maanantai 2. tammikuuta 2012

Dragon Age II DLC Guide

It's the ill-fated first sequel to one of the greatest fantasy games ever made.

Dragon Age II sold well, but it wasn't a very popular game among BioWare fanatics. Most of them have deemed the game BioWare's weakest offering since Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood, which was released on the Nintendo DS in the fall of 2008. You can read my fairly positive review of Dragon Age II here.

In April 2011, I reviewed Dragon Age: Origins, as well as Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening, the only true expansion pack released for the game. BioWare published a lot of premium content for the game in the form of short, stand-alone stories and quest packs for the game itself. There was no need to review these DLC packs separately quite like there was a need to review Awakening separately, so I came up with the idea of a "DLC Guide", a bunch of short reviews on each piece of premium Dragon Age: Origins content. Now it's time to give the downloadable content for Dragon Age II the very same treatment.

I wasn't supposed to do this just yet, but since the long-expected, final DLC pack for Dragon Age II might as well be vaporware for all we know - I might as well do this now and kick the year off with some better and worse times related to a good game, but most definitely the biggest disappointment in the video game scene of 2011.

RELEASED: March 2011
INFO: An add-on for Dragon Age II, available for free to all who purchased a new retail copy of the game. Hawke discovers the location of a mysterious shop in Kirkwall, run by an equally mysterious, ancient antiquarian.

REVIEW: The Black Emporium offers up overpowered weapons and armour at ridiculous prices, and free stuff that you can hold your own with for quite some time, as well, assuming you collect it early on in the game. Point? There is not much of that, in my opinion. However, The Black Emporium does sell Maker's Sigh, which lets you reassign the attributes and abilities of any character at any time, and you can also modify Hawke's appearance to your liking at any time. I have found these seemingly small services quite useful. What makes this DLC truly worth the download is the ability to summon a mabari to your aid in battle - he's good to have along all the time on a second playthrough, having a fifth member in your party makes the endless and already fought battles end quick - but what makes using the mabari unnecessarily hard is the fact that you have to re-summon him in every room you enter. It's a good thing I got this one for free - paying seven to ten sovereigns for it doesn't sound intriguing at all. 6.0 / 10

RELEASED: March 2011
INFO: A quest pack for Dragon Age II, available for free to all who purchased the Signature Edition of the game. Hawke meets Sebastian Vael, the Prince of Starkhaven, who seeks for the people responsible for the utter slaughter of his whole family. In time, Hawke gains Sebastian's loyalty, and possibly his love.

REVIEW: The Exiled Prince is this game's equivalent to The Stone Prisoner; something that should've always been a part of the game, and which almost was. As the more unfortunate result, The Exiled Prince doesn't bring any new environments, locations or dungeons to the table - it's a few hours more of that less sweet, constant prancing around Kirkwall we hated in the retail - but what it does bring to the table is an excellent, not to mention PERMANENT rogue character, three short but diplomatically awesome quests, a new potential romance for your female Hawke, five new Trophies/Achievements, and perhaps even an interesting cameo appearance by an old friend. It's fairly priced, too. 8.7 / 10

RELEASED: July 2011
INFO: A memento quest pack for Dragon Age II, accessible at any point in the game after reaching Kirkwall. Hawke follows the trail of a Carta group apparently hired to kill him/her to an ancient prison built by the Grey Wardens. The prison walls contain the dark secrets of his/her family, as well as the body and soul of the most volatile darkspawn that ever lived.

REVIEW: I just read two reviews of Legacy, and I must say I'm surprised it was bashed so severely in both. Granted, it is expensive - too expensive. Also granted, it falls flat in many ways after a strong start. Also granted, its high difficulty level in comparison to the retail comes as an annoying kind of shock. But, the sudden and steep change in challenge isn't all that bad - the basic battles are enjoyable, it's the overboard boss fights that are the problem. The plot's quite good, very close to the style and execution of vintage Dragon Age. There are five new Trophies/Achievements, at the very least one damn good weapon to collect, and at long last, a different dungeon - a nice, yet admittedly repetitive one. I'm a little torn between the high price and the mere quality of the product. Maybe you should reflect on this one a bit before downloading it. 7.2 / 10

RELEASED: October 2011
INFO: A memento quest pack for Dragon Age II, accessible at any point in the game after reaching Kirkwall. A beautiful yet deadly elf named Tallis invites Hawke along to her quest of breaking into the vault of the heavily fortified Chateau Haine and stealing its greatest treasure, a jewel called the Heart of the Many.

REVIEW: Mark of the Assassin is off to a bad start - I can't count the ways it reminds me of Leliana's Song for Dragon Age: Origins. It's full of tongue-in-cheek humour, a somewhat lax atmosphere detached from the retail, and even more annoying difficulties to deal with than Legacy, this time involving whole new, but perfectly standard enemies... but you know what? It's really good - it's balanced just right between light puzzle-solving, exploring and doing quests, combat and interactive dialogue. I never claimed the humour's bad, either. It's a drag that Tallis is only there for the duration of this pack, I fell so in love with her after getting used to her presence. As per usual, Mark of the Assassin comes complete with five new Trophies/Achievements. 8.0 / 10

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