons.

Scout Harding is a little-known 'soft' romance option in DAI—
flirt with her enough (and without romancing anyone else)
and she'll agree to date you at the end of the game.
Mosaic Pieces

As you discover the mosaic pieces all over Thedas, each time you return to Skyhold, they will be assembled and on the walls around Gatsi, the dwarf helping you research them.

Bottles of Thedas

As you discover Bottles of Thedas and Warden Ale through the game, you can actually find all of the bottles you've acquired on shelves in the Skyhold wine cellar!

Haven Survivors and Agents at Skyhold

Most of the agents you recruit can be found and talked to at Skyhold soon after they're recruited.

Whoever you saved in the attack on Haven will also be hanging out at Skyhold—most typically, around the grounds out front, or also in the courtyard gardens.

Josie's Vault ("Elite Clientele" Perk)

Josie's 15% "Elite Clientele" Perk discount upgrade adds an actual treasure vault to Skyhold.

Skyhold's Prisoners

If you choose imprisonment for any wrongdoers who come before you in judgment, you can find them later in the Skyhold prisons. You can also sometimes talk to them (but there's also a known bug that makes that difficult).

Florianne the Jester

After "Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts," if you conscript Florianne as a Court Jester at Skyhold, she'll show up in the background in the throne room on occasion.

The Last Court

If you finish The Last Court via the Dragon Age Keep, you'll get two additional War Table Missions (and some cool new Skyhold customization options).

Sad Splinters

When you break down doors in various locations, be sure to loot the rubble -- the "Sad Splinters" you collect from them can eventually be used to make a very silly weapon.

Dragon Age II Easter Eggs

You can find a bottle of Warden Ale owned by either Carver or Bethany Hawke from Dragon Age II (if either of them joined the Wardens during your DA2 playthrough).

You can also find Anders's manifesto in the locked Apostate's Shack on the Storm Coast!

Vivienne and Decor

If you decorate the Throne Room with Orlesian decor, Vivienne will comment favorably on it. Meanwhile, if your approval rating from Vivienne is low enough, she'll also actually rearrange your furnishings as subtle revenge.

If you support the mages, do all of Cullen's quests in order
(and attain all of the notes from Samson), Cullen himself will
eventually accompany you in combat "Before the Dawn!"
Cullen in Your Party

If you support the mages, do all of Cullen's quests in order 
(and attain all of the notes from Samson), Cullen himself will 

eventually accompany you in combat in the quest "Before the Dawn!" If you don't get all the notes, or move on to "What Pride Had Wrought," the quest will simply complete passively without Cullen going with you (which was how it went for me in five different previous playthroughs!), so it's really fun to pay attention to the details, complete this quest, and to get the chance to see Cullen in action (he's wonderful to watch using his Templar skills in combat). You'll also get additional dialogue here if you're romancing Cully Wully.

Sutherland's Potential

Talk to the young man Sutherland upstairs in the Herald's Rest tavern. He wants to help, triggering a series of terrific War Table missions and very sweet (and occasionally funny) follow-up scenes.

Scout Harding (Soft Romance)

You can actually romance Scout Harding (or at least "soft romance" her). Just don't flirt or get involved with anyone else, flirt with her at every opportunity, and eventually she will talk to you about your feelings and arrange a date.

Meanwhile, if you're a female Inquisitor and Sera is in your party, Sera will slightly approve each time you flirt with Scout Harding.

The Ballad of Lord Woolsley

If you attack Lord Woolsley, the very pretty and intelligent ram belonging to One-Eyed Jimmy in Redcliffe? He turns into a Rage Demon. But why would you attack him? Lord Woolsley is awesome! (My personal theory is that Lord Woolsey is a benign spirit of wisdom, and that he only warps into a demon because he is attacked.)

Morrigan's Child

If Morrigan was romanced or did the Dark Ritual in your DAO playthrough (or Dragon Age Keep worldstate) with a male Grey Warden (who was not the Hero of Ferelden), do the quest "Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts" before the Grey Warden showdown "Here Lies the Abyss" for extra dialogue in the garden between Morrigan and the child's father.

For more DAI secrets, check out my follow-up post (Part 2) here!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Hidden Secrets of Solas's Frescoes

We share the ancient mysteries, the feelings lost, forgotten dreams, unseen for ages now beheld in wonder.

Once you arrive at Skyhold in Dragon Age: Inquisition, everyone finds a niche for themselves, and Solas takes up residence in an elegant round tower room on the ground floor.

Solas's ancient and beautiful fresco paintings, which progressively fill the walls of his round tower room as the story moves forward, actually tell the story of the Inquisitor, and each panel reflects a major choice or decision the Inquisitor made so far.
What's interesting about Solas's paintings isn't just that they tell the story of the Inquisition—they will actually change subtly from playthrough to playthrough, depending on decisions you make.

For example, as you can see here, there are several different possible frescoes (and orders) depending on the Inquisitor's choices. (Note: All images courtesy of Bioware and the Dragon Age Wiki):

  • PANEL 1: The Breach, and the destruction of the Temple of Sacred Ashes
  • PANEL 2: The formation of the Inquisition (the wolfpack assembles)
  • PANEL 3: Siding with the Templars (Mages align behind Corypheus)
  • PANEL 3 (ALT): Siding with the Mages (Templars align behind Corypheus; we also see Redcliffe castle and the nightmare possible future of Alexius)
  • PANEL 4: Corypheus rises, and Haven is destroyed.
  • PANEL 5: The Siege of Adamant, if done before "Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts." (Note the Grey Warden shield and Adamant Fortress. We can also see a glimpse of the Fade, the Black City, and the Nightmare Demon)
  • PANEL 5 (ALT): The assassination of Empress Celene (if done before "Here Lies the Abyss"). Notice that Celene is dressed as she was at the Ball at Halamshiral.
  • PANEL 6: The Siege of Adamant (if done after "Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts"). (As before, note the Grey Warden shield and Adamant Fortress. We can also see a glimpse of the Fade, the Black City, and the Nightmare Demon)
  • PANEL 6 (ALT): The assassination attempt against Empress Celene, if done after "Here Lies the Abyss." As before, notice that Celene is dressed as she was at the Ball at Halamshiral.
  • PANEL 7: The Temple of Mythal. Note the presence of Abelas and the Well of Sorrows. The arch may also represent Mythal's last Eluvian.

  • Behind the Frescoes: Techniques & Larger Meanings

    For a gorgeous examination of the technique Solas would have used to create these frescoes, I highly recommend checking out the "Let's Talk Solas's Frescoes" blog post from "Sulahn Enasalin," The post goes into great detail on the classic techniques for creating frescoes like Solas's, and it's fascinating and intricately researched.

    The post from "Sulahn Enasalin" also makes a truly important point that I feel is too often overlooked—that Solas's gorgeous frescoes are in fact a gift, from him to us. As "Sulahn Enasalin" explains:

    "The frescoes are his gift to the Inquisitor and/or Inquisition, a representation of an art barely known or remembered in modern Thedas, telling the Inquisitor’s story, applied with painstaking craftsmanship and dedication. It’s His Gift, something he gives even to an Inquisitor he truly dislikes."

    As a Solas romancer (or "Solasmancer") I also find something lovely in the idea that Solas paints these images as a gift, true, but perhaps also as a way for him to express his feelings.

    I also can't help but feel that there's something else to the murals. Knowing who Solas truly is—I feel that the frescoes are also Solas's attempts to rejoin the world and to regroup, to try to analyze and understand the strange and upsetting reality in which he now finds himself.

    So he leaves us with a gift that he never mentions and never discusses—and none are required. The gift is there on each wall before our eyes. I find that really lovely, subtle, and very true to Solas.

    A Final, Hidden Secret

    Solas also leaves a final fresco (unfinished) at the end of DAI. Note that you can only see it if you go to his room after defeating the game.

    First off—why is it unfinished? The simplest answer is that Solas was interrupted at this work when Corypheus attacked. However, I also wonder if it isn't unfinished because of Solas's own ambivalence. He has grown to love and care for the people of the Inquisition -- and certainly for the romanced Inquisitor, even after he broke things off (sending my own poor Lavellan off to a period of permanent weeping and residence at the bottom of a booze barrel at the Herald's Rest). He is filled with regret at what he believes he must do next -- departing the Inquisition, meeting with Flemeth/Mythal (taking her life force, which I believe she gives him voluntarily), and beginning his plans anew to tear down the Veil.

    Meanwhile, what does this unfinished panel mean?

    My own belief is that it has several meanings:
    • As a rough depiction of a wolf standing over the stabbed body of a dragon, it may, first and foremost, signify our victory over Corypants and his dragon.
    • But as the dragon also certainly resembles some of the elven depictions of dragons like those in the Temple of Mythal—it might also be Solas foreshadowing Mythal's fate to come.
    • In addition, the wolf's stance over the dragon can be taken several different ways—as a potential victory after battle...
    • It may also be the wolf mourning the dragon's death (which is how I see it).
    • It can also be a message from Solas to a romanced Lavellan, in which he mourns the future ahead of him (and that he must leave). I see a lot of regret in the image, myself.
    • Lastly? I think it's a big-picture message—a sign from Solas that the story is not over. 
    In other words, we will see him again. And we certainly do.

    Sunday, July 16, 2017

    Games, Books and Comics in Order: The Fiction Timeline

    It's a question that comes up a lot in fandom—in what order should people experience the Dragon Age franchise?

    In case it helps, with this in mind, I've put together a kind of "Tale of Years" in terms of Dragon Age fiction, that I hope encompasses all (or most) of the games, novels, comics, and movies, as follows:

    Last Flight
    By Liane Merciel
    Covers 5:12-24 Exalted Age in Flashbacks(Chapters 2-5, 7-8)
    Also covers 9:41-9:42 Dragon Age in frame story
    ‡NOTE: This can be read after the events of DAI, since that's when the frame story takes place. But most of the book details the devastating decade-long Blight of the Exalted Age, and I feel it's far more moving and effective if read as a taste of just how bad a Blight can get, before the other works.

    The Stolen Throne
    Novel, by David Gaider
    Covers 8:96-8:99 Blessed Age; 9:18 Dragon Age. Details the adventures of a very young Loghain and Maric.

    The Calling
    Novel, by David Gaider
    Covers 9:10-9:11 Dragon Age. About the adventures of Maric, Duncan, Fiona and a band of Grey Wardens who brave the Deep Roads to solve the mystery of a missing Grey Warden.

    Dragon Age #1
    Covers 9:12-13

    Dragon Age - Legends: Remix
    Covers 9:21 Dragon Age

    Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker 
    Animated Film
    Covers 9:22 Dragon Age. A prequel story on Cassandra before the events of DA2 or DAI.

    Dragon Age II: Aveline ("Focus")
    Covers 9:25 Dragon Age

    Dragon Age II: Fenris
    Covers 9:28 Dragon Age

    Leliana's Song (Dragon Age: Origins DLC)
    Covers 9:28 Dragon Age
    A prequel on Leliana's adventures before DAO.

    Dragon Age: #2-6
    Roleplaying Game
    Covers 9:30 Dragon Age
    • Faces of Thedas: A Dragon Age RPG Sourcebook
    • Dragon Age - Dark Fantasy Roleplaying Set 1
    • Dragon Age RPG Core Rulebook
    • Dragon Age - Roleplaying Game, Core Rulebook:  "Invisible Chains"
    • Dragon Age - Quickstart Guide:  "An Arl's Ransom"
    • Dragon Age - Dark Fantasy Roleplaying, Set 1:  "The Dalish Curse"
    • Dragon Age - Game Master's Kit 1:  "A Bann Too Many"
    • Dragon Age - Game Master's Kit 2
    • Dragon Age:  "Duty Unto Death"
    • Dragon Age - Blood in Ferelden
      • Blood in Ferelden:  "Amber Rage"
      • Blood in Ferelden:  "Where Eagles Lair"
      • Blood in Ferelden:  "A Fragile Web"
      • Blood in Ferelden:  "The Sound Sleep of the Innocent"
      • Blood in Ferelden:  "All is Theft"
      • Blood in Ferelden:  "The Pilgrimage of Sister Stone"
    • Dragon Age - Dark Fantasy Roleplaying, Set 2:  "The Autumn Falls"
    • Dragon Age - Dark Fantasy Roleplaying, Set 3:  "Battle's Edge"
    • Dragon Age - Gamemaster's Kit (GM Kit) Revised
    • Dragon Age - RPG Set 1 (for levels 1-5)
    • Dragon Age - RPG Set 2 (for Levels 6-10)
    • Dragon Age - RPG Set 3 (for Levels 11-20)
    • Dragon Age Dice Set
    Dragon Age: Origins
    Webcomic, Penny Arcade
    Covers Templars hunting Flemeth before DAO (the game) begins

    Dragon Age: Origins
    Dragon Age: Origins ("The Stone Prisoner" DLC)
    Dragon Age: Origins ("Return to Ostagar" DLC)
    Dragon Age: Origins ("Warden's Keep" DLC)
    Covers 9:30-9:31 Dragon Age

    Dragon Age: The Revelation
    Covers interaction between Morrigan and Alistair near the end of the final events of DAO.

    Dragon Age: Warden's Fall (Parts 1-5)

    Dragon Age: Redemption (Parts 1-6)
    Web Series (6 parts)
    Covers 9:31 Dragon Age. Written by and starring Felicia Day. A companion to her DLC in Dragon Age II ("Mark of the Assassin").

    Dragon Age: Origins ("Witch Hunt" DLC)
    Covers 9:33 Dragon Age, but flows better if done between DAO and DAO: "Awakening"

    Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening
    Covers Nathaniel Howe's attempt on Vigil's Keep before the DAO: "Awakening" DLC

    Dragon Age: Origins ("Awakening" DLC)
    Covers Dragon Age 9:31

    Dragon Age: Origins ("The Golems of Amgarrak" DLC)
    As with "Witch Hunt," covers 9:33 Dragon Age, but flows better if done between DAO and DAO: "Awakening"

    Dragon Age II
    Dragon Age II ("The Black Emporium" DLC)
    Dragon Age II ("The Exiled Prince" DLC)
    Dragon Age II ("Mark of the Assassin" DLC)
    Covers Dragon Age 9:31-9:38 (and 9:40 in frame story & epilogue)

    Dragon Age II ("Legacy" DLC)
    Best if played near the end of Dragon Age II -- and definitely before DAI, since it serves as a kind of direct prequel.

    Dragon Age - The Silent Grove #1-6
    Graphic Novel, by David Gaider
    Covers 9:38 Dragon Age. Alistair, Isabela and Varric seach for a mystery in Alistair's past.

    Dragon Age - Those Who Speak #1-3

    Graphic Novel, by David Gaider
    Covers 9:38 Dragon Age

    Dragon Age - Until We Sleep #1-3
    Graphic Novel, by David Gaider
    Covers 9:38 Dragon Age

    Novel, by David Gaider
    Covers 9:40 Dragon Age

    The Masked Empire
    Novel, by Patrick Weekes
    Covers 9:40 Dragon Age. The story of the intrigue behind the throne of Orlais, with Briala, Celene, Gaspard, Michel, Felassan, and more.

    Graphic Novel Series, by Greg Rucka
    Covers 9:41-42 Dragon Age

    The Last Court
    Online Game
    Enter via the Dragon Age Keep
    Covers 9:41 Dragon Age

    Dragon Age: Inquisition
    Dragon Age: Inquisition ("The Black Emporium" DLC)
    Dragon Age: Inquisition - Spoils Of The Avvar
    Dragon Age: Inquisition - Spoils Of The Qunari
    Dragon Age: Inquisition ("The Jaws of Hakkon" DLC—DAI Level 20-22)
    Dragon Age: Inquisition ("The Descent" DLC—Best played by DAI players level 21-24 or so.)
    Covers 9:41-9:42 Dragon Age. 

    Dragon Age: Knight Errant
    Graphic Novel Series, by Nunzio DeFilippis
    Covers 9:43 Dragon Age

    Dragon Age: Inquisition ("Trespasser" DLC)
    Game DLC
    Covers 9:44 Dragon Age. DAI Level 22-24

    Last Flight
    By Liane Merciel
    Covers 5:12-24 Exalted Age in Flashbacks (Chapters 2-5, 7-8)
    Also covers 9:41-9:42 Dragon Age in frame story
    NOTE: See my earlier entry, as this can be read after the events of DAI, since that's when the frame story takes place. But most of the book details the devastating decade-long Blight of the Exalted Age, and I feel it's far more moving and effective if read as a taste of just how bad a Blight can get, before the other works.

    Did I miss anything? Please do share your own thoughts, corrections, or suggestions!

    Friday, July 14, 2017

    The Warrior, the Thief, the Bull, and the Mages... (Dragon Age: Inquisition Overview, Part 3)

    Vivienne is gorgeously terrifying, but if you're brave enough,
    she'll be a valuable companion in DAI. Just don't piss her off.
    As gorgeous as the game's environments and vistas can be, for me it's the characters in Dragon Age: Inquisition that resonate and stay in my memory—all of which are rich, entertaining, complex and beautifully written. As a gamer, I enjoy visiting the world of Dragon Age often, but I'm not there for the scenery—I'm there to visit its gorgeously rendered characters, companions and advisers—all of whom are complex enough to feel like beloved friends.

    As Dragon Age: Inquisition unfolds, just as in DAO and DAII, the Companions and advisers to our protagonist in Dragon Age: Inquisition all share a few basic qualities: They're all brave, gifted, desperately seeking redemption... and lonely.

    Each companion is, most of all, desperately alone in some intrinsic fashion that goes down to their very soul. Each is seeking connection, a cause, something and someone to believe in. And each—we'll soon learn—is at a crossroads, whether of faith, alignment, loyalty, or belief.

    Hello, Old Friends...
    Cassandra's back! And as in DA2, she's a formidable
    warrior—as well as a secret fan of romantic drama.
    The first Companions we meet in DAI are Cassandra, the fiery, strong female Seeker warrior we first met in Dragon Age II, and Leliana, the quietly deadly bard and spymaster we met in Dragon Age: Origins (provided, of course, you visited the Lothering Chantry).

    Possibly no transformation or character arc is as startling or as moving as Leliana's—the charming young woman who was once our Warden's sweet, optimistic companion in Dragon Age: Origins is now a subtle and ruthless assassin who lives and breathes secrets, and whose delight in intrigue is exceeded only by her ruthlessness. Yet there are still signs of the girl we knew—Leliana still shows flashes of humor and sweetness, she still raises nugs as pets, and she still sings like an angel. She's also fiercely loyal, and while her inner circle is small, she would die for any of them without hesitation.

    Cassandra, meanwhile, hasn't changed nearly as much (thank goodness). As DAI begins, she's still beautiful, blunt, fierce, and stubborn, but as always her loyal heart, tenderness and romanticism reveal themselves early on, even during the first early journeys with the Inquisitor. Cassandra's initial overzealousness is even revealed to be the product of a secret and understandable grief later on. As always with our DA companions, nothing—and no one—is ever quite what they seem to be at first glance.
    It's always great to see Thedas's top dwarven hack writer. But
    alas, Varric's still not romanceable (a tragic waste of chest hair)
    We then meet up with our old friend Varric, the rogue, merchant, and pulp writer with the incomparable chest hair and uncomfortably close relationship with his crossbow Bianca. Varric's back from his narrow shave in Kirkwall, and because of the catastrophe across the land, he's now partnered up with his old nemesis Cassandra to do his part. And if you played DA2, you understand why Varric is guilty and fearful over the fact that he may have had a hand in bringing this catastrophe to pass.

    The New Crew

    Also traveling alongside Varric is a new character, an elven apostate named Solas, who very quickly demonstrates complex knowledge about the terrible breach in the sky (as well as about the magic/dream world of The Fade leaking through it). Solas is unassuming and quiet, but for those who look closely, he's already a fascinating and mysterious character. He's not Dalish (he wears no traditional face-tattoo) but is obviously not a city elf, either. He's proudly self-taught and is actually surprisingly confrontational in initial spirited debates with an elvish Inquisitor, revealing that he's not especially supportive of the Dalish OR the other elvish groups currently eking out segregated existences in alienages (conversations that are pretty sparky, challenging and fun if you decide to romance him). It's our first clue that Solas is someone who is worth exploring further as a character.

    "This world is full of wonders for those who seek them." Elven
    mage Solas is a fascinating companion who likes long walks
    and spirited debates, but he's not a fan of group singalongs.
    Meanwhile, the group eventually finds its way to early headquarters Haven, where we meet with our old friend Cullen, who's new an advisor—a Cullen who's now achieved maximum hotness, but there's a gentleness and sadness to him that is new to the character, and that adds a welcome complexity. He's joined by Josephine Montilyet, a diplomat who may be sweet as pie, but she navigates world politics and Orlesian deviousness with equal aplomb (even if she still, we find out later, plays with dolls when no one's looking). Alongside Leliana, these three people become our core council, and meet with our hero repeatedly throughout the game at the War Table to discuss quests, options, strategies in your fight against evil. They also increasingly reveal their own fears, frailties, and humanity to your hero depending on how you play (and whether you choose to romance them, in the case of Cullen or Josie, as the romances further expose their vulnerabilities).

    Sera's funny and vulnerable—an expert archer whose favorite
    word is "shite" and who shouts things like "Eat it! Ate it!" in
    battle. (Just don't call her 'elfy.')
    After a few more early storyline quests, we acquire the rest of our intrepid crew, and they as before are a group of incredibly complex people. You'll meet Sera, the funny, pugnacious and tough leader of a network of thieves and revolutionaries called The Red Jennies, and Sera's a mishmash of wonderful contradictions. She's hard as nails yet achingly vulnerable; she's an elf yet she utterly discounts and ignores her own race (and is in fact palpably racist against other fellow elves). She's adept at a shrug and a joke, she pretends to be uncaring, but Sera cares deeply about the common people, the peasants of Thedas who are most affected by the catastrophes afflicting the world. She's also witty and hilarious, but she can be startlingly rude, and in more than a few scenes I actually chose for my hero to tell her to shut up, because she was genuinely upsetting me.

    At about the same time you meet and recruit Sera, you also meet her polar opposite, the icy and elegant Circle mage Vivienne. Voiced by the always fantastic Indira Varma, Vivienne is at first easily pegged as a snooty courtesan who strategically avoided the real hardships of mages by scheming and sleeping her way into a life of nobility, but as always with Bioware characters, yes, she's cold and focused, but she has real depths, fears, loves, and prejudices of her own.

    Shortly after our return from the game's first major negotiation in Val Royeaux, we can go search for Grey Warden Blackwall in the Hinterlands, and we also receive an intriguing invitation to visit the Storm Coast to recruit the mercenary captain, The Iron Bull (marvelously voiced by Freddie Prinze, Jr.). And now I'm gonna have difficulty reining myself in, because Bull, like Solas, turns out to be one of the most subtle, complex, rewarding and mercurial characters in the Dragon Age universe (and I'm gonna have a lot more to say about him in upcoming blog posts about him alone).

    The Captain of the Chargers
    "I do some fighting, and drinking," says Bull, admitting he's a
    Ben-Hassrath spy for the Qunari. "And then once in a while I
    tell Par-Vollen about it." Turns out he's just a bit more
    complicated than that—and one of the game's best characters.

    At first glance, Bull's simply the obvious muscle. He's this big, bluff mountain of a man, a horned giant of the Qunari (the formidable warrior race we've met twice now, in DAO and DA2) who helms a likable, superbly capable band of misfit mercenaries called "The Chargers" as his personal combat unit. At first glance, Bull seems like a genial, if transparent, asset—he's so apparently open and honest that he tells you right away that he's a spy: "It might piss you off," he admits," but then he all but winks, just to allay our fears, calling out to his crew to pack up the booze and get ready to move. And it's all fine. He's funny, he's honest, he's a visibly capable captain and warrior, and he's on your side now. Don't worry about it.

    But Bull's so much more than that. He's more complex, more subtle, and infinitely more intelligent than he first appears. He's a contradiction in terms—he's everything he appears to be, to a degree—he IS a caring, capable commander, he is incredibly funny, affable and fun to have around. He's just also working several agendas at once, answering to both the Qunari back at headquarters in Par Vollen, as well as to you and the Inquisition—all while balancing his own private fears and yearnings to truly leave the Qun and go rogue (or "Tal-Vashoth"). Bull's defining loyalty quest, "The Demands of the Qun," is therefore an especially brilliant moment, as it's one of those quests that catches a character at their breaking point. your decision there will either evolve Bull into one of the game's most joyful and fully realized characters or will send him into a chilling emptiness with devastating consequences in the DAI final chapter, the DLC "Trespasser."

    "I want to stay," says the strange, shy and spiritual assassin
    named Cole. "I want to help."
    The last companions we recruit include the gentle and spiritual Cole, a gaunt, shy young man who speaks in alliterative, poetic words and phrases, and who seems able (among other things) to read minds. We also meet Tevinter mage Dorian Pavus, whose incredible handsomeness includes a curly mustache so flamboyant it has to be the source of a hidden superpower, and whose opinion of himself is only exceeded by his ability, kindness, and sense of humor. Like Bull, Dorian may be a representative of a hostile nation, but he's a lot more than that, and his personal loyalty quest is one of the richest and most moving in the game's storyline. The order in which you recruit Cole and Dorian is flipped depending on which faction you support (mages or templars) in the current world war—if you support templars (via the quest "Champions of the Just"), you'll meet Cole first, whereas if you support mages (via the haunting timebender "In Hushed Whispers"), Dorian will appear, with whoever is left appearing at the gates of Haven shortly after.

    These are your companions as your game gets underway, and depending on your character's choices, they will be your Inquisitor's advisers, friends, lovers, adversaries or enemies.

    Approvals and Judgments

    The companions in DAI were easily the key to my falling in permanent love with the game, because they're all so richly drawn, beautifully written, and vividly acted. The game's approval system means that these people are all judging you, and will have varying approval or disapproval reactions to your quests, conversations, judgments, and actions. 

    In other words, if you help a needy family in the Hinterlands? Bull, Solas and Sera—all constant supporters of alleviating misery and helping the common people—they will wholeheartedly approve every time. If you side with the templars, for example? Apostate mage Solas will disapprove. But if you side with the mages? Cassandra and Cullen will both voice their fears of the outcome. You cannot please everyone all the time, and navigating those opinions means that you will often have to wrestle with making decisions that feel right to your character, but which will also have tangible effects on their relationships.

    Meanwhile, the game's relationship approval levels range from "slightly approves/disapproves" across the gamut to "greatly approves/disapproves." This approval system is a vast improvement on DAO's rather simplistic "gifting" approval system (in which you could simply bribe companions with gifts to increase approval), and is also more subtle than DA2's "friendship/rivalry" system, as well. In addition, thanks to the game's occasionally inconsistent but beautiful banter system, complex and continuing conversations between your party members will evolve as the game's story goes along. The result? Some will discover mutual respect and companionship, some will fall in love, and others will turn active prejudice into a more subtle respect. Even your advisers feel like they have outside concerns and passions, revealing little moments of worry, fear, kindness, or cruelty during your War Table missions.

    Dorian is the handsomest mage in Thedas, and his mustache
    has superpowers.
    These approaches mean that your companions feel more like living, reactive people than like purely static or literary creations. The DAI companions feel like they have lives beyond your character. They aren't just waiting for your character to show up—they're off doing their own things—writing, drinking, fighting, singing, spying, etc. There are strong and joyful characters as well as haughty, cold ones and emotive, wounded ones, and they're always interesting and (best of all) surprising. Many of them also have personal quests for your Inquisitor, and those for Dorian, Iron Bull, Cassandra, and others are genuinely poignant and often surprising in what they reveal.

    In the end, as in any great stories, it's the characters you'll remember most. DAI understands that, as games, shows or films all too seldom do.

    Saturday, July 8, 2017

    DAI (Part 2): A Gaming Experience Gone Literary

    If you read my previous post, now you know about my nerdly origins—as well as what these games came to mean to me, especially Dragon Age: Inquisition.

    DAI offers stunning landscapes but it's the story
    that will stay with you in the end.
    But that's the thing: Dragon Age: Inquisition is so much more than a game. Even if it didn't build upon the beautiful and formidable foundation already presented in Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II, the sheer amount of story, character development, language, design/visual creation, background, culture and history to DAI is simply an astonishing achievement, one I fully set within reach of Tolkien's legendary appendices to The Lord of the Rings. It's fantasy as a multi-volume set, not as the usual sketchily plotted game universe or standalone short story. Encompassing literally millions of words of dialogue, lore and codex entries at this point, DAI is gaming fantasy as you always wished it could be; it's a playable book (or playable multiple books); it's fantasy presented as a series of satisfyingly thick volumes, as a month or two of campfire tales and legends, not as a flimsy tale of a single night.

    In Thedas, as in Los Angeles, you're nobody
    unless you have a really big door
    The thing about Dragon Age: Inquisition's worldbuilding is that it's complete, expansive, exhausting, and ultimately astonishing. It includes vast areas that are all exquisitely rendered and absolutely gorgeous. The game offers a breathtaking range of settings and experiences, and can be easily tailored to accommodate a multitude of playstyles. I'm one of those who likes to really do at least the majority of the quests and immerse myself, so at about 85 hours of gameplay on my first playthrough, I was still only at maybe 60% of the main plotline. When I finished my first playthrough, I'd spent over 150 hours in DAI—and I'd still missed huge amounts of content that included several quests, collections, areas, and opportunities. I've since completed five more playthroughs, and even on playthrough six (and at over 1000 hours played total), I'm still discovering new content constantly.

    It's All About the Experience

    Ultimately, DAI simply isn't built for the usual streamlined, linear "run to the final boss battle" approach, as something you can check off your to-do list. Instead, it's all about the experience. You can lose yourself for dozens of hours in each of the game's 10-12 regions alone, just wandering, doing minor quests, looting ore and materials, gawking at (or battling) dragons, and more. 

    It's always a relief when playing Dragon Age to meet
    an actual dragon. Suddenly, the stakes just got higher
    My suspicion with games like DAI and so many other RPG titles from Bioware is that, sure, it's created to provide a satisfying game, a great series of mental and technical gaming challenges. But to me, in their secret hearts, each of these games is truly created to provide story, to tell the tale, to provide an immersive "choose your own adventure" experience that will vary from person to person, from choice to choice. 

    And this most of all is the secret of the game's addictive qualities (and to those of the entire series), that realization that each and every playthrough can vary in a hundred different little ways that are built upon a vast, intelligent and often poetic foundation of lore.

    Gameplay Nuts and Bolts

    Combat in Dragon Age: Inquisition is fun, slightly simplified from DA2, and challenging in part for its limitations: You can only use eight skills from your skill tree in playing your character and companions. Another challenge to DAI combat that's new? Healing powers are kaput. This means, for mages, no more fast, easy healing abilities. Boom.

    The lack of healing powers was a learning curve at first, but it was a strategic developer choice I actually really enjoyed once I got into the game—it made me rethink my mage, and caused me to revise the way I played her abilities. Suddenly, I was no longer just a magical Duracell constantly filling up health and mana in my companions, but was instead focusing on kicking ass and causing damage, striking terror in the digital hearts of my enemies. Without healing powers, and with only eight health potions available among myself and my three companions, combat strategy played a huge part in how we got through battles and survived them. Best of all, suddenly I was playing my mage as the battlemage she'd always secretly longed to be.

    DAI combat is ultimately cleanly presented, logical and easy to master (and as always with Bioware, you can tailor gameplay from "Casual" to more hardcore combat settings like "Insanity" to win specific in-game achievements).

    Making Choices and Charting Your Hero

    Meanwhile, the quests and storylines of DAI are terrific, and several times, and, as with DAO and DA2, you'll be faced with complex and incredibly difficult choices that will have big in-game repercussions and that will permanently change your own story's progression and outcome.

    Building your hero involves a variety of tough choices.
    After this scene, should you put on sunglasses and
    walk away in slow-mo? (Yes. Yes, you should.)
    Each quest on the Inquisitor's main path contributes a new step forward in your campaign to defeat the evil Corypheus and the Rifts across the world, and each is ushered in with gorgeous montages, animations, and fanfare.  Some key primary quests in the game's main storyline that moved or surprised me most included the gorgeous, gobsmacking early milestone "In Your Heart Shall Burn," in which everything changes for your hero and their companions, and the witty and elegant "Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts," which takes place at the Winter Palace in Orlais, and which is far more about charm, strategy and intrigue than combat. I also loved the elegant gothic-horror atmosphere of "In Hushed Whispers," a time-bending  challenge in which you find yourself trapped in a castle with a strange and dashing new companion, Tevinter mage Dorian (whose mustache is practically a character on its own), while navigating a hellish alternate-universe timeline (if your companion The Iron Bull, one of my favorite characters in the game, is present, he looks alarmed when faced with Dorian's magnificence, growls, "Watch yourself. The pretty ones are always the worst.") By the end of that quest, especially, I was a mess, profoundly moved by a final sacrifice by a familiar character who gives her life—without hesitation—so that our Inquisitor can live.

    There are also several worthwhile loyalty missions and secondary quests for companions throughout DAI that offer similarly moving or emotional moments, and all of those moments underscore the fact that, when it comes to the world of Dragon Age, while the gameplay is important, it's the story and its characters that always reign supreme. 

    Check out my next post (number three of three) for the final section of my initial big-picture overview of Dragon Age: Inquisition.

    Monday, July 3, 2017

    The Low Place in the Hedge: How Gaming Saved Me

    Solas: "Survive the first thirty heartbeats, and you'll already have won."

    Did you ever try to go to Narnia? I did. Even in college, I never met a closet or wardrobe I didn't surreptitiously check for magical lands. And even before that, I'd always diligently explored any and all new ways to get to Middle Earth. 
    Eluvians are magical portals in the Dragon Age world.
    If I'd found one in the sixth grade? Or seventh? Eighth?
    Yeah. You wouldn't be reading this.

    Which existed, by the way. I knew this in my soul. Especially when it came to Tolkien's world. Even by 13, I'd tried and tried to find passage in every way I could. The certainty of his world felt like a knowledge thrumming just under my skin, a realization that magic in fact existed in the world, hidden only for the very most worthy. I couldn't give it up. The right combination, of course, would prove me vindicated.

    Unfortunately, the world happened. And adulthood. And all the predictable yucky stuff. And ultimately, I realized, oh, right. This was what being a grownup was like. When you stopped looking into closets for Narnia. When the dawning awareness hit you that maybe you should stop elven calligraphy or Tolkien linguistics or Lewis research or just generally Doing That... if you ever truly wanted to succeed in life.

    Mind you, I hadn't realized. I'd grown up an outcast. I'd been born with cerebral palsy and was a misfit who spent elementary school days wrapped in leg braces, corrective shoes, loneliness, occasional poverty, and the absolute best air of outward uncaring I could possibly manufacture. Inside, I was dying for connection. Outside, I was the human equivalent of a side-eye and a chilly shrug. People who attempted to connect with me were, ironically, most apt to be on the receiving end of a sarcastic quip and a dismissive glance. Hugs were not encouraged. I trusted few. My castle had to stay strong.

    Further complicating my situation, from first to fourth grade, I had a series of eye surgeries that included a full year of wearing a real, actual, incredibly ugly and flesh-colored eyepatch to school. The eyepatch got sweaty in summer and the string made an indentation in my already terrible bowl-haircut hairline.

    Being a nerd is only lonely on this side of the PC.
    It's the foundation of all RPG games and fandoms.
    It was hopeless. Even apart from the eyepatch, I was skinny when it was unfashionable and then fat when it was worse. I had straight mousy blond-brown hair that home perms did nothing to improve. I also had the worst buck teeth you've ever seen. The photo cube picture from my twelfth year (complete with Brownie Uniform and proud salute) is enough to make you weep.

    In the big-picture sense, I was incredibly lucky overall—all of this was part of an incredibly mild case of CP (the brain damage I'd suffered at birth had been so much less severe than it might have been), and I valued and recognized that luck constantly. However, I still hated myself every waking minute. I looked funny. Walked funny. Thought funny. If I didn't monitor myself consciously, I walked like a chicken, hunched over and tentative, arms and legs drawn in close to my torso (and classmates often held contests to see who could best walk like me).

    But fantasy saved me. Every time things got bad, I just closed my eyes and floated away to Narnia, to Meg and Proginoskes, to Arthur and Merlin, to Bilbo and Frodo and Middle Earth (where I was a capable, brisk and beautiful female hobbit named Falin who knew exactly how to avoid trolls and navigate Mirkwood). Even better was the time I discovered Eowyn, and she became my mental avatar and avenging angel.

    And then I was okay.

    The real world was stickier. Despite my efforts, everything was noticed. And until I reached the eighth grade and had learned some social skills Bull himself (and the Ben-Hassrath) would have valued, I honestly thought school was supposed to be as hellish as it was. In fact, I was so constantly thrown down stairs, knocked down, shoved in lockers, punched, hit, mocked, pissed on, and constantly abused in seventh grade that my principal apologized to me almost weekly, calling me into his office personally on an ongoing basis to apologize. Then I'd thank him, shrug, try to get through the rest of the day, and go home to read Tolkien or Poe in my bedroom while listening to ABBA (a strange yet potent combination). 

    I eventually learned to adapt, to say funny things at just the right times, to deflect, and blend. Thank goodness. (Although I'm deeply grateful that I didn't live in a time of social media, because I cannot say that I would have survived if the bullying had proceeded 24/7.)

    The Secret Hobbit Companion

    The good news is, while I was learning how to get along, I had my books. I had my music. I knew the value of dreams.

    In fact, until I was 11 or so, I'd actually kept a backpack packed deep within the recesses of my closet, positive I was another Jill Pole, in preparation for the certain day when Gandalf would ultimately rap on my door and tell me my destiny (which of course he would). And then, see, I knew... I knew I'd panic, yet still I'd hastily throw together my backpack and hooded cloak (you have to have one if you're going adventuring), and I'd follow him out and away, jumping over the low place in the hedge and chasing the magical destiny that I knew had always awaited me.

    I think the secret power of being a nerd is... like Quentin Coldwater in Lev Grossman's The Magicians, you never quite outgrow that belief in magic. You're always looking for the glitch, the subtext, the secret that will take you away. It's there. It has to be there. And even when the trick is revealed, and you're told, over and over again, "No, it's just a book/game/film," you still privately always believe it exists. Even when the world has hammered it out of you (or so it thinks). Just ask Quentin.

    Me, I still believed. At 20. At 30. At 40. And, ahem, beyond... So when Gandalf didn't show up, I waited. Wrote my own stories. Consoled myself with games, TV, movies, and all the fiction I could wallow in. But I was still waiting.

    Then I played LOTRO (the lovely and lore-rich MMORPG of The Lord of the Rings Online), and later on, the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series (and most especially Dragon Age: Inquisition) and that's where the miracle happened. Time somehow unspooled and ran backwards. I was whole again, magical and hopeful. I remembered my secret wonderful hidden old hobbity/dwarfly backpack. And in a flash, I knew that long-ago backpack had been dark green in color. And that there had been a rough spot on the lower left-hand side. That I had stuffed it with random household foods that wouldn't be missed for the trip (from apple-pie filling to Cheetos). Everything flooded back in a moment of pure, visceral flashback. 

    In other words, playing Dragon Age: Inquisition was the first time in my life I ever felt like, "Wait... I think I've actually found the magic wardrobe. Even if I don't quite get to go there." It wasn't just an escape. It enabled me to write a story and then enact its outcome, to create a hero or heroine that lived and breathed there, who fell in love, who lived and even (potentially) died. From there, I also found all sorts of wonderful discussion groups and boards, filled with people who were equally passionate about the world of Thedas, and who saw nothing odd in arguing about the hidden meanings of the quest "The Demands of the Qun," for instance, for hours at a time. 

    I'd experienced this before, of course, to some degree, most especially with friends who were fellow Tolkien fans. But this went beyond that, in an odd and intense way. Because games are present-tense and of the moment, and because the DA fandom is almost always involved in a replay of some part of the trilogy, there's a part of you that's wherever you are in the game. You're out in the real world, doing real-world things, but somewhere, beyond the eluvian, your Hawke is attempting to make peace between the mages and the templars. Or your Warden's trying to decide whether or not to do the Dark Ritual. Or your Inquisitor is trying to get the hang of her spooky new ability to shoot green flame from her hand. Your hero or heroine is always out there, simply waiting for you to continue the adventure.

    Thanks to Dragon Age, the low place in the hedge was right there in the computer. And it was real. A single RPG game had reminded me of the magic, reminded me of the little kid I'd been, the one who'd dreamed of adventures with Bilbo and who'd kept that backpack in her closet, ready and waiting for the knock at the green door.

    I was not alone.

    "Dragon Age: Dreadwolf" Predictions & Ponderings (and "What's in a Name?" Redux)

    He doesn't call, he doesn't write, but finally, it looks like we might be hearing from Solas at last (2023?), as BioWare announces t...