Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Dragon Age 2's The Exiled Prince Downloadable Content

When I do a rant on an RPG's add-ons, I typically list all the ones of significance out and look at them all at once, then judge the game's extra content as a whole afterwards. That was the plan with Dragon Age 2 at first, but as I wrote this out, it shaped up to be a rant in and of itself. Since it's so long, and since DA2 is still relatively new and relevant, and finally since I feel that there's a message worth conveying here, I decided I'd make this its own post. I'll probably refer back to it come the day I've finished my add-on rant for Dragon Age 2, but for now, The Exiled Prince DLC warrants some attention.

The Exiled Prince is a downloadable set of extra content for Dragon Age 2. This add-on was available for free with the DA2 Signature Edition, which was basically a premium edition of the game available to anyone who pre-ordered it before a certain date. If you didn't pre-order it in time, it costs $7.

Judging this one is hard. On its merits alone, it's a good add-on. The Exiled Prince basically adds a new character to your party, Sebastian, along with several quests and scenes pertinent to him. They don't really skimp on Sebastian at all as an addition to the party; he has roughly the same amount of character development and interaction with the plot as most of the other party members, and is a romantic interest for female protagonists. He's a long ways off from being a great character, but he's decent enough (and "decent" is as good as any DA2 character gets). So based just on that, I'd say the add-on's worth the price.

Yet I nonetheless have issues with this DLC's circumstances. Like Zaeed Massani of Mass Effect 2 and Shale of Dragon Age 1, Sebastian's package was available the day the game was, which begs the question of why it isn't just part of the game, period. If Bioware's planning to have this character be a part of their game, and have the time and resources available to do all the programming for him, then he should BE IN THE GAME. An add-on should be an ADD-ON, an extra part you can add to the game later, NOT a piece of the game that was MISSING. Look at it this way: if you buy a 100-piece jigsaw picture with a picture of a fish on the box, then when you correctly place all 100 pieces of that puzzle, you had better damn well have a complete picture of that fish. If, after you finish the puzzle, you discover that the picture of the fish is actually incomplete, and requires a separate 3 pieces sold separately from the 100 that come in the box, you have EVERY REASON to be angry, because you were RIPPED OFF. You paid for a product with the understanding that it was complete, and it wasn't. And that's not fair.

Now, I can forgive Mass Effect 2's character Zaeed (and later Kasumi). And I can forgive DA1's Shale. The reason for this forgiveness is that these characters, though seamlessly worked into the game as companions, are additions, not missing parts. Even though they can all take part in the plot and have scenes during the games' finales, the overall game's events and plot--the overall picture of the fish in the puzzle metaphor--does not require them. ME2's final mission can go as well or poorly with or without Zaeed and Kasumi, and what additions they have for the game are pretty much all strictly related to them. DA1's Shale has content to add to the game that is much the same--it's good to have, but not significant or vital to the plot proper. Basically, if you don't get Zaeed, Kasumi, or Shale, all you will really miss out on are Zaeed, Kasumi, or Shale, and a few side quests directly pertaining to them.

But here's the problem with Sebastian. Up until the game's finale, Sebastian gives every appearance of being like these previous 3 add-on characters I've mentioned. But at the game's finale's beginning, Sebastian suddenly has a very strong impact on the plot. Basically, he will force upon the protagonist the choice of either killing Anders for his fucktarded and hypocritical murderous magical warmongering, or losing Sebastian's respect and help forever. The determination of what to do with Anders is a pivotal decision for the plot's course, and having Sebastian force the issue with a threat of consequences either way increases the dramatic nature of the scene. This one scene makes Sebastian significantly engaged with Dragon Age 2's core storyline--more so even than Fenris and Merrill, 2 non-add-on party members! The presence of Sebastian adds an important aspect to the events of one of the most important moments of Dragon Age 2's plot--which means that if you don't have The Exiled Prince add-on, your DA2 experience will be incomplete. You will not just be missing out on a character and things involving him--you'll be missing out on part of the actual plot of the game.

THIS is why I am VERY angry with The Exiled Prince. The finished product of Dragon Age 2 was created with the intention that he should be part of it. Removing him and selling him separately is CHEATING THE CUSTOMER. It may be fine and dandy for me and anyone else who pre-ordered the game to get him for free, but there ARE gamers, and plenty of them, who did not pre-order and thus will have to pay extra to get a complete experience of the story of Dragon Age 2. That is NOT acceptable, and SHAME on Bioware for such dirty business.


  1. Man, what's next? Paying for gameplay balance patches?

    It could be worse, but it would approach explicit scandal. This seems to fall under something a bit more forgiveable, but it's not too far from paying an extra fee for footnotes in a novel. Lame.

    Worst part is, I'm pretty sure a DLC character can enhance the plot without being so influential.

    Like, say if Vincent from FFVII was DLC; as is, he's optional, and as close as I can pull from my posterior. He'd be a fresh face in battle, another friend to talk to now and then, and would add depth and context to some core plot points. However, with him out of the equation, the game and story as a whole is still complete.

    ...That's an extreme example, and probably would still be a cause for drama if he were DLC, but not quite as egregiously so.

    Ecc was here, spouting BS as usual, trying to wrap his head around things he has no experience with.

  2. Absolutely a DLC character can enhance the plot without being influential to it. There are several examples I can think of. Like Zaeed, in Mass Effect 2. Or Kasumi, in Mass Effect 2. Or Shale, in Dragon Age 1. You know what these characters all have in common? They're all BIOWARE characters. So it's not like they don't know exactly how to do it!

    Your idea of Vincent would definitely work, too.