When unusual earthquakes open up the Deep Roads in a place where research is being done, Orzammar asks the Inquisition for assistance in finding the source of the tremors. What follows is plenty of what they expect, and plenty that they could have never guessed was possible.
Previously in Dragon Age: As this DLC can take place at any point after the Inquisition makes its headquarters at Skyhold, a variety of things could have happened before the player plays the DLC. But what’s clear for all is, the breach has been closed, and the Inquisition has regrouped and continues to grow stronger after the defeat in Haven.
JOURNEY TO THE DEEP
In the political turmoil of Thedas, especially around Orlas and Ferelden as the Mage-Templar War continues, it has become more and more difficult to pick allies that will also be reliable. But more and more often, the Inquisition has proven itself to be this new voice, this new power that can help where nations cannot.
Orzammar asks for assistance when earthquakes open entrances to the Deep Roads, making the risk of Darkspawn more apparent. The Inquisitor responds to the request for aid, and is lead by a Shaperate (historian/librarian/scholar) and Legion of the Dead member to figure out what’s wrong.
Both of these positions are established previously in Origins, so players experienced with Origins shouldn’t find any of this surprising. What is surprising, however, is the relationship between the Shaperate and Legion member. It’s hinted that they had/have a romantic relationship, and was actually very sweet to watch it unfold.
The mission starts out straightforward enough, with the enemies being Darkspawn at every turn. But about halfway through, the types of enemies change. And that’s when I feel like the story starts to get a bit shaky.
The trailer for the DLC claims that the story will reveal a secret that will shake the world to its core. And while there are lots of implications left at the end of this game to theories about dwarves and their connection to magic, I am unsure of how I feel about the reveal. Perhaps, this is because it feels so “separate” from what I’ve known so far of the world previously, and the potential origin of gods (if they really are gods) of the different religions in Thedas.
I can only hope that the next game will draw on this more, but for now, the story itself felt underwhelming.
SHADES OF BLUE
As many problems as I had with the story, wow did I absolutely love the graphics and setting. It was drop dead gorgeous, and I know that my preference for playing dungeons in Inquisition helped here. I didn’t have as many motion sickness problems playing in areas with low light, so this was a joy.
I really appreciated the various aspects of designs in the setting, from actually having to jump down cliff sides, to the remnants of dwarven architecture of abandoned thaigs, and the way the color palette changed gradually.
The final area of the map, while not complicated to navigate, was so stunning that I couldn’t stop taking screencaps.
It was also nice to see Shieks again. There are reasons why some Darkspawn would be more common than others in certain parts of Thedas, but there will always be at least a few in each significant grouping of Darkspawn. Dragon Age 2 forgout about Genlocks until they added them back in the Legacy DLC, and they added the Shieks again here. And as much as I hate them, it doesn’t feel right fighting Darkspawn without occasionally encountering one.
A SECRET FORGOTTEN OR A SECRET CONCEALED?
Since the storage chest is available in Skyhold (thank goodness, finally), empty out the backpack of everything you won’t be needing. This DLC has a lot of loot.
I really appreciate when a DLC brings some sort of new mechanic, or twist on an old one. The War Table is nothing new to those already playing Inquisition, and there is a miniature version of it in the DLC at the main camp on the first floor. It’s important to note that it’s only at the main camp, But thanks to the Fast Travel feature and convenient lifts/etc from one floor to another, backtracking isn’t too much of a pain.
There’s plenty of construction projects that can be done on the miniature War Table, and none of them need to be done to complete the main quest. However, they are needed if one wants to collect all the gears to open all the doors and get all the loot. Places needed for construction projects are marked by Landmarks.
I am grateful for the compass for finding the gears, because there’s no way I would have ever found them, otherwise. But by using it on a regular basis and looking in all the corners, I ended up not having a difficult time finding all of the gears. I also did all of the construction projects. Take note, though, that you’ll need around at least 40 Power to complete these tasks. I was using a save near the end of my game so I had plenty to spare, but it might become a problem if played in the middle of a playthrough.
The deepstalkers and spiders respawn, but the darkspawn and all sentient enemies don’t.
My biggest beef with the mechanics and general fighting were two different fights, that felt like they were bugged and meant to be a battle of attrition. There have been plenty of times when I took on what seemed like a neverending onslaught of enemies, but this really became tedious after awhile. There was one circumstance where the enemies weren’t that difficult to defeat, but they just kept coming. And wouldn’t stop. And it was never difficult to keep my Guard up or anything, so it wasn’t like my health bar was at risk or I was running out of potions, but it stopped making me engaged in the game and then just wondering when it was going to end.
There was a massive boss battle on the third level (a horde of smaller enemies and then a boss), where I got a bug that made me consider restarting the fight. One of my mages (in this case, Solas), fainted. Oh well, that sucks, gotta revive him somehow, right? …not quite.
It was bugged so he didn’t actually collapse to the ground, so I couldn’t revive him, even when I used a spell. Even more oddly, at one point when my other mage (Vivienne) used Barrier on the party, the downed Solas got one too, when it shouldn’t have happened.
So I made the middle of the fight a lot more difficult than it had to be, since I was stubborn, but eventually Solas somehow became unbugged, and the fight didn’t take too long to finish after that. I have no idea what happened to make him unbugged.
I also hit a critical error, for the first time ever in playing the game, right before another battle of attrition fight.
As for the final boss, the only reason I beat it with any expediency is that I knew this review was due and so I didn’t have time to ram my head against the wall trying to figure out how to beat it. This is where the difficulty curve really went through the roof. I had to go back and change my party. do some reading on forums (where plenty of people on Nightmare were struggling, even when dropping the difficulty down to Casual), and taking tactician advice from a gamer with a whole lot more skill than me. And I did beat it on my third attempt, but having to do so much revising to my strategy and team made me feel a little bit better that I was playing on Casual.
BOTTOM LINE: ITS BEAUTY DOESN’T COVER UP ITS SHORTCOMINGS
The trailer claims that the player can “battle the ultimate darkspawn horde.” That’s a tall order to fill, given that the entire first game in the series was about defeating the Fifth Blight. Even as awesome as the Legacy DLC for DA2 was, it never claimed to be bigger and badder than Origins when it came to darkspawn. It’s ridiculous to think that a DLC could compare to a full-length game.
And even with those claims, the Darkspawn were incredibly underwhelming when comparing to the legions the Warden had to face down in Origins. The marketing would have done better to leave that line out, or perhaps revised it to say “battle fearsome darkspawn hordes,” or something. Because I wouldn’t deny that for this game.
The game was fun to play because of how pretty it was, when the difficulty curve didn’t feel like I got whiplash and then stuck in glitches of neverending enemies. It’s hard to tell if my problems with the plot are because I’m a superfan of the series, or if it really did need a few more revisions. It’ll be interesting to see where they take the plot elements, however.
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