My thoughts on a bit of Dragon Age: Inquisition-Meta
“Almost every member of Inquisition betrays you in some way or another, with exceptions of course.”
So, said someone in a Dragon Age-themed Facebook group I just joined.
They went on to list the “betrayals” by character. I took a bit of issue with so easily boiling down the “betrayals” by Solas and Anders, and replied. Spoilers ahead. . . .
“I think the big question isn’t who betrayed the Inquisition and/or Inquisitor (or the Chantry and non-magi), but why.
“Most of those betrayals were impersonal, and had nothing to do with the Inquisitor or even the Inquisition. It wasn’t personal or vengeance-thing. It was happenstance — and in reaction to things that pre-dated the Inquisition. It was simply a “betrayal” of the most powerful player on the board. And not even out of spite, but out of necessity — whether anyone else agreed with the necessity, or not.
“Particularly, Solas and Anders — since their “betrayals” were absolutely necessary.
When people are in chains, their revolutionaries MUST use whatever means are at their disposal to break those chains. If reason and empathy don’t work against that sort of injustice — haven’t for over a thousand years — then using REASONABLE tactics will NEVER work. It’s just deals with the devil that only the devil doesn’t get the crappy end of.
“So, recruit an elven army. Or blow up a chantry.
Whatever else it did, that second one, at least, WORKED. Mages are free(-er). No longer complacent and frightened. They’re willing to fight to keep the freedom that Anders helped to get them. And it WAS down to Anders’s actions. Part of revolutions is making the oppressing side SO miserable and making the oppression SO costly, that said oppression grinds to a halt or the opposition comes to its senses.
“That latter almost NEVER happens. So, Solas — especially Solas, who — BIG SPOILER:
“Solas was the direct cause of his people being brought so low — even as he tried to free them — he HAD to right the wrong he created. The Inquisition didn’t matter beyond being a tool for that. He had no hatred for it, he simply used a tool at his disposal. There was no sitting back and letting his people be trod on anymore. To not take action was to be even more complicit in their chains and suffering. Same goes for Anders. Nearly one thousand years of appeasement and all the mages got was that damned Gallows. And Meredith and Alrik and others.
And we all know what the elves got. Only templars could really abuse mages without fear. NOBODY feared the elves. They had no protections from torment, or from any wielding it.
“So, thinking of the actions of those two — revolutionaries or terrorist, whichever label one chooses — as “betrayals” seems short-sighted, simplistic, and lacking in scope. Solas could take or leave the Inquisition — his goals had nothing to do with it beyond it’s utility in furthering them. If not the Inquisition, then some other giant, grinding group with too many humans in high places. He no more “betrayed” the Inquisition than he occasionally helped it. He was only in it for his own ends. If further helping the Inquisition run the world furthered his aims, he’d have done that. If turning them all, the Inquisitor included, into geraniums, he’d have done that. None of it was personal and none of it mattered in light of his goal.
“Technically, the Inquisition DIDN’T EVEN MATTER ENOUGH TO BETRAY. His betrayal was happenstance — circumstance. An ox demolishing an ant hill. That ox didn’t betray those ants. It was just going on its way and being an ox. Solas was just going on his way and being Solas. Sadly, that didn’t bode well for the Inquisition, but that wasn’t remotely the point. The Inquisition was neither here nor there.
“The same goes for Anders, though he DOES care . . . even if Justice was burning the mercy and empathy out of him. If left to his own devices and assuming he didn’t just burn-out, he’d become like a more volatile version of Solas.
“TL;DR: Using the word “betrayal” seems like vanity on the part of the Inquisitor and Inquisition, and overestimation from others. Solas’s goal isn’t to betray the Inquisition, it’s to save/free his people. Anders’s goal isn’t to betray the Chantry and non-magi, but to save/free his people. Painting those two simply as betrayers doesn’t bring a deeper understanding of who they are and how they work — or why. And certainly not of how they can be stopped (if needed). Looking at them and seeing only betrayers is almost the way a child might look at something that harms them — as a personal affront, not as a necessity on the way to something that they haven’t considered and which is far larger than them.
“And a child’s POV wouldn’t have considered that because children are the centers of their own universes. They can’t conceive of motives and inspirations and needs beyond themselves and their purview. Depending on the dialogue and action choices the player makes for the Inquisitor, the Inquisitor can barely see beyond themselves, and certainly not terribly far beyond the Inquisition and its aims. But sometimes, depending on the dialogue and action choices, the Inquisitor CAN see a MUCH larger picture — see that lashing out and lingering at feeling wounded is pointless when the WORLD and the FUTURE are at stake.
In the face of all that Solas and Anders REALLY mean for the world, language like “betrayal” is as small-potatoes and useless as the simplistic, self-centered, child’s-eye view of the motives behind the word, itself.
LATE ADDITION-RESPONSE TO THE FACEBOOK POST!
“Solas doesn’t consider them his people. He literally says as much. He also was ready to exterminate everything that wasn’t magical enough. You see revolution, I see ethnic cleansing.”
My reply: “ Regarding the points you mention:
“Solas wants to return the elves of HIS TIME. Not of the present age. He wants to save the elves he knew. Barring that, I think YES, he’d settle for freeing the elves he has left. He’s a man who knows how to hedge his bets — but if plan A doesn’t work, he has a solid plan B-consolation prize. And I think that in the end, he’d rather rebuild his world the way he wants it, rather than restore one he’d been so disillusioned with that he’d basically destroyed it. He tells the Inquisitor as much.
“If it comes down to it, he’ll almost certainly take the elves left, over no elves at all. They may not be his people, YET, but he’s immortal, supposedly. I think he’s got time to tinker and influence. And certainly the patience and manipulative skillz.
“Obviously, Solas is doing some very unacceptable things from several POVs — those of anyone who isn’t him and those dead elves he wants to bring back (and a lot of them might be horrified if they knew, as well). But whoever fights Solas in DA4 is going to lose if they think and strategize as if they’re going up against a cardboard baddie, like Corypheus. It’s all well and good to point and shout: “Evil!” but if that’s where the plan to stop the evil ends, the good guys won’t get far. The key to stopping a villain like Solas isn’t turning him into something simple and dismiss-able — reducing him to basic, stereotypical components. Whatever strategy works to end his villainy, whether he’s fought or talked around (both options will probably be available, as well as others, but the second one will no doubt be BYZANTINE and epically difficult), it’s going to take more than pointing out and labeling the cardboard-villainous facets and acts. The playable character’s going to have to focus on something else, altogether (probably NOT on Solas’s reason or empathy). But it won’t be as easy as identifying Solas’s attempts at “ethnic cleansing,” then swinging a sword/staff/whatever.
“If their endgame battles were as simple as pointing, calling names, and fighting The Good Fight, Dragon Age games wouldn’t be half so interesting, layered, and fun.”