As-I-Play Dragon Age: Inquisition – Well, I Didn’t See THAT Coming (Part Nine)

I have finished Inquisition. That means that everything in this post will spoil you, so really really really really don’t keep reading if you want the ending to be a surprise.

I don’t often get surprised by the endings of things – books, movies, games – because I’ve had years of experience honing my narrative trope and arc knowledge. A PhD in literature will do that to you. But let me tell you, I did NOT see the very end of this one coming. Not by a long shot. And that’s a good thing.

But before I get to that bit – which, in the grand scheme of things is very small, since it took up approximately a minute and a half of screen time – the rest of the ending.

Yes, I finished the War Table (except for Support Vivienne, since I didn’t want her to become Divine). FINALLY. I did actually set it to run and then baked cookies and did work for several hours while ignoring it, which is something of a design flaw. When I replay it, I’ll take care to better manage the War Table against the missions – so that I time it more appropriately. After all, most of the mission quests in the locations don’t need to be done until the very end, so I can make more of a point to report back when my advisors have finished their jobs at the Table.

I then proceeded to go to the ancient ruins of the Temple of Mythal in the Arbor Wilds, meet some ancient elves with pretty cool green face tattoos, and discover that Morrigan was actually wrong about what Corypheus wanted in the first place. She thought he was after an eluvian – a transportation mirror-thing (which also features in DA2 – Merrill tries to restore one and gets Keeper Merithari killed by a demon in the process, so I was hesitant to get involved in anything eluvian-related, because bad-news-bears) – which would enable him to access the Fade. And we do not want Corypheus to access the Fade.

But no. He was instead after the power of the Well of Sorrows. Okay, then. There’s a weird moment where the ancient elves face off with Corypheus’s people and Corypheus gets exploded by the temple’s magic defenses… and then takes over someone else’s body. If I hadn’t already figured that out from the end of the Corypheus DLC from DA2 (which I had), this cements how the dead Corypheus isn’t still dead. This does, however, cause my party to freak out a bit, which I suppose is understandable.

So I actually managed to pick pretty much the perfect party for this mission. Dorian (of course), Solas, and Cassandra. Morrigan just comes along no matter what. So it’s actually really important for all three of these people to have been at the Well. First, Dorian learns a whole bunch about how Tevinter propaganda was horribly wrong about the importance of the Imperium, and that completely alters his world-view. Cassandra needs to be there so that she has the benefit of watching Samson crumble and come to have some respect for things other than the Chantry. And Solas… well.

Solas is a natural choice for most of the ancient elven missions because he’s an elf who knows a lot about ancient elves. Solas also really hates both Dorian and Morrigan, so there’s a lot of conversation that happens in this mission. I’d been taking Dorian and Solas around while farming and waiting for the War Table, so in my game they’d been yelling at each other for a while. Dorian’s personal transformation over the game was interesting – at one point, Solas snapped at him about Tevinter’s slave practices, and Dorian went quiet (Dorian is not by nature quiet). But the next time he spoke, he issued a very carefully constructed apology to Solas, not at all in his usual snarky manner. As a player, I very much got the impression that the whole thing was actually very upsetting to Dorian – that it was important to him as a person to recognize and apologize for his privilege.

And Solas shut him the hell down. To be precise, Solas asked him if he was personally going to go back to Tevinter and end slavery. And Dorian replied that he didn’t think that was possible, to which Solas responded: “Then you’re not sorry enough.”

I actually felt fairly horrible for Dorian. He’s the only Tevinter in the Inquisition, people constantly question his abilities, his judgment, his motives, and his sexuality. Bull, Cassandra, Blackwall, and Solas pick on him pretty much continuously (although Solas does occasionally complement his magical skills, but usually with a barb thrown in). Varric calls him “Sparkler.” He begins the game as a snarky, very much pro-Tevinter apologist, and by its end (at least in my game), he’s come to realize just how twisted his homeland is. He believes in trying to end blood magic (which was used against him by his own father) and slavery, and has given up a life of extreme privilege and wealth to join the Inquisition.

And Solas wants him, personally, to put a stop to slavery in Tevinter. Not just to be a part of something, but to personally do it, or he isn’t “sorry enough.” That’s a big charge, and one that resonates with me particularly in light of recent racial, religious, and gendered controversies (particularly on the internet). Yes, Dorian is very privileged, but he’s also a minority (at least in Tevinter, where homosexuality is persecuted). But he does what I think we wish a lot of people would do and comes to terms with it, recognizes it, and even apologizes for his own ignorance. It isn’t fair to ask someone to personally take responsibility for an institution; it is fair to ask them to do what they can to change or criticize it, but it isn’t fair to ask any one person to fix it all. We need to ask each person to contribute to fixing it – but to ask them to stand alone is a tall order.

What surprised me even more is that Dorian accepts it. In a last conversation after the Arbor Wilds, Dorian actually says that he’s going to go back to Tevinter and he is going to fix it – or he’s at least going to try. And I have a lot of respect for the fact that BioWare put that in there. In many ways, Dorian is one of the most courageous characters in DAI, because he does come from a position of privilege, which he gives up completely in order to change the established order.

But that digression aside… Back to Solas.

Solas also hates Morrigan, who is a self-professed expert on elves while not being an elf. Morrigan is in a lot of ways like a popular public academic, but one who doesn’t fully grasp the political and social implications of what she studies. She doesn’t “get” the problems of privilege the way Dorian does, for instance. So throughout the temple in the Wilds, she and Solas constantly second-guess one another.

The important moment, for me, in the Wilds came when we happened upon a giant wolf statue. So these statues have been everywhere throughout this game, and the Dread Wolf is a character in Dragon Age elven lore in all the games (he’s like Loki or Coyote, only elven). I’m familiar with the myth, so I don’t think anything of it. But Morrigan stops the party and points out that the Dread Wolf doesn’t belong here – that this temple is older than that legend.

And this stuck out to me, because – like Chekov’s gun – one does not simply mention an anachronistic mythic wolf for no good reason.

But on to the Well, killing Samson (Corypheus’s general), and then making the decision of whether Morrigan or the Inquisitor should drink from the Well. Khaaras has the opportunity to suggest that Solas or Dorian drink from it (any mage, actually), and both of them refuse. This is characteristic for Dorian, but not Solas, who has hitherto been obsessed with all things ancient and magical (he’s even okay with blood magic, which is another point of contention between him and Dorian). But whatever – the game can’t very well have the option for everyone to drink from it.

I decide that since Khaaras isn’t a mage, it’s probably better for Morrigan to do it, and Cassandra agrees with me (even though letting Morrigan drink gains her disapproval). So that happens. And then Corypheus shows up, again, but we all flee through the eluvian (which we knew was already there because that’s what we thought he was after), which a spirit from the Well destroys after us.

To make a long story short, the Well explains to Morrigan that to kill Corypheus for good, we have to kill his dragon (okay, so killing dragons was good practice). And then some craziness with the eluvian leads the Inquisitor and Morrigan to learn more about the Well and Mythal. Apparently, and I’m skipping over a lot of details here, Flemeth (Morrigan’s mother and a dragon-shifter from both DAO and DA2) is the vessel for Mythal, who is actually some sort of deity.

Morrigan freaks out. First of all, she hates her mother. Second of all, her mother is the vessel for a being that Morrigan was pretty sure wasn’t actually real. Third, by drinking from the Well, Morrigan is now enslaved to Mythal/her mother. So bad day for Morrigan. But Flemeth/Mythal isn’t actually that horrible of a person, and tells her daughter that she isn’t going to hurt her.

And at the end of all that, Corypheus shows up at Skyhold and we have to kill him.

So I take my trusty (angsty) team of Solas, Dorian, and Cassandra. We beat up Corypheus for a while, Morrigan turns into a dragon and attacks the false archdemon. Morrigan gets tossed to the ground (alive) and we kill the false archdemon. We kill Corypheus. It really wasn’t bad for a boss battle, and I hate boss battles. Maybe a little easy, but I tend to play on easy, anyway.

And then shit gets weird.

Solas is heartbroken about the fact that the orb (which gave the Inquisitor the Anchor in his hand) is shattered. Like, seriously heartbroken. And then he makes a cryptic remark about always respecting the Inquisitor. And then he disappears.

Later, Leliana mentions not being able to find him, and I have the option as Inquisitor to comment on how messed up this all is, and that something must be wrong, which I do, because something is really wrong. I’ve figured at this point that somehow Solas must have accidentally awakened Corypheus or accidentally revealed the orb to him or something, and now he feels guilty about it.

But first – the party! I was a little sad that I didn’t get a last conversation with Varric (he’s there, just not able to be talked to), and Dorian’s end romance scene was profoundly weird and unsatisfying (he tells the Inquisitor that he’s boring and hates him – although he’s obviously being sarcastic). Morrigan narrates the “what happens next” part, which tells me that Leliana becomes Divine (okay… I’d been supporting Cassandra, but whatever) and radically changes the Chantry to become more inclusive. Cassandra becomes the next Lord Seeker, and pretty much everybody sticks around to work on the Inquisition except Morrigan, who wanders off somewhere with a weird remark about how the Inquisitor has become a target. Oh, and the Grey Wardens disappeared (along with Hawke). So that’s weird, but provides a bit of a set-up for a future game.

And then shit gets weirder.

After the credits, there’s a cutscene showing Flemeth/Mythal and an eluvian. Then she starts taking to someone behind her – which turns out to be Solas. But Solas, like Flemeth, is a vessel – for the Dread Wolf. Okay then. Then he apologizes to Flemeth/Mythal for giving the orb to Corypheus, because he was too weak to use it when he woke up. Woke up how? From what? Who woke him? Then, before I can fully process THAT, Flemeth/Mythal says, “I’m sorry, too, old friend,” and promptly TURNS TO STONE in Solas/Wolf’s arms.

WHAT?!

So I’m left with a multitude of questions. Did Solas/Wolf kill Flemeth/Mythal? Was she dying and he needed the orb to save her? What woke Solas/Wolf up to begin with? Is Flemeth/Mythal really dead, or did she pass her soul to Solas/Wolf at the last second (there was blue glowing stuff)?

Also, and most importantly, is there going to be another Dragon Age game and when can I buy it?