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Tear Jerker: Dragon Age II
The ending to the subquest where a serial killer is let loose on Kirkwall. Your mother mentions earlier in the game that she might want to remarry, or at least start dating again. Come this quest, you are on assignment by a Templar to track down a kidnapped woman. You find her in the company of an Orlesian blood mage. He claims that he is protecting the woman from a blood mage who is kidnapping women and killing them after delivering a bouquet of white flowers to his victims. It doesn't matter whether you kill the Orlesian or not. When you return to the Templar, you find him killed by abominations. You rush home, and your mother is missing...after having been delivered the white flowers. You follow a blood trail to the killer's hideout and battle your way through more demons when you reach her. It's clear she is far gone. Her face is emaciated and her throat is cut; she had been kept alive by necromancy in a mage's attempt to resurrect his wife. He kidnapped women who looked like her. Even after killing the mage, Leandra dies, but not before telling Hawke how proud of him/her she is. Seeing Gamlen in pure anguish afterwards, back at the estate, is heartbreaking.
It's worse. Only her head was actually there. The rest of her body was made up from pieces of the other women he had killed.
It could be even worse. If you look carefully her eyes seem different. It's very possible they were someone else's as well.
The animation is absolutely brilliant for this. I urge anyone not to cry at seeing Hawke cradle their mother's body to their chest. Also, if you're in a romance, your LI will come by your house afterward to offer condolences. It felt very real and very raw.
Hearing the fear and desperation in Hawke's voice, especially if Hawke is normally a Deadpan Snarker. Normally, the only guy who gets to play with my heartstrings like that is Joss Whedon.
What's even worse is that, looking back, in Act I, Hawke comes within moments of apprehending Quentin when he investigates the Foundry, arriving only to see the bastard book it back to his Stalker Shrine. That's right, Hawke came within moments of preventing not only his mother's death, but the death of almost all the other women Quentin butchered as well as Ser Emeric's.
My first experience with this quest was even worse than it would normally be. Here's how it went: I had been romancing Merril and did her companion quest to get the tool thingy, but I decided not to let her have the tool because I didn't trust the Eluvian, so she's angry at me. Then I decide to do the quest where you go after Du Puis, Merril not being in my party at the time. After completing the quest, I return home to find: Merril, saying that she forgives me for my decision and, after a tender conversation, we retire to my bedchambers. Naturally being in a good mood after that scene, I head downstairs to find Bodahn and Sandal unable to locate my mother. I tell them she's probably on a date with the suitor that she had mentioned and that they shouldn't worry. Then Bodahn tells me about the white lilies. The timing was so perfect that, on my second playthrough, I was surprised to find out that the whole sequence was just a coincidence.
Along with all the above mentioned tragedy, if you leave it for last amongst the early Act 2 quests and have to do it all in succession, Emeric's death just increases the foreboding sense the player (and Varric, if you bring him along to the Gallows when you meet Moira) have that it will turn From Bad to Worse really quickly. His being alone in trying to find the killer so as to find closure for the victims and protect future victims (until Hawke begins to aid him; I always have my sarcastic!Hawke respond diplomatically to him) only to die in an alleyway is quite sad as well.
Bethany being forced to join the Circle of Magi. Yes, she is alive and well, but it comes at the heel of a successful expedition which will make them rich, finally getting them out of the slums and back to their estate. The fact that Bethany wasn't there, and instead in a place where she was viewed with suspicion and fear, made the success ring so hollow.
Fighting Meredith with Bethany at your side, working to free the Magi was so cathartic at the end, even with Anders' meltdown.
And then after that when poor Leandra just collapses in tears and Hawke can't do anything but hug her...
A mild, yet still depressing, example: Anders saying he was forced to give up Ser Pounce-a-lot. Anyone who played Awakenings can see he really thought of that cat as a friend, considering it sounds like he never had many friends prior to Awakenings except the Circle's mouser, Mr. Wiggums.
Most possible endings to the Anders romance arc. The tragedy starts from his personal quest in Act 2, Dissent. Vengeance seizes control of him towards the end. If Hawke doesn't talk him down, Anders will kill an innocent mage. Even if he spares the girl, he's still filled with doubts. Enter the romance. Anders seems to perk up. He believes Hawke is his anchor...until Act 3 rolls around. At the beginning, Anders claims to want to rid himself of Vengeance. He asks for Hawke's help in doing so. Witness Anders trying to get rid of his personal belongings. Witness him putting distance between himself and Hawke. Witness him blowing up the chantry with innocents still inside so he can send a message about oppression. He also used Hawke to unwittingly help him, which could easily be seen as a personal betrayal. At this point, Hawke has a tough decision. Keep him around knowing he betrayed you, send him away, or kill him outright. Worse, he won't even really fight this. He believes his life is forfeit. His face and Hawke's after the Chantry blows up makes it abundantly clear he's not fully comfortable with what he's done. It's such a change from the light, flirty Anders in Awakening, it seems even sadder in comparison.
Oh, a little sidebar for extra damage? The mage Anders possibly kills at the end of Dissent is mentioned earlier in the game in a letter from Bethany if she's at the circle. Apparently, the two mages are friends, and Bethany is the mage's Cool Big Sis. Owch.
It's especially depressing if you think of how he keeps telling you he'll just break your heart and he's no good because an apostate will just make Hawke's life harder reminding one of the situation between Leandra and Hawke's father. If your friends with Varric he'll try to warn you, but Hawke just blows it off this being the beginning of the romance. In the end Hawke has had her mother, father,and brother/sister taken away in addition to Anders', presumably Hawke's true love, betraying him/her after believing so diligently in him.
The events leading up to the final, tragic culmination of the romance are painful too. If you go see Anders in his clinic, there's a chance you'll walk in on him trying to give one of his treasured possessions to Varric. Varric is confused and tells him to keep it, and then leaves. Anders tells you how much he loves you, and he wants you to know that, no matter what happens. He's very clearly suicidal, even if you don't know what's coming.
Anders's whole character arc is a huge tearjerker in itself - watching him descend from sweet but snarky charmer to compassionate healer fighting against his dark side to paranoid murderer as Vengeance corrupts him is just heartbreaking. In Acts I and II, he knows he's slowly descending into evil, he knows he's a danger to himself and others around him, and in Act II he even turns away from the mage underground and seems to gain some control over himself after the incident with Ella - but between Acts II and III Vengeance reasserts itself and Anders gives in to his (literal) demons. His eventual betrayal, and seeing the once heroic Healer of Darktown kill innocent people.
It's possible for Hawke to actually manage to get Anders to reconsider his plan to blow up the Chantry, telling him that there has to be a better solution. Even worse, Hawke actually manages to get through to Anders, who is all set to go and remove his "bomb"—until Justice/Vengeance takes him over, telling Hawke to stay out of it. Anders comes back to himself with a blank spot in his memory, and the story resolves as we're all familiar with. Heartbreaking to realize just how many of his actions Anders may not have been in sole control of.
The Mages in the party get a raw deal, Merril is of course no exception. Utterly devoted to her clan and her heritage she tries to fix one piece of her peoples past at a tragic cost in the end, though this was not entirely her fault alone. Her reaction to how she's slowly turned into a story her clans mothers tell their children to keep them inline over the coarse of the game is utterly heart wrenching.
She even says that she knew what the price could have been for her blood magic, and was completely willing to pay it if it would help the Dalish. She didn't want anyone else to get hurt because of her, so she had Hawke come along to kill her if things went bad only to learn her own mother-figure had elected to pay the price for her.
This game truly drives home the horror of the Tranquil. Anders attempts to rescue another mage named Karl only to realize that Karl had been made Tranquil and the Templars had been waiting for him. After Vengeance seizes control of Anders briefly, the disturbance in the Veil allows Karl to temporarily regain his emotions, in which he begs Anders to kill him before he forgets what feeling emotions is like. Even worse is that Karl lapses back into Tranquility.
If Anders is romanced by a male Hawke he will also mention that he and Karl were lovers, making it even more tragic.
Sebastian's reaction to seeing the Chantry getting blown up is heartbreaking, especially if you've convinced him to become a brother there, and he actually believes that he has finally found where he belongs in the Chantry.
Bethany or Carver dying in the Deep Roads. Your mother pleads with you not to take them in case something happens to the both of them, and then, it does, they contract the taint. They ask you to kill them, because they know they won't make it to the surface and would end up just like Wesley. The dialogue at the end is really heartbreaking.
Hawke: "You always did ask for the world, Carver."
Carver: "And you always gave it."
Hawke: "You always were a heartbreaker, Bethany."
Bethany: "And you always made me laugh."
Like most every other party member, Fenris has a LOT to deal with in this game. But what really takes the cake is his final loyalty mission when you help him find his sister. When you finally find her, she reveals that it's a trap and that she led Fenris's old master Danarius right to him. But that's not the worst part, Danarius asks that Hawke return Fenris to him, and Hawke can agree. If he/she does, you will get gold and a letter from Danarius at your home saying that Fenris has returned to his obedient self, now that his memories have been erased again. He even invites you to visit his home in Tevinter. If you know ANYTHING about Fenris, this is the most heartbreaking fate he could endure.
Worse still is that if Hawke does hand Fenris over to Danarius, he doesn't even fight back - he's so gutted by the betrayal that he simply gives up and leaves with Danarius without a fight. Fenris gives up without a fight.
Fenris killing his sister is heartbreaking. "I would have given you anything." The betrayal in his voice is just... Gideon Emerynails that scene.
The worst—or funniest, depending on your sense ofhumour—part is that you betrayed your companion/best friend/love of your life for a total of five sovereigns, at a point where you could easily have more than a hundred. Denarius's letter promises a reward but never actually delivers it.
Merrill sighs and asks why Isabela even likes her because her life's so boring in comparison to Isabela's adventure-filled life. Isabela replies that she hopes Merrill never ends up like her because Merrill is a good person and deserves better. It was just really tender how Bela's VA delivers those lines.
Merrill's final personal quest is just horrible. To elaborate, after years of build up after she obtains the necessary tools to reconstruct the Eluvian and possibly unlock hidden secrets about her culture, she finds that in order to truly complete it, she must first contact the demon who gave her access to blood magic in the first place. After a long trek back up to Sundermount, you finally approach the cave where Merrill made her blood pact with the demon, only to find that Keeper Marethaeri has not only beaten you there, but revealed that she has allowed the demon to possess her in order to prevent it from taking Merrill. You must then go through a lengthy battle with the Pride abomination that Merrill's mentor and adoptive mother has become (as an added kick to the gut, mid-way through the battle the abomination will take the form of Marethaeri and attempt to fool you into thinking you've won and she's regained consciousness, only to stab Merrill in the stomach as she tries to hug her and then continue fighting once more), and, after losing her only hope of restoring her culture as well as her Keeper, you head out the cave. But wait, there's more! A group of hunters who will be waiting outside the cave will now question you as to what happened, the best case scenario involves Merrill being completely abandoned by her clan, and, as word spreads, all other Dalish clans that she may ever meet, the worst case scenario involves slaughtering the hunters as well as every other member of her clan. To wrap things up, if you've chosen not to romance Merrill, the epilogue states that all of Hawke's companions eventually split apart, for Merrill, this means that she will now have to travel the world alone, hunted by the Chantry for being an apostate and a blood mage, and rejected by her people for causing the death of her Keeper and potentially the rest of her clan.
This is also not mentioning the sweet and comforting comments that Anders and Fenris have for her, such as "... the world is a poorer place with you left in it" and "I'm not sorry she's dead. I'm only sorry she died for you."
To be fair, Fenris follows that up with "Let's hope the sacrifice of someone who cared for you that much isn't wasted." Which makes sense, really. He apparently doesn't hate the Keeper, even though she was a mage too, because she was strong enough to sacrifice herself to protect someone from dangerous magic. He's basically saying he hopes Merrill can become like her.
Even Anders, as harsh as he is, basically begs Merrill to stop with the blood magic after the quest, reasoning that few ever get second chances. It's the first time he goes from calling Merrill plain stupid to encouraging her - in his own way - to learn from her mistakes.
Merrill even all but concedes to their cold words (not by name but by an acknowledgement of what they've often snapped at her about) by Merrill, Friend Or Foe? if you pursue her rivalry path (which is very easy to pursue with Forbidden Knowledge in Act 2, as you can seek out the evil tomes even if you killed Idunna, which will be quest markered (though their locations are not stated) after finding the first one; destroying each one gives a hefty rivalry boost and a final quest point), and while some of the dialogue in the midst of pursuing her rivalry can have Hawke genuinely be concerned for her well-being as she grows angrier about his/her potential and likely "betrayal" involving the Eluvian, she becomes more reclusive around him/her as a result—the rivalry branch of her specialization tree really compounds this, as when compared to most of the others' (Fenris' is "agree[ing] to disagree," Isabela's is like a beleaguered husband [her] avoiding his argumentative wife [Hawke], Varric will tell Hawke's story whether he likes it or not, etc.), hers is much more personal; "Accepted nowhere, Merrill has learned that she can depend only on herself."
This is all the more heartbreaking if you played the Dalish Warden Origin in the first game. Many of the characters from the origin are there at the camp in DA 2. You may have to kill your Warden's family
Viscount Dumar cradling his dead son, killed by the agents of Mother Petrice. The man has spent his entire reign being tossed around by the Templars, the Circle, the Chantry, and the Qunari, with nowhere to run and no one, save Hawke, to turn to. He might be a weak leader, but it's easy to tell that he loved his son, and really did want him to find his own way. The trouble is that the Arishok is aggressive and Lawful Stupid, and will most likely use Saemus as a bargaining chip, Mother Petrice is out for blood, and if he makes one wrong move, the Templars will have his head just like his predecessor. It's heartbreaking to see him finally break down. The sad choir music during this scene only adds to it.
Hawke: The Arishok is still here, Excellency. You must be ready to stand up to him.
Viscount Dumar: I cannot. I have already failed where it mattered most. *cries* Please, Hawke. Leave me...
An aggressive Hawke is just as heartbreaking here;
Hawke: The city needs its leader, Viscount.
Dumar: Yes. And I fear I am no longer that man.
Hawke can choose to kill Anders. You then get to watch his face slacken and his body crumple to the ground.
The expression on Anders' face right before he dies is the worst part. You can see his eyes still moving, so you know he's still alive as he lays there, but you can only imagine his last thoughts. Then his eyes close up just a little, but not completely, and his mouth opens. The expression on his face makes it look like he's about to start weeping....and then everything goes still.
There's a conversation with Aveline in Act III where she mentions that, according to the Fereldan army, she has been assumed dead for the past seven years, since few survived Ostagar. Her recollection of the battle is heartbreaking, because it recalls that sinking feeling as Loghain withdrew, leaving those who looked at the beacon on top of the Tower of Ishal expecting salvation with nothing. She mentions that any officer who returns to Ferelden will be reinstated with honors by King Alistair, but its clear from both her tone and Hawke's that, were they to return, they would be out of their element, though back home. It just shows how much a decade in Kirkwall has changed all of them.
The conclusion of Varric's companion quest in Act 2. Choosing to kill Bartrand may not feel like that big a deal at first; after all, Varric has, by that point, repeatedly expressed a desire to do so, and you as Hawke probably feel much the same way. It also seems like the merciful option, especially if you don't have Anders with you and have no reason to think Bartrand isn't beyond help. Then comes the conversation as the party walks away, and Varric admits it was the hardest thing he's ever had to do. And then, years later in Act 3, he tells Fenris not to kill his sister, saying that it won't make him feel any better, and that he would know. The other option isn't much better, and in some ways may be worse, as sparing Bartrand's life means saddling Varric with the emotional burden of having a sibling who will likely never recover, but on whom he cannot give up hope.
The death of Ketojan/Sarebaas. There's something so deeply heartbreaking about the growling monotone in his voice as he tries to explain to Hawke that he wants to die, after all the brutal abuse he has endured. He honestly believes that his place according to the Qun is death, and then sets himself on fire with a stoic expression and slumps to his knees before the fires consume him. The worst part is that he calls Hawke "Basvaraad" - in other words, someone worthy of being followed, and thanks Hawke, even though his/her desire to free him is apparently misguided.
It's even sadder because he doesn't want to die.
Hawke: So you want to die?
Sarebaas: I do not want to die. I want to live...by the Qun.
What really got me in that scene was this exchange;
Hawke: Existence isn't a choice.
Sarebaas: It is the only choice.
The companions' various reactions whenever Hawke falls unconscious in battle. It really shows how much your companions care about you and look up to you when you hear their panicked reactions to the possibility you might be dead. The reaction from your Love Interest is especially heartrending, as their reaction changes to reflect your relationship. You can listen to them here.
Possibly the worst is Fenris' response, if only for the sheer simplicity and conviction in what he says.
"NO! I will NOTALLOW IT!"
There is also Anders, who obviously sounds desperate.
"NO! Don't be dead! Please!"
Bethany sounds like she's sobbing while begging Hawke to get up.
Bethany and Carver's reactions are especially harsh when you realize that they have already lost one sibling and are faced with the prospect of losing another.
The end of Legacy provided it was finished in Act III or near the end of Act II. Hawke's conversation with the imaginary Leandra resonates with anyone whose ever lost an important loved one.
Even moreso, mixed with Crowning Moment of Heartwarming, Varric admits that this didn't actually happen. He made it up because he wanted to see Hawke get the closure he felt s/he deserved but never got. It shows how good of a friend he is to Hawke.
A bit of Fridge Brilliance, but the relationship between Malcolm and Carver can really bring a tear once it's explained. After helping the Grey Wardens, Malcolm hoped that he would never sire a child with magic, and he wouldn't wish it on anyone. Potentially, Carver, who can never have magic, would have been the son he always wanted, but Malcolm had to spend most of his time with Bethany and potentially Hawke, seeing as how they needed to learn to master magic. And Carver seemed to resent his father for it.
Conversations with Carver can be this if you move him along the friendship path. It's clear they both want to let go of their animosity but neither of them seems to know how.
There is an optional conversation in Act 3 that Hawke can have with Bodahn. Bodahn tells Hawke that it is time for he and Sandal to be moving on. He (Bodahn) is getting old and he needs to see that Sandal is taken care of. Hawke can offer to care for Sandal but Bodahn turns down the offer, explaining that he and Sandal have been offered a place in Empress Celene's court in Orlais. At this point Hawke will turn away from Bodahn and face the fireplace (back to the camera). Then you realize that Hawke is coming to the realization that she is alone. Her father, mother and at least one of her siblings are dead. The other sibling is either also dead, is a Grey Warden or is in the Gallows as a Circle Mage or a Templar.
Along thesame lines, you can run into Zevran in act three. If he loved and lost the Warden in an imported save, he turns down Isabela's offer of sex, saying the wounds are too fresh—even though it's been seven years at this point.
Another small moment is when Feynriel sends you a letter at the beginning of Act 2. If sent to the Dalish, he remarks on his loneliness among the elves. Things are bad enough for Feynriel that the only person he feels he can confide in is basically a stranger whom he encountered briefly a few years ago, albeit one who had a huge impact in his life.
I don't know why I'm telling you this. Sometimes it feels like you're the only person I can trust.
It's even sadder if he goes to the Gallows. No one in the Circle knows how to help him and templars would prefer him to be made Tranquil. He (incorrectly) believes that he could have a better life with the Dalish. Both outcomes show that there was no place for Feynriel in Kirkwall. He was ostracized by elves for looking human, by humans for having elven blood and magic, and by other mages for having powers he couldn't control or understand.
Merrill and Fenris have a small conversation about Anders in Act 3, and Merrill says she feels sorry for him. That he's broken the thing he was trying to save. It's heartbreaking, especially considering how nasty he is to her.
The last conversation with an Anders who you romanced as a rival and spared after siding with the Templars in the Gallows Courtyard. He says he wishes Hawke had killed him, says he hates the idea of siding against "his people," i.e. mages, indicates that he wants to die in the final battle or kill himself after, and then tells Hawke he will always love him/her and kisses him/her. Generally a horribly tearjerking scene.
The death of Aveline's husband in the prologue. The player must choose whether to make Aveline perform a mercy kill, to have Hawke do it, or let the clearly distraught Aveline decide. None of the answers are right, and all heartbreaking to see.
There were two hard hits right early on in the prologue. One was your sibling (whichever is gotten rid of to maintain the balance of the combat roles) but surprisingly Ser Wesley's death had more of an impact. It's interesting because if Hawke had met him anywhere else except for the blight, he probably would've been hunting either you, your sister or both of you. But he agrees that you have to work together. But in spite of all your efforts it still isn't enough, he is being corrupted and there is only one option. If Aveline kills him, he whispers to her "be strong my love." If you elect to do the deed yourself he looks at you, someone he didn't even know existed a few minutes ago and simply whispers "thank you." The music at that point is truly heartbreaking. Also, another thing that made his death all the more poignant, was that he had just given a eulogy for your dead sibling. Makes you wonder if Wesley and Carver/Bethany met each other soon after their deaths.
After Leandra's death in Act II, clicking on her door has Hawke mention they simply refuse to touch anything in the room. The DLC includes such small things as Hawke throwing coins into the fountain in Mark of the Assassin because it's a game Leandra played as a child, as well as their Dead Person Conversation in Legacy. All of this paints a very tragic picture that Hawke has never quite gotten over their mother's death and still carries it around with them as their greatest failure.
Immediately before First Enchanter Orsino's, Heroic BSOD when he says in complete despair "Why don't they just drown us as infants? Why give us the illusion of hope?" after seeing his every effort at capitulation and cooperation be met with ever increasing dickishness from the Templars. That one got me. Aside from a very small handful of mages who manage to bear up under the incredible pressure of living in Kirkwall (mostly your party members) under the oppressive Templar regime, you really might as well just kill yourself and be done with it. Unless you're playing a Mage Champion.
A party banter in Act 3 regarding Merrill and Aveline if Aveline does not marry Donnic and quits being captain of the guard. Merrill responds that she's walking away. Aveline protests that it's the best choice, but Merrill says it's only the easy one, and Aveline was always the person who made the hard choices. It was why Merrill liked her. Broken Pedestal indeed, and heartbreaking, in Merrill's normally sweet voice.
Losing a character can cause personal tear jerkers, or at least melancholy. Not even going into the crueler decisions Hawke is allowed to make (like the above regarding Fenris), or Hawke's sibling(s) dying (also noted above), or having to kill former companions if their rivalries or friendships aren't high enough by Act 3, one can lose Isabela as early as Act II. While most of the rest of the characters have some opinion on the Mage and Templar conflict or types of magic (Anders, Fenris, Merrill; all three with extensive personal quests in act II and III), Hawke's siblings are already heavily skewed one way or the other, Varric doesn't have a crisis point with Hawke, one has act II and III with Sebastian, and Aveline is the earliest companion met outside of Hawke's family (and thus a little ahead of racking up friendship or rivalry in comparison), if one doesn't give some focus to Isabela one way or the other in Act I as well as II, it's really easy to lose her in comparison, and it can leave a hollow feeling to know she's off adventuring elsewhere having left her True Companions of the game behind (as you don't take them to the Deep Roads without Anders, even Bethany or Carver can come back). Especially frustrating with low rivalry, since Hawke and Isabela are catty to each other but not to the point of confiding in each other, which is driven home by the meta kind of acknowledgement that Isabela won't be coming back, not like she would have if you had a high friendship or rivalry.
Many of Carver's lines during the last part of the game if he became either a Warden or a Templar. Particularly effective if the player developed a Big Brother Instinct towards him. Also especially poignant considering you don't see him for most of the game.
As a Warden:
Carver: "The Hawke brothers together again, huh? Just like old times."
Carver: "I should be hunting Archdemons, but... it feels right to be at your side again."
As a Templar:
Carver: "No! I won't kill my brother for you!"
Carver: "I never thought that joining the templars would bring us side by side. It's... good."
And the best one:
Carver: "I'm proud to call you brother. That's gone unsaid too long..."
While Ser Wesley's death is genrally regarded as more poignant than the death of either Bethany or Carver, the latter can still be a highly emotional moment given the right context. Say, for example, that you just completed Act I as a Warrior/Rogue and with Bethany accompanying you most of the time. Then you want to try out what a Mage plays like, but this means you have to watch your sister, who you really feel you share a bond with at this point, die. Watching Bethany's lifeless body while Ser Wesley delivers his short but moving eulogy... It's not so much the moment itself that is sad, it's that you know what would've become of the unfortunate sibling had they survived and the realization that they got robbed of so many experiences, good or bad, and potentially the chance to grow into the persons they wanted to be.