Monday, March 14, 2011

DA:O - Making Decisions

Yup.  This sure looks like a hospice to me.
With the Landsmeet almost upon us, Perra's tale is gradually coming to an end ... for now (I'll come back and play Awakening after a bit).  You know something I've noticed about about Dragon Age: Origins now that I'm nearing the end of my third full playthough,  is that this game revolves a great deal around the idea of life's value.  I appreciate that this game takes at least partial advantage of its "Mature" rating to provide something besides the usual blood and sex developers feel so obligated to dispense.  Dragon Age really wrestles at times with the issue of morality and asks you to draw the line between what your character is willing to do for their cause, and what they simply won't do at all.  Sure it's easy to be a "good" guy or a "bad" guy, but this game wants you to think about the lengths you will go to in order to reach your goals.  Do you kill the enemy?  Do you let them get away and leave them to wreck havoc another day?  Do you take advantage of offers that will solve your problems and save you from having to fight?  Can you justify taking your enemy's life when they are the tool of destruction, but not the cause of it?  This observation does not necessarily have a great deal to do with today's entry, but I figured that it was certainly worth mentioning.   

This goes without saying, but here there be spoilers.
Continue reading at your own risk.

Escaping - After Ser Cauthrien's triumph over them at the Arl of Denerim's estate, Perra and Alistair find themselves divested of clothing and unceremoniously dumped into a cell at Fort Drakon.  Thankfully Leliana and Morrigan managed to escape with the queen to Arl Eamon's estate.  At least someone was around to help get Anora to safety.  Given the option to wait for help to arrive or the option to fight their way out of Drakon themselves, Perra decides that she can't get out of prison fast enough.  Enlisting Alistair's help, Perra feigns illness and then jumps the guard when he responds to Alistair's frantic call for assistance.  Thankfully it does not take long to locate their gear and clothing soon thereafter.  Back in possession of her weapons and clothes, Perra and Alistair slowly fight their way to freedom.

Discussing - Perra barely has a moment to catch her breath, before Morrigan and Leliana (who were waiting outside the fort) hustle her to Eamon who is entertaining the queen in his study.  Queen Anora, it seems, wishes to engage our hero in a conversation considering the future of Fereldan.  The queen urges Perra to secure as much support as possible to help with the Landsmeet, but then insists that they will need a stronger candidate than Alistair for the throne when they finally arrive at the Landsmeet itself.  In short?  Our merry men need Anora. All along Perra has never shared Arl Eamon's determination to put Alistair on the throne. He does not want to be there, and she does not see why he should have to take on a role he loathes if other options exist.  That does not mean, however, that Perra appreciates the queen's insistence that our company need her in order to succeed with their task.  After all, when saying "you need me", what Anora really means is "I need you."  Perra tells the queen as much.  Anora takes the comment with grace, but still urges our grey warden to come speak with her soon.  Knowing that she should not let her stubbornness get in the way of finding a worthy monarch for Ferelden, Perra agrees to do so.

A quick talk with Alistair reveals that he thinks Anora would make a great queen.  He claims that she has always been the true power behind the throne, even when Cailan was king, and that he'd just as soon let her continue doing so.  Reassured that this is what he really wants, Perra continues on to the queen's chambers.

Deciding - Anora seeks an alliance.  In exchange for the throne, she will provide Perra and the Grey Wardens with whatever military and monetary support they might need.  Perra is already willing to throw her support in with the queen, but in truth she knows very little about Anora.  As a result, she asks the queen to justify her claim.  It seems that Anora does not seem to have anything against Alistair himself, but she is very quick to voice reservations about the kind of king he would make.  When Perra reminds her that a ruler needs more then ambition to be an effective ruler, Anora concedes that point.  She does, however, ask Perra to consider the kind of king Alistair would really make.  He's a Grey Warden-cum-Templar trained in swordsmanship, not statecraft.  He can better serve his country, Anora feels, by doing what he already knows how to do.  Perra agrees the queen has a point, but she wonders what would happen to Loghain if Anora were to take the throne.  "He is my father, as well as a great general who has served his nation well until now," the queen admits, "If there is a way for him to live, I would prefer it."  Insisting that there is no way she can let Loghain live after all that he has done, Perra agrees to support Anora's claim to the throne, as long as the queen does not get in her way regarding Loghain.

Investigating - Almost all the ducks have fallen into line, but before anything can be done regarding the Landsmeet, something must be done about the Alienage.  The elves have recently been causing problems, and Eamon wonders if Loghain has done something to stir up unrest.  If he has, then rooting out the problem may increase the chances of Perra's claim against the general succeeding.

Perra has barely set foot into the Alienage (Denerim's slums where the impoverished, city dwelling elves live) when she hears a ruckus not too far away.  Following the sound, she happens upon a group of very disgruntled elves demanding that a trio of Tevinter mages let them into the hospice.  The mages, an elf named Shianni asserts, continue to take elves in to "quarantine" them in efforts to suppress the plague that is sweeping throughout the slums.  However, not all of the elves, she says, were sick when quarantined.  Even more to the point, almost all who go into the hospice never come out.  The alienage residents have just about reached their breaking point since their leader Cyrion was  taken by the mages recently, and Shianni knows not what her community will do without  Cyrion's guidance.  After reassuring Shianni that she will look into it, Perra approaches the Tevinters to hear their side.  It turns out that the mages are, if nothing else, shady characters.  Morrigan questions their presence in Denerim since she does not see how a plague isolated to this Alienage could possibly affect them.  When the mage insists that it is their duty to take care of the disease now so that it doesn't spread, Morrigan sarcastically salutes the Tevinter's magnanimous actions.  Surely, she surmises, they must truly care since it meant that they had to come all the way across the ocean.  An ocean, she notes, which would all but have prevented the illness from spreading to the Tevinter Imperium proper.  When Morrigan sees cause to question a shady character's actions, Perra has learned that she needs to listen.  After all, Morrigan's insight was spot on when she was dealing with the Dalish elves a while back.  Convinced that something is very wrong, Perra bribes the hospices' back door guard to let her into the building.  He agrees that he never saw her and walks off with his money.

Confronting - At first glance, the hospice appears to be what the Tevinter said, what with its cots and all.  Multiple guards attacking on sight and the distinct lack of patients, however, are without a doubt wicked conspicuous.  Further exploration reveals caged, perfectly healthy elves confined in the back.  As Perra frees them, our merry men note the hanging cages and manacles prominently featured in the hospice's back room.  This place was certainly not a house of healing.  In fact, if a note found on the front table can be trusted, it looks like the "quarantined" elves were being sold in "shipments" as slaves.

Exiting the Tevinter "hospice", Perra & Friends continue onto a series of decrepit apartments.  Blood staining the floor, children's toys discarded, abandoned dinners, and broken property show that elves were at one time forcibly extracted from these rooms.  After bribing a scavenger for information, her informant (who is scared stiff) tells of residents being dragged from their homes never to return.  His information coincides with the evidence she's seen and with Shianni's tale.  Perra's belief that the elves are being sold into slavery is very quickly reinforced when she and her companions enter the neighboring warehouse.  An elf named Devera insists that she was assured they could maintain their slavery operations without "interference from the authorities."  Devra is little impressed by Perra's claim to not be with the authorities, and wonders at how humans' aversion to slavery can be so quickly overcome by the right amount of gold.  Disgusted by Devra's willingness to sell another elf into slavery, Perra wants to see the last of her as quickly as possible.  Intimidating the elf into leaving Denerim with her mercenaries, Perra quickly brushes off the encounter so that she can focus on the real threat - the ring leader Caladrius.

 Without giving Caladrius time to gloat or the ability to talk his way out of trouble, Perra launches a full frontal assault on the powerful mage and his numerous guards.  She can see cages with living elves lining the walls and knows that in order to put this whole thing to rest, she needs to keep those elves safe and get them home to their families.  It is an intense fight, but when Caladrius sees the end of his life approaching he kneels in front of Perra and begs that she reconsider her decision to "talk again after [she's] slaughtered [his] friends."  He offers her a substantial boost in health via blood magic if she will but let him live.  The cost of this magic?  Merely the lives of his imprisoned elves.  Repulsed by his offer, Perra suggests that she let the elves finish off the mage in her stead.  He does not take too kindly to her suggestion, and Perra quickly finishes him off herself.  Evidence found on his corpse  proves that Loghain was working with the Tevinter slavers, and with this evidence she and her friends now have everything they need for the Landsmeet to be held.  Releasing the last elves from their cages, Perra is glad to see that the alienage's leader Cyrion is among the captives.  With his guidance the slum's unrest will hopefully calm down and the place will soon be set to rights.

Coming Next - The Landsmeet finally takes place, and a new ruler of Ferelden is chosen.

On A Personal Note - I am well aware that the sections of game I'm covering have been getting smaller as of late.  Some of this is due to the story's pacing, but the other part of it is due to fluctuations in graduate work deadlines.  As I see it, however, DA:O will probably be wrapped up in about four more entries.  From there I hope to continue on to Mass Effect.  Stay tuned for more details.

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