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

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