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Review #431

Dragon Age II: Legacy
Developer: Bioware
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: Action RPG
Release Date: 07/26/2011

When Dragon Age II first came out back in early March, I didn’t get to play it until several weeks later (even though I preordered it and got the nifty Signature Edition). When I did finally get the chance to play it, I fell in love with it even while many other folk on the internet seemed to hate it. It’s probably because I hadn’t had the chance to play Dragon Age: Origins (and I still haven’t! Such is the life of a reviewer. There’s so much you HAVE to play that you end up missing a few things) as the biggest complaint was, “It’s not DA:O.” For me though, it was easily one of the ten best games of Q1 2011. So of course, when Legacy came out last week, I purchased it right away. Like all other things Dragon Age related, I didn’t PLAY it right away, but that’s because of the trophy sync bug. If there was that bug, there had to be others, right? So I gave it a week and finally decided to play it. The trophy bug is still there, but as I don’t really care about trophies, it was no sweat off my back. Instead I spent four hours covering every nook and cranny of Legacy including a hidden boss, a hidden puzzle, and collecting a full armour set. So after “100%’ing” Legacy can I say it was worth ten dollars?

Let’s Review

1. Story

The story of Legacy takes place somewhere before the end of Dragon Age II and you play it as a side story being told by Varric. However, the entire adventure reacts as if it IS post game, as you have your post game level, stats and character selection based on your final choices. For example, I didn’t have Sebastian since I let Anders live. You do get Bethany/Carver back though. I would have preferred this adventure to be right AFTER the ending, as something that happened before everyone left Kirkwall, but for some reasons Bioware set it when they did, creating a few continuity and story issues.

The crux of the adventure is that a clan of Dwarves have been attacking both Hawke and Bethany and so they gather some of their friends to find out what they did to warrant these attacks. My team for this adventure was Hawke, Bethany, Isabella and Varric. Hey, I like rogues. Who you pick will influence the dialogue and story slightly, which is always a nice touch. Characters also banter as always and it’s nice to hear some new Bethany based banter based off her time with the Grey Wardens and catching up with everyone.

As the adventure goes on, you learn the dwarves and perhaps even the Grey Wardens are working for an ancient being neither darkspawn nor human, yet somehow both at once. It is slumbering, as it has for centuries, but has the power to affect the minds of anyone with the Blight and so you are asked to put it down. The “legacy” aspect comes from the fact your father actually had something to do with the prison and perhaps even the creature thirty years ago. As you and your friends journey to dispatch this ne’er do well, you learn about your family as well.

The story is neat, but it is mostly filler. What you learn about the Hawke family is fluff and it doesn’t really affect anything. What is interesting is that you learn a bit of the Blight’s origins from someone who was directly there when it happened. There are a few side quests, but they are all collecting items so it’s nothing especially exciting and they feel like they were thrown in for padding. Otherwise it’s a very linear hack and slash with one hidden boss fight (with a dragon that turns into a wizard or vice versa. Who knows?) and a torch based puzzle that is straight out of point and click adventure games.

So there’s a lot to do here, but the best bits of the story are secondary while the primary hook is kind of generic and dull. What’s here is fun, but compared to other $9.99 RPG expansion (like those for say, Fallout 3), the story is a bit thin here.

Story Rating: 5.5/10

2. Graphics

I really like the look and feel of Dragon Age II, but there were some notable issues with Legacy. The first is that there is regular slowdown in this expansion and that can get annoying, especially as this offers some pretty big battles. The other is that there are problems with shadows in regards to layout, texturing and location. Sometimes, like with a set of staircases, you can’t see anything. It’s just a black blob and so navigating the staircase is pretty hard. It’s obvious that this wasn’t intentional and it surprises me that shadows could be such a problem in the expansion when there were A LOT of caves in the main game.

What is nice are the new character designs. You have an amazing looking hidden dragon boss, an even cooler looking end boss, a new Gray Warden, a Warden Commander who has somehow managed to stay sane and in control even though he is almost entirely corrupted by the blight (cool character too) and a pack of brand new monsters for the codex. These new characters look great but Dragon Age II has always had better looking characters than backgrounds, so this is really no surprise.

What’s here is a lot of fun to look at. It’s just too bad the slowdown and shadow issues plague the visuals here.

Graphics Rating: 6.5/10

3. Sound

This is probably my favorite aspect of LegacyDragon Age II in general. The music, voice acting and sound effects are all wonderful. The voice cast really brings these characters to life and infuse the script with both personality and emotion. The music (new tracks too!) set the mood of this dungeon crawl nicely and the noises from the monsters and some new spell effects from the two bosses are a lot of fun to listen to. The new characters really steal the show with their performance and dialog.

It’s hard not to love the aural aspects of Legacy and it’s great to be reunited with Hawke and the crew.

Sound Rating: 8/10

4. Control and Gameplay

Well, it wouldn’t be a Bioware game without bugs that made it past QA/QC control, right? Here the biggest bug for me came with combat. Sometimes my character wouldn’t attack. He’d just stand there and twirl his bow as if I was hitting the attack button outside of a combat situation. Unfortunately I was in battle central. This would also happen with my special abilities. This NEVER happened to me in the main game and it was extremely frustrating to not be able to attack, especially since my character was min/maxed to be the perfect long range assassin. I’m not really sure how this came about, but it’s there so just a head’s up for others who play a distance rogue Hawke.

Other than this one big annoying bug, Legacy plays exactly like the rest of DA2. You set tactics for your three comrades and switch between all your characters as need be. Controls are pretty tight although it always annoys me that the CPU controlled characters have access to everything while at most, a human controlled character has quick keys for eight attacks at most. Perhaps this works better on the PC version with room for more hot keys?

There is one puzzle in the game worth talking about as it’s not something you encounter in the rest of DA:II. You have six torches. Touching each one causes some to light up and some to extinguish. The goal is to get all six lit. This is an optional puzzle and a bit hard to find. Solving this nets you a piece of special armor and if you play a lot of PC adventure games, you’ll know this puzzle and solve it easily. Keep a look out for it!

Control and Gameplay Rating: 7/10

Replayability

While you can only play Legacy once per saved game, there is definitely reason to go back to it. Who you pick to go with you determines some of the dialog and a good deal of back story. Your best bet is to go with Anders, Bethany/Carver, and Varric if you want all the hidden back story and all the trophies. Still, no matter who you take to kick Dwarf, Gray Warden and ancient unholy thingie ass, it’s worthy replaying Legacy to see if you missed anything or for other story bits. That said, if you only have the one save, you basically paid ten dollars for a three hour tour you can’t use again. If you do replay the game from the beginning, you can access Legacy at any time once you are in Kirkwall and when you play it will not only affect the challenge level but if you do it earlier than post-game, it will let you use “the key” (easily the best weapon for your Hawke in the game) in the rest of DA:2. Of course, the last boss of Legacy is the hardest boss in the entire game so keep that in mind…

Replayability Rating: 5/10

6. Balance

My big complaint was that I found Dragon Age II far too easy. In fact, I never had a character get knocked out. In Legacy’s last battle, Varric and Isabella were taken out almost instantly and that left Bethany and Hawke to take it down alone. I successes, but considering my guys were level 32, that should give you an indication of how bad ass this fight can be. The hidden boss battle isn’t as hard, but it is a really nice long one so you’re getting to challenges, one minor and one the biggest challenge in all of DA:2, and that made me really happy.

If you play DA:2 primarily for combat, then you will be happy to know that there is a lot of it here with some new monsters and even some large hordes to deal with. It’s definitely a lot more challenging than anything in the main game, but not so tough that I had to restart at any point. I really enjoyed the ramped up difficulty but I’m unsure how it would fare if you tried this in say, Act I with relatively weak characters. Again, another reason why Bioware should have firmly set this post the main game instead of during it.

Balance Rating: 7/10

7. Originality

There really isn’t much here to make Legacy stand out. It’s just a rather generic hack and slash linear quest with a few hidden things along the way. It’s not like the DLC for the same cost that Fallout 3 had where you travelled to entirely new areas and had story points from reliving the Alaskan War to being kidnapped by aliens or dealing with the Necronomicon. Honestly, the only thing that makes this feel any different is the end boss and the super power “key” your character gets to wield. I love that there is finally a weapon to customize here and at the end my Bow was doing a base 210 damage + 25 lightning damage + a raise of my weapon speed by 3% + a 25% chance to slow down any enemy it hit. That’s awesome and insane all at once. With twelve power ups for the key and you get to pick any three, you can realize design the perfect weapon for your character. Other than that, it’s just another hack and slash mission that blurs together with the rest.

Originality Rating: 4/10

8. Addictiveness

I had a hard time putting Legacy down and even though it should only be about three hours to 100% the DLC, I kept looking all over to find any other hidden tricks and treats. That added another hour to my play time. The only reason I didn’t beat the whole mission in one go is that I had other stuff to do, but trust me when I say it was VERY hard to pull away from this. I just really like DA:2 and although this was more of the same with a few minor twists, that’s really all I needed. I like the game play. I like the characters and there was enough of a story to keep me intrigued, if not impressed. I wish it had been longer or that there was more DLC, and that’s pretty telling to me.

Addictiveness Rating: 7/10

9. Appeal Factor

Compared to similarly priced DLC for RPGs like those in Fallout 3, Disgaea III or even Costume Quest, you’re not really getting your money’s worth. Sure you are getting the length and two boss fights, but that’s about it. DLC for an RPG should really stand out from the rest of the game and feel almost like a spin-off with the same engine. The three games I just mentioned all have DLC that does that and thus it’s worth the price. Legacy just feels like a missing quest from DA:2 that should have been there in the first place and in that respect, it’s a bit of a disappointment. Looking at the DLC for Dragon Age: Origins, that game followed the same pattern of standing out, so that means people that were pissed at DA2 to begin with will probably be doubly so at Legacy.

I liked Legacy a lot, but not ten dollars worth unfortunately. It doesn’t stand out enough to feel like it warranted to be DLC in the first place. I love the end boss fight and my new bow…but when will I ever use the latter again, you know? With the amount of hate DA2 already has, Legacy is just going to exasperate those issues. So unless you are like me and you really like the characters and game, it’s not worth the ten spot to pick this up.

Appeal Factor: 5/10

10. Miscellaneous

Well, eight days later, Bioware still hasn’t patched the trophy glitch and that is bound to piss a number of gamers off. Of course Bioware and bugs/glitches that don’t ever get fixed is pretty common for them, so I wouldn’t hold my breath on this (or several of the others) getting fixed any time soon. Couple this with the high price tag for more of the (admittedly fun) same, and you get a fun product that I can recommend to people who loved DA2 but little others. The overall product is an above average one, and it’s better than some DLC that freezes up constantly (F3’s The Pitt). Still, Bioware gave us something that doesn’t really stand out with a pretty high price tag for DLC. Of course, that’s par for the course for them and it’s a shame that they still haven’t learned their lesson.

Miscellaneous Rating: 3/10

The Scores
Story: 5.5/10
Graphics: 6.5/10
Sound: 8/10
Control and Gameplay: 7/10
Replayability: 5/10
Balance: 7/10
Originality: 4/10
Addictiveness: 7/10
Appeal Factor: 5/10
Miscellaneous: 3/10
Total Score: 58
FINAL SCORE: 6.0 (ABOVE AVERAGE GAME!)

Short Attention Span Summary
Dragon Age II: Legacy is more of the same, which means that if you loved the main game, you’ll enjoy this and if you hated the main game, now there is just more to hate. For your $9.99, you get the best (and most challenging) fight of the game, along with the best weapon in the game, a new set of armour to collect, and a second hidden boss to find. The quest will take between two and four hours to complete and it is both very linear and almost all hack and slash dungeon crawling, so it’s really only worth the price if you just can’t get enough of Hawke and his friends.

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