Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Review: Dragon Age - Return to Ostagar DLC


In my opinion, Return to Ostagar is Dragon Age's first true DLC. The rest of the bits and pieces that came post-game release like magic rings, Dragon armor, etc. don't really count. Neither does Warden's Keep nor the golem. They should've actually been part of the main game but Bioware is being smarmy, drip feeding you morsels to make you think they're dedicated to keeping the fans happy.

I know I didn't do a review of Dragon Age, I was a little lazy because there be a heck load to talk about. But to cut a long story short, Dragon Age: Origins was my 2nd best game of 2009, a fantastic return of Bioware as a leading dev in role-playing games.

But how does Return to Ostagar stack up? Is it exciting? Is it mind-blowing? Is it even fun? Read on to find out!

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Return to Ostagar takes players back to the place of the ill-fated battle early on in the story. The one where *small spoiler for those who have STILL not played this epic game* Loghain betrays King Cailan and subsequently causes the human alliance to lose the first battle against the darkspawn. King Cailan dies and is left on the battlefield to rot.

Until now. There are rumors that someone survived the battle, a deserter who stashed away a key to King Cailan's personal war chest filled with some important information. So you go to investigate the mystery, give an honorable sending off for the dead king, and recover his epic armor and weapons.
This DLC can be undertaken whilst still on the main quest line to defeat the darkspawn, or after it's been finished.

How's the gameplay?

Extremely short. The DLC can be powered through in half an hour, pretty easily. The enemies are low level darkspawn, with the occasional big-wig to wrestle with. But the combat is unimaginative and you won't die. Especially if you play this after the main quest line, having levelled your characters up considerably.

The major concern I have is that this DLC feels very lazy. The area is Ostagar, but you've visited it before early in the main story, only now in ruins and snowed in. So that's nothing new. It's also linear - you follow a set path from A to B, hacking through darkspawn, picking up loot, occasionally seeing a cutscene reminiscing on the forsaken battle and then hacking through more darkspawn.


The worst part is, you can TELL it's very linear. The big bad boss of the DLC is a troublesome goblin necromancer who holds one of the last pieces of King Cailan's armor. You give chase in an effort to recover it. Just when you're about to reach the S.O.B, he casts some voodoo and throws more minions in your path. This happens at least three times, playing the same cutscene and action sequence over and over, leaving you going "Oh, not this again!"

But perhaps Bioware is subconsciously influencing you to really hate the guy out of annoyance, so you'll really want to kill him. Which also turned out to be a really easy fight, might I add.

You do hear a few new lines of dialogue out of Alistair and Wynne, if you have them in your party, because they too were at the battle as it all went south. But it isn't anything special.

I don't know what Bioware was attempting with this DLC, but perhaps they are saving the big guns for the full-fledged expansion in March, titled The Awakening. One that'll continue the storyline after the main quest, a kind of epilogue tying up more loose ends. And perhaps they are also concentrating efforts on Mass Effect 2 as it nears release. But DLCs should be held just as accountable as a full game - especially if console gamers have to pay for it.


I expected much more out of this DLC, perhaps to expand the lore of Dragon Age, shed more light on who King Cailan was, and the mystery surrounding his death. This one's only for the fans, to give them a little something to come back to the game for. The loot isn't even very good. If I had to compare, Warden's Keep is a far better DLC. There's just nothing to be found here other than snow, desolate ruins, and some annoying darkspawn.

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