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!
PREVIOUSLY ON INQUISITION DIARIES: WE WINNED! Corypheus was defeated and the giant breached closed—but that doesn’t mean the Inquisition’s work is done. Leliana, now Divine Victoria, has a Chantry to rebuild, there is still great animosity between mages and templars, magic is still misunderstood and therefore feared, the Grey Wardens at Weishaupt—where last we left Hawke and possibly the Hero of Ferelden—have gone quiet, and Lerenne is still lamenting the mysterious departure of her beloved Solas.
All of these are great places for downloadable content (DLC) to venture, but first, we will explore the past with the new level 20 plus Dragon Age Inquisition DLC: Jaws of Hakkon. Which apparently, no one knew was coming. Players have been expecting DLC since the November release of Dragon Age Inquistion, but normally, it’s advertised well in advanced to allow us to speculate our little hearts out. But this popped up so suddenly that I didn’t even have time to book the day off of work. At least I could play it on March 24th when the game was made available on XBox One and PC only (the latter, presumably because many PC players are using Microsoft Windows). PS4 players were locked out thanks to Origin’s exclusivity deal with Microsoft. So nice of Origin to work with Microsoft in order to stick it to Sony’s PS4. I’m sure PS4 players appreciate being caught in the middle of that pissing contest.
“I hope no one boycotts the purchase, as it’s a pretty fun adventure that WILL be available on all platforms,” said BioWare general manager, during a Kotaku Q&A session. “That said, everyone is free to vote / message / communicate how they feel, so if that happens it happens. We’re definitely paying attention.”
The problem is that we Dragon Age fans love our Dragon Age. There’s a good chance that, despite any justified complaints against this monopolistic tactic, PS4 fans will still buy it, and XBox One and PC players have already coughed up for the $14.99 price tag. Hell, if they only release the upcoming Mass Effect 4 on XBox One, I would shut up and take my money till I had it in my hot little rabid fan hands. Wait patiently for a future release? Fuck that. Our dollars will convince Microsoft and Electronic Arts/Origin that they made the right decision with this deplorable exclusivity contract. Nothing short of another golden poo award will convince them otherwise, but they know that BioWare owns the souls of its many fans thanks to games like this.
So, DLC downloaded, off we go to discover the secrets behind Inquisitor Ameridan’s disappearance after the dissolution of the original Inquisition. This will take us into a new area, the Frostback Basin. SPOILERS BEYOND.
But first, FASHION. I finished the main DAI storyline, but, despite the 80 plus hours I sank into the game, I am still not quite done (and am at about 115 hours now, playing through again as a dwarf rogue with the help of my daughters). The best things about DAI is its vast open world and all the adventure and lore you can find in many beautiful zones. The problem is that so much detail went into this open world, that the story and characters ultimately suffered—not so much that these elements were a complete disappointment. Anyway, there were several zones that I had not explored much of or at all, one of which contained shiny new ancient elven armour for Lerenne, who I continue to role play as an elf determined to use the Inquisition to return her people to their former glory. The armour is several levels lower than what I had crafted for her, but I’m sure she’ll be just fiiiiiine. Who needs high defense anyway? Unless, of course, I come up against three level 26 pride demons in the Frostback Basin. I did a lot of dying during my first hour or so of exploration, but I soon came to suspect that this was due to game glitches, rather than my lack of skill (no seriously, I swear!) My companions Vivienne, Cole, and Cassandra, were having trouble obeying my commands, my focus bar refused to increase despite numerous combos and kills, demons at rifts would not cough up experience points, and smaller enemies were taking off huge chunks of health. Thankfully, a quick reload solved these issues and I was on my way again, with the only remaining glitches being Vivienne and Cole repeating some of their ambient dialogue.
At base camp, Lerenne learns from Scout Harding that a group of Avvar calling themselves the Jaws of Hakkon have been impeding the mission with brutal violence, but there is another Avvar clan that could be allies. Lerenne wanders off to follow up with Professor Kenric, a scholar who is convinced that the numerous stories that have been recorded thus far about Ameridan—ranging from wenching, to bawdy drunken revelry, to a beloved lady mage, to a return to dragonslaying, to a falling out with the emperor—are a cover up for the real reason such a skilled and powerful soldier and leader would just up and leave the newly formed Chantry and his friend, Emperor Drakon of Orlais, behind.
As I mentioned, there is a lot to explore in this game—no less so in this new area, which means I got caught up in the exploration, rather than pursuing the story. This is important though because how else would I know that the Inquisition now has treehouses!? The area is filled with trees and large hills. This means lots of winding paths to climb, unless you are me, who finds falling to be a far faster option, plus it amuses my kids to watch me tumble and slide down hills. Inquisitor don’t need no stinking paths. I forge my own with the help of faith and gravity and extra healing potions!
A few hours later, I finally made it to the east side of the map and up a mountain where I met the nice Avvar clan in Stone-Bear Hold, ruled by Thane Svarah Sun-Hair (who earned her name when her long braid caught fire during battle). She agrees to grant Lerenne and her companions passage on a boat I found earlier, but refuses to support the Inquisition against the Jaws of Hakkon unless I help find Storvacker, the hold’s missing spirit animal. That happens to be a bear.
Does she not understand that bears are the worst enemies in both Dragon Age and Skyrim? Why? Because they don’t give a fuck. They will fight whoever, whatever, whenever. Why? Because they can. And Sun-Hair wants me to find hers. She’s lucky that “Storvacker” is fun to say and that rescuing the bear turned out to be less painful than I feared. Storvacker was very nice, saving her rage for her captors, those treacherous Hakkonites who have broken the treaty between them and Stone- Bear Hold by trying to use Storvacker in a ritual that somehow connects to plans to attack the Lowlanders.
There was further exploration of Stone-Bear Hold, picking up a few extra quests here and there. Quests can be the most tedious part of any role playing game, but when written well, they can also be very rewarding. Speaking with other NPCs also results in learning more of the game’s lore. Here, chatting with the resident Augur reveals that the gods the Avvar worship are actually spirits from the Fade. Cassandra and Vivienne are none too pleased with this, as it stands against everything they believe in. Cole, formerly a Fade spirit himself, is fascinated.
“The spirits watched us even before we came from the north. They shaped themselves into our gods and we grew to love them. Their secret gift is this, Inquisitor: they reflect us as water does the sky. They show us what we wish to be.”
Dragon Age is rich in lore, and its many religions, mythologies, and its magic are a big part of that, especially when revelations like this call into question the ways others within the game world view the various concepts. I later learn that mages among the Avvar have teachers who happen to be spirits. As in, they are possessed by spirits which is, according to the Chantry, what makes abominations. Again, Vivienne and Cassandra are shocked and even disgusted by this. Mages who become abominations must be killed, yet here, the Avvar let them walk around happily until it is time to release their teacher (and Lerenne excepts one as an Inquisition agent, earning great disapproval from Cassandra). As Cole and Solas have been explaining throughout, there are good, or at least, neutral spirits in the Fade that are eager to work with the living, as opposed to demons who just want out so that they can do bad things. Continuing with the main mission, I find one such spirit who reveals some very important information about Ameridan. The wraith is bound to the memories of Telana, Ameridan’s lover (the mysterious lady mage), in her last resting place. The spirit explains that Drakon was sent by the Emperor of Orlais to kill a great dragon that the Hakkonites had co-opted to their will with magic, intent on attacking Orlais. This occurred during the second Blight. With darkspawn already threatening the kingdom, another threat needed to be silenced immediately—and discreetly, because, as we learned playing The Grand Game, Orlais is all about appearances. Weakness is not an option, hence the cover up of the mission that likely led to Ameridan’s death.
Having delivered her message, the wraith is finally free after 800 years of hanging out at Lady Telana’s corpse, which happens to hold some cool loot, including a new rift power for Lerenne.
Back at base camp, Professor Kenric is ecstatic. This news alone, backed by the word of the Inquisitor herself, is enough to complete his tenure, but learning the truth of Ameridan’s departure isn’t enough. The Jaws of Hakkon are obviously up to something, and it involves a giant magic dragon and a great ice wall that Lerenne must learn how to bust down. Oh boy.
The clues lead to an ancient Tevinter ruin that many Hakkonites are protecting. Once they are defeated, there are some puzzles to solve. I hate puzzles. Math is hard. But let me take a moment to brag about how I finished this astrarium connect the dots constellation puzzle on the first try. Now, if you lock me in a room and tell me the world will end if I do not repeat my epic success, then you’ll definitely want to prepare for that apocalypse, kids.
Fortunately, the puzzles in this temple have already been solved by intrepid gamers who post their findings online for people like me. The puzzles open doors that lead to sweet loot and an Andrastian and an elven shrine, thus deepening the mystery. Was Ameridan’s lady mage an elf? Is that why she was stricken from the records since elves are bound to servitude in Orlais? It looks like Tevinter also plays a part in this mission, so I switched out Vivienne for Dorian to see if he will offer any insights. Vivienne was getting really cranky about all the spirit and demon and abomination talk anyway, and was being really mean to my darling Cole. At least Cassandra softens to Cole over time, despite his questionable demon status, and even considers his advice.
The elven runes (which I am once again disappointed to find my dalish elf cannot translate herself) speak of lighting a path. The answer? Pull some leavers and we find a series of elaborate markers that direct us across the map to another Tevinter fortress–which I’ve already visited because I’ve been so focused on exploring instead of following the story. The markers, which shoot lasers, one marker to another, are also the key to destroying the ice wall behind which the Hakkonites are hiding. But their forces prove too much for my little group (actually they didn’t, but the mission log ordered me to return to base camp).
Ice seems to be a theme. Solving the puzzles and activating the magical mechanisms also gives me access to a tomb that bestows upon me some icy treasures, as well as a boost to my ice resistant stats. I’m Canadian. I know what this means.