Labels: commentary , DA3:I , Dragon Age , Inquisition , Review , RPG
For those of you who think Inquisition is all Disney princesses (though none of them would sit like Josie does at her desk, I’m telling you) and fluffy fennecs, I’ve compiled a list of forty things I would qualify as dark and/or creepy. The list is in no particular order, just how they came to mind.
- Tevinters making the ocularum out of the skills of the Tranquil, with the explanation in that locked hut in sleepy Redcliffe
- The Hunter’s note about mages and Templars behaving badly, with its desperation, murder, and implied rape
- Dead bodies in poses of torment freakin’ everywhere, most particularly at the Temple of Sacred Ashes half-melted into the ground
- Grey Warden’s slitting each other’s throats, especially the volunteer at Adamant
- Dead kids, especially the blood-soaked teddy bear that pops into your inventory
- Pits filled with dead bodies Venatori used for rituals that you have to burn to lay the dead to rest
- The stalker guy and the woman that lures him out and kills him for it
- The guy who brought his girlfriend up a mountain to propose, where they froze to death when someone flash-froze Emrise du Lion
- The people caged in the quarry so the Red Templars can grow blighted lyrium in their bodies
- Similarly, corpses you find with the red lyrium growing between the bones--indeed the entire future Redcliffe where your companions are infected and Briala is half imprisoned, still alive, in red spikes
- The mages that lock themselves in a hut for protection which the Templars proceed to burn down around them
- The guy half-eaten by a giant fish
- The elven ruin with the dismembered high priest whose pieces you gather for a ritual (and the dead guys who had been there before you)
- Desecrating the elves’ graves for loot and then finding out the Keeper saw you.
- Literally being judge, jury, and executioner
- The chateau where they locked up their mage daughter and she gets possessed (and, naturally, everyone dies)
- The refugees story where the daughter loses her memory and goes nuts
- The dead of Crestwood rising to kill their former friends and family (and the fact that the mayor sealed them in and killed them) and the atmospheric cavern below
- The plague and masses of undead rising out of Fallow Mire
- Sacrificing a temporary companion to the Demon of Nightmares to save your own hide
- Leliana’s personal quest and her going full Princess Stabbity afterward
- Letting Celene be assassinated while you stand by, whistling innocently
- The demon commander thing in multiplayer: seriously, that thing creeps me out like mad. It shows up in the game, too, but that last fight against demon in DAMP is freaky at night.
- The abandoned Warden stronghold under Emprise du Lion (and the dead guy there who scoffs at being sent to do his job since he only wanted to get out of his death sentence, not actually be a Warden)
- NPCs that die in front of your eyes if you don’t save them from burning to death/exploding in Haven
- The Grey Wardens hunting Alistair/Loghain/Stroud so he can be killed for his opposition to Clarel’s plan (quite possibly used as a sacrifice for summoning demons)
- The woman you save who, if you send to the Wardens as she wishes, ends up as a blood sacrifice
- The locked room under that house on the Storm Coast
- Leliana slitting the throat of one of her scouts practically the first time you talk to her
- The Dalish clan dying if you make the wrong choice on the war table
- Similarly, the Grey Wardens getting slaughtered if you make the wrong choices in their missions on the war table
- Cole’s descriptions of people dying and helping them along their way to death
- The woman who sells the people we save at the quarry to get food for the rest of the village
- The Templars and the mages being betrayed by their leaders and to one degree or another sold into slavery in all but name
- Cassandra’s personal quest—the Seekers lured to their deaths by the man who should have been leading them to stop the mage/Templar war
- Cullen dealing with addition (and the possibility of forcing him to continue taking lyrium)
- Dorian’s personal quest in which we find out his father tried to give him a blood magic lobotomy so he’ll stop rebelling and marry some woman he hates
- People being killed in the Winter Palace and the only reaction you get is nobles deriding the killer for being messy enough to leave blood on the marble (plus a bonus rape implication from a couple of guards)
- As a mage you can make another mage Tranquil, not because he’s dangerous (he’s clearly inept) but as a punishment and a warning. This qualifies as dark to me because, as a mage, you know full well to what you’re sentencing him. The other classes don’t have the sort of inside knowledge your mage does.
- Blackmailing the leader of Orlais into supporting you
Now, this list includes a number of things (as in most of them) that can be missed or skipped entirely. I’ve read many an argument that the game doesn’t contain enough content but for me these things are part of the game. The notes explaining what happened were enough to engage me. If I delve into the Thedas BioWare has created it should reward me with more detail than if I skim through the game along the shortest route possible.
The war table exists to feed me lore and develop the characters of my advisors. It brings life to some of the people around Skyhold and lets me roleplay my Inquisitor more deeply. That mechanic accents the destruction you find across southern Thedas. If you choose not to read the missions or the proposed solutions before choosing who to send, if you don’t bother to read the results you’re wasting the potential for immersion.
Similarly, if you don’t pick up notes or books laying around the countryside or explore to find things hidden on ridges and in caves, if you never listen to ambient chatter, you lose the flavor of the people your Inquisition exists to save. I’ve read a hundred posts insisting that BioWare “show, not tell” but how better to show what’s happening all across the countryside than by scattering the indications across a wide variety of places and people?
In many situations, Inquisition presents you with a choice that may be viewed a number of ways, depending how you roleplay your character. When you’re snotty with Erimond, for instance, you can choose whether the Inquisitor is outraged by his actions, angry about the wasted resources, or just impatient with his being an incompetent fool. To me, that’s what roleplaying means—taking the given scene and deciding my own motivations and reaction. Sure, I can’t change my tone of voice but the reason for it depends on my interpretation.
I’ve wandered from my point, as I so often do. The third installment isn’t in-your-face doom and gloom because you’re not there at the beginning of the downward spiral. Dragon Age: Inquisition gives you a world at war on a few different levels. The Inquisitor and his or her organization come to stop the chaos and death, which BioWare shows you in every location.
In other words, dark, nasty things happen all over Southern Thedas. You just have to be willing to look around that world and listen to the people in it.