Abominations and Blood Magic

I chose the Circle Tower as my next location for no other reason than the GameFAQs boards recommended it. I would have done it as my first location, but I wanted blood magic ASAP.

Ah, and here is Knight-Commander Greagoir. You all remember Greagoir, right? How could anybody forget a name like that? I know I didn’t have to go back through my own blog to find the appropriate arcane spelling of Gregory.

Greagoir has a little problem. Everybody’s dead!
It gets worse.
Their corpses are now possessed by demons!
And it gets even worse.
The entire tower is controlled by blood mages!
And it gets much worse.
The Templars are planning to burn it down, kill everybody in there, and let the Maker sort it out.

So I have two choices: let them burn it all down, or go in there and see whether anybody survived. Most importantly, I need to find the First Enchanter, Irving.

Oh, I could have let them all die. I could have assumed they were all possessed, like Greagoir thought, but if the First Enchanter survived, I could still gain the mages as allies. Plus Greagoir promised to be with Alim (my MC) either way. This bodes well, if dangerous.

As I entered the Circle Tower-proper, the guards closed the doors behind the party. The Templars weren’t letting anybody out unless the group brought back First Enchanter Irving.

Almost immediately, we met Wynne. She’s got to be in her sixties, at least. But she was single-handedly killing a rage demon which was trying to break through the barrier she erected herself to protect survivors.

Wynne: Not too old to kick a demon’s ass. I can only hope to say the same about myself when I’m sixty.

Wynne wants to accompany the party to find First Enchanter Irving. I took her along because she’s cool, knows the tower as well as Alim, and she’s plot-relevant.

Wynne is a contrast to Alim. She’s a Spirit Healer and a mentor. She has taught many mages and is happy to play the part of guardian and caretaker. As a genuinely good person, she wants to stop the Darkspawn because she doesn’t want to see more people suffer.

Alim, by contrast, I play as power-hungry and selfish. He doesn’t care much about the fate of others, and wouldn’t care what the Darkspawn did if they weren’t probably going to kill him. He’s what D&D would call Neutral Evil.

And yet they get along well, mostly. In camp scenes, when they talk, I find Wynne has much to teach Alim about the world. I wouldn’t say she is converting him to the side of good, but she is maturing his perspective on things, helping him understand the consequences of his actions and how best to achieve them. She’s a wise person, and my character respects that, even if he disagrees with her point of view.

Returning to the Circle Tower is a little bizarre. The entire place is in disarray. Corpses lie scattered. Demons walk the halls. And new events have opened.

For example, the picture above depicts the Fade Rifter. It’s a creature which appears when the party experiments in the apprentice area. By touching a variety of objects, creatures are summoned. I don’t know why anybody set up something like this. Why the random items, scattered everywhere, and why is it that when touched in that order, they summon those creatures? It just doesn’t make sense.

On the second floor, I found Owain doing just fine. Owain is the Tranquil Mage from the start of the game. Apparently the demons just don’t care much about the Tranquil, which is good for him.

On the second floor, I encountered some of the blood mages running around the tower. I made short work of them. One of them told the party a little more about the goings-on. They had infiltrated the tower, and if I recall correctly, they were all local circle mages who had been converted to the practice of blood magic The survivor asked for mercy. I killed her anyway. I’m sympathetic to blood mages, but the ones here ruined a good thing, and Alim is angry; the entire reason he came here might be dead because of their foolishness.

What overrun location would be complete without one coward hiding in a closet? Godwin, local Jowan impersonator, fills that role nicely. Maybe it’s just the robes, but almost everybody in the Circle Tower looks like Jowan. Almost all of them are tall humans with long brown hair and similar facial features.

The higher I climbed the Circle Tower, the more bizarre the architecture became. These gigantic red tumors showed up in increasing number as I ascended. It’s as if some vile presence had taken physical shape, using the tower as an anchor.

Hey, a desire demon, boy, we sure haven’t seen one of those in a long time. This one is not attempting to possess a kid, for a change. Instead, it has taken a Templar as its lover, and drowned him in a fantasy world. It asked to be left alone, and promised to leave. I was feeling generous, and figured, eh, if she’s really going to just be that guy’s lover, and that’s all she wants, what’s the harm? In retrospect, it was silly. She might just kill him eventually, and she might run off and do more vile things than that. Plus, we are now down one Templar, as a friend of mine pointed out. Man, now I need to work that much harder to recruit demons instead. Maybe if I offer them a few souls, I can create an intricate web of plots that slowly erode my character’s ethics to powder and result in an overly complicated plan that all comes crashing down around him, the sound of his own screams a suitable epitaph to the unnecessary horrors which he unleashed upon the world in a foolish attempt to become a king.

Sloth Demon says hi.

As part of the plot, when the party walks into a certain room, they encounter a Sloth Abomination. It forces everybody to fall asleep and enter the Fade. Alim is the only one strong enough to partially resist.

Partially being the operative word.

Alim shunts into the Fade. Duncan is there, but it’s not really him. The false Duncan tries convincing Alim that the Darkspawn were defeated and they can now relax. Of course, when I refuse to go along with this, he and a couple “Grey Wardens” attack. Surprisingly easily dispatched. I demonstrated how fun a mage is to play. I put one in a force cage, froze the other two, and whittled away at their health in seconds.

With the false Wardens defeated, I stepped through a portal into a new area.

The next area better resembled the Fade I know and loathe. Alien architecture, as if somebody carved a world from teeth and hair. I was greeted by Niall, another mage who arrived here, tried to escape, and failed. I was hesitant to trust him; because Mouse betrayed me, I assume everything in the Fade is evil until proven otherwise.

However, I needed information, and he was the first non-hostile I encountered. The Sloth Demon is in the middle of this part of the Fade, and is served by five lieutenants. However, it is very hard to get to any of the lieutenants. Their areas are mini-puzzles littered with demons and Fade creatures assuming the shapes of real-world creatures.

I still didn’t have my party with me, so this would be a solo outing.

At Niall’s recommendation, I searched the Raw Fade to see what I could find.

I met a helpful spirit shaped like a mouse. However, this one was apparently not the same Mouse from the game’s beginning. The similarities throw me off a bit; couldn’t they have chosen something different for one or the other? Like a bug?

Spirit Mouse gave Alim the Mouse form, which enables Alim to now move through mouse holes. Not terribly impressive, but I’ll take it.

With the first of four forms, I stepped into a portal to enter another part of the Fade. Now that I think of it, why did the Sloth Demon even allow these portals to exist? Could it not have destroyed the portals long ago? Not that I’m complaining, mind you.

I thought I took a screenshot of this, but I didn’t. The Sloth Demon’s domain is divided into nine areas. Five of them contain his lieutenants. Three of them have Alim’s other party members. The central area has the Sloth Demon himself. After leaving the current area, the Raw Fade, I scouted the other areas, which are called
The Burning Tower
Mages Asunder
The Darkspawn Invasion
The Templar’s Nightmare

The names are cool, but the areas aren’t quite as interesting as they sound. Each one is thematically based on what it sounds like: the Burning Tower is on fire. Mages Asunder has a lot of magic casters. The Darkspawn Invasion is swarming with Darkspawn. The Templars Nightmare has templars. The areas are slightly surreal, because they are roughly based on locations and groups, but everything has the same hazy Fade look and is some shade of beige. The music doesn’t change from area to area. I see what they were going for: the similarities enhance the dream-like feel of the areas. The more dream-like this is, the more disturbing the conversations with the “people” in the Fade – all of them speak in a slightly disconnected way, as if afraid of something they cannot describe. If the areas were very different, they might feel relatively disconnected. However, I think that’s fine. This should be a surreal experience. Make the player wonder how much of this is actually a dream. If nothing else, it’ll add something to the experience. This extended Fade dungeon is kind of boring as it stands.

The highlights are the various forms the MC can assume. I already showed you the Mouse form. Here are the other three.

The Spirit Form is my favorite. I like the way it floats, like some lich butler. Look at those flowing crimson robes and that rictus grin. I just feel awesome floating around in that shape. Plus, the Spirit Form can enter special areas otherwise inaccessible. These areas usually contain attribute bonuses. Yeah, unexpectedly, the Fade here is full of items which give the MC stat bonuses. This never happens elsewhere in the game, at least so far as I have seen, so I wonder why they put the items here. It seems like a random decision. I would have guessed that my character is learning something from the dreams, but why didn’t he pick up stat boosts when he was taking his Harrowing?

Next up, Burning Man.

No, not the Burning Man you’re thinking of…

This Burning Man. Much smaller. Throws fireballs.

I used the Burning Man in a couple areas for fun. There are some enemies who use only fire attacks and, of course, Burning Man is immune to fire attacks. However, the Burning Man is not as strong as an actual mage, so I switched off using it.

Now here is a switch-up. The Stone Golem form is pure muscle. It has a lot of hit points and a few cool attacks, like throwing rocks and slamming an enemy back several meters. I used it for a while, but eventually realized that it wasn’t as good as being in normal form. It didn’t do enough damage to justify using it.

Here are a few of my favorite visuals from these areas. The Money Bags area was full of coins, but I knew I couldn’t take any of it with me. This was a dream, after all. But wait, when Alim went thorugh his Harrowing, he was able to keep his staff from that event. Couldn’t he have loaded his pockets with treasure?

The second is a long hallway that was filled with Grimlocks and Harlocks. Nothing particularly special about it, but I like the perspective.

Finally, the shadowy figure in the background is the Black City, the center of the Fade, and the former city of the Maker. It appears to be anchoring some large structures, which might be smaller islands, or other parts of the city, or even airships. The Black City doesn’t look too far away. I wonder whether I will ever get to visit it in a DA game.

Once I defeated all five of the lieutenants (they weren’t much to talk about, honestly), I visited the Nightmares in which Alim’s three companions were stuck.

I rescued Shale first. She was stuck in her old pose, apparently believing she was once again inanimate. Easiest to awaken, I just told her to snap out of it and she did. She faded away.

Zevran was dreaming that he was going through his Crow initiation again. When I tried snapping him out of it, his two torturers attacked Alim. I defeated them and, this is weird, I clicked one one of their bodies, and the cutscene replayed. The torturers were splattered with blood from when I killed them in the fight. Dear readers, I have discovered a glitch. After I killed them the second time, I waited a moment and clicked on Zevran, which made the proper cutscene happen and allowed the game to continue.

Finally, I rescued Wynne. I thought I had a screenshot of this, but I guess not. She was convinced that she failed her students and they were all dead. When I tried dragging her away, they rose form the “dead” and tried convincing her to stay. I had to kill them to snap Wynne out of it. See, Wynne, violence does solve your problems.

Allies rescued, lieutenants defeated, one task remained. The Sloth Demon himself. This fight was unusual. The Sloth Demon shifted forms, appearing like each of his lieutenants in turn. He had a lot of hit points and did a lot of damage. I only got a respite when he switched forms, or when Force Cage or Ice Spells reactivated.

The Sloth Demon was dead and the party was freed. I continued up the tower until I ran into another purple forcefield. Is there a sale of magic barriers somewhere?

Some of you might remember Cullen, the novice Templar from the beginning of the game. He’s back and just as naive. He refuses to let the party through, at first, insisting that the party is a group of demons assuming familiar shapes to torment him. I guess he has been like this since the tower was first assailed. I don’t know how he gained the ability to erect a magic barrier, but it kept his body safe, if his mind was fractured. He insisted the party kill everybody at the top of the tower. The First Enchanter was up there, but the blood mages were already busy performing a ritual, and Cullen was certain they were all dead. I spent a few minutes trying to talk him out of his insane notions, and insisted that I would save the First Enchanter. Ironically, I chose the wrong option at one point, saying, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of those mages”, and Wynne attacked. I reloaded, of course. I was only saying that because I meant I was going to deal with the blood mages.

As the party enters the room, they witness the master of the blood mages turning his captives into abominations. Only a few yet survive, including First Enchanter Irving.

What kind of profession would you expect from a guy named Uldred? What a predictable name. What if he was named Uljoy? Do you suppose he would have found a different calling in life?

Uljoy: I’ll show them. I’ll show them all… how to bake brownies from scratch.

Okay, but seriously, he’s a maniac. The party cannot negotiate with Uldred. I know. I tried. There is no way to convince him to work with you or otherwise make any kind of a deal. He would rather make the party into abominations. Thus ensues the Uldred fight. In this battle, Uldred sends three abominations after the party, while he assumes a gigantic horrific form. He frequently attempts to raise one of the other fallen mages as an abomination. I don’t know how he does it so quickly by himself when it took a concerted effort between him and several abominations to do so beforehand. However, he can be stopped by chanting from an item called the Litany. This creates a sort of tag game, where Uldred tries raising an abomination, then the PCs rush to whichever mage is about to be transformed to stop the process, while Uldred chases them in turn.

Uldred fell and Irving was delighted to not be an abomination. We returned to Greagoir, who was suitably shocked that everybody survived. Cullan was still freaking out, but everybody ignored him. The Mages agreed to help, but the Templars backed out. Now they have to defend the Mages, they claim. I call bullshit. Especially because later a mage representative says “The Mages and Templars have joined forces to stand beside you”. So, are the templars with me or not?

The only thing I remember about this cutscene is how funny Loghein looks. Does he never take off that armor? He must be very uncomfortable, sitting on a hard-backed throne, wearing full plate. Dude, stop trying so hard to impress people.


Seeking Shale

Live or die? Live or die? What will Alim (my MC) choose? To let Jowin go free, risk him causing more mayhem? Or to slay him, preventing all the madness he might unleash? Kingdoms could burn on my word; ancient Orders might reveal themselves to stop what I have unleashed; what – do I – do?

… eh, I’ll let him live.

Jowin came through in the end. He obeyed my order to stay, helped confront the demon, and proposed a solution that worked just as planned. For all his faults, Jowin is brave and powerful. I could use an ally of his prowess, and now he will owe Alim a favor.

I freed Jowin, and he immediately expressed his gratitude. I realized I made a mistake.

A big mistake.

Kidding. The Baan wouldn’t even let him out of his prison, despite my pleadings. What was the point, then, of asking me? was he hoping I would just say “execute him”? That he could blame me if the Arl disagreed, but take the credit if the Arl liked the idea? What a bastard. Clever, but still a bastard.

Before leaving town, I visited the blacksmith. Owen was happy to have his daughter back and gave the party a suit of dwarven chainmail. “Oh, cool!” I thought. Then I checked its stats. What’s with the game handing off weak armor, even in quests? The dwarven chainmail’s armor rating is almost half that of what Alistair has currently equipped. Yes, it has a lower fatigue rate, gives a point to con, and some kind of resistance, but it’s weak in the main area where armor needs to be strong; actually defending the person’s body.

I was told to go to Denerim to seek rumors of the Urn of Sacred Ashes, which can heal the Arl’s sickness. I know this game likes its late-Medieval European themes, but must it harp on every legend? Really, the Holy Grail… let’s just drop any pretense of originality then. Next thing, they’ll be writing about Robin Hood.

Oh wait, they did that, too. It’s like “Lord of the Rings” meets “King Arthur”. … Okay, I admit, that sounds kind of cool, but I still feel like DA is trying too hard to impress. I actually would prefer them to just call it “The Holy Grail”, or at least give the Ashes a different property: I mean, when you think Ashes, does your mind jump first to chimney sweeping or to emergency care?

On another note, Arl = Earl; Baan = Baron; Ser = Sir. Ooh, look, fantasy titles that correspond exactly to the real world titles on which they are based. Well, if they’re going to do it that way, why do they have a “king”? Shouldn’t it be something like “Kyn” or “Ing” or “Kri”? Where is your logic now, DA?

Back on point: I’m not going to Denerim yet. One of the members of the board recommended that I not go through Denerim until I get a point in Steal on my MC. That is a level or two a way, so I’m just going to quest in a couple other locations.

Actually, this sounds like a good time to check out the downloadable content (DLC). First, I want to get Shale, the golem. Then I don’t have to carry around Alistair and listen to his complaining. I’ve heard Shale has three modes, and one of them is Warrior. I wonder whether he is as good a Warrior as an actual Warrior.

Shale is at Sulcher’s Pass.

However, as I left Redcliffe, I was treated to another cutscene at Denerim. This time, one of Loghein’s servants (please tell me I got that right, and it’s not Loghein’s second cousin’s wife’s brother’s nephew’s dog’s groomer) introduced him to an assassin from the Antivan Crow guild. The assassin’s name is Zevran, and he’s a rogue, both metaphorically and mechanically. I like his swords.

And he likes setting up traps. I encountered Zevran on the way to Sulcher’s Pass. A woman came running to the party, begging for help. I followed her, and I knew it was a trap of some kind. I didn’t have any option, so I followed. I would have liked to take my chances and toss a Fireball on her.

But I had to face a dozen assassins, half of them wielding bows and attacking from prominent vantage points. Zevran was in the middle of melee, and went down easily.

After his cohorts were dead, I questioned the assassin. Zevran was quick to give up his employers, then segued into asking to join the winning team. (That’s me, if you didn’t know)

Welcome to the team, Zevran.

Zevran is, unsurprisingly, an assassin and a melee rogue. Two-handed style; I approve. However, is he going to be as good as an archer by end game? I’m not sure. All I know is he’s the sexiest man in the party, and that has to count for something.

So much for Loghein’s plans. Haha, silly Loghein, sending assassins who join my party.

Welcome to Honnleath. Pleasant-looking, I know.

I tore through the Darkspawn in the village without much trouble. I rarely have much to say about these encounters because they usually aren’t that different from each other. The enemies are usually the same, but with more hit points than the last group. This hasn’t worn on me much yet, but the fact I am mentioning it suggests it’s irritating me more as I play.

The inanimate golem is Shale, my soon-to-be party member.

Okay, I’m speaking here beyond the point, because I am much further in the game now. Shale joins the party and she often remarks about her time as an inanimate statue. She talks about the things she’s experienced, presumably seen. But look at her here. She is clearly staring straight up at the sky. Either Shale is lying or the designers just didn’t catch this little mistake – the latter is more likely. Still, it’s amusing to think that Shale could just be lying to the party.

I also refer to Shale as a female because of a later plot point, but we’re getting there. Much much later in this post.

Anyway, I bought a control rod along the way which should bring Shale back to life. But, surprise, it doesn’t work. What to do? Well, another party member suggests looking around for clues. Because the party can enter only one place, the cellars, that’s where they go.

The Darkspawn have taken up residence here, too. After battling through them, I come across a purple forcefield.

Behind the forcefield are the surviving villagers. One of them is a mage and was able to erect a barrier that keeps out the Darkspawn. I wish I could make an impenetrable barrier.

Matthias, as he introduces himself, explains that his father once had the control rod, but his mother probably sold it. He offers to teach the party the command word to awaken Shale, but first he wants his daughter rescued. I tried to talk him into giving up the control rod, but it didn’t work. Even with max Persuade. Why even give the Persuade option? Maybe it’s possible if I have maximum Persuade and a really high cunning.

After defeating a few demons, I found the girl. And a cat. Wait for it…

Demon Cat!

Does every kid in this game consort with demons? Because this is two for two.

The girl is somehow unaware that cats cannot normally talk. Or have glowing purple eyes. The demon wants to make a deal with the party. Let her leave, possess the girl, and there won’t be any problems. She just needs the party to solve some bizarre puzzle in the room which seals her in there.

So I agree. I actually did this both ways. I couldn’t decide on whether I really wanted to let her go. Would my character care? Well, he’d released one demon already. But this one was pointless. Demons could be dangerous, and he could prevent this one from causing any harm in the future. The other one, of course, Alim would still need to deal with at some point, if it chose to cause him problems.

The first way, I let the demon go. It possesses the girl and the result is that funny expression on her face. Haha… yeah, that girl’s soul is gone and the entire village is now doomed because of Alim… it gets creepier, too, because Matthias can’t really tell the difference. He knows she is acting odd, but he doesn’t question it. The demon isn’t much of an actor. It talks in a slight monotone. So, yeah, creepy; take two!

In take two, I agree to help the demon, but I’m lying. Once the demon is free, I turn on her before she can actually possess the girl. The ensuing battle is relatively difficult, but she drops great equipment. If it’s always going to be like that, I think I will kill more demons from now on.

Demon: I can give you power!
Alim: I can take it off your corpse!

With the proper activation word known, I returned to Shale and spoke it.

Shale awakened in suitably dramatic fashion. DA has some flare, let nobody say otherwise.

Shale notes, in curiosity, that the party is unable to control her. Somehow, the control rod no longer has any sway over her. However, she has nothing better to do, so she accompanies the party.

Shale is… interesting. “Detached” isn’t quite the right word, because she is a golem… but again, it is the right word because of what she actually is. She refers to Alim as “it” and is excited about squashing things; humans, Darkspawn – anything goes. Shale has a particular and understandable distaste for birds…

She kills one off-camera in this scene. You’d be angry at birds, too, if they crapped on you repeatedly for a few dozens years. I’m glad somebody took the time to clean her off occasionally.

Mechanically, Shale is a Warrior – sort of. She can’t take any of the Warrior special classes, and she has only the first two Warrior ability rows. However, she also has four ability paths which unlock special modes for her: melee offensive, ranged offensive, melee defensive, and party buffer. I always leave Shale on melee defensive, because she is great at attracting aggro, but I am considering setting her to Party Buffer sometime. Party Buffer gives amazing stat buffs to the party, but Shale cannot move – at all. Seems like a terrible waste of a party member.

Shale is also unable to equip items in most slots. However, she can equip an offensive crystal and a defensive crystal, which gives her a recolor to the cool crystals decorating her body. They give massive boosts to her offense and defense. It’s pretty good mid-game, but I suspect it will depreciate during the late game because there will be so many awesome abilities on pieces of equipment which she cannot equip.

This is part one of a much larger update. I am already working on the rest of it. It’s going to be massive, but I wanted to give you restless readers something to enjoy in the meantime.

Busy, Busy, Busy…

I feel like this right now.

Pardon the delay in posting, my dear readers. I have my final writing assignment for my Legal Writing class due on Wednesday morning. I’ve spent a good part of the last week busy with either that, a Contracts mid-term, or an exceptionally large load of reading. Beside that, I have my Finals coming up. Law school is fun, but time-consuming.

I do plan to make a post later this week. Expect an extraordinarily long post. I already began work on it. However, I have about 480 screenshots to sort through. Those screenshots take me all the way from Redcliffe, through the Mage Tower, through the Elf Lands, through Ostagar, and deal with a bunch of side quests too. I haven’t decided whether I want to make one extraordinarily long post – in which case, I might not be able to post until Sunday or Monday. Or post a relatively short one, and get it out earlier; maybe Saturday.

Either way, yes, the blog is continuing, dear readers, as it always does. I try to avoid these long delays, and I usually post a few times a week. This past week or so, unfortunately, has just been extraordinarily busy. But worry not; new posts are coming. Like I’ve said, I have done the playing, and I have the screenshots. I just need to finish this paper, so I can get to work on it.

But, I suppose you want a preview…
Let’s see, then, a summary of useful advice…
1) No matter how evil you are, in the end, the good guys are the ones to side with.
2) Somebody in your party will always bitch, no matter what you do
3) Don’t tell Shale you’ll kill the person she most admires
4) You can’t read Flemeth’s spell book, and you sort of wish you just bargained with her instead of going through the trouble of killing her when she shapeshifted into a dragon
5) You wish Morrigan could shapeshift into a dragon; no, you get a spider
6) Every mage apprentice in the world looks exactly like Jowan
7) Everybody puts gel in their beards
8 ) Undead are the most horrifying thing in the game, mostly because I can’t hurt them with half my spells
9) Revenants are freakishly tough
10) No matter how strong you become, random bandits are always your equal
11) There are approximately 9 different enemy models in the game
12) At some point, you will go from having no money to having too much money. The switch is instantaneous
13) “You find an important NPC. Please insert $5 to continue this side quest”
14) Dwarves in Dragon Age work against stereotype. They are not loud-mouthed drunks. Except the one who joins your party, and thus makes the strongest impression on you.
15) The world of Dragon Age is full of fantastic literature and deep histories, all of which can be easily accessed from the journal. Half of it is useless, and the other half is incoherent babble.

Back to working on my paper. Folks, I won’t have time to post for the next few days, but if you want to leave any comments and ask questions, I should be able to respond to them.

The Dead Will Rise at Redcliffe

Every night, a nightmare. Alim awakens from a dream of a dragon. It’s not a majestic creature, but it’s terrifying; massive, ugly – more a dark parody of a dragon than a dragon itself. I wonder whether this is a vision of something occurring, or really just a nightmare.

Alistair says all Grey Wardens have these nightmares, and they probably are reflections of something actually occurring. But, if the dragon has already awakened, then when is it not leading the front of its army? I suspect something restrains the dragon; either it is not as powerful as it could become, or it fears something of the kingdom. If so, and if I could find its anathema, I could perhaps destroy the darkspawn.

I wandered around the camp, catching up with the other party members. These conversations enable me to learn more about them, improve my relationship with them, and perhaps gain some material benefit.

I tried talking with Sten, but it was hard to get anything out of him. Practically impossible, actually. I could have pressed hi, but decided tat wasn’t wise; if he didn’t want to open up right now, there wasn’t any point in just making him angry.

I spoke with the other party members as well, learning various bits and pieces here and there. Alim and Morrigan get along famously. I don’t really have conversations with Deathrise. I watch the comedic antics between him and Alistair.

Bodahn and Sandal are now permanent members of the camp. Like I said before, Bodahn’s goods are fantastic. He even sells the Dragon Plate equipment that comes with my edition of the game. However, that equipment is so powerful that none of my characters can hope to wear it right now.

Speaking of equipment, I don’t understand why items have different subtypes: I might find a yew shortbow and a whiteash shortbow, and not see any difference between them.

Why is there so much blood? DA exults in its bloodletting. Even the lines representing movement across the world map are, as seen here, dots of blood. The first time I saw that, I lost my sense of awe; it’s now replaced by amusement. This is absurd. There’s so much blood in the game, it’s not scary; it’s silly.

Welcome to scenic Redcliffe. A magnificent castle looms above the misty vale, and the edge of the town spans a majestic and tranquil lake. Zombies roam the wilderness and might come to eat you but, hey, why did you think the real estate was so cheap?

I’m here to get Arl Eamon’s help fighting the darkspawn, and to convince him to contest Loghein’s rule. But will an Arl listen to a group of people just claiming to be Grey Wardens? It’s worked so far, so I don’t see why it should stop now.

Alistair stops the group before actually entering Redcliffe. The Arl might be unhappy to see Alistair; the templar-turned-Grey Warden is the Arl’s bastard son. Alistair hates thinking about it; I guess this is why he was so quick to put Alim in the lead. Alistair doesn’t want to be reminded of his noble heritage; he prefers ignominy.

I didn’t knock him for it; I could have teased him, but I’m not playing a fool. I didn’t tease the Chanter in the last village, either. I only taunt characters when they behave foolishly.

Many people have been injured, or died, at the hands of the walking dead. Arl Eamon is sick and no word is coming from the castle. Undead pour from it regularly and are slowly overwhelming the townsfolk. They expect a major attack tonight, and Baan Teagan here asks for the party’s help in defending the town. I agreed because I would want their help dealing with any threats in the castle, and I would rather have them working with me than against me. Morrigan disapproved, which irritates me. Does she have to be one-dimensional about this? Can’t she see that Alim is setting this up because it’s the most efficient course of action? It’s like she can’t stand to do something unless it’s evil.

Ugh, maybe I’ll loathe all of my companions.

Anyway, Baan directs the party to visit Murdock and Ser Perth, to help them set up the town’s defenses.

Murdock is the mayor. He gives the party two quests: convince the blacksmith, Owen, to repair weapons for the townsfolk; and convince Dwyn, a veteran mercenary, to fight. I could also use persuasion, I think to boost morale.

Owen is a drunk, but only because his daughter is a maid in the castle, and he thinks she could be dead. I still hold it against him; he doesn’t see that helping the town is the best chance he has at getting his daughter back. He actually refuses to help the town unless Murdock agrees to first storm the castle. I know he’s rageful at losing his daughter, but he channels it in the most petty way. Charge a castle without weapons? Maybe I’m just jaded from all the stories about people who throw themselves into their work to manufacture a way to help their loved ones. Owen just seems like he’s given up.

I talked him into helping Murdock by promising to find his daughter. Again, Morrigan complained. How can she be so oblivious; the party needs the townsfolk on their side to get into the castle. Persuasion (and lies) work better than intimidation and brute force; we could abandon Owen’s daughter to her fate, and indeed, the entire village, if we can still somehow convince Arl Eamon to aid the Grey Wardens. Granted, if I renege on many deals, the Grey Wardens’ reputation will probably be sullied. I must be careful to not cast aside every expended pawn, else the better pieces refuse to move.

I wasn’t looking for Dwyn when I found him. I just found a house that was locked and decided to break in. Coincidentally, a quest was waiting for me. Dwyn acted threatening, but I intimidated him into fighting. Could I have persuaded him? Maybe, but sounding acquiescent may have come across as weak.

What is this? Is that a fish carved around a support pole? I’ve seen these around town. They are kind of creepy.

Ser Perth is one of the local knights. Like Murdock, he had two quests for me: the first was to find some better defenses, which I already did – some oil at the general store; the other was to obtain the blessings from the local Revered Mother. I visited her and convinced her to give me some holy symbols to pass out to the men.

I enjoyed these little quests, and I wish there was more I could do. They didn’t feel very much like fetch quests, although they were. Instead of gathering up dozens of the same item, I was mostly talking with people, convincing them to do what I asked.

Tasks completed, we waited for night, and the undead horde.

The build-up was good. The town is cast in shadows and people gesture toward a bridge. A green fog rolls over, carrying the dead with it. People scatter, either fleeing or taking positions. The scene could have gone on a bit longer, too, and that extension would have been even better – this game prides itself on its grimness, and showing the hungry dead through a cutscene would have been even better than the impressive way the designers handled it.

The battle was broken in two parts. The first was guarding the main pass into the town. The undead streamed forth from the green fog, and the knights and my party engaged them. The fire tears apart the undead as they pass through it, but Alistair and the knights liked to rush into the fire, given half a chance. I restrained my attack until the enemy was already past the fire, then let the knights handle most of it. I stepped in when the undead numbers swelled too large.

Somehow, the undead came from the docks, too. I ran down the hill, past the mill, to the town square, where the battle was already engaged. This was the harder part because the enemy came in larger groups and the militia were not nearly as powerful as the knights. I had to redo this part.

The battle didn’t end there; I had to return to the first area, for the most boring part of the fight. More undead poured into the battle, but only two at the time. I went through at least seven pairs of enemies, and probably twice that number. The wait undercut the tension of the moment.

Even then, I wasn’t done. The AI wasn’t perfectly scripted, so one of the undead was stuck waiting in the green mist, and another one was lurking somewhere on the docks. I had to hunt down both of them to end the undead threat. The planning was good, but the execution was slightly lackluster.

Overall, a well-fought battle. The only named loss was Murdock. With the townsfolk on the party’s side, I was able to get Baan’s help infiltrating the castle. He showed the party a secret entrance, but was suddenly confronted by his wife.

She was released by the demon which controls the castle, and it says it wants her to bring Baan into the castle, or suffer the consequences. Baan agrees to go, and the party still infiltrates the castle.

The party confronts some undead immediately. The castle is like a tomb now. After clearing out the first few, we meet a familiar face…

I can’t say I’m too surprised to see Jowan here. I had my suspicions when the townsfolk mentioned that a mage had been tending to the Arl. Also, I know I get blood magic here, and where else would it be appropriate to meet the only blood mage I know?

Anyway, Jowan’s seen better days. His story: Loghein discovered him and offered him a pardon if he poisoned the Arl. Jowan agreed, and succeeded, but was found out. He was imprisoned. However, before he was imprisoned, he had been teaching a young boy named Connor the ways of magic. Connor is, I think, the Arl’s grandson, or grand-nephew, or nephew. I wasn’t really ever clear on that. Point is, Connor might have opened a dimensional vortex, summoned a demon, and doomed Redcliffe. Dammit, Jowan, can’t you do anything right? He loses the girl he loves, poisons an Arl and doesn’t get pardoned (gets imprisoned), and teaches a boy magic only to have him summon a demon.

But, blast it, I need his help. If there’s a demon running around, Jowan might be able to help. I let him free and start exploring the castle.

Beside the many undead, I encountered these creatures: shades. They weren’t terribly powerful. But you know what is?

The Revenant. It’s an undead in full plate, carrying a sword, who knows magic. It really knows only one spell, but that’s all it needs: Pull. This spell’s range is awesome; it yanks all the party members to the Revenant and knocks them down. The Revenant likes to pick on my mage, who loses half his health from a single blow. Of course, any spells I cast are interrupted by the Revenant. This creature would be hard enough by himself, but he is supported by a group of skeletal archers and warriors, which make things much more challenging. I had to redo this fight about four times because I kept screwing up. Finally, I leveled my characters (I was holding off because I wanted to get blood magic, if I could, before gaining another level; it’ll have to wait for now) and used the ever-awesome Force Field on the Revenant to keep him from engaging the party. That made things much easier.

The only survivor was the blacksmith’s daughter. I calmed her down and told her to run out of the castle. She did, and I assume she made it to safety.

After I slew the revenant, I found a gate lever which let Ser Perth and his knights join the group. I wonder whether I could have hit that before the fight, and had an easier time against the revenant. Something to consider if I do another playthrough.

With Ser Perth, we enter the Grand Hall. Baan, his wife, and… I think Connor is their son, are all there. I wish I was doing vlogs already, because a screenshot can’t quite capture the mood. Baan is prancing about like a jester. His wife looks on in fright, while Connor claps and smiles.

So, yeah, Connor’s possessed by the demon. It’s not a complete possession; the demon seems to manifest itself through Connor’s personality, so it acts cruel, but childish. Connor also sometimes exerts control, coming back to the forefront for a moment. It’s kind of a creepy scene, seeing this kid with so much power; reminds me of that part of the Twilight Zone movie, with the kid who could reshape reality at his whim. If the kid was actually a demon.

I talked with Connor, but couldn’t persuade him to be reasonable. He compelled his dad to attack the party.

Baan is a push-over, even with a few soldiers backing him up. Once defeated, he comes to his senses; Connor has run off. What will the party do now?

Maybe blood magic is the answer. I knew I kept Jowan alive for a reason. Jowan can perform a ritual that puts a mage into the Fade: problem, it kills somebody to perform. Connor’s mother agrees to sacrifice herself, and I want to see what this looks like. I figure Alim is curious about blood magic, and also thinks confronting the demon in the Fade might be a more interesting and possibly more permanent solution… if more dangerous.

Jowan performs the ritual and Alim is pulled into the Fade once again. Things are a little different: last time, Alim was facing a demon as a trial, and was expected to be able to defeat it. This time, there are no rules to it.

First, I looked around and spotted the Black City. I hadn’t looked for it the first time I was here, but there it was, floating far away in the gloom. I hope to visit sometime. I bet there are many interesting things there.

The first big difference is the shades: there are a number of white luminous creatures walking around, and I couldn’t identify any of them. I wonder whether they are lost souls, illusions, or some bizarre demon. Also, I can hear Connor shouting for help.

After a brief run-in with the Arl, whom is trapped here, I encountered Connor.

But it’s not really Connor. No, it’s a demon, and it gives up the ruse quickly.

The demon doesn’t care to negotiate; just fight. I had to fight it several times before it would finally talk. None of the fights were difficult, even when it summoned help from rage demons. The game doesn’t specify what kind of demon this one is… lust, perhaps, a representation of power desired (also, lust is often associated with eroticism, and its outfit is revealing, to say the least).

After confronting it for the fourth time, I convinced the demon to stay and chat. We began negotiating, and I made things easy. Alim wants blood magic. In exchange, the demon gets to keep Connor’s body, but will not inhabit it until Alim’s quest is done.

I suspect this decision will haunt me in DA2. It’s a short-term gain, and Alim doesn’t care about the consequences, so long as he benefits. Everything works out for him, but the kingdom could be screwed over in a couple decades… still, not Alim’s problem, if he gets everything he wants, and the demon never interferes. Worst case scenario, he could always come back and deal with the problem again later. For now, he just gained access to some of the most powerful magic. With this power at his disposal, Alim will find destroying the darkspawn that much easier.

With the demon “defeated”, and the undead at rest, the town of Redcliffe goes into mourning. Things will improve now, and hopefully the Arl will awaken in time to be of help to the Grey Wardens.

There is just one small detail left to consider. Jowan’s secret is out: everybody knows what he has done, and his fate is uncertain. In the end, he helped, but he could still be executed. At Alim’s word, he could be released, or die.

What to do…? He is a fool; he took on blood magic because he just wanted things to be easier for him. He fell in love with a woman he could never have because that secret would tear them apart. He tried to make Alim an accomplice in breaking out of the Chantry, and could have gotten Alim killed in doing so. He doesn’t seem to think things through. He also has a streak of bad luck: siding with Loghein, doing his bidding and not being rewarded; in fact, being found out; teaching Connor magic, and thus indirectly causing a portal to the Fade to open, allowing a demon through to cause havok. But, he is well-intentioned: in the end, he came through – he stayed in the castle and performed the ritual that enabled Alim to enter the Fade and deal with the demon.

If I execute him, his fate is certain. He won’t be around to bother anybody ever again. No more concerns about him screwing up things, possibly working against me because he thinks someone will treat him fairly and give him something he desires (like love), and likely just betray him again.

If I let him live, he might prove a valuable asset. He’s a blood mage, and blood mages have a lot of power. He knows useful rituals, and is clearly able to accomplish them. He was able to defeat several templars single-handedly. Perhaps I could draw on his aid later.

What will I do…? Or rather, what will Alim do? Will he take a chance, hoping things go well, and Jowan works for him? Or will he end the potential threat here, but give up a potential ally?

I will sleep on the matter…

From Blood, Hope

I was very curious to know how my MC, Alim, survived. Last scene, the darkspawn broke into the tower and were overwhelming the party. Of course, his survival itself wasn’t a surprise; DA would be a terribly short game if the MC died so early, especially after doing things right.

Though, I can imagine a petty game designer at work: “You betrayed Jowan at the Circle? Now you die! Bwahahaha…”

Morrigan walks in and tells Alim what happened. Her mother, Flemeth (a name that bothers me; it’s like “phlem” with an “eth” on the end), rescued Alim and Alistair: she turned into a gigantic eagle and picked them up. I know, I’m surprised too. I wonder whether she was spying on the party, has foresight, or just had a hunch about their impending deaths.

I don’t remember much of this scene. Flemeth wants to see the Blight destroyed. She doesn’t explain why she rescued the party, instead of Cailan and Duncan, or I didn’t ask. I occasionally miss out on dialogue questions just because I assume my character doesn’t care to ask unless he thinks he can gain some advantage by it. Hm, I must have asked if it was available, because that is an important question. Mm, well, she doesn’t want to leave her woods, perhaps because she’s old, perhaps because she has some other reason. However, she does force Morrigan to leave with the party. It’s an awkward moment; Morrigan is clearly displeased to be with the party, but also wants to leave. She is a conflicted person, which explains her diffidence. Perhaps it stems from being adopted, or growing up under an incredibly ancient and powerful witch.

The party knows Loghein betrayed Cailan. They must put together their own army to ensure the Blight is destroyed. Fortunately, the party has the Grey Warden treaties. If the party visits these people and demands the treaties be enforced, then they must be. Furthermore, Arl Eamon, a friend of Cailan, could offer his aid, including many soldiers, and try to claim the throne. He could be a powerful ally for the Grey Wardens. Anything that gets Loghein out of power sounds good to me.

By the way, “Ser” and “Arl” are grating on me. I guess these could be Old English versions of the words “Sir” and “Earl”, but almost nothing else in the game uses Old English. Why here? And if it’s supposed to be a “fantasy” title, why make them so close to actual English titles? It’s nonsense.

Speaking of Loghein, let’s check in with him. Loghein is at Denerim (the capital of the kingdom?), where he is establishing his rule before the crowd. He mourns the loss of the king and speaks of national unity. He dismisses allegations about his cowardice. Things are going well for him so far, but I suspect Loghein has more enemies than friends; his daughter(?) seems upset, and at least one person in the crowd made a public accusation against him.

Tell me, how often does this happen to you? You’re walking down the road – shortly after a major battle, having been rescued by an ancient and powerful witch – when a massive warhound shows up…

…bows before you, lets you pet him, joins your party because you imprinted on him…

…and immediately slaughters a half dozen darkspawn?

Never? Huh, guess it’s just me, then. Right, anyway, I named him Deathrise.

We traveled to the Lothering, a small village that served as a stop-over to the rest of the kingdom. From here, we could set out wherever we pleased.

Bandits stopped us just before the village. Three of them, at least one of which was not particularly bright, and their leader thankfully wise enough to know when to back off. He asked for 10 silver. I told him I wouldn’t pay, and was a Grey Warden beside. He agreed to let me pass, so I coerced 10 more silver out of him. Pitiful, really.

And yes, I left them alive. What does Alim care about some highwaymen? If he doesn’t need to fight them, he can get on with his quest more readily.

Alim is an opportunist. This merchant is charging exorbitant prices from the villagers for goods they need. He offers Alim 100 silver to run them out, and the villagers offer Alim nothing. I ran off the villagers, and got a discount beside from the merchant. Rationale: Alim is selfish, and doesn’t really care about the villagers. Now, if the villagers were militiamen, he would have forced the merchant to give them supplies – after all, militiamen can fight, which helps Alim’s cause: defeating the Blight. Villagers, unless they have something to offer, are useless to him. Merchants, offering gold and discounts on valuable goods to aid his quest, are a boon.

I did the chantry board quests, too. But not out of a sense of altruism. Alim got paid to do those quests. In fact, I refused to do a quest for a couple villagers who pleaded, but offered nothing. I could have asked one quest giver whether the village needed any help, but I didn’t. I figure Alim wouldn’t care about the village, so he wouldn’t offer his aid.

A terribly selfish person, and yet he’s poised to save the Ferelden.

Alim rescues Sten. He seems powerful, and determined to destroy the Blight. A powerful ally.

Now, I wonder about his past. Why did he kill a family? He didn’t defend himself, and he has regrets for doing it. Perhaps he was consumed by a rage. Maybe he mistook them for somebody else. I doubt it was random. He isn’t a serial killer type – he comes across as honorable, albeit taciturn. I must learn more about him. I want to know his story. I bet it’s fascinating.

This is Bodahn and Sandal, father and son, merchant and enchanter. Bodahn’s business is a bit shady; he steals from the dead and abandoned homes, so he’s an opportunist. It got him into trouble with a dwarven noble house a while back, so now he wanders the surface, taking advantage of the emptied villages from the Blight. Sandal isn’t actually his son. He’s a boy that Bodahn pitied and took into his care. Sandal is an idiot-savant; he has the intelligence of a child, but excels at Enchanting. (Also, any time I look at him, I can imagine him saying “Enchantment!” It’s one of the few things he says) Bodahn seems to treat him well, not taking advantage of him, so Bodahn apparently has some warmth to his heart.

When I first encountered them, they were being attacked by darkspawn. The darkspawn had a blood mage in the party; at first, I just saw the title “blood mage”, and figured I could hob-nob with one, get a preview of the power I would get. No, he attacked me. Anyway, I saved the merchants, and got a hefty reward for it. Now they follow my camp. It’s great – I haven’t any items yet which I can enchant, but Bodahn’s wares are amazing. Too bad most of them are out of either my price or stat range.

I don’t know why this tree is here, or what’s special about it. I found one a bit later in the game too (I’m actually at Redcliffe, as of writing this). What’s their purpose?

At the inn, a couple soldiers approached the party. Loghein, that stupid evil man, has a reward out for the Grey Wardens; the party, in particular. So the man intends to fight the Blight without the Grey Wardens? Oh, his foolishness knows no bounds. I need to knock him from the throne ASAP.

Fortunately, this crazy lady is here to help us reduce tension. It doesn’t work, and we brawl.

The crazy woman’s name is Leliana. She’s a rogue who joined the Chantry, but had a vision that she believes means she needs to join the party. I think the Chantry is convinced she really is crazy, and didn’t really kick her out… but… yeah, kicked her out.

Leliana has this weird way of talking. I can’t identify her accent. I want to say she speaks French, but that’s not really it. She habitually drops off the start of her sentences. Also, she never gets very emotional. Sometimes, I wonder whether she really is crazy. Not my favorite party member, but I need a rogue, so she stays in my party.

The Blackstone Liaison represents a mercenary group. They are willing to help the Grey Wardens, but need some help of their own first. If I do some quests for them, they will lend their aid. Sounds like a good idea to me.

The Doomsayer really annoyed me. He stands around the area, screaming about how everybody’s going to die. I thought I was going to actually have to fight the crazy man, but it didn’t come to that. Would’ve been funny to see him try. More importantly, imagine if this hysteria reaches the bigger cities. I hadn’t thought of the psychological ramifications of the Blight’s presence. They’re demons and people don’t understand them very well. The Human lands haven’t dealt with them in ages. Once that thin layer of false protection evaporates, people might panic, and their armies become ineffectual. This is looking bad.

For permission to release Sten, I had to go to the Revered Mother. She was reluctant, so I lied to her to get the way I wanted things to go. Actually, I first intimidated her, and Alistair had to cover for me. I figured that wasn’t really classy, so I reloaded.

On the other hand, Alistair will have many problems with Alim. Alistair disapproves of Alim’s constant selfishness, and I won’t be surprised if his friendship level is constantly low. I don’t particularly care, unless it starts hurting me significantly. I might pull him out of my party.

Morrigan, however, loves Alim’s way of handling things. If anything, she usually thinks Alim doesn’t go far enough.

Also, the Revered Mother’s face is a little odd. I think she’s supposed to be an old woman, or at least late in her middle age, but she has features of a much younger woman. I think it was unintentional, but the designers made this bizarre disconnect where she simultaneously looks old and young; if they intended it, it’s impressive – she has one of those timeless faces.

After rescuing Sten, I wandered around a bit more and did some other quests. I fought some bandits, and a few refugees who were desperate for coin. There were some giant spiders, and a few chests which only my new rogue could open.

Once I was satisfied I accomplished everything I wanted here, I left, and it was time to pick my first branch.

I am going to Redcliffe first. For one, having the Arl on our side establishes a strong internal presence for the Grey Wardens. With the security of the nation’s most powerful forces alongside us, we can approach the outsiders with our treaties without a sense of division. Furthermore, the Arl can keep Loghein preoccupied, and perhaps cut off his ascension to power.

Also, blood magic. I want it, and at Redcliffe, I can get it.

Next time, see you at Redcliffe.

The End at Ostagar

WordPress is working again, which means I can once gain display the horrific scenes of carnage caused by the Darkspawn. Seen here, a traditional Darkspawn “decoration”. I’d find them a little less disturbing if they didn’t actually frame their spiked corpses with a centerpiece. It seems far too planned for these bestial creatures; it’s as if one said, “wait, put a human up on the wall, right about there… perfect”. A kind of dark intelligence that is more frightening than an army of monsters.

But monsters are plentiful here. Whatever rationality they might have sequestered in their minds, it is forgotten the moment the party attacks. The hideous Darkspawn were everywhere in the tower, but were thankfully weak. Yet I dreaded very staircase leading up. I wondered “is this it? Is this where the boss is? What will it be?” I saved at every doorway, a habit drilled into me by months of playing Infinity Engine games…

The creature waiting behind the final door was as horrific as I imagined.

The massive knots of blue muscle shift as the creature rises from its feast. The twisted snarl of its face lacks anything resembling humanity; even the most disgusting creatures I fought until now had an almost intelligent gleam in their eyes. The zombie white eyes here betray only base ferocity; the creature lives to kill. It is the Ogre.

If I didn’t have ice and heal spells, this battle could have been very hard. The ogre hits very hard with its fists, and can slam against the ground to knock down the party. Ice spells kept it frozen long enough for my other party members to whittle it down. Those spells also gave me enough of a breather to cast Heal on weakened party members. Once, the ogre broke free of the melee and chased my MC, Alim. I successfully played keep-away until my spells recharged, then I turned and froze him again.

Finally, the beast fell, and Alistair went into awesome mode.

As the ogre stands, dying, Alistair leaps onto it and stabs his sword into it. The creature topples and Alistair keeps it skewered until he is certain it is dead. One of the coolest moments yet in the game, and I hope every boss fight ends with something this impressive.

By the way, how did the ogre fit into the tower? He is far too large for even the entrance doors. I suppose he could have squeezed, but that seems unlikely, and a bit silly.

We moved to the signal torch and lit it. Everything was going according to plan, albeit with delays.

Loghein, however, doesn’t follow the plan. He immediately orders his reinforcements to retreat. They pull away from the battle, leaving Cailan and Duncan to fend for themselves, in what is now a death trap.

The battle continues and they put up an impressive fight. Duncan, especially, proves how impressive the Grey Wardens are in this desperate moment. However, the tide keeps coming. They were as good as dead the moment Loghein pulled back. There might never have been a victory, anyway, but whatever small chance was stripped away by this betrayal.

An ogre “sneaks up” on Cailan. Maybe he’s battle-weary, maybe he’s preoccupied with the endless hordes of the Darkspawn, or perhaps he isn’t as well-trained as he should be – the creature grabs him.

For a split-second, Cailan has that usual look of confidence on him. He’s in an ogre’s grip, but he can survive this.

Then the instant passes. The creature spits in Cailan’s face, and as the hope drains from him, the blood bursts through his rent flesh. The ogre crushes King Cailan in his grip, then tosses him aside.

The ogre howls in victory. It was a brutally disturbing death to watch. The king – so handsome, so confident, so regal – killed by something so base. Cailan never got to see Alim in battle; never got to fight a dragon like he wanted. He died a dirty death in a ruined fortress.

An enraged, but battle-wounded, Duncan charges the ogre. He leaps onto it, stabbing it through, like Alistair did to the one in the tower. The creature falls.

Exhausted, and apparently in despair, Duncan drops to his knees beside Cailan’s corpse. His death is not shown, but I imagine he finally fell before the oncoming hordes.

Unimpeded, facing a demoralized army without its two most powerful members, the hordes of the Darkspawn continue to tear through their ranks.

To my horror, they burst into the tower’s upper chambers and attack the party. The last thing I saw was Alim falling unconscious. The screen faded to white.

Obviously, Alim survives, but that’s for the next post to discuss.

The Battle of Ostagar is really a lesson for the player. This is the enemy: they are varied, twisted, numerous, and many are powerful. It’s easy to imagine that this is only the beginning of their armies; even more dangerous creatures await. If nothing else, the dragons must be more powerful than any foe I saw on this battlefield.

Could the battle have been won? I’ll never know, because Loghein quit the field and abandoned his king. Perhaps his troops could have turned the tide of battle. Or maybe the Ostagar forces would still have lost, if less poorly.

Yet they did lose, and this means the kingdom is in trouble. Their king is dead, and probably most of their best soldiers died with him. They lost an experienced Grey Warden, and a favorable battlefield was lost to the enemy. The Darkspawn will continue to march, and I am sure the kingdom will put up resistance, but without a king? I think they will have a very hard time surviving unless something can quickly turn the tide in their favor. Maybe an alliance with another kingdom, or perhaps some desperate gamble; I am certain that my character will play a large part in shaping how things go.

But why would my character help? Again, he doesn’t want to die. If the Darkspawn win, they will probably kill every human, elf, and dwarf they encounter. Alim can’t hope to flee; the Darkspawn will probably just show up elsewhere. If there is something he can do right now in order to turn the tide of battle, then he will do it. He will do it to ensure his own survival, and he will hope to be rewarded well for his acts.

But things are looking bad. The Darkspawn are a horrific enemy; not only did this scene emphasize their sheer strength, it showed their depravity. They apparently cannibalize their enemies, their very flesh poisons people, they skewer people like it’s some kind of art, and their death strikes are as savage as their appearance. This isn’t just some enemy army coming; there’s no misunderstandings between nations. These are evil creatures, and they are going to kill everyone on the continent if they are not stopped.

Did anyone else have the same reaction to the Darkspawn the first time you saw the actual army, and not just a few isolated bands in the woods? Or maybe you’ve seen more terrifying things in other games? How do the Darkspawn stack up, in your estimation?

To the Tower of Ishal

Mm, I keep wanting to call it the Tower of Ishtar. And now I’m having flashbacks to the creepy final boss of the first Breath of Fire. So… many… mouths…

By the way, some small news: Yesterday, the blog had 169 visitors; a new daily record. Cool. Glad to have so many readers, old and new, reading. Now, back to the blog itself.

This post will be a little short. I was going to update in the middle of the day, but WordPress is having trouble uploading files. Hopefully, the problem will be fixed sometime today; for now, I will post what I already have prepared.

The party needs to light the signal torch as soon as possible. Seen here, the party is racing across the battlements while the battle rages below. Archers rain fiery arrows on the Darkspawn, but there are too few of them to make a huge difference. I can’t help thinking this would seem more exciting if my MC, Alim, wasn’t wearing that silly hat. Please, somebody tell me that not all mage hats look like that.

This is Alim being struck by concussive force. The battlements explode as the enemy hurls rocks at it. Weird thing: I don’t recall seeing any catapults. I guess they could be magic orbs, but I doubt it. Still, imagine a mage trained specifically for war; not for personal combat – for throwing gigantic fireballs across miles, for invigorating an entire regiment of troops. A frightening thought.

“What ho, comrades, stay! You look to be fine meat shields. Would you care to join me and possibly die at a convenient plot point?”

“Would we!”

The tower guards explain that the Darkspawn have somehow infiltrated the tower. I don’t know how the Ostagar forces completely missed this part of the invasion, but now things are going to be harder. The two tower guards join Alim and Alistair.

I’m not sure what I like so much about the tower’s architecture. It feels creepy despite being so normal; it’s just a big rectangle with windows, but it reminds me of a haunted house.

The Darkspawn were everywhere around the tower. I’m learning that fighting one group of enemies doesn’t mean the end to the battle; often, there is another group of enemies nearby, and my party refuses to stop, or the enemy comes rushing toward the group.