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'Dragon Age: Absolution' Gives Fans a Satisfying Return to Thedas

By Alison Lanier | TV | December 22, 2022 |

By Alison Lanier | TV | December 22, 2022 |


Absolution.png

Netflix has had a pretty good run with video game-adjacent adaptations, from The Witcher to Arcane. Neither of those was strictly a video game adaptation though—The Witcher largely drew on Andrzej Sapkowski’s novels rather than the video game canon, and Arcane was a foundational backstory for League of Legends’ playable champions. So Dragon Age: Absolution was something of a new venture: a video game adaptation that took place directly after the most recent installment of the series, Dragon Age: Inquisition, and anticipates 2023’s much-awaited Dreadwolf game release. And let me tell you, it’s a roaring success.

Absolution pulls off the tricky balance of generating original material, stories, and characters while staying true to its game roots. But most importantly, it feels like it belongs in the world of the games. From their multi-layered backstories to their very creative swearing, I could see any of the show’s character making an appearance in the game itself (I kind of hope they do?).

The six-part animated series takes us to the much-discussed but never seen game setting of Tevinter for the first time. The show is a concise, well-executed heist story in which we follow our lovable adventuring party on the final mission of the Inquisition: stealing a prized Trevinter blood magic artifact from under the nose of one of the Imerpium’s most powerful magisters.

If a lot of those words didn’t make sense to you, odds are you might have a similar experience with the show. Folks who have played the games will get much more from this show than newcomers, and therein lies the show’s only real flaw: the world of Dragon Age is massive and complex, and while Absolution is accessible and exciting even for nonplayers, gaming veterans definitely have a leg up. But for those new arrivals—welcome to the messy, profane, queer, and epic world that is Dragon Age.

Our story is told through the eyes of Miriam (voiced by Kimberly Brooks), an elven rogue and assassin who escaped slavery in Trevinter at high personal cost. She reunites with human mage and ex-lover Hira (Sumalee Montano), fresh back from service with the Inquisition, on a mission to rob Miri’s former masters.

That master is Rezaren (Josh Keaton), a complex and well-meaning villain who doesn’t understand why his slaves resent him. They all grew up together after all! He’s a powerful mage on the slippery slope in quest of the greater good—one of the franchise’s most time-honored and effective tropes. Tassia (Zehra Fazal) stands alongside him as bodyguard and potential (token hetero) romantic interest.

Our intrepid heroes, alongside Miri and Hira, include Roland (Phil LaMarr), a smooth-talking human warrior, and dwarf Lacklon (Keston John), a “Lord of Fortune” and gruff cynic. The absolute delight that is Qunari mage Qwydion (played by Ashly Burch, most recently and fittingly of Mythic Quest) was a stand-out for me: a true shimbo sweetheart. At their head is human, rogue, and Inquisition agent Fairbanks (voiced by Matt Mercer of Critical Role fame), the only central character to have made a previous game appearance, though only in a very minor way.

At the helm of this animated venture is Ki-Yong Bae, who directed all six episodes. He was also the animation director for Steven Universe and The Legend of Korra (for Studio Mir), as well as the more recent Witcher animated spinoff, Nightmare of the Wolf. You can see echoes of both Steven Universe and The Legend of Korra in Absolution’s animation and humor, and needless to say that’s a very good thing.

The show is definitely not for children: lots of gore, lots of swearing. And it’s also fantastic. This franchise is near and dear to my heart, and Ki-Yong Bae delivers a fan-pleasing, twisting-and-turning adventure that really feels like it brings us back to Thedas.