Image via Google Image search (It seems to be a Youtube screen grab? Not sure.)

Dear Gordon

Notes on Dragon Age: Inquisition #5 — On romance options, or “Dudes be creeping”

I thought this week, for a moment, that I was doing my Dragon Age: Inquisition romance wrong. Almost since we met, Blackwall and I have been close, with our shared background in the Grey Wardens bringing us together.

Well, by “our,” I mean Blackwall and me, and not Blackwall and the Inquisitor. She’s a Dalish elf without any connection to the Wardens, and so her sympathies for the Wardens, her tendency to give them a second chance even as they prove vulnerable to Corypheus’s manipulation of the blight might seem a bit random. Especially since Solas, the character closest in background to my elven mage, seems to harbor a deep mistrust of the Wardens. I met, outside of Crestwood, a young elf whose life was saved by a pair of Wardens, and who then finds herself inspired to seek to join the order. I initially encouraged her, but under Solas’s influence, walked back my expressions of support and talked her into joining the Inquisition instead.

Which might have been the right choice. The Wardens were unstable at the time. (And, looking at the wiki, talking Jana out of joining the Wardens may have saved her life.) But I piss companions off all the time, and I took a lot of unpopular stances regarding the Wardens. So why did Solas’s opinion matter to me so much?

I mean, let me not get too wrapped up in thinking about the mechanics of attraction between my animated digital mannequin and other digital mannequins with professional voice acting. Well, no, let me do exactly that. Was Blackwall my solid, reasonable, honorable choice and Solas the bad boy, the man of mystery who would always be in the corner of my mind?

Even while trying to avoid spoilers (the trailer for the “Intruder” DLC didn’t help), I’m reasonably sure that Solas is up to something shady. It’s one thing for him to not be very talkative while he’s hanging out around Skyhold — in real life, and even in most fiction, I’m all for introverts — but in a BioWare game, even the introverts are chatty. See: Thane (who I also almost romanced). Furthermore, Solas’s companion missions don’t seem to result in anything. He keeps saying that the eleven devices I’m activating are strengthening the boundary between the world and the fade, but I kind of have to take his word for it. And then he sends me chasing after an “unopened rift,” which really kind of just seemed like all the other rifts. If Solas has learned anything from these tasks, he sure hasn’t let me in on it.

But then, finally, I seemed to get him to open up a bit. He took me back to Haven to talk about the beginning of the Inquisition. It probably should have been a sign that the rift in the sky was still open, even though at this point I sealed it dozens of gameplay hours ago, before we left Haven and before this conversation was even possible, but videogames are so wonky about continuity, and the last Dragon Age game was so notorious about re-using location models, that I just kind of ignored it. Until my Inquisitor commented that something wasn’t right, that what Solas was describing wasn’t what happened.

And then it was revealed that I was dreaming. Solas was using his knowledge of the fade to invade my dreams. When I talked to him about it, he described it as another rule I was breaking in my rise to power. As if his invasion was something I had done.

I had, at that point, kind of wondered whether I was missing an opportunity. While many Dragon Age companions are pretty flexible in their romantic attachments — male, female, human, dwarf, elf, some are more particular than others, but many don’t care much either way — Solas is only romanceable (someone should write something about how only in a videogame can that even be a word, the way it so absolutely objectifies the role of an intimate partner) by a female elf. Like me. The dream was the point where the feeling that I was doing something wrong ended.

I could still imagine pursuing a romance with Solas in a later playthrough, but only, in effect, as an exercise in bad faith, just to see what happens, to collect the Solas romance tarot card on my companion list. Only by becoming Solas could I romance Solas.

Not that Blackwall turned out to be perfect. He’s a bit of a Martin Guerre, and I said that we were going to try to make it work, so in game terms, I’m “committed,” but I’ve found myself using Cassandra in my combat party more and more. Blackwell and I don’t seem to have much to say to each other anymore, and I’m just not as attached to having him around. He’s quite literally not the person I thought I knew, and that’s a big thing to have to get over.

And besides, his first name is (was) Gordon. I can forgive a fictional character for many things, but I’m not sure I can forgive that.

NEXT WEEK: Um, I’m not sure. I’m close to finishing the main storyline and I have a LOT of notes on things. I’ll figure something out.

A slightly different version of this note was originally shared through my TinyLetter, The Playthrough, which is currently inactive. If you’d like to keep track of whether this changes, you can subscribe to The Playthrough at http://tinyletter.com/theplaythrough