On November 18, Dragon Age: Inquisition will be released in North America, and I am incredibly excited. I’ve been a fan of Edmonton-based (and now Electronic Arts-owned) game developer BioWare for a while now, and Inquisition is the latest installment to their action-adventure RPG Dragon Age video game series. Glowing reviews of the game are already hitting major game commentary websites and online publications, but for the most part, I’ve been pretty selective about which ones I’ll read. (I’m trying to avoid as many spoilers as possible, you know.) Still, finding out that the game is scoring so well among critics makes for a serious vote of confidence about how good this game is going to be.
Critics by-and-large have a lot of good things to say about the game so far in terms of its mechanics, player experience, and narrative value and scope. And that’s good to hear, considering that I’ve been looking forward to this game for over a year, and have had my copy pre-ordered since about the middle of last summer. It’s also good to hear that BioWare is improving their track record with Inquisition, as a lot of people (including myself) were pretty disappointed with the game’s predecessor in the series, Dragon Age II. A lot of the reviewers are calling Inquisition the spiritual (if not direct) sequel to Dragon Age: Origins, the game that started the series off. A lot of the polished gameplay, rich narrative intricacies, and elements of player experience that people loved about Origins were noticeably absent in Dragon Age II, and it’s heartening to hear that they’ve apparently been re-instated (in spades!) for Inquisition.
And that’s the sort of thing that’s got me thinking about the beginning of the Dragon Age series again, and revisiting some of my favourite story-related moments, including the silly throw-away gags that suffused and influenced the entire series’ feel. Even though Dragon Age’s installments are essentially based in the dark fantasy genre of story, there are still plenty of light-hearted moments in each game that are usually tongue-in-cheek, good-natured ribbing from the game writers and designers about the tropes characteristic to the genre of fantasy media—from its novels, to movies and video games.
In Dragon Age: Origins, one of these moments includes a specific party member, a Mabari hound (a type of very clever and boisterous war dog native to Origin’s setting and culture of Ferelden). Unlike other party member characters, the Mabari hound has the specific ability to bring unseen/off-screen items to the player character if asked. If the player were to bring the hound character with them while adventuring away from the safe zone of the party’s camp, the hound can be selected and asked if it can find anything interesting in the player’s immediate surroundings. The hound’s searches won’t always yield results, but there are a number of scripted outcomes to carrying out this action. Often the hound will return to the player with different item drops of either equipment, weapons, first-aid components, story-related objects, or ridiculous jokey items for the player to mull over (and wonder exactly how little sleep and how much coffee the story writers were running on when they wrote this particular interaction).
Eventually, after the player has asked the Mabari hound to have a look around, the dog will cheerfully return with a slightly soggy piece of cake that it found apparently just lying around and waiting to be discovered in some undisclosed location nearby. The hound will present the cake to the player with all the remarkably well computer-imaged and -animated mimicry of a dog’s natural enthusiasm, and then it’s up the player whether the slightly chewed (and slightly dog-slobbery) gift of cake will be accepted or not. (Personally, I always pick the dialogue option that shows the player is blatantly grossed out by the concept of “found cake” delivered via canine, but which still tells the dog he is a good boy, yes he is!)
And since I’ve pretty well got a one-track mind fixated on everything Dragon Age related until the release date of Inquisition, I thought that for this week’s wrap up of this blog, I would end with a recipe for a treat that’s rather specifically related to the game franchise: the Mabari hound’s found cake. (But don’t worry, the doggy delivery service and unknown circumstances of the cake’s existence and arrival is not at all included, so it’s totally safe to make, eat, and enjoy.)
A quick internet search for a recipe related to “found cake”, led me to Gourmet Gaming’s website and 2012 entry about preparing a Dragon Age: Origins inspired and styled cake. I made a few adjustments to Gourmet Gaming’s base recipe—essentially by adding a teaspoon of cinnamon and half a teaspoon of cayenne to the cake batter for a more intricate chocolate flavour profile, and by frosting the cake with entirely too much whipped cream. As a general note about this cake: due to the sheer amount of dairy layered on it, I don’t think the cake would keep for very long (even in the fridge), so it’s probably best that you and your family and friends (or favourite adventuring party members) polish the thing off within a day or two of putting it together.
However, I bet the resulting sugar rush is sure to help you speed through the last few remaining days until Dragon Age: Inquisition comes out!