While all Dragon Age players have their own canon world state (my Hero of Ferelden sacrificed herself to end the Blight, and I stand by this as the canon ending of DA:O!), it’s clear from the Dragon Age supplemental stories, such as Tevinter Nights and, now, Dragon Age: Absolution, that the developers also have an idea of what is canon. Watching Absolution gives plenty of clues on what the developers think players did in Dragon Age: Inquisition. Check out these Easter Eggs from the animated miniseries to find out how your world state matches the default Dreadwolf starting world—and what you did differently.
As noted above, there are spoilers below for both the Dragon Age games and the Netflix series Absolution.
Being an Elf Sucks
This may seem too obvious to bear repeating, but it really, really sucks to be an elf in Thedas. The plot reveals of Dragon Age: Inquisition show that while Solas/Fen’Harel may not consider himself closely related to modern elves, he’s willing to destroy the whole world to improve their lot. Or to undo the damage of the Fade. But mostly to take down everyone but the elves. While in the games, players get to see how awful it is to live in an Alienage, or how much self-hatred comes out of being raised to look down on your own people (looking at you, Sera), watching Absolution’s hero, Miri, deal with the wreckage just being an elf in Tevinter made of her life really illuminates how awful Thedas is for elves.
From the get-go, while Miri has her close friends (and has the respect of a gang of thieves over their own boss), it’s obvious people hold being an elf against her. This only gets worse when she and the Absolution team go to Tevinter to return to her old stomping grounds. She was enslaved by a family of magisters, raised with her brother to be an assassin and bodyguard to Rezaren Ammosine, who is potentially in line to become Tevinter’s next Divine. But while she had a certain status due to the political status of the Ammosines, she and her brother were always treated as disposable—and, indeed, her brother was sacrificed by Rezaren’s mother without a second thought so that Rezaren could succeed. Miri’s relationship with Rezaren, and her desire for freedom and agency, are shaped by what it means to be an elf in Thedas. (For Dalish Inquisitor players, there’s a real feeling of payoff in watching Miri, knowing that you, too, faced that same prejudice and triumphed anyway.)
In Inquisition, the Inquisitor has a chance to choose the fate of Fairbanks, a noble who has become a freedom fighter in the Dales. In Absolution, Fairbanks returns, clearly having been recruited by the Inquisition, as he’s working on one last mission for the cause. The implication, by the way he wears a signet ring and pays all the expenses for the heist, is that the Inquisitor chose to out Fairbanks as a noble—but that generally, life has gone well for him in the meantime, and he’s gotten married to a wife who pokes fun at him, but whom he loves.
It’s a shame, then, that his tenure in Absolution is so short. In the second episode, he attacks Hira, the Inquisition mage he partnered with to retrieve a magical artifact, and she fights back, dealing a mortal blow. The narrative plays with the idea that Fairbanks has been a traitor all along, which just doesn’t gel with the way the character was developed in Inquisition. When it turns out that Fairbanks wasn’t ever the real traitor, it makes more sense in world (even though it’s a devastating turn for Miri).
Herald of Andraste/The Fate of the Inquisition
In Inquisition, players have to decide how much they embrace the role as Chosen and as a divine hero, representing the will of Andraste herself. Inquisitors who continue to promote themselves as religious figures, whether they believe it or just find it a useful lie, keep being referred to as the Herald of Andraste throughout the game. The first mention of the Inquisitor in Absolution refers to them as the Herald of Andraste, meaning that the Inquisition retained its religious context rather than being viewed as primarily political.
The Inquisition also broke up, a choice players could make in the DLC Trespasser. Hira and Fairbanks have taken on one last mission from the disbanded Inquisition, and it’s the fact that the Inquisition refuses to take the good fight to Tevinter, to take down the corrupt Imperium, is a driving force behind Hira’s choices throughout the show.
Despite Absolution taking place primarily in Tevinter (giving viewers possible glimpses of settings for Dragon Age: Dreadwolf, like the summer palace that Miri, Hira, and Fairbanks target for their heist, information about the Imperium itself is fairly limited. Viewers see the downtrodden elves, primarily faceless soldiers (behind their signature helmets), and a blood mage Magister who is so far gone he lost the thread of morality well before the show starts. There is, however, one noble Tevinter character: Tassia, the Knight Commander of the summer palace, who tries to bring Rezaren back from his flirtations with blood magic. (Sorry, Tassia, that’s never really a possibility, but good on you for trying.) Tassia despises the Venatori and believes that Tevinter can be a great empire—she’s shocked when Hira, a fellow Tevinter, has turned against their nation, because she can’t fathom that response.
Of course, when Miri and friends kill Rezaren, leaving Tassia broken hearted in two ways (she’s had to face her disappointment and horror that he was definitely a full-fledged blood mage, and now he’s dead), Tassia is set up to become a full-blown villain in Season 2. But given her strong moral compass and loyalty in Season 1, it’s just as likely that she’ll end up joining our heroes by the end.
(Alas, no sign of Dorian in Absolution, though a “Pavus” is mentioned and it’s clear a second season is planned, so viewers can hope!)
The Identity of the Divine
While this one is more of a stretch, based on the flashbacks Hira and Fairbanks offer describing their mission, it very much looks like Cassandra has remained a Seeker (likely restoring that Order), and Leliana has stayed on as a spymaster. When Hira gets her assignment, and later when she pleads with Leliana to send her on an anti-Tevinter mission, Leliana is wearing her regular spymaster clothing, not the robes of the Divine. When Hira leaves for the mission, in fact, we see her leaving Skyhold with silhouettes of Leliana, Josephine, and Cullen in the background. A similarly timed image of Cassandra features the Inquisitor’s stalwart companion in her Seeker’s armor. So it’s very likely that neither Cassandra nor Leliana rose to the position of the Divine in the canon version of Thedas.
What viewers can guess from this is that Vivienne became the Divine—which means that the Inquisitor sided with the Templars rather than the mages when they had to recruit one group or the other. This choice has some huge potential impacts for the default world state of Dragon Age: Dreadwolf, as mages being back within the Circle structure means Tevinter—and the Venatori—could have fertile recruiting ground for bringing Apostate mages into their fold. With the Venatori on one side and a literal elven god on the other, the player character of DA4 is going to have a very fine tightrope to walk on…
The Crimson Knight and DA2
As it is, the red templars are still out and about in the world, working toward the downfall of Tevinter under the guidance of someone called the Crimson Knight, who “will have my war.” The line is one of the few spoken by the Crimson Knight, and while the voice may not be instantly recognizable, the credits reveal that it is “Meredith.” That would be Knight Commander Meredith of Kirkwall, who was corrupted by a red lyrium idol at the end of Dragon Age 2, after which she was ostensibly defeated by the player protagonist, Hawke, and their companions.
There is no mention of Meredith returning in any form in Inquisition, nor of Kirkwall being overrun by lyrium knights (it’s not a location you visit in Inquisition, but that game ends with Varric—who appears in both that game and DA2—becoming a viscount in Kirkwall and working on rebuilding it. Timeline-wise, that suggests that this corruption is currently happening underground. As for Meredith herself, she seems like she is now trapped within the dangerous red lyrium and looking to continue her templar war on mages by turning her sights to Tevinter, which could be part of the plot of DA4, which of course takes place there (Varric also narrates that trailer. Coincidence?) But most importantly, it makes the DA2 storyline (from an unfairly maligned game) matter more overall. At least, to Absolution—and hopefully DA4 as well. —Allison Keene
The fate of the world (and its canon) remain in the hands of the Dragon Age players who take on the mantle of the hero—but if you don’t import your world state as you start the new game, it’s likely this is the one you’ll be waking into.
Alana Joli Abbott is a reviewer and game writer, whose multiple choice novels, including Choice of the Pirate and Blackstone Academy for Magical Beginners, are published by Choice of Games. She is the author of three novels, several short stories, and many role-playing game supplements. She also edits fantasy anthologies for Outland Entertainment, including Bridge to Elsewhere and Never Too Old to Save the World. You can find her online at VirgilandBeatrice.com.
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