Getting it right, eventually

Notes on Dragon Age: Origins #12 — On power marriages

If not played carefully, Dragon Age: Origins is a rabbit hole. I’ve done my best to make choices and stick with them — not always easy given that I’ve spent enough time with the Mass Effect games to know what in those games are the most desirable outcomes (to me) and how to play to obtain them. It’s tempting to try to play Dragon Age in the same fashion — planning ahead and gaming my choices — but I’ve tried to keep my research in the redoubtable Dragon Age Wiki to an after-the-fact pursuit and use it as a resource for explanation rather than preparation.

Not that there’s anything wrong with digging ahead in the wiki! I am a frequent, unapologetic user of strategy guides, or was, until wikis replaced them. (And what a fantastic thing to have happened! Strategy guides were mostly fine, but sometimes terrible, and it’s always sad to have paid $15 for something terrible.) But at least for me there’s a difference between figuring out a strategy to survive a boss battle (cheat away!) and getting ahead of myself in the story. I’m not terribly concerned about spoilers in a six year old game, but at least in my first playthrough I’ll take responsibility for my own choices.

In preparing for the Landsmeet with the Arl of Redcliffe, juggling the competing agendas of the Arl and the dead king’s widow, Anora, as well as Alistair’s obvious lack of comfort with the idea of putting himself forward as his half-brother’s successor, I stumbled on the apparent option of convincing Alistair and Anora to combine their claims and marry each other.

This struck me as both the classic BioWare threading the needle option, as well as a move with substantial historical precedent. I’m not a huge fan of Henry VII, and, for all I know, neither was Elizabeth of York (Edward IV’s daughter and sister to the late or soon-to-be-late princes in the Tower), but there’s a reason that after Richard III’s death, whatever everyone’s opinions of each other were, putting and end to the Wars of the Roses was important enough to get everyone to agree that the Lancaster Henry marrying Elizabeth was the last, best available choice.

In short, I was on team Alinora something fierce. Besides, I didn’t entirely trust Anora, and Alistair keep sending signals that he just wasn’t up to the job. (A healthy, noble lack of ambition is one thing, or even trepidation at so great a responsibility, but everything Alistair does screams “panic.”)

So I went to the Landsmeet, got the nobles on my side, and defeated Loghain in single combat. And then I made the mistake of letting Alistair execute Loghain, which, as I probably should have anticipated, nixed the whole marriage prospect on Anora’s side.

And then when I placed Alistair on the throne, he named Arl Eamon as his regent and chewed me out for not respecting his wishes. I’d spent so much time trying to convince everyone that the Arl wasn’t just trying to crown a weak king in order to be the power behind the throne, and here was Alistair all but abdicating. And I was just a bit pissed at his “what about MY wishes/will you still be my friend?” routine.

So I reloaded and tried again. Instead of allowing Alistair to execute Loghain, I put him forward as my champion to fight Loghain. Only to find that when Alistair defeats Loghain, he doesn’t wait for me to decide whether he should live or die, and the marriage was off again.

So screw it. I went back and let Loghain live, which meant that Alistair backed out of the wedding and I still had to choose. (UGH.)

On the fourth try, I fought Loghain and executed him, which didn’t make Anora happy, but apparently going along with the machinations of the person who killed her father wasn’t as absolutely objectionable as marrying the person who killed her father. (It seems so much more reasonable when I type it out like that, but I’m still not sure that I’d be able to make the distinction.)

And I’m thoroughly sick of the Landsmeet. Politics, amirite?

Originally published 5/18/15 on Medium