BioWare puts a lot of focus on creating absorbing and fleshed out characters. They did this with Mass Effect, where they offered a wide range of fascinating characters and they succeeded with Dragon Age as well.
The Dragon Age series is stock full of strong-minded charismatic characters who won’t shy away from the opportunity to make sarcastic remarks whenever the need arises. The sheer wit alone used across the game in dialogue and party banter makes the game highly enjoyable. Battling darkspawn and saving the world is okay too, I guess.
The games have some well-rounded companions with excellent personalities and constitutions, as well as a few inadequate ones who lack the depth and development of other characters in the game. Your companions all have layers of personality and specific moral views that can either push them towards lasting friendships with you or hateful rivalries.
Depending on your dialogue options, you can gain or loose a companion’s approval, which can send them off steaming and refusing to talk to you. Each companion is thus geared to respond to specific topics and events with fondness or disapproval. In order to befriend a companion, you must earn their loyalty and complete their character missions. These missions vary from setting up a certain Captain of the Knights Guard with her crush, to tracking down a companion’s past opponents. Each mission offers an in depth look at each companion and thus helps you to understand their goals and preferences.
Warning: there will be Dragon Age: Origins, Dragon Age II, and Dragon Age: Inquisition spoilers.
I’ll be honest, I initially liked Anders. His desire to help mages and his affinity for cats, particularly Ser Pounce-a-lot, painted him as a good character in my books. In Dragon Age: Awakening, he is lighthearted and carefree, able to crack a few good jokes every now and then. But his naivety and pure ignorance in Dragon Age II turns him into a stranger.
Once his newfound personality arises, it’s hard not to dislike Anders. He turns into a Templar-hating self-righteous lunatic who believes he can change the world if he bombs a few churches and kills a few innocents; basically a terrorist. And there’s only so much he can blame on Justice.
However, it’s hard not to pity him as he slips deeper and deeper into his madness and fanaticism. Even in the end, he has the crazy illusion that his actions were justified in helping the mages. This is ultimately his downfall.
Blackwall originally appears as a pretty interesting character. Finally, another chance to have a Grey Warden in your party. It’s been far too long since Dragon Age: Origins. But wait…. nevermind, he’s just a scheming liar with a fake name he took on in order to hide from authorities. There’s actually a price on his head and it turns out he killed an innocent family.
Okay, I’ll admit there’s a lot more to Blackwall than this. He made a huge mistake and lives with his regrets each and everyday. One can only imagine what that must feel like. Still, he could have at least been upfront with his friend and ally, the Inquisitor. Especially after the Inquisitor spent all that time acquiring Grey Warden artifacts for him, which was in fact just another means for him to gain more information on the Grey Wardens which he could use to fool people.
23 Sebastian Vael
Sebastian is the Disney prince of Dragon Age. He’s got the striking blue eyes, chiseled jawline, and mediocre personality. He is also a contender to be an actual prince of Starkhaven. He has a few loyalty missions in which you can get to know him, but then that’s it. His awesome armour is pretty much the only thing going for him.
He is a brother of the Chantry and therefore never misses the opportunity to shove religious rhetoric down the throat of anyone who will listen to him. His devotion is admirable and it is interesting to hear about his views, but it is an overused characteristic and there is nothing else notable about him. Torn between returning to Starkhaven and his commitment to the Chantry, Sebastian is not an otherwise exciting character.
Oghren is your generic dwarf. He hails from Orzammar, where the Grey Warden initially meets him. His past is a sad one. His wife becomes Paragon and eventually leaves him to go venture the Deep Roads, taking his whole family with him. He quickly loses respect from his family and becomes ostracized by his community, turning to alcohol as his only friend.
His only characteristics seem to be drinking and womanizing. Though it’s amusing to listen to his drunk banter, it gets old quickly. He eventually settles down with his old lover, Felsi, and starts a family in Dragon Age: Awakening, but there is no real development as he quickly returns to drinking and feeling sorry for himself. He is forever cursed to be a background character, forced to stand in the shadows as he tries not to hiccup too loudly.
Sten is a very intriguing character to say the least. He is our first real glimpse into the culture of the Qunari. His views and opinions on different topics are shocking, yet educational. His gloominess is his main trait and he is apathetic about most things. This makes it difficult to earn his loyalty. Eventually if he trusts the Grey Warden, he will disclose information about his past. His sword means everything to him and once the Warden helps him find it. he will be forever grateful, or as grateful as he is capable of being.
Overall, Sten is a flat and unexciting character. He acts more like a bodyguard, paid to keep his mouth shut and beat up the occasional thug, than a companion. He lacks any real level of depth or enthusiasm and, though some fans argue that is the way of the Qun, it is evident with Iron Bull that not all Qunari are this monotone.
Barkspawn, as many fans have named him, is the recruitable Mabari in Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II. He’s easily the most loyal ally and will never turn down a good stomach scratch. Mabari are magically bred war hounds who are able to imprint on individuals, which allows them to choose their masters for life.
Mabari are incredibly intelligent and sociable, able to understand and respond to speech. For example, Barkspawn can understand when other companions talk to him or tease him, such as Alistair in Origins who calls him a cute and adorable moron, and responds by barking and growling loudly. Barkspawn would be farther up the list and closer to the best characters, but I’m still upset that he isn’t a recruitable companion in Dragon Age: Inquisition and that most Mabari are hostile in the game.
19 Bethany/Carver Hawke
Depending on your class in Dragon Age II, Hawke will have one remaining brother or sister. If you chose to be a mage, you will be left with Carver who is a warrior, while if you choose to be a warrior or rogue, you will be left with Bethany, the mage. Both siblings play different roles in the family dynamic.
Bethany is somewhat naive throughout the game and requires the protection of her older sibling, Hawke. She is intent that together they can overcome anything. The inevitable Templars/Mages war is also more interesting if she is the surviving sibling, as it puts more on the line; if you side against her and the mages, she will likely perish. However, Bethany is not as fleshed out as Carver. Carver has a strong personality and a bit of an inferiority complex, making him obsessed with rivalling Hawke. Throughout the game, he grows a lot as a character and eventually becomes much more mature and rational.
Vivienne is strong magically, as well as politically. Through cunning political maneuvering, she was able to attain an influential position: the personal enchanter and advisor to Empress Celene. The biggest threat to her position is the Breach and thus she wishes to aid the Inquisitor, so she can go back to her affluent lifestyle.
Vivienne represents the traditional Circle of Magi mage of Dragon Age: Inquisition. She is undeniably pro-Circle and her perspective is slightly interesting due to her belief that, without the order, there would be only chaos, but her viewpoint is ultimately quite narrow. She provides no new insights into the lore of mages who support the Circle that we have not already obtained from Wynne in Dragon Age: Origins.
Cole is an outsider. He’s that kid on the playground who doesn’t engage in any games with any other children and instead sits alone in a corner piling rocks. There is so much of him that we don’t know. He’s a spirit trapped in the body of a Hedge mage, which makes him extremely powerful, but even he doesn’t know what to do with this power.
BioWare writer, Patrick Weekes, has stated that Cole was the most difficult companion to write. Cole is also the most difficult companion to understand and this ultimately makes him pretty pointless in the series. His storyline is immersive, but it leaves you with a strange aftertaste because he is a puzzle that is never truly solved. There is no way to forge a lasting connection with him because he will never be completely comprehensible to a mere mortal and there’s ultimately nothing you can do about it.
Wynne is the grandmother of the group who constantly provides you with advice and is also always there to heal you in battle. Though she can be seen as a bit too morally uptight, she is always available for a deep philosophical conversation and often encourages the Grey Warden to think about the future, especially when it comes to romance choices. Wynne is pretty lively and will occasionally joke about her age. She also isn’t as virtuous as she lets on and will eventually talk about her son to Alistair, explaining that he was born in wedlock with a Templar at the Circle of Magi and was taken from her by Chantry.
One interesting aspect of her is that she technically died but was then resurrected and possessed by a spirit. It is unsure whether this possession was voluntary or not, but even after this event Wynne continues to believe in the Circle of Magi and it’s ability to protect mages from demonic possession, which seems a little contradictory. Besides this, Wynne is a pretty fleshed out character. There just needs to be a dialogue option where she can offer to bake cookies…
Personality-wise, Isabela is the female equivalent of Varric. She enjoys drinking, sarcasm, obtaining gold and riches, as well as a good adventure. Though some fans believe she is too crude, she has the perfect personality for Dragon Age II. Amidst all the seriousness and extremism, she is a breathe of fresh air and her character offers a neutral perspective, neither leaning towards mages nor Templars, though she will mock their righteousness. She is strong, levelheaded and confident, more than capable of giving others a piece of her mind.
Isabela is a pirate at heart and therefore hates all laws and values her freedom above all else. She is a free spirit who plays be her own rules and does not allow anyone to give her orders. She is thus the opposite of Aveline. If Hawke does not lock down her loyalty, it is possible that she will eventually leave the group.
Leliana is a prominent character in the series and loyal ally to both the Grey Warden and the Inquisitor. In Dragon Age: Origins she is highly devoted to the Chantry and seems quite naive, often citing her discovery of a white rose as a vision from the Maker telling her to joint Grey Warden. She is thus eager to be a companion of the group and is eager to chip in whenever she can.
Leliana was also trained to be a bard and thus can act as a ruthless cutthroat killer. These mixed origins of Chantry sister and bard clash a lot throughout the series. They appear to be two contradicting sides of her and don’t flow together very well: in one moment she’s for the Chantry, in the next she’s eager to mercilessly knife someone. There’s no real continuity with her character and it appears more as a desperate game of tug of war between her writers, who can never quite decide which way she should lean.
Merrill is the cute clueless rabbit of Dragon Age. Everything about city life intrigues her and leaves her with a new feeling of wonder. She has a general lack of knowledge of anything outside of her Dalish clan. Though often absentminded, with her head in the clouds, her heart is in the right place and she can become a loyal companion.
She is the First to the Keeper of the Sabrae clan and is determined to recapture the lost history of the Dalish, but is ultimately isolated from her clan. This is due to her being a blood mage. She offers a fresh inside look at blood magic and makes you question the superstitions that surround it, as it is often seen as taboo by most of the characters encountered throughout the series. She believes it entirely possible to accept the help of spirits and demons without succumbing to their temptation. This new lore on blood magic is thus very unique, but overall her personality is too oblivious for a mage of her caliber and it is sometimes hard to take her seriously.
Fenris was an abused slave before he managed to escape and flee to Kirkwall. His previous master was a Tevinter magister who inflicted Fenris with a series of lyrium-infused markings to grant him unnatural abilities and make him stronger, and thus able to do the magister’s bidding. These abilities include phasing through solid objects, which he later uses as a deathly method of attack. However, this event caused him to become extremely distrustful of mages.
Because of his horrible upbringing, Fenris is initially standoffish and it's hard to gain his loyalty. Thus he must be approached with kindness and patience, as it cannot be expected that he should recover overnight. However, it is upsetting to know that Hawke cannot make a greater impact on his life and help provide him with fresh new slate. He continues to be tormented by his past throughout the game.
11 Iron Bull
Iron Bull provides a new and exciting perspective of the Qunari people. Previously, in Dragon Age: Origins all we had to go on was Sten’s unenthusiastic account. From what’s been seen of Sten and the events of Dragon Age II, we get a feeling that the Quanri are extremely intense and serious about their culture and hierarchy. Iron Bull offers a fresh take on the Qunari. Though he prioritizes orders over all else, he is far more liberal than expected and is able to take and make a joke.
Unlike other members of the Qunari met so far, he is easy going and willing to sit down for a drink and exchange war stories. His band of sell-swords are extremely important and close to him, together forming a tight-knit family of misfits. He can eventually become Tal-Vashoth, an abandoner of the Qun, and turn his full loyalty to the Inquisitor.
10 Dorian Pavus
Dorian is our tie to Tevinter culture. He offers an in depth look at lore on Tevinter customs, which had otherwise been ignored for the most part throughout the series. With Tevinter references across Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II, it was about time we had a companion hailing from the region. However, despite rumours of the severity of Tevinter, Dorian is lighthearted, witty, and has good intentions. He wishes to help his people and make the Tevinter a better place, which is a noble and just cause.
He also comes from a place where mages have the freedom to practice magic. This means that Dorian not only has a vast knowledge of magic, but also seems to wield it in a way that oozes confidence and self-assurance. His overall dynamic and desire to teach the Inquisitor about Tevinter culture, along with his desire to make Tevinter a better place, makes him a pretty interesting character.
Solas is the know-it-all of the series. His knowledge seems to be unbounded and it’s remarkable how experienced he is when it comes to magic and the Fade. Though he is capable of making a few bad judgements, he is a powerful ally. His conversations are insightful and allow an alternative perspective on lore and current events. He is entirely self-taught, as he is an apostate and thus against the Circle of Magi. This, however, makes him even more fascinating because he does not share the same boundaries as other mages who are forced to follow the rhetoric of the Circle and is therefore able to experiment with the Fade.
He is also very calming and offers a refreshing change from other characters. He’s a bit obsessive about elven history and will treat the Inquisitor slightly better if you’re an elf, but we all have our quirks. Having someone with his intellect and skill set makes the Inquisitor all the more stronger.
Shale is a big pile of stone and sass. Shale is a recruitable stone golem in the Dragon Age: Origins DLC, The Stone Prisoner. Her backstory provides a lot of information on lore regarding the creation of golems and vast history of dwarves. She was created as a war golem to protect dwarven thaigs during the First Blight and was previously a female dwarf warrior. She actually volunteered to become a golem, which shows off her noble side.
She is impossible to dislike. The amount of personality that surges from her stone frame is enough to make anyone adore her. She has a love for all things glittery and a strong dislike for birds, those “damnable feathered fiends.” Shale is also a great tank and loves to destroy fleshy things.
7 Aveline Vallen
Aveline is a character who goes through a lot of development. From her initial meeting with Hawke to her joining of the Kirkwall City Guard, she encounters many hardships and becomes all the more stronger for it. She is stubborn and values duty and authority above all else. She can become an extremely reliable companion to Hawke and, though a law enforcer herself, she can occasionally approve of bending the law in order to help others.
Her connection to Hawke is stronger and more distinct than with other companions. Because they both meet at the beginning of the game and are both faced with the challenge of starting a new life in an alien land, their lives appear to be inevitably intertwined. Though she decides to follow her own path and find a place for herself as Captain of the Kirkwall City Guard, she is always willing to make time for Hawke.
Sera believes in giving power to the people. She views most authority as mindless laws place down by the pompous nobility to keep the public in check. She’s a devoted member of the Friends of Red Jenny, an organization which seeks to protect society’s lowborn. Helping the little guy is what she does and she isn’t afraid to stick her arrows into some baddies. That's not to mention, she’s got a quick tongue and will babble out pieces of jargon like she’s reciting a prayer.
Sera is far from your typical elf and, though she originally grew up in the Elven Alienage of Denerim, she has a general disregard for elven culture. She’s also not your typical Dragon Age: Inquisition companion. While other companions join up because of feelings of duty, Sera is in it for the adventure and laughs. She’s a prankster and believes that a little fun can go a long way. She is quick on her feet and will never fail to surprise you.
5 Cassandra Pentaghast
Cassandra is a realist. Instead of seeing the cup as half full or half empty, she would question the properties of the unknown liquid and demand to know how it may be beneficial to the cause. The Inquisition needs more headstrong characters like her. She is confident and bold, always ready to assert her authoritative opinion whenever there is a lull in decision-making.
Though she is sometimes a bit too strict and austere, she is a solid character with years of experience to account for her opinions and actions. Before joining the Inquisition, Cassandra acted as Seeker of Truth, where she protected the Chantry from any external and internal threats. She knows how to get things done, but she also has a sensitive side which she attempts to hide from other characters. This part of Cassandra is a closeted romantic who is devoted to romantic novels and poetry. She has an intricate personality and wears her courage on her sleeve, with her heart hidden away in her side pocket.
4 Zevran Arainai
Zevran is the eleven rogue and assassin from Antivia. He was an orphan, faced with the cruel life of trying to survive alone in a big city. He was taken in and raised in a brothel until the age of seven, when he was purchased by a leading member of the Antivian Crows, a world-renowned organization of assassins, spies, and thieves. Zevran was then forced to take on assassination contracts.
Zevran is an interesting character because of his depth. His first encounter with the two remaining Grey Wardens in Dragon Age: Origins is due to a contract to kill the two. He takes this contract because he hopes to fail and die in battle. Previously, he had been tasked with killing one of his fellow Crow companions, Rinna, which he had a hard time recovering from. Fortunately, the Grey Wardens allow him into their party where he quickly settles into the group and perks back to life as a confident smooth-talker.
3 Varric Tethras
Varric is the stereotypical charmer. He has a lively sense of humour and an endless amount of thrilling stories, never shying away from the opportunity to tell an exaggerated tale over a cold pint. He is a go-getter and is always up for an adventure, which makes him one of the best characters in the Dragon Age series.
Varric appears in both Dragon Age II and Dragon Age: Inquisition, and is always ready to take on the world. In Dragon Age II, he becomes Hawkes closest acquaintance and favourite drinking buddy, but it doesn’t stop there. In Inquisition, he takes on a new bestie, the Inquisitor, and doesn’t let politics get in the way of their blooming friendship. Though he is lacking a bit in Inquisition and doesn’t appear as the fully fleshed out character he was in the second game, he is still overall a strong character. He is easy to talk to and appears to get along with all other companions. While his silver tongue can lead him into a few tight corners, Varric is an overall loyal and compassionate friend.
Morrigan is one of the most powerful and significant companions in the Dragon Age series. She is highly complex and keeps herself clouded in mystery for the most part. Though seen as more than a bit conceited and arrogant, it is important to remember her unusual upbringing. Morrigan is the daughter of Flemeth, the Witch of the Wilds, and was thus raised in seclusion within the Wilds as Flemeth’s destined protégé and host. Her relationship with her mother is complex to say the least, since it is believed by Morrigan that Flemeth wishes to kill her and take over her body. Because of this, it’s not hard to see why she may have some trust issues.
Morrigan is also a highly skilled sorceress and can become a trusted ally throughout the games. With wisdom beyond her years, she is destined for great things. She is a useful advisor and is willing to aid and teach the Grey Warden and Inquisitor all she knows, as long as they manage to break through her cold exterior.
Alistair is Alistair. No other character in the series can quite compare to him. He’s known for his constant sarcastic and clever remarks throughout dialogue and party banter. Though he appears to not take anything seriously, he is a devoted Grey Warden and can get upset if you don’t live up to the Grey Warden code. He is also kindhearted and fairly sentimental. He is extremely effected by the death of Duncan and will want to talk about the event right after it happens. He expresses that he wishes he had a token to remember Duncan by and will mourn for some time.
He can be drastically influenced by the Grey Warden. Depending on your choices, he can either become Ferelden’s future king and ruler or a causality who died tragically during the final battle against the Archdemon. His personality is also adaptable depending on the Grey Warden’s dialogue choices. This makes him the most versatile and prominent character in the series.