Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Real Hidden Question for Dragon Age 4...

Solas: I will save the elven people. Even if it means this world must die.

SPOILERS, on ALL of Dragon Age: Inquisition and Trespasser (and beyond) as always!

At the end of "Trespasser," Solas is so powerful that he could defeat
massive armies singlehandedly in a few eyeblinks (in between naps)
.
Now that we've taken a look at Solas's masterwork (the Veil), its slow and possibly inexorable decline, and where it stands at the end of the latest chapter of the Dragon Age story (Dragon Age: Inquisition's DLC "Trespasser"), let's return to the end of "Trespasser" in a slightly different way, in order to examine the questions about the fate of that very Veil that appear to lie before us as we dream, hope and wait for Dragon Age 4.

So here we go... We're back at the end of "Trespasser," and you've just had the Solas chat that spawned a zillion fanfics. And... well, if you're like most of us out here, no matter what your feelings about Solas or his agenda, there are some complex emotions and very specific questions that may be haunting you in this particular moment.

For instance, for me, as Solas walked away from our final, fateful chat (dressed in his, cough, fantastically hot ancient elven armor), once my Inquisitor let go of his leg I wondered the following questions:
  1. How can we dissuade Solas from tearing down the Veil?
  2. How can we defeat Solas if we can't talk him out of it?
Then I had an epiphany: Those aren't the right questions.

Because I believe (as I posted previously) the Veil is already almost certainly doomed.

Where Things Stand as of "Trespasser" (944 Dragon)

I've kept thinking about "Trespasser" and that last informative, emotionally charged conversation—a conversation that reveals who Solas is (and was), what he wants, and that emphasizes in no uncertain terms that his ultimate goal is to tear down the Veil, undoing his act of approximately 4,000 years before that inadvertently doomed his people.

This appears to set us up for a satisfyingly rich struggle in Dragon Age 4, in which we'll presumably have to counter Solas in his quest to redeem the elven people and bring back their golden age. We're even further asked to choose, specifically, what our next goal will be—to kill Solas, or to redeem him.

There's just one problem: Solas is too powerful to fight.

The God Who's Not a God (but Who's Totally a God)

This is why I think the setup of having to kill or redeem Solas at all is ultimately going to prove to be a masterful job of total misdirection.

Do I think the "kill" or "redeem" choice will be useless? No—I do think it will have real effect on how the DA4 protagonist, and possibly the returning Inquisitor, chooses to deal with Solas when they encounter him again in DA4  (I suspect our Inkies will return much as Hawke did in DAI, as featured guest companions, although I'd certainly love an actual first-person interlude).

But back to the end of "Trespasser": Look at how powerful Solas is here! He's unbeatable. The brief glimpses of his abilities that we're given at a distance, as we pursue him through the eluvians, secret valley fortresses, Darvaarad, and through the remnants of the Vir Dirthara, are staggering. As Solas battles the Qunari who are defiling his ancient hideouts and expels them from the pathways through his network of eluvians, he releases explosions of magic that are epic in diameter—they're almost atomic.

Then comes the revelation of Trespasser's final chapter, that Solas can now, like some ancient vengeful god, actually turn people to stone with a thought.

Abelas is an ancient elf who abandons his post at Mythal's Temple
after our meeting. My bet is that he joins Solas... and gets a new name
.
And keep in mind—this is before he takes in his final power-up—absorbing the power of the Anchor to save the Inquisitor's life.

In addition, even without his magical superpowers, Solas's list of assets is pretty formidable at this point. Let's take a look at what they are as "Trespasser" ends:
  • Assorted ancient castles and strongholds (from his hidden valley in the Vimmark Mountains to, presumably, many others connected through the eluvians)
  • Control of the Crossroads and the vast eluvian network
  • Knowledge of how to use and control the statue power sources at ancient elven shrines
  • A powerful secret force of elven spies that has evidently infiltrated all or most political circles across Thedas
  • The potential support of Abelas and the remaining ancient elven sentinels from shrines and temples across Thedas
  • The potential support of the Mythal-loyal elven spirit guardians
  • A silent, ever-growing army as elves from across Thedas flock to his banner
In other words, if you chose "Kill Solas" at the end of "Trespasser," your odds aren't exactly looking too favorable. 

Solas may claim he's not a god. But isn't that just semantics at this point? At the end of "Trespasser," even without the assets above, he's so powerful that he could destroy entire opposing armies all by himself, in between naps.

For these reasons, to me, there's just no way the main plot of Dragon Age 4 is going to be us versus Solas.

The Real Question for DA4

This is the point where it's worthwhile to go back and think about the entire trilogy of Dragon Age: Origins, Dragon Age II, and Dragon Age: Inquisition. In each story, a few common themes have always emerged—the struggles against evil (and corruption) from within and without; the fights against prejudice (both racial and magical), the struggle for justice in a system in which justice can be defined as multiple things by multiple people, organizations, and even religions

And percolating beneath all of this has been the persistent idea that every single one of these wars, calamities, Blights and other tragedies has physically harmed the world and weakened the Veil. And if the Veil is slightly tattered in Dragon Age: Origins from the centuries of violence, Blights, and carnage across Thedas, it is pretty much shredded to bits by the time Dragon Age: Inquisition rolls around.

To me, there's just no saving the Veil. Unless—in the best irony ever—Solas decides to help us do so.

Looking Back at the Veil's Creation 

The Chantry teaches that the Veil was erected in -3100 Ancient by the Maker. While this tallies roughly with other timelines, I definitely enjoyed picturing the look on Solas's face when he heard this assertion for the first time. Solas, however, confirms in "Trespasser" that it was he himself who created the Veil, as punishment against the Evanuris for their murder of Mythal and as his final attempt to protect the world from those tyrants among the Evanuris who were pretending godhood, enslaving their own people, and slaughtering mortals across Thedas. 


In each new single installment of the DA trilogy, we've learned more and more
about Flemeth and Mythal, whose murder inspired Solas to create the Veil.
What will we learn in DA4? (And yes, I think she'll be back.)
 
My picks for the Evanuris Big Bads here would include Falon'Din and Andruil, both of whom were famously bloodthirsty (and not a little crazed with power), and both of whom were also actively antagonistic to both Mythal as well as to Fen'Harel. I'd also definitely think Elgar'nan had to have been a primary antagonist (and the idea that it was Mythal's semi-divine husband who wronged her certainly ties with the stories of betrayal and rage hinted at from Flemeth, previously), as his tyrannical exploits are also mentioned specifically in the beautifully written Codices for "Trespasser," as well.

Either way, the Veil went up, the false gods were silenced, and the elves doomed, all at the very same moment. Not only did the Veil sunder the elves from their magic and immortality, I also believe it is the one thing that actually allowed humans to enter (and survive) in Thedas. It's referenced numerous times in DAI that the Veil went up before the first humans appeared in Thedas. It is therefore entirely possible that a world without a Veil would not be survivable for humans at all. The elven kingdom of Elvhenan, meanwhile, would have stood in glory for well over 5,000 years at that point. 

How ironic is it that it was Solas, of all people, who made it possible for humans to rise to greatness?

Where the Sky Was Held Back...

Skyhold's original name during the days of Elvhenan was Tarasyl'an te'las, translated roughly to "Sky-Place-Held-Back," or "the place where the sky was held back" and this pretty much confirms that this is where the creation of the Veil took place (I suspect that this was also the name of the ritual Solas accomplished in doing so, as well). Solas also confirms that it was once his castle (interestingly, only admitting this to a low-approval Inquisitor). So, as I've noted elsewhere, Solas's arrival at Skyhold is not only a homecoming for him, it's him literally returning to the site of his greatest act and most terrible regret.

Where was Solas while he was in uthenera at Skyhold? My bet is that he
wrapped himself in spells, hid himself in the depths, and haunted the dreams
of those who attempted to occupy the Keep for long...
Solas's creation of the Veil millennia back was a feat of prodigious magical skill. It's no wonder, then, that the act of doing so blasted the foundations of Skyhold, depleted his powers and sent him into a sleep of millennia. While Solas implies it was a sleep of a thousand years, it seems as if it was actually over 4000... unless he awakened occasionally? That's my theory—that he awakened, roamed the Fade, watched movies, had the occasional fling with a spirit, and maybe occasionally walked within the consciousnesses of mortal elves (like perhaps Shartan).

This is also a good time to ask... where was Solas in uthenera at Skyhold, which was occupied many times during those millennia? My bet is that he wrapped himself in spells and hid himself in the depths. I also think he was able, while dreaming in the Fade, to frighten the dreams of those who occupied the castle, perhaps giving local dreamers a taste of the Dread Wolf and, ahem, encouraging them to depart. This would also explain why Skyhold never seemed to stay occupied for long, and if the occupiers tended to leave in a hurry, this would also account for why there's so much beautiful, usable stuff around the castle when our faithful team arrives there.

Either way, Solas enacted his vengeance, wrapped himself in shadows, and slept for millennia. And even as he did so, the Veil almost immediately began to weaken and decay.

It's an interesting thought to realize that Solas created the Veil, then slept through all its best years. It's like he gave someone a comfy blanket, took a nap, then woke up and the blanket had been ripped, torn, gnawed, and nearly destroyed in the meantime.

Either way, the Veil is in pretty dire shape. So what next? And can it be saved?

Tarasyl'an te'las Redux?

This brings me back to my original epiphany: As "Trespasser" ends, the implication is that we must find a way to stop Solas.

But to me that's richly ironic. From what I can see of the Veil's current situation, there's absolutely no saving it. In other words, Solas actually doesn't have to do a thing to return the world to the state of its former Fadetastic glories... except sit back and wait.


I don't think Solas is going to be very happy with the choices
before him in Dragon Age 4
.
Which is why I'm convinced that this is all a deliberate and brilliant piece of misdirection by the Dragon Age writers. The writers are waving those shiny, shiny questions at us off over there... when we really need to be looking over here.

In other words, to me, no matter what the Inquisitor does to try to assuage the damage to the Veil going forward, there's no way to strengthen what Solas created, or to save it...

Unless Solas decides to do so himself. 


To me, there's a beautiful irony and symmetry to the idea—that the one person in all of Thedas who could actually save the Veil is the very man who is determined to tear it down.

And I think Solas will save the Veil, after (I'm guessing) another huge conflict to shake Thedas to its foundations. My personal bet for the next Big Bad isn't Solas, but one of the Evanuris or Forgotten Ones, with maybe some new revelations about the Titans, and along with some massive upheavals as both Tevinter and the Qunari make their moves to try to conquer the world once and for all. Meanwhile, I suspect that Solas will haunt the perimeter of DA4, judging and watching, perhaps even subtly helping the Inquisition (or whatever the new movement calls itself). Then I think he'll finally choose a side—ours. And that he will then use those incredible powers of his to recreate a brand-new Veil, this one perhaps even stronger than before. 

I don't think he'll survive it (I hope I'm wrong). But that's my bet. 

Of course, I could be absolutely and hilariously mistaken about all of this. But what do you think?

8 comments:

  1. At first, I want to say my heart stopped when I read that Solas probably won't survive creating the new Veil -mainly because I can see that you can be 100% right ;C plus, I really like what you accomplished in the whole article! I totally agree with that "choice" we have as an Inquisitor - I also think there isn't in fact any choice, that it's only illusional. BUT I was also thinking many times about how our romance with Solas could change his decisions. What if there'll be two endings - one for friend and one for a lover? Imagine the scene when you can die with him, because you can't live without him! Or that you could have more options if you are in love! We already were given much more content of the DA lore when we romanced him (for example about the Vallaslins), what if they continued to give us so? Or those are only my ilusions because I love him, and I seriously would very likely destroy Thedas and watch it burns, only if it meant beeing with him FOREVA <3 I'm sick, I know, but I'm seriously crying of excitement when I think about new DA and I can't wait!!

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    1. First off, thanks for reading! I'd love it if there were multiple potential endings depending on whether Solas was a friend, lover, or low-approval antagonist. And whether we picked "Kill" or "Redeem."

      I suspect we'll get a ton of additional lore in the next game, and hope a lot of it will be very tied to the Evanuris, the Titans, and other mysteries we're only just unraveling.

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    2. I love your theory. I makes sense both in context and in Bioware's tendancy for missdirection. Ie. Corypheous was in DA:2 disposable boss#5. My personal theory lies in the final scene with Mythal as she releases the power of the old god baby into an Eluvian. I think DA4 will be a battle of the gods. Your main character will receive this power, the power of an old god (the power taken from the fifth blight archdemon), effectively giving you the power to eventually stand on even terms with the gods you are fighting.

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  2. Most interesting about Solas himself is that he is utterly convinced that he is nothing like Corypheus even at the same time that he understands *perfectly* well that his intent means the death of humanity, and he recognizes as well that that *is* a reprehensible thing. That mindset fascinates me no end. He seems to genuinely hold both those thoughts at once: that what he plans will be a genocide, and yet that he is not a monster.
    It would make sense if he actively despised humanity, or, well, gave no shit about anyone other than The People he wants to save. But he demonstrably does not; he bears no particular ill will toward humankind, and in fact appreciates every act of goodwill and compassion the Inquisition extends to people, elves and non-elves alike.
    But here, he *knows* that removing the Veil will destroy humankind, he understands that this is not justifiable even though he intends to do it regardless...and yet he still insists "I am not Corypheus" as if means something against his monstrous intention.
    But as to the Fade itself and the "real world," there are questions to which the assumed answers make little sense. First, Thedas is only a continent --it's already established in the lore that there are lands beyond Thedas, from which came both humans and the Qunari. So the implication is that the Veil was erected ONLY on this one continent, and, as you said, was apparently the singular event that permitted human migration into Thedas in the first place.
    What does that mean about the world itself, exactly? Durr?
    The other thing that bothers me is...the implication of a Veilless land is that spirits and demons that inhabit the Fade were once very much a part of the 'real world' itself, which presumably meant they shared every square inch of Thedas with the Elves (and dwarves?) And yet we know what happens when denizens of the Fade enter our world. Some few manage to manifest as physical beings (Cole), others quietly possess others and go about their business experiencing life through mortal eyes (Awakening!Justice, Matthias and/or his daughter, Sophia, The Poet Tree, and so on), but quite a few are already hostile, or else driven mad by the world, and leave chaos in their wake. The only way for Solas to think a world without the Veil is preferable would be if he remembered Fade creatures dwelling among mortals as PART of the mortal realm and not the nightmare people imagine from their direct experience of what actually *does* happen when Fade Meets World.
    So why would taking down the Veil *now* and returning Thedas to its pre-Fade state be so different? Why exactly would the pre-Fade world be lethal to Humans in a way that it is not for Elves? For that matter, it's worth pointing out that for the Elves of the modern world, they are no more interested in spirits and demons being in the mortal world than humans are - it's shown they find it just as dangerous, and are just as prepared to kill possessed mages of their own number as anyone else.
    Does Solas not understand this? Does he think that removing the Veil will automagically return *everything* to its former state? Or has he considered that the chaos of the Fade suddenly being incorporated into the real world will destroy the People as quickly as everyone else?
    If not, why not? If it's true that at some point in the pre-human history of Thedas, the Veil did not exist and the Fade was not a separate realm, that HAS to mean that spirits walked the world and there was no significant risk of mass chaos and death. Clearly, something has changed, since now, again, we see that demons are a threat to everyone with whom they come in contact (and spirits run a very high risk of being corrupted *into* demons). So what changed? Was the creation of the Veil itself an act that drove spirits and demons to madness?

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  3. Now, this makes me wonder.... what movies *would* Solas watch? I agree with the other poster - Solas, not survive? But... My first PT my dear elf girl firmly believes in him - I absolutely am going to hold fast to your theories, especially about the Veil's inevitable demise, and that (in my head at least) ultimately she will ultimately find a way to redeem him (or help him redeem himself). Still working through all this - just finished Trespasser a little over a week ago. So much to think about - which is why I adore this game.

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  4. This is Anna from Twitter btw, thank for linking me this! And I am super mad at myself bc I wrote this super long comment and then pressed the wrong button... But I'll try to and hopefully I'll get it down again.

    Assuming you are correct in how mus Solas lingered around in Skyhold and how connected he is to that place it would also present us with some great theories as to why Skyhold, in all the years the Inqusition spends there, never gets attacked. Especially not by Corypheus.
    Corypheus used Solas' power/magic at some point. I am quite certain he knows very well how immensely powerful that magic is. Maybe something he doesn't want to mess with, at least not until he reached his own goals first?
    Alternatively the magic of Solas lingering around Skyhold could also act as a sort of blind spot, hiding the Inquisition away effectively perhaps?

    Another thing I come back to again and again when thinking about that Trespasser scene: How certain can we be that Solas told us the truth? And the complete truth at that? I ask myself that because as a writer myself I tend to use half truths as a plot device for misdirection now and then. Solas tells us plainly he wants to tear down the veil. But what if that never was his only intention? What if the sentence goes on? "I want to tear down the veil... and build something new instead." Or "...because fixing it is impossible, reboot is the only option"
    Why wouldn't he tell you?
    Well, if you have low approval with him there is no reason why he would even entertain you and tell you all about his plans. You are not worth his time and you wont 'get it' anyways.
    If you have a high approval friendship or even a romance he cares about you. So he should tell you he is not the monster he makes himself out to be, right? Except he wants to keep the Inquisitor safe. That's at least part of why he does all this already on his own. But the inquisitor is a stubborn person and keeps coming after him, even telling him that they can think of something together... So what works better as a deterrent than letting them think he is a horrible person that is totally willing to sacrifice entire races for his cause? Since obviously "you can't help me, I am in this alone" didn't work so far... It could very well be possible that he is expecting ancient enemies after all - why risk someone he has grown to like a lot or even love...

    It's a vague theory that keeps popping up for me through it all. Mostly bc I consider myself a very Bioware savy person in terms of storytelling and I tend to not trust any of the information that gets plainly told to me. Kotor burned me and now I look for those "well, actually all you thought you knew was a wrong assumption" moments everywhere...

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  5. I loved reading these thanks :)

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  6. Yes, to all o this. 10000000%. I wish it didn't all make so much sense, but it does. I've also recently discovered there's a theory that Sera is the (unawakened) vessel of Andruil, who was very antagonistic to FenHarel which would make a lot of sense for how they treat each other and such..... anyhow, I cannot describe how much I love your post. Well done. <3

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