When I reblogged this image of the Marian Hawke, I had no idea so many people would glom onto this throwaway comment about the construction of the Armor of the Champion:
What I love best about the Armor of the Champion is that it combines touches from all the Companion armors — Fenris’s weird gauntlets, Anders’s pauldrons, Bethany’s chainmail, Aveline’s guard plate, Varric’s gloves. The leather matches Carver’s jerkin, the blood tattoo suggests Merrill’s vallasin. I like to think it’s a visual reminder that Varric may be liberally salting Hawke’s personality and heroics by borrowing from those around her. But maybe I’m reading too much into it.
Like I said, I have no idea if the artists even purposefully intended these parallels. It certainly would be cool if they had, but I fully admit I could be reading way too much into this character design.
(cosplay by aicosu)
But even if it wasn’t intentional, I like what the Champion Armor’s design suggests about the nature of companionship — that we are an amalgamation of our friendships and our rivalries, our past and our present, and that the people we identify as our family (be they blood or by choice) are what form the “armor” we use to defend ourselves from the world’s slings and arrows. Remember what a romanced!Isabela will say to you after “All That Remains”:
Family isn’t just the people you’re related to by blood. It’s the people who care about you, too.
(paraphrasing that last sentence because I can’t find the video at the moment)
I’ve always said that Dragon Age 2 is, at its core, about losing one family and building another — which, really, isn’t that what life itself is about? In the end, all that remains is the family we ourselves create. And in my opinion, the Mantle of the Champion is a visual underscore of that idea.
Each armor set is different, but all three sets, I think, pull visual elements from your companions’ armors. And not in a haphazard way, either. .
Consider that the mage armor (the first image above) seems to suggest Anders’s distinctive pauldrons — although Hawke’s appears to be fur, not feathers. The pauldrons, those vain, silly, frivolous pauldrons, are the only element of Anders’s costume that remained the same from Awakenings to DA2 (that is, the signature armor he starts with in Awakenings, not what you later equip). That a man who lived his entire life in scratchy Circle robes would have once gravitated to such ridiculous garb reminiscent of an Empire long in decline, and that he has now let them become dingy, dirty, discolored, forgotten… I think those silly pauldrons tell you so much about Anders’s character, maybe everything you need to know. I find it genuinely touching that the Hawke mage armor shares that element of Anders’s costume.
Or consider that the right hand gauntlet shares a design similar to Fenris’s. We all know what Fenris does with his right hand: “that magical fisting thing”. In a single hand, Fenris encapsulates both the arcane wonders of the Tevinter Empire and its brutality and oppression toward its elven citizens. Fenris is a creature of wonder and oppression, of beauty and fear, of power and subjugation, and hey, couldn’t that also be said about all mages, too?
In the Rogue set, it’s not Anders’ pauldrons that are recalled but the alarming number of belts on his jacket — the restraints, the control (or lack thereof). And it’s not Fenris’s gauntlet that’s recalled but his own spiky pauldrons — a visual caution to all who surround him to never get too close to the man within. And doesn’t that describe who a Rogue is perfectly? Rogues are men of restraint, of control; where the most power is contained in not what is unleashed but what is held back.
What I see most in the Warrior set is not the spiky armor that suggests Fenris’s and Aveline’s costumes, but the fine but tattered red scarf that hangs from Hawke’s neck. It’s a piece of cloth that appears to have once been fine, but which has seen so much action and combat and struggle that the edges are frayed.
Someone else wears a red scarf too:
And doesn’t that description of the frayed, fine cloth recall Bethany’s dreams throughout Act 1: her desire to reclaim the Amell estate; her reaction to seeing her mother’s betrothal portrait? More than any of the other companions, I think, Bethany symbolizes what the past can do to you if you let it fester, if you let it eat away at you unchecked, and again, that her signature item should find such a prominent place in a Warrior Hawke’s attire, well, it somewhat implies that Warrior!Hawke shares similar regrets.
I’ve always loved these armors for their striking visuals and sex appeal, but the more I look at them, the more I’m drawn less to the man inside, but to the people surrounding him: the people who love and care about him, who fight for his causes and defend his mistakes, who he calls family. We are defined by the people we surround ourselves with, and Hawke is no exception, and that’s why I find Varric’s story so compelling — because you can’t even look at something as simple as Hawke’s armor without also gaining insight into his family, and vice versa.