“Legacy” comes from humble beginnings: Varric, our dwarven narrator, tells Cassandra, a Chantry seeker, that he didn’t tell her about Hawke’s excursion into the Vimmark because he “didn’t think it was important.”
An inauspicious start for the first piece of downloadable content available for Dragon Age II, BioWare’s biggest release this year.
But Varric’s explanation points to something vital about the Dragon Age series as a whole. Dragon Age II offers a surprisingly focused look at Hawke’s rise to fame in Kirkwall. The “Legacy” DLC doesn’t further that aim, doesn’t fit into the strict confines of Hawke’s character development.
But Dragon Age has always been, often explicitly, about world-building, and this is one area in which “Legacy” shines: it introduces a new area -- no seriously, it’s brand new, and none of its assets are recycled -- around Kirkwall while adding texture and detail to Thedas’ ancient history, to the Grey Wardens, and to House Hawke.
Dragon Age II: Legacy (Xbox 360 [reviewed], Mac, PC, PlayStation)
That “Legacy” resides largely outside the confines of the story of Dragon Age II mostly works in its favor. Varric very consciously gives Cassandra the Cliff Notes version of Hawke’s life, and the “Legacy” team was very economical, using the gaps in Hawke’s life to expand on the ancient Tevinter imperium and its relationship with both the Chantry and the darkspawn. Since it doesn’t explicitly tie into the core narrative, “Legacy” can be played at any point during Dragon Age II, a nifty benefit of writer David Gaider’s oft-touted frame narrative. It’s all heady stuff for Dragon Age devotees -- the presumed target of post-release DLC -- and your enjoyment of "Legacy" will depend on how much you've already invested in DAII.
But if “Legacy” stands out like a sore thumb, it at least brings its own architecture with it -- there’s a solid dramatic structure in place, with a beginning, middle, and end not often seen inside individual quest lines. The quests in vanilla Dragon Age II have a way of melting into each other, nested inside a larger story, that prevents any particular one of them from feeling conclusive -- it works because most of them contribute to our understanding of Kirkwall as a whole. But “Legacy” is cohesive (for the most part) and feels complete, concrete, and more individually satisfying that most of DAII’s quests.
THE VERDICT - Dragon Age II: Legacy
Reviewed by Joseph Leray
|11:30 AM on 07.20.2011|
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