Lost in Ostagar

by Dan H

Dan writes about Dragon Age, about three months after it was fashionable
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It is perhaps indicative of … something that by avoiding playing Dragon Age for a couple of months I have effectively missed the boat. After all, Mass Effect 2 is on the horizon, and I’m sure once it hits the shelves writing about Dragon Age will seem as peculiar and pointless as writing about Baldur’s Gate or Icewind Dale.

Never let it be said that Ferretbrain was afraid to embrace the peculiar and pointless.

For those of you who have (a) been living under a rock or (b) just aren’t that into western style D&D-derived fantasy CRPGs (and let’s face it the market for such games is dwindling, we seem to be under attack now from FPSes at one end and the astonishingly resurgent point-and-clicks at the other) Dragon Age is a spiritual successor to … well … every other game Bioware have ever made, each of which was a spiritual successor to the game that came before it, going back to Baldur’s Gate. So yeah, it’s a big epic fantasy thingumy where you take a party of dudes and fight evil.

This Ain’t Totally Is Your Grandpa’s Fantasy Game

Kyra and I have a friend who made a rather telling observation about Dragon Age or, more precisely, about the community reaction to it. It was strange, he said, that Dragon Age was so frequently praised for its portrayal of Elves and Dwarves, as if they were something that really existed, as if “portrayal of elves” was to a story set in a fantasy world what “portrayal of Marc Antony” was to something set at the time of the fall of the Roman Republic.

The really interesting thing, though, is that there is a sense in which this is actually true. Dwarves and Elves are part of the “reality” of fantasy RPGs. And just to be clear, I don’t mean the specific realities of those settings which happen to use those tropes, I mean that if you sit down and write a fantasy game you have to say “okay, what are we going to do with the dwarves and elves” just as certainly as if you’re writing a Sherlock Holmes game you have to sit down and say “okay, what are we going to do about Watson.”

To put it more simply, I sincerely doubt that anybody would buy a fantasy RPG without dwarves and elves in it. I can’t think of a single one in the last … in fact I can’t think of a single one ever. The Elder Scrolls games almost count, in that they have no dwarves extant in the setting but (a) the “Dwemer” most certainly existed in the past and (b) while there may be no dwarves, elves are fricking everywhere. Other than that, well obviously every D&D based game has them. Arcanum has them. Most action RPGs (not that most of us think they count) have them. The Witcher had them. Elves obviously aren’t a part of physical reality, but they’re certainly a part of market reality. Elves sell.

And it’s the elves and dwarves that are at the root of a lot of my issues with the game. Not directly and not specifically. Like Kyra I loved the Dwarf Noble introduction, and would pay good money for the Extreme Dwarf Noble Simulator. Rather the problem is with the whole set of assumptions and baggage that “Big Fantasy RPG Release” brings to the table with it.

There have to be Dwarves. And Elves. And Wizards. And you have to be able to play a Dwarf. Or an Elf. Or a Wizard.

My favourite RPG of all time is Planescape: Torment. Yes, I am that obvious. My second favourite RPG of all time is probably a tie between Fallout one and two and Mass Effect. My third favourite is the Knights of the Old Republic series. All of these games have one very important thing in common: you don’t actually get to choose who you play in them. You get a lot of control over what you do, and what you do says a lot about your personality, but your character is very, very fixed. You are the Nameless One, or Commander Shepherd, Revan or the Exile. What you have done in your life and – in many ways – what you want to do in the future are very much fixed. It’s no accident, I think, that only one of the games in this list is Fantasy based, and that it was extremely unpopular at release – after all you can’t play an elf in it.

Dragon Age or, to give it its full title Dragon Age: Origins gives you the choice of six possible “origins” (do you see) for your character, each of them very different from the last. You can be a Human Noble, a Human or Elf Mage, a City Elf living in the ghetto alienage, a Dalish Elf living free in the woods, a Dwarvish noble embedded in the cutthroat world of dwarf politics (seriously awesome) or a casteless dwarf growing up in the slums. There’s a lot I like about this – I rather like the fact that there’s no “ordinary human” option, which a lot of people don’t notice, but which I think helps you feel that your character is more special, and as Kyra observes it’s nice to have a different opening every time so you don’t get that “oh no, not Irenicus’ dungeon again” problem.

However, given six very different origin stories leading to six very different player characters (seven if you consider human mage and elf mage to be different options) the game then has to get all six of these characters into the same place to do the same thing – fight the Darkspawn Blight that is going to consume Ferelden. This is the main plot of the game and when you get right down to it, has nothing to do with anything that happens in any of the origin stories. To put it another way, as Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw put it: the main effect of playing an elf in the game is that every so often somebody will come up to you and say “hello, you are an elf”.

Down and Out in the Uncanny Valley

I want to talk a bit more about the “you are an elf” thing. Every fantasy RPG since the dawn of time has given you the option to play a wide variety of races and classes (Dragon Age actually pares these down a fair bit, which is all to the good, no game suffers from losing the option to be a Gnome Paladin) but in the game, the differences are largely superficial. You’re just an adventurer, and frequently addressed as such. Crucially though, most fantasy RPGs are set in the kinds of world where your character’s race and class make no difference in setting either. In most fantasy RPG settings elves really are just humans with pointy ears, and people really do just become “adventurers” and go around killing monsters for loot.

Dragon Age presents a world that is rather more detailed, and more – for want of a better term – sophisticated. Unfortunately it becomes just sophisticated enough for it to be obvious how grossly unsophisticated it really is. Take a look at the elves. The Elves in Dragon Age are the former slaves of the Tevinter Imperium, set free by the prophetess Andraste and seeking a new homeland for themselves in the woods of Ferelden, but many elves still live in squalor in the Alienages of Denarim, where they have no rights and little freedom. They’re basically an amalgamation of every ethnic minority in history. And what is the effect of playing a member of this despised underclass? What is the wide-reaching consequence of playing a character whose status in society is roughly equivalent to a Jew in the Warsaw Ghetto?

“You don’t get many elves in the Grey Wardens.”

Under normal circumstances, this is a world of no problem. In Cod Fantasy Setting B there’s nothing wrong with conversations that go: “Hello [CHARACTERNAME], you seem like a young [RACE] with an eye for an opportunity, and I happen to have need of a highly skilled [CLASS].” In a world that is supposed to be dealing with themes like the systematic oppression of an entire race of people, to the extent that regular pogroms are launched against them you need to hold yourself to a higher standard. A significantly higher standard.

There’s a lot about Dragon Age that feels like a child dressing up in its mother’s clothes. It’s got all the trappings of a mature, sophisticated setting – with ghettoes and rapes, an absent god and corrupt nobility – but none of it is followed through. Yes there’s no “good” and “evil” but there are characters who are clearly “the good guys” (the Grey Wardens, Arl Aemon, the party) and “the bad guys” (Teyrn Logain, the Darkspawn, Arl Howe) and for all its pretence of politics and deep-rooted social conflict, it is ultimately about saving the world from a big monster.

Kyra and I are currently playing through as a human Mage, and I think we probably made the right choice of: Origin in that as a human mage we’re basically a loyal member of Ferelden society who was always brought up with the assumption that they’d go around doing dangerous shit to protect people. To our character, being a Grey Warden is basically no different and we still think of ourselves as a circle mage deep down (although we did delve into Blood Magic because frankly the other mage specialisations are bobbins). With pretty much any other backstory I can’t help but think I’d want to be doing something else with my time. As a noble (Dwarf or Human) I’d have a position in society to reclaim, and as an elf I’d have the plight of my people to worry about.

The game brings up a huge number of themes and conflicts which it doesn't really resolve. I'm not asking for my character to be able to solve the deep-seated social inequalities that the setting is built on, to free the elves, abolish the Dwarvish caste system, and stop the Chantry from interfering with the Circle of Mages, but I am asking for the game to allow my character to deal with the fact that I can't solve those problems.

It doesn't help that the deep seated inequities of Ferelden society are extremely unevenly presented. There's a very telling conversation with Sten in which he talks about how strange Ferelden is:
Your farmers want to be merchants, your merchants dream of being nobles ... it is better to have one life, one duty

Now hold on a moment. Is that somebody complaining that the feudal monarchy of Ferelden has too much social mobility? I'm very much reminded of Arthur's common complaint about the works of Raymond E Fiest – that writers let themselves slip into the assumption that medieval Europe is basically just the same as modern America but with swords, but then have the whole of the rest of the world embody the worst or most alien aspects of their historical cultures. Essentially Sten is confused by Ferelden because he expects it to work like a feudal society and it doesn't, and I have to say I mirror his confusion.

The whole conversation wouldn't bug me as much as it does save for two things. Firstly, Dragon Age makes a really big thing about how it's got this Dark Man Dark setting, there's lots of talk of noblemen going around raping people (only the bad noblemen of course), there's lots of blood and death and killing, but the whole thing is superficial. In all the ways that count, Ferelden is a twenty-first century nation state, complete with cash economy, remarkably liberal attitudes towards women and minorities, and near total social mobility.

The second thing that bugs me about that whole conversation with Sten is that you don't get the chance to agree with him. Normally, of course, I hate having to agree with NPCs – it makes me feel like a complete arselicker – but not only did I not get to agree with him, I didn't get to disagree with him in any way I felt made sense. Broadly speaking, the options you get are “It's better this way,” “You have a point, but I think it's better this way,” and “It's better this way and you're stupid.” The option you don't get, the option which I really wanted, was one of the following:

Dwarf Noble: “You're right. By the way, my culture also operates under a strict caste system, and I think we're the stronger for it.”

Dwarf Commoner: “Actually, my culture has a strict caste system, and looking around, I think Human culture is similar. I don't think they're a good idea.”

Human Noble: “You're right. As a hereditary nobleman I firmly believe that I was born with rights that other people do not possess. Also our society already works that way so I'm really not sure what you're talking about.”

Mage: “Actually, I was born a mage, have no choice about it, and was raised to believe I have a duty to use my powers to protect Ferelden so ... yeah, preaching to the choir here.”

City Elf: “You think our farmers dream of being merchants? Come to the Alienage Sten, I'll show you how much dreaming we do in there.”

Dalish Elf: “And what about my people, we dreamed of being free, and we have achieved it. Were we wrong?”

Dragon Age is sometimes criticised for being generic. That's not really the problem, the problem is that it's generic in places where it has already been specific. Sten's observation that the people of Ferelden are too keen to improve their station would have been low-key dumb in any game set in a medieval fantasy world, but it would have been a tiny drop in the ocean of dumb that makes most fantasy settings operate. The problem in Dragon Age is that every single player character starts the game defined by the circumstances of their birth. It is, in fact, a major schtick of the game. Every player character has first hand experience of the fact that Ferelden is not at all how Sten describes it, but you don't get the option to point that out, and the result is that the writers seem to have forgotten how their own damned setting works.

NPC Interactions: The Romance Option that Dare Not Speak Its Name

So after Kyra played her hot dwarf rogue, we decided to play through together. In particular, we (and by we I kind of mean I) decided to play a hot gay mage and romance Liliana. After all, it's the first major RPG we've been in that had a gay romance option that didn't involve an allegedly-androgynous alien. We got the hot bit right, we got the mage bit down pat, but actually being gay is remarkably difficult.

Obviously the game doesn't force you to shag men, and you can have quite a lot of girl-on-girl encounters if you want them (and Alistair seems to really like it if you do) but it's remarkably hard to actively self-define as a homosexual. For example, there are a couple of situations in which you can sleep with female NPCs (Isabella in the Pearl being the classic example, although we reloaded from that because I'd felt like we were cheating on Liliana) and when you do Alistair gets all “wow, you mean you're going to ... with her? Wow.” You don't at that point get the option to say “Yes Alistair, I'm a lesbian, deal with it.” There's several situations in which you can choose to have your female character sleep with a girl, but you never get the option to declare that you like girls as a general principle.

Similarly (or possibly conversely) when your male NPCs start confessing their undying love for you - which seems to happen whenever their Approval rating ticks over a predefined level, which seems to mean it happens more than once if you piss them off again – you don't seem to get the option to say “look, the thing is I don't actually go for men.”

Just to be clear here, I'm not complaining about the portrayal of homosexuality in Dragon Age. Homosexuals get treated basically the same way as heterosexuals – you don't get the option to tell people you're straight any more than you get the option to tell them you're gay. Rather, it bugs me because it exemplifies my major issue with the game.

My big problem with Dragon Age is this: it doesn't let you play the characters it lets you create. This is why the inability to self-define as a lesbian bothers me so much, the game specifically allows you to pursue homosexual relationships, but it doesn't really allow you to play a gay character. I'm not saying you have to be Daffyd from Little Britain, introducing yourself to NPCs with: “You can call me [CHARACTERNAME], I'm a gay!” but it would be nice to get just a little bit of follow-through.

Of course arguably this is my own fault for giving my character a personality trait which the game was under no particular obligation to implement. I'm willing to let them off writing “outspoken homosexual” dialogue options. I'm less willing to let them off writing “raised by the Circle” dialogue options or “lived in an Alienage and was nearly raped on my wedding day” dialogue options, because those character backgrounds are hard coded into the freaking game. There's a conversation with Zhevran Dudecorset in which he asks you about your mother. You get three options, broadly “my mother was great” “my mother sucked” and “my mother was neither great nor sucky”. You don't get the option to say “I don't remember my mother because I was sent to the Circle as a child.” To be frank, I kind of think that's lazy. Again your background is hard coded into the game. In pretty much every Origin I've played through your mother's fate is quite specifically defined by the game, and is often tragic (she's often been quite explicitly killed) and not taking this into account strikes me as crazy.

The Silent Hero

I said at the beginning that the big problem with Dragon Age was the fact that it was a fantasy game, and that in a fantasy game you have to let players play anything they want. This isn't a problem in itself, as long as you're willing to – in essence – write six wholly different games, one for each possible character background (I'll let you off counting Human and Elf mages separately) and hire twelve voice actors to voice them, so that your elves don't sound like your humans, your nobles don't sound like your commoners, and your girls don't sound like your men.

It's a figure commonly bandied about that Dragon Age contains two hundred thousand lines of dialogue. This is twice as many as Mass Effect, but twice as many lines as Mass Effect is only one third as many lines as they need. Mass Effect has one protagonist, Shepherd, all of his/her lines are voice acted, and all of his/her lines sound like something Shepherd would say, this is because when you get right down to it, male or female, Paragon or Renegade, Shepherd is always the same person. Shepherd's lines have real character, because the designers had a clear idea of who they wanted him/her to be (and because voice acting covers a multitude of sins). Whatever class you pick, Shepherd is always a soldier. He/she looks like a soldier, talks like a soldier, and acts like a soldier. Dragon Age didn't have that luxury. Human Nobles don't talk like City Elves, who don't talk like Dwarves, and none of them talk like generic adventurer dudes.

Don't get me wrong, I'm really enjoying Dragon Age and our fit lesbian mage, but time and again I find myself wishing the game would let me play the character it let me create, that I could behave believably like somebody who lived in the setting the writers designed.
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Comments (go to latest)
Arthur B at 15:49 on 2010-01-19
I wonder whether the lack of follow-through on many of the setting elements isn't down to a) the game supposedly being intended as a gateway drug to CRPGs (and tabletops, there's an actual Dragon Age RPG out from Green Ronin), and b) the game clearly being intended to be the start of an epic series.

a) would naturally prompt the designers to go with a tried-and-tested plot. (It's also allegedly behind some of the more unusual advertising decisions in the run-up to the release.) b) would place an onus on them to keep at least a few things back for the sequels. In combination, I can easily see how it could put the designers in a position where they don't feel like they can directly confront too many of the major setting issues, because they've got this big arc where the elf thing is going to be the major theme of Dragon Age: Pogroms and the social inequalities and corruption will be tackled in Dragon Age: Nobles Can't Keep Their Dicks In Their Pants.
Dan H at 16:57 on 2010-01-19
You might well be right, but you can't actually get away with saving your consistency for a later installment. Indeed I'd suggest it's part of the same problem. Things are only an issue when they're What It's About. Being an elf only seems to matter when you're in the elf-bits, that just isn't how it works.
Arthur B at 17:54 on 2010-01-19
When you put it that way, it sounds like a pitfall of design by committee. Designer A is in charge of the elf bits, has this grand vision for them, and has worked out a frightening amount of background detail on the elves, to the point where Designers B and C don't feel able to include much elf lore in their quests because they don't want to trespass, and don't feel as much of an expert as A, and don't want to ask for A's input because they have their own visions for their own parts of the game that they don't want A meddling in...
Jamie Johnston at 18:55 on 2010-01-20
Your farmers want to be merchants, your merchants dream of being nobles ... it is better to have one life, one duty

Er... has the game extrapolated from 'the development of an agricultural economy into a trading economy with a substantial mercantile class is generally an advance in economic sophistication and productivity' to 'farmers aspire to be merchants'? Rather than, I don't know, noting the fact that in most societies at that stage of economic development farmers despise merchants as parasites who produce nothing and therefore make no contribution to society but merely make a dishonest living by moving the products of other people's toil from one place to another? Gah.

Sorry, this isn't the place for me to rant about the persistent failure of almost every creator of fantasy worlds I've ever encountered or heard anything about to realize that creating a credible fantasy world requires a significant degree of understanding of pretty much all the social sciences.

I was also going to say, 'Wouldn't they actually have to write twelve different games?', but then it occurred to me that the world of the game might be a world in which there's racism and feudalism but no sexism that would make a female character's plot different from a male's. Which would be a surprising world but perhaps not an impossible one to make believable.
Rude Cyrus at 19:04 on 2010-01-20
While I'm having quite a bit of fun with this game, I don't like it as much as Mass Effect -- maybe that's because I've always been more of a sci-fi guy than a fantasy buff. However, I think it's because the game can be absolutely punishing if you aren't careful. One random encounter with a bunch of darkspawn or an especially tough opponent can spell doom for the whole party, and if you haven't saved recently...well, good luck replaying the last twenty minutes.
Dan H at 14:13 on 2010-01-21
Er... has the game extrapolated from 'the development of an agricultural economy into a trading economy with a substantial mercantile class is generally an advance in economic sophistication and productivity' to 'farmers aspire to be merchants'?


I suspect it's simpler than that actually, I suspect they just assumed - like most generic fantasy settings - that Ferelden was basically America With Swords. Which isn't actually a problem in and of itself (one of the myths I find particularly annoying in fantasy is the notion that fantasy settings are *trying* to create a believable facsimile of a historical culture - at the risk of making this parenthetical longer than the rest of the paragraph I think it's important to recognise that fantasy is frequently about myth-making. You shouldn't criticise Camelot for not looking believably like the court of an iron age chieften).

The problem in Dragon Age is that it's just sophisticated enough to show how unsophisticated it is. Because it makes a big song and dance out of its low fantasy trappings, it makes it quite jarring to realise you've been living in New York all this time.
Arthur B at 15:00 on 2010-01-21
Sorry, this isn't the place for me to rant about the persistent failure of almost every creator of fantasy worlds I've ever encountered or heard anything about to realize that creating a credible fantasy world requires a significant degree of understanding of pretty much all the social sciences.

To be fair, to create a credible constructed fictional world you arguably need to be an expert in everything, from the humanities to the arts to the sciences (social and hard). Realistically speaking, if you look hard enough on any aspect of a fictional world you're going to end up seeing the strings sooner or later.

The real trick isn't in coming up with an inhumanly complex level of detail. It's in convincing the audience not to question the details you do provide, and part of that includes making sure the details you provide don't invite the sort of questions the farmer thing brings up.
Andy G at 15:44 on 2010-01-21
Sorry, this isn't the place for me to rant about the persistent failure of almost every creator of fantasy worlds I've ever encountered or heard anything about to realize that creating a credible fantasy world requires a significant degree of understanding of pretty much all the social sciences.


Once again, Ursula le Guin is a notable exception. She has a background in anthropology and creates very plausible societies without needing to describe every single last detail.
Arthur B at 16:40 on 2010-01-21
Le Guin is a good example, in fact. (As is Jack Vance, though he relied on his extensive experiences travelling in the South Seas more than on any academic background in anthropology). She's able to give you the impression of a deep and complex society, but she also understands that to maintain that impression she can't afford to focus too closely on minutiae.

Unfortunately, when it comes to games you can't control what the player pays attention to. Authors can elect to describe only the things they wish to describe, and directors can choose to film scenes from the angle of their choice. On the other hand, the more freedom games give to players to explore their surroundings and poke at them, the less control the designers have over what players choose to focus on. And yet, at the same time, it's that sense of freedom that CRPGs often strive for.
Andy G at 17:09 on 2010-01-21
Robinson L at 15:30 on 2010-06-12
(Still working verrrrrrry slowly through the backlog …)

Dragon Age presents a world that is rather more detailed, and more – for want of a better term – sophisticated. Unfortunately it becomes just sophisticated enough for it to be obvious how grossly unsophisticated it really is.

It sounds like the game designers have achieved a very specific level of sophisticated.

OK that's enough Ursula le Guin evangelising for one day.

Thanks for the reading, Andy. Interesting stuff.
http://webcomcon.blogspot.com/ at 20:13 on 2010-07-13
Some interesting news about Dragon Age 2:

In Origins, party members were incompatible with certain moral stances. For example, Leliana and Wynne wouldn't tolerate cruelty and would abandon the Warden if their approval rating fell lo enough. This led many evil-inclined players to avoid using Leliana or Wynne even when they were optimal choices for party balance. This kind of metagame is no longer necessary in Dragon Age 2. If a character disagrees with your choices they may complain, but it isn't necessarily bad. In fact, being openly hostile to your party members unlock combat bonuses that influence their battle in other ways. Finally, players can tell off the characters that annoy them.


From Gameinformer's writeup this month of Dragon Age 2. This is, I think, really interesting, I think it gets at the main problem in Influence mechanics. No longer is there a single, optimal way to talk to your party members that gives you mechanical bonus, new content, etc. Instead, both "compulsive sycophant" and "tells it like it is" character concepts can have their choice of dialogue mechanically supported, which is definitely a good step. And stuff in between, since you presumably won't have to be "I hate all my party members" or "I love all my party members" to get the optimal benefits--you can form feuds with the ones you disagree with and agree with the ones you like. And you can expect to have these choices recognized and validated by the game. We may wonder how much sense it actually makes, but still.
Wardog at 20:31 on 2010-07-13
Huh, interesting and very welcomed by me, if they actually manage to pull it off.

I'm slightly intrigued/disappointed by the whole Mass-Effect direction of DAII. I mean, I don't mind per se - and I actually prefer Mass Effect in many ways - but it just strikes me as an unexpected divergence from the aspirations of the first game.
http://webcomcon.blogspot.com/ at 21:49 on 2010-07-13
In some ways, I feel the same way about ME2 compared to ME1. Someone pointed out that a different developer might've taken the crudely-implemented mechanical complexity of Mass Effect, and then refined the systems until they were interesting and rich and intriguing and deep and useable. Instead, Bioware just removed the complex systems and replaced them with other things. As far as I'm concerned, it worked really well, but we are used to reflexively giving prizes to ambition, even failed ambition. (Witness how much we love Troika, Obsidian, etc.)

I am very very unsure what to think about the news that Dragon Age 2 for consoles is going to have a significantly different combat/gameplay experience than Dragon Age 2 for PCs. Don't really know how to react to that at all.
Arthur B at 22:19 on 2010-07-13
I kind of liked the fact that in Origins the NPCs would actually leave if you pissed them off too much. It ended up becoming a fun side game for me - how many of my companions could I kill off before the final battle?

On the other hand, telling NPCs to sit down and shut up is an awfully tempting prospect.
http://webcomcon.blogspot.com/ at 23:26 on 2010-07-13
The allure of pissing off party members in Bioware games has faded for me, I think; the Dark Side ending of Knights of the Old Republic sated my hunger for being so evil that I either drive away or kill all the cool party members. I mean, sure, I still had Canderous and HK-47 and (I think) Jolee, but no Mission or Zaalbar :(
Arthur B at 23:32 on 2010-07-13
I liked Zaalbar but I found Mission insufferable.

So when I went for the Dark Side ending I was very pleased that I had maxed out my mind control powers. VERY PLEASED.
To put it more simply, I sincerely doubt that anybody would buy a fantasy RPG without dwarves and elves in it. I can’t think of a single one in the last … in fact I can’t think of a single one ever. The Elder Scrolls games almost count, in that they have no dwarves extant in the setting but (a) the “Dwemer” most certainly existed in the past and (b) while there may be no dwarves, elves are fricking everywhere. Other than that, well obviously every D&D based game has them. Arcanum has them. Most action RPGs (not that most of us think they count) have them. The Witcher had them. Elves obviously aren’t a part of physical reality, but they’re certainly a part of market reality. Elves sell.


That is not true. None of the Ultima games after three had any elves or dwarves* in them, and they sold. Hell, Ultima is often considered one of the two CRPG mega-series. More recently, the Gothic and Risen series are devoid of elves and dwarves, as far as I can remember.

*Well, this is not entirely true. Ultima Underworld had dwarf-like characters, but they were called Mountainmen, and their dwarf-like nature can be explained by the fact that the game only became an Ultima game late in the development process.
Wardog at 09:54 on 2011-02-17
I don't think it's *literally impossible* for a fantasy game to be popular without having elves and dwarves in it because, yes, I'll give Ultima but compared to a game like DA, Gothic and Risen are merely bit players commercially speaking.
Dan H at 08:32 on 2011-02-18
That is not true. None of the Ultima games after three had any elves or dwarves*
in them


Sorry, my fault for oversimplifying - while the Ultima games are a big CRPG franchise they're not much of a mainstream presence nowadays.

Plus I simply never played the Ultima series, so I have no real idea what was in it. I have looked at Gothic, but as Kyra points out it's not exactly a commercial success.
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