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What is MetroidVania? Why is It Important?

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What is Metroidvania and why is it so important? 

Well, let me tell you a story; a story of two of gamings most beloved franchises: one called Castlevania, the other called Metroid. Their titles were combine to give a voice to the way the Castlevania franchise adopted Metroids characteristics. And, for a time, thats all the term Metroidvania was -- a way to describe the fusion of these two names, to say "HEY, thats a Castlevania game similar to Metroid." But, over time, Metroidvania would change into something more. As the years passed by, gamers from all across the land felt this gameplay style was so impactful to gaming that it needed its own unique term to stand as a genre of its own. 

And thats exactly what it did. 

So, what is this crazy subgenre; whered it come from and whats it mean? 

The Metroidvania genre is indicative of non-linear progression, vast exploration of environments, character upgrades required to progress and sometimes a dash of role-playing elements are thrown into the pot for good measure. Now, that might sound like Im describing Metroid and I am, but thats not how it started. To really uncover the origin of Metroidvania we have to go a little bit further back than Metroid itself, because technically it really began with a plumber who happens to sport a badass mustache and eats mushrooms to you know, get bigger. 

Nintendo had unparalleled success with the brain children of legendary videogame developer Shigeru Miyamotos 2D side-scrolling platformer; Super Mario Brothers and the top-down adventure of The Legend of Zelda. With the extreme success and popularity of those two titles, the next logical step would be to unite the gameplay ideas of Mario and Zelda. And so, Metroid would become the culmination of the 2D platforming and side-scrolling elements of Mario integrated it with the exploration and non-linearity of Zelda. Thus, Metroid was born. 

In Metroid, you play as Samus Aran the iconic blonde heroine bounty hunter spliced with alien bird DNA whos draped in sci-fi super armor, sort of like Jeff Goldblum in the Fly, but also sort of nothing like that at all. Samus explores the large planet Zebes in which different routes and elemental themes comprise the alien world; a world where specific passages might be blocked requiring Samus to return after acquiring a new ability or different armaments. Like the suit augmentation to morph into a little ball to fit through narrow, short passages or missiles necessary to open resilient doors. And similar to Link, Samus would also boost her hit points in the form of energy tanks in place of hearts. These gameplay tropes would lay the basic foundation for all Metroidvania games to come, but the term Metroidvania still wasnt around yet even though the original Castlevania hit American shores the same year as Metroid. 

And with good reason; Castlevania and Metroid were two really different games. 

Castlevania of the NES era had unforgiving platforming, merciless boss fights, and a punishing amount of ground to cover from stage-to-stage with no sign of rest-pit in sight; it was basically the 1987 equivalent of Demons Soul. 

Unlike Metroid, Castlevania had a linear, segmented level design and a time limit to stages; something that definitely doesnt exemplify the idea of freedom and exploration. The main character, Simon Belmont, did have health points but a maximum HP was static throughout the game. Upgrades did come in the form of transforming a leather whip to a chain, but whip upgrades werent vital to exploration or required for progression. 

Castlevania II: Simons Quest did break away from a segmented level design and timers, and it even added an inventory for items, but it still didnt have all the elements required to be a Metroidvania. Castlevania III: Draculas Curse took a step back to embrace the mechanics of the original; basically ignoring Simons Quest in the process. Super Castlevania IV, one of my favorite games of all time, really always felt like the most well-executed Castlevania game that embodies all the ideas the original and Draculas Curse were shooting for, and, well, its no coincidence... it was a re-make of the original. 

But it wasnt until three years after the release of Super Metroid, a decade after the original, that Castlevania wouldnt only fully embrace the Metroid gameplay style, it would master it. The 1997 masterpiece Symphony of the Night took the ideas of the past, mixed it with Metroid and then smoothly incorporated it into Castlevania's mythos and gameplay. 

As Alucard, the son of Dracula, the player battles through a huge non-linear map and gains new abilities to progress through new obstacles. And this wasnt like the vegetarian, prius-driving, twinkling wussy vampires of today, okay. Alucard could use spells to absorb enemies souls, he could transform into a bat, a wolf, mist, a lawn mower probably. Alcard, like Samus, was simply a badass, Swiss-Army-knife-of-abilties character. 


In addition to Castlevania fully adobpting the Metroid mentality, Symphony of the Night also fixed one of Metroids minor flaws with huge exploration came a lot of enemy-killing with no pay off, and Symphony added an experience point, leveling, and loot system. For once the respawning enemies had a real purpose and became something more than a slight inconvenience. You wanted to kill them; you wanted to level up and get new gear. It took the idea of progression to the next level as it were. 

The term Metroidvania was coined shortly after Symphony of the Nights magnificent entry into the Metroid-like genre. Beyond that, Metroid had been absent from the gaming scene for several years prior to Symphony of the Night, and would remain absent for a long time to follow. The Metroid franchise would miss the N64 console generation entirely, and from Super Metroids release in 94, to Metroid Fusion and Primes release in 2002; gamers wouldnt arm the plasma cannon of Samus for eight years. And so people used the portmanteau term Metroidvania to not only draw an absent but associated link between the gameplay of Metroid and the new Castlevania, but it also helped fill a void in gamers hearts that longed to play a title in a similar vein as Metroid. 

After this time is when games started to be labeled with the subgenre Metroidvania category; past and present. Regardless of the fact that some older games, like Blaster Master and Ys III, obviously fit the criteria when they were first released, it wasnt until later that they became known as Metroidvania games. And many great titles of the future would fall into this categorization as well, like 2003s Aria of Sorrow and 2004s Cave Story; not forgetting 2009s Shadow Complex and the upcoming Axiom Verge on the horizon. 

The Metroidvania genre has had a stunning past and the future looks promising as well, its not going anywhere.
So, looking beyond the fact that some of the titles that are able to call themselves a Metroidvania are some of the best games ever created, why is this genre and label so important? 

The reasons behind Metroidvanias significance are different today than it was in the past. Nowadays the adventure-platformer style is a good way for small teams to create deep and compelling games without a triple-A budget, which is extremely important. As consumers we need the so-called underdog developers to be able to create amazing gaming experiences, its just one more force that encourages all game designers to innovate and improve over the competition. 

As for the reasons Metroidvania was so important in the past; well, its still relevant to modern games, but it was even more punctuated back-in-the-day. Metroidvanias had groundbreaking non-linear gameplay that encouraged adventure and exploration in a way that had never been seen before. Whats more, the gameplay style would go on to influence all of gaming for years to come; laying the foundation and essentially helping create some of the modern classics we know and love today that use similar gameplay ideas like Batman (Arkham franchise) and Dark Souls. Its simply a brilliant gaming formula, one that has stood the test of time and will continue to endure. 

The Metroidvania formula is like Valves revolutionary take on digital distribution and community through Steam, or Apples implementation of the mouse in addition to the keyboard for home computers; theyre not the end-all-be-all to the evolution of what is to come, but they have a spark of genius that has influenced and will continue to influence the future forever -- thats Metroidvania. 

So there you have it, what are some of your favorite Metroidvania games? Theres a ton of them and I couldnt name them all. What are the ones that really struck home with you, leave them in the comment section below. 

Oh yeah, theres also the term Castleroid which is interchangeable with Metroidvania, but to hell with that stupid word; it sounds like a castle-size hemroid on someones medieval ass-basket.

Re-imagined or Resuscitated?

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Re-imagined or Resuscitated? Five games we'd like to see remade for arcade.

The difference between re-imagined and resuscitated is that to re-imagine a game would be to use the same intellectual property, but to completely revamp the entire concept while leaving behind some of the core mechanics. An example of a re-imagined game would be like Bethesda's take on the Fallout franchise. Bethesda took a lot of the core intellectual property like a futuristic wasteland, the brotherhood of steel, and vaults then revamped the entire concept of a turn-based strategy while leaving behind some of the core gameplay mechanics like V.A.T.S. to stop time and equipping yourself. Whereas, resuscitation would basically be an overhaul in graphics to a modern standard and porting the game to contemporary systems, but retaining basically the exact same game experience. In other words, an updated remastered product of the exact same game. An example of this would be like the recent release of Mortal Kombat. Mortal Kombat overhauled their graphics to pristine modern standards for contemporary systems while simultaneously returning to their gaming roots.

Here it is, five games we'd like to see remade.

Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen

Kain

Gameplay

Resuscitated or Reimagined

The first Legacy of Kain was back when vampires were predatory rulers of the world that used telekinesis to stream the blood of their fallen human prey to their mouth and didn't sparkle in sunlight. Blood Omen's far to frequent and lengthy load times didn't stop me from loving the game. Kain would eventually gain several suits of armor, melee weapons, and spells to his repertoire as you progressed through the game. Feeling a bit like a Rated-R mix of old-school Zelda, Diablo, and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night-- Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen would be forever etched into my memory as one of my favorite games of all time. With Geralt from the "Witcher" series looking similar to Kain I always treated Witcher like it was the spiritual successor to Blood Omen, but that is only in the fantasy world inside my head and the Witcher and Blood Omen are in no part (that I know of) made by the same people or influenced by one another. That being said though, I would love to see what CD Projekt RED could do with this intellectual property.

Bushido Blade

Bushido Blade

Cinematic

Gameplay

Re-imagined

Back when Squaresoft wasn't Square Enix yet they made a realistic 3-D swordplay fighting game. Bushido Blade implemented a one-hit-kill quick combat mechanic where if a non-fatal appendage were struck it would lead to either one arm to hang injured making the character swing their weapon slower or drag their leg making them unable to run during combat. Quick combat, different fighting stances and a variety of different weapons to choose from at the beginning of battle lead to an extremely fun ancient samurai showdown scenario. A re-imagined version of Bushido Blade could be fanominal with the incorporation of modern physics and player-to-player-contact systems.

X-COM: UFO Defence

X-COM

Gameplay

Resuscitated

One of the best turn-based strategy games of all time has been gathering dust since the franchise's arguable second best release of X-COM: Apocalypse made in 1997. The I.P. has had several more unsuccessful attempts since Apocalypse, but none were nearly as good as the acclaimed earlier games that launched the series. The X-COM I.P. has not made a game since 2003. This turn-based strategy game has such staple mechanics as equipping an entire team of first responders against alien invaders, reverse engineering alien technology to create new weapons and armor, and topnotch tactical battle situations for the player to overcome and outthink. The intellectual property does appear to be making a return installment, but is ridding itself of turn-based strategy and going with a FPS reimagining of the franchise.

Myst

Myst
Gameplay

Resuscitated and re-imagined

If the writers of the television series "LOST" were influenced by any video game it would have to be Myst. Mysterious ruins mixed with high-tech puzzles coalesce on an island to give players one of the most innovative and immersive puzzle games ever made. Myst is one of the very few games that I believe could honestly benefit from new technologies. I can only imagine how cool some topnotch thinkers might be able to develop the core puzzle-solving concepts with the use of a controller in tandem with modern motion sensing technology. Pulling levers, flipping through books, scanning and interacting with the environment could be more intimate than ever before with motion sensing and is one of the few genres that I believe would actually really benefit from the technology.

MEGAMAN

Megaman

Gameplay

Re-imagined

While Deus Ex was still in diapers Megaman was getting cybernetic augmentations to take down the villainous cronies of Dr. Wiley. For over 20 years now this blue clade "Rocket Man" hero has been side-scrolling his way through some of the best 2-D adventures the genre has ever had to offer. I would really like to see a re-imagining of this iconic cyber superhero. Possibly taking elements from both 2-D and the Megaman: Legends spin-off to create an extremely realistic exploration and augmentation Megaman game. An absent but associated example of this would be like the transition Metriod took from 2-D to the Prime games. An ultra-realistic first-person Megaman could be equipped with his various elemental and cybernetic abilities on his gun-arm coupled with the use of a "Light saber" for a unique melee aspect of the game that altered from third and first-person perspectives. This would only be a spin-off idea; by no means do I ever wish to see my nostalgic Megaman stop taking part in 2-D formats.

There it is, 5 examples and I am sure there are plenty more. What games do you want to see Re-imagined or Resuscitated?

What games continue to be 2011's most anticipated?

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We're six months deep and the year still has a lot of gaming potential left in it. With half of 2011's previously highly anticipated games now in our hands like; Mortal Kombat, Portal 2, Crysis 2, L.A. Noire, Dragon Age 2, and The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings we can't help but wait in wonderment and anticipation to whether these upocming titles will feed our hunger for amazing gaming or leave a sour taste in our mouths. I can think of at least eleven games that many people continue looking forward to with half of 2011 still to come.

inFamous 2

inFamous 2

One of the greatest superhero tales is back. Enhancements in destructible environments are going to make those electric tornados more fun than ever to spew from Cole's hands. Most of the same team that created the first game had their hand in making this sequel and they proudly state that they now know how to get more out of the PS3's microprocessors. inFamous 2 is looking to be a hopefully fantastic addition to an already powerful game. (June 7)

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Deus Ex 3

This franchise augmented its way into our hearts back in 2000 with the release of Deus Ex. This cyberpunk action-RPG looks to dazzle with drop-ins and drop-outs of first-person and third-person combat situations by means of stellar graphics and gameplay. Eidos raised some eyebrows eleven years ago on the PC and now Deus Ex is hitting PS3 and XBOX as well. (August 23)

Gears of War 3

Gears 3

Epic Games concludes their smash-hit XBOX exclusive series. The PvP beta is in people's living rooms and the whispers of anticipation evolved from soft hopeful words into a roar as pre-orders for this third-person sci-fi cover shooter reaches over 1.3 million. (September 30)

Batman: Arkham City

Batman: Arkham City

Out of the frying pan and into the city. Batman leaves Arkham Asylum and ventures into the moody and dark streets of Arkham. Known for excellent combat, deductive detective work, and stealthy adventuring Batman promises to rid the streets of Joker's cronies once again. (October 18 )

Dark Souls

Dark Souls

Dark Souls is the awaited spiritual successor to the PS3 exclusive Action-RPG Demon's Souls. Demon's Souls is known for not only being unforgiving and "never holding the player's hand", but also for downright slapping their hand away. If the predecessor of Dark Souls were a nursery rhyme its moral of the story would have to be "try, try again". Dark Souls leaves linearity behind as the world opens up to a more free roaming format and again From Software threatens players with a returning "spicy but edible" difficulty on the XBOX 360 in addition to the PS3. (October)

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

Uncharted 3

Naughty Dog's PS3 exclusive makes their action adventure cover-shooter a trilogy. Nathan traverses spectacular environments leaving behind the ice covered tundra and heads into the terrains of sandy heat in a riveting game known for storytelling and execution that rival movie scripts. I can undoubtedly say that Nathan Drake will most likely be taking the player to a wonderful location that is…un…charted? (November 1)

The Elders Scrolls: Skyrim

TES: Skyrim

The next addition to the storied franchise of The Elder Scrolls series hits shelves on the eleventh day of the eleventh month in the eleventh year of this millennium. It would seem the RPG gods have really aligned the stars for this game's release date. The Elder Scrolls sank its teeth into this generation of gaming with the widely popular Oblivion and even as far back as Morrowind or Daggerfall this RPG's definative franchise has been known for its massive innovations and free roaming a world with vast amounts of content for the player to take part in. Sword and sorcery combine to slay dragons this time around and every fan wants to try their hand at it. (November 11)

The Lord of the Rings: War in the North

LotR: WitN

Lord of the Rings has captured the hearts and imaginations of fantasy lovers for decades now. The untold story of warriors not depicted in the movies opens a new chapter in the epic tale of the Tolkien universe of Middle-Earth. From the makers of beloved action-RPG "Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance" comes Snowblind Studios' long awaited return to the genre that made them famous. (Q3 2011)

Forza Motorsport 4

Forza Motorsport 4

To date Gamespot has given every Forza Motorsport game a 9 out of 10 or higher. Microsoft's exclusive racing franchise returns to the XBOX 360 and this time around supports an optional Kinect motion-sensing system. This racer has shown superb excellence in the past and there is no reason to suspect Forza from slowing down anytime soon. (TBA 2011)

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Star Wars: The Old Republic is BioWare and LucasArts' upcoming Massive Multi-player Online game exclusively for the PC. BioWare has a reputation for making fantastic RPGs and some titles that were specifically Star Wars themed Role-playing games in particular. Fans of internet gaming communities and a story that takes place a long time ago in a galaxy far far away have itchy blaster fingers and light sabers ready to unsheathe to handle this stellar sci-fi online RPG. (TBA 2011)

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Zelda: Skyward Sword

What is there to say? Shigeru Miyamoto has innovated the face of gaming multiple times with his revolutionary game concepts and characters. Zelda is one of those examples with Shigeru's vision that follows the adventures of a green suited elf named Link which always promises a wonderful sword swinging time for adventurers of all ages on the Nintendo Wii. (TBA 2011)

Mass Effect 3 - POSTPONED until 2012

Mass Effect 3

Yes, Mass Effect was once a much anticipated game of 2011. Other contenders for RPG of the year can wipe their brow and know that one less title will have a chance at the award. We will have to wait until next year to see BioWare's conclusion to their sci-fi trilogy. 2012 is the year that we will discover what the Reapers have in store for the inhabitance of the Milky Way Galaxy.

Not confirmed but conceivable for 2011

These are the games that the world over is just waiting on the edge of their seats to hear an official release date and have a reasonable probability of falling into a 2011 release.

Guild Wars 2

Guild Wars 2

ArenaNet's fantasy online role-playing game has been in the works for some time now. In a genre that says "make'em pay more…every month" ArenaNet says "NO" and waves the subscription fees that an industry has tried to make a standard convention. Over five million fans of the original are waiting in anticipation for this innovative online experience that is moving out of "instanced zones" and moving into a free roaming mythic world.

Diablo III

Diablo III

Blizzard's extremely successful franchise is making a third attempt to wow players with an action RPG for the PC that is focused on your chosen character and their carnage-filled path to slew the devil. Diablo first hit the scene in 1996 and was followed by the raging success of Diablo II in 2000. Battle.net is still hosting an online community to this day for Diablo and is still very popular eleven years into the future. Fans want the next installment…and they want it bad.

The Last Guardian

The Last Guardian

From the developer Fumito Ueda of the critically acclaimed ICO and Shadow of the Colossus comes the next auspicious installment to their repertoire, The Last Guardian. Known for artistic poise and finesse The Last Guardian appears no different with beautiful looking art and level design.

With six months still remaining what are the games that you are anticipating for 2011?

Dragon Age: Dawn of the Darkspawn

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I have devised a way to loosely incorporate all of the existing Dragon Age tales with a narrative of the past I am really dying to take part in as a playable character, The First Blight. The way to tie all the stories together, even though they're set over a thousand of years apart, is with the use of Flemeth. Flemeth's character is the glue that binds the story to the past and present. She is perfect because she is believed to be very old and her past is shrouded in mystery. Before I get into the intricacies of tying the tales of the past to the present I would like to first discuss why I would like to play through the stories of the past.

First off, Dragon Age's lore seems to have a deep-seated and historically prevalent past. For me, the past of the Dragon Age's lore is some of the most interesting properties in the game. So, we must ask then is "what aspects would it be interesting to go back in time 1300 years for?" One aspect maybe the conclusion of the First Blight? Another, I would love to see the differences in the world as a cultural whole. Some examples, Elves not being slaves or peons in society but actually having enormously immaculate cities and being looked upon as the pinnacle of architectural and magical brilliance, a true super power among the other races. Also, to see a perspective of Dwarven Thaigs thriving and the Dwarven empires untouched by the taint of the Dark Spawn horde would be fascinating. Lastly, but not least, to witness the Tevinter Imperium worshiping the Old Gods and to see their feud with the Elves whom they later conquered and enslave come to fruition. This would be a great chain of events to see unfold. Then the corruption of the Tevinter and their quest to usurp the Old Gods in the Golden City and the few who attempted to go there and were cast out and tainted for their arrogance. In turn, is the event that created the first Dark Spawn.

In other words, Dragon Age's history is the backbone of the amazing universe they have created and who doesn't want to go back to the "Big Bang" and unravel its fantastical beginnings. Of what I call...

Dragon Age: Dawn of the Darkspawn

Dragon Age: Dawn of the Darkspawn

This is where the corruption of the Dark Spawn begins to take part and some of the greatest moments in Dragon Age lore take place. The Dwarfs are the first to feel their impact. Under the surface the Dwarves dwell close to where the Dark Spawn frantically digs to unearth their dark Gods. Under the effects of desperation the Dwarves then create the controversial means to put the souls of their warriors into stone and iron constructs to battle the Dark Spawn. The Tevinter Imperium is weakened by the Dark Spawn and the prophetess Andraste uses the opportunity to topple their debased society. Also, the Horde's first unearthing of the Archdemon, Dumat. Besides these already known historical events it would be a delight to see the inhabitance of this nation and their reaction to a Dark Spawn first hand for the first time in history. What are these things? Why are they attacking us? And most importantly, how do we stop them? No one knew back then. The world as they knew it would have been in upheaval and utter chaos. The civilizations would have been overwhelmed and most likely pushed into a corner due to the lack in knowledge of their newfound enemy.

This is where I would like to introduce plot changes to the story. First and foremost, Dumat should have a human form.

Dumat Black Human Form Dumat Black Archdemon

The Archdemon from Origins could have had one…we really don't know. The ability for the Archdemon to transform from a dragon into a human form would give it a much more intimate feeling for the audience to draw a connection with a living breathing "face" to put to their antagonist. This would also open the door for it to answer "WHY?!" Why is the blight doing what it is…why does Dumat hate them so? Especially since the Tevinter Imperium actually worshiped him. Then, why would he try to eradicate them in such a way? The ability of Dumat to actually be able to answer such questions and have a human entity would draw a great connection. His answer, because they were unworthy of him as a God and the Dark Spawn were the ones to free him from his eternal prison in the core of the planet. Only they shall reap the benefits of his glorious reign.

This is about the point where I want to start an introduction to the key protagonist characters of the adventure.

Young Flemeth

Flemeth would be one. She is a thriving young normal human mage woman, a prodigy, in the world of magic. She thrives in a world where Templars and Mages actually have a deep respect and almost love for one another. This would be a world where Templars see their duty to protect mages as a badge of honor as one of the utmost prestigious privileges obtainable. The Circle of Magi does not exist. Blood magic is in public practice and not ban and she is, like Morrigan, a respectable shape shifter mage, but a remarkable blood mage. During this time, not only is blood magic not ban from practice, but it is embraced. Elven and Human blood alike flow from Tevinter Imperium alters to fuel their power lust.

Andraste

Andraste would be one of your companions. She is the Idol that the Chantry would later come to iconize and the leader of her "barbarian" people who overthrow the Tevinter Imperium. Andraste is an unparalleled cleric capable of healing and unmovable protection spells, but also the use of wrath against those who oppose her.

Aeducan

Another companion in the tale would be Aeducan, of the Dwarven Warrior Caste, who united the armies of the dwarves and led them to defend the city of Orzammar; by this time most Thaigs had fallen, and Aeducan chose to hold the line at Orzammar rather than attempting to save the remaining Thaigs. Aeducan joins your band on the quest to kill the leader of the Dark Spawn, Dumat. All of these "champions" are the best of the best of their race and discipline. They have been chosen to assist you on your quest to sack the Archdemon and overlord of the Dark Spawn, Dumat. As there seems to be no stop to the swarm of the Blight, the leaders of the different races have sent their best and brightest to vanquish this evil as a final resort.

This band of prodigies, profits, champions, and "warrior artists" succeed in their task. Keep in mind, this is the first Blight…no one knows how to permanently sack an Archdemon. After Dumat's physical form is laid to waste by the companions Dumat is shortly reborn thereafter…stronger than before. This is why the first Blight last the longest out of any other Blight to follow it. Not only because the population of the world really had no idea how to permanently destroy the Archdemon, but also because of this transformation during Dumat's "death". Dumat's being, his essence, went through a metamorphosis of-sorts. This transition changed his physical form and alters his comprehension of reality during his so-called death, Dumat accents to an even greater evolution of his former self.

Dumat White Human Form Dumat White Archdemon

The champions must find a means to vanquish him forever.

Now this is where the story brakes-up into one of two paths I have thought-up of.

Path #1: Morrigan the "good" path.

A way to tell the tale of the past and include the present story is through the use of the Eluvian is a magical mirror featured in the Dalish Elf Origins story. Also, the mirror is used often in Merrill's companion quests in Dragon Age II. It is known to be a portal of some sort, and it can transmit the "taint" disease. It was crafted by the elves of Arlathan to be used as portals for telecommunication and perhaps even teleportation between their cities, using a type of magic different from that of the modern Circle of Magi or even the Tevinter Imperium. After the fall of Arlathan, the Tevinter magisters attempted to unlock the secrets the Eluvians, but all they could use them for was long-distance communications.

Elvish Mirror

So, what if Morrigan actually unlocked the secrets of mirror? The secret is that the mirror could be used to send your physical form through time. What if, when Tamlen went into the mirror it didn't actually infect him with the taint, but he actually got sent back in time to a previous blight? Furthermore, that is how he really got tainted was from an encounter with real Dark Spawn and he got some blood on him during an aggression.

In this scenario Morrigan would actually be a very self-sacrificing character. It gets a little tricky here but try to hang in there with my ramblings. So, if Flemeth is actually 1300+ years old one must ask…why has she been "stealing" kids (or having them…you really don't know) for all these years? One of my plot ideas is that maybe it is because she met Morrigan 1300 years prior, during the first Blight. Morrigan told Flemeth about the future and then that would let Flemeth tell Morrigan her destiny in the Origins timeline. In turn, Flemeth knew that Morrigan would give birth to the first Grey Warden who was the baby that had already been tainted by an Archdemon from the future that Morrigan was pregnant with. Flemeth didn't know at what point-in-time she would have the "right Morrigan" so she just always named her children that and trained them for the duty that they may possibly need to go to the past to give birth to the first Grey Warden someday. This chain of events would actually still make sense with calling the first Dragon Age game "Origins" because technically…it was.

This is what the Dragon Age Wiki states for the Grey Warden founding. "A group of Anderfel Knights, recognizing the threat the Blight posed to all of Thedas, decided to renounce their service to their king and take on a new, more important duty: to defeat the Blight. They formed the Order of the Grey Wardens in 890 TE, at Weisshaupt Fortress in the Anderfels. The process of the Joining ritual was discovered by the knights, who somehow managed to consume both Lyrium and potent dark spawn blood together to grant them the ability to sense the enemy."

Grey Warden

So, what if that is where Morrigan lived in the past: Anderfel? Wherein a case, she either was the one that told the knights directly and trained them about The Joining or (The part I like better) she trained her son, who would become the founder of the Grey Wardens. Whom is also who you create at the beginning of your adventure…your playable protagonist, is Morrigan's baby and the founder of the Grey Wardens who she trained in the ways of how to go about killing an Archdemon.

That is path 1. Now for the next path, this is the path that I am more partial of.

Path #2: Morrigan the "bad" path.

In this path Morrigan is actually absent for the game, I will explain in a bit why it involves her though.

After the band of champions had "killed" Dumat and he had risen, stronger than before, they needed to devise a new way to permanently be rid of him. In this chain of events, history is correct…but must be taken ambiguously. It is common knowledge that all of the Grey Wardens that fought and killed the first Archdemon died in the final battle with it. Yes, all of the Grey Warden's don't survive their final encounter with Dumat. Here I have taken some liberties with this wording. Everyone believes that Dumat was killed by the same means in which Urthemiel (Origins' Archdemon) was supposedly destroyed. Wherein, it is believed that the Warden sacrificing oneself to contain and extinguish the Archdemon's soul can only be achieved while a Grey Warden (tainted vessel) is in the immediate proximity of the Archdemon directly after its death. Which then the Warden's tainted blood absorbs and destroys the Archdemon's soul while simultaneously forfeiting their own life. What if that is not the case for how they slew Dumat? What if Grey Wardens didn't even really exist yet? Sure, maybe the Order of the Grey Warden did exist, but not in the way that the modern Dragon Age universe thinks of them with their tainted Lyrium-dark spawn fused blood. Only through fables and parable have the true history gotten misconstrued in the past 1300 years.

Young Flemeth Casting Blood Magic

What if through Flemeth's unequaled knowledge of magic she devised a way to rid the world of Dumat? But, at an enormous cost. A blood magic spell of epic proportions. Flemeth would ask her companions, and fellow members of the Order of the Grey Wardens, to sacrifice them to fuel the power of her spell to vanquish Dumat. In order for this special spell to work she would have to be pregnant and get the Archdemon weak enough to be on the verge of death, again. After those two circumstances are fulfilled the willing members of her party sacrifice themselves to her blood magic to entrap Dumat's soul inside Flemeth. Thus, Flemeth's combine knowledge of blood magic, shape shifting abilities, and the Archdemon's soul ritual is what gives Flemeth her ability to shape shift into a High Dragon. The combination of the Archdemon's dying body, sacrificing the companions, and the baby insider her all coalesce to give her the abilities of an unparalleled supreme elder mage. This is also why Flemeth has lived for such a long period of time as a human and also why she is a little…crazy. Her soul is always at unrest from containing the Archdemon Dumat. Flemeth in her High Dragon form would come to be known as Asha'bellanar. And, this is how the first Blight is truely ended.

Now, the reason this makes Morrigan an antagonistic character is because with this chain of events that means that she was manipulating the Hero of Ferelden for the whole duration of the Origins story. That is why she wanted Flemeth's journal. The book contained many of Flemeth's spells and instructions for obtaining various grand powers. Morrigan wanted the book so she could try to do the same incantation to reach the level of power of Flemeth and to be able to command the abilities and form of a High Dragon so she stole Flemeth's tome. This is also why Morrigan has now "disappeared" from Ferelden. She lacks the blood magic knowhow to complete the final stages of the witchcraft. Her lack of blood magic knowledge is also the reason she couldn't finish the spell in one fel swoop when the Origins Archdemon was slain by also consuming the rest of her companions at the same time. As we all know...swooping is bad. That is why Flemeth needed the Champion of Kirkwall to transport her essence in the amulet in that manner. Most likely, Morrigan is heading in that direction to find a superior blood mage and she possibly put up a magical ward that was within the pages of the Flemeth's tome to fend off Flemeth from pursuit.

Those are a few examples of how the story could go about still tying together all previous game stories and tell the story of the first Blight.

As for the rest, I guess the holes would be filled with the already written lore of the Dragon Age universe.

Which is labeled like this.

The First Blight, Chapter 1 - The Second Sin

Second Sin

The First Blight, Chapter 2 – Dumat Rises

Dumat Black Archdemon Dumat White Archdemon

The First Blight, Chapter 3 – The Dwarves Fall

Deep Roads

The First Blight, Chapter 4 – Griffons Take Flight

Warden's Griffon

That is it…that is my broad vision for a Dragon Age tale I would really like to take part in. Thanks for reading.

What can save a story? Why the Hero's tale is superior to the Champion's.

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-SPOILER ALERT-

Read no further if you have not played Dragon Age and plan to because I am going to talk about the stories of the franchise and don't want to ruin the story for you, but also because I doubt you will have the slightest clue as to what I am talking about if you have not played them. I am putting aside fighting, charater building, and battle mechanics for each game and only discussing story.

What Dragon Age II has done can obviously never be undone. I am going to talk about story faults and add suggestions that are simple that could have helped the narrative not be so obfuscated in the second installment of the Dragon Age saga.

When I think of Dragon Age II I think of the story as being broken up into three chapters and the chapter's conclusions. For example, when I refer to Chapter 1 I would be referring to its conclusion which is the introduction to "the Dwarven Artifact" and a means to buy the Hawke family's foreclosed heirloom estate in Kirkwall.

Lyrium Idol

Chapter 2 is really just an introduction into the cultural nuances and conflict with the Qun that are residing in Kirkwall. Also, the conclusion of Chapter 2 is really about the Champion killing the Arishok and the Arishok killing the Viscount which gives the Champion fame and somewhat of a political standing.

The Arishok

Chapter 3's conclusion is the start of a "civil war" between the already unstable relationship of the Templars and Mages.

Templar/Mage Conflict

That is Dragon Age II's story "in a nutshell". I'm not trying to belittle the story; I am just trying to give insight on my perspective to how I view it. I can easily over simplify DA: Origins aswell…Blight…get help…choose a new monarch…Archdemon. That is not what this is about.

Dragon Age: Origin's epic is almost Shakespearian in nature. Witches, kings, backstabbery, love lust, and events of the utmost political, ethical, and moral stature are addressed in Origins. Macbeth comes to mind. Your quest in Origins seems objectively paramount and has focus, and is subjectively enthralling at the same time feeling not too linear. The subjectivity of the story was fairly simple to grasp…how far are you willing to go to save this nation of Ferelden? So why did Dragon Age II fall flat? I have heard arguments that DA2 lacked a central villain which, in turn, made it lack a sense of drive and focus. I have also heard that the city of Kirkwall itself was the real antagonist and that political and moral decisions were the "evil characters" in the story. So, Let us get down to business.

Firstly, in Dragon Age II the introduction of your so-called "hero" is an awful display of heroism indeed. The introduction of Hawke is the cowardly act of feeling Loathering when he is obviously powerful enough to kill an ogre at the mere amateur level of 3. Instead of using his powers to help his nation, like the Hero of Ferelden, the Champion flees with no real backstory. In Dragon Age: Origins the game built-up to the ogre encounter and the ogre was a formidable boss fight with three other companions, all of these companions were at the more developed level of 5+, and you had a load of consumables at your disposal. The ogre was by itself in a large room and proved to be a considerably difficult challenge to overcome. In turn, if Hawke can effortlessly destroy an ogre, the preverbal "big dog" of the blight, and simultaneously dispose of additional waves of Dark Spawn with only 2 companions that range from level 2-3, with next-to-no consumables, and a total fighting experience of four prior Dark Spawn encounters. One can assume that Hawke is undoubtedly the superior combatant in comparison to the "Hero of Ferelden" whom sacked the Archdemon Urthemiel and would have unlikely seen victory put in the same situation and circumstances with the ogre. Yet the champion flees. Then why do a much vaster number of people agree that the "Hero of Ferelden" (HoF) was the superior protagonist in comparison to the Champion of Kirkwall? It is because the epic in which the HoF's story takes place is simply a greater tale with a satisfyingly grand closing and the HoF never displayed all of these weaknesses. The Hero of Ferelden met challenges head on. Regardless of whether or not you started in the circle of magi or as a noble dwarf prince your character never seems to flee, without just cause, from the very beginning of your tale. Sure, in some circumstances, your HoF leaves behind their previous life, but the story gave perspective on why. Also, instead of running from the Blight the HoF runs to it.

A point to discuss then is "why would the writer of DA2 start the game there?" with Hawke fleeing and the story leaves their departure ambiguously open. Your character's start is quite literally the foundation of their…well, character. Yes, it is an attention grabber and starts with combat which is a fairly good feature from a storytelling and videogame stand point to begin with. Also I did enjoy the idea of the "story within a story" from Varric, but that could have just as easily been portrayed in a multitude of ways and still delivered an action oriented beginning. Furthermore, I can think of an alternate intro that is just as good, if not better, and that I believe a wide range of fans would have loved to have seen. DA2 hints that you, and or possibly members of your family and for certain Aveline, were at the battle of Ostagar. Since the game talks about this I cannot, for the life of me, understand why DA2 started with you fleeing Loathering and did not begin basically at the same place where DA: O started, Ostagar. There for, intertwining the storylines more intimately and giving a returning audience a deeper connection to their relationship with the narrative. Also, as for the "story within a story" concept, the exaggerated "first Varric version" could have easily been applied with The Champion mutilating entire groups of the Dark Spawn Blight soldiers in single assaults on the battle field of Ostagar. Seriously, who would not have loved the game to start with your character standing side-by-side with King Cailan and Duncan on the battlefield of Ostagar? We could have finally seen Duncan's true demise…or his breath-taking escape from the Battle of Ostagar. Which the scenes of the Battle of Ostagar from DA: O cut short. Even possibly incorporating and revealing the unseen events of Flemeth's successful rescue attempt of the HoF from the bell tower.

THEN, after several close calls with the Blight (Ostagar being one close call then a never formerly told event in Loathering in which the town is actually seen being swarmed and pillaged by the Blight for the first time) Hawke realizing the futility of their struggle decides to save his entire family instead of sacrificing them to the Blight and they depart for Kirkwall. Kirkwall seems like the rational place to go because, according to Hawke's mother, that is where their family once had some hierarchical stature. Thus saving face and initially not looking cowardly.

This different chain of events could have simultaneously worked as a way of introducing Flemeth to DA2 while she saves you from the Battle of Ostagar and revealing her true alternative reason for saving you which she revealed in the actual DA2 storyline. Flemeth's actual motive was the transport of an amulet from "the wilds" to Kirkwall. Wherein, you discover later the amulet housed her non-corporeal form internally. For what motive, she wanted or needed the amulet with her essence inside transported in that manner, Dragon Age II's story never follows-up on and leaves it a mystery.

Flemeth

This cheap attention grab, of throwing Flemeth into the game early on and in the demo, was a sorry excuse for trying to push the story forward and to keep DA: O players interested. It is widely known that Morrigan, and her story, is a fan favorite of the DA: Origins' tale and that everyone is salivating for a taste of its conclusion. So, to throw Flemeth in the story and to imply follow-through with some of Flemeth/Morrigan's story, but not deliver…at all, was a huge disappointment. When you are on the summit, where Flemeth wanted the amulet delivered, and Flemeth returns to her corporeal form and you ask her "why did you want me to bring this here?" Flemeth's reply is basically "I'm out… (Turns into dragon and flies away)" you can't help but feel cheated when the story does not answer the question, your own character just asked, within the same videogame. This would have been fine if it was addressed in the same game, but since it didn't, in retrospect, it just feels like they're setting up for another game's story and not trying to deliver the full potential of this game's fable.

Morrigan

Many aspects of the story felt like they were only thrown in for the reasons of "setting-up" events for another installment of the franchise. For example, one set-up is the conclusion to the game's final segment. Also known as the Circle of Magi, Templar feud. Even the conclusion of Chapter 2 felt as though the story is just setting-up for something else with the Arishok's last words being "One day…we shall return". If the Qun would have returned in DA2 it wouldn't have felt like it was just framework for something else. But, the Qunari never returned. The bulk of the story felt as though it was only setting-up all of the conditions for a chronicling of epic proportions instead of delivering them in the story at hand.

The way the first chapter's conclusion is pathetically attempted to be validated as an important plot point by adding the Dwarven Artifact to Meredith's sword hilt was pitiful. The first chapter's conclusion really had almost no significance. The Dwarven artifact was absent from the end of Chapter 1 until the last boss encounter of the game. The story could have had the exact same chain of events without their lame attempt to include the Lyrium Idol onto Meredith's sword. In reality the only real importance of the entire first chapter was the exodus from Loathering and gaining some social standing. Because of the way the story feebly ratifies the first chapter's importance it makes the entire first chapter feel meaningless. Also, if the only real goal of the first chapter was to gain your family estate you could have easily done that by subtracting chapter 1's conclusion for chapter 2's ending, with the Champion defending Kirkwall and besting the Arishok.

Since the Qunari's response to the death of the Arishok was never felt and the absence of the impending war between the Templars and Mages never came to fruition I don't see how they could be okay with the story ending where it did. The story could have easily merged the conclusions of all three chapters into a single chapter. The story could have had the Champion find their wealth, the Arishok's death, and the straws that broke the camel's back to ignite the true conflict between the Mages and Templars in a single interval. I will get to my concept for this outcome in a moment.

This is why the story feels so obfuscated. What was the true meaning and important theme here? Yes, it is a good thing to have an ambiguous ending which begs the audience to draw their own outcome from the possibility of multiple interpretations, but the audience's options to choose upon important plot points should not be so construed. What is the story's actual axiom? Is the axiom the Ancient Dwarven artifacts that are Lyrium Idols and their influences on the sentient mind? Is it the corruption of Kirkwall's citizen's way of life and or the way a foreign dignitary can be affected by an "alien" culture to such a magnitude as to call upon confrontation? Finally, is the story about the moral and ethical pressures in the delicate world of a special type of "indentured servants" known as Mages and the overseers of said servants, known as Templars, who are supposed to be the "checks" in the balance between the two? The truth is that the story has no axiom or self-evident morality lesson. The story is obfuscated and the ambiguity of multiple interpretations is not within the realm of rational. Also, if you say "the story is, well…about all of those things" then you cannot deny that DA2's story is just the intermediary for setting the key players up for a different tale because of the way the narrative does not respond to any of these questions the protagonist(the audience, you) asks. Furthermore, if you claim that the city of Kirkwall is the real antagonist it is irrelevant because the story still never concludes any of the situations that are introduced with any amount of finality. Again, will the Qunari be back with a formidable force? What is going to happen in Kirkwall with the conflict between the Chantry, Templars, and Mages? Does the Dwarven artifact's manipulation of sentient life forms have significance to the plot? What the heck happened to Flemeth and Morrigan? Why not answer some of these questions in the same body of work if the objective of the narrative was not solely to set the stage for another game?

Here is a concept for what should have happened. Hawke should have risen to a respectable level of political power from defending Kirkwall from the Arishok and the tension of the Templar/Mage conflict should have ignited in a single chapter. This would have left the rest of the story open to finish up the quarrel between the Mages and Templars and or the gathering of funds and troops for the impending Qunari invasion to defend your new homeland. Which your character had failed to do once before in Loathering and wouldn't see it happen again in the case of Kirkwall, the Champion's new home. I am sure that some of these uncertainties will be answered…not until the next game though. Until this happens you cannot refute that you have only gotten a sample of the Champion's story. The tale of the Champion, in comparison to the epic of the Hero of Ferelden, only felt as though you got a small amount and what you have seen so far is nowhere near the Champion's start-to-finish history like HoF's story was. I don't know about you, but I feel cheated. Yes, it is fine to have a hero born in battle and circumstance, tell their tale, then have a continuation of their legends after words, but this story never finishes on ANY of the real predicaments awakened in it.

The equivalent of this would be like opening up a book and only getting the first couple of chapters read then the rest of the pages are blank. I would be very unhappy with that situation if I just paid 60$ for my brand-new book.

Dragon Age: Origins did not suffer from any of these shortcomings. Even if the tale of the Hero of Ferelden is looked at in the same simple way I stated it earlier " Blight, get help, new monarch, Archdemon" one can still tell that nearly all of the issues awakened in the story were addressed with finality. I will breakdown the story in the same manner as I broke down DA2. Chapter 1 would be the birth of a Grey Warden and the fall of a king because of the treason of Loghain. Chapter 2 would be the newly awakened urgency of the need to gather a formidable force to battle the Blight. Chapter 2's conclusion would be the gathering of said armies. Lastly, chapter 3 is about the rise of a new king and to conquer your opposing enemy king…the Archdemon. The first part of the story introduced the antagonists and by the end of the story all of them had been dealt with in one way or another, including Loghain. The only question the game did not address was if Morrigan was a friend to the HoF throughout or actually a brilliant antagonist the entire time who took the motto of "keep your friends close, but keep you enemies closer" to scary level of dedication. Why did she want that baby inside her to have the essence of the Archdemon's soul? What is her endgame? Was she actually manipulating you the entire time or were her motives righteous? This unanswered question was fine because it was an excellent plot twist and was only brought about moments before your ascent into the final battle. This question left the "door" open for possible sequels and remained to be one of the story's most intelligently ambiguous occurrences.

All in all, in the case of Dragon Age one very important part of "What can save a story?" seems to be follow-through.

I am not saying that Dragon Age II is bad writing, I am saying the story felt like it was all prologue.

Leave your ideas as to what can save a story. Make or break it. Also, leave any suggestions to what you think could have enhanced your Dragon Age story experience and or ideas for the future plot.

Stay tuned for my "future" Dragon Age plot idea.

BioWare, are they entering the "Shyamalan Effect"?

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BioWare must be careful now and in the future or they may fall into what i call the "Shyamalan Effect". This effect influences decisions to have an opposite effect of the producer's desired outcome. For example, M. Night Shyamalan, the director/screenplay writter, had made several good films ("The Sixth Sense" and "Unbreakable") early in his career and was unanimous for a certain style and genre of film. Producers, and Shyamalan, blatantly attach his name to a title to have the desired outcome of influencing thoughts and judgments about material before an audience has seen it. Now, when he makes a film or prducers attach his name to films to promote said film ("Devil") it still has the desired effect of envoking predeterminations about the material, but is now a deterrent, for me, to see anything he has made or is associated with because of now having a much longer history of very bad movies.

I believe that BioWare is on the verge of becoming a mockery despite the weight they carry in the RPG community because of greed and the abuse of their name. After years and years of delivering "best-in-class" titles BioWare has become unanimous for a certain style and genre of game, The Role-playing Game, but as of late have been falling flat.

Do not read into this wrongly, I admittedly do say it is unfair to "bash" them just yet. If you look up a list of the top 100 RPGs ever made either BioWare, a rebranded subsidiary of, or normal subsidiary of Bioware usually has several in the top 10. I cannot condemn their work of the past 15 years based off of 2/15 of their game making experience. I am afraid, though in the past couple of years, that they are getting too comfortable and becoming part of a "formula gaming". Formula gaming is in a way like "going Hollywood". Bioware has discovered something that a more massive audience will take part in and instead of making works of art and changing people's perspectives and lives through the power of storytelling and content with epics that can withstand the test known as time...Hollywood only cares about how many asses are in theater seats. In turn, doing so creates a more successful game, moneywise, to a broader audience, but by retrofitting these games to suit the needs of a "dumbed down" audience is not respecting the gamers that have been supporting them for all these years. I just don't want to see BioWare or all videogame developers in general trying to appease a larger audience by changing their Intellectual Properties into something it was never intended to be. Changing successful Intellectual Properties seems counterproductive and can ruin IPs for people who have appreciated the game from the beginning. By doing so, videogames try to appease an audience that did not support them or their developers through some harder times in BioWare's and videogame's history. Hopefully this is not the case for Bioware, but i do fear it could become like this if they don't change their act immediately.

If this mentality of "profits over product" doesnt change soon we are going to have Justin Beibers in games and shirtless Twilight Jacobs handing out videogame cases from a dispencer in his abs.

I do not think it is very presumptuous of me to speak for many people when i say this, but i think a lot of peole out there have BioWare under a very scrupulous magnifying glass right now and over the next couple of game releases. If BioWare doesn't deliver they will be shunned by the community that first loved them. A true betrayal story, in which they turned their back on us.