Developer BioWare clearly has big plans in store for the fantasy world they’ve created in the “Dragon Age: Origins” roleplaying game. After a very successful launch on the PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 last fall, March saw the release of the game’s first expansion, “Dragon Age: Origins–Awakening.” Picking up where the original game left off, the expansion gives players new locations, characters and story to explore. Fans will get a chance to dive even further into the world this month, as an ongoing “Dragon Age” series is launching under the EA Comics imprint, the second title to be created through EA’s collaboration with IDW. “Dragon Age” is being co-written by Aaron Johnston and Orson Scott Card, with pencils by Mark Robinson and inks by Jason P. Martin. IDW’s solicitation copy described the series as follows:
In a time lost to history, a war ravaged the land. Mages, incredibly powerful wielders of magic, ruled the world through mastery of dark arts and forbidden spells. Their lust for power almost destroyed all existence, and unleashed an unholy pestilence, the Darkspawn, to plague mankind, trolls, faeries, and all the inhabitants of the realm. Now magic is carefully controlled, taught behind the sacred walls of the Circle of Magi, and monitored by the ever-vigilant Templars. It is in this arena that a new generation of Mages in training will arise, warriors of sorcery who will defy the rules of the Templars and change the course of the world forever.
CBR was lucky enough to catch up with co-writer Aaron Johnston this week and get some additional details on what fans can expect from the series.
Aaron, what can you tell us about how the “Dragon Age” series will tie into the games?
Aaron Johnston: Fans of the game are going to love the comic. I think of it as an expansion pack to the game. The rules are the same, the mythology is the same. We’re just giving you more. New characters, new stories, a whole new way to immerse yourself in the universe.
Scott [Card] and I were especially fascinated by the adversarial role between Templars and Mages. Here are these two groups of people forced to co-exist in the Circle Tower, and they basically despise each other. That is fertile ground for stories.
So the comics follow a group of young Mages who are collected by the Templars and then brought to the Tower for training. The other creatures of the universe will have a presence – Dwarves, Elves, Hurlocks (a form of Darkspawn) – but our primary heroes are the young Mages.
The first issue is the origin story of our principal hero, and then we jump forward seventeen years when all hell breaks loose for that character. Believe me, it’s “Dragon Age” through and through.
When you’re co-writing a book like this, how does the creative process unfold?
Scott and I have collaborated before, and we’ve got a pretty good system down. Since we live in different states, we communicate via phone and email, taking our time to hash out the story. What’s great about collaborating is that you have a sounding board, someone you lob an idea to and who will take that idea and add something unique to it, give a different spin or embellishment that makes it a hundred times stronger. There’s a lot of sending ideas back and forth.
What is it about the world of “Dragon Age” that you think makes it stand out from other fantasy settings? What made you want to write stories set in this world?
What’s great about the game is that it’s so massive in scope. There are so many ways to play through it, so many stories to tell. The game team has always had that philosophy: we’re not building a hero-we’re building a world, which in turn will produce a wealth of heroes. That’s what made this assignment so attractive. The game team didn’t want us to embellish existing characters. They wanted new characters altogether, new stories. They basically said, “OK, guys, here are the LEGO pieces to ‘Dragon Age,’ make something cool.” That’s every comic writer’s dream.
The relationship between Mages and Templars is one of the most interesting dynamics in “Dragon Age.” How deeply are you going to examine that relationship in this series?
You’ve hit the nail on the head, sir. The relationship between Mages and Templars is the core of the comics. There’s a lot of bad blood there, and Scott and I are going to milk it for all it’s worth. The first issue is a good indication of that.
Will you also be introducing new regions or inhabitants of the world that haven’t been seen in the games?
Yes. The game team has been great in this regard. When we invent a village, they’re like, “OK. Let’s name it. Let’s get it on the map. Let’s add it to the world.” These guys are world inventors. They live for this.
It sounds like there was a lot of collaboration between the game team and the creative team on the comic. How much access did you have to the lore BioWare has created for “Dragon Age”?
They inundated us with material. The game bible, novels, concept art, anything that might help us understand what they had created and what might serve as a source of story ideas. The guys at BioWare and EA are great. Extremely, extremely talented people, the whole lot of them. When I first saw how expansive this world is, how intricate the history and magic system are, I was blown away. So to have them get excited about the comic story we’ve invented is like Michael Jordan complimenting you on your jump shot. It was very cool.
Did your research for this series include playing through the “Dragon Age: Origins” game?
I’m not a gamer, not because I don’t enjoy games, but because I become so easily addicted. If I had started playing the game, I wouldn’t have been much help to Scott. I would have spent every spare moment slicing Hurlocks and hacking Ogres, and none of my portion of the script would have been written.
I did however watch a ton of game-play videos. And of course Scott and I read the game bible and other materials the game team provided, which include history and details that never made it into the game. I’d say Scott and I got a much better education into all things “Dragon Age” than anyone who has simply played through the game.
Will the events of the comic be reflected in future installments of the “Dragon Age” games? Is what you’re doing considered “canon”?
Yes, the game team approves every issue. They treat our work like they treat their own, which is wise. If it’s going to have the “Dragon Age” name on it, it can’t conflict with what the game team is developing. And they’ve been very open, sharing with us their plans for the future. I can’t say what those are, but fans are going to love it, and it definitely syncs with what we’re doing in the comics.
CBR would like to thank Aaron Johnston for taking time to talk with us about the “Dragon Age” comic. Issue #1 of the series is currently available digitally on iTunes and through the PlayStation Digital Comics service, and will be hitting stores in print form on March 31, 2010. For more info on the series, check out www.IDWPublishing.com. To learn more about the Dragon Age games, head over to www.dragonage.bioware.com.