Strange Bedfellows – Anna replays Dragon Age Pt.2
I decided, in accord with Julie, that the blog entries will be mostly my player experience and that we’ll save the In-Character stuff for our Letter-Project – which we will tell you more about in a bit.
So, the Prologue is done and we’ve arrived in Ostagar. Aren is mostly overwhelmed and intimidated while I on the other hand am going “oh boy!” almost constantly. I feel the game almost spoils it’s own surprise in my opinion when introducing you to Kind Cailan and Alistair in quick succession. Bc honestly they look so much alike that the big reveal a few ours later doesn’t really come as that much of a surprise. Though to be fair the first time, when I didn’t know yet I thought “wow, either the CC is REALLY limited or the Devs really had zero imagination”. Case in point:
So apart from that Cailan is a complete tool, obsessed with having a place in the history books and completely immune to good advice. And that is not even adding the shit we find out later about him. But yay King!
Apart from that we meet several key players in Ostagar, namely Alistair of course. We have a first meeting with Wynne – who we surprisingly don’t know even though we are from the same circle. (It’s not that big a building tbh, so how?!?) We meet our future Dog for the first time and get to pick some flowers for him and we meet Loghain, our future antagonist/arch nemesis/companion/father in law (the variety is stunning) depending on what way we go. We even get to have a special little audience with him that is easily missed if you don’t know it’s there. (I missed it in my first two playthroughs) Outside of the camp we get to battle our first darkspawn and meet the
lovely interesting Claudia Black Morrigan and of course, Captain Janeway Flemmeth, the Witch of the Wilds! (I have this theory that the entire Dragon Age setting is just an elaborate holodeck program designed by Tom Paris that Janeway chooses to relax in once in a while. – Given the Fandom’s tendency to speculate about the wildest things it is a good a theory as any…)
And then we get to watch people die, watch Duncan kill a man for having second thoughts (wtf?!?) help a dog, kill stuff, do some vampire larp and drink gross stuff, almost die, watch people talk politics and strategy (well, watch one person talk politics and strategy and the rest ignoring them), stand by as they make questionable decisions and start the “this is going to be easy – what could possibly go wrong?” battle, that, oh wonder, goes horribly wrong and ends with us almost dying again – but this time on top of a tower with no backup in sight while the army gets slaughtered around us. And all we wanted to do was light one lousy fire for tactical signalling purposes. Figures!
There is A LOT happening at Ostagar. Oh, and we get saved by Janeway in the last second, who, according to her daughter transformed herself into a giant bird. Right. Bird. Gotcha! She also tells you that Loghain, the king’s tactical advisor, didn’t react to your fire signal and retreated with his army. Resulting in everyone else dying, including Duncan and the King. (you find out later that this is not at all accurate but whatever, for now we have our bad guy) Also, as a thank you for rescuing us she gives us her daughter. As a travel companion. Totally makes sense! (Hint: It actually does but player knowledge vs in game knowledge etc…) She also acts as the wise person you have in every second game that sets you on your path and reminds you that you have what it takes. All while being as mysterious and vague as possible.
It is marvellous really how you go from having the feeling that this is all going to be very straight forward to what the hell is happening, who are you people and what did you do to me in a matter of 30 minutes. We can exchange some ideas with Alistair and he suggests to go to Redcliffe first, bc the Arl of Redcliffe is the King’s Uncle and bound to be on our side. So he says. We also have 3 treaties, old contracts that allow the Grey Warden’s to request help in times of need from specific groups. In this case the Mage Circle, the Dwarves of Orzamar and the Dalish Elves. Aren knows little to nothing about anyone except for the Circle. She has her eyes set on that first – especially since she didn’t want to leave there in the first place. Meanwhile we get a cutscene with a very haggard looking dude (that people who played the human noble origin know as the treacherous Arl Howe) in a big city telling Loghain that we seem to be alive and kicking and convincing him that sending an assassin after us is a really great idea.
So the travelling starts, but first we have to make a stop in a tiny little village along the way, Lothering. To get supplies, to sell all the trash you picked up in the intense battle and that got miraculously rescued with us. And to pick up the dog we helped in Ostagar, who remembers us and seems to be intent of being our new pet. We even get to name it. (and I have a terrible humour and find it super amusing to name him “Dog” every time…) Lothering is overrun by refugees and we can take two people off their hands basically. We meet a cloister sister who is surprisingly adept with a dagger and a bow. She tries to save us when we get attacked by soldiers apparently sent by Loghain to kill any remaining Grey Wardens. We kick their buts and send them packing and the cloister sister, whose name is Leliana joins us because she had a dream and the maker is speaking to her. You can make fun of her religions beliefs if you want but why would you? She is adorable!
We also pick up a convicted murderer, a Qunari that is far away from home and slaughtered an entire family. Why do we do this? Because I am a completionist and I’ve actually grown to like him, kinda. But seriously, story wise it makes little to no sense to take Sten along. But we do anyways. And he will stand around in our camp for the rest of the game because he is about as useless as a character can be for my playstyle. He gets credit for participation though. And I didn’t screenshot him even once – I will sneak that in later, when you least expect it!
I made the rather unfortunate faux pas of bringing said Sten into the chantry after I freed him and terribly insulting the clerics there who urged me to leave a lot after that. My bad.
What I also find interesting that the Templars seem surprisingly reasonable and nice so far – both the one’s in the circle and the ones we meet in Lothering. Even though the Commander knows Aren is a mage, like 2 minutes into their talk. “What a poor Templar I would be if I wouldn’t recognise a mage when I see one” he says. Tell that to Cullen who told my Blood Mage Hawke that “mages are not like you and me!” in DA2… I also suspect the giant staff on Aren’s back kinda gives her away a bit.
There is some minor fighting in side quests (yes, Lothering has side quests that go “kill spiders” and “kill bears” and even “kill bandits” and I did them all bc it is not like we are under any time pressure, not like there is a horde of darkspawn approaching that we have to outrun. Nah…) and after getting our new companions and selling some stuff and solving every minor problem in town personally we leave. And meet two Dwarven merchants who will move into our camp with us for convenience.
As soon as we leave Lothering we are thrown into a cut scene that is basically a nightmare Aren is having. About hordes of Darkspawn and an enormous dragon – the Archdemon. The big bad. When she wakes up we finally get an explaination from Alistair about why we had to drink darkspawn blood earlier, when joining the Grey Wardens. It kinda links us to them so we can feel them and see the same visions of their god that they do. That is not creepy at all… We can also cheer Alistair up a bit since the loss of his surrogate dad Duncan hit him hard. Not an easy thing to do for Aren actually, who didn’t really like him all that much. We also get to have more elaborate conversations with Morrigan and Leliana. And we get some one-word answers out of Sten who doesn’t really like us and doesn’t want to talk to us either. Morrigan doesn’t really like us that much either, but we get some snide comments at least. Meanwhile Leliana will tell us assorted good night stories if we ask her. Guess whom I like best!
From all the mods I have installed I have to really hand it to “Improved Atmosphere”. It makes everything feel so much more alive. Lothering, for the first time, actually feels and looks like a place overrun by people fleeing. The atmosphere really gets enhanced. Together with the higher resolution textures from Dragon Age re-designed it looks and feels a lot fresher than I remembered it. Additionally I have Combat Tweaks and Faster Weapons installed – makes the combat much more enjoyable and many skills progress a lot more logically. It doesn’t destroy the balancing on top of it. A+ mods!
Aaaaand the “I know this voice actor” thingy again:
Oh, and as it turns out, I did capture Sten, but well… in my defence I was testing out a mod for fun, namely the dance party mod. Completely gameplay irrelevant but it adds a feature that makes everyone dance A LOT. I have to admit that that amused me almost an entire evening…