Let's start with my love of the Dragon Age universe, as well as Dragon Age: Origins. Man, I loved that game. OK, we've got that out of the way? Good. Because I've made no bones about the fact that I was profoundly disappointed with Dragon Age II.
With that said, several aspects of the game have grown on me over time — I've come to see the appeal of the art style, though it initially seemed thin and cartoony. Many of the characters endeared themselves to me over the course of the game, and I regularly find myself thinking fondly on Aveline, Isabella, Varric and Merrill.
Most of of the energy I spent criticising Dragon Age II was born of frustration — there was so much potential there, something special should've been happening! Dragon Age II's upcoming DLC Mark of the Assassin looks to be a step towards playing to the sequel's strengths, rather than the ways in which it falls short of its epic predecessor.
Last week I headed into downtown San Francisco to check out the new content. Lucky me, my demo session was guided by none other than the star of Mark of the Assassin, writer/actor Felicia Day. When not lending her talents to big-time video game franchises, Day is better known as the creator and star of the game-centric web series The Guild, Penny from Joss Whedon's extra-spectacular Dr Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, and basically just one of the most well-known and -regarded geek icons on the planet Earth.
I sat with Miss Day as she played through the an early part of Mark of the Assassin. Hawke, the player-character, was arriving at a remote villa owned by a mysterious Orlesian, only to be ambushed by a bunch of well-armed foes. Enter Day's character Tallis, a twin-blade-wielding assassin, who saved the day in fine, bloody fashion.
Tallis is based on a character that Day created for the "Dragon Age: Redemption" web series, which will be premiering its first episode on the same day that the Mark of the Assassin DLC drops, October 11. Day wrote, produced, and will stars in the series, which will play out over the course of six weekly episodes after its premiere. The stories of the DLC and the web series don't overlap, but the character does — they're meant to be distinct, yet complimentary.
In addition to voicing Tallis in the game, Day performed motion-capture and facial-scanning for the role, which is a first for Dragon Age. Watching her on screen, it was clear that there was something slightly different going on with how she was animated, and for the most part, it was seamless.
As we sat the hotel room where we did our demo, it was great fun to watch Day interact with herself on the screen. As she played, she laughingly shared the fact that she already plays as a redheaded rogue much like Tallis (come to think of it, so do I). "I have that outfit in my closet, is the weird part," she said of Tallis' revealing green armour, which matched her costume for the web series. "I don't wear it often, not anymore… I worked out really hard for that part!" She laughed. "I don't think I could fit into it anymore."
It became clear that in MOTA, Day's character Tallis will be "romanceable", so players can flirt with her... and possibly even take things a bit further. She was cagey when pressed for details, but as she played, Day always took the flirty options when speaking to Tallis. As she put it, "Of course I romance myself. I've always said, if I had to make out with my clone, I would."
I've detailed the other aspects of Mark of the Assassin in the video above, using B-roll footage provided by EA. The only things in the video that I didn't see firsthand were the stealth segments, which appear to be pretty light.
MOTA's story concerns a heist, which feels like Mass Effect 2's enjoyable but insubstantial Kasumi's Stolen Memory. However, it looks to be much larger, spreading out over four different maps, and the plot is something of a "Gosford Park"-esque mystery/caper, with several parties visiting a villa to partake in a hunting tournament as each group maneuvers towards its own goals.
The whole thing looked very enjoyable, and given my disappointed distaste for Dragon Age II, that's saying something. From what I saw, it's got a light, TV-episode feel, which might be just the thing: A colourful, story-based diversion.
Watch the video for a more in-depth look at the various aspects of Dragon Age: Mark of the Assassin, and check back here later for my full interview with Felicia Day.