Dragon Age: Awakening - Finding Kristoff - Shadow of the Blackmarsh
Our efforts to fight the darkspawn will demand that we move onward to the Blackmarsh to find the only surviving Grey Warden from Vigil's Keep, Kristoff. Things aren't as they seem though. The darkspawn are here and a whole lot of enemies plague the swamps along Kristoff's trail.
To start this one, you just have to go to the inn in Amaranthine. Talk to the innkeeper and ask about Kristoff. He'll answer to his commander and give you the key to his room in back. Get his journal entry and look at the map. You can also talk to Sorcha to learn more about him.
This was the first Awakening main quest that I did in my playthrough. I managed to complete it with relative ease on normal difficulty. I had Oghren, Anders and Nathaniel as my party along with my warden. I use a very strong tank buffer with a huge focus on strength, constitution and dexterity. I wasn't using any special armor or weapons. My warden had a mix of Legion of the Dead, Effort and Juggernaut armor. Everyone else was equipped with their default gear, although I did give Nathaniel two decent daggers.
Note that the big draw for this chapter is a great suit of armor for tank warriors. My warden was practically untouchable after I put him in it and you'll also find some nice accessories along the way.
We have some marsh wolves to kill right off the bat. The deep scary swamp will throw a whole lot of stuff at us. They aren't too bad. Just hold your ground and the first group will die. The second group is more complicated. The alpha wolf calls them in from all side. You can kill him and the first responders quickly. Two more will show up from behind though, so run back and cover your mage while the rest of your party holds the center against the stragglers. Look around for a shack with a skeleton. You can search him to get The Trail of Love side quest. Keep moving and enter the destroyed town. You can examine the area and talk to Nathaniel. If you point out that he's living his childhood dreams now, then you can get some nice approval.
The area has some new enemies. Blighted werewolves and blighted shadow wolves. Talk about bad luck! Two separate curses. These guys aren't too tough. They can't do a lot of damage, unless they use overwhelm. Even then, they often just scratch aimlessly if they grab a warrior. Rogues and mages have to be really careful though. Nothing too difficult about killing the wave you find upon entry. Just hang on and keep them off Anders. Advance a bit and you should trigger another wave. Just rinse and repeat. Make sure that you check their bodies. There is a ton of money on some of them. I picked up about fifteen sovereigns after one fight. Make sure that you pick up the note from the guilty aide. You might as well get the side quest now (The Burden of Guilt). We can't go further into the town, so just head out the ruined exit into the swamp.
There are some more werewolves and marsh wolves. Once again, just hang on and keep them focused on your buffer. Your mage and your rogue will rip right through them. Check the right side for dragon bones. Move on forward and approach the camp ahead. There are more hidden werewolves that will attack. Really nothing new though. Search the campsite and inspect the bed. You'll confirm that Kristoff was at least here a few days ago. The rest of the area is blocked off by barriers, so we only have one option. Walk past the bridge. You can go along the side path to the chest across the pond. The broken barrel is the hidden cache from the Burden of Guilt side quest. A few werewolves will attack though and one of them is lieutenant class. Keep moving and approach the weird plants on the other side of the bridge.
They'll spit out about five childer grubs. These new darkspawn are basically like the blighted werewolves. They can use overwhelm to basically kill a mage or rogue. They are also very agile, so it will take a bit of a grind to actually bring them down. Nathaniel seemed to be able to hit them well with backstabs though, so try to reposition him throughout the fight. Anders should also use cone of cold on them. Keeping them frozen will be a big help. Once they're dead, you can check the area and loot the bodies. Kristoff's body is just on the side of the mound. Approach it and examine him. You'll find that you're in a bit of a trap.
Our new friend has sent us off to the Fade for a little bit of a side trip. It seems that The First isn't as valuable as he thought though. He's stuck here with us. He'll wander off and leave you with a few darkspawn childer grubs.
Just hold your ground. It isn't much of a fight. There are a few genlocks too but they'll die in a few hits. Advance along the path and engage the lesser shades in the area ahead. There should be at least one greater shade. He's just got more health and is a bit better at dodging. You should be fine just holding your ground and grinding him down. Look up to the right. You should see a fade tear apparatus. Three desire demons will spawn once you get close. Just rush them. They'll die in a few hits and they shouldn't be able to do too much cool magic. Touch the device to shut down one of the tears.
Go ahead and trigger the essence of constitution. You can go ahead and go up a side path to a big tree. There isn't much to do here, but you can kill some more shades for experience. Keep following the line and cross the little river. Go up the hill and kill more desire demons to turn off the fade tear apparatus and grab an essence of magic. The really important thing is the circle of runestones in the corner. That's attached to the summoning circle in the real world. We need to activate it now.
The Blackmarsh Summoning Circle
You need to hit the six runestones in the right order. You'll know it's working, because they'll send a little flame line to the center pedestal. Nothing bad happens, so don't worry about a minor mistake. You just have to try again. In fact, basic trial and error isn't a bad way to do it if you keep getting the directions flipped. Go over and walk straight across to the short stone right in front of the path. This should be the first one. From here, go straight back across and flip the tall stone. From this stone, look forward and hit the one to the right of the first one. In the same viewpoint go back to the one that was to the left of the second stone. Go ahead the remain one next to it and then hit the last one.
This triggers a big battle. Rage demons will spawn and we need to outlast them. Six demons for six stones. The first three are lesser rage demons, so you should probably be able to kill them before they even get all the way out of the ground. The last three are greater rage demons though, and they spawn based on time. If you take too long, you'll be facing two at once. There's no real strategy to this. Use magic to immobilize them with freezing or crushing prison. Note that fire doesn't hurt them at all. Group heal is a godsend for their area of effect magic. If you can get a rogue behind one of them, then you should have no trouble at all. Once the last one dies, you can activate the pedestal to fix the summoning circle in Blackmarsh.
Reaching the Castle
Advance along the path and go up to the last fade tear apparatus. Kill the desire demons and shut it down. There's an essence of strength and an essence of dexterity in the area. There are also some shades and rage demons. Be careful of the rage demons. Most of the little group are greater demons and they can do an absurd amount of fire damage in a short period. Be ready to use revival if someone gets killed. A defensive fighter should be able to tough it out, but the rest will have some trouble. Cone of cold will do wonders for crowd control.
When you're ready, cross over to the castle. A few shades will attack as you pass the upset woman. You can kill them and just move around to the docks. Pick up the essence of cunning and then keep circling around to find the Lonely Soul. She'll run off after a few skeletons come for her. Just hold your ground against them. The archers are just annoying mainly. The three skeletons are usually lieutenant class though, so make sure you bust out some magic to take one of them out fast. Finish off the archers and then go into the crypt.
As you can expect, we're going to face a whole lot of skeletons. The ones on the floor usually rise up and some more burst out of coffins. There isn't too much that needs to be done to beat them though. You just have to have one warrior shrug off their attacks while Anders freezes them and Nathaniel backstabs them. Oghren should be useful at least. There aren't too many lieutenants, so it isn't too bad. Advance to the next room and clear it. Then chase the Lonely Soul to the dead end. It seems that this was a trap. But who's trapping who? Yeah, anyway, it seems that the girl is actually a hunger demon. You can use intimidate to scare them off, but that isn't too satisfying. Plus the only way to free the girl's soul is to kill the demon. This is basically just a tough shade, so you should really be fine. A few skeletons will join the battle, so have one warrior peel off and fight them to keep the pressure off the rest. Between Nathaniel's stabbing and a general grind with your other warrior, the hunger demon will die without too much trouble. Finish off the skeletons and then use the essence of magic in the corner.
Go back out to the room. The skeletons will probably respawn. If they do, then kill them again. Go down the steps and kill a few more undead soldiers. You should be a pro at this by now. Use the essence of cunning and then go upstairs to the next room. Just another quick fight. The only big change is that the archers are fairly annoying and they're i a good spot to do some damaging critical shots while you're tied up with the fighters. You should be able to just use group heal to stay alive and then bull rush their position at the end. Go up the ramp into Undying Blackmarsh.