Friday, June 14, 2013

Dragon Age: The World of Thedas Volume 1

Guys, I have seen the annotated history of the world, and it is glorious.

Many years, coffees and sleepless nights in the making, The World of Thedas is a hefty 185 page hardback that has been designed and orchestrated within an inch of it's life. This has been released by Dark Horse, who were responsible for last years The Art of the Mass Effect Universe, and there's a very similar approach taken in basic format - though AoME is primarily a Making-Of with a focus on design, and The World of Thedas is an encyclopedia of what we know about Thedas and it's history and inhabitants up to the current day, written in-world.

Join me after the jump for some beautiful imagery and excitable babbling - or click HERE for my exclusive interview with author and BioWare editor Ben Gelinas!

Since it's basic premise is that the volume is an academic text, it means relevant chapters are supplemented by pieces written by in-game characters - and it's been a while since Dragon Age II, so it's a treat to be reading something written in Isabela's voice, or to clarify things obliquely referenced in the first two games.

Running through the majority is this coded timeline, from the beginning of known history and right up to the most recent event - Cassandra Pentaghast interrogating Varric Tethras. No gems of future events, sadly, though it filled in a portion of the time gap between the gameplay of DAII and the Cassandra/Varric sequences. (If you want further info on this period, David Gaider's Asunder does a fair bit of explaining). It also clarified how DA:O and DAII overlap, since a substantial portion of the two games are happening at the same time in different places.

The pages are quite heavy stock and vibrantly colored, credit going to Nick Thornborrow for extremely impressive design and illustration work. Of special mention are the sequences of religious triptychs covering the ascent and death of Andraste - the details are minute and beautiful, and very impressive considering I don't think there would have been room to use them in-game. 

Of specific interest to me was the interior workings of the Qunari. If DAII clarified anything it was that there would never be peace in Thedas while the Qunari reside at Par Vollen, and I'm so fascinated by this portion of Thedas' history and the role the Qunari play in the near-constant fighting. 

Rounded out with a substantial bestiary covering darkspawn, dragons, spirits and elementals, plus a thorough glossary, it's hard to spot where the book could have been expanded. The multiple choices made by players within Origins and II place some limits on the documented involvement of the Hero of Ferelden/The Grey Warden/Warden Commander and Hawke, but they still feature, along with a few key NPCs (dammit Anders) who play a major role in current developments. We get a substantial section on regions like Nevarra which have stayed in the shadows until now, which makes me hope that Nevarra will play a role in the third installment. 

And the stylised fresco artwork dotted through the book is so timeless and well executed. I won't be stuck for desktops for a good long time.

Oh god, Orsino, whyyyy

The artistry of this book is undeniable, and certainly for those of us with a vested interest in the DA franchise (cough), or even those who just enjoy the technicalities of world-building, it's worth owning. Dark Horse and BioWare produce some real quality together, and any of their titles are worth the time and money. This particular one is glorious and I love the hell out of it. 

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