Dragon Age: Origins: Part 1

For a bit of a change on the computer game front I thought I’d play through Dragon Age: Origins again, what with a new one coming out and also the fact that a woman cannot live on Neverwinter Nights alone.

Oh look a collage. Better throw some cleavage in there to sell the game!

Oh look a collage. Better throw some cleavage in there to sell the game!

Something that really motivated me was that I never played the game with a wizard. Oh okay, “mage” because “wizard” is such a cliché. This is certainly not a game that leaves you suffering choice paralysis at character creation. You get a choice of rogue (thief but socially acceptable), warrior (snore), or mage. Then you pick a couple of things from the short lists of skills and powers and get dropped into the action.

According to Wikipedia “BioWare describes Dragon Age: Origins as a ‘dark heroic fantasy set in a unique world,'” – this obviously means unique in the sense that it’s got it’s own place names, and dark in that some women get raped. Or implied to be raped because only implying it helps deflect criticism. Let me tell you: There’s nothing else in here that can be called “dark” to a Fighting Fantasy reader. Demons, human sacrifice, blood everywhere, you name it, we’ve seen it all before. Or in many cases, done it.

Why is it called Dragon Age: Origins and not Dragon Age: Big Fight With Darkspawn? Because there’s multiple character backgrounds with their own intro to the story. Well… There’s two for dwarves (who can’t be mages in this “unique fantasy world”) and two for non-wizard elves. All mages get the same story, and humans who are a rogue or warrior get the same one. So it’s Dragon Age: Some Origins.

But I can’t really complain. Other than the persistent belief that gritty and dark fantasy has to involve misogyny, it’s a good game and a lot of fun. Or at least it was when I played it with a thief. Er, rogue. It should be even more fun when I can be a wizard, right? Oh stop looking at me like that. Wizard, mage, what’s the difference?

Onward to Adventure!

I’m a wizard, which means I am at risk of being possessed by a demon, turning into a monster, and being hunted down and killed by the Templars. On the other hand, I’m an elf, so therefore being locked in a tower which has actual beds and proper food is preferable to being a slave in all but name. So I live in the Circle of Magi which is part guild, part prison, part school, and part home. It’s in the middle of a lake, because of course no wizard can swim or row a boat. Templars are not very clever people.

This tower is sodding enormous!

This tower is sodding enormous!

I’m also about to graduate from Apprentice Mage to Actual Mage and thus I have to do something called a “harrowing” which is probably not a euphemism. I’m woken up in the middle of the night and taken up to the top of the tower, where the head of the Circle, Irving, and Head Dick to Mages, Greagoir, are waiting.

Even bigger on the inside. Like some kind of thing that's bigger on the inside than the outside. Um.

Even bigger on the inside. Like some kind of thing that’s bigger on the inside than the outside. Um.

Greagoir rattles off some tired old anti-mage Chantry propaganda and then tells me I have to drink some lyrium.

You want me to WHAT?

You want me to WHAT?

I don’t really have a choice – it’s this or lobotomy – and so I drink down some of this glowing blue liquid. It’s probably Orlaisian drain cleaner and this is all some kind of joke.

Uhhhhh... okay...

Uhhhhh… okay…

Naturally I’m surprised to see the fade, despite seeing it every night anyway due to my consciousness residing there when I dream being one of the side effects of being a wizard. I wander off, and meet a floating ball of light. Which tries to electrocute me. I shoot it with magic, because my magic works here. I’m loaded up with the ability to drain life out of people and turn them into blood-splattering bombs, which is apparently okay with the Templars, which goes to show that rebelling against authority is harder than I expected. Then I meet a talking mouse.

No prize for guessing where this is going...

No prize for guessing where this is going…

He’s apparently a failed wizard who had his head lopped off by the Templars for being crap at harrowings, and somehow has survived all this time pretending to be a mouse. I don’t believe this, but all he wants is to tag along and be useless, so I figure that’s okay for now. I wander further into the fade, bypassing a burning area which is probably bad news, and then get a nice view of the Black City.

God damn it, Tevinter Imperium!

God damn it, Tevinter Imperium!

Let’s just say that a certain empire did something really stupid and leave it at that. I also meet a benign fade spirit called Valour. It’s not well documented that there’s nice spirits here. All we hear about are the big five types of demon and all the minor evil things. I ask Valour for one of his imaginary weapons and he offers to duel me for it. So he’s not a nice spirit, he’s more a lawful neutral spirit (if I knew what “lawful neutral” even meant). I wander on, killing spirit wolves and then find a devil bear. Which is really a Sloth demon.

Too damn lazy to have their own form, apparently. Yeah, the demon is the lazy one. Suuuuure.

Too damn lazy to have their own form, apparently. Yeah, the demon is the lazy one. Suuuuure.

Mr. McLazydemon wants to get on with his nap, but I persuade him to teach Mouse how to take on bear form. I have to answer some fairly easy riddles, and then we head off to meet the demon I have to face in the fade.

These guys are so angry they don't have the patience to think up thesaurus-based names.

These guys are so angry they don’t have the patience to think up thesaurus-based names.

Demons of rage are essentially things in the form of living lava blobs. Thankfully they’re usually too stupid to use fire magic. So I blow it up. Not a problem. Then “mouse” turns out to be a demon. What a big surprise. So surprised. Didn’t see it coming. Never in a million years. Nope.

Since I didn’t get suckered I’m allowed back into the real world. I wake up back in the dorms with a really bad headache and creepy Jowan standing nearby. Jowan persistently assumes we’re friends, seriously cramping my style when it comes to picking up cute mage chicks.

No I will not relax, you insufferably creepy arsehole! Go away!

No I will not relax, you insufferably creepy arsehole! Go away!

He then pesters me about the harrowing, which I’m not allowed to tell him about in case apprentice mages go into the fade and are all “dude you’re a demon, this totally isn’t gonna fool me” – you know, that’s probably so the Templars have more people to execute. While that’s a bit immoral, there’s more chance of annoying git Jowan being executed if he doesn’t know. So tough shit, not telling. That’s what he gets for wrecking my game. Jowan tells me the head enchanter wants to see me, so I tell him to piss off and then head away. Oh hey some of the women are talking about me and my harrowing…

"Hey, I'd be happy to tell you both all about it, just come and sit with me on my bunk... hey, I'm right here. Hello!" - See what I mean about Jowan ruining my chances with the ladies?

“Hey, I’d be happy to tell you both all about it, just come and sit with me on my bunk… hey, I’m right here. Hello!” – See what I mean about Jowan ruining my chances with the ladies?

So off I go. I promptly get lost and find some giant doors. I ask what is behind them. Like this:

“So hey, what’s through the doors?”

I bet everyone asks what's through the door.

I bet everyone asks what’s through the door.

It turns out they’re the big doors I came through when I was brought here. Hey, if we never get outside in the sun, why don’t we all have rickets? Anyway, I travel up the tower. Past the comically bad wizarding lessons, to the library. Where I greet another elven mage with the utterly stupid line “I just wanted to greet another of my kind”. As he talks I wonder if I left part of my brain on the harrowing chamber floor. Who even talks like that? Oh, wait, he’s asking me where I’m from…

No, this does nothing, it's utterly pointless.

No, this does nothing, it’s utterly pointless.

I then wander on. I’ll give the circle of magi this: They sure know how to stock a library. Further ahead I meet some wizards arguing about the various philosophical factions and their views on magic. Niall, for example, is an isolationist who thinks mages should just all stop arguing and not have strong opinions about anything. I bet that won’t have any ironic consequences for him later.

This guy? Totally dead.

This guy? Totally dead.

Other people I know of in the tower are Cullen the Creep…

Totally creepy that a prison guard, who is allowed to kill the prisoners, has the hots for a prisoner. Thanks, Bioware.

Totally creepy that a prison guard, who is allowed to kill the prisoners, has the hots for a prisoner. Thanks, Bioware.

…and Whatshername, the mage who is worried she’s inherently evil and has turne to the religion that says she’s evil to get solace.

Who says fantasy RPGs can't have real world commentary?

Who says fantasy RPGs can’t have real world commentary?

This place is totally fucked up.

Finally I find Irving, who is arguing with Greagoir, Head Dick to Mages, about something. I interrupt their little spat, which they’re having in front of some visitor. Who needs malefacarum to make us look bad to the general population? We have those two old prats. I am given my Magic Staff of Being a Real Mage Now and Ring of +1 Against Nothing and then introduced to the visitor, Duncan, who is a bit surprised by the whole vial of blood thing.

Duncan seems a little unimpressed by the Chantry's messed up scheming.

Duncan seems a little unimpressed by the Chantry’s messed up scheming.

He’s one of the legendary Grey Wardens. They’re so legendary I have to ask all about them. It’s okay though, because my first duty as an official circle mage is to show the visitor to his room. Jerkass head enchanter. So I get the rundown on everything, including the darkspawn, which are also the number one cautionary tale about magic being bad, yet somehow I missed that in Magic 101: Introduction to Why You’re a Vile Blasphemy on the World.

After that little interlude Jowan pesters me some more. This time he’s got a girlfriend, who turns out to be a Chantry sister. They want to elope. Jowan wants his phylactery smashed so he can’t be tracked down. I figure that if I help them Jowan will be gone and no longer around to cramp my style, so I go along with it. First off, convincing the senior enchanter in charge of the storeroom that I’m an all right kind of woman. By killing spiders.

I always assume they're poisonous! Because they always are! It's a bit redundant!

I always assume they’re poisonous! Because they always are! It’s a bit redundant!

I should probably tell someone about this. I hope it's no-one I cared about.

I should probably tell someone about this. I hope it’s no-one I cared about.

I walk out of the storage cave – the storage cave on the second floor of a bloody tower – wondering what spiders do with all the money they carry. Is there a shop somewhere? Arachne’s Spider Stuff Emporium? Anyway, now I’m finished I ask Owain for a rod of fire. He wants to know why I need it…

It's like this in real life too. "I need this funding for my research into burning things" "But you're a computer scientist!" "...and?"

It’s like this in real life too. “I need this funding for my research into burning things” “But you’re a computer scientist!” “…and?”

And then gives me some forms to get signed by a senior enchanter. Happily one is entebted to me for killing some spiders. Rod of fire secured, it’s off to rob the circle treasure vault! Er, I mean, off to find Jowan’s phylactery so he’ll get the hell out of here! The first step is to try and open the third set of ominous doors I’ve been standing around in front of today. Lily just insults me first.

I'll curse you, wench! I'll curse you so hard!

I’ll curse you, wench! I’ll curse you so hard!

Naturally the door is magicproof. So now we have to go the long way around.

Well at least in this game the animated armour isn't immune to mind spells.

Well at least in this game the animated armour isn’t immune to mind spells.

What in the hell?!?! I should have just killed Jowan instead of this convoluted plan full of horror lizards!

What in the hell?!?! I should have just killed Jowan instead of this convoluted plan full of horror lizards!

After going through all that crap we find the secret store room which contains eerie objects with no real explanation of what they are. They should be labelled or something. There is a talking statue, though.

I wonder if I could take it's head off and carry it around as a talking PDA?

I wonder if I could take it’s head off and carry it around as a talking PDA?

“Hi there, talking statue,” I say. “What are you up to?”

“Just standing around.”

“Been up to anything interesting lately?” I say, while taking a step to the side.

“Just standing around…”

“Got any plans for the weekend?” I ask, stepping back.

“Just. Standing. Around.”

“You should get out more,” I suggest, taking another step.

The statue starts swearing a lot while I double up in laughter. Unfortunately the devout and slightly boring Chantry sister doesn’t want me to mess with the statue any more. I silently resolve to release some pigeons in here at the first opportunity. Nagged by the ever annoying Jowan I blast a hole in the wall and we go into the cold store where the vials are kept. Jowan finds his and smashes it.

Smashing things is always the answer in games.

Smashing things is always the answer in games.

Right, that’s done, now I can just shove Jowan and his girlfriend out the door when no-one is looking. Actually I should have shoved them out the window earlier, but I suppose the problem with that is there are no windows. Anyway, off to the front do-

YOU IN TROUBLE NOW, KIDS!

YOU IN TROUBLE NOW, KIDS!

So somehow Irving knew what was going down (hint: MAGIC), and he told Gregoir, Head Dick to Mages, and now we’re all in trouble. But they’re accusing Jowan of being a blood mage? This seems a bit…

Don't stab yourself, idiot! Stab them!

Don’t stab yourself, idiot! Stab them!

HOLY FUCKING SHIT!

HOLY FUCKING SHIT!

Jowan then proceeds to explain how he’s totally not addicted to blood magic:

Hahahahaha, SURE. More like he's going to keep her on hand for a sacrifice.

Hahahahaha, SURE. More like he’s going to keep her on hand for a sacrifice.

…and then he runs away while everyone is dazed. You know, I should have just beaten him to death with a footstool ages ago. What a colossal wanker. His girlfriend is, of course, blamed for all this because she’s a woman and therefore the Chantry thinks she’s even more of an accursed blight on the earth than mages. She’s going to be sent off to the scary drive-you-crazy prison for mages. Greagoir, Head Dick to Mages, is a bit pissed because of the broken phylactery.

“How will we track him now?”

“Geee I dunno, there’s all this fucking BLOOD everywhere!”

I am feeling kind of pleased overall, since now Jowan is gone I’ll be able to chat up the hot mage chicks without interfering whiny prats pestering me. Yes, it’s going to be great now here in the… wait, they want to send me off to be a Grey Warden? Hey, wait, I finally got rid of Jowan and now I have to LEAVE? What the hell?!

To be continued…

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