It wasn’t hard to guess that Dragon Age 4 might take place in the Tevinter Imperium. After all, at the end of Dragon Age: Inquisition you stab a big knife through your lovely map table right where the Tevinter Imperium is. Today, Eurogamer wrote that BioWare’s book BioWare: Stories and Secrets from 25 Years of Game Development confirms the mage-run empire will be the primary place where players can hope to kill (or kiss) “gotta end the world to save the world” bad guy Solas.
Eurogamer also notes that concept art included in the book could suggest that Dragon Age 4 might not be contained to just the Tevinter Imperium but could also allow players to explore neighboring areas. “Artwork of a glittering city surrounded by water almost certainly shows Antiva City, the capital of Antiva, an area which borders Tevinter to the east,” Eurogamer wrote. The site also notes that information in the book, such as Dragon Age 4 being led by Mark Darrah, is out of date.
I’m glad to see that Dragon Age might branch out and show players locations we’ve long heard about but never seen. But there’s one place with an equally storied history that I’m hoping we get to see in Dragon Age 4. No I’m not talking about Weisshaupt Fortress, the legendary headquarters of the Grey Warden faction. I’m talking about the country of Rivain.
Like the Tevinter Imperium and Antiva, Rivain existed in the Dragon Age mythos only in codex entries and as a place loveable characters hail from but never return to. It has the distinction of being the place in the world Black people originate. Duncan, the Grey Warden responsible for initially mentoring the player character in Dragon Age: Origins, is Rivaini. So is swashbuckling Dragon Age 2 disaster bisexual Isabela. Even Vivienne, one of my favorite (non-romanceable anyway) characters from Dragon Age: Inquisition, hails from Rivain. Rivain would make a fantastic setting for Dragon Age 4 because of the unique position the country occupies in the lore. In a world riven by war between different identities (mage vs. non-mage, elves vs. humans vs. qunari, Andrastian Church vs. The Qun), Rivain is the only place in the world of Thedas where there is relative peace.
In Rivain, elves are free to live where they like and not contained in World War II style ghettos called alienages. There is a peaceful settlement of Qunari, and their religion, the Qun, is allowed to proliferate as much as the dominant Andrastian religion, the religion of the ruling elite. In fact, most Rivaini worship spirits and have a tradition of female “seers” who commune with the spirits of the Fade, allowing cooperation with them and sometimes possession—a practice both the Qun and the Andrastian religions outlaw. It’s this traditional practice of magic that makes Rivain a seductive setting for the Dragon Age series.
For all of the Dragon Age series, magic is looked upon with distrust and fear, though the reason changes depending on the location. In southern parts of Thedas, mages are feared for their ability to cause destruction. From the moment their powers manifest, they are locked up in pseudo-prisons called Circles and kept under watch by magic-nullifying Templars. Those templars are trained and encouraged to kill mages the moment one steps out of line and will sometimes commit horrific abuses against them even when they don’t. Mages are not allowed to marry or have children, and any mage who attempts to flee this fate is hunted down and slaughtered.
The other part of Thedas—the Tevinter Imperium—overcorrects the brutal repression elsewhere by allowing mages to rule with a chain-wrapped iron fist. In the Imperium’s mage-ocracy, the non-magical are second-class citizens at best or slaves at worst. The Imperium’s mages often kill one another indiscriminately in petty power struggles or as blood sacrifices in service to an insatiable lust for power, with the lower classes almost always caught up in the bloodshed.
Rivain is the only place in all of Thedas where mages and non-mages live together peacefully in an intermixed society. This notion of peaceful coexistence was considered so dangerous to the outside Andrastian clergy that when they found out about it, they burned the country’s only Circle to the ground, killing every mage who lived there. Most of the major conflict in Dragon Age 2 and Inquisition stemmed from this antagonism between mages and the ruling Chantry. The games also always force you to choose a side. Wouldn’t it be awesome, then, to see in action the one place in the world that rejects this dichotomy?
I think so. Dragon Age 4 likely won’t be around until at least 2022, so there’s still time to add a Rivain quest or two. I really hope the folks at BioWare do.