I have about 400 hours on Dragon Age: Inquisition alone, with another 100 across Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age 2 combined. I have Dragon Age art hanging on my walls. I own every book and comic. I want to know where the hell the promised Funko Pops have gone. I’ve done almost every romance — I can never bring myself to play a straight man, sorry — and combination of quests.
And through all 400 hours of Inquisition gameplay, I have hated Solas. So, so much. Until recently, the most satisfying interaction I had with Solas was punching him in the face once. He’s just… the worst. Pedantic, condescending, aloof, and disdainful of everything you are and do for a solid third of the game, and for always if you don’t bother talking to him much (and why would you). On the rare occasions I brought him with me on quests, I mocked his Captain Obvious interjections incessantly and could not wait to swap him out for someone else. I was absolutely sure I would never romance Solas.
Then I got laid off.
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Vhenan, You Say?
Do you know how many hours in a day there are when you don’t have a job? A lot. I took up cross-stitch. I read many, many books. I attempted Red Dead Redemption 2 and it made me way too sad. I attempted God Of War and couldn’t aim the axes to save my life. I attempted Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice and again, way too sad. My only recourse to keep from drowning myself in the sea like a walking Greek tragedy was to boot up my most familiar and beloved distraction again and finally do the one thing I hadn’t in the 400 hours I’d dumped into it: fuck the egg. All I knew going in was that he gets real hot in the ancient elf armor at the end of the Trespasser DLC, and also at some point he dumps you immediately after crapping all over your heritage.
As far as distractions go, I could not have chosen better. I hadn’t been that engrossed in Dragon Age: Inquisition since the first time I played the game. Suddenly all of this incredible narrative that I’d missed loomed large. Elements of the story that felt a little wishy-washy cohered into something tragic, beautiful, and altogether moving — the plight of the elves, the things the Dalish get wrong or closer to right than anyone wants to admit, Abelas and Solas distancing themselves from you as not like them, an example of how far elves have fallen, and then Mythal calling you a shining example of the People.
The Solas romance isn’t a healthy one. This is the cadence of it: you make out in The Fade after he drags you around in a dream. He tells you he’s not sure it’s a good idea to pursue your relationship. Then he brings you to your room, asks if it’s possible that you’ve been magically transformed into a worthwhile person by the power of the Anchor in your hand (which you later find out is because of him), kisses you again, and tells you he loves you.
This Stupid, Rotten Egg
At one point, depending on other decisions you’ve made, he might laughingly tell you that he doesn’t feel he has anything in common with elves (to play this romance, you gotta be an elf, so… rude). Then he brings you to a waterfall that is, apparently, a three week trip away from your base of operations. He tells you that the tattoos you wear as a Dalish elf, that you hold sacred, are actually slave tattoos. You have the option to have him remove them, or not. He tells you you’re beautiful regardless, makes out with you again, and grabs your ass — then immediately breaks up with you. When you later ask him why, he won’t tell you.
We’re not talking boyfriend of the year material, here.
Romanticizing the ways he’s the worst doesn’t do the story justice. He’s distant, pedantic, and literally doesn’t see you as a person for most of the game. He has a massive secret, this huge mistake that he’s still processing having made — a year is not enough time to move through the stages of grief you might have about accidental mass murder when you were trying to save everyone from slavery. And because no one he sees now is connected to the Fade in the way he’s been used to for, oh, I don’t know, one hundred million billion years, he doesn’t see anyone as people. That includes you and the rest of the Inquisition. But given all that, what’s awesome about this romance is you get to make a grim and fatalistic elven god realize that across eons, people are still people.
Again, I cannot stress enough how unhealthy and bad this relationship would be if it was like, modern day America and some dude from Austin was being dramatic about how he just couldn’t love you. But in the context of Dragon Age, this is pure Byronic Romance straight into my veins. Keats is swooning. Shelley is sighing. It’s epic, it’s dramatic, it brings core pieces of lore into focus, and also it involves some very good kissing. In short, it’s everything you might want from a star-crossed lovers narrative that is very fun in fantasies. “He’s mysterious and sad so we love him” is boring and tropey — what the narrative does instead is weave the things your character has been taught her entire life and the things Solas thinks he understands about the world and brings them into direct opposition to one another.
Solas spends most of the game acting as if he knows everything, and is sure and steady in his conviction. But that changes as he gets to know and falls in love with you. Even as you learn world-shaking truths about what you believe — the Elven gods were never gods at all but super-powerful slave-owning mages, at least some of them are alive and hanging out in Thedas, the Veil that separates the spirit world from the living world was a thing created and not a natural occurrence — sometimes at his behest and guidance and sometimes just with him along for the ride, so too is he learning from you. It’s much less a professor/student romance (though man, I am here for that fanfic vibe) and more two people who are learning together that the world isn’t at all what they’ve understood it to be.
And here’s the thing: I am so, so annoyed that this is the case. Iron Bull, the BDSM minotaur-esque Qunari who had never known romantic love before you, voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr. in his most iconic role, was my canon! Dorian, the sarcastic and emotionally wounded Tevinter mage with an excellent butt was my backup canon! Both of these romances are sweet, kind, healthy, and involve positive communication and the careful unwinding of conflict, totally at odds with Solas’ romance. I was a Solas Disdainer, rolling my eyes at every tumblr URL about eggs. But here I am in Solavellan hell, and I am enjoying myself. Curse you, writers Patrick Weekes and also David Gaider (and further, voice actor Gareth David-Lloyd). How dare you.
I started this playthrough determined to set up my revenge in DA4 — to finally scramble the egg. But at the end of Trespasser, I just couldn’t do it. My Lavellan couldn’t do it, and she was a Reaver two-handed warrior who drank dragon blood. We vowed to change his mind. We’re gonna save his ass in DA4, if the game will let us.
See you when the Veil comes down, you stupid egg. I love you.