Cut for copious amounts of pictures and spoilers for Dragon Age: Inquisition.
Welcome to the Maximum Feels Playthrough, where you make all the decisions you realize you could’ve made a lot more painfully in the previous playthrough(s). This is my second attempt at this playthrough, having had to go back and reroll my warrior elf with the British accent, because the American one just sounds too much like Delphine, and it feels like a gimmicky impersonation to me.
Also, let’s face it, this voice is hot.
So, let’s begin!
The first thing I wanted to address in the MF playthrough was Solas. This limits your character options, unfortunately, to female elf. I still very much want to do a dwarf playthrough but now is not going to be the time. It’s got to be Solas, because by the time the much-promised DLC that addresses his freaking epilogue comes out, I want all my emotional ducks lined up in a row to be blown to smithereens. Will we see him again? Will he try to explain? Will he even remember, given the extra soul he’s now lugging around? Who knows? But I will be disappointed if I don’t cry.
I saved myself a couple of mostly-untrammeled zones and unexplored characters for this playthrough. The Exalted Plains, for example: I barely touched it on my other characters, deliberately so, for as soon as I ran into the Dalish camp I decided to save the whole zone for my MF playthrough. It’s actually pretty in places, where you’re not looking at all the trench warfare butchery. And there are few pixelated plants I swoon for more easily that backlit golden wheatgrass. Bring on the sunstars and a couple shreds of mist or cloud and you’ve got me won over. This, too, shows me which zone exactly I got my desktop background at work from: it’s from alpha, so the lighting and textures aren’t of this quality, but I’d always wondered where in the game that scenery came from. This would be it. I wish I had saved Solas’ personal quest in this zone for this character; sadly I’d already pursued it on my male elf before I discovered that Solas won’t respond fully to male elves. Alas.
Hey, I finally killed a dragon! Keep your derisive snorts to yourself; hardcore completionist devotion is not for me. I’ve seen bunches of dragons but never had the time or the inclination to train up and kill them. Well, that’s about to change!
She is not happy with me. Incidentally, I hadn’t attempted this dragon since I went through and read the books–this is the valley where Alistair’s grandma holed up when she was forming the rebellion! Well, she’s supposed to have moved around, so I suppose that would make this a particularly favored valley. Possibly the last one, where Loghain meets Maric. Anywho, I appreciated the little nod to all that backstory I bothered to read.
Another first: I’m turning hats on this time. I’m not a giant fan of having hats on, firstly because as people advance in levels and get better gear, their iconic hats (see: Cole, Vivienne, or the hatlessness of Dorian or Solas) get replaced by ludicrous upgrades; and secondly because I just like seeing people’s faces. But this caused me to have no idea, in the riotous world of tumblr fandom feeds, what people meant when they talked about Cullen’s lion helmet. “What lion helmet?” I thought. “He has no helmet! Just that-hair-I-could-totally-cosplay!” Yep, well, he has a helmet, and I never saw it. So I’m turning hats on this time. I don’t have any cool hat patterns yet, though, so I’m just going for hoods I keep dyeing to match my armor. Hey, I’m an elf, I’m allowed.
Scenic turnout. Hey look, you can see Redcliffe!
Just strolling in with my battering ram, you know. No biggie.
Alistair and his loss is another part of the MF playthrough. Technically I’d already Youtubed his loss because I fangirl him like that but I wanted to do it properly this time. This of course involved a lot of finagling in the Keep, to set the backstory up right, but I think the bigger loss, since I’d already seen his actual death, was the realization that no, he really shouldn’t have been king. And I don’t mean just for the sake of the country. I mean for his own personal well-being. You make him king–you shove him into this role that he had no training or love for, nor even friends to help him through it–you’re kind of shafting him. Anora is the sensible sole replacement for dead Loghain. She has grown up in the political world and has basically held down the fort while everyone else went off and died. She knows what she’s doing. And sure, Alistair has the bloodline but he has neither the training nor the temperament for being king. And he loves the Grey Wardens. Finally found a home, acceptance, a family, etc. there. To take it away from him…oi. Bad move, self of six years ago. Bad. Also painful is the knowledge that, when he speaks of his beloved the Hero of Ferelden off hunting for a cure for the Calling, he could end it for her if he just, ah, knocked her up…like what happened to his own mother…which of course he doesn’t know. (Yes, he’d still be left in the lurch, but you know his character would at least try to spare the HoF…) Communication, communication, communication! I often try to weigh whether communication or transportation would fix things in fantasy settings–pretty much every time–and communication tends to win. (Give Rand al’Thor and his closest advisors cellphones, for example, and you’d have finished the series in four books instead of fourteen!) Sure, if you had WoT’s portals in DA:O, you could go from point A to point B instantly…but you don’t know where your point B is until the scout/contact/whoever tells you so. All of which is slightly tangential since the issue here isn’t one of distance but one the personal nature of the information–the only people in the game’s world who knew Fiona was Alistair’s mom are dead. Still. It does set up a little wail in the back of your throat. Wait, no, if only…dammit, go talk to her! Fiona, say something!
Me, blaming the Grey Wardens for all my problems. Because I heard Solas likes that.* And also, well, the Grey Wardens really fucked up. Though I must say that Clarell doesn’t seem to attract the accolades she ought to, fandomwise. I love Clarell. She fucks up royally and pays for it dearly but with complete self-awareness at the end. And when she finally gets it through her stubborn head how she’s been used, she is wrath incarnate. All hail Clarell. Even going through the storyboard for her final scene (in the art book), it hits you. Her precise delivery of each line, when and where she does it.
And now I leave you at the beginning of my favorite quest in the entire game. Wicked Eyes Wicked Hearts. The music, the decor, the buildup, the…dancing! Sweet god, the dancing. All of it.
* Deeply restrained aside so as not to get lost upon the seas of Wild Speculation: of course he likes blaming the Grey Wardens for this, right? Since it’s a convenient distraction from the fact that he gave Corypheus the damn orb which, had he not done so, there wouldn’t be a hole in the sky with everyone rightly convinced the world’s ending! WTG, Solas! And yet what if it’s more than that? Some of the collections of Dalish legends lying around in books (and can I say I love the way the game draws attention to the unreliability of texts! sure, it’s in a book, but who the hell knows if it has any factual basis anymore, so long after the fact…) describe Fen’Harel as the one who gained, through his cunning, the friendship of both the Old Gods (Dumat and co.) and the elven gods (Mythal et al), before locking them each away off the earth–the elven gods above and the Old Gods below. We know, because Solas tells us so, that the Dalish get a shit ton wrong in their warped myths and legends. But if any of that has any connection to things that actually happened in Solas’ life, his outrage over the Grey Wardens’ quest to kill all the Old Gods may have more to do with old deals then just pure self-interest. I don’t think his relationship to either faction can be as simple as the Dalish make it out to be, because he clearly has a thing going with Mythal that would make him a poor candidate for Most Nefarious Man in the Universe. But okay, I’m going to stop here because I could go on about Solas speculation all day, when the real answer is simply to get through my Solas playthrough and be ready when the explanatory DLC comes out.