Dragon Age: The Veilguard's romanceable companions won't just wait around for you to woo them—also, they're all canonically pansexual

A companion character in Dragon Age: The Veilguard regards the player with no small amount of skepticism.
(Image credit: Bioware / EA)

In RPGs, there are a couple of ways that developers have handled romances—and, specifically, sexuality within those romances. The first route is to have specific orientations for each character. For example, Zevran in Dragon: Age Origins is bisexual, whereas Alistair is straight.

The second route is to make companion characters "playersexual" ala Baldur's Gate 3—they have canon sexualities sometimes (Astarion and Karlach are canonically attracted to, at least, men and women) but they're never specifically set in stone, and will adjust to the player's interest regardless of their gender.

Dragon Age: The Veilguard has apparently seen these two routes and decided to go with a third option, which is to make the entire cast and crew pansexual, according to a recent interview with game director Corinne Busche via IGN.

According to the interview, Busche has seen playersexual characters done in ways that are "really off-putting where these characters are adapting to who you, the player, are". However, the interview claims Busche instead considers the cast of Dragon Age: The Veilguard to be implicitly pansexual across the board.

"I might be playing a straight male character flirting with [Harding], but I choose not to pursue a romance. She might get together with Taash. So my perception, my identity has no bearing on their identities and that comes through really strongly."

It's… an interesting third option, to be sure, and I have mixed feelings about it as a pansexual man myself. I think what Busche says about the off-putting nature of orientations changing to the player's whim is fair enough—but I would also argue that, in such games, orientations that don't gel with playersexuality are never set in stone.

For example, Astarion and Karlach from Baldur's Gate 3 are canonically bisexual or pansexual—Astarion has fallen for men in his past, but will also go off and have a fling with Lae'zel, whereas Karlach's origin character story sees her fantasising about both men and women in a particularly raunchy camp interlude. Gale, on the other hand, has only ever had (unless I missed a secret scene where he looks into the camera and says 'By Mystra, I love men') experiences with women. It's never confirmed, however, that that's all he's into.

As for the playersexual vs canon sexuality debate, I'm personally fine with both, and I think they both have their strengths and weaknesses. Playersexual companions give some authorship of the characters over to the player—allowing them to fill in the gaps (stop giggling) of their party member's romantic attraction. They allow players to represent themselves with whatever backstories they'd like to inject into the setting.

Canon sexualties, such as those in Dragon Age: Origins or Inquisition, provide less player authorship, but allow for more overt discussions about sexuality within the text and worldbuilding. They also tend to be stronger when we think about why representation is important, and how—though there's also a lot more room for things to go wrong. I love Zevran with all my heart, but he is very promiscuous and flirtatious, which is a negative stereotype—mostly harmless, especially given he turns out to be a deeply romantic person, too, but still.

Anyway, I won't know how I feel about Dragon Age: The Veilguard's approach until I see it for myself, but I can't escape the feeling that this is just playersexual characters with more steps. I fear, also, that we might get the worst of both worlds—no player authorship, but also no interesting discussions of sexuality. I'll reserve my full judgement until the game's actually out, though.

I do, however, think the idea of characters going off and having romances with each other is fun—people don't just wait around if you don't shoot your shot.

Busche has also confirmed that there will be sex scenes, incorporating nudity, that will help characterise the cast further: "Just like real life, our companions have such diverse personalities. Some of them are more physical, more aggressive, and some of them are more... We have a gentleman necromancer, for instance, that is more intimate and sensual."

Alas, you won't be able to get your bones rattled by Emmrich the Necromancer until the game arrives this Autumn. Until then, Halsin's always waiting for you with his optionally-fuzzy arms.

Harvey Randall
Staff Writer

Harvey's history with games started when he first begged his parents for a World of Warcraft subscription aged 12, though he's since been cursed with Final Fantasy 14-brain and a huge crush on G'raha Tia. He made his start as a freelancer, writing for websites like Techradar, The Escapist, Dicebreaker, The Gamer, Into the Spine—and of course, PC Gamer. He'll sink his teeth into anything that looks interesting, though he has a soft spot for RPGs, soulslikes, roguelikes, deckbuilders, MMOs, and weird indie titles. He also plays a shelf load of TTRPGs in his offline time. Don't ask him what his favourite system is, he has too many.