Last week I finished my first runthrough of Dragon Age Inquisition, and I loved it. Ridiculously. First, it’s Bioware, and I’ve yet to meet a Bioware game I haven’t liked, and secondly, it’s Dragon Age, which has my RPG heart. (Yes, I love Mass Effect, and think it is brilliant and fem!Shep is one of the top sci-fi characters of all time, AND generally speaking I want rockets more than wizards, but somehow Dragon Age was still the one I fell in love with.) *And* this was the very first PC game I’d played for over a year. Reason being, I was concerned about the amount of time I was gaming, and decided to quit for a year to check I wasn’t horribly addicted or something, and I was just making GREAT life choices with all the imaginary adventuring nonsense. Anyway, turns out it’s QUITE EASY to choose not to game, and while I had more time to waste in other immensely creative ways, I did miss the gaming. For gaming is awesome. And DAI was the last game I’d bought before I quit and I never had a chance to play it, so it had QUITE a build up in my head to live up to, and it did. So here are my ten most favourite things from my first complete runthrough. (On a first runthrough, I’m always a wizard (or whatever the glass cannon class is)…unless I find out part way through I can be queen if I’m a warrior/rogue noble human. Ahem.) And here was no different. Also female human. Also generally nice. I don’t like it when the pretend people judge me poorly. Anyway, the things!
1 – CASSANDRA – AMAZING. It’s tough choice on who is my number one character in Inquisition, because it’s such a great cast, but Cassandra, always at the top, LEAPT to the finish with the reveal she read Varric’s terrible, terrible romance novels. And she loved them. And she almost tried to get me to use my Inquisitorial authority to get him to hurry up and write the next chapter. HER FACE. HER VOICE. SO good. And then there’s all the little moments of humour, the way they got the character’s mouth to twitch and your approval rating to go up when you joked with her. And there’s her self-doubt, her worry about how history will look back on her actions, and see what she’s done. And the weight of that on her shoulders, combined with the demands of her faith, and her own conscience, make for powerful character development. She stepped forward when no-one else would, or could, and made a stand, and seeing the fallout of that on her as a person is just wonderful. And the way you start out her prisoner and you end up (at least in my playthrough) with her as your best friend. I can always tell when I properly love a character, because I find it extremely difficult to form a party without them, and Cassandra was with me the whole way through.
2- DORIAN – ALMOST AS AMAZING. Oh, Dorian, dammit, Dorian. He’s making me do a runthrough as a male PC, which mostly doesn’t interest me in the least, but you can only play through his romance as a male character. He’s the other party member I always had to have along. Sarkiness FTW! And one of the most painfully moving companion storylines. The voice artist kind of broke my heart when delivering the lines about what Dorian’s father tried to do to him. And then he is delightfully funny and flirtatious and charming and all charged with political anger and ideas and a desire to change his home for the better and basically he has the best of all the banter.
3 – HAWKE. OH. I loved Dragon Age 2. I couldn’t help it, I blame the characters. The whole feel of the party in each game is quite different, and in DA2 they’re together for so long and all a part of each other’s lives that they all feel so much closer than in the other two games. And I thought Hawke was beautifully implemented here. I loved everything, from getting to choose what she looked like, to the references to Isabella, to maintaining the feel of DAII that Hawke and Varric were best friends. (And brilliantly, it never felt like the Inquisitor was pushing into that territory – I love Varric, but while I never left him out of the party in DAII, here he felt a little more distant, and it made perfect sense because in one glorious awkward conversation you find out he *does* believe in the Inquistor and that to him, she’s a religious figure.) Hawke fitted seamlessly into the story, and her part made so much sense, and I LOVED how wound up she got about blood magic because omg, when every single mage who isn’t your sister or Anders turns out to be a blood mage for TEN YEARS, you gotta develop a complex. And the taunting of the Nightmare about how nothing she did every really mattered – I may have cracked up a bit at every nod to the, ah, criticisms of DAII that I spotted, and that was one of the best.
4- MY WARDEN! – Oh, it’s only a letter that I get FROM MYSELF, but still. I think the Warden character is so beloved by players and each very much has their own that the writers are a little afraid to bring her back. But I would trust them to do it. Still, the nod was lovely and made me all flaily inside.
5- Massive relief at having chosen to be Queen of Ferelden – I assume everyone who plays DA has their own canonical versions of each game. For me, I was a Cousland warrior, who married Alistair and became Queen of Ferelden. Never has this choice SO CLEARLY been the right one to me than that moment where I had to choose between Hawke and the Warden Ally character Probably Dying. Because, omg, if that had been Alistair or Hawke? I don’t even know how I could have.
6 – Cookies on the roof top – one of the wonderful things about Dragon Age is learning about your companions. I esp love it when I make a snap judgement, and then find my mind changed by their story. Sera is one of those. SO ANNOYING. And she remains quite annoying, despite her politics which I’m very sympathetic to, but spending more time with her and playing through her story, she makes so much more sense. And we ate cookies together on the rooftop. Which was lovely.
7 – The Wicked Grace scene – OH. There is a lovely scene towards the end, where if Varric likes you enough, he’ll invite you to a game of Wicked Grace, with some of your companions, and it is all the heartwarming goop.
8 – Morrigan! – I suspect if I was forced to choose my very favourite of DA characters, it would be Morrigan. And when she turns up in a ridic dress at the ball, I flailed. Seeing her character develop, getting mostly quite decent answers to some old questions, and just getting to hear Claudia Black again, is rather brilliant.
9 – The epilogue scene – GENUINE SHOCK. I wasn’t very interested in Solas, so I wasn’t paying a HUGE amount of attention to all the little hints, or even the big hints. (I also wasn’t paying attention to his voice – it’s Ianto offa Torchwood! In a v good performance, I think.) So that final scene between him and Flemeth was terribly exciting, and interesting, and it seems some of my questions are answered in the expansion, which I haven’t played yet, so yay. And now I have to have *another* playthough as a female elf so I can see how many hints I missed and how much more info you get with the Solas romance.
10 – Political shenanigans in Orlais! – One of the big set pieces in the game is a trip to an Orlesian ball, which is being used as a cover for the Empress and the Duke, who are engaged in a civil war, to have peace talks. And, naturally, you get to influence the outcome. The whole thing is wonderful, the plots, the reveals, the sneaking about, the dancing. And the number of different ways you can change the outcome of the night.
Bonus 11: Never having to ask “yes, but where are all the women?” – Okay, so at first I was sighing a bit when I glanced through the companions: there are nine, three are women, what is this nonsense? BUT, actually playing the game, things start to tip quite seriously towards balance. In the advisor characters, three out of four are women: the Inquisition is started by Cassandra, and Leilana, and Josephine acts as your ambassador. The death of Divine Justinia is what’s caused everything to get fucked up even further. The rebel mages are led by Elaine; the loyalists by Vivienne. Anora might be ruling Ferelden, Celene is ruling Orlais. The plot to kill her is orchestrated by Grand Duchess Florianne, and at the ball, you can reunite Celene with her elven lover, Briala, or have Celene killed and Briala as the power behind a new ruler. And the Grey Wardens are commanded by Clarel. And it’s not just at the top of things either, your chief scout is a dwarven woman, and the requistion officer in each camp is a woman. It’s still not fifty percent representation, but it’s definitely enough to feel like the game-makers give a fuck about not having any players feel excluded. Which is smashing.
Now, I’m off to try my luck again in SWTOR; fingers crossed for finding a tank who knows what they’re doing.
Farewell, delicious readers!