21st September 2010 - If there has been one constant this year in gaming, it's that with every month a new piece of DLC for Mass Effect 2 has dropped, and Dragon Age has been right behind it. Bioware seemingly know no bounds, but as the year comes to a close and the last of the add on adventures play set up to the sequels, is the new content getting better or simply re treading well worn steps?
This may have been well documented before, but it bears repeating: back to back, Mass Effect 2 DLC has always been superior to the Dragon Age ones, both in graphics, gameplay and story, not to mention the music. That said, both are short but ME2: Lair of the Shadow Broker still weighs in at 1.2GB for only a few hours. The seemingly larger file also tacks on almost double the price with 800MSP vs Dragon Ages Witch Hunt at 560. Considering that full arcade titles retail at that price it leaves to wonder, why even bother; the answer, is best left to the fans:
Both games round out the seemingly long and epic stories set up in Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age: Origins respectability. In either one, you will be hot on the heels of your would-be ex girlfriends, Liara and Morrigan. Last time we saw them, Morrigan had wondered off in the wilds with a prodigal son containing the daemon spawn of a dragon and Liara, well lets just say that she was too busy spying on everyone else to properly acknowledge your return from death. Turns out, love is lost, but never forgotten.
One of the stand out reasons to play either DLC on top of the swag of other content already released this year is simply to answer some of the questions left lingering in each title. In Lair of the Shadow Broker though, you will do so with Liara firmly fighting by your side. This makes all the difference as with Dragon Age, you will absolutely not see Morrigan until the final moments and spend the whole episode with a sooky elf and would be mage, fighting through the same generic environments just to find her. It is disappointing that the team responsible can not take note from ME2 or even from their own Dragon Age 2; working in more cinema, epic fights and general sweeping vista.
For better or for worse
Each ME2 DLC has brought something new to the table, and while the last one was more horror and Matrix, The Lair of the Shadow Broker is pure detective 'who dun it'. There are actually new environments from Liaras apartment to the final Shadow Broker's confrontation. So much so that the environment for the Shadow Broker is perhaps one of the most epic conceived in games yet, with a massive spaceship caught up in a rolling electrical storm in the sky, clouds boiling overhead and no clear sun on the horizon. Working your way along the hull, g-force winds rip at the characters while debris and lighting strike the hull.
The horrible floaty mechanics of the hover-tank have also been avoided in this chapter, replaced instead with an inspired 5th Element, throwback of flying car chases through a futuristic space City. The handling of said vehicle is still shonky, but overlooked for the thrill of flying through the city in pursuit between other streams of cars, traffic and buildings.
Pro Tip: You can import your character across all the DLC and expansion each time separately in DA, thus the levels and experience carries over all the way from the very first game.
Dragon Age: Witch Hunt though, treads the well worn steps of arena last visited in the full expansion Awakening. If you missed that episode then this might be for you as the underground caves and mage towers are newer than previous areas. The adventure is wholly linear and the graphics as lack-luster as ever, even more so on the back of Mass Effect 2. There is some fun with the introduction of a new 'ancient elven' boss creature as opposed to yet another Dragon, but the actual design of said creature is as uninspired and ugly as the rocks from whence it came.
Perhaps the underlying issue with Dragon Age expansions now, is that while your character is still levelling up, the enemy are not and it is all but invincible to simply plough through them on even the hardest difficulty. Further, with each new expansion the old allies and NPC are thrown out replaced with generic place holders that are all starting to look the same. If you missed it, the would-be king with red hair and pathetic personality from the first game, was replaced with a clone would-be mage with red hair and gay overtones in Awakening (voiced by the same actor), who is now replaced with yet another more or less identical red haired wizard voiced once again, by the same actor.
This unfortunately flies in the face of Mass Effects 2s tightly scripted and well thought out list of personalties that are always available to use and simply put, mask any corners that may have been cut.
VALUE AND CONCLUSION
Sidestepping both the graphics sound, which as previously stated are literally recycled and starting to repeat themselves, Mass Effect is seemingly the only DLC that offers anything new at all:
Highlights include finding pieces of old armour from the first Mass Effect and generally having conversations with Liara that may go over the head of anyone that hasn't played the first adventure. Further without spoiling too much the Shadow Broker himself is an entirely new and introduced species to the ME Universe and although not hard to defeat is a well designed character with personality compared to DA.
Love at first sight
Ultimately, underneath all the fluff and pretex and talking, reminiscing and general foreplay, fans just want to know one thing: Are there more alien and/or magical sex scenes? The answer- can be found for yourself...
Witch Hunting in Dragon Age is ultimately a hollow experience that may be irrelevant even, due to the nature of the newly announced Dragon Age 2. A rather strong hint at the new 'big bad' enemy is revealed but the whole affair is wholly unsatisfying and unrewarding. Defeating the shadow Broker on the other hand, wins you a whole new base to play with and some very important new allies leading into Mass Effect 3. Yes the Shadow Brokers Lair is essentially a less mobile, and dirtier version of your own ship, available through the star map and complete with some new research quests and crew.
Pro Tip: The Shadow Broker in ME is based on the Ogres in DA, just with a Sci-fi twist.
Bioware seemingly has a love affair with role playing and expertly crafted two games on opposite sides of the spectrum. Dragon Age is slowly, kicking and screaming coming into line with Mass Effects approach to action and adventure, but the Dungeon and Dragons rule set that it is based on, is only gone, not forgotten. This time though, the role of the dice favours: Mass Effect 2.
A full list of the previous DLC can be found here
The Lair of the Shadow Broker
AAG SCORE: 7/10
+ Still has new content to offer
+ New boss species
+ Additional bases to unlock, new environments
- Large file size for small play time
- Not much of a challenge
AAG SCORE: 4/10
+ Create some closure to the DA Story
+ Links in with DA 2 coming next year
+ New AI party member
- New AI party member
- Poorly written, conceived and executed
Article Written By Ian Crane