If you’ve ever picked up a Bioware title you’re fully aware of the studio’s trademark morality systems. Who will you play? The no nonsense enforcer? The snarky savior? The genocidal jerk-face? It’s all up to you, and the consequences of your choices shapes aspects of the digital narrative the game provides. While Inquisition doesn’t disappoint in comparison to the company’s various other titles, even my most diplomatic and kindly of characters is still expected to fight and kill their way through altercations, with almost no alternatives ever given. So naturally I tried my hand at a pacifist run.
Disclaimer: Enemies died in this playthrough. The majority of the progression in Inquisition relies solely on room clearing, as in tradition with many games. However, my character only killed 5 demons in a single room, because progression blockers. Already I suppose this invalidates a no-kill run, but once again, in a game based on that kind of blocker, some deaths are inevitable.
The rule I set for my peaceful Qunari healer, Chara, was that she, save for the single instance where there was no alternative, would kill no one and avoid all conflict if necessary. The loophole for this is my team could kill, but I couldn’t use the tactical camera or control the other members of my party. My only defense was trusting the AI and booking it.
First off, Chara was not the hero Thedas needed. Chara was barely moral support. If the game took into account a player’s kill count and behavior before making them Inquisitor, the position would have been given to a Mabari war dog before it would be given to her. Gameplay primarily consisted of running away from battles, hanging back while the rest of the party did the dirty work, and casting barriers and revives on said party members.
Since Dragon Age Inquisition requires a certain amount of sidequests to be done before advancing the story, I tried avoiding side quests that were about fighting or exterminating and tried to stick to fetch quests and the like. At one point in the game you can even buy trade agreements, letting you skip going out in the field and essentially buying your way to power. This requires money though, which you’d get from selling the things you get off corpses, and, well, you see where I’m going here. I was also grossly under leveled, even though you do get EXP for your teammate’s kills. Running away from fights will do that, no matter how many lore books you read. I lucked out most of the time since I was basically sprinting through missions and didn’t have to deal with higher level enemies, but by the end of the game I went into the final boss at level 12 when I should have been between 16 and 19. You get real good at managing your mana use and cool-down times, let me tell you.
Another thing about this playthrough is that it was a bit morally questionable, at least in this universe. I call it a coward run, because instead of contributing to damaging enemies I hid and let the Tanks and DPS characters die so I could revive them with more health. I let soldiers die on castle walls instead of coming to their aid, and left my army to fend for itself as I sprinted through an entire level. I didn’t even unlock many of the areas because it would cost power I would need to get to the end of the game. A group of my men are currently being held hostage, and they’ll never be rescued. I’d say it almost became a speed run as I found ways to avoid wasting time on fighting. Turns out you don’t have to fight the miniboss at the halfway point of the game if you can just turn the trebuchet crank fast enough. But hey, at least the barriers I cast on my team could soak up damage like a sponge. Helping!
Anytime Inquisition gave me the chance to use diplomacy I grabbed it, and there’s one bit of the game in particular that proves it could have been used more. Josephine, the Inquisition’s ambassador, has a side quest about stopping a league of assassins with a contract on her head. Normally the answer to this problem would be finding them and wiping them out, and you can even send your Spymaster to destroy the contract, but if you play it Josie’s way its a bit different. Instead you basically have to get in contact with judges and notaries to have the contract nullified, a process that takes longer than if you had the contract destroyed. In the end the issue is resolved peacefully, and Josephine reveals that she became an ambassador after she accidentally killed someone in a scuffle, recognized him, and realized that if she’d talked him down it may have had a happier ending.
I like the idea of having the option to do something non-violently, especially if its more difficult or takes more time. Its like the game is challenging the player to defy their base instinct to take the easy way out and grab the EXP. Should the entire game be all paperwork and diplomacy? No, but it’d be a nice alternative if/when you get bored of stabbing things. So what did I learn? Dragon Age: Inquisition was obviously not meant to be played like this, and is not as fun as a result. Though I definitely got that “effort-justification high” after beating it, perhaps because of how long and tedious the whole thing had been, it didn’t feel like I’d really accomplished as much as I had in previous playthroughs. I guess even Andraste led an army from the front.