The Circle In Pieces – Anna replays Dragon Age Pt.3
After settling in at camp with our new companions Aren takes Alistair, Morrigan and Leliana towards the Docks at Lake Calenhard. The only way to get to the Circle of Magi, since someone found it important to put all the Mages on a small island in the middle of a lake that is rumoured to be full of really nasty creatures. And of course the first thing Leliana asks at the shore is if we should take a bath. How about nope? Everything seems strange, the boatsman is not allowed to man his boat any more and there is a Templar guard letting no one cross.
But on the way there we got ambushed but an assassin who the characters do not yet know, but the player has seen before in a cutscene. He is not very good at the assassinating. Though there is a popular fandom theory that this was on purpose and designed as a suicide mission. (which makes a lot of sense when you get to know the character btw) So, being the pal that she is Aren ruins said assassination by refusing to die and, in good old RPG manner invited the assassin to join her merry group of misfits. “Hey, since you failed to kill me: you look trustworthy – care to join in an adventure?” (Bonus points to whomever gets what other thing I am referring to here 😉 ) Aaaand of course the Assassin, Zevran, says “hey, why not? Great idea!” And so, the minute we actually arrive at the Docks we go back to camp to equip our newest team member. And to respec him because even though he claims he is handy to have around when you need a lock picked he has actually no clue how to do that because he is missing certain skill points. A surprisingly in-character thing he said there. Also, he immediately starts flirting heavily and with a large dose of humour – we will get along just fine in the future.
So back to the Docks it is, this time with Alistair, Leliana and Zevran, because if you get a brand new assassin you just HAVE to take him out for a test run. Also, Alistair is a default party member at the moment because he is a sword&board tank while the only other warrior we have so far is Sten with a 2 handed weapon – not optimal for tanking. Also I like him less.
Speaking of party set ups: I like to take almost everyone along but my go to party in the later game is usually a tank (Alistair), a rogue (either Leliana as a ranged damage dealer or Zevran for close combat) and two mages. One of them is me of course in this playthrough, but in general I like having two mages along. The healing spells have quite a long cool down and it is great to alternate there. Also mages have a huge variety of spells, so having two mages complement each other on the battlefield is an advantage.
At the moment I am not even entirely sure where I want my mage to go talent wise in the future. Shape Shifting isn’t my thing, so that one is out. Spirit Healer is very useful, but I will have a companion with that spec very soon so I don’t necessarily need it. Leaves Arcane Warrior and Blood Mage – who are actually a great combination to have. Since I have the respec Raven sitting in my camp (curtsey of another essential mod imo) I am just trying out things at the moment. Picking talents and spells from the regular magic schools as I level. Mostly from the entropy and primal school. Things I use regularly in every battle so far: Rock Armor, Walking Bomb, Stone Fist, Drain Life, Arcane Bolts. Usually that is my main rotation – rinse and repeat. I put a lot of points into Willpower and Magic so my mana pool is quite large already. Horror & Disorient if I get aggro. And I just added Walking Nightmare and Sleep for group control. Even the parts where I had to fight alone are very easy like this so far. Drain Life is a very good self heal with a not too long cooldown and Walking Bomb does group damage if I kill the target quickly.
But we are still at the docks! The Templar guarding the boat is an idiot. The actual boatsman remembers Aren and is quite nice and not afraid of mages. I am much more used to DA2 and DAI’s mentality about magic, so every time I meet a common person being totally fine with Aren I am pleasantly surprised. Aren subtly threats the Templar to bring them across the lake and he actually complies. Inside the tower we meet Greagoir and a lot of injured Templars. And he is actually happy to see us – in his own charming way.
And we learn that the tower has been overrun by abominations, demons that have taken form in the real world – usually by taking over a mages mind and body. The templars could not contain the threat and have therefore barred the doors and sent for the Right of Annulment. One of the most horrifying bits of Dragon Age lore to be quite honest. Whenever corruption or demonic possession breaks out in a mage circle the templars can send for the Right. The chantry has to give them the ok, but they usually do. Then the templars are legally allowed to slaughter every mage and dissolve the entire circle, with the added bonus that they just kill everyone in there, possessed or not, just to e sure. A circle usually houses the entire magically gifted population of a region or a country, in this case all of Ferelden. By this time in the game there are historic records of that Right being used 17(!!!!!) times in known Thedas history. Just let that sink in…
Greagoir sent for it out of desperation though and doesn’t really want to kill everyone. He lets Aren and her group in to look for survivors and to see if they can save the circle. Condition: She has to bring Irving, the first enchanter back alive bc Greagoir really only trusts him when it comes to the safety of the mages. So we hope that he is actually still alive and venture in. Inside we pick up an older woman, Wynne, the mage we met at Ostagar. She and her colleges are protecting the children in the tower from the demons and she is willing to help us. So I send Leliana home and Wynne takes her place. How on earth I can dismiss a group member in a locked tower I will never understand – I just pretend Leliana is not actually going to camp but staying behind with the apprentices and children for protection.
Wynne tells us a bit about what happened at the circle while we cut through disgusting mutated demons and some blood mages. Blood magic, according to the chantry, is super evil. Especially when you don’t stop at using your own blood for your spells. (That is kind of a no brainer though) But what happened at the circle was basically: Wynne and another senior mage, Uldred were at Ostagar with us. Uldred got home earlier and tried to convince the circle to publicly support Loghain, promising many of his apprentices that under Loghain’s rule the circle would get more freedom. When Wynne returned she went all “wait a second – Loghain never said that, there is no promise like that. Also he kinda left us in the battle and may be an evil betrayer”. And at that Uldred went all “arrrght, I WILL GET CONTROL OVER THE CIRCLE!” and slit his wrists, revealing himself as a blood mage who had also made a deal with a demon. Aaaand apparently he planned this for a while because he had a sizeable backup of younger mages that followed him.
So we fight through the different levels of the tower. We do some weird summoning stuff in the library like summoning a nug that immediately dies. And some other shit that also dies. Because again we apparently have the time! We also meet the Tranquil Owain again, who is the stockroom supplier of the circle and for everyone who didn’t get it so far again illustrates that Tranquil are immune to demonic possession. Finally we meet an incredibly ugly demon, a Sloth Demon, that makes the entire group fall asleep and enter a part of the game that many players hate. I love it actually.
We are in the Fade. Alone. Our companions are trapped in dreams and the Sloth Demon is hiding at a place we can’t get to because there are barriers in place. Five of them, all guarded by a specific demon we have to kill. The thing is, to find those demons we have to navigate somewhat of a maze. There are 4 kinds of doors that we can’t open until we unlock special forms to transform into. We learn how to become a mouse, a spirit, a super strong golem and a burning man. After that we can switch between those forms and out own freely to smash in doors, walk through fire barricades, float through spirit portals and use mouse holes. After we did all this and found a lot of secret rooms that give us quite a few valuable and permanent stat improvements we unlock the dreams our companions are stuck in.
Alistair is stuck in a fantasy of being a part of a family with his sister. At this point we don’t know that much about him but apparently family is something he yearns for. Wynne is stuck in a nightmare where all the children she swore to protect are dead and she failed. Zevran is stuck in a dream about his initiation to the Crows, his assassin order. Which is straight up torture. Interestingly enough he play that down with a lot of uncalled for humour that is pretty obviously a coping mechanism. Once we get them out we can finally go after the Sloth Demon. That fight is a bit longer than the usual fights since the Demon can also take several forms. The forms the player learned help a lot in this fight actually. We defeat him, free another mage that is also trapped here but that is actually dead in the real world and he tells us to grab an important piece from his body. A spell that protects against demonic possession. When we wake up we take it and go up the last set of stairs where we meet Cullen (the Templar from the mage origin story) again, badly broken and tortured. He believes Aren is not real at first and when he does he insists on us having to kill everyone in the last chamber. If you actually agree to that you have to fight Wynne on the spot by the way. And she is damn powerful. You also would have to do your final boss fight with only 3 people. and without your designated healer. ALSO YOU WOULD BE A HORRIBLE PERSON! So I don’t know, don’t do that?
In the end we fight Uldred himself and his thralls, while using the super spell to keep him from influencing the remaining mages that are still alive. If you do that at the right moments he doesn’t get any more backup than he has and you can save most people in that room. The way my group was set up and with the skills we had this fight was almost funny in how easy it was. Ivring is glad to see you return and also glad that you saved his butt. Not so glad about the fact that they are on top of the tower and he has to walk all the way down now. But well – can’t have everything.
Greagoir is also glad to see you alive – and Irving even more so. After getting Irving’s assurance that it is over he declares the tower safe again. Bringing Iving back to Greagoir alive is seriously one of the most cheesy and cute reunions in the series. After mentally singing “can you feel the love tonight” you get to ask the mages for their assistance in the upcoming darkspawn fights. The send a liaison to your camp and promise you to be there when you need them. Also Wynne joins us permanently as a companion because we are just that great!