So I’ve probably said this before, but I’ll say it again.
The reason Dragon Age Inquisition feels so much like a misfire is because it missed a lot of the point of the previous games in the series. Where Inquisition was a story about a Chosen One figure being the only one who can fight and stop this threat, the kind of story we’ve seen repeatedly and constantly in the fantasy genre, Dragon Age Origins and especially Dragon Age 2 were designed to deconstruct the familiar tropes of the genre.
I mean, Dragon Age 2 is pretty much explicit in that fact. The point and purpose of the ‘Varric as narrator’ device is that Cassandra has heard the tale of the Champion of Kirkwall and now wants to know the truth, wants to know about the person behind that myth. What she ends up getting is a tale of an ordinary person dragged into situations beyond their control and, by virtue of a little luck and some faithful companions, ends up being the one still standing at the end of it. Hawke is no Chosen One. S/he’s just a person who was in the wrong place at the right time and got to be remembered as a hero.
And even the Warden has this trait - the Warden, by virtue of the origins mechanic, could not be ‘the Chosen One’ either. We get plenty of information on the other origins that indicate that, regardless of whether we chose to play as that character, those origins still occurred. Howe still invades Highever and kills much of the Cousland family. Endrin’s middle child is blamed for the death of his eldest and sentenced to the Deep Roads. Brosca entered the Provings and ends up dying in Jarvia’s prison cells. All the origins happen, it’s just your decision tells Duncan where to go to recruit.
Origins itself was meant to deconstruct a lot of the standard tropes in fantasy. Here, the elves were beaten and down-trodden, long past the days of their ancient, glorious empire, where any arrogance on their part was purely meant as the only way they really can fight back with humanity - ‘we may have little, but we will take pride in that little.’ Mages are not the wise and respected advisors to some noble, but instead are locked up and shackled in a tower because the abilities they have are dangerous and deadly if they’re allowed to run free. The dwarves, often considered ‘as constant as the stone’ are a stagnant and dying culture, and the one dwarf we ever really meet who embodies the stereotypes is Oghren, who is a pariah among his fellow dwarves. Hell, in many ways, the qunari are orc-analogs, and instead of being the simple bruisers whose first instinct is to crush and smash and destroy, they’re highly intelligent, to the point that they have technology far beyond what the humans have.
Dragon Age started as a deconstruction and even examination of old fantasy tropes. On a personal note, that’s what made the series so interesting to me - instead of just taking a Tolkien-style world at face value, Dragon Age took those tropes and turned them on their head. In some ways, it was asking the genre to evolve, because as influential as Tolkien has been, we’re at a point where the fantasy genre isn’t really moving outside of these narrowly defined categories of what fantasy has been. And fantasy that doesn’t imagine moving beyond that? That’s a waste of the genre and ideas.
But Inquisition… Inquisition wants to play those Tolkien style tropes far straighter than they’ve been in the past. And it doesn’t reconstruct them first. It just acts like that classic interpretation of things has been in play since the beginning, even though it hasn’t, and, in multiple cases, actively set out to go against them.
Dragon Age began with a lot of deconstruction of the fantasy genre, in some ways asking ‘is fantasy going to stay where it is or grow and evolve?’ And if Inquisition is an indication, the answer is apparently ‘stay where it is.’ Which if you ask me, that’s a damn shame, because there’s a lot that can be done with fantasy, if someone would just take the chance. I hope future games will.
The Truth in [Glitch]: Abyss and Satire of the Abyss (#3, WahWah Edit)
A slice of the Parergon section from a PDF of Derrida’s “The Truth in Painting” » JPEG of slice » 5 second YUV video + Sonification glitch » raw AVI video + Sonification glitch » x264 AVI video » Animated GIF