Dragon Age Inquisition's DLC Is A Hot Mess

Bioware's last story DLC for Dragon Age: Inquisition, Trespasser, was released last month, wrapping up the story and providing a mostly satisfying ending (slash segue to the next game). The release of Inquisition's various story DLC packs has been a rocky road, however, leaving the experience feeling disconnected and almost odd for a completionist like myself.

I will preface this by saying that I am indeed a classic Bioware fan, in that I will happily spend hours critiquing the games' flaws and oversights — before loading it up once again for another 100+ hour storyline (see: Mass Effect 3). Let's just say this to start: Bioware, what the hell is going on with Inquisition's DLC?


Warning: Spoilers for all three Inquisition DLCs and the end of the main game may follow.


Jaws Of Hakkon

So let's have a little look at our three story DLCs for Dragon Age: Inquisition. First off, Jaws of Hakkon is announced on March 23, before its release on March 24. Surprise! There's so little fanfare for what is actually quite a large expansion on the main game, but that's not all that was odd about it.

If you were playing on PS4, PS3, Xbox 360 — pretty much anything that wasn't the Xbox One or PC — EA was pretending you didn't exist. The surprise next-day DLC was only for the platforms that Microsoft had paid to have it released for, and everyone else got a hand waving response of "we can not discuss when Jaws of Hakkon will be coming on other platforms".

It was a poor move for Jaws of Hakkon. The Playstation and Xbox 360 releases came on May 26 — roughly a week after the release of Witcher 3, one of the few games than can directly compete with Dragon Age's unique appeal. Jaws gave players a huge, gorgeous area to explore and another amazing dragon battle, but the story felt weak and disconnected. It wasn't nearly enough to compete with Witcher 3's beautiful open world.

I couldn't put my finger on what Jaws of Hakkon was missing until one of the final cutscenes, where the Inquisitor is talking strategy with one of the main characters from the DLC — Svarah Sun-Hair, the Thane of Sun-Bear Hold. More than three hours into the DLC, this was the first time I had seen her face properly. For a DLC that wasn't lacking in interesting stories and strong characters, none of these elements were actually given the involved cutscenes they deserved. Instead, you're left swivelling the camera around, trying to find the best angle to actually look at the characters you're interacting with.

What's more, Jaws of Hakkon was a surprisingly difficult DLC to be the first one released. It has a minimum level recommendation of 20 — for reference, my completionist character ended the game at level 26 after finishing every single quest, while my other character who stuck to the main story quests finished the game at level 18. Even on casual, playing through Jaws of Hakkon on level 18 is punishing. It's possible that the overly hard gameplay was a way to attempt to artificially lengthen the DLC — after all, it did come with the painful price tag of $24.99. Even Dragon Age: Origins' Awakening expansion — which was essentially a whole other game in itself, and potentially even the strongest instalment in the Dragon Age series to date — could be bought for around $20 on its release in 2010.


The Descent

After the surprise announcement of Jaws, there was silence for a good five months — at least on the single player story front. That ended on August 5, when Bioware announced that Dragon Age would be returning to the Deep Roads, to the collective groans of thousands of gamers who wanted to be anywhere but the Deep Roads. It was released less than a week later for PC, PS4 and Xbox One with not a whisper of timed exclusivity to be heard — but last-gen console owners were now told that they would not be supported for any DLC going forward. Players who had taken their Inquisitors on this epic journey on PS3 or Xbox 360 would now have to buy a new console, a new copy of the game and drop up to $50 on DLC if they wanted to continue their story.

Content-wise, The Descent was actually surprising good. Until it wasn't. Set within a series of new subterranean locations, The Descent was almost a new game in itself. It even had its own 'war table' equivalent, along with a handful of operations that actually opened up new areas to explore — which is what the war table should have been used for all along. Halfway through The Descent, it had me thinking "this is a DLC that fully realises all of Inquisition's potential". There were new characters — with cutscenes! — who had an interesting relationship dynamic that was more convincing than any of the fairly lacklustre romance options in the main game.

And then it ended. The Descent's major boss battle is really difficult. Or really easy. We never quite figured out which one. I was playing through in the same room as my friend at the time, and we decided to 'race' the boss battle. On normal difficulty, I didn't have much trouble at all. My companions used a couple of health potions and a few focus abilities, but the creature died without too much fuss. My friend, on casual, was trying for hours however, often getting one-hit killed for no discernible reason. Turning to Google, I found that people's responses were always either "this boss is impossible to beat" or "what are you talking about, I killed it in five minutes".

Perhaps players are better off not beating the boss, however, as the ending you get after that is frankly baffling. The Descent's lore revelations include some interesting implications for the whole of Thedas, but it seems like the writers never really decided how they wanted the DLC to end, and the script went into recording with 'blah blah blah' still written on the bottom. "I’m leaving with more questions than answers." I'm with you, Quizzy.


Trespasser

A couple of weeks later on August 29, Trespasser was announced. This is the DLC that we had all been waiting for, since the intense cliffhanger at the end of the main game. Trespasser promised answers, finally. Bioware gave this one a bit of build-up, leaving more than a week before releasing it on September 8 — again for current gen consoles only.

Trespasser was a success. It did everything it promised, wrapping up the story of Inquisition almost perfectly and giving closure on a lot of things that the fans had questions about. It brought up major decisions that had been ignored throughout the game — like whether Iron Bull was Qunari or Tal Vashoth, or whether the Inquisitor or Morrigan drank from the well — and even reintroduced the plot point of, you know, that creepy glowing green hand that threatened the Inquisitor's life for the entire game.

The problem with Trespasser is actually how good an ending it is to the main game. I'm not alone in feeling that the ending to Inquisition was incredibly lacklustre. You beat a disappointing main boss (who is actually easier than many of the game's dragons or Florianne, the optional boss of the Winter Palace quest) and then have a party. At said party, the Inquisitor has many options to say 'this isn't over yet', and I felt like it wasn't. I was so ready for someone to attack Skyhold, for Corypheus to come back in his final form and give us one crazy boss battle to end it all. But then the credits rolled. Apparently the foreshadowing was just a way to sell us more DLC.

Trespasser's plot was awesome — Qunari spies and ancient elven lore, what could be bad about that? — but it was somewhat spoiled by the fact that we already know the punchline. The post-credits scene in the main game that revealed Solas's true identity was essentially the hook that would get us to buy this DLC — but its inclusion actually made Trespasser that much weaker. It turned three hours of suspense into three hours of 'come on, when are we going to meet Solas already?' It almost feels like Trespasser was intended to be the true ending to Inquisition, but someone decided that it would make them far more money if they released it as a $25 DLC.

Dragon Age Inquisition: Trespasser: The Kotaku Review

While I enjoyed playing through Inquisition's DLC — some far more so than others — it feels like Dragon Age just failed to get its act together on time. Having such an important ending to Inquisition's story locked behind a $25 paywall (and not available at all to users on some consoles) seems like a poor way to finish the game. Here's hoping Dragon Age 4 does better.


Comments

    I need to play Dragon Age 3. I bought it a year ago and I've only played about an hour.

    Also it's on 360.

      I played for about 120 hours, even put off starting the Witcher 3 so I could finish (which means I’m going to be finishing the Witcher after Fallout 4 is released)….. and I swear to god I can’t remember how the game finished.

      I mean I remember the final boss, but that’s about it…..the story, choices ect have all been forgotten.

      I guess that means it was a bit of a mess.

        I feel like us completionists get the worst possible experience from this game, because we spend so much time collecting bloody shards and elfroot to actually stay engaged in the story.

        Tresspasser is definitely a really strong ending to the game when you compare it to the actual ending, but I feel like Inquisition as a whole would have benefited immeasurably if Trespasser had been the legitimate, non-DLC ending to the game.

          Yeah, there’s a really strong EA influence on how these games are structured.

          I didn’t play the DLC for Origins of DA:2 and I think I missed quite a lot of canon.

          Also I liked DA:3 but my god the Witcher makes its flaws glaring.
          Those f*cking shards are a textbook example of time wasting filler being dressed as gameplay and DA was packed with it.

          This is a problem for me in all open world games!
          It's like any Bethesda RPG (Elder Scrolls, Fallout), I start the main story until I get to the open world, then I avoid the main story like the plague to do side quests, occasionally doing some more of the main story to unlock more side quests. By the time I am satisfied with doing all, or as much, of the side content, I come back to the main story and think, why in the hell am I climbing this mountain again, what's it got to do with dragons?? Whole way up that mountain, waiting for an epic dragon to be waiting for me at the top. What do I get, bunch of bloody old hermit priests.

          Last edited 14/10/15 2:55 pm

            Im glad im not the only one that does this. I thought i was strange.

      Man it's cheap on Xbox One ATM $25 for base game or $35 GOTY

      That's a case for waiting before buying if ever I heard it

      Meanwhile GTAV which was released before is "on sale" for $66

        $35 for "deluxe", this is not GOTY - which is still $100.

        Still feeling burned having bought the base game, now its cheaper to just chuck that in the bin and buy GOTY than it is to update my game. Smells like Destiny.

          Honestly, the same could be said for any game. Sure you could wait a few months or so until it's on sale or a GOTY special edition is released at a cheaper price in total, or you can pay full price for the Game and all DLC on their release and enjoy it straight away.

    I bought Trespasser but couldn't get into it after playing the Witcher 3.
    Everything just felt janky and lifeless and the entire thing just kept crashing on me.

    Meanwhile I just got the Heart of Stone expansion last night and found myself grinning throughout the whole thing.

    I feel it's a shame that we couldn't have three "jaws of hakkon" style DLCs. If they found a way to structure descent and trespasser in that fashion I would have enjoyed them a bunch more.

    The DLC left me feeling the same as the main game. Enjoyed every minute but felt a little underwhelmed after it was all said and done.

    10/10 will play through the whole game again soon though!

    "It almost feels like Trespasser was intended to be the true ending to Inquisition, but someone decided that it would make them far more money if they released it as a $25 DLC. "

    Call me old-fashioned, but I believe a game's story should be finished WITHIN the bloody game, not some extra content you have to pay an extra $30-50au for nearly a year later. Metaplot? Sure, fine, go nuts. But not the narrative you've just spent X number of hours getting engrossed in.

    This kind of gating vital content behind paywalls is exactly what people were worried about when DLC started to become a thing.

      We probably should have seen it coming, when the Big Bad turned out to be someone from the DA 2 DLC, and all the main-game crap we had to slog through in Kirkwall became side-plot for Inquisition.

      It just seems arse-backwards to me.

    I was frustrated with Jaw of Hakkon. I liked the environment, and the storyline, but I found the battles extremely difficult - to the point where I kept dying over and over and was considering just giving up. I also hated the fact that there wasn't any acknowledgement that I'd finished the main storyline. Dorian and Varric were busy making bets about whether or not we can beat Corypheus, which sounded really strange when we'd already beaten Corypheus.

    I actually skipped The Descent. I couldn't face all that dungeon crawling.

    Trespassers was great, though. It gave a good ending to the game, I liked being able to explore the winter palace and find out what all the characters had been up to for two years. My Iron Bull was Tal Vashoth, so I didn't get that suprise. Cassandra reading Varric's book about the Inquisition over the credits was possibly the best thing ever.

      That's the odd thing. Hakkon is levelled so that it's incredibly difficult to play it pre-endgame, but the content fits way way better when you play it before facing Corypheus. Not least because of all the elven lore and a the benefits of having a certain elvish apostate in your party.

        I loved the difficulty of Jaws of Hakkon, though I did play it on two characters that were already max level. Enemies that can bust your guard and barrier, archers kicking your ass if you didn't take them out asap, it was much more fun than the difficulty of the main game.

    Its waaayyy to expensive, I paid $30 for the game during a sale, and yet all the dlcs remained at full price, im not paying $75 dollars for maybe another 60 hours(if lucky) when I paid $30 for easily 120 hours.

      I paid full retail price for the game and all the DLC. (So somewhere around $170?) This makes baby Jesus cry.

    I'm not accusing the author of bioware bashing, even though it's an official sport now, because I think you're spot on. I've almost unconditionally loved all bioware games that came out before Dragon Age 2. That was their first game that when I finished, I realised I hadn't had that great a time. It was actually a bit of a shock because I was so looking forward to it.
    So because of that, I came to inquisition warier than i had been in the past. The whole mass effect 3 ending saga didn't help either.
    Now, I haven't finished Inquisition yet, nor have I played any DLCs, but I struggle to stay interested in biowares later offerings because I think they've lost the ability to weave a cohesive story. Don't get me wrong, I think the individual parts are great, but like the author said about having so much stuff for people to do, the story gets lost. Can't see the forest for the trees type thing.

      I loved playing Inquisition, I've easily got 300 hours in the game, but once you finish you're just like... huh.

      I still remember the end of DA:O, when I was a dirty Alistair romancer and he sacrificed himself to kill the archdemon at the end of this huge, legitimately epic final battle. That was potentially one of the first games that made me cry.

      On the other hand, the experience of playing DA:I is beautiful (where Origins was clunky and awkward with both its graphics and gameplay) with its music, gameplay, environments, design, everything, but it misses the emotion. The Inquisitor voice is made to be a little neutral so it fits all characters, but it only gets emotional at very few points -- which also happen to be the best parts of the game.

      Of course it doesn't help that I played Mass Effect for the first time in the middle of Inquisition. Bioware has proven they can do this style so well - so why aren't they?

        Exactly. I think they've become too clinical about many parts of their games. Ticking things off a checklist rather than getting the emotional parts working.
        LGBT Characters for the community. Check
        Romancing all those characters. Check
        Recurring companions and villains. Check
        Plot twist. Check
        Barely surviving getting beaten by the villain two thirds of the way into the game. Check

        Last edited 14/10/15 4:14 pm

          On that last point I feel like DA:I almost failed. There were no stakes. It felt like there wasn't actually a point where you were going to lose to Corypheus. Compare that to ME2 where you know ALL your companions can potentially die. It doesn't have the same impact

            I'm with you on that last part too, I love this game and have Played the shit out of it, but I struggle to get through the story a second time. Even the first time it was a little underwhelming, corypheus never felt that intimidating, or even a real threat. He attacks you once in your little town when the Inquisiton was still small, and then he practically vanishes until the end, when he shows up for a lackluster fight and you squash him.

      I totally disagree with your comment. I've replayed dragon age 2 and it was a good game. It's story line is woven into inquisition with wit and expertise. The problem with people who trash the series is that they don't get it on an intellectual,level there is a lot of lore to go through and go,with. When I first came to the series during dragon age one I was totally baffled and confused to what I really was playing. It took effort to read all the codexes and wrap my head around the story however I agree that the way of codex entries are way over used and the plot has become more and more complex. I feel if bioware wishes to welcome new players to the series has to rely more on show than on tell I find that major story chapters are getting lost in codexes we as players need to physically interact with the history more in stead of reading about it on a found piece of paper or trash accidentally stumbled upon. Less codexes more adventures to tell the story. I'd appreciate less homework. I hope we get dragon age 4 and see a true advancement in story telling

    This is true! However when GOTY versions come out you'll often see the DLC hitting the sales. Borderlands, Saints, GTA, Dishonored, Fallout, Shadow of Mordor all saw discounts when the collections came out, even DAO had them. To my knowledge, DAI has never had its DLC reduced in price, now its cheaper to buy the whole thing again.

    Should take a leaf from Steams book and remove the original game from sale leaving only the GOTY and the DLC for original owners (also often discounted)... but I guess this way they can put DAI up as "free with gold" and make money off the DLC too.

    I have a high level character that I 100%ed the base game with that I feel I should carry over onto the DLC just because of the difficulty requirement of some of the DLC and to do a complete completionist run, but I'd prefer to play it on my Elf who I've only played half the game through and have no intention of finishing all the content on. Except if I do play the elf I'll feel bad because I'll have large chunks of the game on that file that aren't finished.

    Of course that's assuming I ever get around to playing the DLC, which I probably won't since I'm terrible at picking up DLC. I still have ME3's to get through. I wish this stuff wasn't so story essential, but I guess if it wasn't I'd probably never pick it up at all to begin with.

      Interestingly enough, this is what I did. My 100% character is qunari which, by the end of the game, kind of feels ignored in the lore.

      I ended up rushing Jaws with my lower level Lavellan just to get through and play Trespasser with her instead. She also romanced Solas - who strangely enough is my least favorite character but definitely the strongest romance plotwise. It kind of sucks for everyone else though that the romance that is only available to one specific race/gender combo ends up adding SO MUCH to the overarching plot of the game. And that's not even mentioning the huge focus on elven lore while other races are completely shunted aside.

    It's funny how The Witcher 3 has altered perceptions of what makes a good open-world RPG.

    If you look back at when DA:I was released, praise was almost universal. The checklist collection quests were barely criticised at all. There were a few people who expressed vague dissatisfaction, but not a lot of people could pin it down.

    Post Witcher 3, it's clear that DA: Inquisition was in many ways a single-player game designed by MMO rules; primarily intended to consume time, not to make it consistently engaging. EA's approach to DLC is only highlighted all the more by CD Projekt Red's generous servings of free DLC and value for money in the paid DLC.

    You see the same sort or criticisms aimed at other open world games, like Far Cry 4 and Mad Max. Peoples' perceptions of what comprises good gameplay has changed. The old, pedestrian collect quests are now seen for what they always were: a way for developers to cheaply extend the playtime of the game without actually spending a lot of time on genuine new content.

    The irony is that if you go back to the real old-school RPGs like Baldur's Gate and Planescape: Torment none of the collectathon/killathon quests were there. Every mission was crafted separately. Bioware have forgotten their heart.

    Let's just hope that the developers of open worlds in general (Bioware included) take the lesson to heart.

      Most definitely... I fell to the hype (I didn't buy immediately though) but it quickly became very apparent that there was a lot of fetch and collect quests and side missions that basically was "find note on ground, cross entire map, find body dead on ground, end quest".

      Bioware really need to pick up their game. It was better than DA2 but not was very bland and soulless.

      I recently wrote about RPGs and MMO's over at my blog, but I have to agree with your comment here. Not to mention that after having just completed Witcher 3's expansion, I can't help but feel like we get pretty ripped off with Inquisition's DLC prices. On Aus PSN, Hearts of Stone is $15 for roughly 12 hours of great content, while Inquisition's Trespasser DLC is a glaring $25 at 6-8 hours. Come on! That's not value for money at all. Granted it's expansion as opposed to a DLC, but that price point just works in favour for CD Projekt Red.

    @gregor. So freaking true mate. I played through DA:I (never had even the remotest interest in DA before it) and I really liked it. I was pretty forgiving of people's criticisms, just shrugging my shoulders and saying "eh, I don't mind having a lot of stuff to do.". As I got further through the game I started skipping sidequests and areas because I realised they were not going to offer me much in the way of gear or character progression, so what's the point (this is a real MMO thing, quests grey out? Ignore them now.). I cleaned up all the dragons for funsies and finished off the story. I tried playing it again and got about 30 hours in before I was really bored.

    With the Witcher, I've done every single god damn side quest and contract I can find. The money is worthless to me, and most will never give me an item I want. But.. I have to help these people! This guy was turned into a werewolf! WHY!?! Witcher 3, for me crafted a world that I really cared about. Tangential characters that were more important to me than half the cast of DA:I (whose names I can't even remember). I was actually a bit sad when I realised I was running out of new towns in Skellige to go to. Just an incredible game in that sense.

    This is also with the fact that witcher's combat is one dimensional and simplistic to the point that I hadn't died from anything other than falling since about 10 hours in on the hardest difficulty.

    man, i absolutely LOVE bioware games, but once again they found a way to screw us with the dlc...and this is after all the flak they took before with there day one ME3 Dlc, which was so damn obviously part of and integral to the main story and that they simply cut it out to make more money. They are an insanely greedy company, which I know even tho they are an american company, it's still insane what they do. So, all I really have to say is this : Fuck you Bioware. Fuck you, you greedy fucking bastards.

    Problem is this...WITCHER 3..gets 9/10(All thanks to roach lol and because the story was slightly cliche). Otherwise the witcher best even Dragon Age Inq & (sad to say)Skyrim.

    Dragon age Inq--well, you cant compare Skyrim or witcher to it because even though they are RPGs, fighting styles differ and even the lore. I love all of them and even though dragon age should take the cake for OPEN WORLD..i hope they do better than the previous DLCS.

    For the witcher, i hope the new witcher that comes out, will let you do more...sexually, change your gears and not let it look...almost the same as every other you have...customization, etc. CAZ THE STORY ROCKS.

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