PC/XBOX360 Game Review: Dragon Age: Origins Leliana’s Song DLC

Last month I reviewed the Darkspawn Chronicles DLC, saying that even at “$5 in Microsoft Points … it has questionable value.” I found it “a single-minded module that lasts about an hour, adds a single new item to the main game, and offers little replayability” … and was really just an average add-on in general. Now I am back after playing through the new DLC Leliana’s Song (announced here). So how did they do THIS time? Read on and find out!

The Hype:
Assume the role of Leliana, a young bard involved in a criminal ring that deals in political secrets. Accompanying her mentor Marjolaine on a high-risk mission, Leliana soon finds herself entangled in a game of intrigue that she cannot escape with just her beauty, charm, or stealth. The only way out of this game is to kill or be killed.Key Features:

* Explore Leliana’s dangerous past and why she joined the Chantry
* A fully voiced cinematic experience brings the characters to life
* Unlock a unique reward that transfers into your Awakening and Origins campaign
* All-new musical compositions intensify the action and intrigue

The Reality:
One of the critical things that gamers have had to learn a few years ago when DLC (downloadable content) became widespread and started to encompass actual playable content as well as trinkets such as armor, was that their expectations needed to shift to the smaller scale and scope of such content. For example, the Darkspawn Chronicles DLC is about an hour long, and offers few choices of any kind despite being an add-on for a game that is all about choice. Contrast that with the Awakenings expansion where you build your own character and have loads of choices about how to proceed.

Leliana’s Song is pure DLC – you do not choose your character or starting class, nor can you dramatically alter the overall flow of the narrative. But all of that makes sense when taken in the context of the fact that all of this happens before the main Dragon Age story, and that you can’t really change that Leliana will be working in the Chantry with a dark past she has left behind before you meet her.

The best context for this DLC? You are playing Leliana’s Origin Story.

As with most DLC there are no major technical changes to the graphics or gameplay. Just as this was released we also saw the release of Patch 1.04 for the PC version of the game, which did make some changes and clean up other things. In general I found this DLC looked better than any other Dragon Age release thanks to greater familiarity of the developers and the new patch.

Another area where we get surprised by something ‘not changed’ yet better than we have ever seen is the audio. One new addition is new music – and since Leliana’s Song from the original soundtrack of Dragon Age was a gorgeous song heavily featured in the marketing, the expectations were high. The music doesn’t disappoint – at each turn of events the music shifts to perfectly support the plot themes. The music supports and adds to the experience to an extent that when I was playing after everyone was in bed I grabbed my earbuds rather than play on mute as I usually would.

Every bit as good as the music is the stellar voice acting. The characters are all distinct and bring a zeal and zest to their characters often missing from such a small DLC. This is the sort of work you only see in the very best full-scale games, and allows us to extend our appreciation of the characters from Leliana to the several new NPC’s we meet. In fact, when a new character is introduced half-way through the story you assume it will be someone who will also quickly disappear. But they stay through the remainder of the DLC and make a real impact. It is amazing stuff.

I actually drifted unintentionally from the voice-acting to the story and writing, but it makes sense. While this is clearly a RPG, it also feels like you’re playing a character-driven adventure game in many ways, full of dialogue and intrigue and character interplay. It is clear that the developers had solid ideas for both the story and the characters, as everything and everyone is fully fleshed out.

Unlike Darkspawn Chronicles and despite playing a specific character, you do get considerable flexibility with skill selection. You are playing as a dual-classed Bard-Rogue character, and have reasonable flexibility to develop your character as you gain levels.

One difference is that you can only have three active party members during the game, rather than the four you could have in the main Dragon Age game. Given the flow of the story it makes sense that you are limited in your party size and your ability to change who is in your party, but the removal of a party slot does alter the flow and strategy of battle.

Speaking of combat, while there is really nothing new about the system, it is clear that the focus of this DLC is more on the story and characters than on combat. I say this because the combat in general flows well but is never surprising – you meet up with ordinary enemies, and occasionally more difficult enemies, but there are never those moments like the first time you meet a Revenant in the main Dragon Age campaign and he wipes out your whole party!

In fact, while I found the combat to be a nice complement to the clear focus on story and character, there really isn’t a single battle that truly stands out in my mind just a couple of days after finishing the module – right up to the finish!

But as I mention, the focus is on telling Leliana’s story, and this DLC does that extremely well. You see the relationships in detail, the struggles with her conscience, the desire to please, and so on. The module took me about three hours to run through and I found myself sad to see it ending as I was thoroughly enjoying it and wanted it to keep going!

Review: Dragon Age: Origins Leliana’s Song DLC

Where to Buy: Bioware.com

Price: $7.00 (560 Microsoft Points)

What I Like:
+ Great story
+ Well-done characters
+ Great new music
+ Everything feels tweaked and optimized
+ At 3+ hours this is a solid length

What Needs Improvement:
– Limited party size and choice
– Combat not very challenging
– Lack of a single epic battle

Source: Personal purchase

Categories: Gaming, Reviews

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7 replies

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