Okay, so 30+ hours into a game is a little late for a first impressions type of post thingy, but I don’t care – here it is! Sometimes I just have to play a game instead of wasting time rambling about it online. Anyway, I’ve fallen way behind on BioWare’s great games so I’ve randomly decided to focus on them for the foreseeable future (of my own freewill I assure you). In fact, I’ve only played one BioWare game before now: Dragon Age II. And yeah, it’s the same tired old story with that one – I love it, the internet hates it, and whatever… let’s move on. One of the things I respect most about BioWare is their character diversity and development style. It’s about time I started meeting more of their fantastic fictional people!
And so, Grey Warden Ellen was born…
In a fantasy world where I could be a mystical Elf Mage or a cunning Dwarf Rogue, I chose to be a boring Human Warrior, uncreatively named Ellen. What can I say? I’m a simple woman who likes smashing monsters with swords, axes, and other misc. pointy/blunt objects. I was mostly impressed with the character creation options, but I’m not going to lie – I almost rage quit when pink hair wasn’t a choice for my character. I quickly got over it, but it may reflect poorly in my unqualified review later.
In addition to distributing starting stat points and whatnot, I also like how you can select a voice personality for your protagonist. I went with Violent and I am very pleased with the results! When I make her to do stuff, she often snaps back by saying “Can I get you a ladder? So you can get off my back?”. When she encounters yet another horde of undead monsters, she bravely grumbles “Lifeless bastards”. In the heat of battle, she often goes a little crazy and starts screaming “Just call me ‘The Reaper’!”, followed by hysterical laughter as she slaughters everything in her path. I’ll never forget the inspiring words she uttered when my party encountered their first fearsome High Dragon: “Now that’s a big lizard… Kill it!”. She’s a woman after my own heart and very worthy of the badass name Ellen.
Depending on your race and base class selections, the starting path to becoming a Grey Warden will differ. I witnessed a rather depressing Human Noble intro. I’ll just say never get attached to family members in RPGs… Before things went very bad, I got to leisurely explore Ellen’s family castle for a bit, and I met my pet Mabari war hound, who was causing trouble for the kitchen staff. I was given the option to name my new barking friend so I called him Max, after one of the dogs I had growing up.
When tragedy destroyed Ellen’s decent life, this dude named Duncan showed up and recruited her (along with Max) into his mysterious team. After proving herself and enduring one heck of a hazing ritual called The Joining, Ellen officially became a Grey Warden. In my brief summary of what I think is happening, there’s this nasty reoccurring event on Thedas called a Blight. During these periods, a bunch of tainted creatures called the Darkspawn rise up to destroy all life in their path. In order to stop this disastrous event, an Archdemon needs to be killed, and this is where the Grey Wardens come in. The Fifth Blight is just getting started so the mission is to stop it ASAP. The battles in Ferelden were going well, until some betrayals and more tragedy struck, sending Grey Warden Ellen on her ultimate quest to unite various factions against the Darkspawn menace. You are given the freedom to recruit the factions in any order you wish, and every decision you make can have a huge impact on the adventure.
Fighting Ferelden’s good fights
First off, the action bar on UI reminds me of World of Warcraft. As a recovered WoW addict, I was immediately in love with this game! I’m playing the PC version so the controls are simply point-n-click where I want people to go. There is also the option to use the mouse wheel to zoom out into an overheard view of the environment (useful!). During the real time combat, pressing the spacebar pauses the action so I can think about what to do next. I can also jump between my four party members easily by clicking on their portraits. There is Tactics system (similar to Final Fantasy XII’s Gambit system) where you can essentially program your party how to fight, but I’ve had no desire to tinker with this yet. If I need someone to do something, I manually make them do it. The default AI has been handling them adequately so far.
Grey Warden Ellen has evolved into a two-handed weapons queen. I’ve been putting most of her stat points into Strength and picking up many crushing talents. I must be doing something right because I also accidently discovered she is quite capable of solo killing a High Dragon with a good healer backing her up (best 20 minute fight ever!).
Loving me some BioWare characters
From my limited experience with Dragon Age games, relationships with my companions are the best part of the whole journey. Honestly, I’ve spent more time getting to know my fictional friends than I have destroying dragons, Darkspawn, crazy Blood Mages, damned demons, and other evil doers. Friendships are also quite capable of turning into something more, um, magical. One thing I commend BioWare for is their respectful inclusion of ALL types of beautiful romances. To loosely quote my charming would-be assassin Zevran: “…men, women, whatever you may fancy.” Here’s my two cents – Love between two human beings is a wonderful thing that should be celebrated! Mindless hatred is a poison on our world that is more crippling than the Blight is on Thedas. Kudos to BioWare for creating an all-inclusive world!
I’ll admit it – I’m no stranger to romancing BioWare people. During my three Dragon Age II playthroughs, my Hawkes and I “skillfully” seduced Fenris, Anders, and Sebastian Vael (his vow of chastity made that relationship a little unsatisfying though). Sure, I giggled a lot while romancing them (especially during sexy time scenes, giggitty), but they were all just pretty pixels to me. I never truly loved a virtual character, or even thought I could, until this guy swooped into my gaming life.
Very unlike chronically single real world Ellen, Grey Warden Ellen is the master of romance! It did not take her long sweep this bumbling knight off his feet and then drag him into her tent, one hilariously awkward night at camp. Less than 10 hours into the game, I earned my proudest gaming achievement to date:
So why do I like this idiot so much? Yes, at first glance Alistair is your typical cute knight in shining armor, but I really love his personality more than anything superficial. For starters, I have NEVER fantasied about some hot dude on a horse saving me and then taking me off to a posh fairy tale castle (yawn). I always dreamt about fighting beside my knight on a glorious battlefield. Quite frankly, Alistair makes me feel like the warrior goddess I wish I was. He makes me laugh with his silly pick up lines (“Have you ever licked a lamppost in winter?”), I’m amused by his rivalry with the cranky witch Morrigan, and his sarcastic observations always shed some badly needed light on this dark world. On rare occasions, he can even be serious. He has helped my Grey Warden deal with the nasty side effects of The Joining, and one of his lines unexpectedly got me right in the feelz – “You’re a true friend and I… love you. I just… wanted to tell you that.” Aw!! 💗
So yes, my awkward knight is always in my party, and so is my good friend, Leliana! Here’s a superb of example of how well BioWare does character development – I initially thought she was blind follower of The Chantry (the world’s big religious organization). After talking to her, I learned she’s a really good person who is more than willing to bend The Chantry’s more questionable teachings for the good of other people. She has a bit of a rocky past, complete with evil ex issues, but she has proven to be the definition of a true best friend. She often gives sage advice to people, has backed me up a few times when I fail dialog options, and she inspires everyone around her. I also laughed so hard when we had a little girl chat about my relationship with Alistair – “Ooh. Fascinating. The little Templar is all grown up and apparently he… ahem… plays well with others”. I really got mad when certain events unfolded that threatened her very life. No one threatens Grey Warden Ellen’s friends and gets away with it!
The last member of my party has been interchangeable. If I need a cranky witch to melt things, I go with Morrigan. After conquering a very hard boss fight for her, she now considers me a sister, even if we rarely see eye to eye on decisions. It’s also fun watching her use the Alistair voodoo doll I gave her. When I need a mage healer, I go with Wynne. She is a great motherly figure with interesting life advice to offer. For example, I’ve personally had issues dealing with depressing thoughts about death and the despairing future. Talking to her about that difficult subject has been surprisingly comforting to me – “People fear, not death, but having life taken from them. Many waste the life given to them, occupying themselves with things that do not matter.”
I also have Sten, Zevran, and Shale at my disposal. Sten is a big narrow-minded Qunari dude who thinks my Grey Warden can’t be a woman because she’s a warrior. Let’s just say he always stays in camp, and I kind of regret saving his ungrateful ass. I’ll still help him get his sword back though since I’m a nice person. Zevran is a charming elf assassin who really sucks at his job. I’ve only met him recently and I haven’t used him in the field yet since Leliana has been doing an amazing job filling the Rogue role. Shale is a big stone Golem who sounds like a butler. He frequently calls my Grey Warden “it” and has shown past homicidal tendencies toward his masters… Looks like Sten will always have company in camp!
Progress Thus Far
I have one more faction to recruit (the Dwarves of Orzammar) before I assume some kind of confrontation with the Darkspawn and/or the big bad betrayer will happen. It’s been a crazy ride so far though! I’ve done such awesome things as:
- Drove some heartless bandits out of the innocent refugee town of Lothering.
- Stopped a Resident Evil style undead problem in a distressed castle town.
- Used a fugitive Blood Mage to exercise a demon with a twisted sense of humor from an unfortunate mage kid.
- Helped a clan of reclusive not-immortal-anymore Elves deal with pesky werewolves, with the help of a talking tree.
- Survived a bad trip through the Fade to help the Circle of Magi destroy an onslaught of deadly demons, before the Templars destroyed everything anyway. I knew it was bad when my Grey Warden started conversing with a mouse.
- Wiped out almost every thug in the city of Denerim, including some assholes in a brothel. Man, they really didn’t like my Grey Warden’s in-your-face style benevolence…
- Dealt with a small town cult, wandered through a Drake filled cave, angered many ghosts with my sarcastic replies to their tests, banged my head through a ghostly bridge, and then ran almost-naked through a flame wall – all to get a pinch of ashes.
- Killed lots of dragons and had their scales made into sweet armor sets for my Grey Warden and Leliana.
Sadly, I only have time for one playthrough since this is the Ultimate Edition, and I also want to beat Dragon Age Inquisition and the Mass Effect trilogy before the world ends. I’m just going to keep enjoying kissing my awkward knight, bantering with my bard BFF, and watching dragons drop, until the day the Darkspawn are finally destroyed (maybe?).
Wannabe Writer’s Notes:
-Shout-out to the wise Athena of AmbiGaming for constantly reminding me about how awesome BioWare is. It was her inspiring dedication to these great games that made me move them up on my priority list.
-I’ll try to squeeze in Breath of the Wild, Recore, Fallout 4, and maybe the Metal Gear Solid series before the world ends too.
-In memory of my real dog Max, here’s a few pictures of him! He passed away many years ago now, but I still miss my barking best friend. 😦
⚡Thanks for reading!⚡