After reading a few guides for Year Of the RPG, I was inspired to write my own guide using some of the fantastic resources I found as inspiration. So, for anyone who hasn’t played Dragon Age: Origins before, here is the best way to survive the final fight with the archdemon in Denerim.
Spoilers for main game events for Dragon Age: Origins.
After battling your way through Redcliffe again, you’ll meet with Eamon and Teagan, as well as potentially the queen, depending on your actions prior to this.
Riordan will talk to you and the other Grey Warden, either Alistair or the Secret Companion, about the reason Grey Wardens are are necessary for the slaying of the archdemon. After receiving that cheerful news, he will send you to bed. You can pretty much respond however you’d like to these conversations, as they don’t hold much bearing on the final outcome of the story.
After this, return to the room Eamon has given you, and be greeted with a surprise.
As it turns out, Morrigan has a plan of her own for the final battle. She’ll explain to you her plan, and you are free to question her as much as you like. Eventually she will press you for an answer. You can either sleep with her (as a male Warden) or convince the other Warden (either Alistair or Secret Companion) to sleep with her, and save the Wardens from their fate, or you can tell her to get lost and she will transform into a wolf and leave. Once she leaves, she will not return, even for the final battle.
With a high enough persuasion or intimidation check, it’s easy to convince the other Warden to follow through with Morrigan, although you have a few conversation paths you can take. By now your stats should be high enough, don’t worry! If they’re not… well… I mean, they should be.
If you don’t want to go through with her suggestion, the story will simply continue.
At this point, Eamon will give a speech about uniting Ferelden and how people from all corners and walks of life have come together to fight the Blight under your banner, which is a nice speech. It also gives us one last look at all the main areas of the game. Once gathered, you will lead the march to Denerim.
After this, depending on what you did before this, you’ll listen to the king or queen give a rousing speech. If it’s the queen, your first main task is to survive listening to her say the word “Denerim.”
At this point, there is only one place to go, and the game pretty much funnels you into the main battle.
Stage One: Main Square
This is the easiest stage, as it’s set up in an “every man/woman for him/herself” style. All of your companions are there, as is the army, and you’ll pretty much spend this entire section of game running around, only to arrive too late to actually kill any of the darkspawn. The ones you do manage to kill only take one or two hits; this is a time for last-minute XP gathering and stat-building… which is counterintuitive because the Warden runs around like an unhelpful fool for most of it.
Eventually, everyone else in Denerim will have killed the darkspawn and Riordan will arrive to tell you what a good job you’re doing. Some of your companions may express concerns about how well the battle is going, but don’t listen to them. So far it’s been going great!
At any rate, Riordan mentions that the Warden now has two options: to storm Fort Drakon and go directly for the archdemon or to take Denerim street by street and take down the archdemon’s generals first before going for the dragon itself.
Always always always go through the streets of Denerim. The archdemon battle has an uncalled-for difficulty spike, especially for the uninitiated, and the addition of the generals will just make the final battle a sad little festival of dead Wardens.
Select the next part on the map, and away you go.
Stage Two: Market District
You’ll be attacked by ogres.
A few times.
The best strategy here is to survive longer than the ogres do. They’re really tough and have some massive attacks and lots of health. Since you should be playing as a mage, you might want to cast Winter’s Grasp or something similar to paralyze the enemy. If you’re not playing as a mage, well you made a pretty poor life decision.
You’ll also unlock the ability to call on the various armies you’ve acquired: elves, men, dwarves, mages, and, in some cases, golems. They each have their own strengths and weaknesses.
Army of Men (far left): Study fighter, good for melee combat and able to take a fair amount of beating
Army of Dwarves (below men): Good defensive army, good for melee attacks. I’m not sure what the difference is between these guys and the human army, other than height.
Dalish elves (bottom): Good for ranged attacks, wear light armor. It’s nice to use them ironically during the elven alienage stage.
Mages: Ranged attacks, light armor. Sometimes they’ll heal each other, which is sort of cute.
Golems (not pictured): Tanks that hit hard and take a lot of damage.
Anyway, you’ll meet another ogre or two.
And then you’ll take down the first darkspawn general. He’ll have his own toadies to take care of, and they’re all very powerful. Taking out the emissary first leaves you open to attack from the darkspawn alpha, but if you go for the alpha first, then the emissary is open to attack you. If you’re on a PC, you can probably split your team if you’re feeling lucky, and if you’re on a console, then you’ll have to pick one or the other. If that’s the case, then you should pick the stronger enemy first.
Anyway, the best strategy is to hit the general with strong attacks until he falls down and doesn’t get up again.
Then, it’s off to the alienage! You’ll be asked to choose a small party to go with you, and then everyone will have a heartfelt moment to say goodbye to you, which is very touching.
Once you’re in the alienage, Shianni will greet you, and you can either convince her to stay and fight, or tell her to run away and hide. Pick either as it doesn’t have too much bearing on the plot.
Because the battle at the gate was so easy, and because the ogres and the first general were a cakewalk, just rush the gate in order to preserve the armies for future battles. Remember, the key is to stay alive, so try to avoid being hit by spells or having wards placed on you.
If you have a ward placed on you, the key is to stay alive. You do that by doing anything you can think of to keep the Warden alive, like using poultices.
On second thought, the best way to survive is to not rush the gate, but call on one of the armies. Since most of the darkspawn are mages, you either want to call in the Dalish elves to pick them off, or one of the dwarven/mage armies to overwhelm them.
Go back and speak to Shianni, and then continue out of the alienage to the next area.
You’ll be interrupted.
Stage 4: Interrupted!
Remember the guys you left behind before the alienage? You know, the ones you probably haven’t been playing with for the entire game? Well, guess what? You’re playing as them, now! The one you chose to lead the defense of the gate is the new playable character, so good luck playing as a completely different class of character!
The fight isn’t too difficult, especially since the game assumes you haven’t been leveling up your characters as the story progressed. But you have, because you’ve been following this guide!
You’ll have a small army with you, as well, so even the ogres will go down easily.
When it’s over, send a message back to the Warden’s party, and then be treated to a cutscene.
It’s up to you, now, so keep moving!
Stage 4: Palace District
There’s actually a method to this, especially if you’re playing as a rogue When you enter the district, go to the right and pick off as many darkspawn as possible with ranged attacked, using either your mage or archer (or if you’re an archer yourself). This is tricky on a console, because you need to be close enough so the ranged attacks fire, but also keep melee attacks down.
When that doesn’t work because your party charges ahead, follow the other Warden up the stairs and try to keep your party contained on the right side of the upper level. This is important, because then you can sneak around to the left side and surprise attack the ogre who has been standing idly by.
This part is tricky, because you’ll have to take on the ogre, a few shrieks, and a couple of hurlocks all at the same time. Although you have fought these in isolation or small groups, the number this time can feel overwhelming. If you take this stairway first, then not only do you have to deal with them, you also have to fight the other darkspawn you fought your way through on the right side.
Anyway, the key here is to not get overwhelmed, so don’t let the darkspawn surround you, even though you are outnumbered by about three-to-one.
Continue around and up some stairs. I hope you decided to play as a rogue for this part, because there is a tripwire that Leliana or Zevran may or may not alert you to.
Go up and around, and kill the darkspawn that charge at you.
Continue through the gate behind you and on to Fort Drakon.
Stage Five: Fort Drakon
You’ll face a pretty powerful group of darkspawn, including an emissary and a dragonling. Watch out for wards, killer bees, arrows, and fire-breathing dragonling. Try to kill them before they kill you by using the weapons and techniques available to you.
Go up and around through the door and toward the fire. You’ll come across a lot of dead things. Like, a lot of them. You might start to get scared that someone really big and horrifying killed them, but keep going.
You’ll enter another room with a genlock emissary, who is really tough and will set a swarm of bees on your butt, so abandon all hope unless you run across the room and take him out first. Fight your way through the rooms until you pass through another room scattered with corpses, including a dead ogre.
Then, be surprised when you discover that Sandal somehow made his way all the way into Fort Drakon without a scratch on him and with taking out all of the darkspawn, because “enchantment!”
This is your last opportunity to purchase anything you might need (read: health poultices), or enchant any of your weapons. Make your decisions, and then continue.
Go up the stairs and around the corner and fight through more darkspawn. Go through the doors on the side to gain a little more XP, and then go around an through the other door to progress to the next level. Also, the room on the side has traps in it, so be careful if you’re not playing as a rogue because your warrior will walk all over them and take damage. You want a map of that part because it sounds confusing? That’s… a shame.
Continue through the metal door and into the waiting arms of the “crushing prison” spell of the genlock emissary in the next room. After you’ve disposed of him and the lesser darkspawn, continue up the stairs.
SAVE YOUR GAME. FOR THE LOVE OF MYTHAL, SAVE YOUR GAME BEFORE YOU GO OUTSIDE.
Stage Six: The Archdemon
You’ll be treated to a cutscene that shows just how very very bad the archdemon is.
After that, have at it! The number one most important thing is to keep all four of your characters alive. If they start dropping, you are pretty much doomed.
Depending on which difficulty you’re playing on, you might have different options. But first and foremost, you want to make your way over to one of the ballistae on the side of the fort and wait the eternity it takes for it to turn. Then, fire that sucker at the archdemon. It will roar and take damage if you hit it. If you’re playing on “casual,” spam this until the archdemon is at half-health.
If you’re playing above “casual,” the mechanism will eventually break. If you have high enough dexterity, you can repair the mechanism up to three times before it’s dead for good and you need to come up with another plan, like running to another ballistae. Oh, and the archdemon will occasionally fly around and you’ll have to switch ballistae anyway. Sometimes it will land close to one of the broken ones and you’ll have to think on your feet because it will just hang there forever if it’s not taking damage.
If you’re playing as a mage, there is actually a very slim chance that you can freeze the archdemon and get in a couple of really good hits, but this sort of negates that I told you to play as a rogue to miss the traps before, so forget I said anything.
Another option is to call in the mages while you are taking pot-shots at the dragon. This is great until the archdemon reaches half of its health, as they have powerful spells and are pretty much out of its reach.
Once the archdemon hits half health, it will call a swarm of darkspawn to its aid. At this point, if you haven’t killed the generals, you’re about to get pwnd. This is also the time when all the mages get pwnd, regardless of whether the darkspawn have generals or not, as you’ll be dealing with an unending swarm of darkspawn on top of fiery death falling from above.
At that point, call either the army of men, dwarves, or golems to your aid, as they can keep you from being overwhelmed and they take significantly more damage than the Dalish elves do.
Once everyone is fighting, run to another ballistae and take a few more shots at the archdemon. Once it’s health is at about 1/8 (or once all the ballistae are broken), have at it with your swords and army. The finishing move is cooler this way, anyway.
If you kill the archdemon like this, there’s an awkward pause as the game tries to figure out what to do, since there’s supposed to be a cutscene of the archdemon getting killed, but it’s already dead.
Be prepared to suspend your sense of reality so the archdemon can come to life again only to be spectacularly defeated… again.
After that, you’ll be treated to another cutscene, and find out the aftermath of your choices with Morrigan.
Stay tuned for the next chapter on surviving the endgame with minimal crying.
Thanks for reading!
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“The number one most important thing is to keep all four of your characters alive.” Gr!! How did I not see that during my playthrough…
This was an awesome read. 😀 I also enjoyed seeing Grey Warden Renya in action! Oh, and there was a lot of crying at the end of my game so I could’ve used the next chapter of this expert guide… alas.
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It’s a point that many people wouldn’t intuit, that’s for sure. That’s why there are helpful guides like these!
Glad you liked it! I hope you found some of it helpful, and that you appreciated the totally-not-ironic Easter egg that I put in there with Renya.
Alas and alack, indeed…
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My usual strategy with the Archdemon is to hit it with my sword until it’s dead. I would recommend that people give that a try.
That works for a lot of things, come to think of it.
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That is an excellent strategy. I endorse it 100%.
Hm, you’re right. Maybe one of us will have to spread the word about this elite technique in another guide…
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