I did a big rambly series of progress posts for Dragon Age Origins, so I figured I’d give Dragon Age II some progress-babbling love too. Although I beat the game last year, I still have a ton of screenshots and I love babbling about my gaming adventures. I can’t think of anything else to say in this intro, so here we go!
Obligatory – MAJOR FREAKING SPOILER WARNING!!!
The First Year
My fourth impressions post left off with Ellen Hawke the Fourth entering the city of Kirkwall with the surviving members of her Lothering crew (RIP Carver, the virtual bro I never knew). Turns out Kirkwall has a bit of a Ferelden refugee problem. The city guardsmen are keeping people in an area called the Gallows, not allowing them into the city proper. Hawke’s Mom has some noble ties and Uncle Gamlen comes to greet his displaced family. Unfortunately, Gamlen is down on his luck too, and no longer has the family estate. He can’t get us into Kirkwall, but he gives us leads on some shady people we can work for who will pay our way into the city; the smugglers or the mercenaries. In previous playthroughs, I’ve chosen both sides so I went with the smugglers this time. My reasoning? They are run by an elf, and elves are cool! The entry mission is to shake down a merchant dude who’s holding out on my new boss lady, Athenril.
To complete the job, I sic my friend Aveline on the merchant via dialog option. It’s super effective (to say the least), and Athenril welcomes me into the ranks. After Ellen Hawke sarcastically assures her group all will be well, it’s off to Varric and Cassandra in the present day. Varric sums up my Hawke’s first year in Kirkwall via animated cutscene:
- While Ellen Hawke was working for the smugglers, Grey Warden Ellen pwned the Archdemon back in Ferelden (loving the parallel storyline with Dragon Age Origins). The Blight is over, but Ellen Hawke doesn’t wanna go back since her hometown of Lothering was destroyed. She considers Kirkwall her home now.
- Hawke worked off her debt to the smugglers, making a name for herself in the city’s underworld in the process.
- Kirkwall has been having some issues. A large group of Qunari warriors (big mean dudes with horns) were shipwrecked, leaving a large group of them stranded in the city with no way back to Par Vollen (their territory). The iron-fisted Knight-Commander Meredith has also turned the city’s Templars into a powerful force, creating some tensions with the mages… and that’s when Varric first met my Hawke.
Funding the Deep Roads Expedition
Next, Hawke and her sis Bethany are talking to a cranky dwarf, Bartrand, in the Hightown area of the city (the rich place where all the rich people live). Bartrand is planning a trip into the dangerous Deep Roads for shiny lootz, and Hawke wants in on the action. Unfortunately, Hawke and Bethany are poor Ferelden refugees and greedy Bartrand wants nothing to do with them. Hawke and her sis walk away disappointed. The pair chat and it seems that the apostate mage Bethany is worried she is a target for the Templars. Ellen Hawke sarcastically comforts her sister – “Don’t worry, Bethany. I won’t let any big bad Templars come after you.” They need status in this city to protect Bethany, and that’s why they need to get rich quick.
Suddenly, Hawke gets mugged by a lowly street thug. Before he gets away, a dwarf with a crossbow (he affectionately calls it Bianca) pins him to the wall in one precise just-above-the-shoulder shot. The thief flees and the dwarf returns the cash to Hawke, introducing himself as Varric – the story narrator and younger brother of Bartrand. Varric says Hawke has earned a name for herself (quite a feat for a mere Ferelden refugee) and he wants Hawke to join Bartrand’s expedition. The truth is Batrand doesn’t have enough cash to fund the venture on his own. Time is also a critical factor. There is only a brief period after a Blight ends before the Deep Roads are swarming with darkspawn again. With Varric vouching for Hawke, Bartrand will have no choice but to let her join in… if she can raise a whopping 50 Sovereigns to help pay for it. With a promise of finding treasures that will set Ellen Hawke and her family for life, it seems more than worth the investment.
There’s lots of work available in the city, and the first part of the game is A LOT of quests to raise the cash. I had over 75 Sovereigns by the time I was done everything. To sum up some of the more memorable quests:
— After loosing the family mansion to a gambling debt, grumpy Uncle Gamlen is holed up in a shack in Lowtown (the industrialized and low income residential area of Kirkwall). He let’s Hawke, Hawke’s Mom (Leandra), and Bethany live with him. When you first visit, you get to name your dog (I named mine Gunner after one of the two German Shepherds I had growing up). After some family drama, it becomes obvious Gamlen is hiding something. Bethany shares my suspicions.
One quest is for us to break into the family’s old mansion in Hightown and find our grandfather’s will. The quest reveals that Leandra’s parents left her everything (not Gamlen), and they didn’t hate her for running off with Hawke’s long deceased Ferelden mage father. More family drama happens, and then we all just have to accept Gamlen is an ass. The whole incident brings Bethany and I closer together though. Aw! Sisterly love is awesome.
— Oh, the Bone Pit. I will say this quest has an epic conclusion in Act III. For Act I, a mine owner who cares only about profits (and not the poor Ferelden refugees he employs) says his mine is cursed (making his workers flee), and he sends Hawke to go check it out. Turns out there’s a bit of a dragon problem at the mine. After bashing some lesser lizards and a mature dragon, the mine is good to go. I’m offered a 50/50 stake in the company and gladly take the offer to protect the workers more than for gaining profits, I swear.
— In Hightown, there was a noble man asking a guard to find his missing wife, Ninette. The guard says there’s nothing he can do for the man as this is a domestic matter. He’s asks for Hawke’s assistance saying he can pay. Ninette is known to cheat on him and frequents the city brothel, he doesn’t really care, but she seems to really be missing this time. He’s more concerned that her family will think he murdered her more than for her actual welfare. Their marriage is more of a status symbol, I think. Anyway, with the help of a concerned Templar investigator, Emeric, I track her down to a foundry in Lowtown (aka Generic Warehouse Layout #1). Well, what’s left of her anyway; a severed hand with Ninette’s ring and a pile of bones (wow… that’s dark).
Emeric fears a serial killer is on the loose. He is not pleased when my Hawke sarcastically responds with “If they’re not dead, watch out for a bunch of boneless women flopping around the streets.” (In my defense, dark humor is a great defense mechanism). Ninette’s husband is somewhat upset when I tell him the bad news (no, he’s not the killer). Oh Maker, how I wish that was it for this storyline… you’ll see more in my Act II post…
— Some unfortunate Templars are being corrupted by Blood Mages and turning into demons… yikes. During in one quest, I run into Knight-Captain Cullen (He’s part of the Circle Tower guard in Origins), who is investigating the matter. In another quest, I save a Templar recruit named Keran from that fate, and vouch for his untainted-ness to his superior officer. He is very grateful.
— In the Lowtown Alienage, an elf woman named Arianni is concerned about her half human son Feynriel, a powerful mage. He has escaped the Mage Circle and him mom fears he may become corrupted by demons if he isn’t brought back to the Circle. I promise to help and set off to find the boy. After following the trail (deadbeat dad > good Templar named Thrask > shady ex-Templar lyrium smuggler), I find out the boy has been kidnapped. I kill some Tevinter slavers in Darktown (the city’s dirt poor district), and the info I find on their corpses points me to the Wounded Coast zone. And before I go there, Hawke says my most favourite sarcastic line of the game – “I wonder if that’s near the Injured Cliffs? Or the Limping Hills? Massive-Head-Trauma Bay?”
I find Feynriel in Generic Cave Layout #1, with a sword being held up to his throat by the kidnapper. “Take one more step and the boy dies” says the bad guy. “What about a small step? A hop? A caper?” Ellen Hawke sarcastically replies (Maker, I’m rocking the sarcastic response option). The dude demands all my gold and to keep the boy, and he’ll let me live. I decided to kill him and all his men instead. The outcome is good; Feynriel is saved. Feynriel is upset and distrusting of everyone, but my Hawke reasons with him (she’s spent her life protecting her sister Bethany from becoming part of a Circle, after all). I decided the best way to go is to send Feynriel to the Dalish clan on Sundermount, and not send him back to the Mage Circle. He may be half human, but I’m sure the Dalish will help him out. Feynriel is grateful (he’d rather be killed by Dalish than face the Templars).
— Following Feynriel’s quest, Thrask the good Templar needs your help. A group of escaped apostate mages from Starkhaven (another city-state in the Free Marches) are hunkered down in Generic Cave Layout #1. Thrask wants me to reason with them before a group of angry Templars arrive, destroying any hope of a peaceful resolution. Inside, I discover the group’s leader, Decimus, has resorted to using Blood Magic to protect his group (that won’t help anyone there, buddy). I kill him, and re-kill his undead minions. The rest of the mages say Decimus did what he had to to protect them. They want me to help them escape into an area of the Free Marches where Templars aren’t so present. I agree to convince the Templars that this group of mages is dead. “I don’t have enough people trying to kill me, might as well add all the Templars in Kirkwall…” says my sarcastic Hawke.
Outside, I find out it’s too late. The unreasonable Templars have arrived and kill poor Thrask. In response, I kill them all and then the mages are free to go. Whatever works?
— Another greedy dwarf named Javaris wants my help acquiring a recipe for Qunari explosives (I’m sure that’s a good idea… not). After I kill some rogue Qunari agents for him, he wants me to help petition the shipwrecked Qunari unit’s Airshok (their leader). I meet him in Qunari compound at the city Docks. Airshok refuses to make a deal and the dwarf is dismissed. The Airshok sees Kirkwall as a disorganized mess of people, and then it’s time for Hawke to leave too… for now.
— Viscount Dumar’s son (he’s like the mayor of Kirkwall) Saemus has been kidnapped, allegedly by Qunari. A ruthless mercenary group is out looking for him (I run into the leader bitch before chatting with the Viscount’s assistant), but nothing is stopping Hawke from getting in on the bounty action too. When I arrive at the usual spot where big things happen in the Wounded Coast zone (that’s a jab at the recycled environment usage), I find Saemus cursing the mercenary leader in Qunari language…? And I quote: “Ashaad… you killed him. You… you vashedan bitch!” The mercenary leader doesn’t care and just wants to drag him home and collect the monies.
So I’m thinking we may have a case of Stockholm Syndrome here, but I hear Saemus out, and end up killing a few waves of mercenaries. You know how it goes. Anyway, when the battle is won, Saemus explains he converted to the Qunari way and he’s super upset that the mercenary group killed all his friends. He admires the code of honor that the Qunari stick to, and I respect that. I accompany Saemus back to his dad’s Keep, and the Viscount is not pleased his son sympathizes with the Qunari (think of the scandals!). I let them work out their issues without me. “A little too much insight into the office for me” says Hawke.
— In Lowtown at night, I had a run in with a helpless Chantry sister being ambushed by thugs she was trying to hire. Her name is Sister Petrice, and I accept the job instead. She has freed a Qunari mage from the Airshok’s rule (the Qunari are very cruel to their mages and he’s locked in chains with his mouth stitched closed), and named him Ketojan (meaning a bridge between worlds). She claims to care about this Qunari, but I’m skeptical… Anywho, I lead Ketojan through the city sewer system so he can join the other Qunari outcast group. A group of thugs get in my way, and Ketojan helps me toast them nicely. Outside, we run into a Qunari group who demand I return the Saarebas to them. Ketojan helps me toast them too, and then he becomes unbound and able to speak. He has no purpose in life anymore (the Qun honor system is everything to the Qunari) and decides to toast himself (I tried to stop him but he wouldn’t listen). Before he dies, he thanks me for trying to help him, even if I was wrong to do so. Sigh.
My Hawke questions Sister Petrice’s role in all this, and confronts her about it. Turns out this was part of her scheme, but she assures me that no harm was suppose to come to Hawke. She just wants everyone to see the Qunari for the “monsters they are”. I’m then told to “take my coin and disappear into Lowtown”. This isn’t over, lady.
With the coin in hand and a ton of quests under my belt, it’s time to convince Bartrand to let Hawke in on the big expedition!
Into the Damn Deep Roads
After Bartrand is paid, everyone going into the Deep Roads gathers around. Bartrand gives a big speech to the group (some deflowering metaphor that made me eye roll), but Hawke’s mom interrupts. She doesn’t want me to take Bethany on the journey, but my sister insists she wants to go with me, telling our Mom she will be fine. I decided to take Bethany (sorry Mom), Varric, and Fenris with me (yes, I made a TERRIBLE FREAKING MISTAKE with my party choices, because my memory sucks… sigh. You’ll see why shortly). Personal drama done, and off to the Deep Roads. The game cuts back to Cassandra interrogating Varric in the present day. Cassandra thinks that Hawke and her sister planned a whole uprising against the Chantry, but Varric insists it was a just a coincidence that Hawke was involved with Qunari, Mages, and Templar issues… Cassandra doesn’t buy it and says “She must have known! Somehow the Champion knew what was down there. That’s why she wanted to join your expedition.” Varric sadly replies with “No. None of us knew. If we had… she wouldn’t have let her sister step foot into that blighted hole.” Holy foreshadowing, game… interesting.
So it’s obvious something terrible awaits Hawke and her crew in the depths of the Deep Roads. As long as it’s not a Broodmother, I think I can handle it. Next time I have control of Hawke, the expedition has hit a roadblock. After Bartrand punches one of his lackeys for being incompetent, I offer to clear the “dangerous side passages” so the group can get around the obstacle. “See? This is why you bring me along” Ellen Hawke confidently replies. Before I leave the group, a very worried Bodahn says his son Sandal is missing (they are the father & son dwarf duo that travel with your camp in Dragon Age Origins). Sandal is a special dwarf and “He just… doesn’t understand danger like he should” his father tells me. I agree to keep an eye out for the little guy – “We’ll bring him back in one piece. Or maybe two. Hard to say, really” After bashing through darkspawn and killing something called Monstrous Spider (*shudders*), I find little Sandal with a bunch of dead darkspawn and a frozen Ogre near him. “Boom.” he calmly says… the little guy is gifted, I tells ya. He heads back to his father (clearly, he can take care of himself), and I continue clearing the path. Eventually, I fell a dragon mini boss and the expedition rolls on!
The group reaches the entrance of an abandoned thaig, and of course, Hawke and party go ahead to check things out. Eventually, we reach an ancient altar thingy with and a shiny idol on it, and Bartrand shows up behind us. The odd idol is made of pure lyrium, and Varric says it could be worth a fortune. Hawke picks it up with no traps or anything getting set off, but I can sense some evilness from it. After we toss the idol to Bartrand, Varric says we should keep looking for more lootz. Bartrand seems off as the idol shines in his hand… he tells us to keep going, and then leaves, sealing us in the room behind him. Bartrand says he wants all the profits for himself, before leaving us to die… ASS! Varric is understandably pissed about his brother’s betrayal (“I swear I will find that son of a bitch – sorry Mother – and I will kill him!”). We need to find a way out of here, and the only path is forward. So deeper into this mysterious thaig we go.
Surviving the Profane
Further in, we discover areas that are swarming with demons and aggressive creatures made of rock. Soon, we come across a reasonable rock monster who explains some of the weird stuff. The rock monsters are called the profane, and they have dwelled in this place since before memory. They feed off the lyrium here (“Sounds like a healthy diet” my Hawke says) and this rock monster calls itself a visitor, saying he’s not one of them. Bethany calls him a demon feeding on the profane’s hunger, I concur, and let’s just say the talking stops. I battle my way into a chamber for the final boss of Act I – Ancient Rock Wraith. After it pieces itself together in an epic cutscene, the fight is kind of tough since my memory is terrible. Basically, you hide behind pillars when it does a nasty AOE attack, and the smack it when it goes dormant. After the creature is downed, we unlock the door to freedom, taking along as much shiny loots from the treasure room as we can carry.
We are free of the thaig, but we still have several days of walking to do before we are out of the Deep Roads. As we go along our merry way, Bethany looks quite pale and collapses. It seems she has been infected by the darkspawn taint (Why only her though? We were all covered in a lot of darkspawn blood during this trek, just saying). Her only hope of survival is to become a Grey Warden, but alas, we will not reach the Grey Wardens in time to do the ritual. You see, if I would have remembered to bring Anders along, he would have turned her into a Grey Warden, thus saving her life. If I left her behind, the Templars would have made her a Circle Mage while I was gone… BUT I didn’t do any of that so after a touching goodbye scene, Bethany becomes a victim of my terrible memory… RIP, sister. I mean, I could reload a save file, but I don’t wanna go through the entire Deep Roads and fight that rock monster again… it was tough, dammit!
The rest of my party survives the trek back to Kirkwall. Varric vows to make Bartrand pay, blaming him for Bethany’s untimely demise. Hawke breaks the news to poor mom, and she doesn’t take it very well… understandably (she tried to warn me too… sigh). Cut back to Cassandra and Varric in the present day. “So the Champion was responsible for her sister’s death?” Cassandra inquires (ouch). “Yes, but that’s not the connection you’re looking for” Varric replies. Cassandra says “Guilt makes for perfect motivation” and asks about Hawke’s other companions. She seems to think she has a motive and opportunity figured out, but Varric assures her that’s not the case. Cassandra demands Varric tell her more, and that’s it for Act I. I’d like to say things get more cheerful, but oh Maker they do not…
Sidenotes for Friends
My most favourite part of Dragon Age II is the cool companion characters. They really helped me overlook some of the glaring faults with the gameplay (I’ll go more in-depth when I write my review). I wanna remember them so here’s some babbling about their Act I appearances. Varric and Bethany already got enough airtime in this post so I’ll skip them here.
Sebastian, Vengeful Chantry Prince
My version of Dragon Age II came with the Exalted Prince DLC and that’s the only reason why Sebastian was in my game. If you have the DLC, you first meet the Prince of Starkhaven in Act I when you go near the Chantry building in Hightown. He’s having an argument with Grand Cleric Elthina about his brutally murdered family. Claiming it is his right and duty to avenge them, he’s seeking to murder the mercenaries responsible, ignoring the Grand Cleric’s pleas for peace. After the spat, he pins a notice to the Chantry job board and walks away. I entered the Chantry and talked to Elthina to learn more about him. The Grand Cleric says enraged Sebastian has denied his vows and left the Chantry. I also read Sebastian’s job on the Chantry board, and accepted his bounty hunting quest. Basically, I murdered some bad guys for him. When they’re dead, he rewarded me when I visited him in the Chantry. Sebastion says he’s off to petition Kirwall’s Viscount to help him retake Starkhaven. That’s all that happens with him in Act I.
Aveline, True Best Friend
While Hawke has been doing shady business deals, Aveline has taken the side of the law and joined the city guard. She’s not pleased with Hawke’s business dealings thus far, but still considers Hawke a good friend. I really found it funny how she turns a blind eye to some of the stuff Hawke does with her in the party. That’s a true friend right there! Anyway, Aveline’s superior officer, Jeven, is not a nice guy. We uncover a scheme where he sends lone guards on dangerous patrols with a satchel of valuable info. A group of thugs kills them to inconspicuously pass the goods off the city’s reigning crime syndicate. That’s low… Aveline becomes a shero when she busts up Jeven’s scheme (saving a nice guard fellow named Donnic in the process), and she is slated to become the new Guard Captain after officer training. Hawke sure has friends in high places!
Anders, Vigilante Mage Healer
In Lowtown, you’ll hear rumors of a Grey Warden apostate mage helping sick people for free in Darktown. When you track down this individual in his secret clinic, you find out it’s Anders from Dragon Age Awakening. He’s initially cranky, worrying you want to take him back to the Wardens (who apparently made him get rid of his cat, Ser Pounce-a-lot… aw). After some chatting, I struck a favor for a favor deal with him. I help Anders free his Mage Circle friend from the Templars, and he gives me maps of the Deep Roads (useful for Bartrand’s expedition). The plan is to meet his friend in the Chantry after dark, and I’m there mostly for protection in case it’s a trap. We meet this friend of his, but something is wrong; his friend has been turned Tranquil (stripped of all emotions by the Templars). It turns out it was a trap as several Templars show up and pissed off Anders starts glowing blue (the Spirit of Justice, another character from Awakening, has become one with the Anders). We fight off the Templars and the Tranquil mage regains his emotions for a few minutes. The poor mage begs Anders to kill him, saying he would rather die a mage than be a Templar puppet. Anders reluctantly does the deed saying “There’s no cure for a beheading.”
Fenris, Lyrium Etched Elf
I met a distraught dwarf, Anso, and associate of Athenril in Lowtown at night. The dwarf was upset that the people giving him a delivery didn’t show, and he sends me to collect it. What does this have to do with Fenris? I’m getting there… When I found the bad people in Generic Poor House Layout #1, and killed them, I discovered the package is empty. Confused Hawke goes outside and is greeted by an army of angry Tevinter Hunters who say “That’s not the elf” but try to kill me anyway. After they’ve been disposed of, a random man tells me I made “a serious mistake” but then Fenris (the elf they were after) shows up and kills him (with a reach into the chest type magical move… ouch). Fenris is an escaped slave of a Tevinter Magister named Danarius. Fenris set up the whole package thing to lure out the Tevinter Hunters, and he apologizes for getting me dragged into it. He seems like a nice guy, so I help him break into Generic Mansion Layout #1 in Hightown to hunt his former master. After many demons are slain, the master wasn’t there, but now Fenris is the proud owner of a demon-free generic mansion!
Isabela, Badass Pirate Queen
After entering The Hanged Man (the local bar in Lowtown), you’ll meet Isabela for the first time (she has a minor appearance in Origins, if I remember right). Shady dudes are demanding that Isabela pay them. She refuses saying the info they gave her is worthless. The lead man named Lucky threatens her – “Me and the boys will get our money’s worth, bitch.”. Isabela doesn’t take crap, and she then proceeds to kick all their asses when the try something with her. When the brawl is over, she has a knife to Lucky’s throat asking him if this is worth dying for. She’s so FREAKING AWESOME!!! Ahem.
After chatting with the badass pirate lady, it seems she lost her ship and someone from her past is pestering her. She has arranged to duel with them, but fears they will cheat. My Hawke is more than happy to be her backup so off to Hightown at night! Sure enough, Isabela is ambushed and we go after a dude named Hayder. We find Hayder in Generic Mansion Layout #1 and he says something about Castillion being heartbroken that Isabela survived a ship crash. It seems Isabela lost something important and freed all of Castillion’s slaves (I knew I liked her!). Isabela one-shot kills the woman behind him with a throwing knife, and then we kill everyone else in glorious battle. “Stab first ask questions later?” Ellen Hawke sarcastically asks her new BFF.
Merrill, Awkward Blood Mage
Part of the deal for Flemeth, the dragon lady, saving my ass in the intro was that I take her amulet to a Dalish clan camped out at the base of Sundermount. I’m not sure what happened to the elves during the Blight (they look funny and talk weird now) but Keeper Marethari and her clan from Origins are the elves I seek. The Keeper knows exactly what’s up, and sends me to the top of the mountain with her first, Merrill, to perform a ritual for Flemeth (aka Asha’belleanar). While fighting ancient horrors on my way to the top, I discover Merrill is adorably awkward and really into Blood Magic… yikes. The ritual summons Flemeth and she thanks me for saving her (so while Grey Warden Ellen was killing Flemeth in Origins, Ellen Hawke was carrying around Flemeth’s essence and saved the dragon lady… neat!). After the dragon lady flies away, I learn poor Merrill is a clan outcast and the Keeper sends her with my Hawke. Sure, I’ll be your friend Merrill! I can look passed all the Blood Magic stuff, I guess. Merrill takes up residence in the Alienage area of Lowtown. Not the nicest of houses, but it works for her – “This city is amazing! Do you know, I saw someone get mugged? Right outside! It was fascinating!”
That’s more than enough babbling about Act I. Act II to follow soon, maybe!
⚡Thanks for reading!⚡