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Ross avatar 2:43 PM on 10.21.2011  (server time)
Late Review: Dragon Age II: Mark of the Assassin

Dragon Age II’s Mark of the Assassin DLC introduces Tallis, an elven rogue seeking to steal the Heart of the Many, a gem with an undisclosed past secured within an Orlesian estate, under the guise of joining Hawke on a hunting trip. The DLC introduces Felicia Day’s premier role for BioWare, her latest inclusion in what seems like a campaign of ingraining into gaming culture.

 The add-on’s plot does not lack and proves to be entertaining over its 4-5 hour playtime, featuring amusing characters and scenes, and is bookended by Varric's narrative. Fortunately, the story breaks away from the fair assumption of it being “another Stolen Memory” (a previous DLC from BioWare which MotA is seemingly very similarly comprised). The affair is not as simple as it initially seems and provides a couple of surprising twists along the way (one of which is spoiled by the live-action web-series that accompanies MotA, so I would recommend playing first and watching after - unless you have an aversion to plastic, that is). The DLC provides a clear change of gear from BioWare’s last downloadable offering, Legacy, offering a substantially more humorous and light-hearted tone (mostly created by the hilariously French Orlesian caricatures), complete with witty party banter. One thing that one will notice is the amount of dialogue companions have, adding an often charming backtrack to exploring the add-on’s new scenery. BioWare’s writers do not disappoint.

  Day provides a surprisingly solid performance and maintains Tallis as a believable, likeable, and quirky character. Not falling victim to the short amount of time to portray Tallis, Day and the writers flesh out the elf considerably, adding an intriguing back-story and firmly establishes her within the Dragon Age universe. I would have certainly welcomed her as a permanent companion for Hawke’s collection of colourful characters, but the option to keep her is sadly not inherited from Stolen Memory (although one can expect that BioWare must have something planned for Tallis’s future).

  MotA’s quest are a mixed bunch. The main-quests are generally very entertaining, keeping just the right amount of dialogue and combat. The side-quests, however are another story. They are just plain boring. There are three fetch-quests (two of which are for the companions of one’s choosing (Isabella and Aveline include some plot - so I would recommend taking them along, while other companions are all about collecting). This is understandably frustrating, as most of the side-quests are aimed towards Hawke’s companions, yet only two can be taken at a time, so many of these are notseen by the average player. It would have been much more satisfying if there were more content for a single playthrough. The stealth sections in the main quest are hardly worth mentioning: Hawke crouches and thus walks slower, and all abilities are replaced with two - one for knocking guards out, another for distracting them. Not much to write home about. Again, the quests are left wanting with no real moral choices of consequence, a trend quite obvious throughout Origin’s sequel.

  Addressing complaints of the core game, the DLC is thankfully set outside of Kirkwall and is comprised of completely new environments. These environments are, indeed, very nice see and bring a refreshing change from the vanilla game; a vivid green forest and gardens, and a plush estate complete with dungeons and caves below (disappointingly, the caves, although a new layout, look remarkably like the infamous environment from DAII) comprise the new eye-candy. All of the new areas are great to play in, as they are large and sprawling, with the player’s party rarely being confined to small areas.

  Yet more variety is added through the inclusion of two new types of enemies (the others seeming original, but only being re-skins in reality): ghasts and wyverns. Ghasts are dwarfed hobbe-esque creatures often found within “ghast holes” and employ archers, warriors, and mage archetypes within their ranks, and often prove to be quite challenging - along with the rest of the DLC, it seems, as mage Hawke was incapacitated often during the harder battles. The wyverns are cousins of dragons, and prove to be appropriately tough. Their design is excellent (especially a certain unique one encountered); I found myself just looking at one during a battle, rather than, well, battling.

  MotA’s last boss-battle is one of the best seen in the entirety of DAII; forcing the player to mix up battle tactics from the usual “stay still and press ‘A’” affair due to projectile poison, explosive charges, and pseudo-bull-fighting mechanics. The DLC’s challenge is consistent, with this battle being no exception, stretching the most seasoned of players. BioWare took DAII‘s criticisms on the chin and really made this battle something special.

  BioWare have crafted a great afternoon’s experience, but no more. Though the plot and pacing is tight and Day’s character proves to be endearing - the DLC is enjoyable, there is a glaring lack of depth in the side-quests and the inability to keep Tallis is lacklustre. This must not put you off, however, as Mark of the Assassin’s addition to the Dragon Age universe is highly enjoyable, providing entrancing new lore, enemies, and quests, culminating in an incredible final battle, all with a very funny edge to it. This is definitely a must-buy for all Dragon Age and Felicia Day fans alike.


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