TW: Discussion of Persecution, Religion, Terrorism
The following contains massive spoilers about the endgame and overarching narrative of Dragon Age II. Please do not read if you have any intention of playing the Dragon Age series.
The plot of Dragon Age II is fundamentally a story about security, freedom and oppression. It exists in a fantasy world where magical talent is treated as a curse rather than a boon, as it attracts demons from an astral plane called the Fade. Demons seek to possess people in the physical world, and seek out mages, whose powers are also linked to the Fade. Upon discovery of their talent, magic-users are sent to live in remote towers under order of a Catholicism analogue called the Chantry, which employs an order of knights called Templars to ensure their captivity. Some captive mages resort to using blood magic, a forbidden art involving pacts with demons, in order to fight for their freedom, killing swaths of innocents in the process.
Dragon Age II specifically revolves around the city of Kirkwall, where the blood magic-obsessed Templar commander Meredith treats mages even more poorly. Her paranoia is fueled by the frequent acts of rebellion by blood mages throughout the city. The player is told frequently by mages and their sympathizers that mages in the city are experiencing severe persecution. Yet this abusive behavior is only shown in two optional quests, and abuses of magic are seen throughout both the main story and optional missions. Furthermore, the player never actually visits the building wherein the mages are said to experience daily mistreatment. This creates a dilemma for the player, where the direct evidence the player’s avatar experiences and the information provided through dialogs and external material are directly in opposition.
By the end of the game, the two sides clash after the destruction of the city’s cathedral by a possessed mage. Meredith declares the Rite of Annulment, calling for the killing of every mage in the city. The mages rebel, many of them using blood magic and leading to the near-destruction of the city. The player must ultimately decide which side to support without having directly experienced the persecution of the rebels. I believe this lack of information to be a conscious choice on behalf of the developer to make both options more valid for the player. By selectively allowing the audiences glimpses of that side of the narrative, it makes siding with the Templars appear to be a more valid option for the protagonist to choose. Personally, I believe that this hiding of information is ineffective, as everybody I’ve talked to who has played the game supported the mages in their first play through. From what I can tell, the choice exists more to provide an illusion of choice and additional content for repeated play. It is a shame that the developers were unable to create an ending that included a truly divisive decision.
Replies are welcome, especially from those who have completed the game.