Great moments in PC gaming: Avenging your family in Dragon Age: OriginsSeptember 7, 2019
If you choose the Human Noble start in Dragon Age: Origins, your journey through Ferelden begins in blood and tragedy as your family, the powerful house of Cousland, are murdered by Howe in a plot to seize your lands and titles. As the youngest child of the clan, you watch your mother and father cut down before you flee the castle to avoid this butchery, in the care of the Warden Duncan. An epic quest ensues that puts larger matters like the fate of the world on your plate. But Howe’s sneering visage was never far from my mind throughout all of it.
Dozens of hours later, having crossed the realm from end to end, faced terrible dangers, and grown into quite the formidable warrior, a grim satisfaction came over me when I was tasked with breaking into Howe’s estate to rescue Queen Anora from his clutches. I knew in my heart that if I had anything to do with it, he would not see another dawn and my family would be avenged. Everything else, including the Blight and the Archdemon bearing down on the capital, seemed fading and distant matters in comparison to this long-awaited reckoning.
Arl Howe and his men tried their best to foil the rescue, but my blade struck true and my friends had my back as we fought room to room to reach the sick plotter’s torture chamber far below the Denerim streets. I got to see firsthand that Howe’s depravity ran deeper than I’d ever imagined, which only made finally cornering him all the more satisfying. He scowled, cawed about his own superiority, and spit bile at me and my family to the very last moment. But sooner or later, steel met steel and I had no doubt how it would end.
I remembered my parents’ sorrowful faces as they held each other, dying, so many hours ago. I had been no great warrior then. I had been in no position to make things better. But here I was, in this gloomy basement, with a chance to bring it all full circle. Howe’s last words were that he “deserved more.” And my warden agreed. He deserved to be tortured as he had done to so many others. He deserved to be paraded through the streets and made to confess his crimes to everyone in Denerim. But that was not to be. I gave him a quick death with a single blade stroke, so my family’s spirits would not wait another moment to finally rest.
There were plenty of moments in Dragon Age: Origins that gave me a sense of fulfillment. But my vengeance against Howe was the top of that list. In many other games that concern themselves with a black-and-white morality or a specific idea of what a hero is, things might have gone differently. I may have been encouraged to spare this murderer, or be given Dark Side Points to punish me for acting out a selfish vendetta. But Dragon Age made no such judgements, and I walked away from his cooling corpse knowing I had done what I felt was right. I could finally put Arl Howe behind me. Which was good, because I had a world to save.