Lee has been playing "Dragon Age" since the first game's release. She enjoys exploring and explaining the characters and the lore.
The title probably gives it away, but mage Hawke has always been my favorite class to play in Dragon Age 2, so when I used to lurk the game forums back in the day, I was always surprised by the number of baffled fans who thought Hawke as a mage made zero sense. If anything, this game was purposely designed for Hawke to be a mage and nothing else made sense.
Hell, even the Hawke featured in the promotional video was a mage! So clearly the developers preferred her to be a mage, right? And when creating a world state in the Dragon Keep for Dragon Age: Inquisition, default Hawke is what? A female mage.
But because I feel I'm in the minority with this opinion, allow me to blast it all over the internet.
Welcome to my analysis of mage class Hawke.
Magic Runs in the Family
Yes, there have been a lot of heroes in the world of Dragon Age who were not mages and did amazing things, but the chances of Hawke not being a mage were kind of slim given her family and background.
Hawke comes from two bloodlines with predominant magic genes. Her father, Malcolm Hawke, was a powerful mage. At least, he was powerful enough that his blood bound Corypheus, an ancient freaking magister, in the DLC Legacy.
Meanwhile, Hawke's mother comes from the Amells, a family with so much magic in their blood that it's considered something of a curse. Hawke's cousin, the Amell mage Warden from Dragon Age: Origins, has several brothers and sisters, all mages, and all given up to the Circle, according to Hawke's mother, Leandra, who seemed to fear having to do the same.
Given that the magic would be strong in Hawke's blood, that she wouldn't be a mage is not only odd but unlikely. And the game seems to imply this in the way it handles Carver and Bethany.
Carver and Bethany, Hawke's younger twin siblings, each have a personal arc that revolves around magic.
Bethany's arc is about her struggles with being a mage. She has lived her entire life hiding from the templars and depending on others to protect her, while also feeling guilty for her entire existence. If she is taken to the Circle, it completes her arc in that she learns to embrace being a mage and helping other mages, rather than only looking out for herself.
And yet, Bethany's arc is given less time and detail than Carver's, almost as if the developers expected you to play a mage!
Whether fans love him or hate him, basically everyone agrees that Carver has the better arc. He is deeply resentful that he missed out on the magic gene (which sucks given the sheer amount of magic in his bloodline on both sides) and is instead the odd man out in the family, constantly left behind while his father's attention was given to mage Hawke and Bethany.
Regardless of whether Carver becomes a templar or a Gray Warden, his life will always be defined by his family's magic and the fact that he feels compelled to look after Hawke and protect her from being dragged off to the Circle.
If Carver becomes a templar, he still protects mage Hawke at the end of the game, and if Carver becomes a Grey Warden . . . he still drops everything to protect his sister at the end of the game.
His life is completely defined by magic, even if he doesn't have it himself. As is Bethany's life. And yet, Carver still has the more interesting character arc, and he only survives if you play a mage. This was not an accident, given that the entire game is focused on the conflict between templars and mages.
Unless you're playing an evil templar Hawke, it just makes no sense to not play a mage.
The Anders and Fenris Romances
As I'm writing this, Dragon Age 2 is a ten-year-old game (so we'll probably see the end of the series in, what, ten more years?), and I mostly romance Isabela (sometimes Merrill). I only romanced Fenris and Anders to see their content back when the game was first released, so as a disclaimer, I haven't seen their romances in ten years outside of Youtube videos. But from what I recall, romancing Anders and Fenris is just better and makes the most sense when Hawke is a mage.
As far as Anders goes, playing a fellow apostate who helps him blow up the Chantry and then runs away with him is perfectly in-line with Cassandra's rantings during the cut scenes with Varric. She believes that Hawke is an apostate terrorist who deliberately began the mage rebellion, and this makes sense if Hawke actually is an apostate who was either friends/acquaintances with or romancing Anders.
Meanwhile, romancing Fenris as a mage makes the most sense because it just further highlights what a freaking hypocrite Fenris is. (As another disclaimer, I hate Fenris. Like . . . a lot.)
So how is Fenris a hypocrite? Check out the list. . . .
- Hates slavery but wants mages locked up. Freedom for some but not for all. (Mages should not be imprisoned based on what they might do).
- Hates Merrill for squandering her freedom to live in the alienage, but hates other elves and never lifts a finger to help them (until way later in Tevinter Nights, apparently). Meanwhile, Merrill dedicates her life to the alienage elves, and before that, she was trying to help all elves everywhere by restoring the magic of the past. Throughout Dragon Age 2, Fenris only ever cares about himself.
- Hates Anders for wanting his freedom and continuing to hide when he himself is a runaway slave.
- Is literally a lyrium warrior who magically fazes through solid objects, is also very dangerous (his bloodthirst is a running gag in the game), and yet wants mages locked up because they are magical and dangerous.
So as you can see, Fenris is a huge hypocrite. Him romancing an apostate and also keeping their secret while screeching constantly about all mages needing to die is . . . hilarious. And you only get this specific arc if Hawke is a mage.
Mage Hawke has a couple special dialogues with Fenris. When she first meets him, he shows distrust, and Carver (if present) leaps forward to defend his sister.
The first time you enter the Gallows with Fenris in your party, Fenris has special dialogue with mage Hawke where he questions if it's safe for her to be there, then argues with her about whether or not mages should be free.
And later, when Fenris has an emotional moment during his personal quest, he will yell blindly about hating mages. Mage Hawke might be hurt and remind Fenris that she is a mage . . . which is a little self-centered since Fenris is just expressing rage at the current circumstance, not really mages in general. The moment was not about Hawke at all. But still, being a mage and listening to your traumatized lover ranting in hatred about them has to be hard. In other words, it makes for delicious drama.
Also, the end of the game when romancing Fenris is just better when you're a mage given that a mage Hawke is likely to side with the mages (why help the templars kill your people?).
Romancing Fenris on the friendship path and getting him to defend the mages is not only hilarious but a freaking achievement considering how much he hates mages and even complains about defending them at the end.
But if you rival Fenris, he will turn against you by siding with the templars, and you will have to kill him.
Again, either way, it adds to the romance arc for both Anders and Fenris when Hawke is a mage.
Everything About Varric
Everything about Varric points to the fact that Hawke was intended to be a mage.
Varric was designed as Hawke's best friend and the one who knew her well enough to tell her life's story. They were supposed to be an odd pairing, a human and a dwarf, but even odder given the fact that Hawke was a mage.
A dwarf is the exact opposite of a mage. They understand nothing about magic, they don't even dream. And if Hawke is a woman, that just adds another layer of oddity. I'm not saying a man and a woman can't be friends, but the pairing is kind of rare given that (straight) people often develop romantic feelings or struggle with sexual attraction.
And yet, female mage Hawke and dwarf Varric somehow make it work. Even though Varric can admit Hawke is a beautiful woman, he values her as a friend (especially since he's already in love with Bianca, both the woman and the crossbow). Instead of flirting, they joke about how attractive they are with each other and yet they still remain good friends only.
And as odd as they are, at the same time, they also make a lot of sense. For one thing, Varric and Hawke have a lot in common: they love treasure and riches yet they are both down-to-earth and laidback, willing to hang out in dirty taverns and play cards with the common folk. And they both have an annoying brother who can possibly die as a result of the Deep Roads expedition, drawing them closer together as "chosen siblings."
For another thing? Most people would be intimidated by Hawke because she's a powerful mage, but dwarves have a natural resistance to magic (because of their ties to lyrium and titans) and would be less afraid of being harmed by it.
What I'm saying is, I believe Varric was made a dwarf with the intention of him being best friends with a mage to sort of give their friendship a charming oddity about it. This could not have been achieved had we been able to choose a race to play, and in hindsight, I actually enjoy that fact.
This game has really grown on me over the years.
Also, just to drive the point home, Varric's personal quest in ACT III makes the most sense if Hawke is a mage. His brother's mansion is haunted and he needs help finding out why. When Hawke questions him, he says that he's a dwarf and he knows nothing of magic, so he came to Hawke.
If Hawke is not a mage, Varric coming to her for help makes little sense. He could just hire some thugs to kill demons, or even hire a mage to drive out the spirits. But coming to his non-mage friend with a task that he admits he's baffled by himself as a non-mage?
Varric will even admit that he's a dwarf and knows nothing of magic, while if Hawke is a mage, she has a special dialogue explaining why the house is haunted, and Varric will even say that her being a mage means she might know how to end the haunting.
Again, mage Hawke was the intention here, even if it wasn't properly executed.
Everything About the Qunari
The fact that the qunari are antagonists of Hawke for two entire acts points to the fact that Hawke was intended to be a mage. But to realize this, you would have to understand the qunari.
First of all, the qunari have a special hatred for magic that is far more extreme than even the Chantry. This is shown in the quest Shepherding Wolves, where Hawke must escort a saarebas (a qunari mage) outside of the city. Said qunari mage has been bound and his mouth sewn shut so that he can not cast spells easily. He is mutilated and helpless, and when asked, the qunari explain that they deem it necessary. If Hawke admits to being a mage herself, the qunari go crazy and attack her.
The qunari mage (also known as Ketojan), thanks Hawke for defending him. Even if he believes she was wrong to defend him, he recognizes her compassion. He then kills himself.
The entire quest has less significance if Hawke herself is not a mage: Ketojan is grateful that another mage protected him, Arvaarad and his group go insane when they realize Hawke's a mage (which is always priceless), and Sister Petrice no doubt feels shame for employing the help of an apostate in her heretical schemes.
The qunari hate mages and fear magic so fiercely because they are so easily overcome by it. Big and strong as they are, they can fight just about anything except magic.
I can't remember where I read/heard it, but the qunari are supposedly an experiment gone wrong. Either the ancient elves or the Tevinter Imperium messed around with dragon blood and created a race of Not Orcs with dragon horns and gray skin. These Not Orcs have a bestial nature that they seek to control within the rigid confines of the Qun.
If you use ice spells against qunari in Dragon Age 2, they die pretty quickly due to their dragon blood. In fact, ice spells are the easiest way to kill the Arishok if Hawke chooses to duel him as a mage. Warrior and rogue class have to work a bit harder.
Then there are hints of this in Dragon Age: Inquisition, when Cole tells The Iron Bull that he should have called himself The Iron Dragon because he has dragon horns, not bull horns.
The Iron Bull also loves seeing dragons, fighting dragons, and like most qunari, is terrified of magic. Every time you take him around magic, or if the Inquisitor is a mage, he has something to say about how uncomfortable or afraid he is. It's especially interesting to take him with you into the alternate universe during In Your Heart Shall Burn, as he remarks several times of how terrified he is of the magic teeming in that world.
Hawke not being a mage when going up against enemies, both qunari and templars, who hate mages so vehemently for pretty much the duration of the game . . . makes no sense.
Not playing Hawke as a mage takes away from what is a more interesting story arc. I'm not saying the difference is huge, but mage Hawke just fits the narrative better in basically every way.
The DLCs Make More Sense as a Mage
Heck, even the DLCs, Mark of the Assassin and Legacy, make more sense with Hawke as a mage.
In Mark of the Assassin, Hawke is, yet again, going up against the qunari and also has a qunari as a companion. Bickering with Tallis while knowing how the qunari treat mages makes it more intense. It was a hugely missed opportunity to give mage Hawke special dialogue about the saarebas, which is strange given that they used mage Hawke to promote the DLC.
But then again, bringing up the saarebas when debating with Tallis would have been too easy of a way to dispprove her brainwashed, qunari babble. The point of the argument wasn't to prove Tallis wrong about the qunari but to understand her better as a person and then decide whether or not to help her.
Still, mage Hawke fits the DLC better both mechanically and storywise. Because you'll already have Tallis, a rogue, in your party. Depending on who else you bring, the party might be unbalanced if you're already playing a rogue or a warrior. But if you're a mage? It won't matter. Mages are powerful and can fight without a tank after a certain point.
And need I explain why the DLC Legacy made more sense with a mage Hawke?
The entire thing is about your father, Malcolm Hawke, and how difficult life was for him as an apostate. Because he is a powerful mage, he is blackmailed by Grey Wardens into binding Corypheus with blood magic.
Malcolm's struggles are something a mage Hawke would relate to and sympathize with, and because of this, she has better commentary. Especially since Carver is the sibling you get when you play a mage. Carver always resented Hawke for taking all their father's attention, but listening to how difficult life was for Malcolm as an apostate made him stop and consider for the first time that being Hawke maybe isn't so great.
The arc with Bethany in Legacy doesn't in any way compare.
Also, there's a tool in the DLC called Malcolm's Key. It's a weapon that changes depending on class. So if Hawke is a rogue, then it's a bow. Or if Hawke is a warrior, then Malcolm's key is a sword . . . This was done so that people who played other classes wouldn't feel left out. But because Malcolm himself is a mage, it makes the most sense that the weapon he used to lock the place down would have been a stave. Why would he bother enchanting it to change when pulled free of the lock?
Again . . . Nothing else made sense.
Everybody Loves Hawke
The largest reason people feel that mage class Hawke makes no sense is the fact that Hawke lives in a city with a dark reputation for its treatment of mages. And yet, she walks around free and unchallenged, with templars even covering for her (Cullen) or ignoring flat out that she 's a mage (Emeric, Sir Thrask, Keran, and several others . . .)
I always thought it was obvious why, though: everybody loves Hawke.
Hawke is a mage who uses her powers for good and/or to help, and as a result, people tend to continuously look the other way and ignore the fact that she's a mage. There are several examples of this throughout the story:
- When mage Hawke first arrives in Kirkwall fresh off the boat, she uses her powers to protect the guard at the gate from being killed. In return, he helps her and her family get inside the city by going to fetch Gamlen, no questions asked.
- During the two years between the prologue and Act I, mage Hawke works as either a mercenary or a smuggler. She has the option to ask how she'll get away with that as a mage, in which case she will be told that whoever she decides to work with will protect her from the templars.
- During Act I, Hawke's contract is up and she is now a free woman, but the templars don't come running for her because she quickly proves to be a good force in Kirkwall. Her main mission in the first act is to gather enough money to go on an expedition, and she does this by going around and doing good deeds. By doing so, she creates a name for herself in Kirkwall, to the point that even the templars love her and will look the other way.
Fans might argue that all of that makes Hawke a "Mary Sue," but I feel it just makes her a typical protagonist. All protagonists are "special" and get away with breaking the established laws of their universe.
Look at Batman.
He's an insane vigilante in a rodent costume who goes around destroying public property on a phenomenal scale. If he was ever caught, he would be sued and thrown in jail. But Batman is never caught and the public generally looks the other way because they love him and he does so much good.
And aside from the fact that Hawke is loved by all (or most), there's also the fact that's she's just too powerful to capture. Sure, she could be captured, but it would mean a lot of templar lives in the process. Because aside from the fact that Hawke is so powerful, she also has a lot of friends willing to fight for her, including her brother, and even the people of Kirkwall, who wouldn't stand for her arrest.
I remember in Act III the templars finally turn on Hawke and go after her, and one of the templars in the group (Kieran) says, "No! Not her! We can't hurt Lady Hawke!" or something to that effect. There's also a mage later in the quest who also stands up for Hawke when Cullen comes to arrest her.
I feel like everyone in Kirkwall feels protective about Hawke because she has helped and protected so many people. Anders even tells Hawke this in Act II, that she is someone the people (mages in particular) look up to as a leader, whether she knows it or not.
So assuming the templars even managed to capture Hawke, once she was captured, they would have to be on edge 24/7 trying to keep her imprisoned in the Circle, which would again cost a lot of lives and triple the guard duty just to keep her contained.
All of it would just be too much death and effort, when it would be far easier to just let Hawke roam free. This is something Meredith is smart enough to understand: so long as Hawke has her freedom, she can be manipulated like a living weapon to do what she is told.
Meredith isn't shy about letting Hawke know she's on a leash, either. She will ask Hawke to help bring in runaway mages during Act III, and if Hawke refuses, Meredith reminds Hawke that she's not really "free."
Inquisition Ties Into It
That's another thing: Cassandra and Leliana wanted Hawke as inquisitor specifically because of the mage and templar war.
You could argue that they wanted an anti-mage Hawke to stop the mages, but if you read the book Asunder, which takes place between the events of Dragon Age 2 and Dragon Age: Inquisition, you would know that Leliana is strictly in favor of protecting the mages and that Cassandra was actually against Lord Seeker Lambert, who was slaughtering them for fun.
In Asunder, several Circles rise up and fight back against the templars and the seekers. Leliana shows up at one of the fights and helps the mages escape to safety as they are pursued by the seekers, who have all gone crazy and zealously want to kill the mages en masse (except for, apparently, Cassandra and a few others). This culminates in Cole killing Lambert.
(But then, Leliana appears in Sebastian's DLC ranting about dangerous apostates and Kirkwall being in danger of becoming like the Imperium . . . Only to turn around and defend mages again when she is Divine in Inquisiton, so . . . I don't know. BioWare is kinda wishy washy about Leliana's stance. I think Leliana wants the mages to be free but at the same time, wants to prevent them from taking over like Tevinter, which is a more sensible approach than most characters.)
So again, it would make no sense for an anti-mage Hawke to be sought out by these characters. Yes, Cassandra wanted to restore order and didn't care about mage rights, but she still wasn't so anti-mage that she would support slaughtering them the way Hawke does when she sides with the templars. (Cassandra dated a mage, for god's sake.)
Hawke doesn't have to be anti-mage just because she isn't a mage, I know. She could be a non-mage who is pro mage rights . . . But it just makes more sense for the leader of the mage rebellion (as Hawke became viewed) to be a mage.
There is Always a Canon
In the end, I believe there is always a "canon," a certain story that BioWare intends to be the "real" story, whether they will ever admit it or not. This is something they have done with a lot of their games.
- In the first KoTOR, Revan was canonized as male with a Light Side ending.
- KoTOR II is not a BioWare game, but it's the sequel to a BioWare game, and the protagonist is canonized as a female Exile (likely to equal things up a bit after Revan was canonized male).
- In Dragon Age: Origins, the Warden was meant to be a Human Male (Aedan), even though the default (not canon) was a Dalish female (this was done for new players who didn't have a save file so that they would have the least amount of plot holes). It's obvious in the way the entire game was designed around the human noble origin.
- And in Inquisition, the story seems designed for a mage Lavellan, even if it was ultimately an accident that they eventually embraced in the DLC Jaws of Hakkon. (Inquisitor Ameridan and his three friends are clearly gender-bent versions of female mage Lavallen, Cassandra, Solas, and Varric.)
- In the Mass Effect trilogy, Liara is meant to be Shepard's love. She was modeled after Delann from Babylon 5, who joined with her lover, Captain Sheridan, to fight the dark forces trying to take over the galaxy. Together, they led the fight against the Shadows (aka the Reapers), united the races of the galaxy, and won. Liara and Shepard were supposed to be like them. Shepard even dies and comes back from the dead, just like Sheridan. But because these are role playing games, players were given a choice to ignore the canon and romance someone else.
- Likewise, in Mass Effect 3, Shepard was meant to make peace between the Geth and the quarian, and also cure the genophage. This was the canon and there's evidence of it all the way back in the first game. But because this was also a role playing game, players were given pseudo choices to ignore the canon.
Likewise, in Dragon Age 2, Hawke was meant to be a mage. But the other classes were left available as options because, again, the game was designed to allow role playing and choice.
So in conclusion, mage Hawke makes the most sense out all three classes (female Hawke in particular, given the obvious analogy between Gamlen/Leandra and Hawke/Carver).
- Mage Hawke was the intended canon, and there are glaring hints of it everywhere.
- Everyone loves Hawke too much to throw her in the Circle, and/or they find her too useful or powerful to arrest/stop.
- Hawke is the protagonist, so she gets a special pass to break all the rules, like Batman.
- Varric was set up to have a mage for a best friend, which made for an interesting dynamic because he is a dwarf.
But like all canon, you can easily ignore this and just role play however you want. That is the beauty of role playing games.
The classic ones, anyway.