Version tested: Xbox 360
Dragon Age II certainly had its flaws and missteps but what made it resonate - for me, at least - was the way it dialled the RPG bombast back to a more personal level. It was very much the saga of one person, and it was structured in such a way that when terrible events befell the city of Kirkwall, it felt organically connected to the character you were playing and the choices you'd made. Divisive though the game as a whole became, it was this narrative focus that provided its greatest strengths. Sadly, little of that strength is evident in this second DLC salvo, which snuggles comfortably into a more traditional role-playing framework.
The plot is triggered by a mysterious gryphon statue that appears in Hawke's ancestral home. Interacting with it leads into another flashback interrogation with Varric, in which he coyly dodges the question of why he didn't mention this adventure before. "I didn't think you'd be interested," he smirks. Given BioWare's see-saw reputation when it comes to DLC, it's a risky statement to put up front. As it goes, by the end, we are interested - but only just.
So we're whisked back to catch up with Hawke and your preferred party as they investigate why a Dwarf Carta is trying to kill him. It soon transpires that it has something to do with your blood and the actions of your father, who was involved in something with the Grey Wardens in a remote fortress prison.
Inevitably, it's into this prison that you venture and as you work your way into its depths and out the other side, the family intrigue is just enough to provide the slim story with enough backbone to hold itself up, while never becoming particularly gripping or memorable.
It is, at least, fully voiced and generous with cut-scenes and dialogue options. Few of them lead to different outcomes, but when so many DLC offerings for Dragon Age: Origins were virtually mute, narrative-free corridors of mindless combat, it's worth putting a tick in the 'pro' column for Legacy.
The actual shape of the gameplay is hardly imaginative, though. It's a linear crawl, with sporadic dead-end diversions that mostly serve to deliver objects and plot points for the three optional side quests. There are mini-boss encounters and some new Darkspawn variants, although these are more like remixed versions of familiar foes than anything dazzlingly fresh.
The highlight for the adolescent-minded will probably be an encounter with an armoured bronto called Wanka. This is almost as good as discovering that Han Solo once had a robot companion called Bollux.
The most interesting and useful aspect of Legacy is Hawke's Key, a powerful weapon that takes on a form relevant to whichever class you're playing as. As a warrior, for me it was an enormous, Final Fantasy VII-sized broadsword. Along the way through the prison, there are magical seals, set in place by your father. Only the Key can open them and, after defeating the obligatory hulking demon guardian each time, you get to pick a new status effect to add to the weapon.
You could add flame effects, mana drain and enhanced critical damage, or make an icy weapon that slows enemies down and increases your chance of critical hits. There aren't many permutations, but it's enough to allow you to customise this weapon in a way that fits best with your play style. Add in a decent armour set and some more status-boosting trinkets and, loot-wise, it's a worthwhile mini-adventure. Certainly this is the main reason to pick up the Legacy add-on, with the narrative and combat mostly there to create the illusion that you didn't just spend 800 Microsoft Points on bonus items.
That's a little unfair, as Legacy's story isn't bad, it just lacks emotional or thematic investment. We don't really learn much about Hawke's father, and nor does he (or she) seem to care that much about the whole legacy aspect either.
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What Legacy does offer is a boss battle against Corypheus, an ancient foe with the potential to be something very interesting, but the restrictions of DLC and the implications for the wider game world in fully exploring his potential mean that your encounter with him is just a preamble to a big fight. A fight that is, quite frankly, one of the most annoying boss encounters in the Dragon Age series, and one that your AI companions are ill-equipped to cope with. It's not quite as infuriating as the Harvester from the Golems of Amgarrak add-on for Origins, but it shares a lot of the same weaknesses: silly arcade attack phases, crude low-level enemy spamming and the sinking realisation that the best way to win is to tackle it solo and just run around, healing and chipping away at an elongated health bar.
Legacy is virtually a template for not-bad-but-must-try-harder DLC. It has a story that is adequate but ultimately redundant. It has lots of combat, but few encounters that really test your skills or party management. It has plot twists, but anyone who has ever played an RPG before (particularly a BioWare one) will see them coming the moment certain characters are introduced. And the loot is good, but not enough to justify the whole enterprise.
That's a lot of buts, and when you sift through them you get a passable addition to the game, but one that doesn't do anything to make itself essential. Better than a lot of BioWare DLC packs, but nowhere near as satisfying as their best work.
5 / 10