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Visual Effects in Dragon Age 2: Legacy
Obviously, the graphics look exactly like they did in Dragon Age 2. This is, after all, a DLC expansion. It's not a new game, and so there's nothing changed here. The art design in the Vimmark Mountains and the Grey Warden prison where Legacy takes place is good, though again, it feels on par with Dragon Age 2. There was nothing visual about the Dragon Age 2 DLC that didn't feel like it could have been right in the middle of Dragon Age 2 itself.
This isn't a bad thing, exactly, as Dragon Age 2 was already a visually impressive game. It's too bad, perhaps, that the design of the new things - the prison, the new enemies, and especially the ancient horror that everything leads to - doesn't have more of a "wow factor," but Dragon Age 2: Legacy is an adventure that's easy on the eyes throughout.
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What Does An Ancient Horror Sound Like, Anyway?
As with the visual effects, the audio effects haven't changed between the main campaign of Dragon Age 2 and its first downloadable expansion. Sound effects and the voice acting of your party members can be expected to be identical to Dragon Age 2. Again, this isn't a bad thing, because Dragon Age 2 was very strong in these areas. The music, I suppose is a new composition, but again, they're not looking to clash with the direction of the main game, so it feels right at home with music from Dragon Age 2. There are only a few voiced NPCs throughout the campaign to bring new voice acting to the fore, and I'd be pretty surprised if Bioware cast new actors for them instead of just using some of the people already in the very strong cast of voice actors that Dragon Age 2 had.
All-in-all, the sound effects, the music, and the voice acting are very strong, because that's something that Dragon Age 2 was already doing really well, and this is a continuation of Dragon Age 2.
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Another Day, Another Dungeon Full of Ancient Evils to Explore
As far as the main aspects of the gameplay are concerned, Legacy plays exactly like Dragon Age 2. It is an expansion, after all, so obviously combat and menu mechanics are the same, since you're playing within the exact same game world. There are some improvements, however. During combat, more enemies will still join the fray midway through the fight, just as they did in Dragon Age 2. However, unlike Dragon Age 2, they run in from off-screen somewhere, instead of dropping from the sky or phasing into existence from nowhere in the way that really hurt the sense of immersion in a lot of the main game's combat. Additionally, the dungeon is well-designed and the map layouts are relatively unique, which is refreshing as re-using maps was a huge problem in Dragon Age 2's main campaign.
A fair amount of the prison is made up of simple rooms full of enemies to kill, but there were a few areas that required a little more thought, including an entire floor of the area that was one giant puzzle made up of magical doors and a series of switches. As you advance, there's even a moral choice point, though the game did provide only two options and I didn't really agree with either, making the expansion's attempt at a morality issue not as strong as it could have been. The boss fight, as well, deserves special mention. It feels epic throughout, and with each subsequent stage of the fight, it becomes increasingly challenging.
Also, about halfway in, the game offers a mustering horn to change party members if you wish, a storage chest to offload / pick up some of your equipment in case you're getting weighed down by then, and a statue that looks just like the one in your house, allowing you to return to Kirkwall if you wish, and complete the Legacy campaign later. I felt like it was a really nice touch to provide that for players before you start to delve too deep into the quest.
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I Only Save The World For The Treasure
There are three sidequests available within the DLC campaign as well, in addition to the main quest, and each one offers a piece of equipment as a reward. On top of those rewards, there's also a full armor set to be found scattered throughout the dungeon, and a class-specific weapon which must be upgraded throughout the quest. In short, by the time you complete the DLC, you and your party will be equipped far better than when you began.
The weapon is by far the best of all the equipment you can gain. At three separate intervals, you will be forced to choose one of four different stat upgrades for your weapon. It's a great system, because it makes the weapon customizable in a way that allows you some choice as the player, and by the end, you'll have a weapon that is nicely tailored to the way you play your class specifically.
Going through any dungeon in an RPG, part of the excitement is always in the new loot you can find, and Bioware did a great job of providing some great new loot in their expansion.
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A Dark Lineage Makes Any Hero's Resume Stronger: The Story of Hawke's Legacy
Once you've downloaded Legacy, opening your game file will present you with a new quest asking you to examine the "memento" of legacy in your home in Kirkwall to begin the DLC. It shouldn't take you long to notice the giant statue that never used to be in your house. I guess when Hawke keeps a memento of something, he doesn't screw around. At any rate, a quick look at the statue will start the DLC the same way the main game started, with Varric and Cassandra, the Seeker of the Chantry, in their interrogation room. Cassandra will insist there's an adventure of the Champion's that she heard about and that Varric left out of his story, and Varric will reluctantly agree to tell the tale, which brings us to the beginning of the actual adventure, en route to a place in the Vimmark Mountains.
It turns out that Hawke's being pursued by members of the dwarven Carta, and tired of the multiple murder attempts, has tracked them here. Upon arrival, their leader makes a series of veiled comments about needing Hawke's blood and runs off into a secret fortress hidden within the mountain pass. As it turns out, this fortress is a Grey Warden prison, designed many years before to hold a mysterious ancient horror. As you travel deeper into the prison, you'll learn some dark secrets about some Grey Wardens of the past, as well as some dark secrets about the past of your own father, Malcom Hawke. (As a sidenote, I'd recommend having your sibling in your party for this quest; a lot of additional dialogue will be sparked between the two of you if you do.)
The storyline is well written, and, since the Hawke character was already pretty strong, adding some layers to his or her family is a welcome path for the story to take. As well, the characters that are introduced, despite existing for a short period of time within a single dungeon, are well-written, interesting parts of the story.
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Dragon Age 2: Legacy
At the end of the day, the Dragon Age 2 DLC plays like Dragon Age 2, which it ought to, because it's DLC, and so for all intents and purposes, it is still Dragon Age 2. It does do some things right that the main game fell short on, though. In effect, this is Dragon Age 2 at its very best, but it is still Dragon Age 2. I know a lot of people were unhappy with Dragon Age 2, and if you're expecting an entirely different experience from Legacy, this isn't it. Personally, I loved the game, and so I wasn't surprised to find that I loved its DLC as well.
However, I clocked the entire DLC campaign at just over three hours, and given that I did die a couple of times, and I always read every new codex entry, that three hour timeline is probably even a little bit exaggerated. At only ten dollars, it's priced on the same scale as DLC always is, but I felt like the language of the advertising gave the impression of a longer campaign, so I was a little disappointed in how quickly it was over.
If you're one of the people that hated Dragon Age 2, DLC isn't going to fix it for you. If, instead, you were a fan of the main game, this takes that experience and adds some polish to an extra campaign that will last you a couple of really fun hours. I'd not hesitate to recommend this to anyone that enjoyed Dragon Age 2.
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Source: Author's own experience.
All images courtesy of Dragon Age 2: Legacy's Official Website.