Friday, 10 July 2015

Adventures in Dragon Hunting

Last October Origin made Dragon Age Origins free to download for a limited time, little did I know the world of Thedas would eat my life in the best possible way over the next nine months.
My favourite of the Dragons.

Just a heads up, my review is going to outline a lot of the choices I made going along for all three games, so if you've not played them and don't want spoilers STOP READING NOW!

Alistair and Shala

So first up was Dragon Age Origins, where I played as Shala Surana. It's a seriously long ass time since I've played a "build your own character" kind of RPG, so I didn't quite get into the character as much as with the other two, so Shala is probably the most Mary Sue-esque of the three.
I made her an elf mage, some creative make up and a hairdo I'd happily wear myself.
She also looked a bit shocked most of the time

Her origin story was that she was a mage in Ferelden's circle tower about to undergo her Harrowing ( a rite of passage for mages, that should they fail leads to them being murdered... Yay!), I made her talk to everybody along the way, and hey what do you know, there was a guy called Cullen with a flirt option! He ran away though, thus started my hilarious meta-game love/hate relationship with Cullen Rutherford.
Another interesting one was when First Enchanter Irving asked what age she'd been when she was brought to the circle, I answered that I didn't know and he said that she must have been very young then.
It didn't mean a lot to me at the time, but now I head cannon that she was kidnapped from the Dalish Elves, more on them later.

TL:dr The mage origin prologue involved LOTS of betrayal before she even made it out of the tower and a bit of a harsh introduction to how mages are treated in Ferelden, basically magic is feared so all mages that can be caught and rounded up are forced to live in circles, the one Shala lived in was in the middle of Lake Calahad (which looks a bit like a bunny), to prevent them escaping a drop of their blood is taken and kept in a jar, should the mage escape the templars (which are what Cullen who I mentioned before is) can track the escaped mage using their blood. In order to be let out of the tower a mage must undergo the Harrowing, where they are sent into The Fade (a dreamland from where mages draw their power) to battle a demon, if they win then they become a fully qualified circle mage, if they fail then they're killed by the templars. If a mage doesn't wish to take the Harrowing or if the First Enchanter thinks they are vulnerable to demon attack then they will be made Tranquil.

The Rite of Tranquility is basically Dragon Age's answer to a lobotomy. Mages become cut off from The Fade (and therefore are no longer able to perform magic), and also become emotionless. Tranquils in Origins are presented as incredibly creepy.
So like I said much betrayal later Shala was surrounded by templars and things were looking grim, when First Enchanter Irving's visitor decided he liked her style and recruited her into The Grey Wardens.
The Grey Wardens are a secretive group of warriors who happen to be the only ones who can kill the Archdemon, the Archdemon controls the Blight which is a plague and an army of Darkspawn that is currently ravaging Ferelden.
Faced with imprisonment and/or probably death, or becoming a Warden, Shala went off to become a Warden.
So I know I just rescued you from the templars, I thought I'd bring you to meet the King.

After reaching Ostagar, learning how horribly racist everybody is to the elves, meeting Alistair, a couple of red shirts, Morrigan and her mother Flemeth, King Calin, Logain, saving a mabari hound and being shunned by Wynne, looks like it was betrayal time again, leaving Shala and Alistair as the only two remaining Grey Wardens in Ferelden.
And this is where the real fun began and the world altering choices started

Shala, Duncan and Irving

Shala tried to cheer up Alistair by flirting with him, which eventually led to them falling for each other (kind of fun when you consider that before becoming a Grey Warden, Alistair was a templar), they recruited all possible companions, and completed each of their personal quests. 
They saved the townspeople of Redcliffe, and snuck into the castle and decided that the best way of saving Connor and Arl Eamon was with the help of the circle of mages.
In the circle tower Shala found Flemeth's grimoire which she gave to Morrigan, who foundd out that Flemeth was not who she claimed to be, and so Shala made the decision to go and find out what was up, where upon Flemeth transformed into a dragon and she slew her.
When they got there and saw that the tower was under attack, they saved the good mages from the blood mages and the possibility of possession, and when Cullen demanded the mages all die just in case another demon got through she refused to let him.
With the help of the mages she saved Connor from the desire demon without harming him or Isolde and set out to find the Ashes of Andraste to heal Arl Eamon, which she found and didn't poison.
When she met with the Dalish elves, she got the the source of the Werewolf problem and lifted the curse.
In Orzammar she helped Dagna leave to go and study magic at the circle tower, despite dwarves being unable to become mages themselves, went after Branka and defeated her, destroying the anvil of the void, and supported house Harrowmont.
Alistair revealed that he was King Calin's half brother, but that he didn't want to be king, so Shala respected that and supported Queen Anora's right to rule Ferelden alone, she also executed Anora's father, the traitor Logain.
Alistair and Morrigan performed the dark ritual the night before the battle of Denerim and so both Shala and Alistair survived and went on to rebuild the Warden order together.

You're a spirit from the Fade that has anger issues and can posses people, what could go wrong!

The only DLC I had for Origins this playthrough was Awakening, where, months after the Battle of Denerim Shala was sent to Ameranthine to deal with their post blight darkspawn problem, she again recruited all of companions, including Anders, an escaped circle mage, who had spent time at the same circle tower as her (I like to think that while she never knew him personally, she was aware of him, and knew about the time he jumped out of the window and swam across the lake).
After finding out about his experiments, she chose to kill The Architect and in the Battle of Ameranthine, she chose to protect the city rather than the keep, leaving behind Oghren, Velanna and Justice. Oghren died, a hero at last, Velanna vanished (hopefully to return sometime in the future because her banter with Nathanial Howe was awesome and I really wanted them to get together) and Justice being a spirit survived.

DA2 Didn't take auto screenshots and I couldn't work out how to take them, so going forward all photos of Hawke are from her appearance in Inquisition .

In Dragon Age 2, I played Earin Hawke, I wanted her to be different to Shala, so I made her a dual wielding rogue, and she usually said the sarcastic choices, purple Hawke is the best Hawke. She was also human, you can't pick a race in Dragon Age 2 because of the storyline, which starts in Lothering with Earin and her family trying to escape the Blight, along the way they met Avaline and her husband. 
Both Avaline's husband and Carver (Earin's brother) were killed by Darkspawn, but as all seemed lost for Earin, her sister Bethany, their mother and Avaline, Flemeth swooped down in dragon form and rescued them on the condition that they took an amulet containing part of her soul to a tribe of Dalish at Sundermount.
Dragon Age 2 takes place over ten years, the first year is in the prologue and Eairn and her family's journey to Kirkwall, Act 1 picks up at the end of that year when they paid off their debt to the company that got them into Kirkwall.
In Act 1 Earin recruited all possible companions, killed slavers, found why miners went missing, saved an apostate mage by helping him escape to live with the Dalish and defended a Sarabaas.
Sarabaas are Qunari mages, the Qunari fear magic even more that humans do and chain up their mages and cut out their tongues to prevent them from casting spells that aren't commanded of them.
Before playing Dragon Age 2 I'd heard that there was a blood mage companion. Seeing all of the trouble blood mages caused in Origins I fully expected to hate Merrill, but then she opened her mouth and Eve Myles's voice came out, and Earin's armour pretty much hit the floor with an auidable thud.
At the end of Act 1 she took an expedition into the Deep Roads with Varic and his brother, leaving Bethany at home. In the Deep Roads they met with Nathanial Howe (who briefly chatted with Anders, now possessed by the spirit Justice) and found an idol made from reed lyrium, a kind of lyrium never seen before hidden in a primevil Thaig. Varic's brother took off with the idol. While Eairin was away, templars discovered Bethany and took her to Kirkwall's circle of magi

Eairin Hawke after a bit of an Inquisition make over.

In Act 2 Eairin tried incredibly hard to keep the peace with the Qunari, but ultimately it ended with her battling their Arishock and killing him, something she had wanted to avoid.
In Act 3 Earin killed the dragon at the Bone Pits, briefly ran into Zevran and ended up massacring Merrill's tribe after their clan keeper was possessed by a Pride demon and the clan blamed Merrill and turned on her and Hawke.
In the war between the mages and templars, Earin chose the mages and spared Anders life when he blew up the Chantry.
Along the way she kept bumping into Cullen, and even though in the end he turned on Merideth's templars, I still didn't like him much.

Inquisitor Argona Adaar

In Inquisition I again wanted to be very different from the previous two. I played Inquisitor Argona Adaar, a two handed warrior Vashoth.
A Vashoth is a Qunari born outside of the Qun, her parents are Tal Vashoth, Qunari born inside the Qun who left it (I head cannon that at least one of her parents is a Sarabaas).
In Inquisition the Inquisitor is at the Temple of Sacred Ashes when the Temple Suddenly burns to the ground, The Divine vanishes and a hole is ripped in the sky leaving only the Inquisitor left in the carnage.
I played Argona as being pretty damn angry at being accused of causing it to start with, she was actually pretty angry and confrontational for most of the first half of the game, in part down to the accusations and later assumptions that she is the chosen of Andraste, in part down to having a a foreign object stuck in her hand and in part because of the pretty much constant racism directed at her because she is Qunari, so not only is she not human, she isn't even one of the races mentioned in the Chant of Light.
As usual Argona recruited all of the companions (although I was a little worried about Blackwall as it took me a while to find him), and I have to say that as far as companions go, this instalment of Dragon Age is my favourite. She chose the mages in the mage templar war.
Having no experience of the Qun herself, Argona was curious about Iron Bull and spent a lot of time with him, which eventually blossomed into a romance after he became Tal Vashoth.
However as a player I also felt a lot of closeness to Cole, who is not a romance choice, I just loved his story so much that I feel like he was one of the friends Argona felt closest to. Cole is a spirit of compassion, that wanted to help people and with Argona's help was able to become more human.
I feel like he is a lot like Justice could have been if he hadn't have become corrupted, and I felt quite protective of him because of his niavity. His banters are my favourites, because sometimes it's fun to hear his take on things he doesn't understand, and other times it's interesting to hear about the things he found in people's heads that they themselves wouldn't talk about, but didn't realise it wasn't appropriate to tell everybody about. One of my favourites was when he gave more backstory to how Iron Bull lost his eye saving Krem from the Tevinter who were trying to catch him.
I also felt quite close to Dorian, I loved his style, wit and his fabulous moustache and his personal quest struck a cord with me. I also like that Dorian is not perfect, it's quite heavily implied that he has a bit of a drink problem.

And the award for companion that looks most like the vocalist from 3Teeth goes to...

Controversial choice here, but I also quite liked Solas, it was interesting to hear his thoughts on the Dalish and The Fade.
Another thing I liked was there was a companion I hated, I didn't much like Oghren in Origins and Awakening, but Vivienne is something else.
I agree with some of what she has to say, and she's an amazing fighter, but she's also incredibly self centred, secretive and a massive hypocrite. She is pro-circle despite not having lived in one herself and that annoys me through the entire game, but like I said, I like that there is a companion I don't like.
Argona explored all across Orlais and Ferelden, regularly participated in war table missions and did many favours for her advisers.
The advisors are also pretty interesting, they're not companions, but instead (mostly) stay at Skyhold advising.
There's Josephine, a new character who is pretty cool, Leiliana returns from the first game, having grown right up and rejoined The Chantry, the third advisor is Cullen Rutherford.
Now despite my dislike of Cullen in the first two games, I actually ended up really liking him in Inquisition, and I feel a lot like I understand now why he did what he did in the first two.
Argona became friends with her whole party, bar Vivinne, While initially she chose to deny it, Argona eventually decided that perhaps she was the chosen of Andraste after all.
At the ball in The Winter Palace (my favourite quest of Inquisition) she saved Empress Celene from her brother's assassin and reconciled her with the elf Briala and kept the assassin as her court jester.
When trapped in the Fade by the nightmare demon, Earin Hawke stayed behind to save them, and Argona had Alistair rebuild the Grey Warden Order.
Argona drank from the well of sorrows and allied with the ancient elves at the Temple of Mythal, after defeating Corypheas, and returning to Skyhold she learned that Leiliana had been elected as the next Divine.

So now I guess I wait for DA4. I would like to reply with different characters and different choices, but it's all way too fresh in my mind right now, so it will have to wait for a while.

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