So, I've been thinking about these Add-On rants I do on occasion. Until now, I've been waiting to post each rant on a game's add-ons until all of them have been released. But that really doesn't make much sense; any poor fool who's actually going to listen to my opinion about them isn't going to wait until a year after the game's released to consider each add-on as it comes out. So, starting today, I'm going to just put up the Add-On rants as soon as I wish, and update them as new Downloadable Content or Expansions and whatnot come out, instead.
Besides, if Bioware doesn't do a hell of a repair job on that terrible ending for Mass Effect 3, I doubt I'll particularly feel like purchasing their games and add-ons ever again, and then I'd just be sitting on a perpetually unfinished rant.
Anyways! Dragon Age 1's add-ons had their good moments, but as a whole, I was far from impressed with the game's extra content. Did Bioware do better this time around? Let's see.
The Exiled Prince: I actually had a separate rant dedicated to this package that I posted a while back. Check it out for the details. The long and short of it is, while this add-on's content is alright, Bioware's selling it to players is a dishonest rip-off, as the core plot of DA2 is, even if only in one small (but significant!) aspect, incomplete without this DLC. If you want the plot, the primary core of the game, in as complete a form as possible, you have to pay for the game AND pay extra for this on top of it.
The Black Emporium: This DLC is available to anyone who buys the game new for free. It's not available to anyone who doesn't buy the game new (so anyone buying the game used is out of luck), but I think that's fair. I mean, buying the game used means not actually supporting Bioware with your purchase, so it wouldn't be fair to expect them to throw in extra content for free just for the heck of it.
For the most part, it just adds a few items and recipes to the game, but there are just enough things of note that I'll consider this a real add-on. First, it DOES add a new area, albeit a very small one, and a new NPC with some dialogue and such. It all pretty much just amounts to a new and strange shop with a rather odd shopkeeper to hear a few lines of dialogue from, but for what it is, it's not bad.
More important (and yet, somehow, mostly ignored) is the fact that this DLC also adds a Mabari hound to protagonist Hawke's family. The dog can be summoned during battle to help you, which is nice, but unimportant. Of note, though, is the fact that there are several conversations added to the game with the dog, small scenes where Hawke or one of Hawke's companions or household members will interact with the dog, usually in amusing ways. This is neat, and even helps further develop the game's characters a little through their interactions with the canine. In fact, this token add-on NPC is actually a more legitimate character than DA1's Mabari hound was, even though the previous game's dog was supposedly a full party member! There are actually more scenes of conversation with DA2's free add-on dog than there were with DA1's so-called "real" character, and while none of them amount to anything particularly important or create any notable personality for the mutt, they're certainly no less significant than DA1's dialogue scenarios involving the hound.
So, a free shop and a free semi-party member which develops other characters through their relations with it and that improves upon (if not fixes) the first game's problem of poor representation of its animal character? This is certainly a decent little DLC. Nothing great, but decent.
Legacy: Two words come to mind: Lame, and Pass. You might think that a quest wherein Hawke finds out that his/her father was involved with the Grey Wardens sealing an ancient, unknowable horror within a tower of Darkspawn and mystical wards might be interesting, especially when it turns out the sealed being is one of the ancient Magisters who originally created the Darkspawn through their hubris-inspired transgressions into the Dragon Age version of Heaven, but you'd apparently be dead wrong. Barely any focus is actually put on the role and character of Hawke's father, nixing most chances for character development for Hawke and Bethany or Carver (if you brought them along). Really, that aspect basically never goes much further than other people saying "YOU HAVE THE BLOOD OF YOUR DAD WHO WAS HERE DOING STUFF ONCE;" there's nothing actually substantial said about it or him. The Magister is mildly interesting, I suppose, but though this provides a little bit of confirmation for the dogma of the Chantry, this unexpected development never really goes anywhere, with any major questions of the ancient, myth-laden history of Dragon Age that the Magister could have provided insight for left unasked and unanswered. If Anders and Varric are along for the ride, they can have a little extra dialogue, but it doesn't amount to anything more than saying hi to the guy who made Varric's crossbow (and then killing him), and Anders seeing that maybe there's more truth to the Chantry's legends than he thought. The only really worthwhile part of this DLC comes at the very end, wherein Hawke's mother (or a vision of her, since you can play this before or after her demise) speaks of parental pride for Hawke and the ways Hawke is similar to his/her father. That part's nice enough, but everything up to it is bland and rather forgettable--and even this final talk could have been better, had the DLC properly established the character of Hawke's father so the comparison would mean more. Not really worth the time, definitely not worth the money. The money being $10. When I did my Fallout: New Vegas DLC rant, I said at the time that $10 seemed an awful lot for a DLC package, and that is still how I feel, but I suppose that nowadays with rising costs of everything that this is probably a price I'll have to get used to paying. Nevertheless, Legacy's not worth an average price regardless of what that may be.
Mark of the Assassin: I'm not totally sure whether I like this DLC more or less than the last. Felicia Day's character of Tallis, the elven Qunari assassin who was star of the small online Dragon Age video series Redemption, joins with Hawke temporarily for a small adventure. Tallis is alright here, but she was more interesting in Redemption by a lot, and the rest of the cast basically just get pulled along by the plot's events. With 75% of the DLC basically being breaking into and then escaping a well-guarded vault in a mansion, a large part of the this thing just feels like a rehash of Mass Effect 2's Kasumi Loyalty Mission DLC, only not nearly as interesting and without good characters. The Qunari culture is brought up in this package, which makes sense since Qunari affairs turn out to be the central focus of the small adventure, but it's never explored adequately, much like Hawke's eventual decision to help or abandon Tallis. There's some humor to this, but it's kind of hit or miss--sometimes Felicia Day's character is amusing when she's trying to be, and sometimes below-par writing and an inability of Ms. Day to visually convey her message just makes things bland and slightly annoying (and either way, Tallis has become more glib than her character as according to Redemption really allows for). In the end, there's really nothing in this add-on that's especially good or bad, but I'd have to say that the small negatives outweigh the small positives. People will buy it anyway because it's about Felicia Day playing a character whose design amounts to "Let's make Felicia Day into a video game character," but they'll be throwing money away on a sub par product.
It seems that this is the end of DA2's add-ons. Bioware hasn't said it is, but they haven't given any indication for the past half year that there's going to be more, and lukewarm player response to Dragon Age 2 means there's not much reason to keep making content for it.
So how'd it stack up? Poorly. The add-on with the best content, The Exiled Prince, is unethical. Half the DLC packages are bland and have virtually no noteworthy qualities. Lastly, The Black Emporium is good, but ultimately serves an incredibly small role in the audience's experience of the game. Frankly, even the original Dragon Age did a better overall job with is DLC, and you may recall that I was not impressed by and large with the add-ons for that game. Bad show, Bioware.