For the Ages: Dragon Age: Origins – December 21st-22nd, 2009: Introduction/The Harrowing 

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Dragon Age: Origins

Released: November 3rd, 2009

Purchased: December 18th, 2009

Platform: Xbox 360

Publisher: EA

Developer: BioWare

I wasn’t terribly excited for this game at first. But that was only because certain magazines had slightly disparaging previews of the game. Whether or not it was the very prevalent broadcast ad, or the eventually glowing reviews, I found myself counting on it to be a bright spot for games in 2009.

I started this journal because I really wanted to chart my relationship with a BioWare game from the beginning.

December 21st, 2009: The game begins with a quote from The Cantacile of Threnodies:

“And so is the Golden City blackened

With each step you take in my Hall.

Marvel at perfection, for it is fleeting.

You have brought Sin to Heaven

And doom upon all the world.”

Canticle of Threnodies 8:13

Four hundred years ago, some mages defied nature and tried to achieve a way of entering Heaven.They failed and returned as darkspawn. Only Gray Wardens could effectively deal with them and the chaos they brought to the world of Thedas. The Wardens wait anxiously for the darkness to rise again…

Now, it is the 30th year of the Ninth Age of Thedas, the Age of the Dragon, also known as the Archdemon.

A female elven mage, Etheria Surana, prepared to undergo the Harrowing in the Circle Tower. In these isolated Towers, mages were raised to control their powers, feared by the people of Thedas.

The Harrowing would promote Etheria from mere apprentice. She was tasked with entering the Fade, a secondary world, and facing a demon. If she failed, she would be no longer be an elf. She would become a monster. Some would have preferred that.

The Fade is a dream world, but this monster business sounds like a nightmare.

In the Fade, Etheria encountered a mouse that was actually a mage that had failed his Harrowing. He tagged along with her to provide her with advice.

They bargained with a very lazy Sloth Demon to get him to teach Mouse how to turn into a bear! But first, they had to answer the demon’s riddles three. Then, Mouse could help out in fights with Spirit Wolves, among other monsters.

Eventually, Etheria and Mouse drew out the Rage Demon. It claimed that Mouse helped bring other apprentices to it to kill… and eat.

After Etheria and Mouse slew the demon, Mouse said that Etheria could free him from the Fade. But she found his tone suspicious, so she refused.

That was the final test. Mouse turned into something else and said, “True tests never end.”

Etheria finished the Harrowing. Another apprentice, her friend Jowan, said that High Enchanter Irving wanted to see her. He was basically the leader of the Circle.

Mage apprentices that choose to skip the Harrowing can undergo the rite of Tranquility. It has the unpleasant side effect of basically making you a slave – a living weapon for others to wield.

December 22nd, 2009: Upon resuming the game, you get a recap during one of the loading screens. Why don’t more games do that?

Because most games aren’t made by BioWare. 😉

Irving introduced Etheria to Duncan, an experienced Gray Warden. Irving presented her with her magi robe, staff, and ring for completing the Harrowing. Then, he had her escort Duncan to the guest quarters.

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Duncan

Afterward, Jowan dragged Etheria to meet his girlfriend Lily.

She was recruited into the class of magi called Initiates, kind of like a nun, which meant that she and Jowan could not be together anymore.

Jowan became paranoid about being made tranquil and begged Etheria to destroy his phylactery, a blood sample extracted from every Circle mage. It allowed the Templars, who watched over the magi, to track them down and kill them if they ever went wayward.

Etheria told Jowan and Lily that she would not destroy his phylactery. Lily gently asked for Etheria’s silence regarding their request, which she dutifully agreed to.

But Etheria received a grilling from Irving later. He jumped to the conclusion that Jowan was having an affair with an Initiate. Irving knew about Jowan’s relationship with Lily and guessed that Jowan wanted his phylactery destroyed.

And then Irving asked Etheria to help Jowan.

It’s great when a game’s dialog options match your reactions to other characters’ dialog.

And that was how Etheria got involved in a little bit of subterfuge. I hope they’re let off easily.

After Jowan destroyed his phylactery, the Templars and Irving waited outside the basement entrance. Jowan was sentenced to death, and Lily to prison.

But Jowan took action. He stabbed his hand and used forbidden Blood Magic to knock out the Templars and Irving.

Why is Blood Magic forbidden? It can basically make people slaves. This is one of the main reasons why mages are feared and hated.

However, Lily rejected Jowan, claiming that he lied about his use of the magic. Distraught, she ran off.

Suddenly, Duncan came along and offered Etheria a position amongst the Gray Wardens in what was to be the most pivotal moment of her life.

Worse things plague this world than mages,” said Duncan to Gregor the tempestuous Templar. “You know that.”

You have an opportunity few even dream of,” said Irving. “Do not squander it.”

Come,” beckoned Duncan. “Your new life awaits.”

They traveled to Ostagar to battle back a blight of Darkspawn. They met the young, affable, and handsome King Cailan. He said that the Wardens have vanquished three Blights already.

Duncan said that more and more hordes were forming and would eventually outnumber us, and that an Archdemon must have been behind it, but he had no proof.

Every Warden recruit had to endure a joining ritual. Etheria was no different.

She had to see a Warden named Alistair about it. He’s kinda funny. Score! He may be the most likable character I’ve encountered so far.

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Alistair

Their first task was to retrieve three vials of Darkspawn blood, one for each potential Warden. Then, they must retrieve scrolls from an abandoned Warden archive. Alistair watched over us. To perform these tasks, they must venture into the Kocori Wilds.

Once they reached the Warden’s cache, a beautiful mage in dark clothes appeared, demanding to know who Etheria was. One of the recruits claimed that the dark mage was a Witch of the Wilds.

The witch, Morrigan, said that her mother, Flemeth, relieved the cache of its scrolls. Morrigan took us to Flemeth to get the papers. Alistair thought it all suspicious.

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Morrigan

Flemeth seemed a little crazy – and cool. She said that she protected the scrolls to Alistair’s astonishment.

And why not?” asked Flemeth. “Take them to your Grey Wardens and tell them this Blight’s threat is greater than they realize!”

Morrigan wanted to just leave the heroes to their devices, but Flemeth insisted that they be treated as guests, so Morrigan escorted them back to camp.

Creating my character was fun.

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