I’m one of those people who couldn’t stand Vivienne my first playthrough. On my second playthrough, I considered not recruiting her at all. She’s rude and her side quests add little to her character development or the main storyline. I honestly couldn't find any worth to having her around.
Players who like Vivienne often report enjoyment of her sass and her mastery of The Game. At first, I really couldn’t see it. Vivienne’s sass drove me up the wall, regardless of whatever insights into her character you gain through party banter. (Did you know she was nearly possessed during her harrowing and that’s why she’s so afraid of Demons and Cole?)
A master of The Game… how? She joins the Inquisition and then just kind of sits there. I don’t see her pulling any strings for me. Not even in Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts when you'd expect her to be able to do something for you. And if she hates you, she rearranges your furniture and calls it a “test” of your limits. If you try to call her out on her beef with you, she does her “don’t be ridiculous, darling” and that’s the end of it.
Honestly, the whole thing seems rather childish, right?
Well, maybe not. Through discussion in the BioWare forums, purposely speaking with Vivienne supporters, I discovered a side to her I hadn’t seen before.
Me: Vivienne comes across as more petty than cunning. Rearranging my furniture doesn't help this image. Neither does her treatment of the Marquis. Yes, he made a racist remark against her... but her response is to cause his death for it? That seems like an extreme overreaction on her part.
daveliam: If Alphonse is dead, it's because your Inquisitor allowed it. You can't hate on her for killing a man for insulting her when your Inquisitor has to do the exact same thing in order for him to die.
Me: If your Inquisitor tells her to let the Marquis go, you can ask her what will become of him later. She'll say he'll likely be disowned by his family and he'll throw himself into the war in an attempt to prove himself which will likely end in his death. She set it up so that either way he dies.
daveliam: You can't hold her accountable for that. If his family disowns him and banishes him to the front lines of the war because of a political faux pas, that's not on her. She didn't kill him. She scolded him, humiliated him, and sent him away. The only way that she directly kills him is if the Inquisitor tells her to.
Me: If I'm supposed to view her as Master of The Game, how can I not hold her accountable for that? She didn't like what the Marquis did, so she put him in a situation where either the Inquisitor would ask for him to be killed or he'd be humiliated into throwing himself into a situation that would likely cause his death. She knew what she was doing when she set that up. She also put herself in a situation where she couldn't directly be blamed for his death - either the Inquisitor asks for his death or the war kills him. No one can directly point to her for that, but she's still the one who put those events into play.
... I may have just convinced myself that Vivienne is master of The Game...
Holy, sh*t, guys! Vivienne is a master of The Game!
First, she completely manipulates the situation with the Marquis so she gets her sweet, sweet revenge without having to implicate herself (the only way we know she wanted him gone is through party banter with Cole). And then, she uses that situation to get you to recruit her.
How awesome did Vivienne seem in that scene the first time you played? Some guy is completely bashing you and the Inquisition, and then Vivienne walks up and puts him in his place. Yeah, she’s cool. And then she puts forth good arguments for wanting to come along with you – she’s a powerful mage, she has contacts, and she wants to close the breach – she has more sense than most people you’ve encountered so far who just want to accuse you or bicker over things less important than saving the world. Of course, you want her to come with you.
And then you have her and discover she’s the most rude and annoying person you’ve ever met and you can’t stand her. Worse! You can’t even ask her to leave!
Vivienne played you.
Let that sink in for a moment.
And while we're at it, let's talk about that furniture scene:
daveliam: If you get Vivienne's disapproval low enough to get that scene, she's already losing The Game with you. The Inquisitor is going to win in the long run, so she plays a petty move specifically to demonstrate that she is willing to openly challenge you. And she wins in that moment. [....] It’s not her strongest move, but if you consider the motivation that I mentioned, it shows that she's still playing The Game by demonstrating to a political rival that she's not going to be walked over lightly.
Vivienne moves your furniture, and it annoys you – maybe not that your furniture was moved, but that she would resort to such childish antics. You want to call her out of her crap, you want to kick her out, but you can’t. Vivienne stays, and by getting a rise out of you – even a slight one – she wins.
Let that sink in, too.
Do I appreciate Vivienne more? I have a better understanding of her political plays, that’s for sure. And yeah, I would say I appreciate or value that aspect of her character. It makes her formidable, that's for sure - that she can be manipulative with such subtlety.
Do I like her more? No. I still can’t stand her.
daveliam: It's really locked into two things, I think: your opinion on the Mage-Templar conflict and your opinion on The Game. If you are Anti-Circle and dislike The Game, then it stands to reason that you won't like Vivienne. I'm fairly neutral on both (Pro-Mage, but also pro Circle reform and interested in The Game a bit), so I'm able to look at Vivienne with a much less tinted view, I think. I can understand why people feel the other way about her, but it just boggles my mind that people can't take even a slightly objective view on her.
I’m anti-circle, but I found the initial conversation you have with Vivienne after recruiting her enlightening – in fact it’s one of the only reasons I can think of in favor of recruiting her. She has a different view of the circle, and while it doesn’t coincide with mine, she makes some good points that are worth considering.
But I still don’t like The Game. And I still don’t like Vivienne. She’s manipulative and power hungry, and I don’t want to help her achieve whatever it is she hopes to gain by joining the Inquisition. I’ll be putting in the Keep that I never recruited her. Undoubtedly Vivienne will still have some cards to play, and she may get where she wants to go without me, but at least I will be able to say I didn’t help her.
I still don’t like Vivienne, but I understand her a little better, and that’s something.