At the recent 2018 Game Awards event, fans of the Dragon Age series were presented with a surprise teaser trailer for the next entry in the fantasy series, Dragon Age: The Dread Wolf Rises. The teaser features a voice-over from Solas, an elven companion featured in the previous entry Dragon Age: Inquisitor, whose true identity is that of Fen’Harel, the titular Dire Wolf. Solas repeats a line from the Trespasser DLC, “So, you’ve found me at last. I suspect you have questions.” Considering the cliffhanger ending of the DLC, it is evident that many fans will have choice words for Solas.
Following the announcement John Epler, the Narrative Director for The Dread Wolf Rises, claims to have begun receiving messages from fans concerned that Epler would attempt to awkwardly interject hamfisted politics into the next entry. Fans pointed to Epler’s open proclamation of being a Leftist featured in his Twitter profile as cause for concern.
In response to these concerns from fans, Epler responded by noting that a focus on diversity and Epler’s politics will be featured in The Dread Wolf Rises:
A few folks telling me, after seeing my twitter profile, not to bring my politics into the game. Dragon Age has always been about belonging – about realizing that family is more than blood and about celebrating our diversity and differences. It will remain so.
Dragon Age is about hope, about how love and friendship are forces for good and about how, in the end, what we have is each other.
Ultimately, though – all art is politics. It’s just a hell of a lot easier to ignore it when those politics match up with yours:
I wear my heart, and beliefs, on my sleeve. And I always will.
Epler would again touch upon this subject a few days later as he attempted to clarify his statements:
Saying ‘all art is political’ does not mean that everything is analogous to specific real world politics. It means the art you create, and how you create it, are both shaped by the world you inhabit and your interactions with it – and it feeds back into that world, shaping it.
Acknowledging that means you can be aware of your own biases and experiences, and how they impact what you create. The only way to be apolitical is to not create anything.
To expand a little more – I’ve had people see my ‘DA is about the power of friendship, and that family is more than blood’ as me missing the point of DA. But each DA has been about those things at the core. DAO, your origin ended with you cut off from the family you knew (1/?)
The Wardens became your new home. And when Duncan, your adoptive father, was killed, it was about you pulling together to face the Blight, allying with outcasts and other ‘orphans’ (Oghren, Zevran, Alistair, Morrigan) to do it.
DA2 – your sibling dies immediately. You lose your other one at the end of Act 1, and your mother not long after. Your actual family is gone – but you’ve built a new one out of those you’ve met along the way. And that’s how you survived – how you became the Hero of Kirkwall.
DAI begins with you under threat of execution, someone with nowhere to run to. But when you form the Inquisition – they become your home. And you give a home to others – Iron Bull, who no longer knows where he belongs. Blackwall, running from a dark past.
Among others! Because no matter the threat you face, no matter what you’re gearing up to go after – you’re doing it with the family you’ve built, not the one you were born into.
That’s not even getting into the much more up front and obvious politics – Elves, Mages, Dwarven castes, drug addiction, slavery. That’s why it’s really weird to me to see people react so -aggressively- to what I’m saying.
However, the state of modern Dragon Age is radically different from the series inception. Dragon Age: Origins was firmly rooted in ‘Dark Fantasy’ rather than an exploration of belonging and family. Environments appeared in desolate color tones, the ever-present threat of the all-destructive Blight constantly impacted the world, and there was constant political turmoil, whether be it due to false accusations against the Grey Wardens or Eamon’s plot to seat Alistair upon the seat, inform the dark setting the Warden finds themselves exploring. While dark content such as Ketojan’s suicide or Kelder’s insanity still appears, the overall tones of recent entries are devoid of the heavy gravitas and impact that the content would have had upon the world and the story. Where Dragon Age once held lore that would provoke questions of morality and justice, it appears that Epler wishes to take the series in a more sanitized direction.
Many fans also cite the abysmal Mass Effect: Andromeda, another Bioware title, as a basis for their fears of political interjection. The development team for the most recent entry in the Mass Effect series sought to shoehorn social justice talking points into the game but did so in offensive and poorly written ways, such as proudly touting an embarrassing transgender caricature or by hiring a blatantly anti-white racist game designer. Meanwhile, as the team focused on social justice, the actual game itself was released as a buggy, nearly unplayable mess which resulted in disappointing sales, scathing public reception, and the eventual collapse of the team responsible.
No details, such as release dates or target platforms, have currently been announced for Dragon Age: The Dread Wolf Rises.