About Tyler F.M. Edwards

Freelance writer, fantasy novelist, and nerd of the highest order.

What I Learned from my Second Play Through of Dragon Age: Inquisition

You may remember a few months ago I was so enamored with Dragon Age: Inquisition’s Trespasser DLC that it inspired me to do something previously unthinkable and start a second play through, this time as a Qunari rogue.

My Qunari inquisitor charges into battle in Dragon Age: InquisitionIn the process, I learned a few interesting things about the story, characters, and game mechanics, and now I share that knowledge with you.

Warning: Here be spoilers.

Cassandra isn’t so bad after all:

I was not a fan of Cassandra on my first play through. I did not hate her as I do Vivienne, but I certainly liked her a lot less than any of the other companions. She came across as almost bipolar, seemingly hating my inquisitor’s guts one moment and lavishing praise on me the next.

However, on my second run through the game, my decisions led to my having a much higher approval rating with her, and as a result, I saw a lot of new (to me) and altered scenes that put her in a different light.

It’s not even so much a case of her seeming more likable, as simply more human. I realized there was a person underneath all that armour, both literal and metaphorical. I saw that was more to her than irritability and judgement.

Cassandra Pentaghast -- now Divine Victoria -- in Dragon Age: InquisitionShe’ll never be my favourite character, but I do feel a certain sort of camaraderie with her now.

…Yeah, I admit it, it was mostly just the scene where I caught her reading Varric’s book.

That was sublime.

Dorian is cool, but Sera is better:

One of my main reasons for doing a second play through was because I wanted to see Dorian’s romance arc. I do not regret doing so, but I’ll tell you now: I liked romancing Sera a lot better.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Dorian is great. I’ve found him a hilarious and lovable character from the moment he first appeared, and that opinion has not changed since. He is second only to Sera and Solas when it comes to my favourite Inquisition characters, and only by the very slimmest of margins.

But perhaps that’s the problem.

Dorian’s romance is sweet, easy to do, and entirely pleasant from beginning to end. It’s a fairy tale — albeit a fairy tale with an unusually high quantity of sarcasm and naked dudes.

Dorian and my inquisitor get cozy in Dragon Age: InquisitionThere’s no drama or challenge, and it doesn’t do much to flesh out Dorian’s character. It turns out he’s pretty much exactly who he appears to be. For me, the main appeal of an in-game romance is to see another side to a character, to understand them in greater depth, but Dorian’s romance offers little illumination. He’s the same delightful ball of snark and idealism throughout.

The conclusion of the romance in Trespasser is also fairly underwhelming. I don’t hate it as much as some I’ve seen, but it’s definitely less than stellar. Feels like they didn’t put much effort into it.

Sera’s romance, on the other hand, was a bigger challenge than some StarCraft II missions on brutal. Granted, I made it hard on myself by being a Dalish Keeper, but even so, Sera is a challenging character to wrap your head around. Even at the most basic level, deciphering the foul-mouthed, rapid fire word salad that is her dialogue is pretty much a full-time job.

Similarly, Sera is in many ways a less likable character than Dorian. She’s loud, she’s crude, she’s unpredictable and easy to offend, and she’s at least a little racist.

Yet all those things also make it so much more rewarding when you finally do win her over and begin to peel back the layers of her character.

My inquisitor and Sera in Dragon Age: InquisitonSera seems so basic at first, yet she is one of the most deep characters Bioware has produced, and that’s saying a lot. For all her many flaws, she has some incredibly admiral traits, and the balance between those two sides of her is fascinating to see play out. And in the end, it does seem as though the better parts of her nature slowly win out.

So as much as I truly do love Dorian as a character, Sera’s romance arc is simply so much more layered and rewarding.

Now, granted, it turns out a lot of the scenes I thought were part of Sera’s romance were not, so perhaps that has skewed my opinion, but I still think Sera has the edge.

As an aside, I was interested to discover much of Sera’s personal improvement in Trespasser happens even if you don’t romance her. I didn’t expect that.

Cole is happier as a spirit:

When I did Cole’s quest on my first play through, I chose to nudge him towards being more like a human. In retrospect, this seems an incredibly odd decision.

My inquisitor was a Dalish Keeper, and she tended to agree with Solas on nearly everything. Pushing Cole away from being a spirit seems terribly out of character for her.

My inquisitor meets Cole in Dragon Age: InquisitionAll I can say is that it seemed like the “right” decision. I think we’re all so used to the “Tin Man wants a heart” style of story that we just follow it without thinking. Or at least I did.

However, for completionism’s sake, I took the opposite path on my Qunari, and I came to regret my original decision.

Cole is so happy as a spirit, so free. He’s able to cast off all his pain, and in so doing, he’s able to do so much good for everyone around him. He becomes a real embodiment of compassion and purity.

In fairness, he seemed pretty content as a human, too. I’m not sure there’s a wrong choice here. But to my eye he does seem more at peace as a spirit, and I think there’s something to be said for not forcing him to be something he’s not. Namely, human.

I’d rather accept Cole for what he truly is. It may be alien and hard to understand, but I think there’s a certain beauty to his true self, as well.

Flirting with Cullen as a male Qunari is wonderful:

Cullen leads the Inquisition forces in Dragon Age: InquisitionSeriously, try it. I don’t know what’s better: Cullen’s spectacular discomfort, or the absolutely filthy looks my Qunari gives him.

Really wish I’d thought to take a screenshot of that.

Horn of valor is awesome:

This is something I noticed on my first play through, but the second time really confirmed it. You want all your warriors to be using the horn of valor ability.

It’s a pretty nice buff on its own, but add the upgrade that makes it grant guard to the entire party, and it becomes incredible. Add a barrier mage and enjoy your unkillable party.

You can skip an incredible amount:

My feelings on Inquisition’s mountains of busywork are known by now, so this time around, I decided to skip nearly everything aside from the main storyline, companion quests, and whatever random stuff I happened to stumble across along the way. There were some zones I never entered at all.

My inquisitor meets with Scout Harding in Dragon Age: InquisitionAnd I can’t say it had a particularly negative impact on my experience. I was still past level twenty by the end, I still had very good gear (thanks to the Golden Nug and crafting schematics carried over from my first character, admittedly), and the game still took me about sixty hours to finish, which is still incredibly long for a single player title.

Shows you how unnecessary all the other junk ultimately is.

Requisitions are entirely useless:

This is something else I kind of learned on the first time through, but the second time confirmed it.

Even skipping most of the optional content, I still had more than enough power to do everything I wanted to do. Power rains from the sky in this game, and it’s completely worthless once you have enough to unlock everything.

All requisitions do is eat up your hard-earned crafting materials for no good reason. They’re a trap; don’t bother with them.

Calpernia is cool:

Calpernia, leader of the Venatori, and Corypheus in Dragon Age: InquisitionI loathe the Templars and all they stand for. However, in the interest of completionism, I did decide to side with them on this play through. This didn’t do much to change my opinion of the Templars, but it did have one silver lining, and her name is Calpernia.

Calpernia is a most intriguing character. Misguided idealists are always interesting, and I thought it was a great twist to have someone so noble working for Corypheus. Here is someone who has experienced firsthand the very worst her country has to offer, but she still sees the good in it, and she still wants to redeem it.

That’s pretty amazing.

I only wish she had been given a bigger role. Like Corypheus himself, she feels like a waste of potential.

It’s extremely unlikely, but I would love to see her have a role in the next game. Maybe even as a full companion.

And finally…

This game is still buggy as all Hell.

What is this I don't even

Tyler’s Big Book of TSW Theories

After going on the backburner for a few months, The Park and Halloween got my interest in The Secret World revved up to a fevered pitch once again. After yet another night of staying up past midnight reading theories on the lore forums, it occurred to me I’ve never much talked about my own theories surrounding the many mysteries of the Secret World.

Entering the Savage Coast in The Secret WorldI thought it might be interesting to have a public, written record of them so that I can either crow when they turn out to be right, or laugh at how hilariously wrong they turned out to be.

Be aware that this entire post will contain massive spoilers for the entirety of the TSW mythos to date, including The Park.

Cassandra King is a descendant of King Arthur:

The general instinct of most people in the TSW community seems to be to just assume everyone is a god or a mythological figure in disguise. Most people tend to be of the opinion that Cassandra King is someone from Greek mythology, perhaps the Trojan Cassandra. I’ve also heard her hypothesized to be Artemis, Aphrodite, and a bevy of other ancient fertility goddesses.

I really don’t like the idea of Cassie being an immortal, though. The whole appeal of her story is that she’s an ordinary girl — well, as ordinary as a precocious self-taught sorceress can be, anyway — who managed to outsmart the big three secret societies and the very god of deceivers.

There isn’t really a lot to support the idea, either. Just her first name and her “Do you have any idea who I am” line.

Cassie King's idea of subtlety in The Secret WorldI prefer to focus on the significance of Cassie’s surname, and in so doing, I find a way to explain her importance while mostly maintaining her hook as a “normal” who beat the greats of the Secret World.

What are the odds that a woman named King wound up stealing Excalibur?

I think Cassie is a direct descendant of King Arthur. This is sort of the best of both worlds. It more or less maintains her identity as a normal person who made her way to greatness — Arthur’s line having theoretically languished in obscurity for centuries — while also explaining the line, “Do you have any idea who I am, or what I am about to become?”

If she were already a goddess, what is left for her to become? But if she is an ordinary person from an extraordinary line, regaining Excalibur could make her truly a force to be reckoned with.

This could also explain what she’s doing in Scotland. Perhaps Excalibur will grant her access to further treasures or powers that are the legacy of her family, which have lain hidden in the British Isles for centuries, waiting for the true heir to the king to return.

Beaumont getting his ominous monologue on for Cassie in The Secret WorldFinally, depending on which version of things we follow, this could also make Cassie a relative or descendant of Morgan le Fay, which would explain her talent as a witch.

There are many Hells:

This one started when I first stepped into the Niflheim holiday dungeon. It was clearly part of the Hell Dimensions, but also totally unlike the Hell dungeons we had explored before.

Then it occurred to me that it’s always been the Hell Dimensions, plural. And there are a lot of references in Tokyo to “the Thousand Hells.”

So I don’t think Hell is a single place. I think there are many Hells, and the one we explored with Wicker was just one of them. Niflheim is another. Who knows how many more there might be?

Emma Smith might be Lorraine Maillard’s daughter:

I’m offering this as an uncertainty because there’s a lot of things about this that just doesn’t add up, but it’s too intriguing not to mention.

Emma Smith at the conclusion of issue seven in The Secret WorldThe Park is full of subtle nods to TSW, but one that totally passed me by on the first play through has the potential to be a major revelation. Don’s letter to Lorraine mentions that he wanted to name their child Callum if a boy, or Emma if a girl.

I don’t believe in coincidence where TSW is concerned. I’m sure Joel Bylos knew what he was doing when he put that in there. It might just be a deviously clever red herring, but it’s definitely meant to make us wonder if Emma Smith might somehow be Lorraine’s long lost daughter.

If that’s the case, there are basically two possible scenarios.

One is that Emma is Callum’s twin brother. Perhaps, for whatever reason, when Lorraine was released from the mental asylum, the authorities only gave her back Callum. Perhaps Emma was even abducted by the Orochi Group or one of the secret societies. Lorraine, already somewhat unhinged at this point, repressed all memory of Emma’s existence.

In this scenario, Emma’s powers could be explained as the result of Lorraine’s latent sensitivity to the occult and/or the influence of the dark power in the Atlantic Island Park.

The main problem with this theory is that the timeline doesn’t add up at all. Callum was born thirty years ago, but Emma looks to be around eight years old in TSW. That said, she’s definitely not an ordinary girl, so perhaps she doesn’t age normally.

Lorraine Maillard in The ParkThe other possibility is that Lorraine had Emma much later, after the Council of Venice implanted the bee in her. Being the child of a bee, especially a unique artificially created bee, could definitely explain where Emma got her power from.

The main issue with this theory is that it’s a bit hard to believe Lorraine would have another child after what happened with Callum, but she is pretty unstable, so her behaviour is difficult to predict.

Both possibilities have the issue that Emma seems to be British, and Lorraine definitely isn’t. This could, however, be explained by Emma not being raised by her biological mother. Certainly no one — not even Lorraine if she was sufficiently lucid at the time — would think letting Lorraine try to raise another child could be a good idea.

The one final flaw is that Emma has made clear her real name is Anima, not Emma. But perhaps this is her own invention, and the name Emma came first?

It’s all a big long shot, for sure. But it’s intriguing.

Consider that the story of Lorraine and her son is constantly being compared to Hansel and Gretel, but if Callum is Hansel, who’s Gretel? And is it a coincidence that both Callum and Emma have a teddy bear as a central part of their story?

Daimon Kiyota is not a god:

Daimon Kiyota being awesome in The Secret WorldThis isn’t so much a theory as a counter to a theory, but I’ll include it anyway.

Daimon Kiyota is another character widely speculated to be a mythological figure in disguise, likely a Shinto deity, but I personally don’t buy it.

As with Cassie, a large part of the appeal of Daimon’s character is that he is (supposedly) a normal person who has managed to make himself a force to be reckoned with in the world of the occult. This is all but confirmed by the turn-in text for The Seven Silences.

Now, I do think Daimon is at this point fairly extraordinary. I’m pretty sure his “father,” who visited New York, was really just him, and if that’s true, that means Daimon hasn’t aged since the 1920s. I’m pretty sure he’s got some funky powers going on, possibly related to the pachinko machine (which wasn’t always a pachinko machine, but it always was). I think Daimon started out human, but he may not be anymore.

But a god? No, I don’t think so.

The woman who came between the brothers in Babel was Lilith:

Pretty much that. We know that the secret society that would become both the Templars and the Phoenicians was ruled by two brothers from the Tower of Babel, but that a woman came between them, sundering their bond and the society they ruled.

My Templar falls into Darkness in The Secret World's 2015 Halloween eventThat sure sounds like something Lilith would do, and we don’t have a lot of other strong candidates.

Interestingly, this is another thing that some people want to pin on the supposedly divine Cassandra, but I really think Lilith is our better candidate. It’s not really so much different from what she pulled with Callisto, Mara, and Dracula.

* * *

What say you? Does this tinfoil hat make me look fat? Feel free to add your own theories in the comments.