Dragon Age 2

Dragon_Age_2

About My Character Class…

Playing Dragon Age games in the past, I’ve only ever played as a rogue or mage — so this time, I’m going two-handed warrior all the way. The only time I’ve played as a two-handed warrior by choice was during my first (rather brief) playthrough of Skyrim over a year ago. But I do miss my battleaxes, because there’s no weapon sexier than a battleaxe, seriously.

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Indentured Servitude and New Friends

This is a later picture, but look at my sexified sister with her short bob.
This is a later picture, but look at my sexified sister with her short hair and everything.

At the start of Varric’s story about the “Champion of Kirkwall” – that’s my character! – I am fleeing the darkspawn at Lothering with my mother, my brother Carver, and my sister Bethany, who is a mage and looks super sexy and French this time with her short, dark hair and partially exposed bosom. Normally, Bethany looks really cute with a shoulder-length bob, but not this time. Also, I’m apparently the only blonde with green eyes in the family.

Along the way, we come across a warrior named Aveline and her Templar husband, Wesley; they’re also fleeing. But Wesley has been wounded by the darkspawn, and his skin is changing color as if he’s been corrupted by the taint.

5 Aveline and her husband Wesley

We also come across an ogre, who promptly picks up my brother and wrings him like wet laundry, killing him in seconds. But when we fight the ogre, someone else swoops down to help us: a dragon who swiftly transforms into Flemeth! And she’s gotten a major makeover since Dragon Age: Origins. Or maybe this means she faked her old granny look in Origins, because this event is happening around the same time as her saving our Warden from Ostagar! (I think…?)

Now, I keep telling Flemeth that we don’t need her help, choosing Aggressive options because I plan to side with the Templars and be all anti-mage this time around — so no way I’m trusting a shapeshifting dragon lady. But she insists on helping us get to town, as long as we make a delivery for her later.

And so we have to say good bye to Carver and save our grieving for later. Aveline must also say good bye to Wesley. According to Flemeth, there’s no cure for him other than to become a Grey Warden, but with no Grey Warden present, we need to put an end to his misery. I do that myself, as I wouldn’t want Aveline to have to put him to rest. Wesley is at peace with this, at least.

We make it to town and take a ship to Kirkwall, where loads of refugees are trying to get in. We meet my uncle, Gamlen, who lives in the city. But instead of being wealthy, as my mother expects, he seems to be a poor wretch who’s gambled away his fortune. To get into the city, my sister and I must basically act as indentured servants for a smuggler.

A year passes, and we finally meet Varric. He’s a dwarf who wants to help Bethany and me get into an expedition to the Deep Roads. Apparently, after a Blight like the one we just had, the Deep Roads are fairly clear of darkspawn, making it a smart time to go excavating for treasure. It’s a Dragon Age get-rich-quick scheme.

All we have to do is save up a bunch of money… by doing a bunch of side quests… for a long time. First, we do Bait and Switch. We’re supposed to recover a stolen shipment of smuggled lyrium, but it turns out to be a set-up. The truth is that Fenris, an escaped elven slave from Tevinter, needs help tracking down and killing his former master, Danarius. We agree to help him, because slavers = bad guys.

8 Bait and Switch
You can’t really see it here, but why is Fenris not wearing shoes?

But when we go to Danarius’s mansion and kill a bunch of shades, we realize that Danarius himself is not there. That’s okay for now, because it means Fenris can camp out at the mansion and drink all of Danarius’s wine.

Next, we recruit a man who has maps of the Deep Roads: Anders, who is a mage and former Grey Warden working as a healer in Darktown. (I didn’t play the DLC Awakenings before this particular go-around, so let’s just pretend I don’t know anything about this guy.)

Here in Kirkwall, he’s trying to keep a low profile, because as a mage working outside the Circle, he’s an illegal apostate. (In case you don’t know Dragon Age lore, the Circle is where mages, believed to be dangerous because of their powers, are kept under close watch by the Templars. This is typically under the supervision of the Chantry, which is like the church.) But everybody adores Anders, because he’s a handsome healer who only thinks of others, etc. He’s the Dragon Age equivalent of a doctor, only instead of being rich, he talks wistfully about his old cat Ser Pounce-a-Lot and moans about the plight of the mages. He could be a cool character, but it’s easy for me to get irritated with this guy. I’ll take Fenris brooding over Anders getting pissy any day.

To recruit Anders, we must finish the Tranquility quest. Anders takes us to save his mage friend from the Chantry – but when we arrive, it’s too late. His friend has been made Tranquil, which is what the Templars do to mages they can’t control. It zaps them of their personalities and emotions and leaves them speaking in monotone and stuff.

This enrages Anders, whose face starts to crack and glow. Later, after we kill his friend per his request when his friend snaps out of Tranquility for a minute (that’s not confusing, right?), Anders explains that his eyes glow because he has a spirit inside him. The spirit represents Justice, and when Anders gets angry and loses control of himself, he basically blacks out and Justice takes over. Yikes. That is not very sexy. And look, Anders even gets all glowy just talking to me:

11 Anders getting angry just talking to me goddd
Not a match made in heaven.

But after that, in the quest Birthright, we race through my family’s old estate to find our will, which Gamlen has been hiding from us. And it turns out Gamlen has been lying to us. The Kirkwall estate, which Gamlen gambled away, rightfully belonged to my mother this whole time. Of course, there’s not much we can do about that now.

My party then heads to the tavern, where we meet Isabela who I adore beyond measure in this game – the perfect blend of sarcasm, bite, and vulnerability – and I chat with Varric as he exposes more chest hair to me. (This seems to be a hobby of his.)

13 Varric's chest hair sitting in a throne-y chair
Chest hair, exposed.

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Questing Is Chaos

I almost forgot just how many quests there are in Dragon Age 2. Although I enjoy this game quite a bit, one of its biggest problems becomes glaringly obvious by the end of the first act: there’s just no cohesive story. I mean, you’ve got the Templars trying to control the mages while the mages try to escape the Circle. And then you’ve got the Qunari, who washed up onshore in Kirkwall and are waiting for their ship to take them home… but it doesn’t come, and it doesn’t come, until it becomes clear that something is not right with this situation.

And occasionally, these stories overlap. For instance, one of my favorite quests in the first act is Shepherding Wolves. In this mission, Sister Petrice from the Chantry asks us to escort a Qunari mage called Ketojan to freedom. He’s collared, and his mouth is literally sewn shut. Apparently the Qunari treat their mages terribly, shackling and caging them because, like the Templars, they don’t trust their innate powers.

Ketojan!
Ketojan!

I don’t want trouble with the Arishok, but Petrice basically forces me to whisk Ketojan to safety. However, when we get to the coast, where he can find freedom, Qunari are waiting for us. Petrice led us into a trap — and all because she thought the Qunari massacring a group of people who were protecting a mage would make the Qunari look like monsters.

But what’s more interesting is learning about the Qunari mage, known as “saarebas” according to the Qun. I recently watched Dragon Age: Redemption with Felicia Day, and it explores the Qun a little bit more — including saarebas, the Qunari naming practices, etc. Although Hawke and company kill the Qunari who want to enslave Ketojan, the mage still decides to kill himself at the end of the quest. Because he has disobeyed the Qun, he would rather die than live as a Tal’Vashoth apart from the Qun.

The way I understand it is this: the Qun is a way of life — almost a religion — for the Qunari (which is not so much a race as it is the name for anyone who follows the Qun), and it states that everyone is born into their role. The idea of choosing your own path in life, pursuing a chosen career, deciding your own fate – that makes no sense according to the Qun. I mean, it’s not just not allowed, it’s absolutely nonsensical to them. Like saying that a bird wants to be a fish someday. Any follower of the Qun who leaves the Qun is known as Tal’Vashoth.

Anyway, there are loads of other quests in act one. Some of my favorites include:

— Unbidden Rescue: The viscount’s son, Seamus, has been kidnapped by Qunari. But when we arrive on the Wounded Coast to save him, it turns out he’s followed them willingly because he is interested in the Qun. One of the Qunari is his good friend. Although we return him to his father, it’s still interesting to see a human choose to follow the Qun.

— Wayward Son: We track down a missing mage and find that he’s been taken by slavers. Naturally, Fenris wants to deal harshly with the slavers, and at one point I let him stick his magic, lyrium-riddled fist into a slaver named Danzig. Also, Varric makes up a story about the boy being the viscount’s love child, to trick the slavers into releasing him. (They buy it, but we kill the slavers anyway. Fenris Friendship +10) The boy wants to go to the Dalish elves to learn magic where it’s safe, but he’s been having nightmares about demons, and I can’t risk it. I send him to the Circle.

— Magistrate’s Orders: A killer is cornered in a cave on the Wounded Coast. An elf says that the killer has been targeting young elven girls — most recently, his daughter — and the city guards don’t do anything about it because, you know, they’re racist against elves and everything. (There’s an elven alienage in Kirkwall, just like there was in Denerim in Dragon Age: Origins.)

When we enter the cave, we find the elf’s kidnapped daughter and send her to safety, but not before she explains that the killer thinks he’s possessed by demons. Upon tracking him down, he says he came here to die. He already went to the Circle, but the mages said there were no demons; he’s just mad. He wants us to kill him, and it makes sense to put an end to his misery since he may die by trial anyway.

— Act of Mercy: Ser Thrask of the Templars asks us to enter a cave where apostates are hiding and convince them to surrender peacefully — because the Templars, under Knight-Commander Meredith and the ruthless Karras — will not be so merciful. When I agree to help, Anders gives me something akin to the look of love. Eek. Anders is a very forceful guy, and it’s seriously hard to avoid his advances. (I’m just talking about, like, dialogue options here.) Inside the caves, it turns out the leader, Decimus, is a blood mage. After killing him, we convince the others to return to the Circle.

Also, along with all of these lovely quests, we recruit more companions! First, we avenge the killers of Prince Sebastian Vael. This is the first time I have him unlocked, which is pretty cool. He’s an uptight archer with a Scottish accent, though I’m just not seeing his appeal as a romance option. We also venture to Sundermount to deliver Flemeth’s amulet, where we recruit Merrill.

Merrill… And ohmygod, do I ever love Merrill. She is the most adorable, awkward, frail little blood mage ever. And she has a Welsh accent that sounds just like one of my best friend’s. Between the accent, the brown hair, and the random rambling that doesn’t always make sense, she actually reminds me a lot of my friend, which is probably why I like her so much. But she’s a blood mage, and I’m siding with the Templars… so instead of pursuing Friendship with her, I’ll be going the Rival path. I’ve never gone the blood mage route before, so I’ve always had a rivalry with her. And it’s hard to do that, because she’s so sweet.

Anyway, when we reach the top of the mountain, guess who’s there to greet us? Flemeth! And she says we’ve been carrying around a piece of her in that amulet, thereby keeping her alive even when, say, a certain Grey Warden killed her for Morrigan in Dragon Age: Origins. Grrrr.

arishokWe also meet the Arishok, who is the leader of the Qunari and also happens to be extremely muscular and meaty with horns on his head. (This has got to be uncomfortable when he’s trying to sleep.) While we talk to him, Fenris busts out some Qunari language skills, which seems to impress the Arishok.

In other news, Aveline becomes Captain of the Guard! We also run into Bodahn and Sandal from Origins, which is awesome. But perhaps the most exciting reunion is with Cullen from Origins.

Now, in Origins, if you play the mage story at the start of the game, Cullen is a Templar who’s all nervous and bumbling around your Warden, like he has a crush on her. He also shows up in the Broken Circle quest line, where he’s trapped in a magic bubble of some sort. (I’m sorry, my memory is hazy on the details.) But in Dragon Age 2, he’s been promoted to Knight-Captain, and he has all the good looks and general badassery to prove it. I would be so excited if he ended up being a romance option in Dragon Age 3. I mean, look at his gorgeous face:

Not my picture.
Not my picture.

But to move on from fangirling, we also do one of my least favorite quests, which is the Bone Pit. This consists of clearing out the Bone Pit, which is overrun by dragonlings. And it all culminates in a little tiny boss battle with a very mature dragon.

Mature dragons probably spit out their wine at tastings. I believe that's the only time spitting is sophisticated.
Sophisticated dragons probably spit out their wine at tastings and stuff.

Other fun facts:

— Isabela has the best battle shout: “If we kill them, we get all their stuff!”

— Isabela tells Bethany she had a husband once, who was killed by her lover, and says it was all very “Antivan.”

— In one odd quest, we come across a 15-year-old boy who is ridiculously short. It sounds like his voice has changed and everything, but he’s the size of a 7-year-old. And this is no dwarf from Orzammar.

How is he 15?
How is he 15? I have to stoop to speak to him face-to-face.

— Gamlen says he took care of his parents when they were dying, while my mother was away raising us. And still, the last words his parent said were my mother’s name. So I understand Gamlen’s bitterness, to some extent — but it doesn’t excuse him stealing what was rightfully left to my mother in the will, and then gambling away our family estate.

— Aaaaand I love playing a warrior character. I forgot how much fun it is not to worry about crowd control! I just rush in, pick an enemy, and slash him until he’s down. And as a warrior with heavy armor and upgraded health, I never fall in battle. For now, I’m going with the Reaver specialization, which lets me regen health while I attack or sacrifice health to increase my attack. I’m making Fenris more of a strength-based tank, while I focus partly on dexterity to land critical hits. In  most games, I only use one warrior on the battlefield at a time, but now I have Hawke and Fenris tear it up — and if Aveline, the sword-and-shield warrior, is also in the group, enemies fall fast. I love it.

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The Dreaded Deep Roads… Much Improved!

If you’ve read my Dragon Age: Origins playthrough, you probably know that I’m not a huge fan of the Deep Roads. It’s a dark, scary maze down there underneath Orzammar, and it takes a long time to get through. But in Dragon Age 2, the Deep Roads get a major makeover, and instead of taking 2 hours to get through them, it only takes about 45 minutes (or a few weeks in the game’s world, I suppose). ::sighofrelief::

This time, I venture to the Deep Roads purely for the treasure. Varric, Fenris, and Anders accompany me — as does Varric’s brother Bartrand and a lot of strangers. Inside, we meet this guy:

Kicking dragon butt.
Kicking dragon butt.

We also come across Sandal the “enchantment” guy, who says he’s been doing… “not enchantment.” It’s kind of like when he showed up in Fort Drakon at the end of Origins for no reason: he’s here, he seems to be lost, and he’s surrounded by dead darkspawn.

Sandal froze an ogre.
Sandal made an ice sculpture.

Eventually, we find a lyrium idol of some sort, which should be worth an absolute fortune. But when we show it to Bartrand, he picks it up, walks out the door… and locks us in. What a bastard. Fortunately, Varric and I are clever ducks and can find another way out, past this guy:

Magic rock wraithy guy.
Magic rock wraithy guy.

I sort of love this boss fight. In addition to sending out minions for us to kill, this rock wraith huddles up in a trembling ball before blasting us all with killing energy. Whenever he does this, I hide behind a post. The whole battle has a fun rhythm because of it. And it turns out the rock wraith has a little alcove with a whole lot of treasure in it — our reward.

When we get out of the Deep Roads, I head home to find Cullen inside it. Fluttery heart aside, I see that he’s on a mission, which is to take my sister Bethany to the Circle! Somehow, he’s found out she’s an apostate. I’m not too torn up about it, because I’m all for the Circle in this particular playthrough… but the game doesn’t give me a lot of dialogue options to express my feelings. So instead of saying, “The Circle’s not so bad,” or something like that, I comfort my poor mother who’s crying on the floor with her usual melodramatic flair.

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Romancey Bits

Three years pass, and apparently I’ve moved up in the world. Even the viscount wants my help in dealing with the Qunari situation, because they’re still in Kirkwall.

But before I get into that, I head to the Black Emporium for a chic haircut. I want to look French and sexy like my sister while I’m handling politics with my maul. And I get an awesome mabari warhound, who I can even call into battle with me:

mabari

Now, I’m not going to be able to remember all the quests off the top of my head, especially since I took about a month off from playing this game… but the first fun bit is recruiting the ridiculously Scottish-accented Sebastian. (We met him before, but we didn’t recruit him.) This involves drunkenness, sexy times, and a desire demon, but it’s all a bit confused in my memory at the moment. I don’t participate in any of this, it’s just what’s happening around the mansion. But at least Sebastian, who grew up in the Chantry and is quite the religious man, tries to convert Fenris at one point. (As if that’s ever going to work…)

demonWe also help Feynriel, who is being tricked by demons, in Night Terrors. My job is to go into the Fade and convince him that the demons are making him see things that aren’t real — very similar to the Fade quest in Origins. The demons tempt my companions, even bringing back Wesley to trick Aveline and offering Merrill a chance to save elvenkind. In the end, Feynriel is saved and decides to go to Tevinter to master his powers.

I also have fun with Varric’s quest to track down his bastard brother Bartrand — you know, the one who stole that lyrium idol for himself and locked us in the Deep Roads. At first, Varric busts in alone to take down all the guards solo:

varric

But it’s just his glamorous version of the story, and the Seeker makes him rewind to tell the truth. In fact, Bartrand has been driven mad, and Varric kills him. Sad.

Now let’s get to the romancey bits I promised…

First, Aveline is settling in to her role as knight commander, but she’s got a major crush on Guardsman Donnic. She has me switch his shift to a less dangerous one, give him a bizarre gift, and then — when none of that works as proper hinting — invite him out to the Hanged Man for group drinks. But Aveline doesn’t show at the Hanged Man, so Donnic thinks I’m hitting on him.

Fortunately, we can fix this. Aveline is at her best when she’s on guard duty, so we let her spend some quality time with Donnic on patrol at the Wounded Coast while my team and I take down the bad guys for them. Their conversation is awkward, but eventually, I just come out with Aveline’s feeling for Donnic, which is mortifying to Aveline. And let’s face it, we all have that one friend who just comes out with it, and it’s always embarrassing… but it also speeds things along nicely, and afterwards we’re kind of relieved about it. Luckily for Aveline, Donnic approves, judging by the giggling that goes on inside Aveline’s study later.

maul
That is my Hawke on the Wounded Coast with the most awesome maul ever.

This is why I love Aveline as a character. She’s tough and a tad serious, but she’s also loyal to her friends and has a romantic side. It’s nice to see a well-rounded woman in a game like this — the type you might not expect to have a husband, but why can’t a warrior fall in love? It’s brilliant.

And then, you know, there’s my romance… er, my Hawke’s, but I’m doing this in first-person here. On the way to that patrol on the Wounded Coast, Fenris runs into slavers who recognize him. We head to the Holding Caves to track down Danarius’s apprentice, Hadriana, in A Bitter Pill. Hadriana tells Fenris that he has a sister. Although I suggest not killing Hadriana — in fact, I think I promise her that — Fenris kills her and then storms off, saying he wants to be alone. Very emo.

When I return to my estate, Fenris is there, wanting to apologize about everything. This is when I like to have a more personal chat with him at his fenris convoestate. Over a bottle of wine, he says it’s the anniversary of his escape from slavery and tells me the story of his time with the fog warriors. This is a really interesting and involved conversation — maybe the best in the entire game, with any NPC — so I won’t spoil it, except to say that it’s one of my favorite bits of unwinding in Dragon Age 2.

I head home to find Fenris at my estate, saying he hasn’t been able to stop thinking about me. You can guess what happens next. But afterwards, Fenris says he can’t really be with me. Our, uh, relationship brought back flashes of his memory before he sustained his lyrium injuries from Danarius, and it’s all too much for him. He is wearing my family crest and a red sash around his wrist, though — like a lady’s favor to a knight. It’s a nice touch.

scarf

About the Fenris Romance…

If anybody is wanting to know how to romance Fenris, there are two ways to go about it:

1.) At the beginning of Act 2, talk to Fenris twice. The second conversation is the one about his escape from slavery. Choose flirt dialogue options. Then go about your business until “A Bitter Pill” triggers. After the quest, when he appears at your estate, choose the flirt option, “Don’t go.” You’ll grab his hand, make him angry and glowy, and then… romance.

2.) This is the way I did it, and I much prefer this version. At the beginning of Act 2, talk to Fenris once. Don’t click on him the second time, even though it says you can. Do “A Bitter Pill,” and when he appears at your house afterwards, there will be no flirt option. That’s okay. Go to his mansion and initiate the conversation about his escape from slavery. When you return to your estate, Fenris will be waiting for you, saying he couldn’t get you off his mind. Much more romantic, right?

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The Trouble with Anders

You know how I said at the beginning of this that there’s no weapon sexier than a battleaxe? I was wrong! Because the sexiest weapon is a maul. I love my maul so much, I just want to screen capture it all day long.

Maul
Maul
Maul in action.
Maul in action.

Aside from that, I’ve been dealing with Anders a lot lately. In Dissent, I talk to him about the mages. He believes there’s a plot among the Templars to make mages tranquil, and though he’s at first reticent about it — I am pretty high up in the political world, after all — he suddenly takes me into the Gallows Dungeon beneath Darktown to investigate. And there, we do find a Templar who is about to make a runaway mage Tranquil. And it’s not just any Templar, it’s an important one: Ser Alrik.

DissentThis makes Anders very angry, and Justice bursts out. After fighting the Templars, Justice kills the mage too. (I guess I could have calmed him down, by I chose the wrong dialogue option.) Anders flees, obviously upset by what he’s just done — or what Justice has just done — but when I talk to him later in his clinic, I convince him not to leave Kirkwall because of this mess.

Anders is making a list to try to convince me and people like me that mages aren’t all bad. I just don’t see what’s so horrible about the Circle. Anders says that the Chantry was established a long time ago, it’s outdated, and the leading cause of death among Circle mages is suicide. That last bit seems like extremist propaganda to me, but that’s just the way Anders is. He’s very moany about this stuff.

I show him a note from Ser Alrik, which shows that he did have a “Tranquil Solution” to control mages, but the other Templars turned it down. This doesn’t stop Anders, though: he wants to overthrow the Chantry.

— Ashley

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