The Doomsday Machine – Anna replays Dragon Age Pt.7
Orzamar. Welcome to one of the largest questlines in this game. When going in this time I was all “ah well, it went super speedy and smooth so far, maybe it isn’t as bad as I remember.”. So I went into Orzamar with enthusiasm. And it was exactly as bad as I remembered. Not the quests in the city itself, those are fine. It’s the deep roads that are hell…
We go in and learn that Orzamar is divided – the king has just died and there is a fight for the throne between his son Bhelen and his must trusted adviser Harrowmont. The old king apparently didn’t want his son to rule but Bhelen fells it is his right. Bhelen is rude and someone who is willing to do drastic things to ensure his success. Harrowmont is laid back and polite, seems caring and wise. But a little more digging brings to light: While Bhelen is ruthless (and I mean RUTHLESS, if you play the dwarf noble origin he is really hard to even remotely consider for the throne) he is also a reformer that wants to give his people a future that is more than they are now. He works towards loosening up the casts and the discrimination and tries to salvage the diplomacy with the surface. Harrowmont on the other hand is a traditionalist – under his rule he enforces the caste system and isolates the kingdom. The poor become even poorer and the commerce in Orzamar almost completely vanishes.
Basically, to do the best for the dwarfs in the long run you have to go with the much more unlikable person for your warden. Which Aren doesn’t know! So for now she is trying to get in touch with Lord Harrowmont. She helps him to get more people on his side and only through a lot of exploration in Orzamar and talking to many differently opinionated dwarves she slowly changes sides. We get to compete in a proving, fighting others mostly solo. (And I am super glad for my Blood Mage/Arcane Warrior build in those moments bc enemies can’t even tough Aren wih this…) After that we get to dismantle the carta, the criminal underground of Orzamar. On the side we get Leliana a pet because she really falls in love with the nugs. (Giant hairless rodents.) We manage to get her one that she lovingly calls Schmooples.
As for the two dwarven origin stories – you actually learn what happened to both of them here. Aeducan, as in the end of the dwarven noble origin, is exiled to the deep roads and dies there. Brosca has starved to death in Jarvia’s well hidden prison. You get to free their friend in one of the main missions, but it’s too late for Brosca.
While we do all that we gladly accept a bunch of sidequests. Quite a few of them for the deep roads. That are closed and off limits. We promise the people we will go in there and do shit for them anyways because why not? And completely out of nowhere and to no one’s surprise ever our mainquest decides to send us there. Because even after all our meddling there is still a stalemate and the dwarves will only help us if the king question is resolved. Every plea to focus on the blight falls on deaf ears. And to be honest? Rightfully so. Aren argues “the blight concerns us all!” and the answer she gets? The dwarves fight the darkspawn nonstop. All the time. For centuries. While no one helps them they stand alone against the darkspawn slowly taking over more and more parts of their old kingdom. As the Legion of the Dead Commander states it: The Blight gives them a reprieve, a chance to breathe because for once not every darkspawn in existence stands at Orzamar’s doorstep.
That point made me go “huh” and actually made me feel bad for asking for their help in the first place.
The dwarves elevate some of their people, who have done something remarkable for their society to the status of paragon. Someone who gets revered like an ancestor while still being alive. The only living paragon at the moment is a woman named Branka, who has disappeared into the deep roads with almost her whole house 2 years ago to find an old forge, the Anvil of the Void. The anvil is where the dwarves once build their golems, the technology is lost to them and she went to find it again. So our group follows Branka in hopes of bringing her back to throw her support behind one of the candidates for the throne. Also, to find out if she evens till lives. We are joined by Oghren, a permanently drunk dwarf who is also Branka’s husband and would very much like to find out what happened to her.
And so starts the “omg I don’t like this” part of the game. Deep roads… Every map down there is a maze. A maze full of darkspawn and corrupted spiders. And ogres. And a lot of alpha darkspawn. (elite opponents) Meaning every map takes what feels like ages to get through. And you want to be thorough so you don’t have to run anywhere twice after all. We pick things up for our sidequests and move slowly deeper underground until we reach the deep trenches where, for the first time in person, we see the archdemon. And the horde. Marching. Luckily they don’t see us because the sheer size of that army is terrifying. Though the most terrifying part is yet to come.
We met a dwarf in the deep roads, one that travelled with Branka. He has lost his mind mostly but tells us bits. Branka was obsessed with the anvil and seems to have done horrible things to get to it. A bit further in we her a female voice. Reciting a sort of poem that makes me slightly sick every time:
First day, they come and catch everyone.
Second day, they beat us and eat some for meat.
Third day, the men are all gnawed on again.
Fourth day, we wait and fear for our fate.
Fifth day, they return and it’s another girl’s turn.
Sixth day, her screams we hear in our dreams.
Seventh day, she grew as in her mouth they spew.
Eighth day, we hated as she is violated.
Ninth day, she grins and devours her kin.
Now she does feast, as she’s become the beast.
Now you lay and wait, for their screams will haunt you in your dreams.
The voice belongs to a female dwarf names Hespith. When we find her she tells us of the horror she witnessed. Branka was trying to get to the anvil but it is behind a lot of traps laid by Caridin, the original inventor of the anvil. She used up almost all of her company to test out ways through the traps until almost all where dead. But she figured something out along the way: She saw how darkspawn make more darkspawn. They take women and turn them into broodmothers. And Branka deliberately gave a woman, Laryn, of her house to them so she could use the new born darkspawn supply to do further tests on the traps. We also conclude that this might be one of the reasons, why there are not that many women in the grey wardens…
We have to fight the broodmother that once was Hespith’s friend Leryn and Hespith tells us the greatest sin was not that this happened, it was that Branka did it deliberately. She can’t face Branka again and ends her own life. We follow Branka’s path through a labyrinth of traps while we listen to her trying to justify her actions as necessary. Until we finally find the Anvil of the Void. And with it Caridin, who is a golem to everyone’s surprise. He tells us how he made the golems and the secret behind it: Even the greatest smith cannot create life out of nothing. For every golem has to be infused with a living soul. At first people volunteered for that but the king back then soon demanded way more golems than they had people that volunteered so he forced the casteless and criminals to be converted into golems. Caridin was so appalled by that that he refused and for that was turned into a golem himself. So he took the anvil and disappeared into the deep roads with it. He wants the Anvil destroyed so he can finally find peace. Branka on the other hand wants the anvil to create more golems to fight against the darkspawn. We pick Caridin’s side because Aren is really not to keen about turning more people into mindless controlled stone blocks. Also because she is absolutely disgusted by what Branka did.
Of course in the end this means we have no paragon to support a new king, but Caridin steps to the anvil one last time and forges Aren a crown to give to the king of her choice. After she destroyed the anvil for him (why on earth he had to wait a thousand years as a golem until a tiny frail elf mage came along who hit the damn thing once with her noodle arms instead of destroying it himself I don’t really understand) he thanks her and throws himself into molten lava. All very Lord of the Rings.
Aren returns with the crown and names Bhelen as the new king of Orzamar who in turn promises her the dwarven support against the blight. She also manages to sweet talk the Legion of the Dead into joining the fight. (Coercion rank 4 for the win!) And after finishing all our sidequests and a quick return into the deep roads for Shale who remembered something about her past and finds out from what house she came and that she was once a dwaven woman we finally leave this place. After spending three full evenings on this questline alone. It is long. Very long. And we move on to far greener pastures – literally, as our next step is the Brecilian Forest and the camp of the Dalish Elves.