The Ups And Downs Of Dragon Age: Inquisition’s First DLC

by Joe Juba on Mar 25, 2015 at 12:01 PM

The first piece of single-player DLC for Dragon Age: Inquisition is now available, adding on to the already enormous amount of content your Inquisitor can conquer. Jaws of Hakkon introduces plot points regarding warring Avvar tribes, long-lost gods, and the leader of the Inquisition’s last incarnation 800 years in the past. The ideas are interesting, but the balance of benefits and drawbacks make it difficult to wholeheartedly recommend.

Jaws of Hakkon costs $15, and is currently only available for Xbox One and PC; EA and BioWare aren’t releasing any info about when it is coming to other platforms. Though many gamers definitely have strong opinions about timed DLC exclusives, I’m leaving that issue out of these impressions. Instead, I’m going to focus on the content itself, and why it left me with mixed feelings.

Pro: A new area
You access the DLC by going to your war table in Skyhold and spending 8 power to investigate Frostback Basin, which opens a large new zone to explore. Compared to the other areas (like the Fallow Mire or the Hinterlands), Frostback Basin has more variety in its scenery; expect ancient ruins, colorful forests, icy castles, and foggy swamps. I also like how the area uses more vertical space, with some of the camps nestled up in the trees.

Con: No significant developments
Even with more ground to cover, none of the events in Frostback Basin are particularly compelling – unless a slightly longer chat with Scout Harding is all you are looking far. The main storyline focuses on the reemergence of a god and the history of Inquisitor Ameridan – your predecessor who led the last Inquisition before the formation of the Templars and the Chantry. The plot isn’t bad, but it also doesn’t distinguish itself with any great moments or revelations. At the end, it feels like you just cleared another zone, no different from finishing the incidental storylines of the other optional areas.

Pro: Lots of stuff to do
Don’t worry about being done with this DLC in just an hour or two – especially if you’re a completionist. In addition to the main plot thread, you can expect lots of side content to keep you exploring every corner of the map. New camps, rifts, shards, landmarks, astrariums, regions, fetch quests, and other trials (including another dragon) are scattered around. Additionally, I ran into a few unique war table operations tied to the new zone.

Con: You’ve done the stuff before
Does that list of potential side content sound familiar? It should, because it’s the same stuff you’ve been doing in every map. One of the great things about Dragon Age: Inquisition is the fact that you don’t have to do everything; you can just engage with stuff you find interesting. However, after a full game of doing these activities, none of them are interesting anymore. Only the main story thread provides anything new (though not amazing), which ultimately leaves this massive zone feeling hollow.

Pro: Aimed At High Levels
The minimum recommended level for Frostback Basin is 20, which definitely makes it late-game content. It can be undertaken after you have completed the main campaign, which is a good move considering that Inquisition came out four months ago and most players likely have end-game saves at this point.

Con: Characters in the background
Inquisition has my favorite cast of any Dragon Age game. Your party members have new dialogue and banter for the DLC, but none of it amounts to anything. It doesn’t seem to matter who you bring along, since none of them play a special role in any of the events. Maybe BioWare’s Citadel DLC for Mass Effect 3 spoiled me, but I was hoping that this new zone would provide another opportunity to see new scenes with my companions and get to know them better. No such luck.

Pro: New items
As a late-game zone, Frostback Basin has merchants that sell powerful gear and weapon schematics, as well as hard-to-find herbs and materials. You also find new weapons and armor as you complete quests and work your way through the story.

Con: Underwhelming rewards
Complaining about powerful new gear may seem strange, but the items aren’t that powerful or creative. I’m not asking for anything game-breaking, but considering the price of admission for the DLC, the spoils just aren’t enticing. Wielding a giant ham-on-a-hilt is a fun novelty, but more weapons and armor with unique abilities and effects would have felt like appropriate compensation. In some cases, the gear wasn’t even an upgrade from what I had already crafted.

Final Verdict
Jaws of Hakkon is a decent piece of content, but it is also completely nonessential. For $15, it doesn’t add much to the gameplay, deepen your connection with the world, or develop the characters. Yes, Frostback Basin is cool, but it also feels familiar. “More of the same” isn’t necessarily bad, but one of Dragon Age: Inquisition’s greatest strengths at launch was its staggering amount of content; another zone just feels like a drop in the bucket, and a missed opportunity to do something more interesting with the fantastic cast and the concept of the Inquisition’s growing influence.