We discussed this decision in brief in another post, but since this is a rather momentous decision, it bears a little additional discussion. At some point, you’ll be asked to sacrifice either Bull’s Chargers or a Qunari Dreadnought. This decision is confusing for a few reasons: Iron Bull reacts ambiguously, the situation is kind of vague, and it doesn’t seem to affect much in-game either way.
What is Going On in Demands of the Qun?
It’s kind of hard to explain a complex situation in a video game cutscene, especially when it involves geography. The Dreadnought mission involves an attempt to broker a deal with the Qunari; the Qunari will ally with The Inquisition in exchange for The Inquisition (alongside Bull’s Chargers) securing the coast for the Dreadnought to dock. At this stage, The Chargers and The Inquisition (with Bull) split up. The Chargers go to clear a path one way, The Inquisition go to clear a path the other and to light the signal for the Dreadnought to come in.
Everything goes wrong because, as Bull would say, of course it does. There is more resistance than anticipated and The Chargers are in danger of being overwhelmed. If The Iron Bull pulls The Chargers back, they survive but the dreadnought is destroyed. If The Iron Bull doesn’t pull The Chargers, they all die but they buy enough time for the dreadnought to dock. And it’s poorly shown in the cutscene, but there is simply no time for The Iron Bull to get over there to save his people.
But the Situation Isn’t Really That Simple…
For a start, one might wonder why a small band of less than a dozen people have been sent to secure the coast. Moreover, you might note that it’s mostly The Iron Bull’s people. If they are testing The Inquisition’s value as an ally, they are doing so poorly; we appear with four people, one of which is The Iron Bull. Everyone else is, not ours. One might assume from this that it is not The Inquisition that is being tested; it is The Iron Bull’s loyalty. It has been from the start.
The Iron Bull’s Qunari contact says as much during the quest; they have been questioning The Iron Bull’s loyalty for some time, given the fact that he shares so much information with The Inquisition. And don’t forget that it is the Qunari who reach out for an “alliance,” even though, traditionally, the Qunari would never do such a thing. That’s not to say that they aren’t pursuing an alliance, but they may be testing whether The Iron Bull’s intel is accurate by testing the man himself. And furthermore…
The Value of an Alliance
Is an alliance with the Qunari actually valuable? We’ve seen in Dragon Age 2 that though they do have a very strict code, they are also fairly capricious with their alliances; it does not take much at all for the Qunari in Kirkwall to go on a mad killing spree. If the Qunari decide that their alliance no longer aligns with the Qun, there is nothing stopping them from suddenly pulling their support. In short, there is no expectation of loyalty, so long as The Inquisition itself does not follow the Qun.
On the other hand, The Inquisitor has The Iron Bull, who can be loyal to them, and The Chargers, who are unmistakably loyal to him. It becomes a question of having an alliance with a shady, potentially dangerous nation or having an alliance with a dozen loyal soldiers. It can be argued that, practically speaking, The Chargers are actually the greater value — but then, there is also something to be said for keeping one’s enemies close.
A Question of Happiness and Faith
The Iron Bull’s characterization and purpose change dramatically following the Demands of the Qun. If he saves the dreadnought, he is rededicated to his cause; he is a Qunari again, even though he had been doubting himself. If he saves The Chargers, he becomes loyal to the Inquisition; he appears, on the surface, happier, though he is still extremely distraught about being tal-vashoth.
Throughout the game, there are indications that The Iron Bull has refused to fit into the mold of a traditional Qunari. He had to be reprogrammed. We find that the woman who raised him hoped that he would escape it. We also find that most of his fears lie in the fact that he likes violence and he doesn’t want to lose himself to the violence and become a tal-vashoth. (There are some indications, though mostly speculation, that the Qunari may be a created or manufactured race and the Qun may be used to control them.)
With all that in mind, it might seem healthier for him to move away from the Qunari. But some see his dedication to the Qunari as something that he needs to realign himself with to be true to himself; that he is in a crisis of faith and that he needs to turn back towards, rather than away from, his faith. They note that his card after the dreadnought sinks is particularly tragic (with rivers of blood flowing across the ground), and that he is very distressed at becoming tal-vashoth. It is very clear that he feels regret if he separates from the Qunari. It can be seen either way.
And one final note — it’s interesting that the decision is even ours at all. Except it’s not, really. The Iron Bull is swayed to whatever side the Inquisitor is on. When he initially speaks, he is conflicted. His Qunari contact tells him to save the dreadnought. At this point, the Inquisitor’s interference will push The Iron Bull further; it isn’t that the Inquisitor is deciding for him, it’s that he’s truly that conflicted. A small difference, but a difference nonetheless.
The In-Game Consequences
As we covered, there really aren’t any significant consequences in this game. There may be consequences in DLC or Dragon Age 4, but as for Dragon Age: Inquisition, it really comes down to dialog and a handful of war table missions (if you save the dreadnought).
Here are a few of the consequences (from our decisions page):
- If you sacrifice the Chargers, Iron Bull moves more towards the Qun (obviously).
- If you sacrifice the Dreadnought, Iron Bull has assassins sent after him. Weak assassins.
- If you sacrifice the Chargers, Solas and Iron Bull become rather bitter enemies.
- If you sacrifice the Dreadnought, Solas and Iron Bull become rather close friends.
- If you sacrifice the Chargers, Iron Bull and Blackwall become friends.
- If you sacrifice the Dreadnought, Iron Bull and Blackwall become enemies.
For what it’s worth, banter and conversations indicate that Iron Bull is happier with The Chargers and The Inquisition; moreover, his history with the Qun and the Qunari wasn’t as happiness and light as he might make it out to be. But it’s really a personal decision and a strategic decision.
The Bottom Line
There’s no real answer as to which choice is right in the game itself; we may need to wait until Dragon Age 4 to find the ultimate consequences. From a military perspective, an alliance with the Qunari could be advantageous — but only if the Qunari are to be trusted, which we have absolutely no way of knowing. But from a pragmatic perspective, allowing the dreadnought to sink probably kills more people than the dozen or so Chargers we’re trying to save. The Iron Bull keeps going either way, but, arguably does seem happier with The Inquisition and The Chargers. Ultimately, it’s a personal choice.