I love Dragon Age 2. I love it much more than Origins. It still seems to be a controversial opinion to have, even past the point where the series were relevant or where some expected them to be “new Baldur’s Gate” (something Origins never was). Before playing Dragon Age: Inquisition I wanted to revisit the second one, to check on 3 story-driven DLCs I’ve missed originally: a character and two small stories. And since I’ve replayed DA:O so much back in 2011 that I can’t bring myself to playing it again even now, when it’s finally DRM-free on GOG, I decided to skip it. So, back to Kirkwall of copy paste dungeons we go.
Quick note on the game itself – it’s still a fantastic story-driven RPG adventure, with one of the best stories BioWare ever wrote, but rather weak gameplay. Even though in my opinion Origins’ gameplay wasn’t particularly good, being interesting only when controlling a mage, and stupidly boring with any other class, DA 2 is just outright primitive. The combat is more like a simplistic action RPG with a team, which looks amazing, with each animation being extremely cool, but mechanics being very basic. And the fact that a lot of quest locations simply reuse the same roster of locations throughout the entire game and enemies work more like random encounters in jRPGs, by outright appearing out of nowhere, does make things rather tedious to play. To the point, where it might be simply better to play the game on Easy for the story, just so things go faster. But the story, the dialogues, the characters… So absolutely awesome and one of the best ever, not just for BioWare. Even the whole concept of Friendship and Rivalry is the best implementation of this concept BioWare ever did.
Which brings us to the DLCs. The Exiled Prince DLC, that brings an additional companion to the party, is surprisingly average. On one hand, for most of the story the additional character is completely pointless and adds nothing interesting to the story at all. On the other, he is representing one of the conflicting sides of the story, which does make interesting impact on the things that happen at the very end of the game. Did I miss much by not having this guy in my first playthrough 5 years ago? No.
The first additional story, Legacy DLC, is… not good. It feels like a really bad redo of an actually good story from DA: Awakening and features a horribly written terrible final boss, who is, apparently, going to be a big bad in the Inquisition. I really hope he’s not, as if he’s anything like this, he feels more like a terrible horror b-movie villain than anything that was in the series up till now. Apart from this, it’s a rather boring linear run through an underground dungeon with several more updated enemies from Origins and nothing much else.
The second additional story, Mark of the Assassin DLC, starts as a terrible fanservice crap, which seems to scream “Oh my god, we got Felicia Day to play a main character here, can you believe that!111 And you can kiss her!1111” But as the story progresses, and unnecessary “funny” moments are passed, along with a terrible attempt at introducing stealth into the game, things become actually interesting. The DLC never becomes actually properly good, but the story and ideas it brings actually grow the world in interesting ways and dialogues are enjoyable because of that.
Are these DLCs vital for enjoyment of what Dragon Age 2 (or, as I still hope it would’ve been called, Dragon Age: Champion of Kirkwall or something)? Not at all. They do bring more of the fun enjoyable character banter and interesting moments, but Sebastian is a rather forgettable companion, Legacy is badly written and Mark of the Assassin is just unnecessary. So if you don’t want to find those weird ways to get the DLCs (as, on PC, EA still acts like ass and doesn’t just sell them for actual money, nor there is a Complete edition of the game), don’t. Get the core game, that got much better after the patches, play it on easy mode and enjoy a fantastic and surprisingly interconnected story.
P.S. Oh, and as usual for EA, there’s also a ton of horrible balance breaking pointless DLC items that you should never really buy, because why would you, really?