think I have covered everything included in my spiffy header but for sad Merrill hovering in front of the death rift. Merrill is my current fangirl obsession, my favorite character from Dragon Age 2. As a warning, content below will feature spoilers, so tread carefully. Also, I might terrify you readers with the depths of my fangirl moments, so I think in my next post I will have to channel more rar Kadomi moments than mushy sop swooning over a fictional lovestory. My partner will be rolling her eyes hardcore when she’s going to read this. 😉
Dragon Age 2 is a game that has a very split reception. It’s rocking an 82/100 Metacritic score, but the user rating has it at 4.3/10, mostly because of its departure from traditional CRPGs like BG2, Morrowwind, etc. I love it because I appreciate its storytelling, despite it being very different from the storytelling in Dragon Age: Origins. I understand why oldschool RPG fans might be disappointed with its lack of depth, but I like the fast-paced combat, and I love that it reminds me of Mass Effect 2. I love the companions and their stories. I love Lady Hawke. The only thing I hated were the re-used locations. Seriously, that was suck, Bioware, never do that again. Replaying the same maps over and over and over again, without even fixing the minimaps that showed exits where there were none, that was uncool.
I have been playing Bioware games since Baldur’s Gate 1, and have been a fan of their storytelling forever and ever, despite the many similarities in all their games. I love their games, but I never had any interest in their characters outside of the game. Dragon Age: Origins had a huge fandom, with tons of fanfiction, mostly focusing on the shining beacon of characters, Alistair. I personally thought Alistair was cute but boring, and liked Morrigan far more, but I guess that’s because I am not a straight girl. In Knights of the Old Republic they first introduced the paragon/renegade bits of being either a saintly person, or a real hard-ass evil guy, and it’s a red thread in all games since then. This is actually changed in Dragon Age 2, replaced by friendship and rivalries with your companions. I find it quite interesting that in Dragon Age 2 your actions no longer shape your character personally, but shape the relationships you have with your companions. I did miss paragon and renegade bonus actions that you had in Mass Effect 2, it would have been nice to get something similar in regards to your companions at least.
As far as characters go, Merrill surprised me, like no other character in a Bioware game ever surprised me. When she first joins with Hawke and co., she’s this bumbling, rambling comic relief character, who is excited about muggings, and who totally ruins it when you try to be sneaky. She made me laugh a lot. She’s the poster child for the term ‘adorkable’. But her character’s story isn’t exactly light-hearted. She is leaving her clan of elves to move to Kirkwall, universally despised by everyone in her clan as user of the forbidden blood magic. Soon after moving to Kirkwall, she starts focusing on rebuilding the Eluvian, an ancient elven relic that was formerly used to communicate between clans. I don’t really know the backstory as I never played the Dalish elf origin in Dragon Age: Origins, but apparently the Eluvian corrupted a Dalish friend of Merrill’s, Tamlen. She started using blood magic in her efforts to restore the Eluvian and remove its taint. Eventually, she will ask Hawke’s help to get a tool from the Dalish, and you as Hawke get to decide if you give it to her or not. I didn’t. I thought her obsession with the mirror was not good for her, and my Hawke was the caring kind.
Well, let’s just say that Merrill is very unhappy with that. From that point on, no matter what you do, you will gain rivalry continuously. Bring her a present? Bam, +15 rivalry. Say something nice to her? Bam, +10 rivalry. It confused me to no end. I did not understand at the time that declining to give her the arulin’holm means you are locked into rivalry with her. But it makes absolute sense. There is this one person you trusted in, you cared for, and he/she denies you the one thing that you want more than anything in the world. Would you not afterwards think that everything else is just them mocking you? Wouldn’t you turn bitter? I would.
If you have flirted with Merrill just once before this whole thing goes down, you are now pursuing something that I think is unique to Dragon Age 2: rivalry romance, short rivalmance. You can either have a friendship or a rivalry romance with all those characters, afaik. I am definitely sure about Fenris and Merrill. Relationship angst in its finest form, or as Falric in WoW says so nicely: fear, so exhilarating, despair, so delicious. I won’t spoil Merrill’s story more, but shit goes down, and if you make the wrong decision (like I did), shit will get REAL. Merrill will freak out and kick you out of her house and will tell you she never wants to see you again. I was devastated. I felt my Hawke genuinely cared for her. But Merrill will find you to make amends, and so you can get a happy ending with her. As far as Dragon Age 2 allows such. Here my confusion about Merrill turned to understanding and a sort of awe. To me, this relationship was now more emotionally touching than any other in-game relationship that I have played so far. And here I thought Liara from Mass Effect 2 was it for me so far, but nuh-uh. When Merrill breaks down crying, admitting how wrong she was and then destroys the Eluvian, that’s some impact right there.
I have to give credit to the voice acting, I think Eve Myles of Torchwood fame really made her come alive. I started watching Torchwood just to hear that voice again, and let me tell you, Gwen in Torchwood sounds veeeeery different from bumbling Merrill. Also, Gwen is a flaming idiot where Merrill is not. Ahem. Big kudos to Eve Myles!
I am dipping my toes in Bioware fandom now, by lurking in the Merrill Appreciation thread over in the Bioware forums, full of friendly folks who revel in each piece of Merrill artwork. Just like me, most guys there are facing the same issue though: Most Fanfic Writers are Girls. This means that you can drown in hundreds of Anders/Fenris + Lady Hawke stories and find nearly none with Isabela and Merrill content. Lucky for me, there are authors like Heath Wingwhit who are hitting my niche exactly. Her/His story Gone pretty much hits it on the head for rivalry romance. I hope this lovely, and well-written story will find more readers, and of course that Heath will write more.
Thankfully I am not alone out there, am I? Come on people, surely you have that one character you have your fangirl moments over? I know at least two girls who are screaming that Kaidan will be back for Mass Effect 3. I am not alone, right? Please let me know, because I think sometime between playing Dragon Age 2 and now I turned 14 again. I shall leave you with a link to Merrill’s Facetome page. >.>