by Kristin Bezio
So I ran through pretty much all of the minor quests and collecting that I was able to do without going crazy (I’ve come to terms with the fact that I don’t have the patience to go back to the Hinterlands to find that one remaining piece of the mosaic), so I decided to hit a couple of the major plot quests back-to-back. In this segment, I’ll be talking about “Demands of the Qun,” “Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts,” and the Adamant Fortress portion of “Here Lies the Abyss,” so if you’re worried about spoilers, those are what I’m going to spoil.
In “Demands of the Qun,” Iron Bull has asked me to go with him to meet the Qunari – who have offered to support the Inquisition if we help to defend their dreadnought against the Venatori. Okay, I’m down with that. So I bring Bull (I have to), Varric (because Varric is fun), and Dorian (because Dorian likes it when we kill Venatori – also, he’s often useful against Venatori in plot quests). At the start of the quest, an elf Bull calls Gat (who is also a Ben Hasrath, like Bull) appears to lead us to the rendezvous point. On the way, Gat and Dorian get into a HUGE yelling match about Tevinter versus the Qun.
I have the option of agreeing with one or the other, trying to mediate, or telling them to shut the hell up. I choose shut the hell up. That seems to work. We send Bull’s Chargers to take one approach to eliminate the Venatori in that direction, then we go with Gat in the other direction to take out the Venatori there. Once we arrive and the Venatori camps are cleared, a ship appears, then more Venatori mages.
Then the Inquisitor has to choose between sacrificing the Chargers or the dreadnought. Gat – obviously – argues for the dreadnought and the alliance with the Qunari. Bull at first argues with him, but then defers to the Inquisitor, saying that he can’t make the choice between his nation and his people.
I chose to save the Chargers – mostly because I like Krem, and I’d miss him if he were dead – and Bull is stricken from the Qunari, declared Tal Vashoth (exile), and Gat leaves in disgust, refusing to support the Inquisition. In a follow-up cut-scene, the Ben Hasrath send assassins after Bull, but they’re bad enough that he says it’s just a token to show that he’s no longer Qunari. He seems upset by this, but I think he’d be more upset losing his Chargers.
I cleaned up a few more small quests, and then did some chasing of Hawke and Stroud (a Grey Warden from DA2) around the world hunting for corrupt Grey Wardens, who have been pseudo-brainwashed by Corypheus, who has some weird ability to influence Grey Wardens through their darkspawn taint. But before I end that quest by going to Adamant, I decide to deal with “Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts.”
So the Inquisitor has been asked to keep someone from assassinating the Empress of Orlais, which turned out to be far, far more complicated than I expected. I thought this would be a run-in-and-kill-some-assassins kind of quest, but what I got instead was a complicated diplomatic mission that entailed lots of skulking and talking to people and much less fighting. It was… not my favorite, for a couple reasons.
Reason one: everyone there is horrible. The Inquisition is able to attend the ball (at which the assassination will happen) because of the invitation of Grand Duke Gaspard de Chalons, who is a self-inflated, entitled general in the Orlesian army who thinks he ought to be the rightful emperor of Orlais – making him one of several potential suspects. He’s also a jerk. Of course, so is pretty much everyone else, particularly to my poor Inquisitor, Khaaras, because he’s Qunari. About ten seconds into the mission, he’d already been called “someone’s pet.”
So I was sort of set up to fail at this mission from the start, since part of the point of the mission is to make everyone in the court like you by maintaining “Court Approval.” When they think you’re an animalistic moron, that’s a bit more difficult (this is also apparently true if one plays an overtly lesbian Inquisitor or is a dwarf or an elf). So I spent quite a bit of time running around and talking to people who had very little to say to me, accidentally offended a couple more, but managed to more or less not make a complete ignoramus out of myself.
The other unintentional handicap I gave myself was with my choice of party. I thought “Orlais,” Sera is from Orlais and she might be useful as a spy in the servants’ quarters. Oh, but no. She comes with the Inquisitor as a diplomat. Sera is not cut out to be a diplomat. So there was that. I also brought Cassandra (as the initiator of the Inquisition and a Navarran noble – “Lady Cassandra Allegra Portia Calogera Filomena Pentagast”) and (naturally) Dorian, whose Tevinter origins also made him a bit of a pariah, although at least he had a nice long fancy noble title when they announced us (“Lord Dorian Pavus, member of the Circle of Vyrantium, son of Lord Magister Halward Pavus of Asariel”). Sera, naturally, named herself “Lady Mai Balzytch of Kourse.” Oops.
It turns out that Dorian was an extra handicap, not because he’s Dorian, but because he’s a necromancer. This in and of itself is not really a problem, but one of his powers is Spirit Mark, which keeps an enemy spirit around for about 30 extra seconds to fight for your party. Well, in the Servants’ Quarters of Halamsharal (the Orlesian Winter Palace), there’s a bug that makes the spirits not die. This means that there are permanent enemies wandering around the level who don’t attack, whom you can’t kill, and whose presence means that Briala (representative of the Orlesian elves and former lover of the Empress) won’t ever appear to talk with the party, and stops all progress in the game.
The solution is go to back to a save from before the Servants’ Quarters open, which in my case lost me about 3 hours of gameplay. I was not amused. So fair warning – go turn off Spirit Mark in Dorian’s ability tree (under Tactics) if you want to take him anywhere, because as irritating as the spirits are when they hang around for 30 seconds at the end of every battle, that’s nothing in comparison to losing hours of gameplay because invincible spirits have bugged a level. Just trust me on this. Spirit Mark just isn’t that cool. Shut it off.
All that aside, this was still not my favorite mission. There was a lot of searching, fiddly conversations that I usually screwed up, and retracing my steps. There was managing the amount of time not spent in the party in order to not lose too much approval. Sure, I got to talk to Morrigan (who has gone from being a total bitch in DA:O to being pretty neat, even if her son is a little creepy – I had her sleep with Alistair at the end of DA:O in order to save him and my Warden), and she’s pretty epic, and has now joined the Inquisition and hanging out at Skyhold with her son. But even though there were some cool parts, it wasn’t my favorite mission. Even if Dorian did offer to do some sort of dance with scarves…
I did manage to get the “Belle of the Ball” achievement (full Court Approval), since I managed my dance with the Duchess well, even though it turns out that she was the one scheming to kill Celene. Over the course of the mission, my advisors – Cullen, Cassandra, Josephine, and Leliana – make different suggestions about the future of Orlesian rule. Cassandra thinks we should allow Duke Gaspard to overthrow Celene because of his military background, Leliana is in favor of allowing Briala to take control, and Josephine favors Celene. The Inquisitor has to decide what to do – whether to allow the Duchess to kill Celene or not. I saved her, didn’t disgrace Briala, and exiled Gaspard, which so far seems to be working out for me, but I haven’t actually gotten that much further in the game.
My Inquisitor did get to dance with Dorian at the end of the evening (no scarves, alas), so that was a nice little romance reward that makes it worthwhile to bring a romantic interest along in the quest.
And with that, it was time to head to Adamant. Since this is a Hawke quest, I brought Varric; it’s a Grey Warden quest, so I brought Blackwall; and it’s a quest, so I brought Dorian. That was an interesting mix. Dorian and Blackwall hate each other. Bull might give Dorian flack once and a while, and Varric and Sera tease everyone, but Blackwall and Dorian utterly despise each other, to the point where Khaaras had to intervene and tell them to knock it off (as with “Demands of the Qun,” I had the option of agreeing with either, begging them to be nice, or telling them to shut the hell up – again, I went with shutting the hell up).
Adamant has been taken over by Grey Wardens who have been convinced by one of Corypheus’s lieutenants to use blood magic rituals (killing other Grey Wardens) to bring demons into the world, arguing that it will enable them to destroy all Blights (darkspawn invasions) forever. This is crap, of course, and it’s now up to me, Stroud, and Hawke to convince them otherwise (Blackwall helps if he’s along). But first we have to lay siege to Adamant – Cullen brings the Inquisition army, and is bound and determined to sacrifice himself to give me a chance to win.
Well, Cullen has been having issues. As a Templar, he was a lyrium user (all Templars use lyrium to enable their abilities), and now he’s trying to quit, which seems to be on par with quitting heroin cold turkey, and he’s a little twitchy. He keeps trying to sacrifice himself on the altar of honor, claiming he’s not worthy of his position and trying to convince Cassandra that he’s not fit to lead, despite all evidence of competence to the contrary. Since he hasn’t actually screwed up anything yet, I’m willing to convince him that as shitty as he might feel, he’s doing just fine, and I’m being supportive, so I’m trying to both keep him occupied and convince him that he’s more than adequate as a general.
So when Cullen offers to sacrifice all to keep the Venatori out of my hair, I order him to keep himself and his soldiers alive instead, since I’m a big Inquisitor (literally and figuratively), and can keep myself alive just fine, thanks. This means that I have to specifically clear the walls to make room for the siege ladders, but that’s fine.
So we win the siege, and then have to convince the Warden Commander to reject Corypheus’s alliance. This naturally leads to an all-out battle between the Venatori and the Wardens, which is further complicated by the arrival of Corypheus’s false archdemon. Cue a lot of running and fighting and more running and some exploding walls.
And then the archdemon tries to eat us. In order to stop this, the Inquisitor opens a rift rather than be swallowed alive – and brings Hawke, Stroud, and company with him into the Fade.
So now we’re in the Fade. Physically. For those of you who don’t know how the Fade works, you’re only supposed to be able to go there metaphysically. As in, you go to sleep or whatever and your spirit enters the Fade while your body remains behind. But we’re physically in it. Fun times. Fortunately, the Anchor on my hand means that we’ll be able to get back out – eventually.
But first, we have to make our way through a Nightmare demon. So this is an interesting quest, mostly because it gives background on my companions by addressing their fears – which appear on tombstones near the end of the quest. Varric’s worst fear is that he will become his parents; Blackwall’s is himself (since he’s a Warden, he will eventually go insane from the darkspawn blood in his system); Dorian’s is temptation; Solas’s is dying alone; Cole’s is despair; Cassandra’s is helplessness; Vivienne’s is being irrelevant (which explains her awful personality); and Iron Bull’s is madness. Amusingly, all the spider-demons you fight are named for fears – including one named “Ironically, spiders,” which I believe is linked to Stroud. Nightmare also addresses each of the people with the Inquisitor, mocking their fears, including telling Hawke that he won’t be able to protect Fenris (his romantic interest from my playthrough of DA2).
Also in the Fade is the spirit of the Divine – and working through Nightmare’s part of the Fade enables Khaaras to regain his memories of what happened before the explosion at the Conclave. Long story short, the Inquisitor intervened when Corypheus attempted to sacrifice the Divine in a blood magic ritual, and ended up with the Anchor in his hand when everyone in the Conclave was thrown into the Fade. Technically, it was his fault that the Divine and everyone else was killed – although they would all have been dead anyway had Corypheus succeeded, and at least this way Corypheus didn’t succeed in killing everyone and conquering the world.
The spirit of the Divine guides the party through the Fade, since her spirit is that of self-sacrifice (she deliberately sacrificed herself so that Khaaras would be able to escape the Fade). At the end, however, her power isn’t enough, and the Inquisitor has to choose whether Hawke or Stroud will stay behind and enable the rest of the party to escape. I’m just too attached to my Hawke, and Varric would be completely heartbroken if I’d left him behind, so I (sadly, because he’s awesome, too) choose Stroud.
At the end of all that, pretty much everyone is freaking out. Dorian yelled at me for almost dying, Varric is upset about red lyrium near Kirkwall, Leliana is depressed all over again about Justinia’s death, Bull asked me to beat him with a stick (still not clear on why), Cole is afraid he’s going to be bound, Solas is ranting about how awful the Wardens are, Blackwall is AWOL, Vivienne’s lover died, Cassandra is panicking about the Seekers, and Sera wants to steal people’s underwear and bake cookies (literally). In fact, only Josephine and Cullen aren’t having fits about something.
Oh, and Morrigan dragged me through an Eluvian into some in-between liminal world. Because that seems like a great idea right now. Time to start cleaning up the messes.