Re-Dragon Age: Fade Away

Tea: Still hot; still water

Every game, no matter how great, has that one segment. You know the kind; that moment all momentum screeches to a halt and tedium envelops the player in an all encompassing malaise. Bored, you grit your teeth and wade forward, hoping your patience can last until you’re back to the fun stuff. Half Life had Xen. Mass Effect 2 had the planet scanning. Skyrim had the Soul Cairn. Dragon Age: Origins has the Fade.

But I pre-empt myself.

When we last left our heroes, they were setting out for the Circle of Magi, seeking to enlist some aid in saving Arl Eamon’s son from the demon that possessed him. Before that, however, I decided to take a DLC detour. See, when it came out, DA:O attracted controversy for having day one DLC, meaning there was content locked away on the disc that you had just paid good money for. Unlike the bullshit that occurred with Mass Effect 3 and its kin, however, this content was unlocked for free by a code that came with with your firsthand copy. Essentially, it was a bludgeon to discourage anyone purchasing secondhand. All well and good, except the still sealed copy 360 copy I’d received for Christmas back in the day was mysteriously missing said code, and I flat out refused to pay for something I should have had for free. And so this marked the first time I would get my grubby mitts on Shale, a sardonic golem with an all-consuming hatred for pigeons. Shale also happens to be probably the best fighters in the game. All that for the low low price of having to do a goddamn slide puzzle. Fair trade, I suppose.

Golem in tow, we went to see the wizards in their totally-not-phallic tower in the middle of a lake, only to find the ferryman replaced with a none-too-bright templar. Coercing our way across via Shale threatening limb removal, we spoke to the Knight-Commander of the templars, who revealed the mages had apparently fallen sway to demons and they were just waiting for the okay from head office to go in and start slaughtering anyone and everyone inside. Since this would rather put a damper on the plan to have the mages depossess Connor and help us stop the Blight, we offered to go in and save whoever we could. Since it wasn’t any of his men risking their necks, Mr Knight-Commander agreed, and so our dumb asses were locked inside to solve the problem or die trying.

In short order we met up with a group of surviving mages, led by a elderly lady named Wynne, whom we’d met briefly at Ostagar. Upon finding out our plan, Wynne was insistent on joining us, thus giving us our second mage party member. While Morrigan is set up as a direct damage dealer, Wynne is tooled more towards a support role, enhancing party members abilities and healing damage. She’s also the mage you want in your party if you’re playing a more out and out heroic type, since Morrigan greets pretty much every non-arsehole decision the main character makes with her famed disapproval. With only 2 more party members left to acquire, my core team was set, with Allesian, Leliana and Wynne as permanent fixtures and a rotation between Shale, Alistair and Jack the dog as whim struck me.

Our group made our way upwards, battling through demons, possessed abominations and blood mages. While there were a couple of dialogues, much of the backstory to what had been happening in the tower came from notes left lying around for us to read. This is something Dragon Age does very well, letting you decide for yourself just how deep into both storyline and world background you want to explore. Admittedly, the game does encourage you by giving you experience points for codex entries collected, but it doesn’t force you to actually read them. The notes also do a good job of establishing a sense of grey and grey morality. The Chantry’s treatment of mages, justified the actions of a mage-led world spanning empire centuries ago and a very open to interpretation line of scripture, did a lot to foster resentment, to the point were lashing out is, if not justifiable, certainly understandable. Such moral uncertainty is recurrent in the game, and indeed is something of a Bioware trademark, having been present throughout the Mass Effect series as well.

Nearing the summit, we ran smack dab into a powerful abomination, who decided now was sleepy time and put us all under. Thus begins the aforementioned worst section of the game. On your own, you are forced through multiple unconnected mazes, having to acquire different shape shifting forms to pass obstacles, all the while dealing with an incredible annoying visual filter. Even without dying (which you will. A lot.), it takes an absolute age and grinds the game to a halt.

Good thing I installed a mod to bypass it then, hmmm?

Yep, once again the Glorious PC Gaming Master Race(tm) comes up trumps. Not long after the game was released, some bright spark programmed a way to bypass most of the Fade, while still giving you all the codex entries, XP and attribute bonuses you’d normally acquire. Unsurprisingly, 4 years on it remains the most popular DA mod, and is really the only one you need. Well, unless you desperately want to add a nude mod, but honestly just google for some rule 34 like a normal person, you perv!

There was still some work to do in the land of dreams, though. After an initial encounter with a fake Duncan who tried to convince our hero the Blight was over, we then had to round up the rest of the team from their private dreamscapes and convince them to return to reality. Reunited, we then engaged in a titanic smackdown with the demon and fought our way awake, though not before a random mage (well, he’s not so random normally, but in this chopped down version he pretty much comes out of nowhere) told us to grab a magic scroll from his body that could be used to save the senior mages from possession. Feeling refreshed from our short nap, we made it to the top for the final confrontation.

Upon arrival, we found the rebellion’s leader Uldred (gee, what an utterly non-villainous name! How could anyone have seen this coming?) had been possessed and was torturing the senior mages to get them to join team demon. A fight ensued, made extra spicy by having to use the magic scroll we’d acquired at various points to stop Uldred turning the mages into abominations. Luckily we were able to succeed, killing Uldred and saving Senior Enchanter Irving. Mission accomplished, we returned to the Templars, who called off their potential killfest, while Irinvg agreed to both support us against the Blight and to help save Connor.

Meanwhile, in the land of cutscenes, Teryn Loghain complained about civil war having now apparently broken out. His bitching was interrupted by Tim Curry showing up out of nowhere (well, technically showing up out of the human noble orgin plotline) to inform him of the continued existence of two wardens. Matters were in hand, however, as he’d called in a master assassin, who sounded distractingly like Puss in Boots.

As all this was going on, our heroes had returned to Redcliffe, mages in tow. Conveniently, the demon in Connor, couldn’t be bothered to do anything while we’d been gone, and didn’t bother trying to disrupt the ritual, allowing us to send Wynne in to confront it. It attempt to bargain, offering mystical powers. Given Wynne is as by the book as they come, this went over about as well as a fart in the chantry, and another fight ensued, with the demon getting its arse kicked in short order. Connor was safe and so was Redcliffe, but Arl Eamon was still comatose. With magic having done nothing to help him, the only possible solution was to find Andraste’s ashes. Well, it’s either that or homeopathy…

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