Welcome to the second part of my post concerning the men of Bioware. Last post I went into detail about the personalities and romances of Alistair, Anders, and Kaidan. In this second part, I’ll be comparing and offering my opinion about who I most enjoyed romancing out of the three.
Alistair is and always will be my very first Bioware romance. The fact that he is the equivalent of a knight in shining armor adds to his appeal in the fantasy RPG. He is honorable, dedicated to his duty as a Grey Warden, and he is a natural jokester.
Romancing Alistair is a surprise waiting to happen. You don’t know what to expect other than that he is slow to uncover as a love interest for your Warden. I also find it most surprising that the writers at Bioware decided to have Alistair be a virgin. You can immediately tell that they are trying to depict a different kind of male character for video games. Alistair is not the super macho dude, but the type of male character who is awkward and sweet. He wishes to find love in a familial as well as romantic sense. He’s definitely a character who doesn’t take love or relationships lightly. Alistair is also the kind of romance option that sweeps a girl off her feet. He gives your Warden a rose once his likeness gauge towards you is high enough. He expresses how much you mean to him. He even initiates the first kiss between the two of you. The entire romance truly plays out like the ultimate epic love story. But given the high notes of his romance, there are parts that do fall flat.
Now I’ve only ever played the story as the human noble. It is also the only story where you can marry Alistair––him being the only surviving heir for the throne in Ferelden. There is a point in the game where you need to convince Alistair to accept his role as king. Despite his refusal to take the crown, he has no real say in the matter if you want him as king. Alistair grudgingly accepts his new role, and you also need to select who rules beside him. As a human female noble, you also get to nominate yourself as Alistair’s queen which also forces a marriage proposal. Alistair comes to talk to you about it afterwards, and here’s where the romance gets a little less than ideal.
Alistair is a bit mad at your Warden for nominating him as king when the two of you talk in private. Other than the king issue, when Alistair addresses the marriage between him and your Warden, he acts like it’s the worse thing that could happen. This part irked me a bit. Yes, the Warden puts Alistair on the spot by making him king and forcing a marriage proposal all within a short time span, but you would think if Alistair is in love with your playable character, he would act more excited about being with the love of his life. Instead, his reaction isn’t quite so warm and fuzzy. This is the part of the romance that bothered me most. Despite that, the romance manages to play out better toward the end, but only if you take certain actions in the game to ensure a happily ever after.
Anders’ romance in Dragon Age 2 drips with angst and intense passion. It’s very dark and it’s a tragedy waiting to happen. Maybe some may contest the tragedy part, but it depends on how you view it. If you spare Anders after he blows up the Chantry and you allow your Hawke not to exile him from your party, your romance continues where you run off as fugitives. Sounds romantic, right? However, by allowing Anders to live after he has done the unspeakable will brand your Hawke as a terrorist along with Anders just by mere association. What can be seen as a happy ending is really a romance full of tragedy. The other side of the coin is having Anders executed for betraying you and for the act of terror he inflicts. If you take this route, Hawke’s romance comes to a bitter end.
The huge problem with doing a romance with Anders is you can’t keep Anders from blowing up the Chantry. With Origins, you are able to vary the ending of your Warden with their love interest. The fact that there is no controlling the outcome in the case of Anders makes for a disappointing romance. Between Alistair and Anders, Alistair has a more stable personality. Anders having Justice sharing his body makes him quite the ticking time bomb both metaphorically and literally speaking.
Anders shares some traits with Alistair as the “Alistair clone” back when he is first introduced in Dragon Age: Awakening, the expansion pack for DA:O. He has humor, he can be quite charming, and he is a romantic at heart. As I have mentioned before, Anders gets much darker and broodier by the time you reach Dragon Age 2. Between Alistair and Anders, Anders walks around with a cloud over his head. Most of the time, he acts more like he has a stick up his ass and barely knows how to lighten up in spite of everything he has gone through. I know you can’t blame the man for acting the way he acts in Dragon Age 2, but acting as an emotionally unstable love interest who is potentially a danger to himself and to others doesn’t leave the player with a high and fluffy feeling after the end credits roll. Romancing Anders leaves you confused, uncertain, and disappointed like a really bad break up with your former significant other.
Then we have Kaidan Alenko. Kaidan is a unique Bioware love interest because he’s one of the only known characters you can continue a romance with across all three games of Mass Effect. When you romance Alistair and Anders in the Dragon Age games, their romance is considered complete for better or for worse. If you romance Alistair in Origins and then do a game import save into Awakening and Dragon Age 2, the romance is acknowledged but there isn’t any chance of continuing the love story with Alistair. While a Dragon Age 3 is coming in the very near future, I doubt any player will see Anders again in the new game. With Kaidan, a player really has the chance to see him grow, develop, and change as a character. While the romance aspect of the game plays just a small part in the overall story of Mass Effect, it’s still a piece of the story that matters for anyone who has come to care for their chosen love interest.
Kaidan not only goes through a physical change throughout the three games, but you also see him change emotionally from the quiet and soft spoken lieutenant to a confident and take charge major by the time you reach the final game in the Mass Effect Shepard saga. Like a lot of the Bioware love interests, Kaidan comes with his own set of emotional baggage. While I feel Alistair dwells on his emotional baggage a little bit more but is able to let it go better than Anders, Kaidan acknowledges his past without really lingering on it. There are regrets, of course, but he has already made peace with it. Alistair will always long for the family he never had and Anders will always be stuck with the guilt he feels for having let Justice share his body. Kaidan moves forward without falling into the trap of being stuck in the past. Alistair and Anders are both kind of stuck in theirs to a certain degree.
Those who never cared for Kaidan or any of the Bioware men I have listed in this two part post, I will always strongly disagree with the arguments that Kaidan is a whiner. I will concede to Alistair and Anders being whiners, but Kaidan is no where near a whiner. His only fault, if you can call it that, is he’s a sensitive soldier who talks about his feelings just like Alistair and Anders are sensitive men. Kaidan is massively loyal and lives by a strong sense of right and wrong. When he refuses to join Shepard during her time with Cerberus in Mass Effect 2, it speaks volumes about the type of man he is. Despite being in love with a woman he once thought was dead, he isn’t willing to compromise his duty and his sense of right and wrong for her. Kaidan is in the position of not trusting Cerberus and also questioning the motives of his former commanding officer. When it comes right down to it, Kaidan will do what he feels is right. Anyone playing as a female Shepard who romances Kaidan should respect that about him no matter how frustrating he can be when he rejects Shepard in ME2.
What’s great about romancing Kaidan in the Mass Effect games is it plays out like a movie. The romance charts the highs and lows of being in a relationship with him while Shepard currently has to combat impossible odds, such as the Reaper invasion and war. Romancing Alistair gives the player much of the same thing, but the experience feels more limited. You really only have one game to enjoy a romance with Alistair while with Kaidan you have three games. I would have liked to have seen my Warden’s life with Alistair as the new king and queen of Ferelden. How do they deal with the politics of being royals ruling over a land settled into an uneasy peace? What is married life like for the two of them? Those are aspects I would have enjoyed playing in a Dragon Age game rather than getting a new hero to play with a new set of characters and maybe some returning ones each game.
The question to answer is this, who is the better romance out of all these Bioware men I have analyzed and discussed thoroughly? Looking back at all of these romances and the paths you can take, or at least one of many paths you can take with each of the three, I will have to choose Kaidan of Mass Effect. Alistair comes in at second place.
When I only played Dragon Age: Origins, I probably wouldn’t have chosen Kaidan over Alistair. Alistair is my first love when it comes to the Bioware romances, but the most gratifying of the three is in fact Kaidan’s. It’s for the reasons I have already mentioned above. It’s exciting when you have a familiar character whose romance can go just a bit further in future games. Kaidan is a fully developed character compared to Alistair and Anders. Alistair is developed enough in Origins, but more can really be done if developers allowed a way to continue with your Warden character and then the romance with your chosen beloved. Anders is just underdeveloped in my opinion. There isn’t enough about his character to really have a full sense of who he is other than he’s angsty, dangerous, and the ultimate bad boy archetype. By the time you reach Mass Effect 3, Kaidan is a fully realized person in the games. You know how things have changed for him, where his goals are, and what matters to him most. It’s a journey I fully reveled in when I played as a female Shepard in the games.
The advantage a Kaidan romance has over one with Alistair and Anders is you have three games to really take the time to reveal who Kaidan is and how continuing a relationship with him affects your own personal game experience. Alistair and Anders really just get one game each to develop as a character. Whether you like how they get to the points they get to at the end of each game is something you have to accept. Just because I choose Kaidan over Alistair doesn’t mean Dragon Age: Origins isn’t still an epic game by itself. There is an incredible high you get when you reach the end and you see for yourself how the outcomes have affected the entire land of Ferelden. Mass Effect 3 has a disappointing ending going against them in this regard, but I digress.
There are still plenty more romances and paths to explore with the Mass Effect and Dragon Age games. Replaying these games make it that more appealing if you are big on RPGs. I hope to do more posts like this in the future when I plug in more replay time for both games. Heck, I’ll even analyze the female love interests at some point. I look forward to romancing the other characters soon.