Thursday, May 30, 2024

Let’s be honest: the Dragon Age 2 ladies were the best companions

If there’s one thing that everyone should know by now, it’s that Dragon Age 2 had some incredible companions. Regardless of which are your favourites, each character had a phenomenal range of personality, no matter whether they were a romance option or not. Just look at Varric, well-loved by most Hawke’s back in 2, and a treasured friend of the Inquisitor in Dragon Age: Inquisition.

But let’s be honest with each other for a moment. While all the companions slap, the absolute best Dragon Age 2 companions were the ladies.

People who know me already have an idea of how much I love Isabela, and how much I’m in mourning over the missed opportunity of seeing more of her in the cancelled expansion for Dragon Age 2. But I’m also incredibly fond of all of the female characters you come across in Hawke’s journey – including NPCs that you only meet once or twice, like Lady Elegant. They all have a special place in my heart, and that’s because, to put it simply, I love Dragon Age 2. I think that, in spite of the crushing conditions that it was made under, it’s a masterpiece of a game that tells an engaging, personal story yes, but a politically relevant one too.

Aveline can become one of Hawke’s dearest friends throughout Dragon Age 2

The very first companion you come across is Aveline Vallen, a soldier returning from the massacre of Ostagar (a battle you see the aftermath of in Dragon Age: Origins) to find that her home of Lothering, as well as her husband, has been attacked by darkspawn. Like Hawke and their family, Aveline wants to run from Lothering, get a ship and go somewhere safe. However, Aveline’s husband perishes to the Blight and she has little choice but to follow Hawke to Kirkwall.

One of the things I love most about Aveline is that, despite her solid perception of right and wrong, she is very much willing to break the rules if it comes to protecting the ones she loves. Despite Anders bad opinion of her, Aveline never shops him to the Templars, she turns a blind eye to Fenris loitering in an abandoned mansion in Kirkwall, is mute about Merrill’s blood magic practices, and heavily disapproves at you sending Isabela back to the Qunari in Act 2. Much like Isabela, she loves deeply but shows it best by her actions.

Of course, considering Aveline also becomes guard captain after ousting the previous corrupt one, her favouring Hawke and their companions does call into attention that, regardless of her best intentions, she’s a hypocrite. That doesn’t make Aveline a terrible character, it’s that flaw that makes her realistic and relatable and more than one-dimensional. She can be sweet, caring and hopeless in love, whilst still being hypocritical, stern and stubborn.

And if you’re not too sure about Aveline, go take her and Isabela on that Act 1 quest where you have to decide to take Kelder, a magistrate’s son that has been killing elven girls because they are ‘too beautiful’, back to Kirkwall or not. Phenomenal voice acting from both of these characters that really made them stand out.

Merrill is more than she appears. Also don’t judge me for this mod, she’s still cute!

Merrill, a companion recruited early on in Act 1, is a Dalish elf that players will recognize if they’ve played Dragon Age: Origins. In her return to the series in 2, Merrill comes across as very naive, but knowledgeable about all things magic. She hasn’t ever been in a human city before, and relies on Hawke and the rest of the companions to help educate her on things that are completely foreign to her. Unfortunately, this means that she never quite gets important social cues, such as realizing when she’s being mugged, or wandering into gang territories. To put it a blunt way: Merrill is all sorts of charming, but is very much an elven woman who has no idea how to function in a mostly human city. She is very cute about it, though.

So with all this information at a first glance, it does come as a shock when you find out that Merrill is also a blood mage. In Thedas, blood magic is looked down upon due to its ability to let mages control others, whether it be their mind or their body. However, Merrill see’s it as a tool like any other, and is actively using blood magic to try and cleanse a broken mirror called the Eluvian – something that she believes has the opportunity to grant her and her Dalish clan new information about their history.

Merrill is a controversial oddity for most of the other Dragon Age 2 companions. Fenris flits between complete distrust and active hate – likely due to his own agony at the hands of magic, and Anders views her as someone to be pitied. The others, for the most part, view Merrill as a person at the very least, but are actively concerned about what she’s getting herself into.

Yet while the companion’s view of Merrill is interesting, it’s their inability to see that her search for her people’s history is rooted in both her being prideful and because she cares. It is only when (spoiler alert) Marethari dies does Merrill realize that sometimes there is going too far. Alternatively, you can influence her to realize that she’s come this far, there’s no going back now. Either way, she’s a controversial, fascinating character in that respect that I’ve still not quite forgiven Dragon Age: Inquisition for foisting Morrigan on an elven storyline that would have worked so much better with Merrill.

Isabela is a very laid-back character in comparison to most of Hawke’s companion

And then there’s Isabela. As I mentioned earlier, Isabela is a character that is remarkably similar to Aveline despite the two of them being polar opposites. She’s not very good with ’emotions and stuff’ and shows her feelings best by doing, rather than saying.

She’s also very laid-back in comparison to most of Hawke’s other companions. While Fenris and Anders are both extremely passionate about certain subjects – cough, cough, mages, cough cough – Isabela is just of the simple opinion that everyone should be free to do what they want. As long as everyone is able to live their life the way they want to, Isabela is happy.

But don’t mistake this thinking as Isabela being something of a centrist, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. By the end of Dragon Age 2, Isabela still mostly looks after no.1 aka herself, but her loyalty to her friends makes her put aside her desire to run and to fight for what’s right. This thinking is even improved on in Dragon Age: Inquisition, where she becomes an agent of the Inquisition and fights for yet another cause. It’s just yet another instance of Isabela saying one thing, but feeling something else entirely and it’s just another thing – of a very long list – that makes her stand out as an enjoyable, fun companion.

Quite honestly, I could stick Isabela, Merrill, and Aveline in a party together and I’d still have the best experience in the world. In fact, that’s my main team when I play through Dragon Age 2 and it’s because of one simple reason: the ladies are just the best companions in this game and that is that.

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