Breaking Down the New Dragon Age Trailer for the Dread Wolf Rises

During the 2018 Game Awards, a new Dragon Age teaser trailer debuted, presumably for the fourth entry into the franchise with the hashtage #TheDreadWolfRises. With Anthem still in the works, it’s unlikely that we’ll see the next installment in BioWare’s fantasy RPG series any time soon, but the minute-long video serves as confirmation that the studio is hard at work.

The trailer itself doesn’t show any gameplay or characters, but focuses on the red lyrium Idol from Dragon Age 2 and Solas from Dragon Age Inquisition. For those whose memories need refreshing, the red lyrium Idol was DA2’s ‘macguffin’ of sorts - first discovered by protagonist Hawke, Varric, and friends on their ill-fated expedition to the Deep Roads in the game’s first act. The Idol, like the dwarven thaig where it’s found, is made of red lyrium, a strange variant of the Dragon Age world’s standard blue lyrium, which is predominantly used to power magic. In Dragon Age Inquisition, we learn that red lyrium is blue lyrium that has been tainted by the Blight, a form of corruption that was a major focal point of the first game, Dragon Age Origins. We also learned throughout Dragon Age 2 and Inquisition that red lyrium is even more addictive and dangerous than its blue cousin, driving various characters insane and turning Red Templars into twisted, broken monsters.

Despite its influence on the plots of both the second and third games, it seemed as though the Idol’s story was largely told, having been turned into a sword at the end of Dragon Age 2. While it was initially surprising to see it playing such a large role in the new teaser, the more I look at it, the more it’s making sense. Although decidedly abstract, the central figure on the Idol looks an awful lot like Flemeth, particularly the pointed crown she wears in Dragon Age 2 and onward. Flemeth, a powerful witch and shapeshifter, is definitely one of the franchise’s most mysterious figures, who seems to know much more about the events of the story than she’s willing to divulge. This is somewhat confirmed in Inquisition, where we learn that Flemeth is actually host to two beings - the original Flemeth and the elven goddess, Mythal.

Which brings us to Solas, likely the other figure depicted on the Idol, embracing the first. At the conclusion of Inquisition, we learn that Solas is no ordinary elf, but actually Fen’Harel, the Dread Wolf, a trickster God disparaged by the elves of the current timeline. In Inquisition’s Trespasser DLC, from which the trailer’s voiceover was taken, Solas/Fen’Harel reveals that his betrayal of the elves was more costly than any of them realize: it literally cost the race their immortality, and directly led to their oppression and slavery at human hands. Now desperate to right that wrong, Solas vows at the end of Trespasser to do whatever it takes to restore the elves to their former glory - even if that means destroying the rest of the world in the process.

So, while it was clear that ‘The Dread Wolf Rises’ would be the central plot of the next game in the Dragon Age franchise, the connection to red lyrium and role of Flemeth/Mythal hinted at in the new teaser leave a lot of room for speculation. The final image of the trailer is artwork of a burning landscape containing an unnamed elven mage, Fen’Harel in his wolf form, and the Idol inscribed within a circle of seven notches - five black and two gold. I suspect these represent something related to the Blight - five of the seven Old Gods (who are probably different from the elven gods) that have been corrupted, or five of seven gates to the Golden City that have been blackened and sealed shut.

What I find most striking about this image is the way major plots from the first three games are represented - the Blight from Dragon Age Origins, the red lyrium Idol from Dragon Age 2, and Fen’Harel from Dragon Age Inquisition. The series has always done a great job maintaining continuity throughout its first three installments, but each game does tell its own unique story within the Dragon Age world. While I certainly don’t want the fourth game to be the last, it would make sense to conclude the franchise with a narrative that brings all three disparate plots together.

A central theme of the Dragon Age series has always been that history is written by the victors. It’s become increasingly clear that the lore we think we know - as told by in-game scholars, mystics, and religious figures - is whitewashed at best, lies and propaganda at worst. Perhaps in the next Dragon Age game, when the Dread Wolf Rises, both players and in-game characters will finally learn the truth.