Ardwulf Plays: Dragon Age Origins Episode 12 – The Tower Under Siege

In Episode 12 of our Dragon Age: Origins Let’s Play, we continue clearing out the Circle Tower. We hear of an unfamiliar Mage, Niall, who may have played a part in unleashing demons, blood magic and abominations upon the Tower. One the second level we encounter a pack of Blood Magi, who we defeat. I elect not to show mercy to the lone survivor.

We encounter a powerful Revenant that costs us a large portion of our potion supply to defeat. From First Enchanter Irving’s quarters we recover the Black Grimoire, which we will later gift to Morrigan as part of her character quest line.

There is a lot of DA:O left to play, so this is a game I’ll be sticking with for the time being. But you’ll see the next one before too long; very early in the new year I plan to start a second concurrent playthrough, but exactly what that will be depends on a couple of different things. I may have something to say about that by the end of the week.

Stay tuned in for Episode 13, due tomorrow!

Ardwulf Plays: Dragon Age Origins Episode 11 – Trouble on the Docks

In Episode 11 of our Dragon Age: Origins playthrough, we travel to the Tower of the Magi, to gain their aid against Loghain and the Blight. On the docks on Lake Calenhad, we learn that there is trouble in the Tower.

After talking our way into the Tower, we find that the Magi have been compromised. Demons and abominations have taken control, and the Templars control only part of the first floor. Seeing no other alternative, Knight-Commander Gregoir has called for the Rite of Annulment, which will eradicate everyting in the tower, Magi and demons alike. It’s not completely clear whether this is a ritual or a mere decree of some kind.

Wishing the Magi’s support in the crusade against the Blight, we agree to clear out the tower and salvage the situation. But the doors will be sealed behind us, with no escape until we fail or succeed. After seeing the quartermaster to clear space in our inventory, we venture inside.

Within, we find a group of Magi and your apprentices holding out, including Wynne, a senior Mage who was at Ostagar but who survived the slaughter. She will (must, in fact,) join us for the remainder of our work in the Tower, destroying the abominations and saving the First Enchanter.

With this episode we begin the main, branching part of the Dragon Age: Origins story. In principle we can do eacxh of the four paths in any order, but it turns out that they aren’t really tuned that way; the Magi questline in generally held (so I’ve read) to be the one you want to do first, since it’s alleged to be the easiest (but perhaps the longest, as you’ll see,) and it unlocks Wynne, the only healer companion, as a party member. Plus, my character is a Mage, so it seemed appropriate to do their questline first.

Stay tuned in for Episode 12, due tomorrow!

How One Story Ends

In 2009 I began to emabark on a personal journey — to go back to school. My desire to do so dated from my departure in 1991, but it was only with the unflagging support of Mrs. Ardwulf that it was finally made to happen. I have been taking classes since 2010 and it was a very long, slow road, filled with potholes and faceplants along the way.

There were times that I didn’t think I would finish. One of those times was just before the start of the Autumn 2014 semester, when my financial aid was abruptly cut off. Just like that, it looked like I was done, two semesters away from graduating. Thankfully there was help. Arrangements were made, but in order to pull it off I had to pack everything that I needed into one semester. The university did their part by giving me a final-term grant so I could finish, and a family member lent me the rest until I could pull the money together. It was harrowing — at one point I was actually disenrolled.

The semester itself was backbreaking, bearing in mind that I have worked full time or more the whole time, at a real grownup job rather than at a part-time student gig. Sleep was often an unaffordable luxury; sometimes I didn’t have time to eat. I developed a variety of stress-fueled ailments. My beleaguered wife had to deal with me having very little time or energy to spend with her.

As the pieces started to fall into place in the autumn I kept my distance from the graduation. The paperwork was all done, and as the end of the semester loomed so did due dates and projects. I just didn’t trust that everything wouldn’t fall apart through some bitter mischance. I breathed sighs of relief as the grades came in, one by one, with room to spare. I got nervous when I got my line assignment. It’s not real yet, I’d tell myself. I kept on thinking that as I walked into the Schottenstein Center on Sunday morning, only to find my name on the list. But that still wasn’t surety, that I wouldn’t get a crushing letter in my envelope instead of a diploma, informing me that I didn’t qualify and would have to do more to graduate — which could not have happened. When I saw my name in the program I was still in a quantum state of believing and not believing.

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When they handed me this, I believed. And there it is. After 25 years, with an 18-year break and five more years that felt even longer, it is accomplished. I look forward to having my life back.

Ardwulf Plays; Dragon Age: Origins Epsiode 10 -­ Tales of Old Ferelden

My apologies for having no episode yesterday there simply wasn’t the time.
A full explanation will be forthcoming in a separate post later today.

Meanwhile, we have Episode 10 today! Herein we finish exploring the wilderness near Lothering, and finally depart. In our party camp, after a harrowing nightmare of the Archdemon, we encounter the Dwarven merchants once again and have much conversation with our party members, including some old tales from Morrigan about the mysterious Flemeth.

We’ll have episodes daily from here on out. Number 11 is due tomorrow!

Ardwulf Plays: Dragon Age Origins Episode 9 – The Imperial Highway

Not much commentary today, to go along with Episode 9 of the Dragon Age: Origins playthrough. The reason why, you’ll find out in the next couple of days, unless you’re following me on social media, in which case you probably already know.

In this episode, however, with Sten now in our party, we explore the small wilderness north of Lothering and find it populated by bandits and giant spiders. We also clear out a pack of Darkspawn who are infesting the Imperial Highway heading out of town, saving some friendly Dwarven mechants along the way.

Stay tuned for Episode 10 tomorrow!

Ardwulf Plays: Dragon Age Origins Episode 8 – A Message to Loghain

In Episode 8 of our Dragon Age: Origins playthrough, Alastair and Morrigan continue bickering in Lothering, where we opt to send a message to the Betrayer Loghain.

Arriving in Lothering, which is overrun by refugees fleeing the Darkspawn, I scour the village for useful supplies. Encountering a profeteering merchant, I bully him into lowering his prices for the beleagured refugees. I also agree to perform a few tasks for the villagers, empoying the party’s talents at herbalism and toxicology.

In the village tavern, we encounter Loghain’s men — looking for us. It seems that Loghain has blamed the fiasco at Ostagar on the Grey Wardens. Rather than try to conceal the fact that I am a Warden, I proudly announce it and we engage their party in combat. Quickly subduing them, I elect to spare their leader instead of giving him the grisly death he deserves, for the sake of taking a message from the Grey Wadrens to Loghain, and becuase I would not be able to leave his bloody, mouldering corpse in a ditch anyway.

We also encounter Leliana, a lay sister of the Chantry who may have a less wholesome past, and may also be insane. She invites herself along on our mission, and I agree, because she has skills that we otherwise lack.

We also come across a strange man in a cage, set there to die by the Chantry for massacring an entire family. Alastair reminds me that the Qunari are renowned as fierce warriors, and it seems to me that he might be of use. I convince the Revered Mother to release him into my custody. We also meet an old friend of Alastair, Ser Donnall, who informs us that Arl Eamon is deathly ill — even magic is unable to cure his ailment. His knights are searcing for the Urn of Sacred Ashes, a sacred relic of Andraste said to be able to cure all ills. But there are no clues to the Urn’s location in Lothering. So with Sten added to opur party, we haed into the wilderness north of Lothering.

I mentioned this in one of the videos, but just to get it in writing: I first bought Dragon Age: Origins for the PS3 not long after it came out. I recognized immediately, though, that it would be better played on the PC — and reading the game’s large amount of text on my old 27″ CRT TV was no pleasure. So I set it aside for a while until the Ultimate Edition, which includes all of the DLC as well as the expansion, came up for sale on Steam. I think that at the time I may have paid what was for me a record price: $15 or thereabouts, as I recall. I did try to play it from a couple of different starting origins, and logged maybe ten hours total, which was quite a bit further than I had gotten on the PS3. Right around Lothering or just after is where I stalled, more than once.

Which is unfortunate, because it’s not until after Lothering that DA:O starts to open up, giving you someAboit what world to explore and a little less linearity. In the current playthrough I’m just getting up to that point, and I think I have more than enough momentum to carry me through, this time.

Episode 9 should be out on tomorrow!

Ardwulf Plays: Dragon Age Origins Episode 7 – Journey to Lothering

In Episode 7 our our Dragon Age: Origins playthrough, we recover from the disaster at Ostagar and decide what our next steps must be. Along the way we find a new companion and new annoyances.

Distressed by the death of Duncan and the massacre of the Grey Wardens, Alastair intuits that we can use the old Warden treaties to gather support to fight both the Darkspawn and the traitor Loghain.

Morrigan’s mother turns out to be the legendary witch, Flemeth. She is able to tell us one theory behind the genesis of the Darkspawn, that archdemons are Old Gods awakened and corrupted. To our surprise Flemeth commands Morrigan to come with us, and we are obliged to agree. I suspect a deeper plot, but whatever Flemeth’s motivations and character, she does appear to be an ally against the Blight, and that’s good enough for me for now. At Morrigan’s suggestion we head to the village of Lothering, North of the Wilds, stopping at the party camp along the way.

In Denerim, the traitor Loghain tries to rally the nation under his command as regent for his daughter, Anora, the dead King Cailan’s wife. The nobles of the Kingdom appear to be unwilling to accept this.

On the road we are set upon by darkspawn, but are aided by the Mabari hound who we assisted at Ostagar, who joins our party. We dispatch them, but encounter some bandits as well, who I intimidate into not collecting their “toll,” but I attack them anyway and we finish them off. We arrive in Lothering shortly thereafter, just in time for Morrigan and Alastair to begin bickering.

DA:O was announced and envisioned as a “spiritual successor” to the hallowed Baldur’s Gate games, but I have to admit that it doesn’t feel like one of that family to me. Some feel otherwise, but I may have a different perspective. Baldur’s Gate was released in 1998, and I had been immersed in the tabletop roleplaying scene for many years by then. I did play PC games of the strategy sort, but Baldur’s Gate looked extraordinarily exciting at the time. For those of us around then and a part of that scene, though, it was intimately linked to D&D itself, an extension of the tabletop game. For me that link to D&D and the Forgotten Realms is as much at the heart of Baldur’s Gate as the story, the mechanics or the PC game genre.

To say that DA:O doesn’t feel like BG doesn’t say anything about DA:O, of course. And while I think I prefer D&D’s mechanical framework to DA’s, I think there’s little doubt that DA:O has a place near the pinnacle of its genre. Its subgenre, anyway — dissecting the changes made to the DA series in later games is going to need to wait until I’ve played those games. I’m particularly curious about Dragon Age: Inquisition, the first post-Skyrim entry in the series.

Stay tuned for episode 8, scheduled for tomorrow!