Well, here we are again. Another HEAVILY BIASED list of my favorite Dragon Age companions, only this time, we’re tackling Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening.
When I first got into Dragon Age, I bought a bundle that had Origins, the DLC packs, and the Awakening expansion, but I didn’t play the latter until pretty recently. And, let’s be honest, had I not found out about Iron Bull in Inquisition before I even finished Origins, I probably would have played the games a lot differently… You know, like, in order.
See, after desperately wanting my Cousland to be able to romance Sten in Origins, I leapt at the chance to finally have a Qunari boyfriend in the game. (Okay, this sounds really weird, I’m sorry.) Anyway, everything I saw about Inquisition looked super cool and I heard that Dragon Age II was rushed and not as good, so I wasn’t exactly excited to play it. Impatiently and impulsively, I skipped Awakening, skipped II and got myself a Qunari boyfriend.
The point of me sharing this is that I was wrong, oh, so wrong, to skip Awakening back then. Because Iron Bull will always be waiting for me. (Getting weird again, my apologies.) But also because Awakening was so much cooler than I thought it would be.
When I got my Steam Deck this summer, the first thing I wanted to do was play the Dragon Age games again and beef up my canon worldstates now that I really understood all the plots and everything. (Haven’t played II a second time, but maybe we’ll get there. I’ll explain more about my technical issues with it in the piece I write in the near future.)
When I played through Origins fully, I was so enamored with the game, even more than I was the first time I played it. So much so that I finally played Awakening and ate it up. Of course…I didn’t finish it because I picked the wrong companions to take along with me and kept losing a battle near the end and I didn’t have an easy save to go back to. So, someday I will go back and do it again.
Until then, I’ll be writing this list. Oh, and watch out for SPOILERS.
I have to say, my opinion on Velanna suffers a lot from timing. She was the last companion I collected(?) and I wasn’t able to spend too much time with her. See, when I found her, I wasn’t able to have her go through the Joining because when I talked to Seneschal Varel, he immediately kicked off the Siege of Vigil’s Keep or the Assault on Amaranthine quests. And as such, I don’t really feel like I know her.
When we first meet her in the Wending Wood, she’s already started killing people and terrorizing villages. Strike one, I guess. Then she becomes suspicious and sends a pack of Sylvans on us. Strike two. And if you decide not to kill her for what she’s doing, she asks for your help in finding her sister who’s been taken by the darkspawn. Not so bad. Kinda nice to see how much she cares for her sister.
I didn’t take her with me for the last main quest I could do before I realized I messed up my playthrough, so all I saw of her was just her being really angry in her questline. I found the bitter, murderous mage to be a little off-putting, like I would never want to be around her if I actually knew her in real life.
I will say, though, the thing I like about her the most is her quest. There’s a creepiness to the plot surrounding her, and through her we meet the Architect, one of the most fascinating villains in the game. So, that helps? I guess?
Hopefully I’ll like her more if I play Awakening again, and in a much different order.
Well, if you read my HEAVILY BIASED list of Origins companions, you’ll know that I don’t fall in the “Oghren is the worst” camp. I understand his lack of popularity and I find him a little annoying, but he’s not so bad.
He’s the only companion who comes back as a playable character in Awakening. I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that this was because due to the difficulty level of the Orzammar quest in Origins, it’s intended to play later in the game, and so, players likely wouldn’t hear much from him. If that’s true, to me, it sounds like a favor to the voice actor, Steve Blum.
For me, it was nice to see Oghren again and find him in the very beginning of the game during the Assault on Vigil’s Keep. I mean, I’d obviously much rather have someone like, say, Sten or even Zevran come back, but Oghren’s a good warrior and an asset to the team.
Also, I don’t know what it is about it, but I like that little voice clip of him saying, “Need something pummeled?”
Where Velanna’s favor with me fell due to poor timing in Awakening, Anders’ was doomed by my insistence on playing the games wildly out of order. (Damn you, Iron Bull.)
As mentioned earlier, I played Awakening much later than I did Dragon Age II, where Anders also appears as a companion. And, you know, becomes a domestic terrorist.
We meet him for the first time during the Assault on Vigil’s Keep, finding him amongst dead darkspawn and templars, but he claims to have only killed the darkspawn. I probably would have believed him if I didn’t already know what horrors he was capable of…
I guarantee I would have had a much different opinion of Anders had I played Awakening first. I actually almost liked him in this expansion, as he was funny and charming, kind of like the Dollar Store version of Alistair, except he’s an apostate and not a former templar. (Is this what a foil is? I barely remember from high school English.) For me, I enjoyed him here much more than I did in Dragon Age II, even before he blew up the chantry. He was just so…whiny in that game.
But in this expansion he’s more fun to have around. Still not one of my favorite companions, but it’s nice to know him before he committed those terrible acts. Plus, his relationship with Ser Pounce-A-Lot is very cute, I must say.
Remember when I said I liked the creepiness of Velanna’s quest?
Well, I love the creepiness of Justice. I mean, he’s literally a spirit who’s taken over the decaying corpse of a Grey Warden named Kristoff.
A Spirit of Justice, hence the name, he(? it?) asks the Warden and their compatriots for help when they’re transported into the Fade. A village in the Blackmarsh was taken over by the evil Baroness, a blood mage whose backstory makes me think she was based on Elizabeth Báthory. Justice will ask the Warden to help and they can accept, but he won’t be too happy if you say no.
Whatever you choose, after the Baroness sends you out of the Fade, you join forces with Justice, who has taken over Kristoff’s body, to battle her when she turns into a pride demon and then he can join you on your merry way.
While sometimes Justice himself can be a bit sanctimonious, I find his whole mythos to be super interesting. And the character design of him having taken over the rotting body of Kristoff is just chef’s kiss. I don’t usually find zombies that compelling, but I think this case is a lot different, and it worked for my creepy self.
Okay, I’m going to be really honest here. I’m not that into the Deep Roads that much. Sorry. I think part of it stems from just how long the Paragon of Her Kind quest was in Origins and how I just wanted to be done with that quest before I even fought the broodmother. But I gotta say, I love Sigrun.
I mean, she’s just a badass dual-wielding rogue who’s a member of the Legion of the Dead, a casteless dwarf with the coolest face tattoos I would never want, a plucky little dwarf with adorable pigtails. And when we meet her, she’s being dragged into the Deep Roads by darkspawn, wearing this awesome helmet. I’ve never wanted a helmet ever, but I want that one.
After we help her, she asks to join us when we attack Kal-Hirol as vengeance against the darkspawn bastards who killed the battalion she was part of. (She’s a sole survivor–can she get much cooler?) Then she fully intends on just going into the Deep Roads to fight off the darkspawn until she inevitably gets ripped apart by hurlocks and genlocks, nonchalantly, because as mentioned before, she’s a Legionnaire. Fortunately, instead of her meeting that fate, we can add her to our party permanently, which my Cousland was happy to do.
I haven’t done as much thinking as my Cousland in this list because I don’t feel nearly as connected to these characters as I do to the ones in Origins (yet), but I think she and Sigrun would be besties, bonding over their daggers and knives at Vigil’s Keep during quiet moments.
Oh, Nathaniel Howe.
The son of Arl Rendon Howe who, if you remember, slaughtered my Cousland’s family and the servants in the keep in her origin story. Now, Nathaniel was off squiring in the Free Marches and had nothing to do with the attack, but after he finds out that his father was killed by the Grey Warden, he initially wants to lay a trap and kill her. However, instead he just tries to sneak into what was once his family’s keep (and is now being used as the Wardens’ base) and take back some heirlooms to remember them by.
After it took four Wardens to capture him, he’s locked away in the cells of Vigil’s Keep, where the Warden-Commander can either execute him, conscript him, or let him go. The only way he doesn’t become part of your party is if you execute him right then and there.
Despite the fact that his father is a treacherous, murderous piece of shit who killed my Cousland’s family, I felt that she would have a soft spot for Nathaniel, as he really had nothing to do with Rendon’s plans. Also, she would have sympathy for this revenge plot, considering what she did to Loghain…and his father. She understands Nathaniel and his motivations. (Earmuffs on, Alistair.) And, honestly, if Alistair wasn’t in the picture and any characters could be romanced in this expansion, I could totally see the two of them maybe getting together somewhere along the line. (Okay, earmuffs off.)
Anyway, I like Nathaniel the most because of the way his story intertwines with my Cousland. I’m sure if I played as anything other than a human noble to completion (ha, like that’s going to happen any time soon), maybe I wouldn’t find myself as fond of the guy.
But for now, it works for me.
Well, there they are. This wasn’t quite as in-depth as my previous post, but maybe if I play Awakening again and feel I have different things to say about these characters, I can revisit this column. For now, however, I think that’s going to do it.
Don’t agree with me? Great. I wouldn’t expect you to. (Politely) tell me your personal rankings, I’d love to read them.
And stay tuned because I’ll be working on more HEAVILY BIASED rankings, especially of the Dragon Age video game series.