An Intro to the Grey Wardens (Dragon Age: Origins)

Yeah, I’ve been doing a lot of Dragon Age: Origins posts. There’re two reasons for that. First & foremost, I’m very excited about the game. And second, Bioware’s PR has seen fit to provide Dragonchasers with an on-going stream of press materials.

In Dragon Age: Origins, your character is a Grey Warden. So who are these guys and girls?

The Grey Wardon is a military organization dedicated to fighting the Darkspawn. They have no allegiance to country or kin: they’re feared by many, due to their independence and military prowess. Their only purpose is to fight the Darkspawn and many people don’t even believe Darkspawn are real.

Maybe I should back up. The Darkspawn are a race of corrupt, basically humanoid people living underground. Their warrens are filled with fungus-like growths and weird hanging flesh sacs. They’re filled with a smell like rotting meat. The skin of the Darkspawn is described as rotting or tumescent, but they have sharp fangs and talons. Their bite is toxic and anyone bitten will either die from the poison or turn into an insane, ghoulish creature. There are various ‘classes’ of Darkspawn. Think, y’know, orc-kind, where you have goblins and orcs and cave trolls.

The Darkspawn are driven to search for The Old Gods: ancient dragons sleeping in lairs beneath the earth. When they find one, they infect the dragon with their corruption. Eventually the dragon wakens and bursts forth from its lair. The Darkspawn then follow it to the surface and set about trying to kill every living thing they can find. This event is known as a Blight, and they happen infrequently enough that memory of them fades into legend.

The Grey Wardens remain ever vigilant in the centuries between Blights, fighting skirmishes with the Darkspawn during their infrequent smaller raids on the surface. The Wardens can detect the Darkspawn and vice versa, because to become a Grey Warden you have to drink the blood of a Darkspawn (many candidates die from this), thus taking their taint inside yourself.

If a Grey Warden lives long enough, he or she will start to lose the battle against the corruption living inside them. When that happens, they undertake a ritual known as The Calling, in which they enter the warrens of the Darkspawn one last time, alone, with their intent being to kill as many of the foul beings as possible before dying in battle. Before this journey they, along with their close friends, feast among the dwarves who also live underground. The morning after the feast, the dwarves open the massive portals that lead to the Deep Roads where the Darkspawn now dwell, and the Warden enters alone. The portal is re-sealed, leaving the Warden to his or her fate.

6 thoughts on “An Intro to the Grey Wardens (Dragon Age: Origins)

  1. My main fear about Dragon Age is petty, I think. For a team that consistently breaks boundaries, Dragon Age seems so generic “dark fantasy” that I almost do not even want to pick it up. I’ve not really noticed anything in promo materials that yank me into the world that I couldn’t also find in Warhammer or something similar.

    Now, I’m sure I’ll get it, but for BioWare, I’m just not seeing their polish in this one.

  2. I do, however, like the idea of the corruption eating away at them. It’s a Lovecraftian device that always makes me giggle a little when I see it in use. More games should use it, I think. Even if it is just lore and not gameplay mechanics. Inherent corruption is sexy.

  3. I’m enjoying the Dragon Age coverage! Can’t wait to play it.

    My main concern is what the g ameplay is going to be like. If it’s just like BG2 then … I found it a bit tedious.

  4. @Professor Beej: The “taint” that consumes the Grey Wardens reminds me a lot of “The Painted Man” by Peter V. Brett. The main protagonist consumes the flesh of demons at one point and is frightened to see that he gains some of their abilities and characteristics.

  5. @ProfessorBeej – It’d be hard to argue that the world of Dragon’s Age is stunningly original. They took standard fantasy tropes and twisted them a bit, sure, but it’s still fairly typical fantasy. I’m just happy to have a party-based single player RPG headed our way, with a toolset similar to what NWN had (which means lots of user-created mods, at least in theory).

    My biggest fear is that the gore levels will be way too over the top.

    @Spinks – They’re calling it a ‘spiritual successor’ to BG2, so it might play similar. I’m hoping they’ve added better AI so you can set up characters and they’ll act ‘intelligently’ enough that you don’t have to constantly babysit them.

    The info in this post, btw, was gleaned from the DA novel, The Calling. One of the characters in this book is a dwarf woman who is basically a monk (in D&D terms), preferring open handed combat most of the time, but falling back on nunchuks when needed. Odd.

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