Friday, April 8, 2011

How Dragon Age is like... Insidious?

If you're looking for a horror movie to see this weekend, you could do worse than Insidious. I saw it last weekend and walked away impressed, not to mention a little shaken. It's sitting at 61% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is very solid given the anti-horror bias among professional critics (by comparison, 61% for a costume drama would indicate complete suckitude).

The thing that seems to divide positive and negative reviews is the point in the movie where it starts to explain the strange happenings of the first act using some pretty convoluted parapsychology mumbo-jumbo. Admittedly, the explanations are pretty goofy, and if someone in real life started telling me this stuff, I would be backing away slowly. But c'mon, this is a horror movie. If you can't deal with outlandish revelations, you're probably just not a fan of the genre.

I am a fan of the genre, obviously, but I also have personal reasons that made it easy for me to suspend disbelief. One, I used to be into parapsychology when I was 13, and while I now know that all those books I read were junk science, it's still easy for me to slip back into "believer" mode for 90 minutes or so. And two, as a fantasy fan, I'm interested in fictional models of supernatural powers and phenomenon. In other words, the very thing that turned a lot of critics off was a positive for me.

And now I'm finally going to climb back on topic to discuss an interesting parallel between Insidious and the world of Dragon Age. But unfortunately, I have to get into some Insidious spoilers to do it. I won't reveal much more than you can find by reading reviews, but for many people, that's still too much. So if you're thinking about seeing the movie, you are excused.

The Dragon Age setting, as you probably know, features a place called The Fade. It's a dream realm - literally, as all humans and elves visit it when they sleep - and like a dream, it acts as a funhouse mirror turned toward reality. It's home to spirits, the lost souls of the dead, and most significantly for the Dragon Age games, demons.

The Fade is also where evil optometrists go for their eternal damnation.
Meanwhile, the plot of Insidious centers around a place called The Further. Besides having a similarly doomy sounding "F" name, it shares a number of other traits with The Fade. The characters who visit it during the movie do so by dreaming or going under hypnosis. It also serves as a warped version of reality. And like The Fade, it's the dominion of spirits, lost souls, and most significant to the plot, demons.

In Dragon Age, mages are people who are born with a special connection to The Fade, which is the source of their power. In Insidious, certain characters have a natural ability to use astral projection, a sort of voluntary out of body experience which allows their soul to fly around and do some serious sight-seeing. The Further isn't the source of this power, but if you don't know what you're doing you can wander in and get yourself trapped there while your body lies in a coma-like state.

In both cases, there's also a possession angle (natch). In Dragon Age, mages are inherently prone to possession due to their connection to The Fade, and can become even more vulnerable by using dangerous blood magic. In Insidious, the astral projectionist can become possessed by leaving his or her body vacant for too long, which attracts loads of otherworldly squatters with ambitions of taking up permanent residence.

The big difference is that The Further is, not surprisingly, a more frightening place. If the mages of Dragon Age had to visit The Further instead of The Fade, they'd probably all be lining up for the Rite of Tranquility. While The Fade is dreamlike, The Further is nightmarish.

Actually, scratch that. In terms of visuals, I think The Fade resembles a memory more than a dream. It's done up in the dull brown faded colors you would expect to find in an antique store. And its area design isn't so much surreal as it is sloppy (albeit intentionally). Remember your first day of Kindergarten? Quick, how was the place decorated? Since you don't remember such details, let's just fill in with some random pieces of furniture, and make it all blurry. It's like that.

You also won't find as much weirdness in The Fade, which is the real shame. For a realm crafted by alien spirits peering into the dreams of mortals, it's surprisingly normal - or at least it has been in the first two games. If Dragon Age gets another sequel, my hope is that Bioware gets their Weird on and turns The Fade into something truly bizarre. If they're scouting for ideas, they could do worse than take a look at Insidious.


  1. ) However, by the same token, the bigger the scope, the harder it is to haul it around and set it up.
    At the beginning of this month, Samsung report this October will released Galaxy Note 2, it will adopt 5.
    This review is focused on the new concepts introduced in
    the Brink of War expansion.

    my website galaxy note 10.1

  2. In addition, Po - P (Picture over Picture) function allows
    CCTV monitor to display video from alarm channel without leaving
    the viewing mode of the current image. The result is a battery life
    expectancy of around 8. " Should you not mind an inferior screen however , you will not taking the laptop with you - we may advise something from the 14-inch range.

    My webpage - samsung chromebook review

  3. The question is - which platform provides the best viewing experience.
    The new features from Roku will start kicking in this week for owners of the Roku
    steaming video player models Roku 2, Roku LT, and Roku HD #2500.
    Twonky: Streams music, photos and videos to compatible devices in the

    Here is my web page; roku 2 xs

  4. The Black - Berry Tablets media player will
    not disappoint you as this premier media player and video creation are
    supported by Codecs. Click "Edit" button to remove the unwanted area
    like backside, set brightness, contrast, saturation of Kodak video
    and apply special effects to your Kodak video.
    The Blackberry Play - Book makes a superb back-to-school gift, and also a great holiday gift idea.

    Also visit my blog post ... playbook review

  5. The Canon refurbished cameras are able to provide this quality
    and reliability because they have been checked, repaired and serviced
    by their manufacturers. On the other hand when you add a vertical grip and a second battery to selected camera design the cameras all of a sudden complete speedier.

    The SX40 is the type of camera that can fill any photographer's needs because of the features built into it.

    Also visit my web site: canon 6d