Lost in Translation: When You Don’t Know the Lore, Substitute Your Own

Dragon Age
Elsa (Frozen) in Dragon Age: Inquisition

I am the first to say it when I don’t understand something. I know some people wait, hoping that they gain understanding before admitting defeat. When it comes to video games, I will constantly shout out, “What is happening right now?!” If it is a video game with a long history, a drawn-out background, or three other games behind it that basically require you to study the lore like you’re taking a final exam, I say no. That’s probably why I love Crash Bandicoot and some of the oldies, because I can easily pick it up without needing to do research, although a little backstory may enhance your gameplay.

This is a common occurrence for Dragon Age, which is something my sister introduced me to, so I blame her for my current fixation. If you are like me and don’t know anything about Bioware games or Dragon Age lore, then you know what a large project this actually is. This journey has taken a little over a year for me to fully grasp—however, I think I cracked the code on how to jump into a beloved series.

My journey really took off when I created Elsa Lavellan, an ice mage. Yes, that Elsa. As I had my trusty sister beside me to explain in basic terms what larger plot points were or the importance of certain decision-making dialogue, I chose to make these choices not as myself, but as another character that I knew well.

Elsa is a diplomatic character, understanding the importance of networking with nobles and putting the safety of her people above all else. This made things easy conversationally—always making sure that Elsa responded in the kindest way possible. Obviously, in larger plot points, this was harder to maintain, but I saw each major chapter through the eyes and temperament of a familiar character, thus it was easier to understand the lore.

Dragon Age
Katniss Everdeen (THG) in Dragon Age: Inquisition

Currently, I have Katniss Cadash, a rogue archer (pictured above). This is where I expanded my comparison to other characters. Although I understood the main story of Dragon Age: Inquisition through my playthrough with Elsa, I was still unfamiliar with the background of my Inner Circle. By matching them up with characters who were more familiar to me, I was able to understand their motivation a bit better. Choosing The Hunger Games worked a lot better than I thought, to be honest.

It all fell into place, really. I understood the lyrium turmoil with Cullen more when I saw him as a tortured Peeta Mellark. I understood the betrayal of Blackwall through the eyes of a heartbroken Katniss realizing Gale had been the one who ultimately killed her sister. I understood the delicate nature of the Inquisitor’s relationship with Cole by seeing him through the eyes of Katniss trying to protect the innocence of her sister, Primrose.

By now, I was having too much fun combining these different worlds. Katniss and Elsa were so different in their decision-making and their views of war that it was like playing an entirely new game. Recognizing my enthusiasm, my sister suggested that I try Dragon Age 2, which I did through the eyes of Rick Grimes from AMC’s The Walking Dead. That, too, turned out surprisingly well.

Dragon Age
Rick Grimes (TWD) in Dragon Age 2

I started playing DA2 without any knowledge of the lore or what the main plot was. I made Rick (above) by accident, really, not thinking about it at first, but knowing I needed a familiar character to help guide me. Rick turned out great. His meticulous, analytical personality was achieved easily through more of the direct dialogue choices. He is also extremely driven to protect his family, which fit well with Hawke’s story.

Naturally, Varric was Daryl with his quick wit and crossbow. And as a mage, Rick was left with Carver, who I deemed to be the perfect representation of early Carl’s naivety. (Bonus: Merrill’s growth of a character suited well for a mix of Beth and Carol from TWD.)

I don’t think this technique would work for just people looking to get into an already well-established video game series. It’s also a great way to reignite/refresh an already beloved game by adding some of your other favorites to the mix. Why not meld them together?

What’s your favorite game that you’ve played countless times? Would you be willing to give this a go and refresh the story a bit? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @GLaDOS_hype.


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