Dragon Age: Absolution: Season 1 Review

Dragon Age: Absolution is now streaming on Netflix. Below is a spoiler-free review.

Have you heard the one where a qunari, an elf, a dwarf, and three humans walk into a bar? Well, if by walk you mean “break into” and if by bar you mean “impenetrable fortress containing an ancient magical artifact.” That’s the setup for Dragon Age: Absolution, Netflix’s animated take on Bioware’s fantasy video game series.

Ringing in at six half-hour episodes, Absolution is a delightfully action-packed good time. However, the approach to Dragon Age lore in this tightly woven story leaves it feeling inaccessible to those unfamiliar with the series. Complex characters and compelling story beats make Absolution a memorable installment to the fantasy franchise, but the series’ bite-size length and commitment to acting as a setup rather than a standalone unfortunately get in its own way.

That said, it’s plenty of fun, with a stellar ensemble. Our merry band of six include elven mercenary Miriam (Kimberly Brooks), suave Roland (Phil LaMarr), exuberant Qunari mage Qwidion (Ashly Burch), gruff dwarf Lacklon (Keston John), dutiful mage Hira (Sumalee Montano), and their charming leader Fairbanks (Matthew Mercer). Josh Keaton provides the voice of Tevinter magister Rezaren, performing with an optimism that brilliantly morphs as he stumbles further into obsession. The cast is excellent, injecting these characters with magnetic levity and life.

Fight scenes are fluid and dynamic throughout, expertly choreographed to showcase vastly different styles. Yet at a certain point most of the series becomes an extended fight scene of sorts. There’s little room to breathe along with the characters as they navigate their mission. We’re essentially fast-forwarded through their arc from near-strangers to loyal comrades. This is likely owed to the short runtime and, to be fair, character relationships are compelling despite the obstacle. It only speaks to the strength of the writing that we’re left wanting to see so much more.

Miriam in particular is a fascinating protagonist, both incisive and ruthless as she faces down enemies. However, her strength lies in a vulnerability beautifully wrought within Brooks’ performance. In a lot of ways this series is about return – about revisiting the site of your trauma and deciding how or why or whether or not to rise above it. Brooks balances this pain, rage, and regret as Miriam wonderfully.

As the backbone of the series, Miriam and her allies feel so wonderfully studied. Their conflicts, both internal and interpersonal, weave seamlessly into established Dragon Age history in a way that captures the sheer breadth of the world these characters inhabit. There is, however, an unfortunate side effect. While Absolution does its best to ease in unfamiliar audiences, approaching the story without knowledge of franchise lore has the potential to lessen the impact of certain twists. Other recent animated adaptations – notably Arcane and The Legend of Vox Machina – are more successful in this aspect. There’s just so little time in Absolution. Though the series makes admirable use of every second of it, it often feels as though a glossary might come in handy if this is your first Dragon Age foray.

It feels like dropping in to visit an old friend, even if most of these characters are entirely new. 

Those who already are Dragon Age fans, however, are certainly in for a treat with Absolution, revisiting the world of Thedas and seeing the magic powerhouse nation of Tevinter animated for the very first time. There are exciting callbacks to the games, brief cameos from beloved characters, and a thrilling twist with high-stakes implications for future franchise installments. It feels like dropping in to visit an old friend, even if most of these characters are entirely new.


Complex characters and compelling story beats make Dragon Age: Absolution a memorable installment in the fantasy franchise, but the series’ bite-size length and deep entrenchment in game lore often get in its own way. However, as a whole it’s still a wildly good time that fans of the games are definitely sure to enjoy. Fight scenes are expertly choreographed and the ensemble shines.

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