"Dragon Age: Absolution" is an action-packed treat for fans of the award-winning video game franchise. The six-episode animated series expands the world of Thedas, including giving us our first look at a major location and some potential plot threads of the new game, and has a memorable cast of characters, all while delivering stunning animated action. That being said, the show has next to no consideration for those not familiar with the games, with a rapid-fire dropping of names and terms, and rather little explanation for how any of it works.

The franchise takes place in a fantasy world full of magic, and one of the things that make the game and "Absolution" stand out is their exploration of the consequences magic would have on politics and religion. Being a mage is not something cool that makes you popular, because mages are severely oppressed and regulated by authorities for fear of them turning to blood magic. Likewise, elves are not noble and ageless, but mortal and subjugated by humans.

"Dragon Age: Absolution," then, brings a bit of an "Ocean's Eleven" style heist movie feel to the franchise, with a mismatched group of do-gooders getting hired to steal a dangerous magical artifact that can bring the dead back to life. Unfortunately, the artifact is in the dictatorial state of Tevinter, an empire where mages are the ruling class and slave revolts happen all the time. It is an extremely dangerous and secluded place — which is why none of the games have gone there yet.

Not Newby Friendly

One of the most enjoyable things about the "Dragon Age" games is the banter and discussions between characters. Bioware games are praised for their writing, worldbuilding, decision-making, and dialog, and this show captures that. Rather than having the characters argue about whether they want to be selfless and do the right thing, they all want to do what's right (kind of). But their decisions, goals, and justifications are all influenced by their upbringing, social class, and faith. We see how background characters react to our band of misfits, how even a friendly qunari is treated with fear, or how an elf is immediately discriminated against. This helps make the world of the show feel lived-in and its cultures varied and different.

That being said, the show doesn't really spend as much time exploring the deeper questions found in the games, because for the most part, "Dragon Age: Absolution" just assumes you're already familiar with the games and their big conflicts. The show feels in some ways less of a standalone story and more like downloadable content for one of the games, meant to be experienced right after finishing the main story — and not by someone who is just now getting into the franchise.

There are tons of references to the lore and even the plot of the previous games, but they feel like part of the tapestry of the world rather than callbacks. Someone mentions the player character from "Dragon Age: Inquisition" and The Breach, but it's treated not as a Leonardo-DiCaprio-pointing-meme moment and instead as a major world event that just happened. There are even plot points introduced that likely hint at a connection to the next game, and they feel like an organic escalation of the show's conflict.

Great Action

While all this is really cool for fans of the game, and makes the experience of watching the show richer, it also means the show never stops to explain anything — and if you've never heard of the Herald of Andraste, or the Blight, you'll miss out on a lot. Still, if you do a bit of Googling every few minutes, or simply take the heist story at face value, "Dragon Age: Absolution" is a hoot. It recreates the experience of playing an RPG, from the many kinds of romances, to the action almost feeling like it's turn-based, with a main party composed of your archetypical RPG classes.

Studio Red Dog Culture House brings the level of kineticism they put into "The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf," with dynamic fight choreography and camera work that feels distinct from, say, "Vox Machina" or "Castlevania" — even if a lot of the dialogue and the tone of the comedy feels very close to "Critical Role." "Dragon Age: Absolution" is not where you want to start with this beloved franchise, as it spares no time explaining the lore for newcomers. That being said, the show is a true gift to fans of the games, a thrilling story rich in worldbuilding with stunning action and plenty of cool references that add to its expanding world.

"Dragon Age: Absolution" premieres globally on Netflix on December 9, 2022.

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