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Definitive Ranking of GoldenEye N64 Levels




About a week ago Nintendo announced their new console, coming out in 2017. The “Switch” seems to have awoken many a fan, and of course, many a detractor. I’m personally quite happy to ride the hype wave, certain that this will revolutionize the gaming industry in a lasting way. Nintendo has done it before, and for that reason, I think it’s the perfect time to reflect on its former successes.

The N64 was arguably the company’s greatest console, and with its host of groundbreaking single-player games, such as Super Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time, it’s not a difficult argument to win. Yet it’s also the “party” games like Super Smash Brothers and Mario Kart that are the reason many a millennial has still not given up their banana-shaped controllers.

GoldenEye 007 is a game that comfortably bridges these two categories. Its multiplayer gave us split-screen combat with varying types of matches (“The Living Daylights” aka flag-tag ftw), and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still get immense enjoyment out of challenging my friends to a proximity mine battle in the stacks. However, its single-player mode was no slouch either, and perhaps one of the first times that consoles were taken seriously for their potential to produce quality first-person shooters.

Looking at the game in 2016, it’s aged…alright. Really, it’s still an all-around enjoyable game. But after completing a recent play-through, I realized that some of these missions are just real clunkers. Therefore, I give you the 100% Definitive™ list of levels, from best to worst.

1. Facility

The level that should need no introduction. This is hands-down the game at its best. You’re playing through a mission that Bond actually went on during the movie, you get to sneak around with a silenced PP7 and feel like an actual spy for a fair amount of it, there’s moments where you have no choice but to clean the room (and feel very talented for having done so), and the music is the coolest the soundtrack has to offer. Plus you get to see a 64-bit Sean Bean!

The worst that can be said about it is that for those completionists hoping to unlock the invincibility cheat, you’re going to be spending a considerable amount of time here. Even perfect runs can get screwed over by Dr. Doak’s RNG-reliant placement.

Best moment: the satisfying click-clack when you use the door decoder

Best cheat to use: 2x throwing knife. Really makes your bathroom surprise extra fun.

2. Control Room

I’m starting to wonder if maybe the soundtrack sways me unduly, because this is certainly the second best in that regard as well.

However, for a level where it’s rather difficult to sneak and where there’s a few unfortunately placed drone-guns, this one still has that ineffable 00-agent “feel” to it.

The objectives seem more varied, and by this point the guards pose an actual threat to you. Additionally, the map is straight-forward, but offers enough side rooms for you to feel like there’s plenty of choice. The maze that is the stairs leading from the first to second floor, and second to third floor can be irksome, but once you get Natalia through that first door, it’s fine. And unlike most levels involving her, she actually enhances the experience.

Best moment: protecting Natalia from the guards pouring into the room. The tension is THERE.

Best cheat to use: slow animation. Especially with aforementioned best moment

3. Train

There’s really nothing particularly revolutionary here. This is a fast paced level where you are just unloading bullets nonstop. It’s difficult on any setting above agent, and about as heart-pumping as you’re going to get with block graphics. What puts it high on this list for me is the ending of the level, where you get to play out an actual scene from the movie, more or less verbatim. Plus that watch laser is just fun.

Best moment: when you get shot in the back by the guard that emerges from a bathroom behind you. This is the kind of attention to detail I crave.

Best cheat to use: double RC-P90+infinite ammo. You’re welcome


4. Silo

Man, I must have hit my head and forgotten about that part of Goldeneye where Bond chases Ourumov through a weapons silo in in Kirghizstan. Though to be fair, the fake backstory they invented for this level is actually plausible.

This is another fast-paced shoot ‘em up, but what makes it extra fun is the self-imposed timer on the level once you drop the first plastique. It’s not quite as good as the train, mostly because every damn floor is utterly identical to the one before it, but just work your way through one, and you’ll see why it’s a formula worth repeating. Oh, and the scientists rarely get in the way.

Best moment: routing around the floor for that damned circuit board you missed

Best cheat to use: fast animation. Also chug a latte just before starting it up.

5. Archives

Can you tell that I have a penchant for canon-compliancy? The archives mission follows Bond’s arrest for his theft of the Tiger helicopter, which is more or less what happens on-screen (minus Natalia’s “boys with toys” remark). You escape an interrogation room, rescue Natalia, and even meet up with Dimitri Mishkin, before jumping out a window. In this case, it really is the objectives that push this level over the edge, rather than the cringe-worthy slew of “use this item on this random thing” that come up later.

However, Natalia inevitably getting scared and hiding in the attic is a nightmare, especially if you’re pursuing the invisibility cheat.

Best moment: working your way into the hall just after you shoot your guards. On 00-agent this can take time.

Best cheat to use: paintball mode. It looks the prettiest here, since it’s a well-lit level with stylish green walls.

6. Frigate

Fans of the movie remember that time that Bond boarded a ship, fought some rando with a towel, and threw him down a flight of steps. Fans of the video game remember that time Bond boarded a ship, freed a slew of hostages, and successfully planted a tracker on the Tiger helicopter. I think you can see why the later is preferable for a play-through.

There’s really not a whole lot wrong with this level; releasing the hostages is a legitimate challenge, and dare I see even a fun one. However, the map is a bit on the confusing side of things.

Best moment: when you finally find the helicopter despite having heard it growing louder for the past ten minutes.

Best cheat: 2x grenade launcher. Nothing improves your aim like someone’s life on the line.

7. Runway

Man, that opening title sequence to Goldeneye was pretty great, wasn’t it? This game at least milks all they can out of it.

“The Runway” is sort of cute in how hard it tries. There’s a tank sitting there! And you need to take out turrets of randomness on higher levels! But in reality, this is a level that you can zip through in under half a minute. It’s hard to call it fun, so much as to call it “there.” But there’s also nothing to say against it?

Best moment: when you realize that the DK-mode cheat time limit is 5 minutes.

Best cheat: what are you doing? Just get to the damn plane!

8. Cradle

This is actually a level that is more fun than not, in fairness, though if you’re playing above agent, ammo becomes a problem. Here, you get to pursue Alec Trevelyan as he yells out quips from the movie that were put into a blender. There’s a drone at one point, an endless stream of ZMG-toting guards, and Alec definitely has a weapons advantage here.

The biggest issue, however, is the seeming randomness with Alec’s chase, including when he inexplicably decides to run to the end-stage of the level. It feels very repetitive, and very out of your control.

Best moment: when you miss the damn platform dropping down the latter.

Best cheat to use: Magnum. Gives you that “pistols at dawn” kind of feeling.

9. Bunker 2

It’s always a risk to return to the same level for a game, but the second time you hit the Severnaya Bunker, it’s well worth it. Sure, plot-wise Bond being there makes no sense, but it’s a crazy amount of fun to break out of your cell with the magnetic watch (Live and Let Die shout-out!), and then sneak around collecting incredibly weird shit, including a VHS copy of the Goldeneye movie.


The best part is that you get to leave Natalia in the cell for most of this, though I’m pretty sure she can’t die anyway.

Best moment: finding double silenced-PP7s in the safe

Best cheat to use: 2x laser. It’s super nice down these long corridors.

10. Depot

I’m a little surprised this level is landing right in the middle of the list, because in many ways, the Depot is quite flawed. The map is dark and not at all intuitive, and the objectives pretty much just amount to “press the B button at this thing”.

However, its unstructured nature actually feels like a challenge, in a good way. It’s not the kind of level you’d break a guide out for, but it’s one where you do feel like you’re solving something. Plus there’s one part where you just blow shit up. No, it’s not part of the movie, but it also doesn’t try to be. It actually might be the level that feels the most closely related to what came in Perfect Dark.

Best moment: when you first realize that half the guards are carrying grenades.

Best cheat to use: Silver PPK. A good shot really, really helps here.

11. Aztec

Okay, I really have no idea why this game just decided to stick two missions from Roger Moore movies at the end.

Either way, this is the better one. Your enemies are wearing yellow jumpsuits so they’re easily spotted, and there’s moonraker lasers. Plus your mission revolves around making sure a shuttle takes off, and you get to kill Jaws.

Good ol’ fan-service fun.

The map is confusing, and there’s lots of ducking through vents, but…lasers. Just don’t think and have fun with it, like anything Roger Moore-esque.

Best moment: when you have a minute to run around and do nothing as the ship is taking off.

Best cheat to use: All weapons. Start toggling through all of them, because this is not a level worth taking seriously. Klobb it up.

12. Bunker 1

I wouldn’t call this a bad level by any means, and there’s even a cameo by Boris Grishenko (he pulls a gun on you!).

There’s also plenty of sneaky-sneaking, including an objective to destroy all the security cameras.

The biggest issue, however, is that it pales to its successor, especially with its much smaller map. It’s certainly fun, but the replay isn’t quite as engaging (though this is actually another level you can beat in about thirty seconds on Agent).

Best moment: when you try and throw the Goldeneye key back onto the table and it always misses.

Best cheat to use: hunting knives. They’re oddly satisfying here.

13. Dam

The Dam is a damn good opening level to the game (see what I did there). There’s few surprises, and only one objective (jump) for the Agent difficulty. At the same time, it introduces you to your silenced PP7, a KV7 Soviet, and a sniper rifle, while teaching about B-activation mechanics, shooting locks, and alarm systems in a pretty seamless way.

What’s less seamless is the mystifying mission for Secret Agent and 00-Agent, where you go beneath the buildings to do something with some computer mainframe. It really just forces you to stay onto a glorified training course, and the longer you’re there, the more apparent it becomes.

Best moment: when you accidentally get stuck behind that damn truck and have to wait forever for the door to open.

Best cheat: slow animation. It’s not that you’ll need it, but it just feels so satisfying to zip through, and mercifully the doors aren’t subjected to the slowing.

14. Caverns

I don’t know what this level is. I don’t know what this level is even trying to be. All I know is that it’s basically a straight-forward path, and the only thing keeping it interesting are the enemy weapons you pick up. You won’t be upset playing through this, but…just. Why?

Best moment: I guess when you call in Jack Wade, but that’s also the only moment that’s possible to remember here.

Best cheat to use: Bond invisible. It’s actually downright fun in this case, and one of the levels where invisibility doesn’t compromise a mission, like in the facility when Alec can’t see you.

15. Statue Park

I do have to appreciate how wonderfully this evoked the movie, but boy is it not fun to play through. The map is dark and incredibly confusing, and the enemies seem to spawn from nowhere (and blend perfectly with their surroundings). You’ll spend more time than not passing the same damn giant hammer, feeling like Frodo and Sam in Emyn Muil. You are going in circles, yes.

Best moment: Sean Bean, back from the dead.

Best cheat to use: tiny Bond. It makes the statues seem really scary, plus you wanna look your best for Alec, don’t you?

16. Egyptian

And here we are at the second Roger Moore level, this one inspired by both The Man with the Golden Gun, since you have to pick up a golden gun. And also Live and Let Die again? For some reason, your objective is to kill Baron Samedi, who still can’t be killed, and still is not over you disrupting that whole opium ring, I guess. So what’s there to do but chase him around an incredibly dark map after locating the golden gun in a puzzle room of no-logic?

The memes make it not a total loss, but the actual gameplay leaves a lot to be desired.

Best moment: every time Baron Samedi laughs. They really nailed his characterization.

Best cheat to use: Gold PP7. You have to win this pissing contest.

17. Streets

I might get skewered for this, but there’s also a reason I blacklisted “Strand of the Ancients” in WoW: I don’t really like vehicle quests. The Hoth battle in the N64 Shadows of the Empire might be a small exception, but they actually put effort into those mechanics. With this tank? Not so much.

The map is awful, but I’m pretty sure if you guess mostly right-turns, you get there fast. However, you also get to deal rockets being fired at your head, and mines to ride over. The car you’re chasing isn’t even in-sight at any point! The worst is the extended objectives for harder difficulties, where you actually have to explore these damn buildings to find Valentine. It’s like a maze, but one you’ll likely die in the middle of 6 or 7 times before remembering it. Give me the Zora trials on the moon any day.

Best moment: when you see the end gates and your eyes fill with tears of joy.

Best cheat to us: turbo mode. Don’t bother with the tank and just end this nightmare as soon as you can.

18. Surface 1

Look. The surface levels suck. It’s just snow, nothing but snow. However, this is the surface level where you can actually see something, and where your objective is mostly “go towards that giant dish.” You’ll do it, but you won’t be happy about it.

Best moment: when you realize the Klobb is the only gun you have any ammo for.

Best cheat: invincibility. You’re going to be accidentally missing guards anyway, and this is not a level worth repeating. Slap it on and call it a day.

19. Jungle

As much as I’m happy that Xenia’s “good squeeze” wasn’t adapted to the video game, this was not the way to go about it. You’re once again shoved into a dark level, but this time all your enemies are in camo, and there’s random drone guns everywhere. The only positive is that Xenia is carrying a decent weapon you get to use, but it’s just a slog-fest where you’re almost guaranteed to die the first few times around. Don’t get me started on 00-Agent.


Best moment: Xenia has very cool music.

Best cheat: DK mode. It actually helps a ton here.

20. Surface 2

I have nothing good to say about this level. NOTHING. It’s “Surface 1”, but with objectives that take you to buildings that are more inconveniently located, and with a dark RED sky so you can’t see fucking anything. But you’ll get shot still, don’t worry.

Best moment: when you accidentally trigger alarms and send everyone crashing towards you.

Best cheat: enemy rockets. Just go full-on with the misery.


It should be noted, however, that no matter how bad this list is towards the bottom, it beats every level from The World is Not Enough N64. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some flag-tag to play with lasers in the complex.

Images courtesy of Nintendo

Kylie is a Managing Editor at The Fandomentals on a mission to slay all the tropes. She has a penchant for complex familial dynamics and is easily pleased when authors include in-depth business details.



The Arcana is a Nice Visual Novel Experience





The Arcana is a visual novel available on mobile since 2017 developed by Nix Hydra. It takes place into a fantasy world inspired by the tarot game. It’s free-to-playish (more about this later). And you know what? It’s quite good. No really, I like to play it, I care about the characters, and I want to know what is going to happen. So I thought I will write something about it today.

The Story

In The Arcana you are the amnesic apprentice of the magician Arsa. Your master (and maybe more) is forced to leave the city and leaves you in charge of his (your) shop with his familiar, the snake Faust. Not long after his departure, two characters come to visit. If I don’t remember the precise order of their visit they are respectively the Countess of Vesuvia, Nadia, and an ‘old friend’ of Arsa, the plague doctor, Julian Devorak. Both wanted to talk to Arsa but accept a tarot reading from you. After you have given them an ominous reading, Julian leaves. Nadia asks you to come to the palace to offer you a job.

This job turns out to be helping her solve the murder of her husband, Lucio, who was murdered three years ago. The main suspect, who confessed to setting Lucio on fire before escaping his prison, is Julian Devorak. He has recently been spotted in town. You must resolve the affair and catch the perpetrator before the masquerade, the first one since Lucio’s death.

From here you will go trough Vesuvia, crossing path with other characters, and uncovering a real rabbit hole of mystery. And trust me the mystery is really catching.

Oh and you will pick a romance… that’s kind of important too.

The Characters

Of main interest in The Arcana are its story and its characters. This is perfectly normal, after all this is the point of visual novel. But even for the genre The Arcana really has a colorful, endearing cast.  You will always be happy to come back to these characters. The main trio is particularly good.

From left to right: Arsa, Nadia, and Julian.

Arsa is certainly the most stable of the three. He knows who he is, he knows that he loves and cares about the protagonist. Unsurprisingly, he is the only one who remembers what happened three years ago. One of the great things about him is that he is confident, both about his ability and about who he is. He might have some hesitation about his relationship with the narrator (but for good reasons).

However, I will say that he is a bit uncertain about the way to go forward. What “happened” to Lucio certainly concerns him, but the way you follow with him is confused. There is a lot of going back, going away, trying to face the problem, deciding not to for now… It doesn’t make Arsa’s route unpleasant, quite the contrary. I think it makes it more interesting. The way to go isn’t always straight (pun intended), and that is a good thing, as it reminds us that even confidant people can hesitate.

Nadia is a more straight forward character. Despite a facade of confidence and authority, Nadia is insecure and wants to do the right thingTM. There are multiple reasons explaining this insecurity, including an amnesia that probably allows several members of her court to take advantage of her. Her desire to be a source of authority and to be right, because she loves this facade, could lead her down a path that ends up making her cold and hard. But Nadia is a good person who cares for her people. Having a strong person that needs reassurance about her capacities and future was a really good idea for The Arcana.

Julian is a bit of a mess, and this is an understatement. He is a bit of a masochist, definitively a poseur, and genuinely lost. To the point where he ends up hurting people around him, people that care about him. He is deeply convinced that unhappiness is the only thing waiting for him at the end of the story, despite his obvious medical talent and general niceness. This leads to one of the most violent roasts that I have seen in a long time, but not underserved.

In addition, the cast of secondary characters is amazing. I can’t wait for Portia and Muriel’s route. Especially since I am convinced that Muriel knew the protagonist. But there is also Lucio… Oh Lucio… What a colossal dick… I find myself wondering why no one set him on fire sooner. (Actually, maybe Lucio got the most violent, literal ‘roast’ I have seen in a long time, but once again not undeserved.)

What a piece of shit… Even your wife threw away a ring you gave her.


One of the other great thing about The Arcana is the diversity presented in the game. As you have probably noticed, two out of the three love interests are POC. Everyone is bisexual, too. But that’s not the only thing. The protagonist lacks a canon physical appearance, so they can be who you want them to be. And I say they because the game lets you choose their gender… Or rather favorite pronoun. You have the choice between, she/her, he/him, and they/them. This is such a nice and clever thing to do. Everyone can play as they want, and it makes the experience more inclusive.

I have to give another point to Nix Hydra for design. The world of The Arcana is particularly well designed to work with this inclusivity. Vesuvia makes me things about the Silk Road—it has a Middle-Eastern vibe (and the ambiance music helps).

Unfortunately, this is the only picture of one of the backgrounds I was about to find easily.

The fact that there are characters coming from everywhere and from a lot of different ethnicities continues to enhance the Silk Road impression.

Another good thing is that the universe is tolerant. Like I have already said, all three romance option are bisexuals. But everyone in the city is okay with same-gender romantic relationship. And there aren’t any comments about anyone’s ethnicity, either. You know what? This is truly refreshing.

The Main Problem of the Game

The Arcana is normally playable in three days. What I mean by that is that any update can be played rather easily with daily bonuses. However, that only works if you are okay with being robbed of every cute moment and of the majority of the illustrations. Yeah a good part of the illustration are guarded behind a wall of “pay a certain amount of coins.” You can win coins on a daily basis, but not that much in real time. So how do you get enough coins to unlock everything?

Well you pay for them with real money. Micro-transactions are unfortunately way too common today.  And that’s why I might have made some mistakes in my presentation of the game. Thus far, I have only played everything once… Because my background refused to let me spend money on something I could do another way. It’s not that I am cheap… It is that the paying system isn’t:

Please keep in mind that this is in euros.

I don’t mind that creators make money out of their creation, that is perfectly normal. However, this is a bit much. With 2 000 coins you can buy four books, and four books is the equivalent of an entire romance route. For now. The routes aren’t over yet. And there are three of them! 43.99€ is more expensive than brand new 3DS games in my country!

Yes, Nix Hydra has considerably increased the daily bonuses recently and they have doubled the amount of coins you can buy for 43.99€. But still. I will probably only have played the integrality of The Arcana in four years. That’s okay, the game is still lovely, and it does not tempt me into spending so much money. But still, it casts a gloom over the general game experience.


My free-to-play experience with The Arcana is pleasant enough for me to recommend it to you. It is a nice visual novel and if you like the genre you will have a good time. However, if you have trouble not spending money on micro-transactions, don’t start the game because the experience will be really frustrating for you. Except if you are very rich… In that case, throw some of that sweet, sweet money toward Nix Hydra. Be the renaissance art patron you always wanted to be.

Images Courtesy of Nix Hydra

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From Alistair to Cullen—Fairytale Romances and Dragon Age

Angela D. Mitchell



Spoiler Warning for all of Dragon Age: Origins, Dragon Age II, and Dragon Age: Inquisition

Cullen: The way that I saw mages… I’m not sure I would have cared about you. And the thought of that sickens me.

Let’s talk Dragon Age romance. Emotions! Chocolates! Kisses! Flowers! Not to mention those itty bitty little pieces of stomped hearts and emotional shrapnel!

Sorry… I’m still recovering from Valentine’s Day. (I would have published this analysis then, a few weeks back, but I was still weeping and locked in a fetal position…)

I heard someone say recently that RPG romances actually elicit the same reactions in the brain that real romances do. I have no idea if that’s scientifically true, but when it comes to Dragon Age, it certainly feels true.

For me, as for many, RPGs tap into emotions that can be intriguingly close to real. We play a character for what can be dozens or even hundreds of hours. We flirt with other characters. They flirt back. And eventually declare their love. We love them back. And often, not just via avatar; it’s not just my Inquisitor, for instance, who loves Solas, or Bull, or Zevran, or Anders, and all my other romanced characters. I absolutely love them, too. And in a way, that’s more personal and less remote than, say, my crush on Aragorn when rereading The Lord of the Rings. Because let’s face it, Aragorn doesn’t look right over at me and proclaim his adoration back. In an RPG romance, however? Yeah, he totally would.

And that’s where they get you.

It’s both embarrassing yet visceral how emotional that can be. And each choice in an RPG like Dragon Age further ensures that our choices will make us unique, make US worth the love and accolades from our chosen objects. No matter that thousands of other people have lived it—you can know this intellectually, yet emotionally, the game relationships still feel all too real, immediate, and personal. It’s one of the greatest lures of the gaming world, that sense that YOUR playthrough is the only one that truly matters, and it’s intoxicating when accomplished by a team as talented as Bioware, for instance, on the Dragon Age series.

Predictable Patterns

However, when you’ve played your share of RPGs, as I have, you can also kind of get jaded; lulled into certain patterns. You especially become used to the romances going a certain way: you flirt with your potential love interests, they’re charmed, bold, or bashful, and they flirt back. If you’re playing a good (or “paragon”) character, you won’t break their hearts and they won’t break yours. There’s not a ton of suspense—they will love you. It’s assured.

You then progress through the game story, and eventually there are heart-eyes and kissage, followed eventually by a scene where you finally spend the night together in pixellated soulmate bliss. Well, hey, for a moment or two.

Aaaand… Fade to black.

And, well, basically, that’s it. You got your happy ending, or, alternatively, basically, what I call, the phase that is “Welcome to the End of Your RPG Romance.”

Alistair’s romance in Dragon Age: Origins can vary from the sweetest fairytale imaginable, to a grim and cynical outcome, depending on your choices.

“Someday My Prince/ss Will Come…”

First off, there can be something really reassuring about the less complicated romances. They can be terrific fun, and a welcome change from real life.

The base template for me on this in Dragon Age, for instance, will probably always be Alistair’s romance in Dragon Age: Origins (DAO), at least, as I had played it. I’d ended up with a triumphant female elf Warden wandering off hand in hand with a Grey Warden Alistair after defeating the Archdemon and waving goodbye to a pregnant Morrigan. (Note: You can get an even happier ending if you played a female human noble, because then you can marry Alistair, he becomes King, and you ascend the throne alongside him to become his queen.)

I’d liked the Alistair romance, although it hadn’t quite been my cup of tea. It had seemed a little adolescent and predictable to me, even though it was (being Bioware) also indisputably charming. Alistair is a funny, sweet guy, he’s an exiled prince who gives a female Warden his inexperienced and vulnerable heart, and it’s all seriously adorable. The moment when he gave my poor sweet Warden a rose remains a milestone for me in my memory of my first DAO playthrough.

Or… Not…

However, Alistair’s romance isn’t actually predictable, though. That’s where I was wrong. It can end in half a dozen different brutal and tragic ways. So I was truly amused later to realize how many different choices I’d actually happened to luck into that had resulted in that bright and sunny fairytale ending!

I mean, come on, this is Bioware. I was stupid. Sunny endings, I should have remembered, are… rare and precious. Never a given.

But I was careless, and had innocently assumed my Disney outcome was the norm. (Really? Was I ever that young? Evidently I was. Once.)

But my entire awareness of that moment (and happy ending) was actually a lie, and, as I’ve noted, it wasn’t the only possibility at all. Ironically, Alistair’s romance most definitely isn’t happy-happy. It isn’t “someday my prince will come.” It can, in fact, end in incredible bleakness—with the Warden dumped, left, abandoned, or dead, and with Alistair despairing and drunk, executed, or heroically dead from his own fatal blow against the Archdemon.

Flipping the Formula

I’d had no idea of this in my first playthrough. I only began to realize its possibilities in discussions with other Dragon Age players I know.

And I’d definitely had no idea that an Alistair playthrough could be so much more complex and dark. The first time I played Dragon Age: Origins, my Warden had encouraged Alistair not to become King because she wasn’t a fan of people being pushed into roles they didn’t want, so she inadvertently ensured that they got their happy ending out of simple selfishness. Which was even more ironic because, for me, I didn’t actually think my Warden protagonist’s romance with Alistair would even last. She’d had conflicting feelings for assassin Zevran (then broke it off because poor Alistair was really difficult to break up with, honestly), and had also had a wordless if doomed yearning for Qunari warrior Sten (at least in my own headcanon).

So I got my “Disney Prince” romance even if at the end I kind of went, “Oh, sweeties… it will never, ever last,” to the couple I ended up with.

It’s All About the Formula

Still, the standard formula’s pretty timeless and proven throughout the ages. Flirt, kiss, sex, happy ending, boom. Done.

Cassandra’s romance is a charming opportunity to see the lighter, sweeter side of one of Thedas’s toughest warriors.

This fairytale type of formula means that your typical romance often takes up a fraction of the game story, while also hitting those predictable necessary romance points… the courtship, the glances, the kiss, the sex, the aftermath (if there is one). Most formulas in fact eschew the aftermath and just end the relationship there in a haze of assumed present and future bliss. This always disappoints me, because of course, relationships don’t end with sex, and they actually get a lot more interesting after that point.

Romances adhering to this formula in Dragon Age might include, depending on story arc, the following characters:

  • Alistair
  • Leliana
  • Merrill
  • Cullen
  • Josephine
  • Cassandra

However, of course, this being Bioware, any one of the above romances can end sadly and even tragically as well. It just depends on the choices you make. Alistair, Leliana, and Merrill can all end up abandoned or dead at the hand of the very person who loves them, while Cullen’s romance can also end in one of the most heartbreaking revelations in the Trespasser DLC, depending on your choices for him. Josie and Cass survive no matter what, but they may do so with some serious broken hearts.

Thank goodness, though, it doesn’t have to go that way. So if you go for the fairytale, and you make the choices that support true love and sweetness, you’ll usually get it in the above scenarios. Alistair’s, Leliana’s, and Merrill’s romances are more innocent, and Josephine’s is positively Disney Princess (and utterly adorable). Cassandra’s is lovely, and provides a glimpse of her softer side. My only complaint about hers is that it’s a bit light on content, and it’s pretty much set forth according to that formula where the story’s basically over after the sex.

Cullen’s deceptively complex romance actually explores Cullen’s journey across the entire Dragon Age trilogy, while giving him a chance at love and atonement.

Romancing the Templar

Cullen’s, meanwhile, is probably my favorite of the fairytale romances in Dragon Age, not least because it doesn’t end with the hookup, but instead actually explores Cullen’s journey across the entire trilogy. It’s especially satisfying if you romance him with a mage, since Cullen’s story back in Dragon Age: Origins began with a traumatic experience that left him with a bias that he was still working through even in Dragon Age II and on into Dragon Age: Inquisition (DAI).

In DAI, Cullen is wrestling with a search for redemption based on over a decade of backstory if we’ve played the entire trilogy. His emotional inner conflicts result in a romanced relationship with the Inquisitor that can be really rich and poignant, as his feelings for her are depicted in a lovely and often wordless progression of simple, believable little moments (both funny and sexy) that genuinely communicate intimacy. As his romance evolves, we’re shown Cullen’s more vulnerable side, as well as how deep his sense of religious faith really is. I remember being surprised and moved at a simple scene near the end in which Cullen simply embraced the Inquisitor and held her, expressing for the first time how deeply he feared losing her.

There are plenty of other happy romances in Dragon Age, but they’re not as straightforward. Bull’s, for instance, is sexy, funny, and surprisingly edgy, but it’s also somewhat cynical and cold, at least at first. Solas’s romance (while achingly emotional at levels that are practically operatic) is certainly not the guaranteed happy ending most players may be going for.

The romances described here, however, meet the basic needs of the formula and provide a general prospect of romantic happiness for those who make the right choices.

If you want hearts and flowers, in other words? These romances are a good place to start.

I’ll be taking a look at some of the romances that don’t really follow that fairytale formula in the near future… and, from Solas to Bull to Zevran and Anders, which ones in that assortment that I loved most. But what about you? Do you prefer the fairytale romance formula, yourself? Or something a little more complex and real?

Meanwhile, don’t mind me. I’m heading off on my War Nug, back to camp where I can drown my lonely sorrows in a few of my beautiful and decadent Valentine’s Day chocolates. (I got them on sale!)

Images courtesy of Bioware

This article is a reprint (with minor modification and expansion) of an article originally published by Angela D. Mitchell on

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The First Female OWL Player is a Struggling Team’s Best Chance





Stage one of the Overwatch league’s left many teams disappointed with their results, but none more so than the Shanghai Dragons who finished at the bottom of the league with a devastating 0 – 10 record.

While esport castors and fans alike praised Chao “Undead” Fang and Weida “Diya” Lu for their individual skill, and for the team as a whole improving since the start of the season, many still maintain that a 0 – 40 season record is still a very real and very scary possibility for Shanghai.

In the recent signing period, the Dragons acquired three new Korean players: Eui-Seok “Fearless” Lee (Tank), Gi-Hyeon “Ado” Chon (DPS), and (by far the most publicized) Yeon “Geguri” Kim (Tank).

Geguri will not only be the first female player in OWL, but one of a small handful of female players across all professional esports. Early on in her career she was accused of cheating because her Zarya play is just that good. She proved her mettle (and put the rumors to bed) by filming her hands while playing during a live stream.

General managers throughout the league had faced heavy criticism from fans at the start of the season, as not one of the twelve teams in the league recruited Geguri, a player who, statistically, was better than a large handful of male tank players that did get signed to teams. The accusations of sexism became even more damning after the Houston Outlaws’ staff cited a lack of female facilities at their training HQ as part of the reason for not taking her on.

So, Geguri got a team (and even one that wouldn’t make ludicrous excuses!) and the Shanghai Dragons got a badly needed injection of skill. Looks like everything worked out, right?

Well, yes and no.

Sadly Geguri, Fearless, and Ado are all still trying to get their american VISAs, a process that could take several more weeks, meaning they are currently unable to play.

Meanwhile, stage two has so far been equally unkind to the Dragons, losing both of their games in the first week. Many remain doubtful that the team, even with the roster change-ups, will be able to advance out of last place. Analyst Christopher “Montecristo” Mykles was notably skeptical that the addition of the Korean players will be able to have a significant impact for the Chinese team but added “I don’t think it’s going to be that bad” when asked about the prospect of a 0 – 40 season finish for them.

Until then, OWL fans will be praying to the gods of RNG (VISA paperwork is controlled by RNG, right?) that Geguri will soon be taking her long overdue steps onto the pro stage.

Image courtesy of Blizzard

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