A peek inside your own mind.

PC GAMER (UK) - - CONTENTS - By Hazel Mon­for­ton

DragonAge:In­qui­si­tion’s Cole.

his fum­bles through the phys­i­cal world are both en­dear­ing and re­lat­able

When Cole ar­rives at Haven to warn you about the Red Tem­plars march­ing your way, he yells “I can’t come in un­less you open!”

He’s talk­ing to the door. And he talks to his shoelaces, and Sera’s bow, and the face cards dur­ing the game of Wicked Grace you play with your com­pan­ions. Be­cause in the Fade

– the realm of spir­its and demons that par­al­lels Thedas in the Dragon Age se­ries – these inan­i­mate ob­jects would speak. Or, at least, they would tell him things.

Spir­its are re­flec­tions of a feel­ing, not born into a phys­i­cal form – and in the Fade, Cole’s true name is Com­pas­sion. It’s why Cole can hear the tree from which Sera’s bow was carved, and the lovers who kissed be­neath its boughs. Be­cause in the Fade, they’re con­nected, and the di­vi­sions he ex­pe­ri­ences as a hu­man – phys­i­cal, so­cial, and emo­tional – are in­com­pre­hen­si­ble to him.

Cole is one of the po­ten­tial com­pan­ions for your In­quisi­tor in Dragon Age: In­qui­si­tion. While DragonAgeII gave us an ex­am­ple of a spirit’s ex­is­tence with Jus­tice and his pos­ses­sion of the mage An­ders, Cole is a fully in­de­pen­dent spirit. His ori­gin, more fully de­scribed in the tie-in novel Dragon Age: Asun­der ex­plains that he isn’t pos­sess­ing a hu­man body, but has in­stead man­aged to man­i­fest a phys­i­cal form. While it’s slyly hinted that this isn’t the first time it’s hap­pened in Thedas, it’s strange enough to make Cole a unique com­pan­ion in the In­qui­si­tion.

While his thought pat­terns and turns of phrase are at once po­etic and inel­e­gant (“Cole, the wooden duck I found on my bed... was that you?”/ “No, I am not a wooden duck,”), from breath­lessly de­scrib­ing an­other

com­pan­ion’s emo­tions in al­lit­er­a­tive whis­pers to strug­gling to com­pre­hend a knock-knock joke, his fum­bles through the phys­i­cal world are both en­dear­ing and re­lat­able. He doesn’t un­der­stand that Or­lesians are wear­ing masks be­cause, in­ter­nally, the masks are their own faces. He didn’t think Cullen’s ar­mor could come off be­cause Cullen, trau­ma­tised and un­der enor­mous pres­sure, never drops his emo­tional guard. And while Cas­san­dra cor­rects Cole when he calls her grand­mother’s locket “An­thony’s”, Cole un­der­stands that the small por­trait of her dead brother has more emo­tional res­o­nance to her than a grand­mother she never knew. Cole be­comes a medium for char­ac­ters’ emo­tions, help­ing them through their dif­fi­cul­ties.

Hu­man or spirit?

But while he un­der­stands other peo­ples’ strug­gles, he has trou­ble find­ing and ar­tic­u­lat­ing his own. His per­sonal quest comes down to a de­ci­sion to de­ter­mine his fu­ture as a spirit and a hu­man; Cole con­fronts the man who mur­dered him (it’s com­pli­cated), and can ei­ther un­der­stand, for­give, and for­get the hurt that caused him, or ac­cept his own emo­tions. In other words, he can re­turn to be­ing a spirit, shed­ding his at­tach­ments, memories, and pain and liv­ing as Com­pas­sion, or he can choose to be­come more hu­man by ac­cept­ing his own emo­tions.

It’s a piv­otal mo­ment, not just to Cole’s sto­ry­line, but to un­der­stand­ing

how strug­gle and pain make us real. While he lives for oth­ers, Cole’s com­pas­sion does not have to come at the ex­pense of his own emo­tional well­be­ing. He can con­tinue be­ing a re­flec­tion of oth­ers’ feel­ings, or learn how to grow him­self. It’s through this choice that we can see how a part of our hu­man­ity is a vul­ner­a­bil­ity to emo­tional and phys­i­cal pain, and how ask­ing for help is just as im­por­tant as giv­ing it freely.

As with all DragonAge com­pan­ions, Cole ex­ists as an en­try point for the us to un­der­stand some crit­i­cal as­pect of the world of Thedas. While the Fade, spir­its, and demons are ex­plored in the se­ries, Cole is the first spirit we can be­friend. His man­ner might be­wil­der those around him – us in­cluded – but his story arc sheds light on both the Fade’s in­ner work­ings as well as the ways we, as hu­mans, process our emo­tions. But ul­ti­mately, he makes us re­think things that are taken for granted. Speech, mem­ory and com­pas­sion, even mak­ing some­one else happy – Cole ap­proaches each with a level of clar­ity that we might find con­fus­ing, at first. But as with any com­pan­ion in DragonAge, we’re richer for learn­ing from his dif­fer­ences.

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