Dragon Age: Inquisition Companion Ranking and Review Part 1

Hello everyone! In my review of Dragon Age Inquisition (DAI) I wrote in the section about the characters that I would do an in-depth character review. After some long hours of thought and working with excel spreadsheets I have completed my rankings/review of the companions!

With just the first four companions this post ended up being rather long. I personally wouldn’t want to read a post that’s super long, so I divided it into two parts. This part contains the four lower ranked characters out of the nine companions we have in the game. Part 2 will be coming soon~

The companions in the Dragon Age series are one of the more memorable portions of the game. Each character has a distinct personality, backstory, and general characterization. Over time I have realized that I have some differing opinions for certain companions than those of the more vocal (and somewhat obsessive or lovestruck) fans on the internet. Some people dismiss characters quite readily and put more personal emphasis on why a character is liked opposed to how the character wholistically supports the story and the game.

Anyone who listens to the podcast Split the Veil with Catie and Jordan may have listened to their multiple installations of their rankings/reviews of the characters from Dragon Age and Mass Effect. Needless to say, I appreciated their relative objectiveness and candidness when they did their rankings. They did a spreadsheet for their rankings, and I too can appreciate the art of a good spreadsheet.

So, I also went above and beyond and created my own spreadsheet with various criteria to rank the DAI companions. I divided it into categories I deemed appropriate and could counter my personal opinions of a character and force me to think wholistically and in relation to the entirety of the game. In doing so I have created Five categories for me to rank and think about when ranking a companion. I have done this for all three Dragon Age games. This will be a seven-part series with each game having a post and then a cross comparison in the end.

The Five Categories

Personal

This section is essentially what it sounds like. My personal feelings about the character that encompass many aspects. It may address the overall potential of the character and possibly look past certain elements that are questionable or illogical in regard to the character’s execution. These are my personal opinions and questioning whether or not I actually liked the character. Sometimes I can understand how the character serves a purpose but I simply don’t like the personality or premise. This section is to simply just focus on my personal feelings towards a character.

Purpose

This section is a combination of thinking about the companion’s overall purpose and reasons for being part of the story. Essentially the following questions: How is the companion involved with the core plot? Does the companion provide new insight and furthers the plot? Does it make sense for this character to be involved with the Inquisition or in the higher rankings of the Inquisition? All in all, I just want to think of the overall purpose of the companion and whether or not it makes sense.

Story (Companion Quest and Romance)

This is where I will single out the companion quests (and to some degree the romantic related quests/sequences) into account. In Dragon Age the companion quests are very important and it is the time for the companions to shine in personality, backstory, and general intentions. I question if the companion quests make sense in relation to the larger plot, if the quest was engaging, if the quests felt out of place, and how they contributed to perceptions of the companion. Sometimes dialogue will be considered in this section.

Characterization

Does the voice acting enhance the character? Are the visuals reasonable for the premise of the character? Is the premise of the character reasonable? Is it an awful/disliked character but executed in a way that makes these traits believable? All these questions take a wholistic view of how the character is executed/portrayed. In-game dialogues may be considered in this section as well.

This part may be somewhat subjective, but the characterization is taking into account the general demeanor of the companion. Some companions have a deep level of characterization where it makes the character feel like a fully fleshed out character. The characterization makes a companion not feel one-note or bland. If the companion features a reasonable amount of character and sensibilities this makes him/her more dynamic.

Playability

The most straightforward category. How are the companions’ gameplay? Are there some stellar companions that make fights more bearable? Do some last forever? Do some die instantly? After allocating skills, does the gameplay improve? Do I bring them on missions for their skill sets or personality?

The Rankings

These are my opinions so be respectful and cordial if you disagree. I have read and heard many arguments of pretty much all the characters so I know there are some vastly different opinions surrounding the companions of DAI. Please be nice~ this is just one blog with some musings about the DAI companions.

I will present my rankings from the lowest to the highest ranking. I will have a picture of the actual spreadsheet at the end of all the rankings so if people are curious can take a gander at it. Without further ado let’s get to ranking these companions!

😈😈😈 There are spoilers below. You have been warned! 😈😈😈

Number 9: The Iron Bull

The Iron Bull is one of my least favorite characters. I mean, we only have nine of them so it’s not like there is that many contenders. I think within the fandom he is a polarizing character. Some people really like him, and some don’t. I don’t vehemently hate Iron Bull but really find him average. I often don’t bring him on missions or sometimes don’t even bother recruiting him. He is definitely not integral to my DAI experience. I am sorry to all the Iron Bull fans out there~

Personal: 3/10

Guys, I am personally not a fan of the Iron Bull. I typically don’t connect with all of the raunchier characters in any form of media. I personally think there is a time and a place and oftentimes the raunchier aspect dominates the character’s dialogue and personality. I did like how the Iron Bull was not bound to these attributes alone but in the end his overall character isn’t to my particular taste. The Iron Bull is a spy and a smart guy and I respect him for that. I just ultimately like other characters better that jive with my personal sensibilities or I think are an intriguing character premise (good or bad). The Iron Bull just comes off as average to me and I don’t have a lot of interest towards his character.

Purpose 2/10

Honestly, I really wonder why we would EVER allow a spy to be associated with the higher rungs of the Inquisition’s power structure. I get the old adage of “keep your friends close but your enemies closer” but this just felt like a bit of a stretch to me that we would offer a self-proclaimed spy into situations or knowledge of privy information. I don’t agree with the Iron Bull being one of the companions in the game. I think it would have been better to have him as a hired mercenary company but doing more mercenary style work opposed to doing missions alongside the Inquisitor.

I think the overall purpose just feels a bit farfetched and even more an organization in its infancy having someone as a qunari spy would put them at an even higher risk than an established organization. This purpose section really made me understand why sometimes I don’t even bother recruiting the Iron Bull in my playthroughs because of the lack of purpose and reason for him to be a companion.

Story 7/10

No putting aside my personal and purpose rankings aside the actual companion story had some good premises and moral implications. I like the idea that the Iron Bull has been away from the qunari fold for such a long time that there is potential for him to start seeing things in a different light. He has his mercenary company who he has grown quite attached to and are essentially a surrogate family. I like that our first companion scene with bull involves making the inquisitor hear some of the opinions from the grunt workers (though we needed a more believable disguise in my opinion). This made me respect him for his observant skills and smarts and actually showing the inquisitor the people’s thoughts opposed to just talking about them.

I think in the focal point of his companion quest where you have to choose between the mercenary group or the qunari dreadnaught puts a huge moral dilemma upon Bull. Given how I don’t trust the qunari one iota it is an easy choice for me but for Bull this is a major and lifechanging decision. The fact that his story is one of the few where the outcome is significantly different being that he can potentially betray you in the DLC Trespasser shows that this overarching companion quest has great moral and lifechanging decisions. The story makes perfect sense with his character premise and attempts to give us reason as to why we should’ve entertained the idea of a qunari alliance.

I will add that Bull’s romance is not my thing either. I think the people who like it really like it and others really don’t see their inquisitor in that kind of relationship. It’s simply not my thing but I can respect the people that liked something different.

Characterization 5.5/10

The overall character of Bull is one that I don’t find totally unbelievable but can come across as a bit one note at times. As I said before he is smart. We see those smarts presented via his characterization and dialogue. I think he does come off as a bit one note in that there is a lot of discussion around qunari life and sex. Basically, that is the vibe I got from him and saw a smidgen of other interests and personality shine through but not enough to think that there is nuance to his character. I think the voice acting isn’t bad for the character but it is not as nuanced or as realistic feeling as other characters. Bull honestly sounds the same as Lieutenant James Vega in Mass Effect 3 which is you have played both games it is hard not to realize the similarities.

I think the overall character design matches what we get personality wise. The character design gives the vibes of someone with a casual sense and someone who isn’t afraid to get hurt in battle by essentially never having armor on his torso. I think the overall execution of Bull can make him appear to be a natural companion despite all my misgivings about other portions of his character. The execution is believable yet nothing outstanding or memorable. Overall, the overall character just seemed average and one-note in terms of characterization and personality.

Playability 1/10

Honestly Bull dies SO quickly I never bother bringing him on missions. Like even after giving him proper specs he just dies way too quickly in comparison to other warrior class companions we have. I usually don’t like the combat style of two-handed swords or blunt instruments because they move so slow and require correct timing and execution. The overall playability is just a big no from me.


Number 8: Cole

Coming in at number eight is Cole which may be a huge problem for certain individuals out there. Cole has an ardent number of fans. Like with Bull, I found Cole to be rather average and don’t bring him on many missions. I don’t see him as some innocent child that needs protection. Honestly, they changed his character from the book Dragon Age: Asunder which I think his overall character there was much more interesting and compelling than what we got in the game.

Personal 3/10

I think that Cole is a really interesting companion that we haven’t seen the likes of before (no Justice from DAO: Awakening doesn’t count). Rather than being a simply being a spirit, Cole actively took on a human form of his own volition. I think one of my greatest problems with Cole as a character is that he comes off as one note and pretty much speaks of the same things. I like the idea of him grappling of self-discovery and his overall essence, however, there aren’t many instances that allow for natural character growth in the story and I just found him to be a random insert in many situations.

I think the Cole we got in Asunder was a bit more morally grey in terms of his actions and had more innate human desires than what we got in DAI. Ultimately, I think he is portrayed in a more childlike state which I wasn’t really a fan of. I think I would’ve liked Cole a bit more if there was more gradual change. For me personally he simply is not a favorite companion out of the nine.

Purpose 6.5/10

I think if you side with the Templars in the beginning of the game Cole’s purpose makes so much more sense. You see him becoming attached to a misguided group of people and wants to attempt to help and set them on a different path. When the Inquisitor becomes trapped by the envy demon and Cole is essentially the only thing that can help him it makes sense why Cole and the Inquisitor could share some kind of bond and mutual understanding.

In Cole’s perspective the innate want/need to help makes sense that after seeing the Inquisitor liberate the sane Templars that his next step would be to help the Inquisition. I think having Cole as an actual companion doesn’t maybe make as much sense because he is ultimately a spirit and it has been established that spirits live under a different set of universal rules than those of the living world. I think having Solas present and vouching for a spirit such as Cole helps give some insight that no one else in the inquisition could provide. Still the overall purpose of Cole as a companion has a shaky foundation.

Story 5/10

So, in my opinion Cole’s story essentially boils down to him wanting to become more human or reverting back to his spirit nature. This story alone has made people bring up valid points for each side. I personally think because of his inherent desire to be in such close proximity to humans he has some sort of desire to free himself of his spirit nature. Afterall, he wants to help humans but can he without truly knowing what it means and feels to be human? I have heard great arguments for keeping Cole as a spirit which are all quite compelling.

Having this debate alone does make the premise of the story quite good and gives some philosophical meaning on what it is to be human. Despite this great debatable topic the actual premise of the story begins on somewhat loose footing in that he doesn’t want to become corruptible and turn into a demon and it somehow boils down into a very different story. While this is a valid concern, I just don’t feel like the overall story has as tight of writing as some of the other companion quests. With this the overall companion quest just simply boils down to me remembering the last sequence rather than the overall progression of Cole as a character.

Characterization 6/10

Cole is kind of an average characterization: I don’t hate it but I don’t love it. Simply, middle of the road character and the characterization doesn’t amplify the existing premise and character of Cole. I think the overall characterization is something that we the players aren’t supposed to full understand. He is from the spirit realm and with that comes with some perspectives that the living realm may not share. I really like how we can overhear people talking about problems around Skyhold and then when we talk to Cole we can find reason as to why he did these things. That really emphasizes his method of processing things and taking action as a spirit of compassion.

However, I can think his growth as a character really happens after his final companion quest in which he adapts to whichever path you set him on. I do think some of his comments can sound rather infantile and I just which as a whole he could have had a bit more dynamic dialogue that was consistent throughout the game instead at some specific moments. In terms of characterization Cole is borderline on being a bit repetitious. The voice acting is nice but with the somewhat repetitious nature of his dialogue it sounds all the same to me. Overall, there is a reason behind his actions and words and you as a player can never deny that.

I have to get something off my chest in terms of Cole’s design. What on earth is going on with his hair?! I always keep some kind of hat on this poor soul because heaven knows he needs better hair. Other than that, I think the overall design of the character matches the personality and story he brings to the table.

Playability 1/10

Something about DA2 and DAI in which the two handed daggers are not my preferred combat skill at all. Cole dies on me so often and way to quickly in many battles. Even when I have allocated skills there are people in my party I’d rather have based on skill sets and longevity in battle. For that I have to give him a one because I rarely take him out on missions because I simply don’t find two handed daggers that helpful in a combat situation.


Number 7: Sera

Ah Sera. The character that some people loathe. I can assure you I do not hate her as much as some people do. However, her overall character is simply a bit annoying and too childlike for my personal tastes. I think Sera has a very narrow view of life but it is due to her upbringing so I cannot hate her for contradicting or simplistic viewpoints. All in all Sera is once again another character in DAI that I find average but personally find mildly irritating.

Personal 2/10

So if this were a list based exclusively based on my personal choices of a character she would be dead last with the Iron Bull and Cole not far behind. Sera as a whole is just immature and I am really not fond of that kind of character in any form of media. She almost seems to me as if the creators of her character wanted to present the image “look at me I’m so edgy” but without the edge and just the persona of she’s different and quirky. I know that sound harsh but it’s just my overall perceptions of her character. If I were inquisitor (which I NEVER do self-inserts) I would absolutely try to avoid her at all costs. Simply put not my cup of tea personality wise and just too young and immature.

Purpose 5/10

Sera’s purpose in my opinion is somewhat questionable. When we first meet her she’s really flippant and when we try to ask her questions about who her “friends” are her response is not really convincing. If you cannot present your worth and kinds of connections to a representative of the Inquisition why should we allow you in? Realistically this just seems a bit far fetched that we would even entertain the idea of inviting Sera.

That being said, much like Bull, I could see Sera being in the lower ranks of the Inquisition doing more reconnaissance work. I just don’t see someone who cannot even bring some level of expertise and being in the so called inner circle. Her one point is that she can give you insight in how the commoners feel and what rumors are going around. I’m still not entirely certain if that would be a realistic amount of power. I will entertain the idea because in the very beginning the Inquisition is without manpower and influence so we can stretch this notion of being connected to the commoner’s rumor mill it could be an asset.

Story 3.5/10

To put it bluntly I really don’t care about Sera’s story whatsoever… I think her personal story is quite off from pulling pranks on people to going somewhere that leaves her either killing/being thoroughly pissed off about a nobleman. Honestly there isn’t a strong thread between her storylines. I wish we would’ve seen just a tad more growth in her character but she always appears to be consistent in her immature ways. Most of her stories just rub me the wrong way and just showcase her already existing character traits and no real evolution.

It is really hard for me to separate my personal feelings and my canon inquisitors personality. I actually do not become besties with Sera because I think the level of maturity does not match that of my Inquisitor’s. I am personally not a fan of pranks and to do that to high officials of the Inquisition in their respective professional environments? I guess I am a real killjoy because I don’t find that a compelling storyline or overall outcome. Some might find this quite lighthearted and fun but it’s just not the story I would want to experience or play.

The only place where I can say she shows a bit of growth is when she is in a relationship with an Inquisitor. We see her rough edges soften a bit in that she actually is caring about something other than herself and her cause. Overall for the people that like Sera the romance should be a plus in regard to her overall story.

Characterization 7/10

So the overall characterization of Sera is fairly well-executed. She’s supposed to be a young immature girl who grew up in the lower classes of society. We can immediately tell all these things so I would say we get the picture very clearly. Her outfit and design match her personality down to her unkempt hair. I honestly don’t see her really caring too much about her overall appearance because she’s busy doing her tasks in the underbellies of society.

I know some people find her voice and accent to be obnoxious. I don’t think the accent is obnoxious and I have heard some people say that the voice actor did a good job of that particular accent and some who just found it jarring. I am sorry I cannot remember which accent her accent actually is in our real world. I think the overall accent for elves in Dragon Age is all over the place so I will give it a pass. Some had American, some Welsh, tbh it would not surprise me if they change this yet again in the upcoming game.

I think her behavior does come off as fairly realistic for a young immature lass. Despite me not liking this kind of character I can respect the overall execution of her character in that the dialogue feels like she believes everything she says. She’s quite stubborn and unyielding in her views, particularly with magic and elves. Some people hate her for this but I actually applaud the creators for giving her some polarizing opinions that actually assist in her overall character and the kind of woman she has grown into. I think despite all my criticisms of Sera she is very well executed in terms of her overall character.

Playability 7/10

Now in my canon playthroughs I myself play as an archer so I typically do not need two archers in my crew. That being said since I am used to playing as an archer Sera isn’t too much different stats and skills wise. She doesn’t die as easily as some characters and her special abilities can be useful. To be truthful I usually don’t bring her along in missions because I am not fond of her character not because she is unplayable.


Number 6: Blackwall

Blackwall is a companion that I feel is often forgotten or is accused as being boring. Other than that people seem to not talk about him too much in comparison to other characters. The only thing I have heard really positive remarks about Blackwall is his overall usefulness in combat. All I can say is sometimes being average is much better than being a polarizing or widely hated character.

Personal 5.5/10

Blackwall is a companion that I can appreciate quite a bit. From his backstory and overall demeanor he is not a bad character whatsoever. I think what happened in DAI is that there are many strongly written characters that his stoic character gets lost in the sea of personalities. I really don’t mind Blackwall as a companion and appreciate a lot of what his character stands for and overall personality. I like the notion of a Grey Warden out on a recruiting mission and decides that is best quest in helping the current impending doom in Thedas is to join forces in the Inquisition. Honestly Blackwall’s overall character is average and there is nothing wrong with that.

Purpose 7/10

The overall purpose of Blackwall makes a lot of sense. We the inquisition are actually seeking him out to gather information on the recent disappearance of the Grey Wardens. Given that Blackwall isn’t a real Grey Warden he says he doesn’t know and we are pretty much ready to leave the area ASAP with that unhelpful piece of information. Blackwall has a sense of duty and ultimately is a character seeking redemption and righting his past wrongs and decides joining the inquisition is simply the right thing to do. Afterall who could just standby doing nothing to help the situation?

His purpose is quite solid in that there is still trust of the Grey Wardens and Blackwall simply wants to lend us his sword in the potential battles that will ensue. Now do we know that Blackwall isn’t a Grey Warden in the beginning? No. The core purpose is still there in that he is a “Grey Warden” willing to lend a helping hand in times of crisis. It makes simply makes sense in the context of the story.

Story 7/10

Blackwall’s story is pretty interesting. It becomes apparent that he is filled with a sense of duty and wanting to lend a helping hand to the current situation in Thedas. Upon replaying the game there are many moments in dialogue with Blackwall that hint towards many of the lies and truths he is telling the Inquisitor. As the story progresses we figure out that Blackwall left the Inquisition abruptly for Orlais. Turns out he didn’t want someone to hang for the wrongdoings he directed and committed. Blackwall’s personal story does start on the slower side but when it comes into full fruition boy is it a doosy.

There are many questions posed in the climax of his story. The big two in my opinion are as follows: What is an appropriate punishment for committing a war crime? How much power should the Inquisition wield to save one person who committed a war crime? This is where you as the Inquisitor can make some really morally grey decisions all to prevent Blackwall from getting hanged. Blackwall as a character is quite burdened by his past and comes to a conclusion he is done running away and is ready to face consequences. I think the premise of Blackwall’s story is really good and it is executed in a way that really showcases how the Inquisition itself as grown into a substantial power in a short period of time.

Blackwall’s romance isn’t really my cup of tea. I think it’s a nice option for lady Inquisitors to have. The overall drama of dealing with Blackwall’s deceptive lies on his entire personhood is definitely something I’m not a big fan of ngl. But the romance is intertwined with his character quests so that is a plus!

Characterization 7.5/10

The overall characterization is better than some and not as good as others. I like that they chose a Yorkshire accent (I am thinking that’s the one guys, I know its northern at the very least). Usually with the warrior characters it’s the typical Received Pronunciation accent so its refreshing to have some northern dialects! I think the voice acting is convincing and Blackwall essentially sounds like he looks. A stoic man with a beard and principles.

The execution of the dialogue especially when he’s confronted with too probing of questions was executed realistically. In replays you can tell there are moments of hesitation and worry but subtly done in a way you only realize after you know the truth of his character. I think Blackwall has many characteristics and traits that really make him a well-crafted character with a morally grey past.

I think the stoicism isn’t off-putting or cringeworthy. He simply is a stoic man with a beard and principles. I don’t have any major criticisms of Blackwall’s characterization. The character comes off as a realistic guy and looks the part. He really embodies kind of the average ranking character.

Playability 10/10

My goodness Blackwall is essentially a tank of a character. If you decide to go off Dragon Hunting this is the man to bring with you because he is literally invincible and gives out great damage to enemies. I am usually not a fan of the warrior class because I prefer distance combat but man, I do get a vicarious thrill of being an invincible tank character!


My Spreadsheet for these Four Companions

In this graph I have three separate totals. One encompassing all of my criteria, one without taking my personal score into account, and the last is without taking playability into account. There is a reason for all the pretty colors and symbols but I’ll let you guys focus simply on the numbers~

Wrap-Up

I am not shocked to these four characters be in the lower rankings of the DAI companions. My personal opinions of the characters mirror this ranking. I was surprised that my personal least favorite character Sera was not in the ultimate bottom position. As a whole I think the companions of DAI are really strong characters and while I may not like them personally, I can see the merits of each character.

These opinions are the major thoughts I have about each companion. As I said in the beginning, I have seen many opinions of the characters and no there are other valid opinions about the characters. I think some of my opinions do not mirror the fandom at large and that is okay. I have not scrutinized every single detail of each character because I don’t want to make this blog insanely long.

The lasting impact of a character is important and that does not encompass every single detail, it’s how we remember and interpret the character, lasting impressions make a difference! Ultimately these are fictional characters, and we are allowed to have opinions and different perspectives. It’s okay and reasonable to respectfully and cordially disagree!~