Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Dragon Age II: Mark of the Assassin

Review: Dragon Age II: Mark of the Assassin

5:00 PM on 10.22.2011 // Joseph Leray

To play the first, oh, ten minutes of Dragon Age II: Mark of the Assassin is to gaze into the abyss, to confront everything weird about videogames and the culture that surrounds them.

The scene: protagonist Hawke is enlisted to help an exiled assassin, Tallis, break into the estate of an Orlesian nobleman to pilfer some jewels. Playing Hawke as an intrepid dagger-for-hire made sense when he/she was a hardscrabble immigrant; it's less convincing now that (my female) Hawke lives in a mansion and wields considerable social capital, having saved Kirkwall from imminent destruction and all.

Hawke is eventually convinced to follow a complete stranger to a foreign country to steal from a powerful oligarch when Tallis, voiced by Felicia Day, coos, "That's just what you do, isn't it?" The corollary goes unsaid, but here it is: "It is when you're the hero in a videogame."

That Day -- perhaps the most well-known ambassador of nerd culture -- is involved is equally distracting, serving as an umbilical link to real world and reinforcing how arbitrary and contrived the endeavor of videogaming can be.

Dragon Age II: Mark of the Assassin (Mac, PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed])
Developer: BioWare
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Released: October 11, 2011
MSRP: 800 BioWare Points (Mac, PC) / $9.99 (PS3) / 800 Microsoft Points (Xbox 360)

Despite its artifice, Mark of the Assassin fares better than Legacy's otherworldly premise. Instead of being fodder for some hokey blood ritual, Hawke is once again cast as a political actor, a doer of great deeds. To have Hawke's accomplishments reflected back to the player is one of the strengths born from designing Kirkwall as a consistent (albeit relatively static) city.

There's very little to say about the bulk of Mark of the Assassin -- its Dragon Age II with an overblown and crudely drawn French accent. There are new enemies called ghasts, but they aren't particularly interesting. Like Legacy before it, Assassin's strength lies in the way it expands the world of Thedas, with changes to mechanics and quest structure being largely secondary.

There are a few exceptions, though. First, there are extended stealth and puzzle sections that range from passable to unoffensive. While nothing special in their own right, these setpieces provide a nice break from stabbing people in the neck until they explode. (Incidentally, the new gear and stat boosts aren't doing much to make Hawke's neck stabbing qualitatively better or worse, just stabbier. She's pretty much built to perfection and this point, her telos being destruction.)

Second, the boss fight in this DLC is pretty good, not to mention remarkable for the way it marries Dragon Age II's action-genre affections to its stat-crunching, role-playing roots. If BioWare insists on adding environmental and spatial elements to its boss fights, Assassin's action-lite overlay is the way to go. Think the Rock Wraith fight from Act I of DAII, instead of the awful Corypheus debacle from Legacy.

(Pro tip: turn all subtitles on for this fight. Your teammates bark useful information during the course of the fight, but it often gets lost in the din and explosions. Taking their advice improves the end of the game dramatically, especially on higher difficulty levels.)

Finally, BioWare has apparently dropped out of the "from the rafters" school of enemy design. The only enemies in Assassin who pop into existence are magicked there by an Arcane Horror.

It is also balanced pretty well -- I can only think of one difficulty spike -- and branches in a few typically BioWare-ian ways, plus a few subtler ways that take a second playthrough to notice.

Still, the crux of Mark of the Assassin is that it's, y'know, more Dragon Age II.

Even Tallis -- who joins your party complete with her own skill trees and algebraic tactics -- is more important as a catalyst for the story than for her role in combat. She's basically an Isabella clone with a less pornographic bust, and Assassin isn't long or varied enough to really explore her mage-smashing specialties. From that perspective, it's tempting to wish Hawke could whisk Tallis back to Kirkwall as though she were another Seb Vael or Shale.

However, considering her position as an outsider -- she's an elf who makes her living as an assassin and holds, as you'll discover, some pretty out-there beliefs -- I'm glad that BioWare chose to keep her activity limited to this particular quest. Keeping her around any longer would ruin the mystique. Of course, it's almost surely the result of technical considerations, but it serves the story too.

This is where BioWare's casting of Felicia Day morphs from a vaguely disconcerting boondoggle to a legitimate design choice. Tallis is voiced with an American accent, which immediately sets her apart from the rest of the British Roman cast. This reinforces her status as a cultural "other" while adding characterization that has nothing to do with the writing or plot of the game.

In the service of the bare-bones heist plot, Mark of the Assassin explores different cultural territory than the mage-templar dialectic that dominates so much of the first two games. There's a hitch, though -- Tallis is a cipher for a hitherto under-explored subset of Thedans, but players don't have a baseline of understanding of her background and culture. The result is that Tallis is written to be subtle and nuanced, but -- Dragon Age II's dialogue wheel may be partly to blame -- she comes off as vague and obtuse. This represents a fundamental problem for BioWare -- the strength of Dragon Age DLC in general is that it expands on a rich, expansive world, but if players don't understand the world they're being thrust into, the entire enterprise is undermined.

Nevertheless, Mark of the Assassin is a lighthearted and straightforward game that does most things right and nothing truly wrong. BioWare DLC has long been the purview of that company's tinkerers and iterators, its refiners and experimenters, and it's nice to be able to track the team's progress. Fans might be better served by longer, more fully-realized content, but the fact remains that I'm always looking forward to any excuse to dive back into Thedas.



THE VERDICT

6.5

Dragon Age II: Mark of the Assassin - Reviewed by Joseph Leray
Amicable - A presentable but unmemorable time. Focusing on the bright spots helps, and I appreciate the effort, but I won't be playing this repeatedly.

See more reviews or the Destructoid score guide.

Joseph Leray, Former Features Contributor
 Follow Blog + disclosure Tips
Joseph Leray is a long-time features contributor, reviewer, and (self-styled) editor-at-large for Destructoid. He lives in Nashville with a menagerie of pets and a Final Fantasy IX obsession. more   |   staff directory



 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding *.disqus.com to your whitelists.

destructoid's previous coverage:
Dragon Age II: Mark of the Assassin


View all:powered by:  MM.Elephant

Ads on destructoid may be purchased from:



Please contact Crave Online, thanks!


Journey to Become a Jedi Knight - Jedi Outcast

Waifu Wars - The End

Hindsight Part II: Unreleased Games of the Past

Robbing Kirby of his Greatest Asset

The meaning of The Witness (Part 3 of 3)

Friday Night Fights: War Never Changes Edition

Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth Review (Vita)

Waifu Wars: Loyalty-Tier

The Wii U's fate is not (entirely) Nintendo's fault

Musings on Firewatch (Spoilers)

 Add your impressions

 Quickposts
Status updates from C-bloggers

Nekrosys avatarNekrosys
Holy shit, App Store. The copyright infringement is real. I didn't buy it, because I'm scared it'll make my iPhone explode and because the comments say the game's a generic zombie title with fake and misleading screenshots.
Torchman avatarTorchman
Pretty much in a nutshell
Gamemaniac3434 avatarGamemaniac3434
Image of Myxococcus colony rising up after being submerged. I love bacteria so damn much you guys.
Nick R P Green avatarNick R P Green
Made a quick REACTion video to some of today's news storys. Hope nobody REACTs to it with a lawsuit.
Dreamweaver avatarDreamweaver
Playing Halo 5: Guardians, got REALLY invested in this one match. It was intense from beginning to end and I was using A LOT of Power Weapons because it was so fun. We were literally seconds away from victory when the internet cut off. So disappointed. :(
Amna Umen avatarAmna Umen
Streaming Civ V with a few of my friends. Twitch.tv/amnaumen
Retrofraction avatarRetrofraction
I must be in a weird mood, want to buy SMS games :3
KingSigy avatarKingSigy
How the fuck does Link tie his scarf? I really want to wear mine that way.
LinkSlayer64 avatarLinkSlayer64
As I recently mentioned I picked up Madworld, I also have acquired Pikmin, Red Steel and DJ Hero2 for Wii. For DS Feel the Magic XY/XX, N+ (shitty port I might add) Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood, and Some Suda51 I already misplaced :/
ooktar avatarooktar
Bought Firewatch this morning, played about 2 hours and started to get really invested into the story until I hit a bug that won't allow me to progress. :(
The Dyslexic Laywer avatarThe Dyslexic Laywer
Fuck it. Fuck Blighttown. Fuck it's poison blow dart campers. Fuck the mosquito freaks. Fuck the fire-breathing bitches. Fuck the lack of visibility. Fuck it's pitfalls. Fuck the fact that I'm going back after 5 minutes of self-loathing.
KnickKnackMyWack avatarKnickKnackMyWack
You know what the weirdest part about having selective hemophobia is? Getting freaked out by an anime like Elfen Lied but being 100% fine with shit like this.
StriderHoang avatarStriderHoang
Nobody told me the boxed version of Revelations 2 lagged to shit. I was lucky to exchange it for Xbox money.
Nathan D avatarNathan D
Objectively the best part of Heat.
Samsneeze avatarSamsneeze
XCom 2 is a good game that feels it needs to punish the player for not being omniscient. Still, it does have its moments. www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXZvYRfVFuY
SeymourDuncan17 avatarSeymourDuncan17
DTOID: I have obtained the Digimon and a Kapp'n plushie. That is all.
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
Got full Rathalos set in three tries!
TheBlondeBass avatarTheBlondeBass
Some dumb joke made for the Discord chat.
CoilWhine avatarCoilWhine
I'm still playing Tearaway Unfolded - 75% of the way to 100%. I'm gonna platnium this sucka and get my first platnium since Sly 2 back in 2012. I wrote a whole cBlog about platnium trophies and stuff a while back. 2 lazy to link it tho
ikiryou avatarikiryou
I've reluctantly sauntered back to Hyperdimensia Neptunia: Rebirth 2 after a lengthy hiatus. I'm really not feeling Broccoli nor Red. Maybe Red a little more since she's a waifu protector.
more quickposts


Contest!


Seriously

Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme


Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo



Back to Top


We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -