There is no questioning how much I’m a Bioware fangirl. I enjoy the storytelling, the worlds, the characters, and the romance. After doing at least one playthrough of Dragon Age: Origins, Dragon Age 2, and all three of the Mass Effect games I have formulated some strong opinions about the Bioware men I have romanced thus far. The men I’m talking about are Alistair of Dragon Age: Origins, Anders of Dragon Age 2, and Kaidan Alenko of the Mass Effect series. All three men have their pros and cons as characters and romance options, and I’ll get into what those are in part one of this post. This has been a post I’ve been working on for months. There is a lot to say and discuss about these characters, which is why this post has to be broken up into two parts.
Let me start with Alistair. I actually thank and blame this dashing British Grey Warden for getting me into Dragon Age, Bioware, and an Xbox 360 in the first place. I watched my friend play this game, and I slowly found myself intrigued with the ability to romance most of the characters in this game. It also doesn’t hurt that Alistair is one sexy looking fictional man. I really had no intention of getting sucked into this game, but Alistair completely did me in. He is the cause for my strong feelings toward fictional video game characters. Damn you, Alistair!
In all seriousness, Alistair has a lot of qualities that make him irresistible to most women. He has a sexy accent, a sense of humor, is a handsome guy who isn’t aware of his sex appeal, he’s a dork, he’s sensitive, romantic, and finally he’s a blushing virgin at the start of the game. As the player, if you romance Alistair just right, he can fall rather hard for your lovely female Grey Warden. Unfortunately, he isn’t considered an available gay romance option in this game. The closest you get to a gay romance, I think, is with Zevran (one of the other bisexual options you get aside from Leliana). I have yet to try this out myself. Either way, Alistair is a nearly perfect dream guy.
Aside from the list of positive qualities Alistair possesses, you can’t help but want to protect and love him. He’s the guy who hasn’t been particularly lucky in having a great childhood. His mother died when he was young, he finds out he is the bastard son of a King, and is raised temporarily by Arl Eamon until being shipped off to the Chantry (the game’s equivalent of the Catholic church). You can say Alistair should have a lot to be bitter about. Instead, he grows up fairly happy-go-lucky with a bit of sarcastic wit to shape the rest of his personality. Because Alistair emerges from these bleak moments in his childhood relatively normal, he still craves the love and family he has always missed out on. When Duncan, a Grey Warden who recruits Alistair into the order, dies in a battle gone terribly wrong, Alistair takes his death pretty hard. He truly views Duncan as a kind of surrogate father figure in his life. To lose him and the rest of the Grey Warden order to the betrayal of one, he has nothing left to cling to except your playable character after you both realize you are the only remaining members left of the Grey Warden order.
There is an awkwardness about Alistair because of his inexperience and somewhat sheltered life in the Chantry, which makes him endearing, sweet, and cautious. However, despite some of his favorable qualities we also have the negative.
The biggest complaint from most gamers who aren’t a fan of Alistair is he’s whiny. He complains about being wounded after winning a battle, he doesn’t want to be king, he moans about not having the kind of family he wants, and the list goes on. I can see how he can possibly grate on most gamers’ nerves. My friend who owns the game isn’t a fan of Alistair either because of his whining. Some think he is too self-righteous or rigid in his beliefs, which ends up making him a hypocrite during critical decision-making moments in the game. Other negative aspects of his personality also has to do with him being immature. Alistair makes jokes during battle or cutscenes, which can be construed as inappropriate or insensitive depending on how you want to view it. I actually view it as Alistair using jokes as a way to cope with a particularly depressing situation. I really don’t think he would voluntarily make it a point to be insensitive. Everyone knows an end of the world type of scenario is serious and depressing. Rather than dwell on it so much, it’s better to use humor to take your mind off such an impossible situation.
Alistair personifies this awkward, dorky guy who isn’t aware of his potential as a man and needs the right type of person to point out his true potential. I’m not shy to say that Alistair is one of my favorite Bioware men to romance so far. I’m aware of his faults, but they aren’t so bad as the next Bioware man I’m about to discuss.
When Dragon Age 2 came around, it was a whole new set of characters with a few familiar faces thrown into the mix. Among the familiar faces is Anders. He is the rebellious mage who first shows up in Dragon Age: Awakening, the expansion pack for Dragon Age: Origins. In Awakening, you can tell immediately that he has a similarity to Alistair, both in looks and personality. Both are smartasses, both had less than stellar childhoods growing up, and both are romantics at heart. In Awakening, Anders was considered a likeable character despite him being an “Alistair clone.” However, that changes by Dragon Age 2 when Anders once again becomes an active party member for the second installment.
Between the time of Awakening and Dragon Age 2, he has undergone a drastic personality change. Gone is the carefree mage who wants to find a pretty girl and run off someplace where mages aren’t persecuted. Instead, Anders has become reclusive, paranoid, preachy, and serious. Anders does retain some of his sense of humor and a bit of his charm in Dragon Age 2, but one thing players will notice about this mage…he is a vastly different person than he was from Awakening.
My first time playing Dragon Age 2, I was drawn to romancing Anders because of his similarity to Alistair, and the fact that he had the dark, broody thing going on. He’s the type of guy you know you shouldn’t be attracted to, but can’t seem to shake off either.
There are points in the game where you feel incredibly sorry for Anders. His life changes drastically, and he forces himself to remain a fugitive and a loner all because of Justice, a cast out spirit from the Fade that Anders allows to share his body with. Anders not only has to remain in hiding because he is a runaway mage from the Chantry’s Circle, but he is also fearful of hurting people when Justice takes control of Anders’ body in the heat of feeling enraged over any injustice done to mages. When Justice takes over, Anders is powerless to stop him. All of this weighs heavily on his mind. On the other hand, Anders can be viewed as a character who is too angsty, preachy, and a whiner. He is also reckless in his decision to let Justice share his body in the first place. In the world of Dragon Age, it is considered taboo to let a spirit into a mage’s body for the sole reason being that the mages become demons or abominations who no longer have control of their own minds and bodies.
Romancing Anders isn’t bad if you can look past some of his negative personality traits. You catch an echo of who Anders once was from Awakening when he is flirty and intensely passionate in his feelings towards your character Hawke…maybe too passionate for some.
Once you get to the point in the game where Anders is madly in love with your Hawke, he easily sweeps him/her off their feet. The kiss he gives Hawke is very much a knock-you-off-your feet, gives you goosebumps kind of kiss. Once you let Anders in, he shows a vulnerability he doesn’t often show to everyone else. What I enjoy most about romancing Anders was how intense and passionate he can be in the way he loves and the way he thinks. The pitfalls of his romance? After the obligatory bedroom scene you find in most Bioware games and then inviting this dashing mage to live with Hawke, Anders does becomes less interesting as the game progresses. There are barely any new dialogue options to engage him in, and his pre-set “click and hear” dialogue in the game becomes more mopey and gloomy. He wonders if being with Hawke is really a good idea, but stays with Hawke regardless of voicing such opinions. It even goes as far as to him thinking it may be a mistake to have a relationship with your Hawke because it distracts him from his cause concerning the mages. It hardly feels romantic after that.
When it comes to Anders’ full romance arc in Dragon Age 2, most didn’t like how the romance went. While Alistair can or won’t change based on how you play the game, there’s a chance to have a full romance arc with him that feels complete in many ways. Anders hardly goes through any profound change by the time you reach the end of the game. The biggest complaint for Dragon Age 2 is the fact that there is a lack of choice and influence over the entire story. Anders will always blow up the Chantry in the end even if you have spent the entire game convincing him against any extreme radical behavior. How you deal with the aftermath of his actions is your choice. You can decide to let him live or die. Since I had Hawke romance Anders, I wanted to see the romance to its full completion.
Honestly, I sort of like Anders. He has a great passion for his causes and for the person he loves, if you are lucky to get this mage to open up to you. The problem with doing a romance with him, you are ultimately forever on the run with a man who can be categorized as a terrorist. I also feel Anders’ romance and development as a character isn’t quite finished. More can be told if you choose not to execute him. There was a lot about this romance that got the short end of the stick.
And who can forget the final Bioware man in this discussion which is none other than Kaidan Alenko of the Mass Effect series. Out of all the men I’ve discussed so far, Kaidan’s romance path is the most complete. This is mainly because you can continue his romance path across three games.
I have discussed Kaidan quite a bit in a profile post I did on him. The funny thing about Kaidan when I first decided I wanted my female Shepard to have a romance with him––I didn’t think he was anything special. Kaidan was another case of Bioware eye candy that I appreciated, but that was it really. He didn’t seem to reveal a romance that would captivate. I suppose Kaidan’s charm sneaks up on you. He’s a soldier, but different in that he isn’t the typical macho soldier. He’s reserved, soft spoken, and sensitive. He is loyal, plays by the book, and he can be labeled as the ultimate boy scout of the Alliance military.
Romancing Kaidan involves convincing him to give into his feelings for Shepard. One thing players notice about Kaidan when you are a female Shepard in Mass Effect, he is obviously attracted to her. He slips up in his admiration of Shepard during a scene that takes place in the Citadel. There’s a comment made about the Citadel Council not liking humans and Shepard makes the following comment:
“Why not? We’ve got oceans, beautiful women, this emotion called love. According to the old vids, we have everything they want.”
Kaidan responds to this comment by saying:
“When you put it that way, there’s no reason they wouldn’t like you. I mean us. Humans. Ma’am.”
It’s a bad slip up, and one he immediately tries to cover up. As a player, it becomes really obvious that Kaidan has a crush on Commander Shepard. There’s already some feelings hidden underneath Kaidan’s reserved exterior.
If a player chooses to pursue a romance with Kaidan, be prepared to experience a cautious lieutenant. The vibe of starting a romance with Kaidan in the first Mass Effect has him uncertain of leaping into it. He takes protocols and regulations seriously. It’s only after you keep persisting that he finally gives into his feelings for Shepard.
At the end of Mass Effect, you don’t have any idea of where a romance between Kaidan and Shepard will go. Some may think the romance falls flat. They spend the night in Shepard’s quarters and then the romance gets pushed aside for the remainder of the game to put the focus back on the hunt for Saren and Sovereign. But that’s okay. You still have two games to continue the romance path. Mass Effect 2 may seem disappointing for the Kaidan romance path, as his appearance in the second game is very brief. The lack of Kaidan in Mass Effect 2 is no longer felt by Mass Effect 3. You can continue the romance with him, and watch as the romance path with him comes full circle with a near satisfying end.
Kaidan, in my opinion, doesn’t have too many negative personality traits. At least not any I can think of right now. The con in his personality shows up during the Mars scene in Mass Effect 2. Kaidan refuses to hear Shepard out, and is adamant about brushing Shepard off completely after finding out she is alive and working with Cerberus. Maybe he can be considered another self-righteous guy who is rigid in his own beliefs like Alistair, but he hardly stays that way when in Mass Effect 3 he does admit how wrong he is about Shepard. He apologizes for not believing in Shepard, and is willing to make up for it. If anything, Kaidan is way too perfect to be true. He is the ultimate fictional romance hero most girls want to be in a relationship with. The third installment of the game also gives us a complete idea of who Kaidan is and how he has changed since Mass Effect. Believe me, the changes this character goes through throughout three games are very good to watch. His romance path makes you want to keep playing just so you can find out if Shepard and Kaidan will have the happy ending they deserve.
How do these Bioware men stack up against each other? Whose romance path is more gratifying if you play? I’ll get deeper into how all three compare and what my final thoughts are on romancing these very different characters in the second half of my post.