[Update 7:52PM PT: The DLC has been pulled because of a bug in the title update.]
Warning: This (not a) review of Dragon Age: Origins Return to Ostagar contains spoilers. Read it at your own peril. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it! Return to Ostagar is BioWare’s first bit of Dragon Age: Origins downloadable content since launch. It’s currently available on Xbox 360 for 400 Microsoft points, with PC and PlayStation 3 versions hitting later this month. The DLC lets you revisit Ostagar, the location of the game’s first major (and tragic) battle. Here are some observations and opinions (not a review!) on the DLC.
In terms of gameplay, you’re getting less than an hour per run. Most of you will be able to finish the whole thing in less than 45 minutes. It can take a little over an hour if you like to explore every nook and cranny of each area (or if you suck at games).
As I mentioned in the intro, you get to return to a war-torn version of Ostagar, where King Cailan and the Grey Wardens were slaughtered by the darkspawn. The setup is hackneyed, but it gets you to where you’re supposed to go and gives you a goal. As you progress, you see some flashbacks, learn more about Cailan’s dealings, and retrieve the dead king’s weapon and armor. While I had fun in my two runs, most of these features were mildly disappointing. Here’s why:
- Cailan’s Gear Sucks — If you’re playing this after you’ve beaten the game, chances are you have the blood dragon armor and Starfang. They make Cailan’s armor and King Maric’s sword look wimpy. I suppose you could use them for your secondary warrior, but if you’re playing the game with two warriors then you’re doing it wrong.
- Depth by Codex — You uncover a set of documents that detail Cailan’s dealings with the Orlesians. They’re interesting and they add intrigue. Unfortunately, it’s all text. I could have gotten the same information and entertainment via email. In fact, if you know someone that loves Dragon Age but is short of cash then you should transcribe these codex entries and send them to your pal via email. That would be a thoughtful gift. And also, Arl Eamon is a dick (another *spoiler*!!!).
- Sexy Time — Finding Cailan’s corpse leads to a pretty powerful scene, particularly if Alistair is in your party (more on that later). However, the music used in the flashback sounds too similar to the love-making music in the game. Using a similar melody for mourning and sexy time is just…creepy.
The good news is that there are some other items you come across that are pretty cool. Here are some of my favorites:
- Nug Crusher — This hammer has a cool +100 stamina bonus.
- Repeater Gloves — A nice set of gloves for ranged combatants.
- Duncan’s Sword and Dagger — As shown in the trailer, you get to tackle the ogre that offed Cailan and apparently (*wink* *wink* *nudge* *nudge*) killed Duncan. These weapons are much better than the crap that Cailan had…which leads to a few interesting questions. What was up with Cailan’s weaponsmith and armorer? Did he just suck? Why didn’t Cailan pay Wade a ton of money to make better gear? As Will Ferrell said in Blades of Glory, “It’s mind bottling.”
For the record, I played through the DLC twice. The first time I was accompanied by Alistair, Leliana, and Wynne. This is definitely the way to go. The dialogue between Alistair and Wynne is great, particularly a sexually charged (and gross) bit at the end. My second run was with Oghren, Shale, and Morrigan. Oghren had a few lines, but they didn’t really add anything. The other two characters were mostly silent. I was especially disappointed that Shale didn’t have more to say. [Edit: Just finished a third run with Wynne and “secret character”. Their conversations are also excellent.]
For $5, Return to Ostagar is a pretty poor value. BioWare’s launch DLC offered important features that you could enjoy throughout the entire game. The Stone Prisoner gives you Shale, arguably the most entertaining companion in the game, as well as a versatile warrior. Warden’s Keep gives you an amazingly useful storage chest and access to the best sword in the game. Return to Ostagar has its share of goodies, but nothing nearly as useful or entertaining.
Perhaps people that are still in the middle of their first run or those starting the game for the first time will get more out of Return to Ostagar. While I definitely enjoyed my time with the DLC and will surely play it again, I can’t say it’s a “must buy”. Less than an hour of gameplay and gear that’s only above average for $5? If you really love the game and/or BioWare then knock yourself out. Otherwise, give it some thought before you drop your dough.