Editor’s note: yes, we know you’re all very busy rampaging your way through The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and that this is hardly the time to let any other role-playing game invade your thoughts – but you look like you need a break from all that Witcher-y monster slaying, so why not use the opportunity to share in some of Laura’s comical experiences playing as a Qunari in another brilliantly engrossing RPG, Dragon Age: Inquisition. As to The Witcher 3, we’ll be delivering our critical verdict on it tomorrow. Spoiler alert: we like it a lot.
Ever since getting to know Sten in Dragon Age: Origins, I’ve loved the Qunari, and have wanted to play as one. But as much as I love my towering, grey-skinned, horned mage in DA: Inquisition, I have to admit, there are some drawbacks to playing a Qunari that I didn’t foresee. For example:
1) People are kinda (a lot) racist…
Okay, I’ll be fair: every race in the Dragon Age universe has to withstand racist slurs. Elves are “knife ears”. Humans are “shemlen”. And I know we Qunari have horns. But “ox men”? Really? It’s pretty demeaning and humiliating to be compared to creatures that mostly serve as “mindless cattle” and “food”.
The funniest thing is it might be okay if it was at least acknowledged that this term is a pretty insulting slur, but it isn’t. While knife ears and shemlen are considered at least rude, people comfortably talk about ox men around me, as if I’m not standing right there. I blame Qunari like Iron Bull, who, instead of recognizing the slur, seem to almost embrace it as a compliment. I’m guessing this is because Qunari society tends to value strength over new-fangled liberal ideas like equality and being nice.
Here’s an idea for the next Dragon Age game: we see the first Qunari activist finally protesting the widespread use of this awful, awful term. Oh and the way their society is horribly sexist and classist and cruel and, you know, all those things.
Speaking of Iron Bull…
2) Iron Bull is mean
Iron Bull’s reputation precedes him. And by this I mean almost everyone I know who’s played this game couldn’t stop talking about how much they loved him. Now, I committed the cardinal sin of mucking about in the Hinterlands for far too long (I’m still trying to adjust to this idea of a starting area that you’re not supposed to thoroughly explore and complete before moving on), so by the time I met Iron Bull I had been looking forward to it for ages and was super excited. And what was one of the first things he did? Act like a total elitist snob.
Picture the scene. Here I am, pretty upset about the ox men thing that keeps getting slung about, feeling very alone, and then I come across another Qunari. I’m super excited to make friends with a brother, only to almost instantly have him condescendingly remind me that I’m not a real Qunari. “You’re not Qunari. You’re Tal-Vashoth. World of difference,” he says.
Do you see how my character’s reacting to that? I’m like, “Wow. OK. Just slap me in the face Iron Bull. Why not.”
I mean, technically he’s right. Qunari follow a code-of-honour-slash-religion known as the Qun. It’s right there in the name, which translates to “People of the Qun”. I don’t follow the Qun, so I’m not really a Qunari.
I still think he could have been less blunt about it though, and what makes it worse is he then goes on to assure me that he’s totally cool with me because I’m not a murdering bandit. The implication is that most of my people, the Tal-Vashoth, are murdering bandits, and that it’s a surprise that I’m not. Talk about a back-handed compliment.
Thanks Iron Bull. Good to know that I’m not just going to be dealing with anti-Qunari prejudice, but that the only other Qunari around is also going to throw anti-Tal-Vashoth prejudice at me as well. It’s not even my own fault that my parents were Tal-Vashoth, geez.
The strangest thing? Iron Bull didn’t seem to mind calling me Qunari when we met. His exact words were, “A Qunari mercenary is the Herald of Andraste. Who’d’a thought?” And he seemed really pleased about it too.
So why is there suddenly a problem now? Did I do something wrong, or insult him somehow? Is Iron Bull’s whole “you’re not a real Qunari” thing actually just passive aggression? Can a Qunari (the real sort) even be passive aggressive? I guess I’ll never know.
3) Relationships are seriously awkward
One of my favourite things about playing a Qunari (sorry, Iron Bull, a Tal-Vashoth) is their immense height. Qunari are tall, I’m guessing about 7-8 feet, which means I get to tower above everyone.
Well, almost everyone:
Unfortunately, unless you date Iron Bull himself (and, needless to say, I’m not interested), this height becomes very awkward, very quickly when you’re trying to kiss someone about half your size.
When I saw the Inquisition’s ambassador and chief diplomat Josephine, I fell in love instantly. There’s something about the amusement in her face when she tells you that you’re causing the Inquisition all kinds of diplomacy problems, and the way she manages to pull off yellow satin and giant puffed sleeves in one outfit. Lucky for me, Josephine can be romanced by anyone – male or female, human, elf, dwarf or Qunari. (I like to think this indicates why she’s such a good diplomat – she can find things she likes and is attracted to in almost anybody.)
And so, putting aside the fact that, as Josephine’s employer, romancing her isn’t the most ethical thing I could do, I set out to make her mine. All went well, and then we kissed for the first time. I said it’s awkward, but that one adjective doesn’t begin to cover it.
Look at that screenshot of our first kiss above. Does Josephine look scared to you? She looks scared to me.
It doesn’t get better. As you can see from this screenshot of a later kiss, love is probably going to give my character severe back and neck pains.
Long story short, my character suddenly realized that romance is far too much of a distraction when I should be focusing on the Inquisition, and these days I mostly just dread walking past Josephine’s desk on my way to the War Room. Everything is awkward.
Ah well, I guess it could have been worse. I could have fallen in love with Scout Harding.
Disclaimer: Just in case you think I’m being absurd, this article is tongue in cheek. Well, most of it is.