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Legacy Offers Plenty Of New Story For Dragon Age II Faithful

by Matt Miller on Jul 27, 2011 at 12:45 PM

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While it doesn't address issues fans might have with the gameplay, Legacy is a solid new chapter in the story of Hawke, the Champion of Kirkwall.

Dragon Age II met with a mixed reaction from BioWare enthusiasts. Dramatic changes to the combat system, the repeated use of environment templates, and an unfocused narrative were just some of the criticisms leveled at the game when it released earlier this year. Other fans rejoiced at the opportunity to return to the vibrant fantasy world of Thedas alongside a new hero.

The first major story DLC for Dragon Age II doesn't aim to alter any of those perceptions, and your enjoyment of the new Legacy pack is dependent on your opinion of the source game. Presuming you found something to love about BioWare's latest fantasy excursion, this new adventure should make for a pleasant afternoon's diversion.

The 3-4 hour playthrough of Legacy has a lot of new adventures, monsters, and treasure to explore. You can play the new content by heading to your home base and activating a statue that begins the opening sequence. The story will jump to a new location outside of the city, where we learn that attacks against the city have prompted Hawke to head out into a mysterious part of the wilderness to track the source. The dungeon that follows, which is the entirety of the Legacy story, is a fun delve into new locations not seen in the original game. Extensive new voice work by the original actors gives life to the experience. New armor and item pick-ups are a welcome sight. New dungeon layouts and a few small puzzles inject variety. There's even a couple of new monsters in the mix.

You can choose which characters to bring along for the ride. Happily, one of the options for me was selecting Bethany, Hawke's sister. If your hero still has the other sibling, Carver, he'll be involved instead. Both characters are unplayable in the latter part of the main game, so bringing them back in at a higher level is a fun twist. Other party characters have some interesting development. For instance, if Varric is in the party, you'll finally get some explanation of the origins of his beloved crossbow, Bianca.

While Legacy does a good job of integrating your party members, the real story is about Hawke and his or her family. Specifically, father Malcolm Hawke steps into center stage as an important figure. I like the succinct but heartfelt exploration of Hawke's family and its importance, and the cool mystery about that family unfolds as the story continues.

For many, the biggest draw of the new DLC pack will be the availability of a brand new (and highly powerful) weapon for your main character. For my warrior, it was a massive two-handed sword. As your explorations through the dungeon continue, you'll have the option to customize the upgrades of the weapon through several choices. It's a fun new piece of your arsenal, but doesn't offer any fundamentally different options than any other highly powered weapon in the game.

Fights are tuned to your current level. If you, like me, are playing with a "game complete" save, that amounts to some pretty brutal battles. Some fights that feel like they should be routine can easily turn into a wipe if you don't pay close attention, and at high levels these fights take longer than they should. In particular, the final boss battle is a mess, largely thanks to some questionable AI on your party members, and their inability to understand that fire is, in fact, bad for you.

I'm definitely one of the players who found some significant faults with Dragon Age II's core gameplay experience, and none of my concerns are addressed in this new content. Nonetheless, Legacy is a fun chance to dive back in with some of your favorite characters from the game, and the short adventure is action-packed and well told. I'd love to see a more full featured expansion, like we had with Awakening from the first game, but for a low-priced bump to the original game's content, Legacy delivers.