Saturday, February 16, 2019

The All-Time Most Romantic Dragon Age Moments


Oh, Cullen. Your love for the Inky is sweet, hesitant, and a reminder of how much our Dragon Age characters can evolve across one of gaming's best trilogies.
Varric: Look, Seeker, if you love a character, you give them pain, ruin their lives, make them suffer. Maybe even throw in a heroic death.
Cassandra: That makes no sense!
Varric: You care enough to argue. If she had a nice afternoon and took a nap, you'd stop reading.

Happy (Late) Valentine's Day!

So, I wanted to post this a few days ago. And of course, life and work intervened. But still... better late than never, right? Hawke would forgive me instantly. The Warden would roll her eyes. And the Inquisitor would look at her watch.

Or so I headcanon. But onward...

The lovely thing about pixels is, they never let you down. If we love them, they love us. And because we are all fabulous Dragon Age fans here, let's face it, no matter who we are, we've all had a perfect romantic moment with the companions we love.

So instead of a ranking of romances, which I just feel wouldn't be productive and wonderful, I'd rather provide a rundown of my personal favorite sexiest, most romantic and most poignant moments across Dragon Age, for all companions.

Here goes!

Dragon Age: Origins


A rose by any other name just wouldn't be the rose given by Alistair to his adored Warden. It almost makes a Blighted world worth navigating...
Alistair
Alistair is a lovely Prince Charming, especially when he begins to face the Blight-ridden world he's supposed to save, and grows up. He's sweet, brave, and bashful, and his declaration of love for the Warden, giving her a rose in a world of darkness, really moved me the first time, and always will. It's one of my favorite-ever romance moments in Dragon Age: He's young and vulnerable but he's not wrong to use this one moment in a time of tragedy and torment to declare his feelings. It's just lovely (and beautifully acted by Steve Valentine).

For me it's Alistair's most beautiful, literate and genuinely poetic moment: 

Here. Look at this. Do you know what this is?

I picked it in Lothering. I remember thinking, 'How could something so beautiful  exist in a place with so much despair and ugliness? I probably should have left it alone but I couldn't. The Darkspawn would come and their Taint would just destroy it. So I've had it ever since. I thought that I might... give it to you, actually. In a lot of ways, I think the same thing when I look at you.

(Warden replies among several options)

I'm glad you like it. I was just thinking... here I am, doing all this complaining, and you haen't exactly been having a good time of it, yourself. You've had none of the good experience of being a Grey Warden since your Joining, not a word of thanks or congratulations. It's all been death, and fighting, and tragedy. 

I thought maybe I could say something. Tell you what a rare, and wonderful thing you are to find amidst all this... darkness.

Morrigan has literally been raised to distrust closeness, kindness, and generosity. Her romance therefore reveals a vulnerability and sweetness that is doubly charming.
Morrigan
For a scary swamp witch who can turn into a spider at will, Morrigan is surprisingly lovable. I adore her. I know she's controversial but to me she's a peanut-butter-tart with a soft and creamy center.

Wait. That sounded more sexual than I meant it. Although yes, I wanted to romance her with my female Warden and am still not okay that I couldn't.

Morrigan's romance, however, is genuinely lovely—she's tentative on emotion, forceful on passion, as you might suspect, and yet... the emotion is always there. It means something to her. Her acknowledgement of the Warden's feelings is moving because we know it's one of the only times she's ever done so in her life. Ever.

She seems like one of the sweetest characters in Dragon Age, but Leliana has a core of stone and steel to see her through the greatest crises of world or heart. And yet, no one is braver or more faithful.
Leliana
Oh, Leliana, Leliana, where do I start.

Romancing Leliana in DAO is like admiring the grace of a beta fish and not knowing it was a shapeshifter fish. It was not swirly and cute and pretty and inoffensive. It was a swordfish. Ha. But the joke's on you. It wasn't a swordfish, either: It was a shark all along. A beautiful GORGEOUS awesome, smart, subtle shark, but... yeah.

But that shark still has the soft little feathery feelings of the beta fish. As it should.

The best part is that she is unshakably faithful: If she romanced the Warden in DAI and Trespasser, she's still present, faithful, and loving there. It's the best thing ever.

Leliana: "Here, with you, knowing the freedom of the road and the uncertainty of tomorrow, I feel alive again." And a bit later... "It comforts me to know that the stars will remain untouched by the Blight. That whatever happens down here, they will shine eternally, their light undimmed."

Leliana is a combination of sweetness, softness, and steel. Leliana is amazing.

He's the rogue with the tongue of velvet and the heart of silk. Zevran is well worth romancing, and he's one of the funniest and most moving characters across the trilogy.
Zevran
I love Zev. Because his romance isn't "Yay! We're in love! Let's have sex!" and more, "Yay! We've had sex! Now we navigate the minefield of... feelings?!"

Ahem. But you get it. 

Like Bull, Zevran makes sex simple and only the emotions that follow anything complex or challenging. For him, they are a series of puzzles, a cipher. A product of incredible abuse thanks to an upbringing among brothels and assassins (wait, who does this remind you of?), poor Zev came through with his joy and sensuality intact. After a recent devastating loss of both life and faith, he has decided to kill himself, and it's only the Warden's mercy that spares him (or not).

And so there we are, with a wonderful character who thinks nothing of sex and who guards his own secrets like gold. Beautifully and humorously voiced by the talented Jon Curry, Zev is a character to adore or to kill and discard as too dangerous to live. Me, I've never ever been able to kill him or send him away.

And it's fitting for such a textured, rich character that one of his most devastating moments is when he's absolutely stone-cold serious and his heart is breaking:

"By your side I would willingly storm the gates of the Dark City itself."

Dragon Age II

Merrill cannot find her way around her own alienage even after years of residence, but she knows her own heart, and she's wiser than she seems.
Merrill
Secrets of Dragon Age blogging: Look. I love Merrill. I love her like I love relatives. Pets. Because (cringeworthy admission): She is the most like me. Of any DA character, she's who I understand, who I love, who I know. I have to respect and adore someone who can understand and parse complex magic and metaphysics while also finding herself lost in a simple neighborhood setting. BINGO. I get this.

And I think she's vastly underestimated. She's a goofball but she's also wise, and brave, and clear-eyed. (I'm not saying I am any of those things: But she is undoubtedly smart and yet in life, she is often... not. And I identify with that.)

But here's my favorite example of her feelings for a romanced Hawke, because they show that little thread of metal at her core, and as always it's a gorgeously voiced scene by Merrill's voice actor Eve Myles. Merrill is darling, but she does not mess around:

Aveline: I didn't expect you to stick around for this mess Merrill. This has nothing to do with your elves.
Merrill: I love Hawke, I wouldn't go anywhere.
Aveline: But it's not your fight.
Merrill: I love Hawke.
Aveline: You said that.
Merrill: I say it a lot. It makes things clearer, takes away doubt when everything is crazy and people are dying.
Aveline: I understand.
Merrill: Oh, good. Someone should.

That's Merrill for you. Funny when you expect her to break your heart. And heartbreaking just when you expect her to make you laugh.

Sexy, confident and complex, Isabela's suffered much. And she's softer at heart than she seems.
Isabela
I loved Isabela's romance. It's surprising, funny, sexy, and warm. It's also complex and it often zigs just when we think it will zag.

Isabela isn't always an easy character to love. She's tough, tenacious, pragmatic, and a pretty challenging, frightening life that included enslavement, rape, forced marriage, servitude, and imprisonment has taught her to be all right with cold, even callous choices. (Evidenced by her behavior over the Tome of Koslun throughout Dragon Age II.)

But there's more to Isabela, and she often shows us real charm and sweetness beneath the tough swaggering sailor-captain. She puts up with Aveline's constant yelps of "Whore!" and still sees beneath the warrior's puritanical knee-jerk reactions to the slightly scared, socially uncomfortable woman beneath.

As Izzy's terrific voice actor, Victoria Kruger's voice is rich and gorgeous, and it provides Isabela with something that externalizes who she is at her core—her generosity and warmth. As when she looks out for Merrill and calls her "Kitten." There's something to Isabela that's fine and pure, when she allows herself to be vulnerable.

My favorite moment for Isabela's romance is the very first one, when she shows up at Hawke's door for a little quality time. Since I was playing this with my FemHawke, I had no idea Izzy was, er, propositioning my girl for a little sex, and I was stupid enough to go, "Sure! Let's have girly time!" I was picturing more mani-pedis, but was also sort of delighted, nevertheless, that she was proposing something entirely different. My Hawke's reaction: Well, all righty, then! (Mani-pedis are, after all, overrated.)

Needless to say, the next scene, of Izabela and my Hawke happily making out while tossing off a dozen daggers apiece, remains one of the funniest, sexiest scenes in Dragon Age for me. I've seen it with a male Hawke too, but somehow it's better and funnier with the two women. Maybe because it's just so empowered, so strong, and so freaking funny.

I know many, many fans will disagree with me, but for me, Anders deserves every tiny little moment of happiness he can get. And somebody still needs to go find Ser Pouncealot. (Talk to the hand.)
Anders
Oh, Anders. The angst! The drama! The italicized proclamations!

Here's the deal: I love Anders. I know he's over the top. But I know how much he's been through. I know what he's suffered. I know he's spent his entire life running from people trying to isolate and control him.

So the fact that he's able to still feel so much in Dragon Age II, to be so passionate, is kind of a miracle to me. Let's not forget that our earliest outing for him literally involves our mercy-killing the first person he ever loved romantically.

So I love Anders's romance, with all its dramatic proclamations, doomed portents, and breathless kisses. His romance is one of my favorites across Dragon Age, and always will be.

I know people favor the dramatic "drown us in blood" quote, but the one that always gets me with Anders is quieter, and it broke my heart into little slivers:

"No mage I know has ever dared to fall in love... This is the rule I will most cherish breaking."

This. This is everything that's wrong with the mage/templar system. And it's doubly tragic given Anders's choices in this story path. But it will always move me.

Hey, if they took away his damn cat (don't get me started on Ser Pouncealot's fate!), the least Anders deserves is a night with the person he loves.

Abused, enslaved, and traumatized, the beautiful Fenris is a terrifying warrior who's able to reach right in and grab your heart. Both literally and metaphorically.
Fenris
"That night... I remember your touch as if it were yesterday. I should have asked your forgiveness long ago. I hope you can forgive me now."

Oh, Fenris. Such a tease.

I mean, I understand. And I know he has good reason—and isn't even always aware of how or why. As with Solas, he's close then not-close; near then far—not because he's consciously being a jerk, but because of the incredible trauma he's navigating.

And nobody has more trauma than poor Fenris, who has endured impossible sufferings in captivity, enslavement, rape, and further trauma, and all of it has—tragically and predictably—left him with a wellspring of real damage, sadness, hatred, vengeance, and suspicion.

He shares a night with Hawke, but he's then instantly conflicted as hidden memories surface, and he's undone by the vulnerability of real love and sex. While poor Hawke is devastated, Fenris's return is lovely and truly romantic:

"Nothing could be worse than the thought of living without you," he says. He goes on to say, poignantly, "If there is a future to be had, I will walk into it gladly at your side."

Sigh.

Dragon Age: Inquisition

Cassandra is a strong woman and superb warrior, but she's just as susceptible as any of us to a sweet moment of poetry. And that's a very, very good thing.

Cassandra

In a grove just outside of Skyhold, the Inquisitor calls to Cass with a line of lit candles through the trees, with poetry to bring her into the space.

He declaims the poem, "Carmenum di Amatus" and she teases him about it then quotes from it on her own lips:

His lips on mine speak words not voiced, a prayer.
Which travels down my spine like flames that shatter night.
His eyes reflect the heaven's stars, the Maker's light
My body opens, filled and blessed, my spirit there.

And the moment when the Inquisitor circles around behind Cass to join in on the poetic moment she finishes those final lines, his breath on her neck, her face inches from his. It's just so lovely and delicate, and everything our romance-loving Cass could wish.

"Not merely housed in flesh," he says. "But brought to life."

It's pretty sexy. It's even better that Cassandra's romance-loving heart of course adores every single minute.

What happens when sex turns to something more? Iron Bull's romance explores this conundrum with humor, edge and charm (and a surprising amount of poignance).
Iron Bull
It's a challenge to pick a romantic moment from the guy who shows NO RESPONSE AT ALL when we flirt with him, hopelessly, over and over and over again. Who views sex as a purely physical thing, a release and then boom, done.

Until he begins to think there might be more.

That's a relationship with the Iron Bull. For me, despite many romantic moments with our challenging and edgy Hissrad across the relationship, the one moment that stays with me as the loveliest and heart-meltiest, is during the postcoital "watchword" discussion scene. 

And here, for me, the final wonderfulness is a tie, when we can either tell Bull we love him (and Bull, acted beautifully by Freddie Prinze Jr., responds poignantly with a soft, "I love you too," or we can tell him we fear the outcome and that we may not make it through, and for the first and only time, Bull breaks down. 

He actually breaks, and responds softly, with "Katoh. I can't..." And that's the moment, you guys. It absolutely kills me. Kudos to Patrick, Freddie, and BioWare because I cry every single time I've seen it.

NOTE: And of course, I'm talking Tal-Vashoth Bull for maximum romance. Because, do not even start me on the alternative. Nope. We're not going there. KREM LIVES, you bastards!

Cullen's romance is sweet and unexpectedly moving, but it's his faith that adds a dash of pathos and real emotion.
Cullen
DAI's pensive Templar is one of my favorite characters across the trilogy, not least because he has a complex path through youth and into redemption and self-acceptance.

When I first played DAI, I remember assuming Cullen was mid- to late-thirties, just one of those ridiculous men who become more and more handsome as time passes. Except when fleeing our Warden's flirtations in DAO, he always seems like a guy who knows who he is, and who is certain of his own feelings.

But y'all. The reality is so much sadder.

The reality is actually more tragic to me—Cullen's a teenager in DAO, and in DA II he's just a traumatized guy in his twenties who really needed a vacation but who was instead sent to the worst possible place in the world for his next assignment: Kirkwall, where every bad opinion of mages he'd formed was confirmed. Where every corner contained a magical conspiracy.

Although barely 30, the Cullen of DAI knows better. He has finally realized how wrong he was, how corruptible even the best people are, and he has gone from confidence in his own infallibility to fear of causing harm for anyone under his watch: Mage, Templar, elf, qunari, human, dwarf, or otherwise.

Which is why, for me, Cullen's romance is sweet, hesitant, and sensitive. It's sexy but also realistic; there's the sense of real people dancing hesitantly toward each other here. He's someone old before his time; he's tired, self-doubting, and disillusioned. So the romance brings him back to himself in some lovely ways, while also reminding him of the importance of abandoning former hypocrisies and bigotries when it comes to mages or other races.

The most moving scene in Cullen's romance for me is the final one, when he desperately embraces a romanced Inquisitor in the chapel, both certain of his faith and fearful of her future.

Josie wants love, but she gives us the sense that she's not exactly seeking it out or expecting it. She's not chasing the physical, and is a fantastic ace option for Dragon Age: Inquisition protagonists.
Josephine
If you want an innocent romance, especially one with lovely, gently ace overtones, Josie's is the perfect choice for you, and it's a wonderful example of how different Josephine can be in her own quiet way.

As our resident Disney Princess, Josie seems like a typical privileged player of the Great Game, but she's so much more. She's quieter and gentler than Leliana, and still haunted by the one death that ever resulted at her own hands.

Josie wants love, but she gives us the sense that she's not exactly seeking it out or expecting it. She's not a physically outgoing person or after sensual pleasures. She's surprised and hesitant when flirted with, and disarmingly lovely simply for a few fairytale-worthy time-outs with the Inquisitor.

The culimination of Josie's romance is a dashing duel for her heart with the arranged suitor who will steal her hand in marriage, and my favorite moment of the entire situation is when Josie storms in, in a fit of temper, and tells everyone to calm down and control themselves. When the Inquisitor declares love, Josie is surprised and outright disbelieving:

Josephine: Why risk everything we've built? Why risk your life?
Inquisitor: Because I love you!
Josephine: You... you do?
Rival (best moment ever): He does?!
Inquisitor: I do.

And then the delighted kiss at the end, complete with leg-pop. It's the best possible fairytale ending you could ask for.

Blackwall believes he is doomed and does not deserve love. Of course, this makes him irresistible. 


Blackwall
I always love the characters who are so starved for love, for acknowledgement and redemption, and Blackwall's romance is deliciously angst-ridden, and oddly sweet. At every turn, he's blatant in his adoration of the Inquisitor and that he doesn't deserve her love. 

Blackwall's the romantic Knight-Errant ideal personified, the man with the tragic past who feels he cannot deserve his maiden, who cannot face his past actions. It makes his yearning for Josie sweet and sad, and his feelings for a romanced Inquisitor really quietly lovely.

So for me, my favorite romantic scene for him isn't the love scene (DUDES, he left me in a HAYLOFT. NAKED. NOPE.). It's when (earlier) he shyly shows up to the Inquisitor's quarters, and can't help but declare his feelings, and the kiss there. And of course he tells her she shouldn't love him, he shouldn't be there, and shouldn't kiss her.

That moment made me actively root for him and his redemption. And of course also made me love him more. Basically, every single time a pixellated character says, "Don't love me," I JUST LOVE THEM MORE.

It's human nature. And BioWare knows us all too well.

Dorian would run across vistas into his own arms to romance himself. Wouldn't we all?
Dorian
Okay, I'm biased here, because I love the "surprise kiss" more than life itself as a trope, and I am loud and proud, right here, with it. 

And Dorian's soft, surprising kiss to a romanced male Inquisitor, shortly after the revelations about his family and struggles, is so personal, so sweet and intimate and surprising, that I'm... y'all... it's just gorgeous. It's soft and sexy and prolonged just the right amount. 

The scene is also genuinely emotional, following Dorian's soft, sad account of his relationship with his father. The moment begins with him at the window at Skyhold, light falling on his impeccable profile, the Tevinter haircut more distinct here than anywhere else -- the shaved high sideburns, the dark curls of hair above. It's almost priestly in appearance.

And then he tells us about his father's shame over his choices. And then the poor guy has to immediately face Mother Giselle's innuendos about his relationship with the Inquisitor. Which, thank goodness, we can either allay or confirm (in all the best ways).

Inquisitor: Do you always answer a question with a question?
Dorian: Would you like me to answer in some other fashion?
Inquisitor: If you're capable.

Dorian rushes in, and... sigh. SHOOT ME, I'm not made of stone, people.

Sera's romance is sexy, exuberant, funny, combative and charming. Just don't go too 'elfy' and you'll be fine.
Sera
My poor darling Sera gets a bad rap. She's called out all the time for being rude, biased, or mean, and to me she's just tough and traumatized and trying to protect her little sweet taffy-soft heart.

Sera's romance is tough if you're an elfy-elf, and those are often what I've tended to play. But once you get past her flinty and protective exterior, she's soft and sweet and just as adorable as you might expect. 

Sera's romance is exuberant, funny, combative and charming. She knows her own mind, she loves women, she's decisive and fierce, and it's best if you're an Adaar and worst if you're a mage-friendly elfy-elf (please don't do it, just don't). 

Yes, she's intimidating (surprisingly so). But I love how smooth she is—for me, she's right up there with Solas as one of the smoothest companions when it comes to flirts. She openly calls our female Inky as pretty and shows only amusement at early flirtation attempts. 

Sera has a big moment mid-romance that's one of my favorite speeches across the trilogy. It's just so characteristic and real:

You don't act like nobles. I love that.
You don't hide. I love that.
(Varied) You don't like cookies. Convenient. Love that.
(Adaar) And just... look at you. Just... love that.
But seeing this really hurts. I'm fighting to make things better and learn truth and shit, and it just keeps getting scarier.

And when she called my Adaar "honey-tongue," um, it's really, really sexy. And I love her love scenes and how playful they are.

Solas's romance is high romance in the grandest Shakespearan tradition, where the best matches yearn hopelessly from afar, where sex occurs only rarely or just before death, and where outcomes usually end with "and with a kiss, I die." And I wouldn't have it any other way. Even as I tremble at the prospect of DA4 and what it will do to my poor heart.
Solas
Oh, he loves us. Yet he hides a terrible, tragic secret. Has there been any formula more deadly or more irresistible since time immemorial?

No. Nope. No, there hasn't. Just ask the thousands of happily weeping Solasmancers out there.

Solas's romance is high romance in the grandest Shakespearan tradition, where the best matches yearn hopelessly from afar, where sex occurs only rarely or just before death, and where outcomes usually end with "and with a kiss, I die."

I know it will shock blog readers (I KNOW!) but I love almost all of Solas's scenes, especially the romantic ones, but for me the biggest romantic zinger will always be the Fade Kiss.

I love all the other Solas Kisses (and it's a high bar, because, people, as a fictional character, it is highly apparent that the dude knows how to kiss), but there's something new and surprised there that always still gets me every time. I love all the others (I DO), but there, he's settled into the lie, he knows how to live there, sort of—but the Fade Kiss is the one discombobulated moment where Solas is literally going "HOLY CRAP, OKAY FINE, KISS ME YOU GORGEOUS THING."

So I do. And that's my favorite moment. Not just the kiss—but the kiss when he dives back in and goes for it.

We should all want that, right? The lover for whom one kiss is not enough. Solas may fight against this very thing, but let's face it... he doesn't fight that fricking hard, right? Not at first at least. Not for many many months. Until the endgame (and goodbye) looms and he faces the hardest choice of all.

But that's fantasy.

As far as reality, I'll wish you Fade romances, today and every day. Whether real or pixellated, I hope you romance a mage, a warrior, a rogue, a misfit, a lover, and get the love you deserve. And all the best kisses and cookies in the world.

And my work here is done. 

Happy Valentine's Day and beyond, you beautiful creatures! Thank you as always for reading!


6 comments:

  1. Carmenum di Amatus...

    Just a quibble, that's not the poem Inquisitor was reading, it's the title of the book he found it in. She recognized the title as that of a banned one, and found a *different* poem to read.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much! I'll update the post to correct this detail. It's much appreciated. Thanks for commenting!

      Delete
  2. Gosh... I feel 15, again. And people wonder why is Dragon Age my "happy place".

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    Replies
    1. You and me both! (And thanks for reading -- and commenting!)

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  3. Hmmm, no Sebastian? Too chaste for his own good? XDD

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    Replies
    1. I'm so sorry for not including Seb! I really should have -- I missed him because he's a DLC companion, apologies. I will make sure to address him in a future post.

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