While Dragon Age 2 got a lot right and got a lot wrong, one thing that stands out to me is the travesty that is Hawke’s character development in the game. The protagonist of many stories goes through Hell and back to become a shining light of victory and prosperity. Dragon Age 2’s Hawke is a humble farmer from Lothering whose life is suddenly turned upside down by the ravaging Blight seen in Dragon Age Origins.
To begin with, it’s a shocking way to start a game, but what’s worse is that this will be one of the easier horrors to deal with for this family. To get away from the Blight, Hawke must travel to Kirkwall, a place suddenly overrun by people looking for safety and a place to call home after the plague. Hawke and his family will have to put in a lot of hard work to get sponsorship so they can go to Kirkwall. The Hawke family eventually saves enough money to embark on a perilous journey into the Deep Roads by killing and stealing their way out of poverty and doing odd jobs around town.
This is yet another situation where the player has several options, which lead to a further blow to the chest. Assuming he stays, Hawke will discover that their brother has joined the Templars to forge his own path, a decision that will tear him away from the rest of his family and be made even more complicated if the player Hawke is an apostate mage as well. However, it is not until the very end of the game when a result from the Deep Roads pushes this king to madness.
For starters in Dragon Age 2, if Anders is absent from the Deep Roads as a member of the chosen party, Carver will perish after being discovered to be infected with the Blight while battling the Darkspawn that prowl the twisted caverns. Either way, the younger sibling has been marked by death, with the latter decision giving him additional borrowed time, allowing him to spend the rest of his days fighting Darkspawn with his newfound brothers and sisters. If Bethany is the sole survivor, Hawke will return to find her imprisoned in the circle under the watchful eye of the Templars if she is left behind.
After Varric’s brother betrays them, the group finally escapes the Deep Roads with the promised riches, allowing Hawke and his crew to reclaim their nobility in Kirkwall’s Hightown at the cost of one of the Gamlem siblings. The Qunari occupation is about to come to a head, and Hawke is again at the center of danger and destruction as one of Kirkwall’s wealthy elite. It comes down to either betraying a close friend, Isabella, by returning her to the Qun with the tome or standing by her side and fighting the leader, dubbed the Arishock.
A bloody battle that left many citizens dead, including the Viscount with his head, kicked down the Keep’s stairwell to signify the Qunari’s complete conquest, precedes this. After Hawke’s victory, they are given the title of “Champion.” Hawke (Hero in the Dragon Age 2) had no idea at the time that his new title would come with Kirkwall’s love and respect, as well as Meredith’s watchful eye and those who mean harm in the city’s core. Tortured to the point of erasure, Fenris, an escaped slave from Tevinter, is terrified of and filled with hatred for mages.
Anders, a former Grey Warden and ran apostate first introduced in Dragon Age Awakening, carries a spirit of Justice within him, an energy that alters him forever and sets the stage for the final act of Dragon Age 2. Merrill is a sweet Dalish elf who is obsessed with preserving the history of her people, no matter what the cost is to her own well-being.
The man behind the good-natured persona is haunted by betrayal, loss, and a sense of being unworthy of love in his personal history. He’s a walking contradiction searching for his place in life after giving up the throne for a position as a brother at the Maker’s side. Hawke formed a bond with Aveline, a Guardsman, after fleeing to Kirkwall with her husband, Wesley, who had become infected with the Blight and had to be killed.
Along with everything else, Hawke’s mother is murdered by a blood wizard who is driven by the desire to find a long-dead love. Hawke sinks into a deep depression in his despair, and it is here that they are forever changed, as we will see in Dragon Age: Inquisition. As a result, Hawke’s story is tragic, especially when they choose the “blue” diplomatic route.
But those around them have suffered tragedies of their own, tragedies that have occurred after they sought Hawke’s assistance, and it feels as if these failures are directly attributable to him. Hawke’s tragedy in Dragon Age 2 follows them into Inquisition, with a choice that can lead to their entrapment in the Fade with Nightmare of Nightmares or survival that will haunt them for the rest of their lives. The road to Hell is paved with accusations of murder and suicide.