|Dear Maker, please make me better at flirting and social|
interaction. Thanks so much! Love, Cullen.
What your Inquisitor believes is crucial to the story because, remember, they are quickly raised up as a pseudo-religious symbol that is tied to the very success of the Inquisition itself. An Inquisition that was in fact created as a religious organization centuries back, and whose ties to that foundation cannot be entirely separated.
Which makes life quietly yet highly uncomfortable if you play (as I typically do) a disbelieving Inquisitor. It's also why my poor Inquisitor is usually trembling on her throne and waiting to be kicked back into the prison every once in awhile. Imagine leading a religious organization whose beliefs you do not share. Imagine being held up as a religious symbol when you yourself do not believe.
On the other hand, imagine being absolutely certain in your character's faith and beliefs, and that they are indeed touched by the hand of the divine... only to have that knowledge ripped away at a certain point. The game gives us that, too. And it does so with respect.
Refreshingly, there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to belief in Dragon Age: Inquisition. There's just the question of what your character believes, and once you know that, everything that follows is seamless and organic.
|If you embark on a career as a murderous, spying, singing nun,|
a crisis of conscience is inevitable. If probably highly tuneful.
Belief, unbelief, or something in between... All of these choices are possible in Dragon Age: Inquisition, and they provide the potential for truly fascinating character-building that will include moments of epiphany, realization, loss, and disillusionment.
- The "I'm the Herald/I'm not the Herald" choice early on in the War Room (for Belief, assert that you are in fact the Herald)
- Your first big conversation with Cassandra at Haven (she will ask you point-blank what you believe—if you're seeking to pursue a devout "Believer" storyline, tell her you believe in the Maker)
- The conversation with Josephine about what the Inquisition's stance should be about the events at the Temple of Sacred Ashes (take the Believer/religious interpretation)
- The discussion with Mother Giselle after Haven (and before "The Dawn Will Come"). One of the options for a religious Inquisitor is to say "I believe, but is that enough?"
- Dorian's early conversations about faith: Choose pro-Chantry options for Belief, anti-Chantry options for Unbelief.
- Sera's conversations: Choose options in favor of Andrastian faith and belief when talking to Sera.
- The numerous additional scenarios when characters ask you if you are truly the Herald, from Haven, to Val Royeaux, to Orlais and beyond. Answer devoutly if that's what you're playing.
The Players in the Drama of Belief
While the question of belief is a complex thread throughout the story, a few characters, specifically, are especially important in the "Believer" or "Unbeliever" storylines for the Inquisitor, and chief among those movers and shakers are Mother Giselle, Cassandra, Cullen, and Leliana (and, in her own odd way Sera).
I love the way our companions' faith shapes who they are and how they interact with us, and how it has no effect on their open-mindedness and acceptance of our Inquisitor as a whole. Cassandra's faith is something clean and pure; it practically shines out of her and affects every decision she makes. I'm always floored that Cassandra—the creator of the Inquisition and its primary mover—rejects a position of power or leadership within it because she feels it is not her correct role, and that she can serve better as a Seeker, soldier and military strategist. As Solas later notes in one of their banter conversations, this abnegation is truly remarkable and rare.
Cullen's faith is a beautiful and subtle character note, especially if you romance him, something that visibly sustains and nurtures a man still damaged by his experiences, and who is still seeking atonement and enlightenment. The scene of Cullen quietly praying for strength, in one final moment before the storm, remains one of my all-time favorite scenes within the game. It's moving and respectful, and feels so absolutely real and grounded. His fear and belief are equally palpable.
Leliana's faith has on the other hand, in some ways, become twisted. She is a much darker character than the sweet if subtle girl we knew in Dragon Age: Origins, someone who acted as Left Hand, spymaster (and occasional assassin) for the Divine Justinia who died at the Conclave. I'm still gobsmacked that she cheerfully admits to lying, spying, and killing, for what was essentially Thedas's Pope. Yet here, too, is an example of real faith and unshakable belief at the core, however dark it has become, and that's never more evident than in Leliana's absolutely shattering final moments in the quest "In Hushed Whispers."
Treating the Question of Faith with Respect
In the 2015 NYU Game Center Lecture Series ("Bioware's Approach to Storytelling," and, yes, please go watch it immediately because it is just wonderful), there's a great discussion by David Gaider in which he describes his inspiration for "The Dawn Will Come" as a pivotal event. First off, he reveals the song as a major plot point, a vital dramatic moment that he was convinced at every single step would not actually survive to final inclusion (I'm so glad it did!).
But David also addresses the importance of the question of faith in his discussion of that pivotal scene, as well as the goal to treat the issue of religion respectfully within the story of Dragon Age: Inquisition.
"When we were talking about the idea of faith in the game, we wanted to be even-handed," Gaider comments there. "I thought, what if we could find a way to show that there is value in faith, that there is value in hope? And that hope could be what sort of propels the player on to the second half of the game?"
For me, this entire idea is embodied in the crucial and intricately drawn character of Mother Giselle.
The Importance of Mother Giselle
|There's a little bit more self-awareness and cynicism to Mother|
Giselle than is apparent at first. She's smart and compassionate
but also perfectly willing to use PR to rally the people.
It's very telling that when we meet Mother Giselle for the very first time, in the Hinterlands, she is soothing a wounded young Templar who is openly terrified of retribution, of magic or torture, and all she does is quiet and calm him. For Mother Giselle, there are no sides to this terrible conflict. She simply wants, like Cole, to help as many as she can on every side. The fact that she believes she is acting on behalf of a compassionate Maker is simply part of who she is. She even has compassion for Corypants, of all people, and in a key moment after the loss of Haven she tells the Inquisitor, "If [Corypheus] entered [the Black City], it has changed him without and within. The living are not meant to make that journey. Perhaps these are lies he must tell himself rather than accept that he earned the scorn of the Maker. I know I could not bear such."
Depicted as a truly gentle, selfless person, Mother Giselle is also a lot more subtle than she appears to be at first (for instance, starting the group singalong "The Dawn Will Come" because she recognizes that the people need motivating, and that just the right hymn will actually reinforce their commitment and belief). She accepts the Inquisitor's nonbelief, if it's there, but she won't let you off without really asking you to explore why you do not believe.
The only time Mother Giselle's halo slips just the tiniest bit is during an interlude involving Dorian at Skyhold. First, she colludes with his estranged father to try to get us to deceive Dorian into a surprise meeting at Redcliffe. Her motives and intentions here are truly good, but let's face it, it's certainly understandable that our wonderful Dorian justifiably does not want to see this person, given that he actually tried to magically change his son's sexual orientation. So, yeah, Giselle is wrong here. Wrong, wrong, wrong. But in her naivete, all she can see is the chance to bring a father and son back together.
Then, not long after, she once again puts poor Dorian on the spot by awkwardly confronting him and the Inquisitor about the rumors that they may be lovers. Speaking for myself, my Inquisitors are always delighted that this rumor is going around (I mean, have you seen Dorian?) and practically do a fistpump and a Snoopy dance right there on the spot (in my headcanon, Dorian watches all this and goes, "That's all fine, dearest, but next time perhaps do it without the sound effects...?").
This scene is notable, however, in all seriousness, because I think there's a subtext with a male Inquisitor that leads Mother Giselle to seem homophobic here, and I really don't think she is. I think she's equally prudish about the idea of a sexual relationship between the Inquisitor and Dorian no matter what their gender might be (although now I'm laughing while imagining Giselle's inevitably horrified expression at her realization, with my first Inquisitor, that my little blonde Disney Princess was happily romancing The Iron Bull in naughty ways on various furnishings all over Skyhold). Either way, however, it is a little satisfying to call Mother Giselle out on her shit here, and to say, "Stop that. You're better than this" on her potential slut-shaming.
But for the most part, Giselle is a good-hearted and interesting, intelligent person. She's also happy to discuss, in surprising depth, the issue of faith, the question of the Herald's title, and the teachings of the Chantry.
|Cass's faith is one of my favorite things about her. It's a|
positive force within her, one that strengthens her resolve
and enhances her compassion and loyalty.
|The Nightingale and the Lion, two of DAI's most fervent|
believers in the Chantry.
It's worth noting that even if you confess that you have lost faith or don't know whether you believe in the Maker, if you have nevertheless insisted you were the Herald, you will still be taking the "Believer" path throughout the DAI story.
Your "Believer" status will culminate in the coronation scene at Skyhold, and with the presentation of the sword to your Inquisitor. At that point, you will be presented with a dialogue wheel of options that includes the line "My faith is rewarded." As a believer, your final dialogue choice here will also allow you to proclaim, "I will be a servant of faith" as you raise the sword high before your followers.
The Nonbeliever's Coronation
If you're a Qunari, Dwarf, or Elf Inquisitor, you will also have the nonreligious option to note the importance of this moment for your people, saying that "A [dwarf/Qunari/elf] will stand for us all."
It's interesting that, just beneath the surface of Dragon Age: Inquisition and its larger story, the search for faith and meaning is so crucial to so many characters. From Corypheus's outrage that the Maker's throne was empty, to Cassandra's horrified revelations about the deceptions involved in the powers of the Seekers, to the key conversations with Leliana, Cullen, Solas and Mother Giselle as they wrestle with a dark and changing world, belief in the world of Thedas is presented as being every bit as complex and challenging as it is in our own world.
And that's just the way it should be.