***Spoilers, obviously. Big time. For reals. Don’t rob yourself of the ending if you haven’t gotten to it yet. Make sure you sit through the credits.***
Pardon me for a moment.
What the hell just happened?!
Ahem. Forgive me.
Here I was sitting there thinking “how nice, such closure.” Specifically, how nice that they didn’t set out to kill whoever you loved. (I was listening to the soundtrack at work; Spotify foolishly tabs down to center the song when you minimize it, so when it comes back up you expose yourself to songs for events you’ve not yet seen–so I saw “Death On the Bridge,” and it was 20 minutes before I realized what that was referencing and that I’d already seen death on the bridge, thus that no, no one else was going to be dying on any bridges.)
Such closure! I thought. Bad guys dead, parties thrown, snuggles commenced. Promise to get Cullen off the lyrium remembered. (Not that we actually start doing that or anything. Possibly a DLC, it was suggested to me? Although Rehab: The DLC doesn’t exactly sound very…marketable. Perhaps it won’t work and more nefarious deals will be required.)
Speaking of nefarious deals.
What the fuck just happened.
I know, I know, on the surface it’s obvious. Solas turned out to be Mythal’s buddy all along. But if she could just leap bodies so easily, why was she just sitting around in that one till it died? Why didn’t she jump into me, for example? Morrigan may be protected but not me.* And did she even jump into Solas? Or did she just hand over the dragon soul she yoinked from Kieran that time?
And if I hadn’t done what I did in DAO, six actual years ago, how would this scene even work? Kieran wouldn’t have the dragon soul. He could still exist, because Morrigan could just show up with a son we know nothing about. But then he wouldn’t have that soul! So Flemeth wouldn’t need/want him! At the very most she’d want to port into him–but just that. No “hey can I have that soul of the old god pretty please.” And I am fairly sure, when I went back a couple hours after I finished DAO to see how it’d play out if I sacrificed myself minus the Morrigan/Alistair sex scene, that there was no last-minute purloining of that old god soul. I just died, plain and simple. No creepy shit.
So if you hadn’t gone the Morrigan old god baby route, how do you have this scene at the end? Is it a reward? Is that why it’s after the credits? It can’t not be in there because how do you continue a story without that scene? How does the mock-up for the next game work? Is it a pattern, like big-game-where-anything-can-happen, followed by narrow-game-which-has-to-end-this-way, i.e. DA2 with the explosion and the war between the Chantry and the mages? That would be an admirable attempt to try to control narrative costs while allowing for expansive storytelling, but based on the huge negative reaction DA2 received, I doubt EA would greenlight another DA2-esque game. For good or ill, I imagine they’ve tabled that approach.
So how, then, does this look if you didn’t do what I did? Solas can still be aligned with Flemeth, sure. (And this raises the tantalizing question of whether he’s romanceable or not. I’d been bored to death of him for the first fourth of the game, because he didn’t like what I did and would just sulk and not talk to me when I tried to get to know him better. But his leading us to Skyhold…maybe I was just wooed by the music (epiiiiic!), but I softened toward him. Obviously rather too convenient that he knew about this place when no one else did, but it was gallant of him to pluck me from my helplessness and lead us all to this awesome castle. And when you finally get into his good graces, does he respond with more? If so, and if you pursued it, how would the end look? He’d still go back to Flemeth of course, but would it sting more? Would he express regret? He’s so damn unrufflable, I’m tempted to try it just to send splashes across the surface of that pond. He’s like Doctor Who without the joy. Knowledgeable and occasionally willing to share it, but damned unresponsive on certain fronts. It’s infuriating!) But anyway, how do you get to this scene without the old god soul? Mythal is a goddess, she can’t die. But the eyes flashing thing was, I thought, reserved just for the old god soul. Didn’t Flemeth’s eyes flash that way when she took it from Kieran? So if Solas only gained that soul, what the hell happened to Mythal? I’d say she popped into Morrigan, since Morrigan’s bound to her and all, but that binding makes her safe (bizarrely). Plus Morrigan summarized the whole thing for us at the end, and she seems like a poor pick to do the narration if she’s possessed. But Flemeth/Mythal can’t be just “gone,” because there’d be no point in binding Morrigan to her if so. Maybe she had one of those amulets from DA2 stashed away somewhere (again).
But she apologized to Solas. She didn’t kill him and then warp into his dead body. She died and then gave him, at the very least, the old god soul. If she was apologizing, was it just out of sorrow at the end of his free will (awfully decent of her, but Kieran had free will the whole time he had that soul, so a complete loss of free will seems unlikely)? Or does bad shit go down now that Solas has the soul? Does he lose control? Go nuts? Was she just saying goodbye or was she saying “you are so screwed right now and I am so sorry, urkh!” ??
Furthermore, what does it mean that she’s Mythal? That Mythal and the elven gods were real? That the “old gods” of Tevinter (who were different? I think? I’ll have to check the big World of Thedas book I checked out for the long weekend) were also real? That the only god who ain’t answering is the one the vast majority of people believe in?
I mean, there’s the crux of the whole game right in that screenshot. Who’s real, and even if you know that, who’s worth believing in anyway? (Did I go with the crappy Da Vinci Code answer? Yes, yes I did. Because it was the end of the game and being mean felt wrong.) Throughout the game you find out that people you respected are, of all things, Andrastian (I don’t remember that being a descriptor in the earlier games but that’s immaterial; point is, they believe the whole pseudo-christian Andraste thing.) Varric, for example. The hell? You, man? But yes, Varric. Sera, too. And Cullen but I mean, duh. Ex-templar, so not really a surprise there.
On the one hand, I appreciate this focus as a change, as a distraction and also a bigger frame, for the traditional bad-guy-is-trying-to-take-over-the-world-so-let’s-kill-him storyline. On the other hand, I am leery of it turning into another Across the Nightingale Floor, where what looks like a fun immersive fantasy world turns into just a revival tent in a different paint color. When Americans–and yes I saw the credits; I’m aware that Montreal isn’t America, but they’re not unaware of their biggest audience (I think? data, anyone? I could be wrong), and our wallets speak for us when we would remain silent–try to address issues of faith in fiction, it tends to take the incredibly predictable and tired route of “Hmm. I don’t believe. Oh wait, dramatic event happens! Now I believe in this thing that is basically Jesus. Yay.” So. Boring. Almost as boring as listening to everyone fill the interwebs with “yay my mage is a christian!” drivel.
I suppose you might have differing levels of conviction based on what the shiny spirit thing says to you in the Fade. In the dialogue options I asked if she was a spirit/ghost of Justinia V, and she said basically “if that’s what you want to believe, go ahead,” which, fine. I get that you’re leaving that open. But I hope all the options left it open. I hope none of them resulted in “yep, I’m Andraste. My whole religion is based upon fact, too, huzzah!” Ugh. Because then, if every god exists, it’s no different than a war between three different factions of any kind–orcs, elves, humans, whatever. It’s much more interesting if the biggest damn religion on the planet might in fact be the only one whose god never existed or gave a damn, meanwhile the gods whose religions are dead are very much alive, and pissed off that people are wandering around paying homage to fairy tales.
I mean, seriously, what does it mean that Mythal is real? That she’s an elven goddess? (This guy is probably thrilled, because he was exactly right. On the nose! Was I glad I listened to that video a day before release? Hell yes.) What is her game? What is she trying to do? She’s not just an archivist–she raised Morrigan to be that way, always wanting to preserve old stuff because it’s old, but Flemeth seems to have done so explicitly so this series of events would happen and Morrigan would be led to bind herself to Flemeth/Mythal once more. She said she will have her due, Mythal did. Is that what she wants? Revenge? Against a long-dead king? “One day someone will summarize the terrible events of your life so briefly,” she says, so deliciously dryly to my character’s brief history book-tinged (thanks, inquisition perk unlock!) confirmation of her past–her elopement with a bard, her husband’s killing of said bard, and then his imprisoning of Flemeth in the tower whereupon she screamed and begged for help and Mythal showed up. I paused in the conversation in the Fade here a moment to acknowledge the fact that we’re probably not talking just imprisonment here. One imagines that as a powerful king furious enough to kill his wife’s lover and drag her back to the castle, the king didn’t just leave her untouched in the room. Rape is probably a part of that story people expect you to understand occurred. And when I realized that I thought, “yeah, Flemeth, you go! Burn them all!” Except…who? Who is left who had anything to do with that? Rapists in general? While cool–I’d sign up for the goddess of vengeance against rapists in a heartbeat–I rather doubt they built the whole game in that direction, with Flemeth as the most powerful narrative force in all the games combined.
I nudge history, when it’s required. Other times, a shove is needed.
So what does she want? Morrigan, Alistair, Hawke, the Inquisitor, they’re all alive because of the machinations of Flemeth. What is her deal?
Speaking of Alistair. Is there seriously no way I can see him in this game? We know from the comics his dragon blood’s a big deal (Sidenote: hey, that’s not how genes work–you don’t drink something and then have it be passed down to your kids, unless it’s radioactive and changing genes. Is dragon blood radioactive?) yet we see no more of him than admittedly delightful letters. Had I gone with the mages instead of the templars would I have seen him? I don’t think so, much as I’d rush to a second playthrough if that were true. Yes he sheltered the mages (had I known that I never would have gone templars, even with the Tevinter creepiness by the docks), but if I saw Alistair on the mage side I’d have to have a complementary scene with someone else on the templar side, and there was no such scene. So dammit, bring him back! Gimme some Alistair-inclusive DLC. It would suck for the only reason he’s important to be his blood which then passed down to Kieran. That is a shitty summary of one’s life. He’s an amazing character! Unless the voice actor has called it quits–and don’t even think of subbing anyone else in!–he should come back. To be heteronormative about this, BioWare, you gave the guys their precious Morrigan back. Give us our Alistair! He’s the precious. We needs it.
Anyway. So that’s that. Game done. As I reminded my slightly-perturbed husband, these all-night crazed playthroughs are the only way I do new Dragon Age games. He just wasn’t around for the other two–one I was abroad for, and during the other he worked such crazy hours that he was never home when I was in front of the screen for hours at a time. I have a system–every hour or so I do squats and situps and stretches so nothing goes numb.
But who cares, it’s over. Now I have to do another playthrough and try not to get roped into an exclusive relationship so quickly–I didn’t mean to do so with Cullen so soon; I was just so tired of no one doing anything in response to my advances that I pounced on the first willing party. (Why yes, I’m aware how terrible that sounds. In my defense, I was on the way down the hall to Josephine, all the work for the restoration of her family done, when I got…sidetracked.) Kind of want to play a guy and go for Dorian, though that means the (hopeful) success with Josephine beforehand will be terribly…parochial. It was so much cooler when I was this awesome cute girl in an archduke-y uniform, waltzing with the eminently capable but charmingly fretful diplomat around the midnight terrace. Like here, for example:
* Oh right, I just remembered: “A soul cannot be forced on the unwilling.” Or maybe it can, but Flemeth, as a rape victim herself, sure isn’t going to engage in another kind of rape. Okay, so Solas was willing. Clearly. But…why wait until then? And was she apologizing simply because, if she took over his body, she couldn’t technically see/be with him anymore? I don’t actually think they were romantically involved and while at first I did think so and was all “Yes! You get what you need too, Flemeth!” I reneged on that because it’s more touching if that hand on his cheek was in grateful benediction, not the ghost of lust.