If Bioware's Dragon Age wasn’t long enough, then the recent expansion isn't going to make it much longer. To be fair this is the second DLC for the game, that should otherwise have been included in retail. For those who have actually slugged through the game, the following may not be anything new, but for the rest, there are spoilers; so you’ve been warned. Return with us as we hit up the fields of Warden's Keep and discover its secret within.
Reviewing DLC can be tough in that, where a game did very well usually an expansion is more of the same but slightly different, lowering the 'wow' factor and potentially nullifying any enjoyment. What is striking about this particular addition is just how well it would have worked as a demo or trial to the full Dragon Age game.
What you get is a bite size taste of everything you would expect in the full game: A long winded story about the titular Grey Wardens, their ancestors and the lies and betrayals that followed, a mix of both un-dead and daemonic forces, 2 side quests, some new evil npc to chat with and a bunch of loot. Specifically a new suite of Armor. All this in under a few hours.
Sadly, if you were under the illusion that this was some sort of expansion pack with new quests, it's not. In fact the tower at Warden's Keep surmount to a front lawn on the castle with a bunch of un-dead to push your way through. Once inside you have to clean out the castle, confront a mage and then, thanks for playing- it's all over. Oh, and there is a corrupted un-dead ex-Grey Warden relative to dispatch of as well.
Why this would make an excellent demo to the full game is that the story, true to form is excellent. Told through the flashbacks of ghosts, a lot more detail about the Grey Warden heroes is explained and the people that came together to form them. Unfortunately, unlike the main game, the story is told via cut scenes which are wholly un-interactive. So the action will continually stop to reveal more movies about the past.
If the main game was not action enough for an RPG, then returning to Warden's Keep is. There are waves of undead up to the castle doors and then a bunch more inside. Depending what level you approach this at, you won't even have to pause as the dead fall like butter to your higher level character. This is a serious flaw and many people may not try this till after the main quest is complete. The new armor set is good but not great, and provides nothing better than some of the higher level loot.
Graphics and sound
One curious thing about the expansion is that Bioware promised more stuff for your pet dog. Admittedly there is nothing to engage your dog in specifically until you remember that all the sparkly environmental items around the world can be 'sniffed' to unlock more XP and upgrades for said animal. In this way, there is a lot around the castle to look at and see and the environment is suitably pretty.
Graphically, Warden's Keep is the almost exactly the same as the rest of the game. It possibly looks slightly better due to some nice weather effects like snow and blizzards on the top of the castle, but at least on the XBOX, water is still static colors which are rather bland and burnt in. The snow is well represented and at least Bioware do not seem to have reused too many of the same props. Everything looks 'new' to the world of Dragon Age but also fits right in. New enemies include un-dead in the form of Skeletal warriors while the rest are a mix of the daemons already in the game.
Unfortunately there is just not much to write home about. The dialogue options are up to snuff, with a few different choices of how to achieve the outcome. Once again as seems to be the pattern, you can pick which person to side with in the dispute to either get 2 new abilities for your class, or some new loot.
Bioware have taken all the best bits of the larger game and distilled them into a tighter compact package. But just as it gets going it ends, unlocking a bunch of new characters to trade with in a new town but not much else.
The value in this particular mini-adventure might just be saying that you have done everything and seen everyone in the game. Or it might just simply be shutting up the npc in your camp who consistently tries to get you to buy DLC to 'complete the mission’.
You would think it is worth the money, what with an excellent short story, some good dialogue choices and a new set of armor, but gone are the days when rare armor was hard to find, in the depths of some forgotten tomb. Now the depths of the credit card and shallowness of pocket will have to do. It does explain some more back story about your characters, but at 400msp, it should have come free; with the game.
When a game like Dragon Age boasts so much already, can we really cry foul when we are asked to pay for a little more. The biggest flaw in these transactions is what exactly do you do with the new loot and skills after the expansion? Especially when you have already finished the game. The anticipate Mass Effect 2 goes some way to remedying this, carrying over characters from the first game, but Fallout 3 had the same flaws. Bioware: More DLC please, longer this time and with harder enemies.
AAG SCORE: 7/10
- Same Great Bioware flavor
- Same Great Dragon Age taste
- The two main bad guys are at least interesting
- More of the same
- Way too short
- Not scalable to higher levels
Reviewed & Written By Ian Crane