Inquisition Diaries #5: Guest Inquisitors
SPOILER WARNING: These diaries will contain spoilers for Dragon Age Inquisition (DAI), as well as its predecessors, Dragon Age: Origins (DAO) and Dragon Age II (DA2), and may also contain spoilers from the tie-in materials. If you’re new to this whole Dragon Age business and want to know what the hell I’m going on about, please visit my little Dragon Age Primer to learn a bit more about BioWare’s fantasy roleplaying video game series. Not able to devote the ridiculous amount of time into leading the Inquisition yourself? Then join me on my noble journey!
Today on a very special Inquisition Diaries, I’ve invited my fellow Inquisitors, Becka, Tiara, and Joanna to share their thoughts on Dragon Age Inquisition. All of us are playing the same game and going through the same missions, but there are so many choices available to us, that each character, each event, can touch us in very different ways, based on our own experiences, both in game and out.
Who is your Inquisitor?
Becka: This is Eleri Lavellan, Dalish mage and Terrible Spy. She was eager to help her clan and deferred to her Keeper’s wisdom, but honestly had no idea why her Keeper thought she’d be any good at it. She’s more academic and curious than daring. She has good instincts but lacks faith in them. I think a good amount of this came from the character’s body language. She has a beautiful way of holding her head slightly down, curving her shoulders slightly inward. There’s a pensive uncertainty that really spoke to me. And also, a dogmatic, “No, I’m here to gather information and I shall do it,” because she is constantly waiting for this whole Inquisitor thing to fall through and she doesn’t want to return to her clan empty-handed is a surprisingly satisfying piece of headcanon to explain the endless investigate options.
(More headcanon? The elven spelling is Lafelan, because if we’re going to have half the cast of Torchwood voicing elves, then I will assume they use Welsh spelling conventions and “Lavellan” is just confusing.)
Tiara: I’m playing two inquisitors right now–a human mage named Mirielle (a hail to my Guild Wars 2 illusionist) and a Qunari archer named Sadiya, but I’ve been spending more time with my mage mainly due to how large the game is. I haven’t wanted to divide my attention too much, but I consider both my main girls. However, since I have spent more time with my mage at this point, I’ll answer most of these questions with her in mind.
Mirielle Trevelyan is a mage from the Ostwick circle born into a prominent family. Despite being separated from them since an early age, she maintains a close relationship with her family. She’s naturally curious. She’s known to ask millions of questions and often offends someone’s good senses because she’s not afraid to ask anyone anything. She has heard more than her fair share of exasperated “Maker’s breath, Miri! You can’t just ask people that!” She likes to hear various opinions on different subjects, and she tries to see things from the POV of others without letting her own personal biases cloud things. She lives for healthy debate. She can find the merit in most people’s arguments even if she doesn’t 100% agree with them. Miri has an intense interest in the arcane and always feels like there are things for her to learn and try. Even though there are limitations with the game, I like to think her strong point is illusion magic, but she feels there are more practical magics to be used during their adventures. She also loves parties and frolicking in the lily pad filled ponds in her skivvies after one too many drinks.
Joanna: My first playthrough was Caitriona Trevelyan, a human mage. She specialises in fire and spirit magic, and later chooses to be trained in the rift magic and takes well to it.
How does your Inquisitor feel about the Inquisition and their role within it? If they are non-human and/or a mage, how do they feel about things from that angle?
Becka: As both an elf and a mage, she does have a low level but constant expectation that she’ll be found out and sent home. That’s gone from something she fears and expects to hurt to something that will sadden her. She’d like to think she’s helping. She’d like to think Cassandra’s faith in her is not misplaced.
She identifies more strongly as an elf than a mage. Her sympathy for the plight of former Circle mages isn’t removed from her own use of magic but she does see it as a culture not her own, problems that aren’t hers, and a system that, even if reinstated, she would not see as having any authority over her.
She tries to avoid expressing strong opinions on people’s belief that she is some sort of messiah. She doesn’t believe it herself and doesn’t want to lie but also doesn’t want to invite that inevitable rejection. As well as a small, wry sense of enjoyment at the irony of the Chantry (of which she had heard few good things) raising a heathen so high.
Tiara: Since Mirielle leans more toward agnosticism than theism, she hasn’t been too enthusiastic about people calling her the Herald of Andraste. She struggles with what she believes about Andraste and the Maker, but she tries to be respectful of the beliefs of others on the matter. She’s sought some type of resolution to her religious conflict for years, but her beliefs remain muddied and uncertain. Regarding the Inquisition, she doesn’t like that, despite her wishes, people insist on calling her “Herald” or “Your Worship.” She feels that such titles put her in a position that set her up for failure. She’s afraid of failing, but she’s also afraid of taking what little hope the people have for their situation. So, she endures what she calls “prophet worship,” but she tries to get people to see her as just a person doing the very best that she can, to see that they’re equally as important to the fight. She does believe in the Inquisition, even if she doesn’t know where her religious beliefs stand. She feels like they are doing something good, and she’s proud to be part of it. Sometimes, she feels like she puts on more optimism for their chances than she feels in her heart, but she believes in what they’re doing.
Joanna: Ideologically, she borders on agnostic and is puzzled and unsure about the whole Herald of Andraste business — the explanations for the power and the mystery woman come as something of a relief to her and she’s uncomfortable with the religious aspects people assign to her and the attention she gets, but learns to use it for the good of the Inquisition.
In my headcanon, Caitriona is the oldest of three siblings, and the only mage in the family. Magic manifested rather late in her childhood, so she had a few years of being the big sister and plenty of time to develop a chip on her shoulder. Trevelyan are a big, conflicted, and complicated family, and coming from that she had to adjust to being on her own in the Circle, with less and less contact than she might have wanted.
(My second playthrough, ongoing right now, is Corran Trevelyan and I headcanon him as Caitriona’s younger brother, in an alternate universe where she didn’t go to the conclave.)
She gets a bit overwhelmed by responsibility sometimes, and is not entirely uncomfortable with the position of power she is thrust into, but she learns to deal quickly, and quietly thinks that someone else might have made a bigger mess of things.
What has been your favourite moment so far? Least favourite?
Becka: I think my favourite moment has to be the journey between Haven and Skyhold. The two segments that stand out are the conversations with Mother Giselle and with Solas. Mother Giselle almost — almost — had her ready to believe that there might be something to this notion of Andraste, and that gnaws at her now, after finding out the truth. Her moment of weakness: did she want glory? Or simply meaning in a world that might have none? And then, with Solas, that private moment where he voiced what I, as the player, had already imagined my Inquisitor thinking: eventually they will find a way to blame us. This will not last.
It’s a testament to the strength of the game that I struggle much more to pick out a least favourite. The moments, at least, have been pretty strong. Although if I’m allowed a slightly broader definition, I’m not an enormous fan of the way everything comes back to “Venatori Cultists” as a catch all justification for all plot points.”The devil made me do it,” isn’t a bad plot device when you have an actual devil, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be overused, or used when more mundane political conflict would have served just as well.
Tiara: My favorite moments have been some of the simpler moments with the companions in the game. I absolutely adored finding out how much Cassandra enjoyed Varric’s romance serial (to the point of fangirlism) and how she commented that passion wasn’t just for women who wore frills. However, there have been many great moments with the companions that have touched me. If I had to pick a main story mission that I’ve enjoyed (and was stressed by at the same time), it has to be “Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts.” I enjoyed it for the fact that it was more about the intrigue than the fighting, forcing Mirielle to realize that she can’t just throw a fireball at the court and make it better. Mirielle despises court politics. She hasn’t had to deal with it much being in the circle, but I like to think that, before the Circles dissolved, Miri’s family kept her updated on “the game.” So being thrown in the middle of it was exactly what Miri was hoping to avoid but felt that it would likely be inevitable. She already knows she has a little bit of a disadvantage being a mage who supports other mages unapologetically. I could imagine her being equally parts frustrated and intrigued as she tried to remember her graces and figure out the three main players of the night’s events. Also, she couldn’t help getting caught up in some of the petty gossip and scandals. She even managed to get a couple of agents for her cause. Despite some of her missteps and brashness, at the end of the night, she really was the belle of the ball (who was cosplaying a Disney prince, apparently).
Least favorite? I didn’t care for the time leaping bit. I have an aversion to how time travel is used at times as a plot device, especially in fantasy games. However, it wasn’t nearly as terrible as it could’ve been, but still not my favorite moment in the game.
Joanna: That depends on the definition of favourite. The one I actually went back to load a previous save to replay a few times was the game of Wicked Grace — an unabashedly fanservice-y scene that had me cackle in glee and coo over characters. It just generally warmed the coldest areas of my heart. It’s such a lovely, fun moment.
On the other hand, there were a few moments where I have been stabbed in the heart and I have loved them anyway. In particular, the Fade with Hawke, Dorian’s story, and Cullen’s lyrium addiction quest.
I have come to BioWare games relatively late and started with DA2 where Hawke was my first beloved character. And Anders was my first game romance — I have imprinted hard and, like a duckling, I will defend Anders to my dying breath. I was terrified when DAI was coming, about the possible fates of Anders, and spent about twenty hours of the game impatiently waiting for someone to tell me he was okay. Thankfully, the world state imported from Keep didn’t fail me and Hawke told me what I wanted to hear. And then the Fade sequence came, and what are basically throwaway taunts from the fear demon managed to break my heart completely. I’m referring to the parts addressed at Hawke, regarding his family, losing everyone he cares about, and losing Anders. This plays a lot on my Hawke’s fears (diplomatic options all the way, terrified of losing his family and friends, assuming responsibility for everything, amazing guilt complex) and on mine. I had to take a break from game for a bit after this.
The second thing that basically ruined me was Dorian’s story. I have to say, I always play highly diplomatic/paragon characters, trying to get everyone to play nice, end wars without bloodshed, and basically promote the “let’s all be friends” worldview. But if I could have the renegade interrupt from Mass Effect in order to punch Dorian’s father, I would have. No “let’s talk this out” options would work: I wanted to take Dorian as far away from this conversation as possible and punch myself in the face for bringing him there in the first place. This one hit really close to home for me, and I was vibrating with anger for a while after.
The third moment was Cullen’s personal quest. It was right after I finished the long Orlais party quest and was pretty much exhausted by looking for items around the castle (the quest was half courtly intrigue and loaded dialogue options, which I love, and part stealth and walking around pressing V to find hidden objects, which I utterly and completely loathe), and the “talk to Cullen” bit was just one more thing before finishing with the game for the evening. Which is when I found myself sitting in front of my screen at 2 am, staring blankly at the options for a good half an hour, unable to decide. Big world decisions as to whom should rule Orlais? That I can do. The personal, intimate decisions over my companions’ lives? Crippling anxiety and fear of failure.
Well, this got gloomy, but this is a fun game, I swear. Which leads me to a couple of favourite little throwaway things that made the game for me. “Well, shit” as the name for Varric’s quest. “Never mix brandy and blood magic” as advice from Dorian. “Ironically, spiders.” Some of the war table operations, descriptions, and outcomes. I’ve spent way too many hours walking around places and reading things from walls and hidden notes, because oftentimes they were absolutely hilarious.
Least favourite? Anything involving ladders and search; a study in frustration.
Favourite companions? Least favourite?
Becka: Cassandra is my favourite. I wasn’t expecting that. I didn’t love her that much in the Dragon Age 2 cut scenes or that movie they made (which I watched, but I guess found forgettable as I have now mostly forgotten it…) But in this game I have just fallen completely for her combination of absolute conviction and tender, hidden self-doubt. She doubts in a way that doesn’t weaken her. When she disagrees with me but tells me she respects my decision, I believe her in a way I think I wouldn’t believe many headstrong characters. When I told her I hoped she was my friend and she agreed that she was, it felt right. The powerful disagreements we had were a thing that shaped our friendship, not a thing that had undermined it. When I told her that she could leave the Seekers behind, that it was okay, I felt it was not a choice she could have made without me. Perhaps not even a choice she agreed with. Perhaps one she needed, anyway. I was left feeling like I had relieved her of a great burden, but also unsure if it was the right choice.
My least favourite is probably Blackwall. Interesting since you could draw parallels: another stoic warrior, bound to a flawed Order. But for reasons that I don’t think are entirely due to his uncanny resemblance to a bearded Christian Bale, I just can’t connect with him. I find him boring, I don’t want to crack his shell. The few interactions we’ve had have left me frustrated with him. His off-handed dismissal of the threat of the False Calling annoyed me, juxtaposed as it was (in my game) with Cullen’s honestly regarding his struggle with Lyrium. That and where he was during the Blight. He says in Ferelden, and, you know, I can think of a few Wardens who could have used some help with an Archdemon back then.
Still, I’m reluctant to pass judgement without finishing the game. If you’d asked me twenty hours ago I would have said Sera. Then I actually got the chance to angrily engage her about the reckless hypocrisy of her actions and philosophies and felt much better about her. I still don’t personally like her, but my feelings about the character’s narrative function as a whole, interesting person, were raised immeasurably.
Tiara: I don’t really have favorites or least favorites. My feelings about the companions in this game are much like my feelings about the companions in Dragon Age Origins. I love them all for their strengths and weaknesses and what they bring to the table. They’ve all managed to make me smile or roll my eyes or nod (sagely, might I add). I think for Mirielle, she truly is fond of all of them. They all bring out something in her such as Sera brings out her childish side that has a fondness for pranks and Vivienne is the one she debates Circle politics. I’m so easy.
Joanna: I love everyone in this bar. Well, maybe some more than others and some a little bit less
Cassandra and Dorian were my absolute favourites, but also Bull and Sera and, as always, Varric. I found Vivienne condescending and avoided her a bit (except I did take her to quests, because have you seen this woman fight?) and Solas seemed bland to me, so I probably talked to them the least.
From advisors, I warmed up to Leliana, whom I didn’t like that much in DAO, and I utterly love Josephine and Cullen.
Inquisitor and ___ sitting in a tree…. Is your Inquisitor romancing anyone? Everyone? Who’s stolen your Inquisitor’s heart?
Becka: Solas! Nerdy elf mages Unite! I’m really enjoying the romance so far. Plus Solas is just adorable in the way he approves every time I ask an inquisitive question. It’s nice to have a romance with someone who actively talks about both my character’s class and race choices. While it hasn’t been dealt with in depth yet, I hope that there’ll be more regarding his opinions on the Dalish. I remember we had a bit of a fight about that early on and later we spoke about it again with a bit more nuance on both sides.
Tiara: Romance, hahaha. EVERYONE! Ha! Kidding… sorta… Well, my mage is a bit of a flirt, a friendly flirt, but a flirt nonetheless. She’s never been much serious about anyone, but she’s had her insignificant dalliances (mostly when she was younger), taking her pleasures where she can get them. Now, after much eye-batting, she has settled into a comfortable something with Iron Bull. In the beginning, the relationship was a little strange. She liked (likes) being out of control and allowing someone else to dictate what happens for a little while, but she couldn’t reconcile her willful nature with her submissive side at first. After much frank discussion with Bull, though, she’s come to terms with the fact that it’s totally fine and that her desires don’t make her weak or inconsistent. She’s still the boss outside the bedroom.
Joanna: That’d be Cullen for me, at least this playthrough. I have to admit this was a surprise. I spent DAO and DA2 both awwing at Cullen and telling him off for being a dick (I play mages most of the time, so there was my Amell in DAO and her history with Cullen, and my mage Hawke with a chip on his shoulder for helping mages; their relationships with Cullen were rather tumultuous). I also came to DAI thinking my first playthrough would be an Iron Bull romance (I had seen a scene before I started playing, and I laughed myself silly and was determined to play this), but then Cullen appeared and I experienced an “oh no he’s hot” moment — after which he proceeded to hit many of my narrative kinks and well.
In my second playthrough I plan to romance Cassandra, then Dorian, and probably Josephine and Bull next. This is the first game where I don’t intend to stick to the same romance in every playthrough and really testifies to how much I love everyone in this game.
If there was one thing you could change about the game, what would it be?
Becka: Right now? The silent party banter glitch. I’d been assuming there wasn’t much party banter in this game, and just found out, no, I’m probably glitched. TRAGEDY.
But if we’re talking more broadly, I’m a little worried about replaying the game. I want to play with a new character so much already, but the quasi-open world aspects have me slightly concerned. I adore games like Skyrim, but I don’t replay them because I just can’t face having to rediscover the whole world. The first time it’s exhilarating: the second, it can be boring.
I wish they’d included a New Game+ option where you can keep earned power and level (though with the ability to change class/race/name) when you replay. That way you could unlock areas and main quests fairly immediately, allowing you to replay mainly for the narrative experience or to explore as much/little as you liked.
Tiara: There are a myriad of technical things I would suggest they correct, but I won’t get all into that. I found that the main storyline isn’t as compelling or as strong as it could’ve been. Don’t get me wrong I do like it, but it just doesn’t make the same impact on me as the Dragon Age Origins or even Dragon Age 2 (and I’m only “meh” about Dragon Age 2). I don’t have as much of an attachment to my inquisitor as I do to my Warden or Hawke, but I’m still enjoying the game.
Joanna: The search mechanic, oh my god. Going around and pressing V is not my idea of a fun time.
If you could describe the game in one reaction GIF, what would it be?
So even though we are all playing the same game, heading towards the same destination, we are each enjoying the ride in very different ways. Are you playing Dragon Age Inquisition? Tell us about your Inquisitor!