This has to be one of the most confusing missions that I’ve ever seen in an RPG, if only because the game play and consequences are so utterly divorced from your actions. Oh and because the mansion is some sort of bizarre maze that occurs in non-Euclidean space. Nevertheless, it can actually be quite fast and fun if you know a few things in advance. Here are some non-spoiler tips and a very-spoiler walkthrough.
QUICK TIPS (Non-Spoiler)
- You should bring your love interest with you.
- When you have no idea where you’re supposed to be going, it’s probably because you need to go up a level or down a level.
- Timed missions aren’t that timed–don’t worry about the clock clicking down too much.
SLOWER TIPS (Light-Spoiler)
- Sera has a unique mission in the game. It is not content heavy, it’s just a fetch quest, but it exists.
- You cannot open all of the doors in the game. It’s not possible with the amount of “keys” you find.
- Ask your love interest to dance the second you get there because otherwise it may break.
- Also, every time a bell rings you should wait a little while before you go.
** SPOILERS FROM HERE ON ** ARM YER SPOILER VESTS **
So you attend the Winter Ball in Halamshiral to save Empress Celene. Once you get there you will find out that either Gaspard or Briala appears to be plotting her demise. You must wander around the ball to collect information and impress the court (if you don’t impress the court enough, you’re cut off from some ending choices and you can even get kicked out).
The actual ball area is a non-combat zone, but you will enter into many combat zones and it will be irritating because you’ll need to re-equip your gear each time. This is made even more frustrating because every time you’re outside of a “common area” (which combat zones are), your court standing will slowly be ticking away.
ENDINGS IN WICKED HEARTS, WICKED MINDS
Here are the four major conclusions:
- The Empress: You support Empress Celene. She remains on the throne.
- The Chevalier: You let Gaspard kill her. He takes the throne.
- The Reconciliation: You support Empress Celene and reconcile her with Briala. Briala is promoted to adviser.
- The Boss: You blackmail all four of them and force them to work together.
Many people believe that the “blackmail” ending is best because it is the hardest to get (and the most satisfying–they’re all kind of dicks). But it actually doesn’t lead to a very stable situation. The most stable of the three situations is probably #3.
WHO TO BRING TO WICKED HEARTS, WICKED MINDS
You should bring your love interest because you’ll be able to dance with them at some point. Note: this is broken in some situations and you may get Josephine rather than your LI. You should do your best to “lock” your romance in before you start the Wicked Hearts, Wicked Minds quest.
In all honesty, none of the characters really have a lot to say, which is surprising given how hyped up the mission is in-game.
- Cassandra has some flavor text in the quests themselves and an amusing bit, but otherwise no real content.
- Cole will disappear entirely–he’s actually in the library hiding, which is irritating because it’s an off-limits zone.
- Blackwall doesn’t have altogether much to say; he’s not very comfortable there and asks you to get on with the mission.
- Dorian is just super excited to be there. He’s extremely at home and a bit hilarious. But then, isn’t he always?
- Iron Bull is not overly fond, but he does have some entertaining dialog and it’s kinda funny just to bring a giant qunari. Oddly, it doesn’t seem to upset anyone.
- Sera will tell you about secret Red Jenny caches that you can find. Otherwise she’s generally disinterested and hasn’t much to say.
- Solas gets a little tipsy and seems strangely happy to be there…. and oddly familiar with it…
- Varric has some funny comments but his best comments are after the quest.
- Vivienne is exceedingly at home and enjoys the shit out of it.
COURT POINTS IN WICKED HEARTS, WICKED MINDS
You’ll begin the Winter Ball with 50 points, but you’ll be docked 10 points if you’re Qunari, Dwarf or Elf and you’ll be docked a further 10 points if you’re a mage of any type. So a human fighter starts with 50 points and an elf mage starts with 30 points. Regardless, court points aren’t that hard to get.
You can gain points the following ways:
- Collect documents that are lying around. They will start showing up everywhere during the second part of the mission.
- Eavesdrop. Once you get a secret you can deliver it to Leliana for court points.
- Talk to the servant wandering around. He’ll complain about some noble. Agree with him.
- Collect “Caprice coins” and throw them in the fountain.
- Dance successfully when asked to dance. (Just keep choosing the middle options.)
- Waiting until the second bell every time the bell rings. (Do not wait any longer, though.)
- Finding a ring at the very start of the game.
As mentioned, court points slowly tick away while you’re out of the main areas. But it’s very, very slow.
Scattered throughout the area are Halla doors. These are opened with statues of Halla. It shouldn’t make sense. The Hallas are, for some reason, consumed when the door is opened. And they’re scattered around everywhere. I know this doesn’t make any sense. In any case, you should be constantly searching. Some of them will be in plain sight, others hidden in weird locations. You cannot find enough Halla statues to open all the doors, so you need to choose. Most of the doors just lead to treasure rooms, but there are two specific doors you should be concerned about:
- The 3 Halla “Treasury” door you run into while exploring. In there is a necklace that belongs to the Empress, given to her by Briala. If you get this, you can achieve the “reconciliation” ending.
- The 5 Halla “Bedroom” door you run into while going to find ‘balckmail material’ later in the mission. This door is what lets you blackmail all three individuals.
You should select whichever door corresponds to the ending that you want. It’s almost not possible to not notice these doors, so don’t worry about not finding them.
You begin the game by talking with Gaspard. Whatever you talk to him about, you shouldn’t lose court points. Go to the right immediately after and search. You’ll find a ring. Return it to the lady nearby (the only one you can talk to) for a bonus in court points.
Do not go inside yet (you can’t come back out). Go to the doors and go all the way up. In the upper right balconies, you’ll find your first Halla statue (you’ll need to search for it). There is a halla door in this area, but it does not have anything too valuable. In the upper left balconies you will find a conversation you can eavesdrop on. Once you’ve done those two things, you can go in.
You will be introduced and then you can talk to your advisers. Your companions will be scattered throughout the levels. The mission is actually fairly straightforward. Go into the area where the elven servants are talking and listen to them. Go outside to the garden and then climb the fencing that goes up to the second level. Yes I know, it’s weird, just climb right up that trellis. On the second level, search through everything until you hear a bell go off.
Go back to the ballroom. Wait until the second bell and then immediately go in. You’ll be stopped by… MORRIGAN. It’s a weird moment. She’ll give you a key to the elven servant’s quarters. You can then go in there and search around. It’s in this section that you’ll run across the treasury, which you can open if you want to reconcile Briala and Celene.
Once you’ve finished this section, you’ll return back into the main room and another bell will go off. In the ballroom, you’ll have the dance. Again, always choose the middle option. The person you’re dancing with is Florianne, she’s a crazy bitch. Once that’s done, your advisers will speak to you about your next course of action. Be non-committal.
Important: if you want to reconcile Celene and Briala, you need to act now. Go to Briala and talk to her. Show her the necklace and tell her that Celene still cares. Go to Celene’s three ladies and ask to see Celene; show them the necklace. Show Celene the necklace when she comes out and remark that she must have saved it because she still cares about Briala.
Head up to the noble rooms, which is outside of the ballroom area and up. You’ll be in a second-story area with a few different rooms. One room is the five-halla room. If you open this door, you will get information that you can use to blackmail Celene. Another room does not need anything to open. In this room, there’s an elf in it that will agree to testify against Briala. In that room there is a hall that is very easy to miss. That hall eventually opens to a courtyard where you will find Florianne, a rift and the proof you need to blackmail Gaspard.
At this point, you can simply go back to the ballroom. You have a choice now. You can either stop Florianne or you can wait for her to kill Celene, which leads to the Gaspard ending. If you choose to stop Florianne, you can either arrest her or kill her. You may not be able to stop her non-violently if you don’t have enough court approval. Once Florianne has been dealt with, you get to decide the fate of the nation!
Choose to reveal Gaspard’s information to support Celene. Reveal Gaspard’s information while stating all along that it was Briala’s idea to help Celene and you will end up reconciling them, if you showed them the necklace. Reveal Gaspard’s information, Briala’s and Celene’s in turn to blackmail all three of them.
And at the end you’ll get a little dance.