INQUISITOR: We save Ferelden, and they’re angry! We save Orlais, and they’re angry! We close the Breach twice, and my own hand wants to kill me! Could one thing in this fucking world just stay fixed?
September 8, 2019 marked the 4-year anniversary for the Dragon Age: Inquisition DLC “Trespasser,” which is arguably the most impactful and tantalizing DLC of the entire game trilogy.
Personally, I still can’t believe it’s been four years… some part of me is still back there, honestly, listening to bard songs, weeping over the outcome for my Qun-loyal Bull, or still ruminating on that final conversation with my other digital boyfriend Solas, and enjoying the prospect of even more heartbreak to come.
From Origins through Inquisition, each chapter of Dragon Age has included a DLC that served as a tantalizing yet crystal-clear link to the next game. From Origins' “Awakenings,” to Dragon Age 2’s “Legacy” to Inquisition’s “Trespasser,” these DLC milestones provided a subtle step forward while presenting the issues and story elements that would be highly impactful in the next major release and a dramatic step in the game story.
I love all of these DLCs, from “Awakenings” and its bittersweet foreshadowings of darkness for some of its brightest characters (Anders) to the way “Legacy” pointed us directly into the bleakness and chaos of Corypheus in Inquisition.
But my favorite DLC so far has to be “Trespasser,” which provides us with everything we loved and hated about Solas in a single DLC, and which instantly paints him as someone who is both irredeemable in his goals and yet intensely worth love and loyalty (for many, at least) for the reasons behind his actions, as well as for his quiet and rather surprising continued loyalty to (and compassion for) the Inquisitor and the Inquisition.
Following are some of the most surprising and emotional moments in “Trespasser” for me… from joy to anguish and everything in between. Here goes!
1. The Time Jump
2. Oh, Teagan!
Feel free to fight me on this, but perhaps there is no outcome as unexpected or cruel for those of us who’ve been with Dragon Age since Origins as the revelation that Arl Teagan has gone, in ten brief years, from a sexy, elegant and supportive stealth hottie, to a bitter, twisted man prematurely aged and prunified by his circumstance.
Also, that hat. That hat. Why, Teagan, why? (This is where I shake my fist at the heavens, as cinematically as possible…)
Honestly, I blame Isolde.
For this reason, for me, there's always something extra-awful and sort of horribly lovely about our progress through the Darvaarad. Finally, as with the elven Fade, so many secrets unlocked and accessible! And yet, still so alien. As far away as ever.
5. The Missing Ones
It’s one thing to lose characters in Inquisition, depending on your choices. But if you played a colder, crueler or more insular Inquisitor, “Trespasser” can feel like a ghost town, an abandoned palace of emptiness.
And if we chose to save the Qunari dreadnought in Bull’s loyalty quest in Dragon Age: Inquisition, sacrificing the Chargers to preserve an alliance with the Qun, then “Trespasser” is not only pretty grim, it’s downright depressing. With no Chargers, there is no lighthearted birthday celebration for Bull, no sweet Krem presence in the tavern, quietly protecting Bull’s blind spot, or (potentially, depending on your choices) romancing bard Maryden.
There’s just nothing. Nothing but Bull sitting alone at the bar, waiting for the moment when he sells his soul for good and all and his suffering ends. In the meantime, he does what he’s best at, and waits, drinks, and lies.
6. "Wait, We Get to Save a Dragon?!"
One of the biggest surprises for me in "Trespasser" was also one of my favorite emotional moments in the DLC. It occurs fairly late in the questline, when we’re nearing the end of the story, and in a terrific and very human moment, every single person in the room loses their temper. Including the Inquisitor. It’s a moment that shocked me when I first played it, because it’s the rare occasion in which our heroic, bright-eyed Inky goes full-on ballistic and has had enough with everything and everyone. But before she does? So does JOSIE.
It’s great drama, and it’s emotionally affecting because we haven’t seen the Inquisitor this way. Up til now, they’re arguably never out of control even during the most emotional moments of Inquisition. So the moment when our long-suffering Inquisitor, facing a scary and painfully disintegrating Mark, finally realizes their own mortality and simply loses their composure to their inner council of Josie, Leliana and Cullen is pretty surprising and powerful, and – best of all – it happens right after Josie absolutely loses it first (“Do you know what this has cost us with Orlais and Ferelden? They are planning to dismantle us as we speak! And perhaps they are right…”)
After Josie’s outburst, the Inquisitor’s Mark flares again, and they gasp, then actually scream in pain. Here, we can choose for them to react in confusion, in fear, in bravado, or (my favorite) with outright frustration:
INQUISITOR: Shit! Damn it! We save Ferelden, and they’re angry! We save Orlais, and they’re angry! We close the Breach twice, and my own hand wants to kill me! Could one thing in this fucking world just stay fixed? (They sigh, panting.) I need to get to the Darvaarad. You can all fight amongst yourselves once I’m… once I’m back.It’s the first time the Inquisitor really loses it in the entire arc of their sufferings despite the Mark, and the moment is really beautifully played, no matter which Inquisitor voice you chose to convey it – Alix Wilton Regan, Sumalee Montano, Jon Curry, or Harry Hadden-Paton.
I especially love the final moments, when the anger fades, and they attempt to skip past the certainty that they won’t survive.
8. “Nothing Personal, bas.”
"Nothing personal, bas." Three words that will always resonate within the vast emptiness of my Dragon Age soul on its darkest night. (Well, those, and "Ar lath ma, vhenan...")
So that's brutal. Because Bull heard us, took orders like a good soldier, did exactly what we asked, right down to watching the slaughter of his entire found family (including beloved Krem), and then he predictably retreated back into the shell of himself for the sake of his own tattered sanity. My personal belief is that Bull himself died (or the best of him did) in that lonely final, devastating reaction punch after the loss of the Chargers back at Skyhold.
After that grief-stricken punch, my take is that our friend and companion Bull is gone, gone, gone—a shell going through the motions and pithed by our (and the Qun’s) demands.
It’s even worse if we read between the lines when “Trespasser” takes place, after this scenario, because the implication is that Bull has spent the intervening years back in the bosom of the Qun and (it’s heavily implied) under further brainwashing or “reeducation.”
Bull has, of course, potentially continued to romance the Inquisitor (or Dorian) for the sake of his calling, but coldly, without warmth. Until he is freed, rather ironically, by the Viddasala’s command, when he can at last take action against the Inquisitor who cheerfully ordered the killing of his family, revealing that to him they are not even worth the title of being called a basalit’an (a non-Qunari deserving of respect). Instead, the Inquisitor is just bas. A thing. And he can now, at last, unleash his grief from the depths and die fighting and feeling… something.
And, worst of all, still following orders. All the way to the death.
9. Solas's Confession...
Surely there’s rarely been an RPG game conversation as cursed, complex, beloved, or debated as Solas’s final astonishing, bittersweet confessional in “Trespasser,” especially with a romanced (and dumped) Inquisitor.
Thanks to the care and delicate attention to detail by the Dragon Age writers in "Trespasser," and most notably by Solas writer Patrick Weekes, this moment is both satisfying and the very definition of complex.
To his credit, Solas was, and is, openly horrified by that outcome, and his work with the Inquisition was, I believe, his attempt to atone.
So it’s an interesting conundrum, to say the least. Do we love Solas, or hate him? Thousands of fans eloquently defend options on either side. Do we choose to redeem him, or kill him, in the chapter ahead? It's not a given—one answer doesn't necessarily track with another here, as plenty of those I know who love Solas have, for instance, pledged to kill him if and when Dragon Age 4 shows up.
I think that's my favorite element of this conversation. It goes against so many tropes in its own odd way; it's not a villain gloating, but a former hero mourning what he feels he will have to do. Instead, it's Solas going, "So, hey, schmoops, I haven't been totally honest with you, and there are things you need to know in the future so that you can fight me and have even the faintest chance of winning."
All we can do now is wait and wonder. And hope it isn’t four more years until we find out.