Dragon Age: Inquisition’s Best Romance Was its Least Popular

Dorian Pavus is beloved character, but he's at a statistical disadvantage.

Dorian Pavus is my favorite character in the Dragon Age series. He’s my beau in BioWare’s fantasy world, and I hope he gets to play some kind of role in the next game, even if it looks like the Inquisitor won’t be returning in a protagonist role (to the detriment of the personal nature of their story, I’d argue). In the seven years since Dragon Age: Inquisition launched, Dorian has always seemed a popular character, and is largely considered one of the breakout gay characters in the AAA video game space.  But as it turns out, all that praise for him and his storyline didn’t materialize a popular romance, or a frequent mainstay in player’s party.

In an interview with TheGamer, David Gaider, the lead writer on Dragon Age Inquisition, revealed that Dorian’s romantic route was the least explored across the game’s player base, according to statistics BioWare saw. Gaider says the numbers mattered less to him than the character’s impact, and he said he received more personal mail from fans regarding Dorian than any other character he’d written.

“According to the telemetry, Dorian wasn’t an active companion in very many peoples’ parties,” Gaider says. “He was also the least-romanced of the romanceable NPCs, percentage-wise. I don’t think numbers really matter to those who loved him, however. He struck a chord with a lot of people. I think I received more personal mail from fans about Dorian than any other character I’ve written, including ones for whom Dorian was a vehicle for them to come out to friends and family, or for whom Dorian’s story allowed them to process trauma from gay conversion therapy they’d experienced. So it’s clear those who love him love him a lot. I’m always glad when anything I’ve written manages to touch someone, so I’m tickled that a character who was such a personal project also turned out to be such a success.

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Dorian’s story in Inquisition centers around a magical take on conversion therapy, with his father attempting to change his sexuality with a dark ritual. The storyline is still accessible to players who don’t romance him, but his identity being so core to his character, he’s only romanceable by male characters, which statistically puts him at a disadvantage compared to romances like Iron Bull or Josephine, who are options to the player regardless of gender or race. But it’s still surprising to hear that he ranks lower than characters like Blackwall, who I almost never hear of people pursuing, or Solas, who has more specific parameters than anyone else in the game.

Whatever the case may be, if Dorian is part of the next Dragon Age, I hope that I’ll at least see his relationship with my Inquisitor develop in a meaningful way. But it’s going to sting having to watch it from afar, as the Inquisitor doesn’t seem to be returning as a playable character this time around. Despite that being thematically consistent with the apparent conflict of the game, which is against former party member/surprise antagonist Solas from Inquisition.

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Kenneth Shepard

Kenneth is a Staff Writer at Fanbyte. He still periodically cries about the Mass Effect trilogy years after it concluded.

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8 Comments

  1. Well that’s not really something strange or important, and that because romancing Dorian is not the selling point of the character. His selling point its his Friendship.
    I’m sure a my players (included myself) tried to form a deep friendship with Solas and Varric through the whole game, desiring to form a “Best friends” bond with any of them, but ultimately is kind of impossible since there is a kind of “Wall” that hinders it.
    With solas is a wall born from the elements related with the ending of the story, and Varric it’s kind like a wall made by the story writers with them trying to maintain Varric as the best friend of Hawke.
    That leaves us with Dorian to form the deepest bond of friendship among all the members of the inquisition, he is the one who shares with us the most of his ideas, feelings, desires, worries, etc.
    The friendship with Dorian is so rich, the kind of friendship you would like to have in your whole life and this is something to which the romance path is irrelevant.
    For example the best (in my opinion) dialog with Dorian, which is also one of the best dialogues of the game and the whole franchise, is the one where you answer to Dorian that he is “very brave”, the bond between both is really deep and strong at that moment.

    That’s why whether you romance Dorian or not, the best of the character wont be lost.

  2. Just because Dorian might have been the least popular character to romance doesn’t take anything away from his character or the love he got from the community. Every time I replayed the game he was always the best character with the greatest amount of character growth and I never once went the romance route. Never felt I lost anything by not chasing after him, in fact I think it may have worked better out because it was always a platonic relationship. He was the best friend we all look for, someone who you know will be there in the hard times yet will also be the first person to call you out on your bullshit and you’d fully turn round and go Dorian you’ve got a point there.

  3. The first issue I had with using Dorian is he’s a mage. I tended to play mages myself, and in a game with only four party members, that means other mages are redundant. That’s compounded by how I specialized their elements, with Dorian getting fire, Solas getting lightning, and Vivienne getting ice (made sense to me). All this meant I typically only used a mage party member for dragon fights. And since only 3 of the 10 are weak to fire, other mages were usually picked (assuming I even used a second mage).
    He was my favorite when I wasn’t playing a mage and didn’t need other elements.
    As for his romance, the way I make my characters is an issue. Rogue types are typically female, and mages are always female (have been since Baldur’s Gate, so over 20 years). Only warrior types that run up and start smacking people in the head with a sword are typically male, and I don’t usually play those. And I wasn’t inclined to change my character creation preferences just for one romamce option.

  4. This says a lot about how prevalent The Loud Few are in this fandom tbh (on Mages, Templars, The Wardens, The Dalish, The Qun, Anders, the horror elements, the RPG mechanics, the battle systems, and yeah as in this case the Romances; honestly the list is extensive for the areas where extremism gets noisy).

    I am actually shocked that this is backed up by data, I assumed he was a super popular choice by the way he’s Stanned. Don’t get me wrong, (I liked him, and romanced him more than once with different characters), but were it not for the telemetry and that quote from Gaider, an article acknowledging something like “Dorian’s romance doesn’t fit a large demographic” is the kind of thing that usually gets you dogpiled because emotion > logic in this fandom, 100%.

    Maybe this is something Bioware need to consider before their next game fails – not the fact that he’s LGBTQA+ representation, I can already see people jumping on me assuming that’s my issue but please don’t be so basic – I mean the fact that Bioware are one of the rare gems who listen to their fans, but if they’re listening to a vocal minority, taking the games in that direction (or worse trying to please everyone and being *bland*), then getting confounded when they get hated on at release for selling crap…Well, maybe this is why. I love the games, have done for what, 15-20 years, I really don’t wanna see them go under. Maybe the fandom needs to take some responsibility too and take a look at itself. Or we can all just keep yelling and stomping our feet because reasons and bring on the next shit Bioware game I guess.

  5. Personally, I romanced Dorian on my second playthrough (Iron Bull was my first <3) but then I found out about Iron Bull and Dorian being a couple if you don't romance either, and they were so perfect together that I didn't have the heart to split them up.

    I play as a mage primarily, and I use the same specialization as Dorian, so it doesn't make sense to bring him along. But if I ever play another class, Dorian is always in my party.

    1. This. I think it’s one of the best side character stories in the game. I keep both of them in my party just to hear their banter.

    2. I (female) fell for Blackwall my first playthrough (it was the sad eyes and the beard). Found out about Iron Bull and Dorian romancing each other, and have never been able to try either of them now. I always have them both with me because I love watching their relationship develop, but can’t ever romance either of them now.

  6. It’s not like being sexually involved with Dorian was a requisite of their relationship, in the least. Why Gaider is even remotely surprised it’s the least explored, is frankly looking like denial. There is no reason to do so, not even in the context of pretentious provided. A player can be attracted to Dorian’s nature, or his causes. Doesn’t mean they are attracted to him andvwhat he represents. That would be also true of players whom are themselves gay.

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