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Putting The Dragons In Dragon Age

Few fantasy creatures are as recognizable as dragons, a fact that can be a blessing and a curse for a video game. They have the potential in inject jaw-dropping moments, but creating a vision for the creatures that is not clichéd can be challenging. This is especially important for a series that sets expectations with a name like “Dragon Age,” but BioWare has found success making its dragons interesting – and the team is making even bigger strides with Dragon Age: Inquisition.

Dragon Age draws its name from the period of time in the world that the franchise chronicles. An age spans 100 years, and each is named for significant events occurring at the time. In this case, after being hunted nearly to extinction, dragons began reappearing in the world thanks to old clutches of eggs finally hatching.

“There was this massive battle between the Fereldens and the Orlesians,” says Inquisition’s creative director Mike Laidlaw. “The Fereldens were winning, and a dragon did a fly-by, and they were like, ‘Wow. That’s a sign. We know what this next age is going to be called.’”

Seeing a dragon fly over the battlefield isn’t just an intimidating sight in the world of Dragon Age; it means something. “The Dragon has always been this agent of change and tumult,” Laidlaw says. “It’s almost like an astrological sign – except rad.“ This symbolic importance of dragons plays a major role in Inquisition. It may not be set during the turning of an age, but more dragons exist in the world than any during any previous Dragon Age title, which can only mean a shake-up of the current order.

“They’re emblematic – not symptomatic – of the change that’s sweeping across the nations,” Laidlaw says. “As the dragons come back and become more prominent…the world is getting increasingly unstable. Through its own forces, through blights – you name it.”

Apart from what they represent, an influx of dragons presents another problem. Unlike the classic Dungeons & Dragons versions of the beasts – intelligent, magically gifted – the dragons of Thedas don’t have nuanced personalities or complex motivations. They are hunters, first and foremost. “Our dragons are basically apex predators,” Laidlaw says. “They are about as intelligent a very smart dog. We’ve compared them to the mabari [hounds].”

So, not only is the world full of strife, but it is also crawling with vicious predators. It’s a dangerous time for a resident of Thedas, but an opportune time for heroes anxious to prove their bravery.

Next: How to fight dragons

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