Dragon Age 2: Legacy Reader Review
During the opening of 's first real piece of downloadable content, Varric, the game's hairy, de facto mascot, somewhat downplays its importance. “Oh, that! I didn't think you'd be interested. Just some business with Hawke's family.” Have Bioware given up? Their track record with DLC hardly inspires confidence, when the additions to comprised mostly of in-game items thinly veiled as quests, and stories too short and inconsequential to provoke interest. What fate awaits an add-on to a title that already has fans up in arms?
is the story of Hawke's lineage, uncovered as you track down a criminal cartel following a series of attacks on you and your family. You begin deep within the uncharted Vimmark Mountains, where you're quickly confronted by a number of people seemingly desperate to obtain the 'Blood of the Hawke'. Learning that an ancient Grey Warden prison is the source of all the unfriendliness, you are of course immediately compelled to travel through hell to reach it.
The setting proves to be intriguing, and more importantly, completely new. It won't blow your mind with any startlingly unique backdrops or landscapes, although the prison itself is very aesthetically accomplished and actually manages to convey an atmosphere of danger. This was arguably something missing from the series, that for all the undisputed evil and malice present in the form of the Darkspawn and your other enemies, you never really felt like you were progressing deeper and deeper towards something you didn't to reach.
Whilst 'ancient imprisoned evil' may well be a cliché, it's a device that works extremely well as an incentive in the confines of an additional, optional quest. Progression is mostly linear, but the pacing is satisfying with moments of solitude few and far between, the whole thing clocking in at around four hours. Battles occur more naturally, with ambushes from behind upon turning into a dead end, and enemies emerging from doorways rather than thin air. Numerous encounters also make effective use of the area to increase the challenge presented, ever so slightly raising the level of tactical thinking needed.
The variety of enemies is surprisingly diverse, although it can feel a bit like a 'best of' compilation at times. Hurlock and Genlock Alphas make a return, complete with a redesign and in the case of the latter, new moves as well. The new make-up and wardrobe budget has been similarly lavished upon the rest of Legacy's cast, not least of all the final boss encounter, itself a fully-blown battle that feels at home with similar key confrontations from the campaign.
The onslaught of fresh content is further embellished by the voice acting on offer. As you'd expect, Hawke's conversations are fully voiced, introducing us to two or three new main characters integral to the story in the process. In true Bioware tradition, there is a decision to be made towards the end of proceedings, and whilst it won't bring the heavens crashing down with sheer diversity, it nonetheless offers a welcome degree of re-playability.
Your companions aren't overlooked in this respect, and there's more than a couple of new conversations and remarks to be heard. Some inevitably play a more prominent role given the nature of your task (Varric and your sibling in particular are obvious choices), but there's still ample opportunity to delve a little deeper into Anders' background, and learn why Isabela doesn't wear pants.
In truth, there is very little about Legacy to criticise, and it slots into the game effortlessly thanks to the campaign's unique narrative approach. After four hours featuring a self-contained story reaching a satisfying conclusion, you're unlikely to feel hard done by.
Those who want to rush through, and devour it as if challenged to fit it all in their mouth at once, will relish the minor tweaks to combat and gain a powerful piece of equipment according to their preferences. Savouring the experience will result in a new set of armour, as well as a number of enlightening codex entries – just why is Kirkwall such a hive of criminal lunacy?
We'll likely never truly know the circumstances surrounding the unusual final product that was , and if it was time or an error in judgement to blame – how different would opinions have been if this had been in the game to begin with? Just think, Bioware, we could have avoided all of the negativity, and Isabela, Zevran and I could be getting drunk and sailing around together in the DLC instead.
What can be said for sure, is that if you enjoyed the game on any level, still represents a worthwhile investment and will only further that enjoyment. One piece of DLC certainly won't be enough to win back the wounded and disappointed, but for anyone on the fence, the sharp writing and presentation is likely to restore a little faith in Bioware's ability to spin a compelling quest.