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Romance In Dragon Age

Romance is only a shred of BioWare's sprawling storylines, but to some fans, it's the focus of their journey (whether BioWare intends for it to be or not).

Picking your one-and-only isn't easy with all the eclectic personalities in the Dragon Age universe, especially if your beau has opposing views. How does BioWare make these romances so appealing? Are they planning changes in Dragon Age: Inquisition? Find out why selecting romance candidates are never cut-and-dried, and how BioWare attempts to bring out a different side to a character during courtship.

Picking The Woo-Worthy


Love isn't decided right out of the gate. BioWare builds its characters before even thinking about the romantic content. "If you build the temptress or something like that, you're going to build a cliché," says creative director Mike Laidlaw. "You need to make sure they're a real character and a person first." Once BioWare forms the history and motivations, the writers sit down to address how many romance options they need, and begin dissecting their characters.

"We'll talk about what the romantic arc is and what that character's story can tell as a romance," says lead writer David Gaider. "Because there's more than insert coin, get sex, right? There are different types of romantic tales and romantic archetypes. I know people can water it down and say they're all the same, [but] no they're not, there's a different story that can be told." This can be seen with polar opposites Morrigan and Leliana in Dragon Age: Origins. Leliana provides a traditional romance arch; you had to build up her trust and then she starts addressing you lovingly. Morrigan's is more about reading between the lines and not giving up on getting into her heart. "You could almost sleep with Morrigan immediately — before you even got to know her at all — and that was part of her thing," Gaider says. "She expected that and right afterwards it'd be over, but you could then scratch beneath the surface and break through her armor."

Giving players a variety of romance arcs is something the writers address by making sure they have the right people in place for the role. "When we're talking about what these romantic arcs are going to be, we're trying to figure out if we're going to provide choice for a player, what [styles of romance are you choosing between], and seeing what we have," Gaider says. "If we have no variety, then maybe we have to move back more towards content." Laidlaw adds, "Or do we need to take another character and say, 'You know what? Guess what? You're getting in the big leagues.'"

But characters aren't necessarily axed from the paramour role if they're not working. Sometimes, BioWare has to look at a character in a different light to cast them as a unique and viable romance contender. "Trying to figure out what the romance is...sometimes it requires you to sit back and think about the character a slightly different way because you've always thought about them [one way]," Laidlaw says. This is exactly what Gaider had to do when he wrote Morrigan's romance. "Morrigan initially was not supposed to be a romance," Gaider says. When the decision came to put her in that role, Gaider had to think long and hard about the character he created. "I had to change the way I thought about her," he says. "[I saw her] as her having built up this sort of armor around herself — that there was a different person underneath. One that she purposely had to squelch because she thought that [it] was weak, because that was what she had been taught. Suddenly when I thought about that, it was, 'Oh, that's an interesting place to go.'"

BioWare also has to make sure they've looked at a relationship from every angle. This forces the team to look beyond just the premise and into what implications it presents. "Are there issues of feminism or other problematic elements? What are we saying about this character we aren't intending to?" Gaider says. "We have to think about all those issues first and try to distill it down into a set of stories that we want to tell and feel good about telling."

Up next: Romance challenges and changes for Inquisition...

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