The Dragon Witch

I’m currently replaying The Witcher in preparation for the sequel (due out May 17th). It’s an excellent game and one of the most underrated RPGs of the decade. But admiring how great the game is isn’t the aim of this post, I might do a review-thingy later (it’s a POSSIBILITY, okay!?). This post will try to highlight some very intriguing similarities between the game and Bioware’s Dragon Age: Origins. I will be only presenting the facts and let the reader draw any conclusions.

Warning: There might be some minor spoilers of games or books from both series below.

Basic Facts

Dragon Age: Origins

  • Developed by Bioware
  • Announced May 2004 (at E3)
  • Released November 2009
  • Is a single player RPG
  • Uses Eclipse engine (developed by BioWare)
  • The setting is a “dark heroic fantasy” with cited inspirations being “realistic” fantasy fiction such as A Song of Ice and Fire (by George R. R. Martin) and Frank Frazetta’s paintings.

The Witcher

  • Developed by CD Projekt
  • Announced May 2004 (at E3)
  • Released October 2007
  • Is a single player RPG
  • Uses Aurora engine (developed by BioWare)
  • The game is based on Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Witcher Saga (Saga o Wiedźminie).

The Protagonists

Dragon Age: Origins

The protagonists are the Grey Wardens, an order of warriors dedicated to protecting the humanity from the Darkspawn. Their expanded fighting capabilities and the capability to sense the Darkspawn come from imbibing Darkspawn blood, which either causes death or corrupts the individual in a minor way. The downsides of going through the ritual are a shortened lifespan and the possibility of being sensed by Darkspawn. The ritual is called The Joining and is kept a secret.

The order is relatively small in number, their headquarters are the fortress of Weishaupt. Recently (game timeline), due to there not being a blight for several hundred years the Grey Wardens are seen as a relic of the past and both their influence and their numbers have dwindled. Following a failed coup d’état from the Grey Wardens the royal army attacked the headquarters of Ferelden Grey Warden’s. As a result the Grey Wardens at Soldier’s Peak were slaughtered and the order was banished from Ferelden for a number of years.

Establishing a normal life for a Grey Warden is nigh impossible. They are in constant danger of being attacked by the darkspawn, being a threat to everyone around them, and their short lifespan prevents them from settling down for any prolonged periods.

The Witcher

Witchers are a guild of mercenaries trained to protect people from the various monsters inhabiting the world. Their expanded fighting capabilities, improved vision in the dark and supernatural speed come from being subject to harsh training coupled with imbibing mutagenic substances, such as mushrooms, herbs and potions. The downside of going through the ritual is infertility. The ritual itself is called Witcher trials and has three stages, with the most important trial being the Trial of the Grasses (the consumption of the mutagen), and is kept a secret. Reportedly, only 4 out of 10 apprentices survive the trial.

Witchers also have the ability to sense monsters through a special Witcher medallion.

The group is relatively small in number, with their headquarter being the stronghold of Kaer Morhen. Recently (game timeline) witcher numbers have dwindled due to the monster numbers heavily decreasing. In the recent years a series of publications opprobrious to the Witchers incited an attack on Kaer Morhen. The mob with the help of mages slaughtered every Witcher there, the only surviving ones were the ones travelling abroad. The secret of mutagens needed to transform apprentices was lost with the death of the Witchers at Kaer Morhen, as a consequence no new Witchers are made (there seems to be no need to).

Because the Witchers are infertile (although they don’t seem to be lacking sexual appetite), they can’t easily start a family. Furthermore, their mutated bodies are easily recognisable (cat-like pupils, muscles) and inspire fear and hatred in anyone that recognises them. And while a Witcher might be able to defend himself from an angry mob, he might not be able to protect everyone around him. Normal life is near impossible for a Witcher.

The Kingdom

Dragon Age: Origins

Ferelden is one of the monarchies in Thedas.

In 44th year of Blessed Age the Orlesian kingdom attacked and conquered Ferelden. It wasn’t until 70 years later that Ferelden regained its independence. The relations between the two kingdoms remain tenuous, with Ferelden being always wary of Orlesian spies.

ThedasMap

The Witcher

Temeria is one of the monarchies in the Northern Kingdoms.

In 1239 (according to the story of the game) Nilfgaardian empire attacked the Northern Kingdoms, with Temeria taking a decisive role in the defense. The war ended after thirty years with a peace treaty, but the relations between the Northern Kingdoms and Nilfgaardian empire continue to be tenuous, with the latter not returning regions conquered during the war.

NortherkingdomMap

Non-humans

Dragon Age: Origins

Elves in Ferelden can be divided into two groups, those living in the alienages in the cities (Alienage elves) and those roaming the less populated areas in caravans (Dalish elves). Both groups are treated with contempt, are seen inferior to humans and have been a target of several uprisings. Many Alienage elves work as slaves or labour workers for the humans, while Dalish elves are often a target of mob attacks and can never settle down in an area for too long. The latter are also striving to preserve any remaining knowledge of their ancestors, while the Alienage elves are mostly heavily assimilated and hold little elven knowledge.

While dvarwes, keeping to themselves, aren’t seen as inferior to humans, they are a dying race. Most of their underground cities have long since crumbled and the Darkspawn are constantly threatening to swarm the surviving one (Orzammar). Most of humans are oblivious to the dwarves’ sacrifice, who fight to keep the Darkspawn from encroaching the human lands by battling them daily.

The Witcher

Elves, along with gnomes and dwarves, are one of the once dominant elder races. After the arrival of the humans all of the elder races are seen with contempt and considered useless, despite their numerous achievements (trumping those of humans). They are persecuted and are thought of as an inferior race, often living in the slums of the cities, taking on any jobs they can find, but not shying away from stealing and begging to survive.

Dwarves, although skilled craftsmen, artisans and soldiers, have as much trouble assimilating into the human communities as the elves. And even though skilled craftsmen and artisans will occasionally be grudgingly accepted into the society, the race at large is treated as unequal and harassed.

Both young elves and dwarves often join the Scoia’tael (Squirrels), a group of rebels dedicated to fighting the oppression with guerilla warfare. They are considered by the law as outlaws and criminals and anyone collaborating with them is apprehended and charged. Which means that the majority of them live in the wilderness on any support they get from other non-humans and whatever they can scavenge or plunder.

City Elf in DA:O

City Elf in TW

The Capital

Dragon Age: Origins

The capital of Ferelden is Denerim, a port city on the east coast of Ferelden. The city is built around Fort Drakon and is divided into a market and palace districts, an alienage and a port.

In the dragon age there is a plague raging in the alienage. That part of the city is blocked off and the elves in it are left to fend for themselves.

The Witcher

The capital of Temeria is Vizima, a city nestled between two forks of the Ismena river and lake Vizima. It’s divided into trade quarter, temple quarter, royal quarter (with the royal castle), a cemetery, old Vizima and the dike (with a port for trade). Old Vizima is the oldest part of the city, with mostly wooden houses, and has been turned into a ghetto for non-human residents.

The city has been under quarantine because of a plague, although the effects of which can in most part only be seen in the Old Vizima, which has been sealed off with its residents left to their own devices.

Magic

Dragon Age: Origins

Magic originates from the Fade, a paralel realm of existence where creatures visit when they dream. The power to manipulate it manifests randomly and those who don’t learn to control it are a danger to everyone around them. Which is why a specialised group, The Chantry, takes such individuals (usually children) and introduces them into a controlled environment (Circle of Mages), where they can be observed and eventually taught the ways of magic.

The Witcher

A natural disaster, The Conjunction of the Spheres — a cosmic collision of several parallel universes, left numerous creatures not native to that plane trapped in it. It also heralded the arrival of magic into the world. The power to control it manifests randomly and individuals need to learn to control it, otherwise they are a threat to society. Children found with the gift of magic (sources) are taken by the brotherhood of the sorcerers and trained.

Other Stuff

  • Both games feature a journal/codex containing all of the information on history, culture, people, creatures and regions the player encounters.
  • One of the central deities worshipped in the Northern Kingdoms is Melitele, the mother goddess. She appears in three forms, as a young girl, a pregnant soon-to-be mother and a wise old woman. I’m certain I saw the prophet Andraste (who is worshipped as the right hand of the Maker) being portrayed in a similar way in DA:O, as a young girl, a mother and a warrior. But I can’t remember where and I don’t have the game installed anymore.
  • In both games the capital get’s heavily damaged at some point in the story.
  • Both games flirt with the idea of a system of impactful decisions that are the result of the player’s moral compass (or roleplaying sense). I won’t discuss the effectiveness of both games’ implementation.

Statue of Melitele

Any More?

That’s all I got. If you’ve noticed any other similarities that I’ve missed, be so kind and post them in the comments below.

Also, any kind of attempt to expose and highlight resemblances can be faulted for trying to make a definitive statement by hinting at it. But if a simple in-depth look can be accused of forcing a smart, neutral reader into a certain viewpoint, then the comparison by itself is pretty definitive. If not, then hell, at least it’s an interesting read (I hope). The matter of fact is that I’ve been comparing the two games to find similarities and not differences. I’m sure the latter can be found aswell. And that’s that.

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4 thoughts on “The Dragon Witch

  1. I completed The Witcher on hardest difficulty while… well not sober that’s for sure. And there are similarities, but the atmosphere is more… “indie” I suppose, in The Witcher. More foreign and strange than our mainstream titles, and while linear is gameplay it gives us the freedom to prepare and explore rather than just exploring in Dragon Age.

    My 3 ören!

    • Hm, I have to say that I don’t agree with you at all. I didn’t find the atmosphere to be that much different from other AAA titles. It’s immersive and has a distinct feel. The world really feels alive, especially Vizima. Plus I love the weather and night/day cycle. I certainly would never say that the game is lacking in atmosphere.

      And I have to say I didn’t find the game to be too linear. You’re pretty much free to do whatever you want until there’s nothing left to do but do the main quests. Sure, the starting areas are small (Kaer Morhen is basically the tutorial area then Outskirts is kinda small and slow), but once you get into Vizima it’s really non-linear. Maybe you got that feeling from the Swamp? It really is the worst area in the game, but even playing through that I still don’t think it’s linear as a whole.

      Anyway, I’ll hopefuly have a proper review-thingy up soon, so you can tell me how wrong I am there. :D

  2. It was neat finding your website and realizing that I’m not the only person who feels this way about the two worlds. I’m a huge fan of both games. I played DA:O and DA:II multiple times and completed Witcher 1 and 2 and read the Witcher books. It’s been awhile since I’ve played either game and I still can’t get them out of my head. I’m actually planning on replaying Witcher 2 soon just because there was a minor story detail that came up during my first playthrough, related to the parallel universe stuff in particular. That kindof idea just fascinates me (what if the two worlds met somehow?).

    • I suspect there are a lot of similarities because BioWare saw in the first Witcher game that a setting, which is deeply rooted in the real world and focusing on similar problems we face, but with some fantasy elements can work really well, and that the fantasy genre is oversaturated with your standard fancy high fantasy worlds (the crowd is getting a bit sick of them, just like zombie themes).

      But because The Witcher is based on literary works, while the world of Dragon Age was built alongside the game, I’d certainly give the originality factor to The Witcher. Not to mention that CD Projekt pulled it off better than BioWare ever could.

      I haven’t had the chance to play the sequel yet, maybe I should gift it to myself now that I’ll have a bit of time to play over the holidays? I hear it’s exquisite, if a bit short (but there’s always DLCs!).

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