Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Shattered War: Staying true to Dragon Age - conflicts

As part of my modding effort in creating The Shattered War, I feel it is important to stay true to the world created by the Dragon Age series.  On a simple level this comes down to the pure lore aspects. Geography, history, the role of the Chantry, why dwarves can't be mages; the basic facts and figures that make up the world of Thedas. However, in order to stay true to the series, it's important to keep some thematic considerations consistent as well. While I'll look at some of the general themes in the future, in this post I'd like to look at some of the conflicts that help inform the Dragon Age setting.

The Darkspawn Threat
The first foray into the world of Thedas came as a result of the blight, and the grave threat of the creatures known as darkspawn. While considered by many to be nothing more than the creations of tales to scare children, the threat of darkspawn proved all too real for the inhabitants of the land of Ferelden. These creatures are brutal, ruthless and vicious monsters that murder (or if you're unfortunate enough, kidnap) people. Typically mindless and lacking direction and intelligence, they rely on the archdemon to control them and provide them with a purpose. The archdemons could only be defeated by people from the order known as the Grey Wardens - who are sworn to protect Thedas from these beasts.

 No ogres and no swords make Grey Wardens "something something".

The events of Awakening uncovered the ability for some darkspawn to have independent thought, though only after beeing freed from the "song" which speaks to them. The exact nature of this "song" is still unknown, and while some darkspawn may have even allied themselves with the Grey Wardens to seek an end to the darkspawn problem. Yet given the presence of darkspawn is anecdotally proven to harm the land and potentially kill non-darkspawn, such a peace may be difficult. The nature of the control of the darkspawn and their potential to kill others remain mysterious to be solved for either good or ill. The player's experience in The Shattered War will see them facing darkspawn, and dealing with the dangers that they pose.

Mage versus Templar
Now while many people might be sick of the mage templar argument thanks to Dragon Age 2, I had written the ideas for these conflicts to appear in The Shattered War after playing Dragon Age: Origins. The scope for conflict between these two factions is immense, and can take many different forms. The potential for the player to have killed the majority of the mages in Ferelden in DA:O is representative of a long-standing uneasy relationship between the two.

Angry Anders. Me no like templar! Anders SMASH!

The true problem is that the forces to rock the boat can come from both sides. Some templars are heavy handed in their treatment of mages, yet some mages wish to rebel against the Templars in a violent fashion, potentially leading to as escalation of conflict that can only end badly. Of course, the players will have a role in this conflict within The Shattered War. However, in comparison to Dragon Age 2, the players will have more of an impact in how those events play out. While the player may have to deal with the extremes of either end in terms of their allegiances, their choices will cause an effect in how these people view their character. The path to brokering peace requires a great deal of compromise, and a silver tongue alone will not be sufficient for reason to take the place of fighting.

Political Tension
Political tension is a key part of the Dragon Age world of Thedas. The Mage/Templar conflict is one such example, as are tensions with the Qunari but there is internal strife within Ferelden in DA:O, long standing emnity between Ferelden and Orlais, and Orlais itself is driven by political intrigue. To ignore the backdrop of factions vying for control and power would be to remove much of the interest from the world. In the Shattered War, the player is in The Frostback Mountains, which are a border between Ferelden and Orlais, and also home to the Avvars. People in the region have been at the forefront of the conflict between the two nations, leading to strong emotions on all sides.

 When you live here, conflict is a way of life

The are not only the issues at hand like the threat of darkspawn to deal with, but also the issue of how to gain the trust and cooperation of the people living in the region. Betrayal and bloodshed runs deep, so trust is a commodity that must be earned. Small scale tension is every bit as important as that occuring on the larger scale, and both will be seen during the events of The Shattered War. There are no right or wrong choices, and achieving an ideal outcome will be extremely difficult, if not outright impossible. Some wars require terrible sacrifices in order to prevail.

These conflicts are an essential part of what has shaped Dragon Age thus far, so in order to stay true to Dragon Age lore, it is vital that these conflicts appear within The Shattered War. Rest assured that all three shall appear in varying degrees, and all will play a part in not only the journey of the player through The Shattered War, but also its conclusion.

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