My name is Emily and while I’m far from a “gamer,” I’m a huge fan of BioWare’s Dragon Age video games, and am eagerly awaiting DreadWolf’s arrival in the future. Naturally, I’m the type of person who intends on doing something different in every new playthrough, but then ends up playing a human dual-wielding rogue who romances the same person and typically uses the same three companions for each quest.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate all the aspects of the game.
Some day I will at least do every origin to fully appreciate them–perhaps even as “research” for another HEAVILY BIASED column (I’m determined to make this a Thing here at ViewSink).
Anyway, here I am, one girl clinging to her twenties, to give you my extremely opinionated ranking of the Dragon Age: Origins companions. And I will caution anyone watching this that there will be massive SPOILERS, so if you haven’t finished playing the game, enter at your own risk. This will be your last warning.
Well, if you ignored my spoiler warning at the beginning, don’t get mad at me.
I am decidedly not a fan of Loghain Mac Tir. Sorry. I have never done a playthrough where he doesn’t get murdered at the end of the Landsmeet for quite a few reasons.
Was King Cailan overly-romanticizing Grey Wardens and wanting to play the hero a little too much? Yeah. Was Loghain’s heart in the right place? I’ll give him that. But choices made “for the greater good” are usually connoted with evil decisions, and I don’t like it.
I will say, though, I’m not against a good redemption story. And I’m sure if I could stomach doing a full playthrough as anything other than a Cousland who falls in love with Alistair, maybe I could find it in my heart to recruit Loghain and have my precious Alistair rule alongside Anora. But today is not that day.
I don’t like how Loghain abandoned the battle at Ostagar and let Duncan die, I don’t like how he teamed up with Rendon Howe to murder my poor Cousland’s household, and I don’t like how he was responsible for Arl Eamon getting poisoned. Oh, also, is there a person you meet in the game he hasn’t stabbed right in the back?
The one thing I’ve found in Loghain’s favor is Simon Templeman’s voice acting. It’s incredible and I could probably listen to him read the phone book, but it’s not enough to make me like Loghain.
Sorry, he’s not for me.
Badass, check. Super friendly, check. Can tell a good story, check. But I have to say, I find Leliana…frankly, annoying.
Don’t get me wrong, I really want to like her. As another lady rogue (or at least I play as one), and as someone who tends to enjoy bard characters, I feel like I should like her, but she drives me crazy. It probably says a lot about me that the super positive girl in the party annoys me and I will not elaborate further on the subject.
I’ve also heard that it’s super easy to “ninjaromance” her, where you accidentally flirt with her and then you don’t even realize you’re triggering a relationship. Though I seem to have avoided this, myself, I’m so attached to my dear, sweet Alistair that I don’t want to risk him thinking I’m cheating on him with a character I have to force myself to make friends with.
However, my opinion on Leliana isn’t all bad. (To be honest, it’s mostly indifferent and I’m just playing it up for the sake of histrionics.) I do enjoy her banter with Sten, as he’s…well, you’ll see. I like that she calls him out on his softer side, much to his chagrin. And I do like that she’s probably the closest thing my Warden has to a friend. You know, like the one a girl can talk about, say, shoes to.
I like to think that my poor Cousland appreciates this about her. But that doesn’t mean I want to put her in my party, like, ever.
I’ve seen a lot of people on the Dragon Age subreddit complain about Oghren. They think he’s just another crass, drunken dwarf, which seems to be a stereotype in a lot of fantasy stories. And though he’s far from my favorite companion, the way I see it, Oghren is a great tragic character. One I was a little disappointed to have collected so late in my first playthrough (I did Orzammar third).
Anyway, I don’t hate Oghren, but I do see why he’s not very popular among fans of the game. His drunken slurring can get super old, as well as his penchant for making passes at every woman he sees. It’s a little obvious that he’s supposed to be comic relief and not much more. That makes it seem a bit forced, which is also why I can understand his lack of popularity.
But if you really think about it, Oghren’s been through some shit. He was forced to marry Branka while he was in love with Felsi, and his marriage inevitably crumbled, with Oghren seeking the bottle and Branka seeking the Anvil of the Void. Oh, and before Branka left for the Deep Roads, she was cheating on him with his cousin, then also made him something of a pariah even to his own family. He tried to get back together with Felsi and that fell apart because he was a drunken mess. Then he lost his house name and his weapons. Poor little dwarf couldn’t catch a break.
That said, I still rarely bring him along on my quests because I’d just rather finish the game with characters I enjoy more.
You may be wondering why a character who calls your Warden “it” all the time isn’t at the bottom of the list. And that’s because Shale is fascinating to me.
Now, Shale can only be recruited if you have the Stone Prisoner DLC, so there might be a few people reading this list who don’t know about them. If that’s you, I’m going to give another SPOILER warning, so please don’t be mad at me.
Shale is a golem who has been frozen in the middle of Honnleath for 30 years. Shale was believed to have murdered the man who controlled them after years of serving him. With their control rod sold, Shale stayed deactivated in the middle of town, but still conscious of everything around them, until the Warden came around.
If the Warden chooses to recruit Shale, which I always do, a later side quest reveals that Shale was once a female dwarf warrior who was turned into a golem by Caridin at the Anvil, and at the end of the game plans on traveling to Tevinter to see if, well, she can turn back.
And while I think Shale’s story is absolutely fascinating on its own, what I truly like about Shale is her conversations with my Wardens. She’s judgmental, rude, and I would hate her if I knew her in real life, but watching her as a character, Shale is really fun. And maybe next playthrough I’ll bring her around more often…
I feel like I’m risking people being super mad at me for putting the best mabari hound in the middle of the list, but so be it.
I love Dog (I usually name him Rory after Rory McCann, who plays the Hound in Game of Thrones. More on him later). And as a Cousland Warden loyalist, I love that when I play as her, she’s already had him as a pet. It makes sense to have Dog by her side and I love that. But I also love that if you play as anything other than a human noble, Dog finds you after Ostagar if you save him with the flower.
However, I tend not to bring Dog around because, well, I enjoy the party banter and I want to hear as many voices as I can on my journeys. I’m more than happy to have Dog at camp, where I can interact with him there. And I do love those scenes where my companions have a little moment with Dog.
But for me, I think there’s just a lot going on in the current zeitgeist about loving dogs and I think that’s why Dog is so popular as a companion in the fandom. For me, I like dogs, but not enough for this video game character to even be in my top three. Please don’t send your Barkspawns to “overwhelm” me because that attack is brutal.
Ah, Zevran. That charming elfen assassin sent by Loghain to murder you. The Antivan Crow who reminds me a lot of Antonio Banderas–or, perhaps, his rendition of Puss in Boots. The potential companion who’s as lustful as he is lethal.
When I first got into Dragon Age: Origins, I was made aware of certain romance options and looked them up to see who I might be interested in my Warden getting together with. I’m a sucker for romance. Sue me.
But anyway, I was kind of interested in Zevran and fully planned on romancing him with my first Cousland. But then I–I mean, she–-met Alistair and poor Zevran had no chance. I didn’t really talk to him very much, nor was I as good about giving my companions gifts in that first playthrough, save for Sten and Alistair. So imagine my shock and surprise when Zevran turned against me and I had to kill him in Denerim later.
Well, I liked Zevran enough that I sacrificed several, um, minutes of gameplay time and went back to an earlier save and found all the gifts I could for him so he wouldn’t betray me for the Crows in the end.
In my second attempt at a playthrough, I actually tried playing as a city elf and decided this was my moment to romance him because the allure of Queen Cousland Warden is always too much for me to ward off. And I don’t believe in romancing two characters at once due to my personal morals (also, I don’t like making anyone mad at me in these games). But I didn’t get very far, and that save exists only on a laptop that doesn’t really like running Dragon Age anymore. Maybe some day I’ll try again on my Steam Deck.
Zevran is fun, witty, and that accent of his is pretty nice on my ears. I don’t bring him along very often, but I really should, shouldn’t I?
Okay, who was going to tell me that decrepit old lady Wynne was actually supposed to be in her late forties?
With her silvery hair and comments about old age, I totally saw her as my Wardens’ grandmotherly figure who gives sage advice and, I’d imagine, very comforting hugs in times of need. But I guess she’s a lot younger than she looks and acts.
Anyway, I really like Wynne. I think she’s a cool old lady with a cool old lady secret. Technically an abomination after a Spirit of Faith entered her dead body and brought her back to life, Wynne is there to help save the world. She appreciates the Good choices you make, and as someone who always plays the goody-two-shoes type of Warden because, as mentioned earlier, I don’t like people being angry with me in these games, I tend to get a lot of easy approval from the “old” mage.
Though I can see how some people don’t really like her, especially due to her trying to interfere with your potential romances with Alistair, Zevran, Morrigan, and Leliana, I see the good in it. See, Wynne merely wants you to focus on the task at hand and not make any selfish choices that would impede your duties as Grey Warden. But she doesn’t want to see you or your romantic partner get hurt either. If you play your cards right, however, and get enough approval from your partner, she relaxes and compliments how sweet you two are together.
I love having Wynne in my party, mostly because she’s a great healer, but also because she has a lot of fun banter with Alistair. And even more, because I’d like to think my Wardens really value having her around for morale reasons.
With her, ahem, revealing outfit and her voice belonging to the gorgeous Claudia Black, I can see why Morrigan is, uh, quite popular with some people in the Dragon Age fandom.
For me, as a heterosexual girl who’s devoted to Alistair–I don’t know if I’ve made that clear enough yet–I like Morrigan for much different reasons. I think she’s a total badass and her shapeshifting abilities are super cool. She’s the ultimate snarky “big tiddy goth girlfriend” I’ve seen in fiction and I want to be best friends with her.
Unfortunately in my first playthrough, our beloved apostate hated my Cousland. I brought Morrigan along at least until I was able to recruit Wynne, and so Morrigan disapproved of a lot of my choices in the game. (As I’m writing this, I’m getting a lot of “Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?” vibes from the two mage companions. That is all.)
Also, apparently I chose a lot of the wrong dialogue options when I spoke to Morrigan in camp, because that was before I knew the wiki existed and there was a whole page that showed you how to get approval and disapproval from the companions. I also didn’t see the gift page either and never knew what she wanted, aside from Flemeth’s grimoire.
At the end of the game, I vaguely remember Morrigan saying something about how my Cousland and her didn’t get along, and it made me feel really bad because I liked her a lot and I genuinely wanted them to be friends if they could be. So, after making Alistair perform Morrigan’s Dark Ritual, and bringing her along to fight the Archdemon, she just went off, probably thinking my Cousland hated her guts. And just writing that out now makes me feel pretty sad.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I really like Morrigan as a character, even if our morals don’t exactly jibe.
Alistair. My sweet, sweet Alistair. What can I say that I haven’t already said throughout this whole column?
Okay, maybe he’s a little tropey for a Hgh Fantasy story. You know, bastard son of the king, constantly quippy and sarcastic, golden-hearted hero just trying to do right; that kind of stuff. But he’s just so kind and sweet, like the human equivalent of a golden retriever.
From the get-go, Alistair is always trying to help your character out and get acclimated to the life of a Grey Warden. He looks out for you when you have nightmares, and he stands beside you on your quests to make good on the Grey Warden treaties.
Yes, I know you don’t have to bring him along with you on every quest, but from a storytelling perspective–and not just because I’ve married two of my Couslands to him–I feel like bringing him with me everywhere just makes sense. He’s funny and he appreciates my Good choices. And Steve Valentine has an incredible voice that is so delightful to listen to.
It’s no wonder that my Wardens are drawn to him. Having gone through the Joining as well, he understands them in a way none of the other companions truly can. And he’s extremely loyal, especially to Duncan. To the point where he believes Duncan’s untimely death must be avenged, and if you haven’t married him off to Anora, if you choose to recruit Loghain at the end, he’ll just leave. It’s an outcome I’ve never seen in person because I just won’t allow it. At least not on a Cousland playthrough, obviously.
Alistair is a great, funny companion to bring with you, regardless of your romantic connections, and I’ll love him forever.
So, you were thinking number one would be Alistair, weren’t you? Joke’s on you, then.
My ultimate, absolute favorite companion and character from Dragon Age: Origins is, in fact, Sten.
What? The Qunari who killed that family and let himself get caught? Yes, even him. I know, it’s a super messed up backstory, but, as previously mentioned, I like a good redemption story (...just not with Loghain), and I find Sten to be quite the fascinating character.
I played this game for the first time after getting into Game of Thrones. And despite how, um, disappointingly that show ended, my love for the character of the Hound stayed strong (told you he’d show up here again). If you haven’t watched Game of Thrones, the Hound is one of my favorite types of characters in any fiction–the big, snarky, brutal guy who’s got a soft underbelly they don’t want anyone to see.
Please tell me that is not Sten. I dare you.
When we first meet our Qunari friend, he is locked up in the village of Lothering after the aforementioned murders. My Wardens always free him in the hopes that he’s really a good person underneath. And as my first Cousland continued to talk to him, learning more about the Qunari and their ways, I honestly felt like they had a really deep relationship–I mean, he calls her kadan, which essentially means “my heart”. Their connection was to the point where I would have given up on her romance with Alistair for him, if given the chance.
Though I can understand why some people wouldn’t like Sten due to his violent past, I love him as much as he loves cookies, and I genuinely hope he shows up again sometime.
Well, there it is. My HEAVILY BIASED ranking of the Dragon Age: Origins companions. 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.