- 1 Introduction
- 2 General technical notes
- 3 Battles
- 4 Abilities
- 5 Miscellaneous
- 6 DA2 Unusual Build Playthrough: By-The-Way Findings
- 7 DAO: Randomly Assigned Builds Playthrough
During the last couple of years I found myself replaying DAO quite often. Gradually, my interest - probably under the influence of my BGEE excesses - began to gravitate towards solo, non-mage, no consumables, minimum gear, limited talents playthroughs. In the other words, I tried to play DAO in as challenging a form as possible. Some of these playthroughs I've finished, though most were definitely abortive. Anyhow, over the course of many hours invested into planning and playing, I have stumbled unto quite a lot of new info either complementing or outright contradicting this wiki (and my own older assumptions, since I was a very active contributor back in 2009-10). Since DAO has firmly joined the pantheon of classic Western RPG titles, I thought that withholding these findings from the general public is both selfish and unwise.
General technical notes
It's important to note most of the info supplied below was discovered over the course of solo playthroughs under a very restrictive, albeit ever-changing, set of home rules. The typical setting was something along the following lines: solo (obviously), Nightmare (you don't say!), non-mage (simply put, DAO is a different game, and - let's be honest about it! - a very trivial one, for a mage), limited DLC areas and items (little risk:huge reward ratio), no consumables (no poultices sort of goes without saying, but at some point I have decided poisons, grenades, traps, and balms/salves are way too efficient as well), minimum gear (typically, I used 3-5 items over the course of the whole playthrough), limited abilities (optional; for instance, with a rogue, I've limited my active hotbar talents to three - an option definitely not for the weak-hearted), clean profile.dap file (optional; = specializations locked).
That said, I believe a lion's share of my findings has a universal value (strictly within the limits of this game, of course, not that I'm having a sudden fit of megalomania here): after all, core game mechanics stay the same, while solo tactics can always be adapted to the party format with ease. With this out of the way, let's get down to outlaying a structure of this page. My findings will be divided into three rough categories: Battles, featuring annotated videos of some of the most iconic and notoriously difficult fights in DAO done solo with respect to fair play; Abilities, featuring addenda and corrigenda on different - guess what? - abilities; Miscellaneous, featuring assorted topics that didn't fit into the two categories above, be it the relative amount of xp gained in different Origin stories, or the peculiarities of defense-based builds.
Warrior, without a shadow of a doubt, is the weakest solo class in DAO. That's why playing a minimum gear solo warrior requires whopping six key elements, namely: (1) good health regeneration, +3 is probably the lowest value that should be considered (achievable via
or just a combination of Berserker's Resilience with something); while Devour is a great talent, it's corpse-dependent, and thus, useless in big boss fights; (2) decent spell resistance, anything below 40% is probably out of question:
is an obvious solution, as it also provides 19 armor, the downside being it literally forces the Warden to pick Templar as one of the specializations; (3) reasonably high armor rating, 30-35 should be enough, if one starts with the Broken Circle and Nature of the Beast questlines in order to avoid Uldred's and werewolves' high damage at later stages: in this respect, both items mentioned above come handy, Shield Wall is indispensable, and
shines in this department; (5) a semi-decent ranged weapon is probably mandatory for one critical path fight: the obvious candidates are the
(very low Dex requirement, 10% nature resistance: see element number 4 above); (6) either three points in Coercion skill or Cleanse Area talent ( Templar specialization, once again): otherwise, the final fight of the Nature of the Beast quest will be unwinnable in a fair way. Fire resistance probably deserves a special honorable mention: Flame Blast-capable creatures will make you weep (especially during the final fight of the Arl of Redcliffe). Still, it's not enough of a reason to warrant an introduction of fire resistance as a seventh obligatory element, IMHO.
The fights I wanted to cover, in a (highly probable) chronological order. Only relevant abilities listed. Passive abilities appear in parentheses:
A very repetitive fight that involves a lot of kiting till both Shield Bash and Assault come off cooldown, after which Gazarath is knocked down and Assaulted. Rinse and repeat. The fight is safe as milk, unless you decide to stop and fight this guy fair and square: he will Flame Blast you for half of your hp, then finish the job with Slam and Leap. The obvious corollary of this rather horrible hypothetical scenario is pretty simple -- don't try to be a hero. Not in this fight, at the very least.
Mark Laver aka soteria, in the very first video of his instructional series, stated: 'If you are anything like me, this is about the point where you said: "Holy cow! This game is kinda hard."' Turns out I'm not anything like him (and I don't mean to be arrogantly ironic or vice versa here!), because this specific fight has never stricken me as a particularly difficult one. Certainly not with a full party. A solo warrior is a different kind of beast, though. Still, the grease trap is easily bypassed (don't rush, let the fireball hit first); the emissary CC'ed and brutally slain; the rest is actually quite easy even without that blessed level-up. By the way, you will level up at this exact point with a Human Noble, if you were an xp completist both during the Origin and at Ostagar/Korcari Wilds.
Probably the most iconic fight in the whole Dragon Age series. Amazingly difficult the first time you get there, not a pushover later on, either. That guy has an array of uncompromisingly great talents: Ram, Smash, Grab, Massive Attack. The only weak point in his arsenal is Hurl, that never hits (unless the player is asleep) at the same time leaving the ogre open to attacks for a while. Now, the wiki claims W&S and 2H warriors 'do not have any reliable means of staying out of reach'. This is true, but only to an extent. In fact, this fight plays very similar to the Gazarath one: stun the ogre with your trusty Shield Pummel (at Str 35, the ogre has a rather low chance of resisting the stun), then either hit him with an auto-attack, or, if you can afford it, with Assault. Please note that you don't have any health regeneration with this setup. However, the
provides you with 15% dodge, so it's all a question of who will outlast whom. This fight definitely requires a bit of luck, but not anything unrealistic, by any means. FYI, Shield Pummel duration is modified by party size, therefore, for a non-soloist, it's only possible to stun the ogre very briefly (he recovers before you can even land an auto-attack).
An alternative, 2H, no-armor, health regeneration take on the Ishal Ogre. The basic algorithm is the same as above: stun the bastard with Mighty Blow or Critical Strike (via Stunning Blows passive), then hit him with Sunder Arms. A 2H warrior excels in this role, or at least finishes the fight faster than his W&S counterpart due to higher damage output per time unit.
(5) The Arl of Redcliffe, final fight. Level 15 Dwarf Noble 2H. Templar/ Reaver. Str 66 (post-Fade). Precise Striking, Pommel Strike, Two-Handed Sweep, Sunder Arms, Mighty Blow, Holy Smite, Devour, Frightening Appearance.
The most demanding fight in the game for a solo character. It's long, it's diverse, and its most dangerous phase is the penultimate one. Desire Demon by herself is not a huge problem as long as you can CC her (and as long as the RNG decides to side with you when she manages to cast Horror or Cone of Cold). The undead phase is the easiest one, actually allowing you replenish your hp and stamina. The second appearance of Desire Demon is more dangerous than the first one, since it's crucial that you save the CC abilities for the next phase. The rage demon phase is really where it's at: you fight three rage demons at once, and if you don't CC them reliably enough, you will succumb to a couple of Flame Blast spells -- have no doubt about that. Luckily, spell resistance affects Flame Blast, so 50% of the time they will get sucked into abyss. More importantly, you have quite a CC repertoire at your disposal: Pommel Strike, Frightening Appearance (very long duration), Two-Handed Sweep (mass CC), Holy Smite (mass CC). Play your cards right, and you will probably emerge alive from this phase. The problem is that your hp bar will almost certainly be severely depleted when you face the Desire Demon in her final phase. That's where you will need some luck: if you manage to resist her damaging spells, there is not much she can do.
. 3 points in Survival skill.
Please note: the Broodmother fight features a very different, non- Templar Dwarf Noble build. While Berserker/ Reaver is a tenable possibility when coupled with Dwarven Resistance and some Dweomer runes, I don't recommend it for a soloist.
The second most demanding fight in the game, for all the same reasons. Its first phase is a cakewalk: just pelt the Broodmother with arrows and use Two-Handed Sweep whenever it's off cooldown. The second phase is more problematic, but no big shakes, either: kill the hurlock that attacks you; relocate to the left path to lure the archers there; Devour the bodies and heal back to full hp. The third phase is Broodmother again, though this time I don't recommend using Two-Handed Sweep as liberally as before, because stamina spent on it will be missed dearly during the next phase. The fourth phase is just plain hard. I suggest heading to the left path right away, don't fight those shrieks at you regular position near the Broodmother. No tricks here, it's just a significantly harder version of phase 2. The fifth phase is where Broodmother may get you, if the shrieks and the genlock archers left you with a low hp: her Gas is quite damaging, and you won't be able to outheal it. During this final phase, you obviously should use Two-Handed Sweep religiously, since your goal is to finish her off ASAP.
), and three hotbar skills ( Defensive Fire, Arrow of Slaying, Summon Spider). While it surely wasn't a piece of cake, it was definitely doable. What are the cardinal differences between a warrior and a rogue, then? In my book, there are two of these: (1) rogues lend themselves much more easily to the defense-based builds, which are generally efficient: +5 starting defense rating and +1 starting Dex compared to warriors; both Duelist and Assassin grant +2 dexterity; Keen Defense; Evasion; (2) as Rangers, they have summoning talents, especially Summon Spider: the poisonous spider the talent summons with Master Ranger passive can tank/lure, hits hard, has excellent CC ( Web) and ranged elemental damage ( Poison Spit); if that's not enough, it also has 75% nature resistance and +2.5 health regeneration, which basically means Broodmother is automatically defeated in a spit duel between the two. In other words, if we look at my solo warrior requirements list above: rogues don't need health regeneration, spell resistance, or armor, since they are ranged and have a tanky animal defending them; rogues don't need nature resistance, the spider has it in abundance; and, finally, they have a much easier time getting three points in Coercion.
So, the rogue fights in a chronological order:
Once I considered Uldred the most difficult boss for a solo character. I wasn't mistaken, mind you: try to fight him at, say, level 14, and you'll see what I mean. To cut the long story short, since I considered him so strong, I was doing the Broken Circle last, which was the reason he was so strong in the first place! No kidding, a level 14 Uldred has a ton of armor, an insane amount of hp, and crazy damage to boot. A level 8 Uldred, on the other hand... Well, don't get me wrong, the big guy is still no slouch. But the player's chance to defeat him increases tenfold. What I usually do in my playthroughs is reach level 7 ASAP (usually at Lothering; at Flemeth's Hut for a Male City Elf rogue), then level squat aggressively. It basically means doing the necessary minimum in order to advance: no side quests, no non-mandatory enemies, no codices. After a quick run through Lothering (after the scripted encounter with the bandits, I usually head directly to the Bodahn darkspawn group), I move to the Lake Calenhad Docks, stop for a moment to buy an
. After I complete the Fade, I hit level 8. So, getting to Uldred so early is definitely possible.
The fight itself is nothing to write home about. Dispose of the abominations first. Uldred won't use Massive Attack against an archer, and with Defensive Fire plus Incense effect, he can't hit you at all. When the Incense wears off, he should be at about 1/3 hp. From that point, it's a clear-cut victory for you, unless you are very unlucky, and he manages to hit you several times.
This very common random encounter is actually one of the toughest fights for a solo character. Small area with no cover, many traps, a mage, two Berserk-capable archers, two Berserk-capable W&S warriors, and a 2H lieutenant that can literally one-hit an unarmored character if he doesn't miss. The most efficient approach here is pretty simple: kill the mage right away with Arrow of Slaying, summon a spider, get rid of both genlock archers. Then it's best to kite the remaining darkspawn in wide circles until Arrow of Slaying and Summon Spider come off cooldown.
Even tougher than the previous random encounter, and just as frequent to pop up. This time, we have two 2H warriors, three Scattershot-happy archers, and a dual-wielder. Fortunately, no mages this time, but the odds still look overwhelming. Oh, and I forgot to mention the path directly in front of you is littered with traps! The best way to tackle this difficult encounter is running all the way to the exit area, so that the trees will obscure the line of fire for the archers. The normal melee fighters will follow you to the cul-de-sac on the bridge, while the lieutenant will switch to the bow. Once on the bridge, immediately summon your spider, which should draw the aggro. Kill the 2H first, then the DW. Proceed to dispose of the lieutenant. He is not so tough while paralyzed ( Web). Lastly, deal with the archers, but be careful not to eat those Scattershots (defense is of no avail against this talent). Poison Spit and Arrow of Slaying work wonders here.
I don't like mages, and almost never play them. DAO mages are way too godly for my taste. I made an exception only in order to demonstrate how the infamous fight versus Ser Cauthrien and her cohorts can be done solo, without leaving the room, with no consumables, limited gear, and just three spells. If it proves anything, it's how ridiculously overpowered DAO mages are.
The gear I use here is not hard to come by:
are all found within the first 10 minutes of playing Return to Ostagar;
is sold at the camp. This setup translates into 95% dodge and +5.5 mana regeneration. The main idea is as follows: disable the whole room with Sleep, hit the mage with Nightmare spell combination ( Sleep + Horror), then shapeshift into the Flying Swarm and attack the middle group. Concentrate your efforts on the mage, he's the real problem here. If necessary, Divide the Swarm. Then just fly around and kill people. Try not to get hit by all the Scattershots at once. When all the guards are dealt with, you will remain face to face with Cauthrien. Overall, she won't be able to hit you much (if at all), but whenever you have less than 150-200 mana, kite and replenish it: you have insane mana regeneration, and that's exactly why. Eventually, Cauthrien will fall. Congratulations on beating the toughest encounter in DAO with 6 items and 3 spells.
Stun duration is modified by party size. The exact formula is very similar to the Mind Blast, with base 4 seconds duration instead of 3:
(4.0 + (4.0 - (Party Size))) * (Target Rank Duration Modifier). Sources: talent_constants_h.nss, talent_singletarget.nss.
- This passive is quite a mixed bag due to the attack animation interrupts it forces. In this respect, 20% dodge provided by this ability is radically different from 20% dodge from any other source. In fact, it's doubtful whether these two kinds of dodge should be considered the same mechanic. Whenever a character successfully dodges an attack with Evasion, attack animation interrupt is always forced and an Evasion effect icon briefly appears; on the other hand, whenever a character successfully dodges an attack with, for instance, , there is no animation interrupt, and no status icon, just no damage is dealt. This is clearly demonstrated in these two videos: Evasion (20% dodge) vs Cailan's Greaves (20% dodge).
- 20% resist stun/knockdown needs a clarification. It's not a physical resistance bonus, it's a flat 20% chance to ignore any stun/knockdown effect. Normally unresistable abilities like Ram and Scattershot may be resisted this way.
Enemy AI uses this talent based on chestpiece type only. If it's medium, heavy, or massive, the AI will try to fire a Shattering Shot. The actual armor rating, as well as helmet, gloves, and boots type are not taken into account.
According to the code in talent_aoe_instant.nss, this talent generates an auto-hit. However, in reality, it sometimes occurs that the game engine would not recognize a target clearly standing inside the AoE, and so the talent will miss. These pseudo-misses are not caused by target's defense rating or dodge chance; they tend to happen whenever there are slight terrain height differences between the character and the target. Such problematic locations are nearly impossible to foresee, but they are consistent and can be avoided (i. e., if you didn't hit your target from a certain position, relocate and retry, instead of trying again from the exact same location).
- This talent executes a weapon-shield-shield attack chain in rapid succession.
- Stun duration is modified by party size. The exact formula is very similar to the Mind Blast, with base 4 seconds duration instead of 3:
(4.0 + (4.0 - (Party Size))) * (Target Rank Duration Modifier). Sources: talent_constants_h.nss, talent_singletarget.nss.
It’s worthy to note the amazing synergy Overpower has with Cone of Cold/ Petrify: as of patch 1.05, to the contrary to what the combat mechanics page seems to claim, it is possible to shatter lieutenant-ranked creatures, as demonstrated in this video. The chance of shattering a lieutenant creature on Nightmare difficulty is 5%. Now, Overpower generates three quick auto-crits into the same target, out of which, at least one needs to succeed. Consequently, the overall chance to shatter a lieutenant enemy on Nightmare difficulty with Overpower is 14.26%.
Shield Expertise is generally considered the go-to option for a W&S warrior, while Shield Mastery is mostly frowned upon. In part, that might be justified: W&S warriors tend to invest in Str instead of Dex, so Dex 26 required for Shield Mastery might seem somewhat harsh. Another point against Shield Mastery is that it actually reduces damage from shield hits due to an engine bug (inverted shield damage range 5-1). That said, Dex 26 means only that one needs to invest 8 or 9 attribute points into Dex post-Fade. While these points do not contribute to the damage dealt, they do contribute to attack and defense ratings. Besides, a character gains: +10 defense in Shield Wall mode, the only shield mode you will probably ever use; +10 deflection in Shield Cover mode, which might be marginally useful for a solo player; double attribute bonus on shield hits from both Shield Bash and Shield Pummel, which is nice; always maximized weapon damage roll with Assault, which is great; always minimized (due to a bug) shield damage roll with Overpower, which is not-so-great. As we can see, Shield Mastery grants some pretty good passive upgrades at the cost of weakening Overpower's damage output (as if somebody uses Overpower for damage!). Shield Expertise, on the other hand, grants immunity to knockdown effect while in Shield Wall mode and +5 defense in a very rarely used Shield Defense mode. The immunity surely sounds nice, but is actually more limited than you'd think: it does not include slip effect most spells that apply knockdown use, so what is automatically resisted is, basically, W&S and 2H talents, and a couple of monster abilities ( Ram is one notable example). It's still a good upgrade to have, no doubt, but if you need those talent points, and cannot decide between the two, I would surely take Shield Mastery over Shield Expertise.
This talent has no resistance check and thus cannot be normally resisted.
Enemy AI uses this talent based on chestpiece type only. If it's medium, heavy, or massive, the AI will try to Sunder Armor. The actual armor rating, as well as helmet, gloves, and boots type are not taken into account.
- Mighty Blow staggers enemies very briefly upon successful hit, interrupting normal attack animation. It won't interrupt any talents or spells.
- Critical Strike is executed at +5 attack. If the strike connects, it is an automatic critical hit with a 20% chance of killing non-boss opponent outright if its health is equal to or below 20%. Source: talent_constants_h.nss.
- Mighty Blow is a tier 1 talent with a 20s cooldown, that hits at +10, causes an auto-crit, and staggers enemies, interrupting their melee auto-attacks (it won't interrupt any talents or spells). Critical Strike is a tier 4 talent with a 60s cooldown, that hits at +5, causes an auto-crit, and has a 20% chance to finish off normal or lieutenant rank enemies below 20% hp. This comparison speaks for itself. A lieutenant rank creature under 20% hp that would warrant a Critical Strike attempt (instead of using Sunder Arms, for example) is yet to be discovered. The talent is useful as the second auto-crit when Mighty Blow fails to stun or you just need to deal a lot of damage ASAP, though.
The sweep is executed at -10 attack penalty. Source: talent_constants_h.nss.
If the talent is used immediately after an enemy is slain, it won't heal. Lootability is a good indicator of when to use Devour: the moment a corpse becomes lootable, Devour can be used to its full effect.
This talent is much more powerful than its description implies. Basically, it's a Str-based Horror unaffected by magic resistance. Frightening Appearance will completely disable powerful physical enemies (e. g., ogres) very reliably for a long duration.
This talent is only useful during a very limited number of mage-dominated fights in the game. However, it can make those fights really easy. It is at its most powerful in the final fight of the Nature of the Beast questline, provided one sides with werewolves against Zathrian: Cleanse Area will remove the paralysis from Witherfang and the werewolves, and this otherwise challenging battle will be over in a matter of seconds.
Bug workaround. Bringing up the inventory screen, then resuming the action will allow Rock Barrage to complete normally.
This talent generates an auto-hit.
One of the most dangerous enemy talents for a solo character. Spiders tend to appear in groups, Poison Spit always hits and deals a lot of nature damage. It is similar to rage demons' Flame Blast in this respect.
One of the most dangerous enemy spells for a solo character. Rage demons, that are especially fond of this spell, tend to appear in groups, the spell always hits and deals a lot of fire damage. It is similar to spiders' Poison Spit in this respect, though slightly less powerful, as it is countered by spell resistance.
Werewolves' Terrorize doesn't function properly: it never completes and has no effect, except for catching the werewolf in a seemingly endless loop of re-cast attempts. Shrieks, however, use this talent as intended.
This talent generates an auto-hit.
This talent generates an auto-hit.
Origins comparative evaluation
In terms of efficiency, most people clearly prefer Dwarf Noble Origin to everything else. While 30 0 0 one can easily accumulate so extremely early in the game is a legitimate reason to prefer Dwarf Noble, Origin choice is not as clear-cut. Below is my personal annotated non-mage Origin rating, to whomever it might concern.
(1) Dalish Elf. Very high xp accumulated (second place after Male City Elf; at least on par with Human Noble, usually ahead, since it's really difficult to get xp for every single enemy in a Human Noble origin's big fight). The part where it really shines, though, is the unique gear:
is a great parting gift; a greatsword can be obtained reasonably early;
for sale. That's just the tip of the iceberg, though. Elven Ruins contain Tevinter type treasure, one of the containers is of normal, and two are of lieutenant rank. Thus, a Dalish rogue can finish this Origin with, for instance, a
was able to reach level 7 (50 xp into level 8, in fact) at Flemeth's Hut aka Deep in the Wilds. He also reached level 4 at Ostagar (day version), before ever heading into the Korcari Wilds. Unique gear:
is a truly fantastic belt, its +4 attack being an equivalent of 8 attribute points invested in Str/Dex. It's worth pointing out that this is also the only origin that actually starts with the greatsword (Duncan gives you a dagger and a greatsword in addition to the
(3) Dwarf Noble. Low xp accumulated, even if you decide to ambush Trian. Virtually no unique gear to speak of:
!), Gorim's discount, and
(4) Human Noble. Extremely close to a third place, to be honest. High xp (on par with or slightly behind Dalish Elf). Some truly wonderful unique gear: your
is a damage equivalent of a tier 3 greatsword with much better armor penetration and Str scaling -- the only really good two-handed weapon until after Lothering. That said, it's ironically the poorest Origin story gold-wise.
(5) Female City Elf. It's different from the male version in two key aspects: no outside area is present; you get no greatsword in the beginning (no dagger, either, but that's less of an issue). However, this origin bears an unusual distinction of being a speedrunner's paradise: the whole story can be completed in four and a half minutes, as demonstrated here.
is good, but, sadly, that's about the only thing to recommend without reservations about this origin (maybe the second one is Dwarven Resistance). With almost no redeeming qualities present, I wouldn't pick it but for role-playing reasons, or as a special challenge.
The shortcomings of pure defense builds
This write-up was inspired by the Dex rogue solo guide I accidentally stumbled upon. I have only one rebuttal in regard to that post, really: it's important to realize the author did not do so well by the virtue of his brilliant build. DAO is extremely easy without self-imposed restrictions, and the poster clearly did not limit himself as far as both gear and consumables were concerned. Au contraire. As long as you keep that in mind, it's a fine guide.
It's interesting to note that this wiki also seems to think that high Dex build is an ultimate strategy of sorts. This is incorrect. As any lopsided build, it's indeed extremely strong in some situations, but also extremely vulnerable in some others.
Below, I list the most common abilities that, in my experience, routinely lead to quick and brutal demise of defense-based characters (my working assumption is that the character has spell resistance, so I won't mention any spells):
Extremely common from the very start of the game. An unavoidable auto-hit stun: only Indomitable and Evasion can help here. It is important to remember that any stun effect applies a -1000 dexterity debuff (source: effect_stun_h.nss), which basically means that while our defense-based character remains stunned, his defense rating takes a catastrophic nose-dive.
Becomes extremely common starting roughly at level 10. Again, an unavoidable auto-hit stun that also deals a lot of damage. Those pesky archers also tend to appear in groups.
Very common in certain areas of the game, namely: Brecilian Ruins, Ortan Thaig, Darkspawn Tunnels of Return to Ostagar DLC. It auto-hits and deals a ton of nature damage. Plus, spiders never attack alone, to put it mildly. Generally speaking, spiders are the most dangerous regular enemy the defense-based character will face, since they also have Overwhelm.
Very common beast/animal ability (wolves, bears, spiders, werewolves, drakes). Simply put, a defense-based character that got Overwhelmed is good as dead. High Dex means the character has very little in the way of armor, and that's the only thing that counters Overwhelm.
Ogres have Ram, Smash, and Grab; some bigger creatures (High Dragon, Broodmother) have Grab. All of these talents generate auto-hits and deal incredible amount of damage to a lightly armored character. Also note that Ogres are fond of using Ram three times in a row, which is really tough to survive even with poultices.
Leliana's Song: Battles
This sub-section features video recordings of twelve fights that I consider most difficult in Leliana's Song module.
I decided to cover Leliana's Song fights for a number reasons. First of all, while The Golems of Amgarrak and Witch Hunt are more Awakening than DAO, and The Darkspawn Chronicles are quite different gameplay-wise from the main campaign, Leliana's Song works strictly by DAO rulebook. Secondly, the battles here are amazingly tough: in part, as a result of party members being non-optimized; in part, just because the designers were in an uncompromising mood. Finally, merely because it's a nice little module that features a solid story, plus some really good music (no kidding!) and a couple of gorgeous new areas (Windswept Shore and Blighted Cliffs).
All the fights were done solo by one of the party members. It goes without saying that I tried to use Sketch as rarely as possible, but at least three fights are, in all probability, unwinnable if any other character is used. My consumable, gear and active talent policy remained generally unchanged from the main campaign, but since Leliana's Song is generally harder, I typically used around 5 items (except Sketch, who did fine with just three) and 4-5 active talents per character. Also, since the customization in the module is pretty much limited, I used all the tomes I could acquire from Bonny Lem. I will follow the same format for fight annotations I've used above in the Battles section.
The first in the long series of the surprisingly difficult battles of Leliana's Song. The Night Captain herself is a (slightly) feminized version of Ishal Ogre, I guess. Her henchnmen are: 2H, W&S and an archer. I tried this fight numerous times with Leliana and Tug, to no avail (if I only could zz_dropparty in this module, that would have given Leliana enough of a time window to Dual-Weapon Sweep after the stun). When I picked Sketch for this fight, I also dumped his level 11 level-up attribute points into strength, so that he could (with
. Mana regeneration is extremely important in this fight. The algorithm: first get rid of the henchmen, then just kite the Night Captain around the market. As soon as Cone of Cold comes off cooldown, freeze her and auto-attack once with the staff, provided you are far enough. That's all.
Okay, I admit I'm stupidly proud I did this one without resorting to Sketch. In 15 minutes, sure enough, but still! Anyway, the principle here is simple: CC the mage as hard as possible, once he falls, run away from the golem firing your bow the moment there is enough distance between the two of you. Unfortunately, all that is much easier said than done. Good luck, you are going to need it.
Sketch again. Meh. Like the immediately preceding fight (elite soldier + mabari), mage is a must for this one. Unlike the immediately preceding fight, there is no guaranteed shattering here, so we'll mostly use Fireball and Cone of Cold fanatically. The fight is quite tedious, and requires a lot of running around the place. Not much to comment on here, really.
This one, on the other hand, I like. A really tough fight that Leliana manages to pull off in style with just 2 active talents. The pièce de résistance here is the moment when she should stun the mage at the corner, so that he doesn't cast, then backstab him to death. Be aware, though, that the rest of the fight is also far from trivial. In short, a tactically interesting fight, and a great performance by Leliana to boot.
Mage group as in 'a group including a mage', not 'a group of mages' (luckily!). Another fight Leliana can manage pretty darn well. Pay attention she's level 13, has an all-important Dual-Weapon Sweep and a much better bow now.
An extremely tough fight that, sadly, requires Sketch. We face three dogs here, led by a big bad 2H lieutenant with
equipped for a total of 35% spell resistance on Nightmare difficulty. Still, the ability of Sketch to insta-kill normal rank enemies provides an unparalleled benefit during this fight. Once the dogs are dealt with, kite the Weapon Master, wait for Cone of Cold to come of cooldown, freeze him, then auto-attack once or twice. Eventually, the big guy will fall, dropping
From this point on, we don't need Sketch's help anymore. Enter Silas. Since he joins at level 14, we can immediately make him a Reaver. 7 talent points go into: Dual-Weapon Sweep, Flurry, Momentum, Dual-Weapon Training, Dual-Weapon Finesse, Devour, Frightening Appearance. Since the best weapons in Leliana's Song clearly are
, I didn't want to continue investing points into W&S for Silas, instead remodeling him as a DW warrior.
Anyway, DW Reaver with
on Silas, as health regeneration, however miniscule, always has a huge impact on a character's performance. It also offers more armor than
, so the choice is unambiguous. The general guidelines to playing this Silas build: its main attraction is high crit chance plus high attack speed. Most of the time, you only need to auto-attack. Otherwise, Dual-Weapon Sweep clustered enemies, cast Frightening Appearance on the toughest guy (or girl, or dog, for that matter!) of the bunch, Devour the bodies when your health drops low (account for the delay). That's all there is to it, really. Works like a charm. As a sidenote:
's Generates cleansing aura property seems totally bogus. In fact, the dagger does not generate any kind of aura, surely not Cleansing Aura. It's still a mighty fine weapon, though.
Leliana, being a Ranger now, can handle the Mage Room successfully with the indispensable help from a one-point wonder Summon Wolf. The wolf has access to tactics which translates into a lot of utility ( Overwhelm, Dread Howl). It also adds some damage (auto-attack and Shred) and can tank up to a point. The tactics setup that worked for me, allowing the wolf to make use of his abilities reasonably well, is as follows:
- Enemy:Any → Dread Howl (surely not an optimal condition set, but it's the only option that makes the wolf use Dread Howl consistently);
- Enemy:Status:Stunned → Shred (it will Shred after it stuns with Dread Howl, or if Leliana stuns with Dirty Fighting);
- Enemy:Rank:Elite or higher → Overwhelm (for mages and Raleigh, as the AI many times fails to discern mages from non-mages on a class basis) or Enemy:Target Using Attack Type:Ranged attack → Overwhelm (for archers).
As for a fight itself, well, Overwhelming the mage is the key to winning this. The rest is not very hard, honestly.
No revelatory tactical decisions in in this fight. Just follow the usual algorithm.
No heroic feats here, either, I guess.
This one is tough as nails if you don't CC and damage the mage as hard as possible. Once the mage falls, it becomes a cakewalk.
Quite an elegant performance by Leliana and the wolf. Overall, this room is significantly easier for Leliana than for Silas due to her ability to reliably shred those mages to pieces (quite literally, via Overwhelm).
(11) Canyon Group. Level 14 Human Warrior. Reaver. Str 31, Dex 30. Precise Striking, Dual-Weapon Sweep, Momentum, Devour, Frightening Appearance, ( Dual-Weapon Training), ( Dual-Weapon Finesse), ( Dual-Weapon Expert).
Silas has undergone some minor changes:
is in; he has now Dual-Weapon Expert from the
- he gained +1 strength from the
. Otherwise, he's unaltered and uses the same tactical approach. The fight is one of the toughest in Leliana's Song, and that alone is saying a lot. The main problem here is the mage (oh, really?). She is fond of using Fireball, Paralyze and some nasty stamina-eating electrical spells. So,
, basically, wins this battle. By the way, I wasn't able to do it with Leliana: for some reason, the wolf refuses to Overwhelm this particular mage never mind the tactics setup, and it's undoable without some sort of long-term reliable CC (Silas has Frightening Appearance).
(12) Raleigh. Level 14 Human Warrior. Reaver. Str 31, Dex 30. Precise Striking, Dual-Weapon Sweep, Momentum, Devour, Frightening Appearance, ( Dual-Weapon Training), ( Dual-Weapon Finesse), ( Dual-Weapon Expert).
The final fight of the module. In my opinion, that Canyon group was more difficult, but that's not to say Raleigh is a pushover. The algorithm is simple: get rid of the mage, then kite Raleigh around the place using Frightening Appearance with Dual-Weapon Sweep whenever they are off cooldown. It's quite a tedious fight, simply because Raleigh has a lot of hp.
Leliana has undergone the following changes: is equipped instead of ; she has now Coup De Grace passive from the (probably not the wisest investment for this talent point, but it's the end of the module anyway, so...); she gained +1 dexterity from the .
This fight is much more lively and interesting for Leliana. As with Silas, we need to take care of the mage first. An Arrow of Slaying will get the job done. At the meantime, our wolf should Overwhelm Raleigh. Try to damage him as much as possible while he is down. Once the wolf is dead, run around the tent in circles waiting for Summon Wolf to come off cooldown. There is no sense in stunning Raleigh with Dirty Fighting, as the time window to damage him will be very short, and the whole story will probably end with him Assaulting you. Instead, Overwhelm him again with the wolf and deal as much damage as possible. Do not forget to set up tactics when the new wolf appears. You will need three wolves overall to slay Raleigh and finish the module.
X damage-type runes in X damage-type weapons: an exploitable mechanic
First things first, let's get our terminology right: X damage-type runes are Flame, Frost, Lightning, Cold Iron, and Silverite; X damage-type weapons are weapons having the +X fire/cold/electricity damage property, as well as those with +X damage vs. darkspawn/undead property. The exploitable mechanic I wish to discuss works as follows: whenever one enchants an X damage-type weapon (for example, that grants +6 damage vs darkspawn) with an X damage-type rune of the same type (for example, three s, assuming that's a dragonbone version of the sword), runes are applied normally, but in addition, the original built-in weapon property is, ahem, enhanced -- the damage from the runes is added to the built-in property (if we continue with our example, it will look like this once you hit a darkspawn enemy: +36, +10, +10, +10, for a whopping total of +66 damage). Effectively, that means the runes' effect is doubled in such cases, which can lead to some extremely high damage bonuses.
DA2 Unusual Build Playthrough: By-The-Way Findings
Revisiting DA2 with a party of +electricity damage Anders, Cun Isabela, Dex (!) Fenris and Con (!!!) Shadow Hawke. House rules: no consumables (except basic potions), one activated/sustained ability per character.
Some casual bits of wisdom accumulated along the way include:
- Shadow talent Rigged Decoy is friendly fire-capable, deals 400% of decoy's health as fire damage, and is affected by DR-lowering abilities ( Mark of Death, Hex of Torment, Wounding Arrow).
- Isabela talent All Hands on Deck uses only the main hand. The talent does not inflict friendly fire and triggers Lacerate.
DAO: Randomly Assigned Builds Playthrough
Essentially, an exercise in resourcefulness. I made 4 rolls by 2 tables: the first one containing class/companions; the second one -- the attribute I have to invest into exclusively.
So, for the first roll:
Warden 1 - Warrior 2 - Rogue 3 - Mage
Companion 1 - Dog 2 - Alistair 3 - Morrigan 4 - Leliana 5 - Sten 6 - Shale 7 - Wynne 8 - Oghren 9 - Zevran 10 - Loghain
For the second one:
1 - Strength 2 - Dexterity 3 - Constitution 4 - Cunning 5 - Magic 6 - Willpower
The results were: 1-4, 3-2, 6-6, 10-5. Warrior-Cunning, Morrigan-Dexterity, Shale-Willpower, Loghain-Magic. Sounds pretty tough, but let's see what can be done here.
Additional house rules: The characters can use one active skill from a quick bar. Consumables etc. are forbidden.