Retrospective

8 years ago, one unforgettable twist changed RPGs forever

The Dread Wolf Rises.

BioWare has built its reputation on characters, creating countless party members that fans have instantly fallen in love with. From the lovable rogue Garrus in Mass Effect to the homicidal robot HK-47 in Knights of the Old Republic, BioWare has consistently shown it has mastered the craft of writing characters. Dragon Age: Inquisition is another prime example of that, but it also had a huge unprecedented surprise in store, a quite literal earth-shattering twist with one of its central party members.

Obviously, we’ll be going into massive spoilers for Dragon Age: Inquisition ahead.

Despite being a direct follow-up to the previous two games, Inquisition casts you as a brand new character who starts as a nobody. That nobody quite literally comes to hold the fate of the world in their hands. As you build up the Inquisition, you’re joined by a host of eclectic characters, but one of your very first companions is a brilliant but reserved elven mage named Solas.

Solas is easily one of the most valuable party members in the game, as a powerful mage that can both heal and cause damage.BioWare

Solas is an apostate with an intense knowledge of the Fade, which obviously makes him essential to the Inquisition. Past that, however, he’s a fascinating character that initially has an icy personality but slowly opens up to the Inquisitor as you learn more about him.

Solas has a smarmy know-it-all vibe that initially makes him extremely unlikeable, but at the same time, he values peaceful solutions and nonviolence. That hard outer shell of Solas’ character starts to show cracks the more you learn about him, eventually exposing a deeply broken, regretful, and lonely man. Solas’ role becomes even more important as Inquisition’s narrative puts a heavy focus on elven history and lore, teaching players more about the nature of the Fade.

Arguably, Solas has some of the biggest character development of anybody in Dragon Age: Inquisition, as he starts to put aside his bristly personality to make friends with the other members, and even cracks the occasional joke or two. You can tell he’s trying to hold everyone at arm’s length, but despite his best efforts, is still building an attachment to the Inquisitor and other party members. This is especially true if you play as an Elven character and romance Solas, bonding over your people’s shared history.

Of course, all of this leads to the emotionally crushing twist of Dragon Age: Inquisition when Solas reveals he’s actually the legendary Fen’Harel, the elven god of betrayal and rebellion also known as The Dread Wolf. Suddenly, so many details from across the game start to make sense, so many signs that something wasn’t quite right with Solas. In a single moment, Solas reveals his plan is to destroy the Veil, causing the spirit realm of the Fade to collide with the mortal world, causing unimaginable damage in the process. His ultimate goal is to restore the elven people to their former glory.

In one dramatic twist, Solas goes from one of your closest allies to your greatest enemy.BioWare

What makes it especially harrowing, though, is that Solas doesn’t reveal his plan with glee, but rather solemn despair. This has been Solas’ plan all along, and for millennia he’s tried, and failed, to save the people he cares about. That’s happening once again with the Inquisitor, and the whole twist is played spectacularly as a dramatic crescendo at the end of Dragon Age: Inquisition and the Trespasser DLC.

Plenty of RPGs have featured the demise of a party member or uncovered a secret identity in some fashion, but it’s unprecedented that a vitally important party member suddenly turns into the franchise’s main villain. At the same time, Solas isn’t “villainous” per-say. His motivations make sense even if his ultimate goal is a terrible one. Solas is a character defined by millennia of tragedy, and this means that Inquisition doesn’t exactly have a happy ending. Yes, you’ve achieved your goals, but one of your closest allies is now one of your greatest enemies.

This also puts the franchise in an interesting position as we know the next game, Dragon Age: Dreadwolf, will feature Solas as the main antagonist. It’ll be fascinating to see how BioWare continues to develop a character that players have so much history with, and how the studio convinces them to still fight against him.

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