Flemeth has the single most epic piece of cryptic advice ever when she shows up at the top of Sundermount: "The world stands on the precipice of change...all fear the descent into the abyss...Watch for that moment, and when it comes, do not hesitate to leap...For after all it is only when you fall that you truly discover if you can fly..." Of course, a heavy dose of Evil Is Hammy and being voiced by Captain Janeway really lend that passage a certain indefinable quality that text lacks.
Then she turns into a frigging dragon and flies away.
Varric's introduction: Hawke is pickpocketed by a thug, and when s/he turns to give pursuit, Varric bullseyes the thief, pinning his body to a wall. He then strolls over, collects the money pouch and hands it to Hawke.
Don't forget that he gets in his snarky advice on choice of career while the guy is just hanging there.
Varric: I knew a guy who could pull all the gold out of your pockets just by smiling at you. But you? You don't have the style to work Hightown, let alone the Merchants' Guild! My advice? Find another line of work. *punches the guy unconscious while he's still hanging from the wall, then pulls out the arrow and lets him collapse*
When we first meet Aveline, she's fighting darkspawn alongside her husband. He is injured and knocked down, and, to save him, Aveline tackles the darkspawn and punches it into submission before slicing its head off.
While snarling "you...will not...have him!"
And segues into a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming as she picks Wesley up and tells him "They will not have you." (And it's a Moment of Awesome for both the writers, programmers, and voice actress for getting across Aveline's love for Wesley within twenty seconds of screentime.)
Hawke will do either of those things if you elect to have him/her handle the darkspawn instead, and will use essentially the exact same animation. Further, all the attacks used in that cutscene are, in fact, usable warrior/ rogue/ mage attacks, and for the exaggerated open, do, in fact, kill darkspawn in one shot. As such, it cannot be said to be cutscene power.
The fact that it is not cutscene power makes it all that more awesome.
In all versions of Varric's opening, Hawke ends by killing an ogre with a close-up of one of the in-game finishers. Warriors and Rogues get a sped-up version of the classic leaping stab. Mages, on the other hand, summon a pair of giant, spectral hands to grab the ogre, tear at it, and make it explode into bloody chunks.
Which can be repeated at various points by using Crushing Prison on any sufficiently weakened Ogre.
At various points during the game, you're given the opportunity to complete quests by having Varric smooth-talk the bad guys into cooperating (such as convincing a group of Tevinter slavers that the boy they picked up was the Viscount's son, or that an apostate Hawke was an Enchanter sent by the circle to track down malificarum). He's brilliant, and his stories are always moments of awesome. One of the developers has noted that if you let Varric open his mouth, he's already won.
Aided by Brian Bloom's outstanding performance.
After Feynriel is rescued from Slavers he questions Hawke's motivations in helping him as Hawke doesn't know him. A mage Hawke creates a glowing orb from thin air and tells Feynriel "I am you."
Alistair's cameo. It depends on your save of course but for me, he's just passing through during the Qunari uprising, on the way to something even more important, stops to make a few of his signature quips and off he goes.
Grey Wardens in general seem to have a terrible habit with this. Nathaniel Howe shows up in the Deep Roads in Act III, takes out a hurlock with a headshot that would make Varric green with envy, trades a few barbs with his old comrade Anders, drops some enticing Foreshadowing about the Wardens and their mysterious new ally and then disappears.
Varric's Imagine Spot at Bartrand's mansion, taken straight out of Scarface, and just as awesome.
While dealing with slavers, at one point the leader tells his men to take Hawke. The attack response has this: "I'd make a terrible slave. I talk too much. (Whips out knife and puts it to the leader's throat.) And I do that." Also, though it ultimately fails, the slaver gets a minor one in that after this, he will still tell his men to kill you, and he doesn't even sound desperate.
I'd argue that this one completely goes to the slaver. Out of nowhere he twists Hawke's arm and gets the knife away from his throat. Guy's a total scumbag but damn if he didn't have the perfect counter to Hawke's dramatics.
C'mon, just cause the guy didn't cry like a little girl doesn't detract from Hawke's retort.
Bring Fenris along for this meeting and whatever "moment of awesome" points this slaver would've had is completely defenestrated.
Rogue!Hawke gets one when rescuing Feynriel. "Come no closer!" shouts the slaver, but one of Hawke's responses involves saying s/he's close enough, whipping out a throwing knife, getting a 300-style slo-mo and nailing the slaver in the throat, sparing you a boss fight.
In gameplay, this generally results from some combination of Merrill, Bethany, Mage!Hawke, and Anders firing off some combination of Tempest and Firestorm spells and slaughtering an entire group of enemies before the battle really begins.
Also a combination of charge attacks set up so that Warrior or Rogue Hawke chains his/her way through literally dozens of Mooks, dealing one-hit-kills left and right.
During the Gascard du Puis quest, after chasing the blood mage through the entire mansion and slaughtering all of his demons and shades, my Rogue!Hawke walked up to him and one-hit-killed him with Twin Fangs without breaking into a sweat.
Twin Fangs and Assassinate are this in general. Nothing more satisfying than watching a conversation in which some enemy commander boasts that they're going to kill you, only to eat away most of their health bar (or just kill them outright) in one blow, one second after the fight started. Alternatively, activate Pinpoint Strikes and watch the criticals rain down upon your enemies.
Bethany becomes a magical Lightning Bruiser later in the game, as she gains the Force Mage specialization. There is nothing more satisfying than pulling twenty templars into a tight vortex and then raining fire upon them.
Put a two-handed warrior Hawke in a party with Fenris. Watch the body parts fly.
Dual-wielding rogue Hawke and Fenris also make a pretty sweet Battle Couple as well (or a role-inverted Adventure Duo if Silly!Hawke). There are a lot of daggers with Messy Kills, and sometimes you'll get one anyway without the perk.
Emeric the templar deserves a nod for doggedly pursuing his investigation of a serial killer operating in Kirkwall. Sure, he was mistaken about Gascard Dupuis' guilt, but he correctly surmised that Gascard was connected to the murders. Emeric continues his investigation even after the city guards and his fellow templars dismiss his suspicions and he recieves a reprimand from Meredith. It even cost him his life.
Emeric: Women are dying out there and no one's doing anything.
Probably also a Crowning Moment of Funny, when dealing with a runaway mage he'll mention how a girl he knows is going to make him a man. If Merrill is in your party she'll say something along the lines of "does he not have the parts for that". Merrill, the most culturally unaware and naturally sweet member of your party somehow gives the best burn and it is awesome.
A bit of a Funny Moment as well, if you have Merrill with you when trying to root out the group of apostates in act one, one of the mages will try to appeal to her to help them, leading to this:
Merrill: Didn't you notice the pointy ears and tattoos? I'm Dalish. You are not. My. Kind.
First Enchanter Orsino faces down an entire platoon of Qunari. Solo. The result? They burn.
Even better: he takes out the first wave in a single hit. The Qunari try to zergrush him, but from their screams, you can tell none made it out alive.
He appears to be able to use fire balls as autoattacks. Cutscene powers indeed.
Hawke coldcocking a Qunari soldier with one punch when they declare war is pretty badass, but it's even more so with the very lithe models for females in the game.
Perhaps more impressively, Hawke can sucker punch a hunger demon in the Deep Roads.
Dragon Age II seems to love Badass introductions. Our first introduction to Knight-Commander Meredith involves her knocking a Saarebas, a giant and powerful qunari mage, to the ground and decapitating him with one swing. All to save Hawke's life to boot.
Fenris gets one we never even see and it's still awesome. While you've been fighting the Tevinters hunting him he's cleaned up the rest.
Fenris: Your men are dead.
Cullen of all people gets one if you side with the mages and have been reasonably respectful to him throughout the game. When Meredith orders your execution, he's shocked, having assumed you were merely to be arrested. Seeing how far gone she is, how crazy she's become, he draws his sword, stepping between Meredith and Hawke, telling her she'll have to go through him. And he survives for another one: letting Hawke go.
For this troper, just seeing Cullen, the guy who once panicked and ran off when my female mage tried coming on to him, grow so much as a character by the end was its own CMOA.
YMMV, the final boss fight where Meredith reveals she was the one who bought Bartrand's idol and made it part of a BFS that gives her superpowers like insane jumps and bringing those creepy Gallows statues to life to attack you. To me it was much more interesting than the fight with Archdemon in Origins.
Probably because Meredith is someone you can, and almost certainly will, hate. The Archdemon was just another monster.
Helping the level of awesome is the number of NPCs who turn up to help Hawke out. Some, like Cullen and Guardsman Donnic, were more or less expected, but realizing that Zevran and Nathaniel Howe had taken the field was a delightful surprise.
It also interesting to note that, save possibly for Donnic, no one fighting the Final Boss is originally from Kirkwall. Whereas Meredith is a native, and during the Qunari attack doubts your ability to be a leader as you're not from the city. There's a difference between a Homeland and a Home.
But the best part? play your cards right, and after the boss battle, the Templars completely surround you. You're expecting a Bolivian Army Ending, but after about a long thirty seconds of indecision, Cullen steps back, every other Templar steps back, and every member of your party walks out of the city alive.
That would be the ending if you supported the Mages. The Templar ending however has Cullen taking a step back and immediately bowing, followed by every other Templar in the vicinity as the camera zooms out. In the aftermath Hawke is crowned Viscount of Kirkwall after its citizens, in the words of Varric, "all but begged the Champion to rule". You get the "Crowning Glory" Achievement for this. Rise to Power indeed.
Bonus CMOA for Cullen & Hawke, at one point during the attack on the Gallows if you side with the Templars, Hawke is confronted by three non-blood mages who give themselves up at his/her mercy. Meredith comes strolling in with the Templars and demands that the mages be executed. Cullen objects, stating that the mages refused to use Blood Magic even at the face of imminent death and that they should at least be spared, which irritates Meredith. Seeing how Cullen was horribly tortured in that same Tower and almost driven to insanity by maleficarum, yet still retained his humanity enough to not only willingly spare the mages he'd harboured a prejudice against but also speak out against Meredith earned him this troper's respect. Hawke can then opt to spare the mages, which results in Cullen ordering the Templars to "listen to the Champion" and apprehend the mages instead of killing them, completely ignoring Meredith's orders, who glares daggers at both of them from the sidelines. It just goes to show the level of respect that even the Templars have for the Champion, that they would defy their own insane leader at your urging, in an extermination order situation no less.
It's also an awesome CMOA for Cullen; he is the one person in that room who has ever been through a Rite of Annulment before, under circumstances that made what was going on there look like Candyland. And back then, he was the one advocating Meredith's position, that its better to kill all the innocent mages rather than risk a single blood mage possibly slipping the net. And now, when he's become Knight-Captain, he has instead grown into the man who says this.
Cullen: But they haven't resorted to [blood magic], even to save their own lives. Perhaps if we watch them carefully-
Meredith: And if they hope to escape by playing innocent? Would you accept that responsibility, Cullen?
Cullen: Yes. I believe that's what being a templar is all about.
And also this.
Cullen: The Right has always been a last resort, when every mage involved was beyond salvation. The situation was far more dire in Ferelden's Circle, and yet many mages were saved. We could still do as much here.
Grand Cleric Elthina gets one in her first scene: When Mother Petrice attempts to frame Hawke for the murder of Saemus, Elthina listens to her, listens to Hawke's counter, and then declares (in a very polite way) that Petrice is a crazy fanatic who is going to face justice. But the truly awesome moment comes a moment later, when Elthina walks away: a Qunari assassin appears, shoots Petrice dead, and declares that the Qunari protect their own. Elthina doesn't even seem perturbed by this.
Doubles as one for the Qunari ninja. Possibly the most gratifying kill of the game, and the guy just comes out of nowhere.
Of course, this was also frustrating to the player, as Mother Petrice was the type you'd give your eyeteeth to stab/burn/smash.
Whose jaw DIDN'T drop when the Chantry was blown up? Agree or disagree with the reasons for why it happened, it was truly a sight.
I knew it was coming and it still knocked me over. Whatever you feel about Anders at the end you have to agree he knows his stuff.
Anders' plan was a lot deeper than many people realized. He wasn't just thinking "I'll blow up a chantry and then the mages will rebel." He was specifically provoking Meredith. By pushing her into carrying out the Rite of Annulment against the Kirkwall circle for the actions of one apostate who was originally from an entirely different circle, Anders forced the other circle mages to face the fact that the Chantry and the Templars have complete control over them, which set off the chain of events that forced them to finally say enough. Despite the flashiness of his methods (which makes it even more awesome in hindsight), he pulled off a Batman Gambit so subtle that even a significant chunk of players completely missed it.
Varric gets another one (as if he didn't have enough already) during the quest "All That Remains". If you take Gascard Du Puis with you to save your mother, it's eventually revealed he's not as innocent as he seems. His old master offers to properly teach him blood magic. Varric's response? As Gascard starts talking how eager he is to learn from his master, he suddenly gets a crossbow bolt through his throat, courtesy of Bianca.
Varric: What? You were going to do that, right?
The best thing about it is that it isn't just Varric firing a crossbow bolt—it's Varric firing a crossbow bolt, walking up to Gascard and personally pulling it out of his throat, as if it would be a waste of a perfectly fine bolt to let it stick in such a despicable person.
Zevran comes back to fight the Crows if you let him go in the Sundermount caves. The first one gets a dagger lodged in his eyesocket with perfect precision in about three seconds. Even Hawke hardly sees him move. Zevran barely even acknowledged the man trying to sneak up on him before leaving his dagger in his eye, even.
Doubles as a Funny Moment, too; Zevran gives a little disappointed shake of the head while a Crow in the background pinches the bridge of his nose in embarrassment.
As cool as it is to see Fenris crush the hearts of his enemies, his final confrontation with Danarius takes the cake. He doesn't reach into his chest and crush his heart; he reaches into his head, lifts him off the ground, and crushes his brain!
Fenris gets a lot of these. The only one better than that was in A Bitter Pill when he got a desperate and defeated Hadriana to tell him about his sister by promising to let her go if she told him, and only THEN crushed her heart after a flat "I believe you". His subsequent rant about how good it felt to "crush that bitch's heart" was even better. Gideon Emery's superb voice acting really sells the badassery in these moments.
Sandal standing hip deep in the corpses of about twenty Abominations, two Desire Demons, untold numbers of Rage Demons and Shades whose bodies vanished on death, and down the hallway, a Pride Demon! Best part is that Hawke encounters him after battling dozens of Shades and several Rage demons in the last room, indicating that Sandal was keeping all of those demons from reaching Hawke.
Paragon!Hawke's rousing pre battle speech, if you side with the mages.
Hawke: We're cornered. The templars know it. You know it. But this is bigger than their hate, their fear. They've come to take your lives, and we are saying no! We didn't want this, but sometimes... sometimes, you just have to stand.
Silly!Hawke gives an awesome one, as well;
Hawke: So this is it. Some of you are worried; maybe I am to, but I'm not staying long enough to find out. What I know is that I can fight harder scared than they can angry. We're getting out, and I'm buying when we do!
The very fact that you said "Paragon!Hawke." In that one name, you have essentially told us that Hawke is filled with enough motivational badassery to but Commander Shepard to shame. Which is true, by the way. Which is awesome.
As much of a crazy bitch as she is by the end of Act III, Knight-Commander Meredith takes badassery to new levels during the final battle (no matter whose side your character is on). She manages to do this with just one line. "Blessed are those who stand before the corrupt and the wicked, AND DO! NOT! FALTER!"
At the climax of Act 2 as Aveline and Hawke are ambushed. Aveline cutting a spear out of the air with her sword is cool enough, but then Hawke - even as a mage - tops it by punching a qunari in the FACE.
Elthina gets another one at the start of Act III, when she effortlessly defuses the riot, and then, more or less, tells the pissed-off leaders of Kirkwall's two most powerful, mutually antagonistic factions, to go to their rooms. And they obey.
Mage!Hawke finishing off the High Dragon Bonus Boss in Act III is pretty awesome. Hawke calls down elemental fury to fry the overgrown lizard.
Prior to that, Mage!Hawke finishes off the Rock Wraith by raising their hand and blowing it apart with a magical shockwave.
Really, anytime Mage!Hawke takes down a Boss is pretty damn awesome. Particularly Corypheus.
Hawke finishing off the Harvester rivals the awesomeness of Duncan's takedown of the Ogre in Dragon Age: Origins. Hawke leaps onto it, repeatedly stabs it in the eye, rips out its "head", and stomps it to death.
The payoff to helping Feynriel: up until the third act, he's been frightened of his own powers, of the Templars, of Demons, and every situation he ends up in because of them. Then, at the end of "Night Terrors" he plucks up his courage and decides to go to Tevinter to master his powers; one act later, you're given the job of rescuing a young woman from a gang of thugs, but when you actually arrive at their hideout, you find that the kidnappers are dead. The woman mentions being visited and comforted in a dream by Feynriel, and awaking to find her captors murdering each other- courtesy of the powers Feynriel has finally mastered. Even more awesome is the fact that Feynriel wasn't even in Kirkwall when he did this; he was in Tevinter, having sent his mind through the Fade to assist the hostage!
Feynriel needs to appear in future DLC or Dragon Age III. He took way too many levels in badass to be relegated as a one-off side character.
Bring Aveline along on "Offered And Lost" to interrogate the drunken braggart guardsman in the Hanged Man. Needless to say, she is very unhappy with him.
Aveline: Who? Tell me who! Who bought your honor, and turned a proud guard of Kirkwall into a drunken mabari bitch?
In the Legacy DLC you see the Hawke family deal with a darkspawn... a particularly powerful darkspawn... who is in fact one of the FIRST darkspawn!
After defeating him in the actual battle, Mage Hawke duels him with spells in a cutscene and defeats him handily. That's right, Hawke proved to be a better mage than one of the original Tevinter Magisters that entered the Black City!
Rogue Hawke first dodges a fireball with a slow-motion backflip, then knocks him down with one powerful swing to the gut. The coup-de-grace is chucking the Hawke Key straight into his face.
That's the cutscene if your Rogue Hawke uses Dual Weapons. If your Hawke is an archer instead, s/he shoots Corypheus with two powerful arrows, before finishing him off with one more point-blank arrow to the eye!
Varric starts the awesome right at the beginning of the game; he may have been dragged in for interrogation, held at swordpoint and outright threatened by Cassandra, but by the time he's agreed to dispense with the embellishments and is getting ready to tell the real story, he's settling back comfortably in his chair and lacing his fingers together, fully in control of the situation. Because once Varric gets the chance to start talking, he's won.
Tallis' introduction. She goes through a dozen Antivan Crows like a chainsaw.
Seconds before blowing up the Chantry, Anders repeatedly slams his staff against the ground like a judges gavel to shut up Orsino and Meredith while he delivers his Shut Up, Kirk! speech.
Anders: I will not let you see all Mages be treated like criminals! *SLAM* While those who would lead us, bow to their Templar jailors!
Orsino: How dare you speak to-
Anders: *SLAM* The Circle has failed us, Orsino! Even you should be able to see that! The time has come, there can be no half measures!
Hawke: Anders, what have you done?
Anders: There can be no turning back!
Isabela's introduction, in which she singlehandedly defeats three thugs in a bar brawl then calmly goes back to her drink.
At the end of Act 2: defeating the Arishok in single combat in order to stop him from taking Isabela. It's not an easy battle; the Arishok has incredibly high health and powerful attacks making him That One Boss. But when you finally do beat him it really makes you feel like a Big Damn Hero, especially if Isabela is your character's love interest.
Even better is doing it as a mage. Not only have you just beaten one of the leaders of the Qunari in single combat, but you did it as one of the things they fear most, as the class least capable of close combat.
One of the highlights of the game was watching Isabela swagger in with the tome of Koslun.
A gameplay/dev team one: I confronted the traitor guard in The Hanged Man without any party members; naturally, it led to a fight. Pretty much everyone surrounding Hawke suddenly gained a health bar, drew weapons from their pockets, and rushed Hawke as one. But before they could land even a single blow, they were sent reeling back with chunks falling off of their lifebars under a deadly rain of arrows. Being a dual-wielding Rogue without a single point in Archery, I was confused... until I looked around and saw Varric and Bianca merrily perforating people. I'd forgotten that he'd been standing by the fireplace. Not part of my party, not part of the cutscene, and he stillstepped in to kick some ass when Hawke was threatened.
Isabela will also step into the fight if she's not in the party, along with Varric. Makes that battle into a bit of a cake walk.
Standing up to Meredith as an apostate. Especially the part where you can tell her that even after having to put down two insane blood mages in a row you still chose to let an apostate escape rather than put him back in the circle. You can then stand back and let Anders deliver a full broadside of What the Hell, Hero? in which he explains how all the tragedies you just witnessed are Meredtith's fault in the first place, and then watch her seethe as a party full of apostates and rebels walks out of her office, knowing she can't do a thing about them.
During the Act I quest Enemies Among Us, you are tasked with questioning a prostitute at the Blooming Rose, who happens to be a mage and, of course, dabbles in blood magic, which she uses to force a Psychic-Assisted Suicide on you. A Warrior/Rogue!Hawke needs help from a Mage party member, but a Mage!Hawke can break the control themself, in a most awesome way. It's the sudden shift from strain to control in Hawke's voice and the resulting Oh Crap from the prostitute that does it.
Hawke: I... will not... be toyed with!
Actually, assuming that a Warrior/Rogue!Hawke confronts her alone, s/he can also break free of the mind control through sheer willpower.
A meta one for BioWare in the writing- first off, there are four possible gay romances (OK, they're all Bi the Way since they go out with Hawkes of either gender) and they are made abundantly clear, and that Bioware deconstructed a lot of their usual tropes.