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Opinion – Why Cassandra Is My New Garrus

by Joe Juba on Nov 26, 2014 at 07:06 AM

Everybody loves Garrus from Mass Effect. He knows that you need to break some eggs to make an omelet. He understands when you do something he doesn’t like. He’s always on your side. In short, he’s the perfect ally, and I couldn’t imagine anyone better by my side in an RPG. Then I played Dragon Age: Inquisition, and Cassandra stole the title of #1 Sidekick.

I’ve got nothing against Garrus – he’s still one of the best characters in gaming, as far as I’m concerned. But if I had to choose only one ally to watch my back in a fight – or only one to leave in charge while I’m off adventuring – Cassandra gets the nod.

To be clear: This isn’t about romance. If Garrus or Cassandra is your ideal virtual mate, I get it. For me, it’s about which one of these two characters I want for my battle companion and second-in-command, not which one my character sleeps with. Both Cassandra and Garrus are interesting by themselves – whether or not you see a sex scene with them doesn’t change what makes them cool.

And what makes them cool? Ultimately it boils down to the phenomenal writing. That applies to both characters, so what gives Cassandra the edge? To me, she feels more relatable and authentic. She struggles with her faith. She is afraid of failure. She wants to do the right thing. She also doesn’t look like a giant space cricket, which makes her a bit easier to take seriously.

Cassandra's voice actress, Miranda Raison, talks about some of her defining traits

All of those layers to her personality go a long way, and I have to applaud BioWare’s writing team for creating such a detailed and believable character – even in a setting as far removed from reality as Thedas. Yes, Garrus has a burning sense of justice (and a burning love of calibrations), but even over all three Mass Effect titles, his personality never took such full shape as Cassandra’s in my mind.

I also appreciate the way she seems to represent a measured approach to a world full of extremes. Unlike some other party members, she isn’t defined by her stance on mages, the Fade, politics, or war. She may lean more toward an idealistic view of things, but she generally takes a practical, no-frills approach to interactions and obstacles. For a player like me, I found myself using Cassandra as a kind of moral compass. Not because I wanted to please her, but because her well-articulated opinions tended to represent the world that I wanted to create.

I don’t want to spoil some of the finer points for those that have yet play Inquisition, but the more time you spend with Cassandra, the more you learn about her motivations, doubts, and aspirations. Through these moments, you realize that Inquisition is just as much her story as yours. As Inquisitor, you are essentially falling into a plan that she had already set in motion. She broke away from the Chantry and started the Inquisition, and though she doesn’t serve as its figurehead, she deserves all of the credit for recognizing that the world needed a force that could act against threats unencumbered. Your victory is ultimately her victory.

Cassandra is also just great to have in your party as you wander through the world. I love her banter with characters like Varric, Sera, and Iron Bull. As a mage, I also appreciated her warrior abilities that kept bad guys from swarming and killing me. Her skill on the battlefield, her key role in the story, and her well-written quests and dialogue make Cassandra the complete package when it comes to being an RPG all-star.

Sorry, Garrus. I still love ya, buddy.