Tuesday, February 15, 2011

DA:O - Through the Ominous Door

Well that can't be good.
The last bit from Orzammar shall be divided into a few parts due to length issues - The Dead Trenches, The Anvil of the Void, and the Coronation.  This is part the first and it's very image heavy simply because I ended up with a number of awesome screen caps of Perra's team fighting and couldn't pick between them all.  Consider it my way of illustrating just how much fighting goes on.  To Bioware's credit they kept the enemies and surroundings in this section constantly changing. In doing so they forced me to actually evaluate the scene, and then strategize my way through the level.  I always do that on some level I suppose, but often you can run in hack 'n slash style and still come out on top.  Throw in a couple of high level baddies this time around though and you've got yourself a fightin' good time. 

While the beginning of  this post is largely images, the later part contains some major spoilers so continue reading at your own risk.  If you have not played DA:O before I would also warn you that the following post contains potentially disturbing content.

A Bad Feeling - Throughout the course of her Grey Warden duties, Perra has fought monsters of all origins.  Excepting Ostagar, however, all of those encounters have been minor ambushes or a sequence of smaller battles.  Nothing, not even growing up in Orzammar, prepared her for the Dead Trenches.  It is one thing to hear about Darkspawn in the Deep Roads or know that you are fighting a nebulous "Blight."  It is another to witness the shear magnitude of your adversaries and know deep down that what you have seen was only a fraction of the horde you must eventually face.  See that sea of red dots?  Those are thousands upon hundreds of thousands of darkspawn led by the Arch Demon itself.  That's right, for the first time Perra witnessed the leader of all darkspawn in person.  If she had a choice, and knew that the world would not end, then she might have been tempted to drop everything and head back to the surface.  What chance do two Grey Wardens, allies with seriously depleted troops, and a handful of fighting companions stand against a massive force of that size with pure evil on their side?  She can't afford to stand around contemplating it though, because the more she thinks about it the more her resolve is shaken.  No one guaranteed that this war would end in victory, but with the fate of the world weighing on her shoulders she doesn't have any choice but to trudge onward.  When she was first made warden, Perra asked Alistair what would happen if they simply left the world to fend for itself.  After personally dealing with this evil for months now Perra can't think about running anymore.  She and Alistair may not have the training of most wardens, but she and her lover have proven themselves to be stalwart fighters while in the midst of a blight.  That has to count for something ...right?

Let the Fighting Begin - It was as if Dead Trenches sensed her internal struggles and chose to take advantage of them.  The moment Perra broke away from the sea of horror before her, she and her companions faced an onslaught of darkspawn and shrieks.  Rica had warned Perra that mental or emotional distraction in the Deep Roads could easily lead to her death.  Finally taking her sister's warning to heart she pushed all concerns to the side and began a fight for her life.  There would be plenty of time to worry later.  Right now she had a paragon to find, a king to throne, allies to gain, and a Blight to end. 

The Living Dead - Thankfully for the moment, Perra & Friends were not alone.  Guarding the Dead Trenches' exit was the Legion of the Dead.  An order of fighters from all castes, these warriors celebrated their funerals while alive and then descended into the deep to protect Orzammar by holding the darkspawn at bay.  When asked about their calling, Kardol seems to be well aware of Perra's former occupation.  Apparently residing in the Deep Roads does not mean one is completely cut off.  the other option, of course is that he knows that most casteless are in someway tied to the Carta.  "We accept anyone, and are revered in advance as heroes who have and will dies in glorious battle," he tells her, " ... even murders."  He seems rather clear on one point.  Perra may be fighting the darkspawn now, but he's been fighting them much longer.  The number of people he's seen die while forestalling the darkspawn's spread, and the sheer numbers he fights off day after day himself, places things back into perspective.  When the Blight is finished, should she survive, Perra will hopefully experience a reprieve and be able to retreat from it all.  Kardol on the other hand will fight them daily for the rest of his life and will most assuredly meet his end by their hand.  Who is Perra to even think about complaining about her responsibilities or circumstances?  She has no right.

Whose idea was it to give these monsters access to magic?
Spiders. Why must it always be spiders?
The deceptively empty bridge just had to be a trap.
Fighting to the End - Bolstered by new resolve, Perra & Friends proceed through a series of tunnels, caverns, catacombs, and antechambers.  Her resolve is much needed, because every step they take is hard won.  So constant are the attacks, that once our merry men reach a series of hallways that are ambush-free they know something big is about to go down.  Never in a million years could they have guessed what "something big" might be.  If they needed a clue though, the mysterious chanting that had dogged their steps for the past minutes might have helped them along.

First day, they come and catch everyone. 

Second day, they beat us and eat some for meat. 
Third day, the men are all gnawed on again. 
Fourth day, we wait and fear for our fate. 
Fifth day, they return and it's another girl's turn. 
Sixth day, her screams we hear in our dreams. 
Seventh day, she grew as in her mouth they spew. 
Eighth day, we hated as she is violated. 
Ninth day, she grins and devours her kin. 
Now she does feast, as she's become the beast. 
Oh no, this certainly cannot be good.

The Broken Lover -  After hallways filled with fleshy sacks, a sure sign of darkspawn and demon corruption, Perra discovers a lone, ill woman among the carnage.  It is she, Hespith, who is responsible for the eerie chanting.  Speaking in obscure phrases, she seems to believe that Perra et.al. are creatures from a dream come to haunt her.  Perra is able to gather that the clearly tainted Hespith entered the Deep Roads as Branka's lover. (Because Perra is not a jerk, she chooses not to rub this in Oghren's face.)  Branka had forced her lover and at least one other female dwarf, Laryn, to watch their male friends and family die.  Moreover, they were likely forced to eat them. (There is a dwarf corpse skewered like a roasted pig in the background).  Hespith is crippled by guilt for letting something (it is unclear what) happen to Laryn.  She had hoped her friend would go first so that she would be spared.  Branka, however, had made her lover watch Layrn's "change." 
"I had to watch," she says, "I had to see the change.  How do you endure that?  How did Branka endure?"
 "What change?"  Perra inquires, for something seriously wrong is clearly afoot, "What are they doing?" 
"Her lover, and I could not turn her. Forgive her ..." Hespith desperately continues as if trying to impart something very important.  She is barely containing her rage, "...but no, she cannot be forgiven.  Not for what she did.  Not for what she has become."
Further inquiry proves futile and Hespith flees the scene, leaving Perra et.al. both confused and incredibly disturbed.  What kind of person has this paragon become?  Did Perra's team even want to continue with their search?  Do they have a choice?  Full of dread, our team proceeds with minimal opposition to an Ominous Door.  All the while Hespith's voice accompanies them. 
She became obsessed, that is the word but it is not strong enough. Blessed Stone, there was nothing left in her but the Anvil. We tried to escape, but they found us. They took us all, turned us. The men, they kill... they're merciful. But the women, they want. They want to touch, to mold, to change until you are filled with them. They took Laryn. They made her eat the others, our friends. She tore off her husband's face and drank his blood. And while she ate, she grew. She swelled and turned gray and she smelled like them. They remade her in their image. Then she made more of them. Broodmother... 
An Ominous Door indeed.

The Lover's Friend - Even Hespith's word could not prepare Perra for what she was about to confront ... a Broodmother.  Unlike other demons she's faced, this was not just any creature.  This broodmother was the incarnation of a fellow dwarf corrupted and twisted beyond all recognition - Laryn.  This is what Hespith is well on her way to becoming.  What could Branka possibly want so badly that she is willing to transform her friends and family into such abominations?  More importantly, with all the darkspawn already in the Deep Roads what has pushed Branka so far that she has begun to create her own?  

Bhelen may feel that this paragon is necessary for settling the kingship dispute, but at this point Perra is certain that it would be wiser to simply turn around and leave.  With the paragon actually creating darkspawn though, Branka has made this quest personal.  The Grey Warden in Perra calls for this madness to be brought to an end.  Duty aside, questions still remain.  If she kills Branka, what would that mean for the dwarven crown? Does this mean that Perra will be forced to forgo assistance from dwarven allies in the final battle against the Blight?

Deciding about the Paragon - After ending Laryn's torment and sending soul to the stone (does she still have a soul after the transformation?), Perra comes face to face with Hespith once more.  Branka's companion comes armed with one final warning and one last lament before disappearing for forever.
That's where they come from. That's why they hate us... that's why they need us. That's why they take us.... that's why they feed us. But the true abomination... is not that it occurred, but that it was allowed. Branka... my love... The Stone has punished me, dream friend. I am dying of something worse than death. Betrayal.
Where she goes Perra knows not.  What Perra does know though is that she can in no way bring Branka back to Orzammar.  The paragon's reign of terror must come to an end.  Our hero does not know what this will mean for her battle with the arch demon, but that is not the issue.  She can in no way justify letting her quarry loose in the name of th Blight. Her conscience and her dwarven heritage cannot condone it.

Coming Next -  The confrontation with Branka.

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