Old Friends

The main thing I remember about the review that led me to purchase DAO was the mention of the companions who would join your party and how fun the party banter was. It does feel very different from the majority of SP games where you wander the world alone, or at best with a largely mute follower in tow, so the companions are certainly part of what keeps me replaying the games.

Alistair and Varric are my favourite companions in DAO and DA2 respectively. I’m fond of Alistair’s goofy humour, and his dedication to the Wardens, and, despite his lack of self-esteem, he offers a strong moral compass and will speak up when he disagrees with you. Varric’s morality is a little more ambiguous (he often gets cross if you help without asking for payment), but his friendship is invaluable throughout the mess that is Hawke’s life, and I love that he just can’t help himself when it comes to the storytelling. I’m really happy that we’ll see both of them again in DAI, and even happier that there’s no Varric romance to complicate that beautiful friendship.

There are no companions that I truly hate, but a few of them can be tiresome: Wynne’s tedious advice, Merill’s naïveté, and Velanna’s xenophobia get on my nerves, but I try to take a step back and focus on how my Warden/Hawke would respond rather than telling them to get lost (how I would respond). At least there’s the option to ‘X’ through conversations.

Other companions have grown on me: I intensely distrusted Morrigan in my first couple of playthroughs, but once I persevered in befriending her I found that the cold, hard-headed practicality was a façade she felt she needed to uphold and my perspective changed; the first time she admitted we were friends I got a little choked up. Similarly, I didn’t think much of Aveline the first time round, but feel I’ve grown to respect and admire her with each replay – even when Hawke is at odds with her.

One of the joys of the Dragon Age series has been seeing familiar faces reappear. Not everyone appreciated Oghren’s inclusion in Awakenings but it didn’t really bother me, and I found his banter with Nathaniel Howe about events in DAO helped me to negotiate the logic of how Nate’s opinion of the Warden changes. Initially I found the change in Anders from Awakenings to DA2 troubling, but going back and replaying Awakening showed me that my memory of him as happy-go-lucky was a little skewed; I’d argue that DA2 is still Awakenings Anders – just with the veneer of defensive humour stripped away. Time will tell how Varric’s inclusion in DAI will go, but I’m prepared for him to be a little more serious post-DA2 and in light of the ‘entire world gone to hell’ plot of DAI. I wonder also if he’ll be quicker to help without looking for profit after all he’s been through.

The returning characters I particularly enjoy are the minor ones, like Wade and Herren in Awakenings, or Bodahn and Sandal in DA2; there’s nothing particularly important about their inclusion (no reason why new characters couldn’t do crafting or enchanting), but the little nods to previous games and subtle character development add to the richness. I’m really hoping Sandal will be back because I really want to unravel the mystery of the scary lady and how he dealt with that ogre (“Not enchantment!”). And Bodahn did say they were headed for Orlais…

I love hearing other people’s thoughts on the DA characters so please feel free to share in the comments – your favourite character? Least favourite? Or who you’re looking forward to in DAI, new or old.

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