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Dragon Age: Redemption Review

on Mon, 12/05/2011 - 00:00

Felicia Day has never been shy in regards to her love for online gaming. “I had a really bad World of Warcraft addiction for almost two years,” she told WoW Insider in August 2007. “The life of an actor is either very busy or very slow, and I filled every second of the slow times with WoW.” Day was able to translate that passion into the screwball comedy The Guild, which features a dysfunctional group of online gamers who have numerous difficulties adapting to life in the real world. For her second web series creation, meanwhile, Felicia Day has delved into the actual fantasy worlds that role-playing games like World of Warcraft meticulously construct to craft the Lord-of-the-Rings-esque Dragon Age: Redemption.

Dragon Age itself is an actual video game developed by BioWare and initially released in 2009. Set in the fantasy worlds of Ferelden and Thedas, a collection of warriors, mages and rogues must unite the various races of the continent in order to defeat a horde of demonic creatures that is intent on overrunning the kingdom. BioWare has already taken its creation into other mediums, including novels and comic books, and when they decided to embark even further into the web series genre, Felicia Day was the obvious choice to write, act and produce the project.

Dragon Age: Redemption thus takes place within the world of Dragon Age, and Day not only remains true to the source material but augments the narrative with brief introductions that details the various inhabitants and aspects of the realm for the uninitiated. According to the mythology, there are two main factions in Ferelden—Humans and the Qunari. The Humans are led by a church known as the Chantry, while the Qunari are intent on forcibly converting not only Humans but Elves and Dwarfs as well to their own religion, the Qun. Suffice it to say, these two factions are nothing less than mortal enemies.

Despite such philosophical differences, both Humans and the Qunari are in agreement that those who possess magical powers are a danger to the world of Dragon Age. The Qunari keep such practitioners, known as mages, leashed by a collar that neutralizes their mystical abilities, while Humans simply keep them locked deep inside darkened dungeons. One such mage, known as Saarebas, was initially a prisoner of the Qunari before escaping, only to then find himself a captive of the Humans. Neither species proved effective at keeping Saarebas under lock and key, however, as he escapes from his Human prison just as easily as he had done with the Qunari.

Thus begins Dragon Age: Redemption, with the Qunari sending Elf assassin Tallis (Felicia Day) to find, retrieve and return Saarebas (Doug Jones) back to them. During her journey, Tallis crosses path with a Chantry Templar named Cairn (Adam Rayner), who is likewise searching for Saarebas. Despite their loyalty to competing factions, Tallis and Cairn form a partnership to track down the mage, with the understanding that they will dual—to the death, if necessary—once the task has been completed in order to determine which of them takes actual custody of their prey. Tallis and Cairn are eventually joined on their quest by the young mystic heeler Josmael (Masam Holden), who is engaged to a fellow Elf taken hostage by Saarebas, as well as a mercenary warrior known as Nyree (Marcia Battise).

Felicia Day has crafted Dragon Age: Redemption into six episodes of approximately ten minutes in length that contain equal parts action, adventure, intrigue and dashes of humor. Each installment ends with a cliffhanger as Tallis, Cairn, Josmael and Nyree venture further along their path until the ultimate plans of Saarebas are finally revealed. Suffice it to say that mere escape is not his intention, but rather revenge against those who have held him hostage through the years instead.

“No matter how hard we fight it, we fall to our true nature,” Tallis tells Saarebas in the final episode, and the words could just as easily refer to the Elf assassin. Initially raised as a member of her clan, Tallis was later sold into slavery by her parents. The Qunari eventually rescued Tallis in exchange for her services but she was “demoted” to common laborer for disobeying orders. The task of retrieving Saarebas is thus a second chance and means of redeeming herself in the eyes of the Qunari.

“An art collector had an object the Qunari wanted but he refused to part with it,” she explains of her past mistake. “So I was tasked to break in, take it, leave no trace. Turns out he was a collector of many rare things, including little girls. He had four of them, chained to his bedroom. Slaves. So I freed them. I finished the mission but as far as leave no trace, they never found all the nobleman’s body parts.”

Thus while Tallis initially accepts the new mission of recapturing Saarebas as a means of redeeming herself to her Qunari overlords, the main narrative of Dragon Age: Redemption is actually about finding a sense of personal redemption for the once Elf, once slave, once assassin known as Tallis. The Templar warrior Cairn also has a dark secret regarding his past, and the task of finding Saarebas is likewise a quest for personal redemption just as much—if not more so—as it is for Tallis. Even the Elf heeler Josmael and Reaver Nyree discover truths about their inner nature by the end of the web series.

With The Guild, Felicia Day created a true comedic masterpiece that is worthy of standing alongside such contemporary classic sitcoms as The Big Bang Theory and The Office. With Dragon Age: Redemption, the actor-slash-writer has again crafted a web series masterpiece, albeit of a different nature. With its gripping narrative, realistically constructed fantasy world and cliffhanger-ending episodes that keep the action flowing, Dragon Age: Redemption is not only a worthy companion piece to Dragon Age but the likes of The Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones as well, even if it may not have the same epic scope.

Stories of personal redemption told over the course of six short episodes, after all, can be just as heroic and entertaining as grander tales that unravel over multiple volumes, as Felicia Day ultimately proves with Dragon Age: Redemption.

Anthony Letizia (December 5, 2011)

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