You might remember BioWare pulled a similar trick with Mass Effect in late 2007, putting out the Revelation prequel novel prior to the game's release. It must have performed its function as a promotional tool (and may have been a commercial success in its own right), since they're doing the same thing this time around. At first I disdained Revelation as the sort of pulpy sci-fi novel I read a lot of when I was 13. But then I read it on a whim (mostly because BioWare sent review copies), and--who'dathunkit--the book actually served its purpose: providing a lot of backstory for Mass Effect's rich universe, setting up the game's specific plot, and getting me excited to finally put my hands on the game.
The difference here is that I think Mass Effect had a lot more original elements going for it than Dragon Age does. There you had a bunch of weird new alien races, an intriguing galactic political process, and a general breadth of fiction that honestly warranted 300 pages of setup. Meanwhile, what I've seen of Dragon Age so far has presented a lot of good-versus-evil imagery that's a little too familiar in light of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the resulting flood of high fantasy in the last few years. I feel like I've seen a lot of this stuff before, which makes me feel less like I need a novel to fill in the blanks in the game's premise. That seems to be covered already.
Here's how the press release sets up the book.
When the beloved rebel queen is murdered, her son Maric sets out on a mission of vengeance against the faithless lords who were responsible for his mother's untimely death. The nation of Ferelden that once prospered under his family's reign now suffers under the cruel hands of the invading Orlesians. His countrymen now live in fear and no one is to be trusted.
Maric soon becomes the leader of a rebel army hell-bent on retaking Ferelden from the control of a foreign tyrant. With only two true allies by his side, the brash outlaw Loghain and the beautiful warrior maiden Rowan, Maric and his trusted band must outwit spies and traitors as they try to reclaim the stolen throne.
Where's Dragon Age sitting on your 2009 most-wanted list? Are you likely to go out and grab The Stolen Throne to get ready for it?