Thursday, July 28, 2011

My Thoughts On Dragon Age II: Legacy

So...the new downloadable content (DLC) for Dragon Age II came out on Tuesday. Called Legacy, it is a standalone quest that can be played at any point during the game. I had recently finished my (third) playthrough of the game, and after installing the DLC I only had to start up the game and press the "Resume" button to be taken to my character's home, from which point I was able to launch the campaign.

There were a few delays to getting my hands on the much anticipated release:
a) it didn't go live/become available to download until late in the afternoon on Tuesday, and
b) after I had downloaded and installed it, I couldn't get it to launch because I had forgotten to log back into my EA account from the game (doh!)

Once I got past all of that and actually started playing it though, I have to say I found myself quite delighted with the new content.

Mild Spoilers for the DLC after the pics.


My latest character, Wren.
(Thank goodness the dorky headwear can be hidden in-game!!!)

Here's a better shot of her face.


The basic premise of the new quest is that, sometime during the Champion's adventures in and around Kirkwall, the Carta (a guild of thuggish dwarven smugglers) starts hounding your character like there is no tomorrow. Ever the trusty ally, Varric tracks their activity back to an area called the Vimmark Chasm, which is basically in the middle of nowhere. Hawke and team go to check it out (yes, I named my character Wren Hawke, what can I say, it was a whim).

It turns out that this group of the Carta worship a darkspawn that has been imprisoned in an ancient and forgotten Grey Warden prison, hidden in the chasm. They want to release the darkspawn, and it seems that Hawke's blood is a key requirement in effecting said release. Ooh, a mystery. Of course, once the Champion's party enters the prison, they find out that it has been magically sealed. Much like the vaunted Hotel California, you can check in, but you can never leave. The doors are all one way. So everyone and everything that has ever wandered into the prison (on purpose or on accident) is either dead or trapped down there.

Luckily one of the people you come across is a former Grey Warden, and recognizing your character as a Hawke, he offers to help your party. The only way out, he says, is to break the seals holding the darkspawn captive and then kill the creature. So you have to make your way through the prison fighting all manner of things, mostly dwarves and darkspawn who have been drawn to the prisoner's call and want to see him freed. It's not just all fighting your way from point A to point B, either. There is also a little side-quest where you can learn more about Varric's lineage, and you get some interesting background on Hawke's family as well. Then there is a bit of Tevinter and Grey Warden lore thrown in there. There are even a few instances of puzzle solving, which is something I quite enjoy in my games.

I am almost done with this quest. I am at the final boss fight (so far I have died three times), which is FREAKING HARD y'all. There is a trick to it that it took me one and a half attempts to even figure out, and if you don't cotton on you will very quickly start losing party members. In interviews before the DLC's release, the developers mentioned that they tried to use this quest to address some complaints that the battles in DAII were too easy. Well, they succeeded. Exceeded expectations, you might say. Geez. Still, I have faith that a few more tries will get me through it. Now that I have figured out the trick, it is just a matter of keeping a close enough eye on my entire party to keep them alive for the entire fight. I am not gonna say any more than that on the subject, you'll just have to play it and find out.

I am definitely looking forward to getting to incorporate this in to my next full playthrough of DAII. There is a lot of loot to be found and sold, and you get a pretty badass weapon on the quest (integral to completing it) that you can then carry into the rest of the game. So, yeah, it would be helpful to have that. The weapon you get is also dependent upon your character's class, which is kind of cool. As you go through the prison you get the opportunity to enhance the weapon, too, and you get to choose what stats you improve, which is pretty nifty. I kind of want to play the quest through as every class just to see how the weapon varies for each one.

I wouldn't hit this quest up too early in the game though. As I said, boss fight. HARD. Worse than the high dragon. Maybe the end of the second act though.

A few other notes on Legacy:

I am glad they brought back the Grey Warden lore as part of the game. I know from a story perspective, there wasn't much place for the Wardens in DAII, but they were so central to the first game that their lack in the second was noticeable. It also reinforces my belief that the third game in this series is going to bring together the stories of the Warden Commander and the Champion. I have some ideas on how both of your characters might be in the same game, though I am sure Bioware is on a completely different page in a totally different book than I am on that one. Still, I do eagerly look forward to the story for the next game. I suspect it is going to be a big payoff.

Also, big golden griffon statues littered all about the background. Awesome touch.

Your party selection seems to be pretty important for this quest. I would be curious to play it through with a few different party configurations to see how each character reacts to what is going on.

There were some really cool tweaks to the game's design implemented in Legacy. (I tried to get some screenshots to post, but they apparently didn't take, either that or they saved in a place that is not the default screenshot folder). Most notably the Genlocks look totally different in the most awesome way possible. Even different from those that appeared in the main part of DAII. There were also some new items to loot--not just your random sacks, crates, and barrels (and yes, I giggle every time I say "crate and barrel" or every time there was a crate and a barrel in close proximity to each other in the game, I have issues, we know this). There were a few standalone bottles of health potion and injury kits, and they just looked spiffy. There were also "small purses" here and there. For those weary of repeating the same dungeons and caves, this map is totally new and that was definitely a nice break.

Overall, I definitely recommend this DLC to fans of the series. Even if DAII left you a little disappointed, Legacy is worth it. It has the feel of playing Dragon Age: Origins while keeping all of the best parts of DAII.

In addition to Legacy coming out on Tuesday, the newest Dresden Files book, Ghost Story came out that day as well. I was pleasantly surprised to find that even though I haven't visited with Harry and his pals in quite a while, I was able to jump right back into his world as if I had never left. I will be giving that my full attention after I finish up Legacy, and then, then comes the Mass Effect replay. It looks like I will be spending my birthday playing ME for two years in a row. Hmm. Can't complain about that.

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