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 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.
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 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.
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
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…
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.
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.
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.