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Tear Jerker: Dragon Age: Origins
And should you perish, know that your sacrifice will not be forgotten... and that one day, we shall join you.
The Revenants of the Black Vials quest. Each of them was bound, with a little note accompanying them describing the demon's crimes. The hard part of those is who had to bind them:
First: Cale Viazagat, revenant and perversion of an only son.
Second: Nethamas Bigal, revenant and perversion of a fine daughter.
Third: Argruth Massaad, revenant and perversion of a treasured mother.
Fourth: Quametha Kagat, revenant and perversion of an honored father.
Fifth: Shamas Goodson, revenant and perversion of a rare friendship.
Sixth: Anton Wither, revenant and perversion of a friend not met.
Their own friends and families had to stand up their (in each case it seems, mass-murdering) demon-possessed corpse, defeat it and bind it. The fifth is marked with only five thumbprints instead of six, implying that the revenant was himself one of the former hunters. The last one was even signed in blood by a child.
The darkspawn attacking the camp in the Dalish Elf origin. It hits so suddenly and hard - and it doesn't help that ghouls in appearance and details are horrific, and that's Tamlen, the Warden's friend, going through it.
Ruck's situation, the poor guy. He's half-mad, knows he's crazy, and is adamant that you not tell his mother about him.
Ruck: Nonononono! No Filda! No mother! No warm blanket and stew and pillow and soft words! Ruck doesn't deserve good memories! No,no, NO!
And the topper? If you tell Filda that Ruck is alive, she'll rush off to the Deep Roads alone to find him.
In the City Elf origin, Shianni's tearful plea to save her is like a knife in the gut. "Please … I want to get out of here. Please take me home."
Thankfully, the scene after has the Warden comforting Shianni after butchering Vaughn.
Shianni: Did...did you kill them?
Warden: Like dogs, Shianni.
The death of Niall in the Fade.
If you convince Zathrian to end the curse in the Nature Of The Beast quest, the subsequent cutscene is heartbreaking. It shows Zathrian surrounded by the werewolves he cursed, facing the Lady of the Forest, and the two sharing a long, emotional look. He slowly raises his staff, strikes it on the floor, and gets this peaceful, contented look on his face as he lets go of all his old hatred and rage before collapsing in death. The werewolves then crowd around their beloved Lady, reaching out to touch her one last time before the curse is lifted and she vanishes, and you can tell that they truly did love her and are deeply saddened to see her leave them, even if it means they are free. Beautifully heartbreaking, and it's all conveyed by gesture and facial expressions.
Hespith's final speech before vanishing into the darkness: maybe it's because her Creepy Monotone starts to crack very slightly here, maybe it's because it's not established what she does afterwards (she has a choice between suicide and A Fate Worse Than Death), but it really is depressing:
Listen closely and you can hear the sound of something falling to the ground after she leaves the frame.
Talking to Alistair about his time with the Grey Wardens. Alistair tells you that he really misses Duncan and wishes that he could have something to remember him by.
What happens if you're romancing Alistair and don't take Morrigan's third option. "You say that like I'm giving you a choice."
What makes that quote especially touching is that it ends a game that is built around the player making pretty much all the important choices and saves the player character's life by having Alistair simply refuse her biggest choice in the story and sacrificing himself instead.
The next thing after his sacrifice is his voice in narration repeating what he said at your Joining, "And should you perish, know that your sacrifice will not be forgotten... and that one day, we shall join you."
Any of the player's heroic sacrifices can be this. Seeing a character you've built the entire game sacrifice him/herself is pretty sad.
Going for the Urn of Scared Ashes as a dwarf Noble. If you've made it clear that you regret killing Trian, then his ghost appears midway through. He then forgives you and tells you that the past is the past, and you should move on.
Any of the Wardens can tell the Guardian that they regret the fate of someone in their past and share a similar moment with them. The touching aspect of it can give way to Fridge Depression, however, when you realize it's not really that person's spirit, otherwise Shianni and still not re-encountered Jowan or Tamlen wouldn't be able to appear, and the spirit admits as much itself. You may be gaining absolution from whatever forces are in charge of the Gauntlet, but it encourages you to move on when the one who'd most need to hear your apology and have the most right to forgive you didn't do either.
If you take Sten through the Gauntlet, the Guardian will ask Sten if he feels he has failed his people by killing the family who saved him:
Sten: I have never denied that I failed.
Oghren's response to The Guardian is even more tear inducing. Keep in mind that at this point Oghren has gone through the loss of his house, his caste, and even possibly killing his own wife. Despite all that he doesn't voice to the party anything beyond mild discontent. When The Guardian questions him however, Oghren solidifies his Woobie status.
The Guardian: Ah, the dwarf. You left your home and came to the surface, knowing that-
Oghren: Why don't I save you some time? Yes, I wish I could have saved my family from Branka. I wish I could have been a better mate: maybe she would have stayed home with a belly full of baby Oghren and never gone for the Anvil. Maybe I failed her. And yes, I came to the surface because I'm barely a dwarf anymore. My family is dead, my honor as a warrior long gone. I've lost my caste and my house, and I have nothing else to lose!
Loghain talking with Dog about his own Mabari who was killed during the Orlesian occupation.
Loghain: "It was six months before we saw her again. The Orlesian returned her—and when I say "returned," I mean "pushed her out of his wagon." She was skin and bone, and still carried the scars from where their pronged collars bit into her neck. She never quite recovered. She passed away after a week. It was as though she held on long enough to come home to us. I held her head in my lap, and I believe she died happy."
Bear in mind, Marbari have human-level intelligence. It's repeatedly emphasized that they actually choose their masters. For Loghain, it may as well have been a sibling that was taken from him. And add to that the fact that his mother was also raped and murdered by Orlesians, it's kind of hard to hold his hatred for all things Orlais against him.
The death of Connor if you choose to end the Arl of Redcliffe quest by killing him. You learn that Connor struck a deal with the demon to save his father, not knowing what would happen. It especially gets heart-wrenching if you've managed to defeat him but allow Isolde to convince you not to deliver the death blow. Connor will re-awaken and the demon will threaten to kill Arl Eamon; it is that point that Isolde will realize that he cannot be saved. In the end, she will tearfully ask you to leave the room while she kills Connor, still cradling her young boy in her arms.
To make matters worse, the ending afterward indicates that Isolde died in childbirth bearing a daughter, who also turned out to be a mage and got shipped off to the tower; you can't save Isolde or help Eamon carry on his family name if you take that option..
Loghain's 'Daughters never grow up' speech just before you or Alistair execute him at the Landsmeet. No matter how much you hate him during the rest of the game, it's this moment that really shows his humanity and that, despite the huge evidence to the contrary, he genuinely cares for Anora.
The first portion of the Gauntlet after answering the riddle posed by the spirit of Maferath, Andraste's mortal husband. It's the regret in his voice, particularly in the last sentence.
Yes, jealousy drove me to betrayal. I was the greatest general of the Alammari ... but beside her, I was nothing. Thousands fell before her on bended knee. They loved her, as did the Maker. I loved her too, but what man can compare to a god?
Endrin's letter to the Dwarf Noble:
Perhaps you will burn this letter unread. For that, I would not blame you. But I would not return to the Stone without saying this to you: I have seen what Bhelen is. And when I saw it, I knew I had been a fool. For only a fool would cut out his own heart and burn it for the sake of appearances. I never believed in your guilt. I allowed you to be exiled because I feared an inquiry into Trian's murder would taint our house with scandal in the eyes of the deshyrs and cost our family the throne. But I have saved nothing by this sacrifice: I sent my only child into an uncertain exile. Know that whatever you do now, you bear all the honor and pride of House Aeducan.
If Morrigan is in love with you at the end, her face will contort with pain when she's telling you she's leaving you forever. When pressed about love, she becomes even more pained. "Caring for you as I have come to... that was not part of the plan." It makes her final words before having sex that much more sad and glorious: "Come, my love. Put the thoughts of the ritual aside and make this last night one to remember."
Then, if you don't take her with you to face the Archdemon, you can tell her one last time that you love her. She'll break down and look like she's ready to cry, saying you've made it profoundly difficult to leave, and tells herself that she needs to have no regrets.
A small one from Morrigan: After she tells you about Flemeth, she'll ask you about your mother, and one of the answers you can give is that you love your mother and that's all you really need. In response, she tells you that she's envious. Morrigan's childhood must have sucked (and from what you hear, it did) if she was forced to hate Flemeth when she wanted to love her.
Zevran's last mission before going after the Grey Wardens, along with his reasons for making the bid for the task of slaying the Wardens.
If you're a Mage and stay loyal to your old friend Jowan, it makes his being led away to his final fate at the Circle Tower all the worse.
Alistair leaving you if you decide to give Loghain another chance. Your friendship has been dealt a severe blow, and neither of you are sure it will recover.
If the Warden is a non-human-noble romancing Alistair and makes him king without convincing him not to break up with her, pretty much every conversation after the Landsmeet (and some leading up to it) are massive Tear Jerkers. Alistair questions what good being king is if he can't have the one thing he truly loves, admits that he had wondered if the Warden still loved him despite the breakup, and - if asked whether he's okay - replies that no, not really, but he can't think about it because it's "too painful... and too tempting." If the Warden doesn't Take a Third Option, Alistair will try to sacrifice himself and, when asked if he doesn't have a duty to his future wife, he replies "I was an idiot, of course. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me."
In The Calling, Alistair will never know that Fiona was his mother.
Playing as a mage who didn't betray Jowan, when his spirit said this in the Gauntlet.
"You have wondered, many times, if what happened to me was your doing...But it is too easy to obsess over "what if" and "what could have been." These thoughts will eat away at you, if you let them. Forgive yourself, just as I have forgiven you."
Romancing Zevran and choosing the Ultimate Sacrifice, and not bringing Zevran with you to fight the archdemon (Telling him you love him - "Cruel to the end"). The ending is pure heartbreak, especially when recalling Leliana's singing of the song taught to her. Zevran's reaction during the funeral and his Where Are They Now epilogue make it worse.
The Revelation comic. It takes place immediately after Riordan tells the Warden that a Heroic Sacrifice will be necessary to kill the archdemon. To give the comic some context, it's set in a playthrough where a female warden is in love with Alistair and close friends with Morrigan. Not only do we get to see Alistair's reaction to the knowledge that either he, or the woman he loves, is probably gonna die in battle, but we also see the conflict Morrigan feels at the prospect of sleeping with the man her only true friend loves in order to save her life. Read it here.
The final scene of the Human Noble Origin. That last shot of your mother cradling your dying father, knowing that Howe's men are fast approaching, is absolutely heartbreaking.
Bryce and Eleanor Cousland's last words to their son/daughter:
Bryce: Then, go, Pup... warn your brother... and know that we love you both. You'll do us proud.
Eleanor: Goodbye, darling...
Finding your sister-in-law and worse, your young nephew dead in the next room.
Wynne's reaction to the Human Noble when they reveal how they became a Grey Warden. She's so shocked she even stutters a little when she realizes "You... you are the last of the Couslands?" It's an insanely powerful moment as until that point Wynne has been your companion throughout the entire Mage Tower quest, and because she was there, she understands better than any of the others (except Alistair) what was lost as Ostagar. However, that conversation shows that until then, she's only seen the Human Noble as The Warden. It's a tearjerker moment when she finally realises who you are and that despite everything you've lost, you're still standing and continuing to fight.
You only have limited interaction with him, but Nelaros, the husband-to-be of the Female City Elf, gives a great tearjerker. He valiantly organizes a rescue to save the women and his bride taken, gets into the castle and tells Soris to get her out of the cell while he keeps watch in the corridor. You yourself proceed to fight through the castle, until you eventually find him, where he's immediately cut down by guards as you enter the room. Whats even sadder, is that when you examine his body, one of the few things you find is a wedding ring.
When the Human Noble encounters the spectre of Bryce Cousland during the Gauntlet. This whole segment was particularly poignant becaues the Warden finally has to start to come to terms with the brutal murder of his parents in their Origin story. The Warden until this point can be assumed to have put this to one side because they must be focused on stopping the Blight, but this part of the story is where it actually stops and delves into the mind of the Warden for a brief moment, over what they feel over this tragedy and their lingering survivor's guilt. Bryce gently reassures the Human Noble that there was nothing they could have done and they shouldn't blame themselves, and that it was their mother's own choice to stay behind to die with her husband. He then tells the Human Noble that they must learn to let go of their guilt over what happened, and also that it's time to let go of their parents as well.
More so that it's implied the Warden knows that this apparition isn't really their father, but still begs it to stay at the end. Given that the amulet received after this is "Reflection", this Test and the advice given could be interpreted as the Warden's subconscious telling him/herself all of these things to overcome their guilt, from the one person who's words that the "Pup" would always listen too.
Revisiting the elven ruin from the Dalish Elf Origin as a Dalish Elf is heartbreaking. Ariane even refers to it as the place of your greatest sorrow and asks if, given the chance, you'd change anything. You can answer that no, everything happens for a reason or you can say yes, you would change everything if it meant having a family again.
Return to Ostagar. Not only are you going back to the scene of the beginning battle where almost every last member of your order was butchered, but then you walk up and see Cailan's crucified body and bittersweet flashes of the last days at Ostagar. All while the eerie theme song mourns what's lost in the background. Having Alistair, Wynne or Loghain reliving it through party banter makes it worse.
Bann Sighard's reaction to the full extent of what Arl Howe did to his son while torturing him, particularly the line he gives if you bring it up at the Landsmeet. His delivery of the second sentence makes him sound as though he's about to break down in tears.
Bann Sighard: Howe took my only son! The things done to him... some are beyond any healer's skill!
Telling Owen the blacksmith about his daughter's death, after you promised him you would bring her back alive just as a means to an end. If you return to the blacksmith, you find another guy there, who tells you Owen killed himself.
The templar in the Circle tower who's been bewitched by a Desire Demon. You can leave him to be happy in the demon's illusion, or you can fight the demon and kill him as well. If you choose to fight, the demon will convince the templar to attack you by telling him their children are in danger. And he doesn't hesitate to defend his "children" to the death.
Alistair meeting Goldanna. Pretty much all the dialogue paths are heartbreaking.
Encountring Danyla in the Brecilian Forest. She's a Dalish Elf who's already transformed into a werewolf, but has retained enough of her sanity to beg you to put her out of her misery and tell her husband, back at camp, that she loves him. The way she talks, constantly having to catch her breath because of the excruciating pain she suffers from, while still trying her best to answer your questions if you press her for information... Not to mention that if you decide to grant her request, she will use her last breath to thank you. She's gone to a better place, but that doesn't make the conversation or the Mercy Kill itself any easier to sit through.
From the Human Noble origin, there's Iona, a sweet, shy and demure Elven lady-in-waiting. You can romance her, but it only leads to her getting killed right in front of your eyes by Howe's men. It's get worse, though. In your earlier conversation with her, she mentions having a daughter, Amethyne, who lives at the Elven Alienage in Denerim. Her husband, and thus the girl's father, had already passed away two years prior. Almost the end of the game, months after the the events of the Origin and when you probably already forgot about Iona, you visit the Alienage... and Amethyne is there, wondering to herself when her mother will return from Highever. Ouch.
Bizarrely, the description of "Chasind Sack Mead":
A brutishly strong honey liquor, reminiscent of warm summer days, apple blossoms on the wind with an unexpected aftertaste of father going off to war, never to return. Bitter, to say the least.
The end of the Dalish Elf Origin, especially if you pick the reluctant conversation options when Duncan and Marethari inform you about your fate. You really don't want to, but you have no choice: the only way to survive is to leave everything and everyone you have ever known behind, and there's a good chance you won't ever see them again either. If you then choose to not depart immediately but to stay for Tamlen's funeral, you're treated to a scene of your clan watching you go. As you depart, you take one last look back. Then you walk away, your head bowed.
It's entirely possible that after you finish the Brecilian Forest quest as a Dalish, you will encounter shrieks at your camp and have to kill Tamlen. If that happens and you speak to Leliana right afterwards, she will sing In Utheneranote she sings it after you finish with the Brecilian Forest anyway, a song about the death of an elder.
If Sten is in the camp, there will be a point in the cinematic where he'll look over to the fire before looking down, as if lost in thought. If you've completed his quest and took him through the Broken Circle quest to view his nightmare over the loss of his brothers in the Beresaad, it's easy to imagine Sten thinking back to his lost comrades.
Saying goodbye to Morrigan at the end of Witch Hunt, if the two of you are friends at that time. She really is sad to have to part company with you, and it shows in her expression and her voice. Even though this is Morrigan and her honesty is sometimes in doubt, she can't be faking that kind of emotion. Not without being the greatest actress to ever exist. You just want to give her a hug.
Ser Cauthrien, if you convince her Loghain's in the wrong, is near tears when she tells you to try to save him from himself. She knows that she may have signed Loghain's death warrant, but she realizes the insanity must stop.