(Not a) Review of Dragon Age: Origins Return to Ostagar DLC

[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.

Author: RPadTV


36 thoughts on “(Not a) Review of Dragon Age: Origins Return to Ostagar DLC”

  1. I enjoyed RtO for one reason only – Closure. I'm one of the soppy bunch who has gotten quite attached to Alistair and I found that him finally getting put Ostagar behind him (revenge – done! burial – done!) was quite satisfying for me also. I did find it annoying that he did not even mention Duncan. Not even once. Oh well, guess Bioware are trying to be sneaky. Trying, of course, being the operative word.

  2. @Sky Taylor I enjoyed it too, but it's tough to recommend. Perhaps Alistair whined enough about Duncan in the first few hours of the game and got over it. Ha!

    If you have a save with "secret character", it's worth going back to Ostagar with him and Wynne.

  3. I was too early to get the DLC yesterday and too late to get it today. I'm pretty bummed out Bioware went cheap on Cailan's armor. I mean, shouldn't he have some of the best armor in Ferelden?

    Anyway, I'm looking forward to the DLC coming back up. Perhaps the armor and weapons would be worth it if you start over a new game and get them early on

  4. @Shockwave: I think that as part of the full game, this would be a great quest. But like Ray, I think it's not really good enough as a stand alone. I'm somewhat forgiving of the fact that I probably paid too much for this DLC because I got well over 200 hrs of enjoyment out of the original $60 game. If I'd only played through this game once, and it was your typical 8-10 hour game for $60, I'd be a lot more pissed about the lack of content.

    @Ray: I played it through with Wynne and Alistair as well. The dialog was very funny at times.

  5. @nightshade – agreed, to my account I'm indebted to Bioware for at least another 100 bucks on this game, haha

  6. @Nightshade386 Since there are a ton of spoilers here, I guess it doesn't matter. Let me add some space so this info doesn't show up on the front page. Is that enough? How about now? Okay, I think this is good.

    You can have Loghain in your party. Going back to Ostagar with him is pretty powerful.

  7. Ah ok, I know who you mean now.

    Yeah, I only took him as part of my party in one of my playthroughs, and that was just to get the achievement. While playing as either the good or version of "The Grey Warden," I just couldn't find a justifiable reason to take him in my party aside from the achievement. If you're good, you should want justice. If you're evil, you should know better than to trust a snake that's already bitten you. His inclusion as a possible party member never really made that much sense to me, especially since the option to have him join you happens so late into the game.

  8. @Nightshade386 His inclusion made total sense! Riordan allows him to join the Grey Wardens with every intention of having him die. It's supposed to be his atonement.

  9. @Ray: See, I get what you're saying, but here's the disconnect:

    **Spoliers a plenty ahead!!! Turn back now or blame only yerself!!!**

    I always took it as Riordan's basically pining to die killing the Archdemon himself because he doesn't have much time left anyway. So by having Loghain join the party as a "backup plan," there's absolutely no guarantees that he'll even get a chance at atonement. That's why it never made much sense to me. Instead of saying "If at all possible, I should take the killing blow," he should have offered Loghain the right to lead the charge and take the killing blow as a means of atonement.

  10. Spoilers Ahead, don't read this if you haven't finished the game

    @nightshade and Rpad

    I thought it was interesting, but I think Riordin had a good idea in that becoming a Warden is a death sentence. not to mention, most people who drink the darkspawn blood die immediately, so if he had it wouldn't have been a big deal. I don't know why Alistair was being such a b*tch about it, lol.

    At any rate I understand what nightshade is saying, it's almost like if you're good, you'd want him dealt with, but if you're evil, you'd want him slaughtered. I think what is cool about DA though is that there are more options than just good/bad. more options means more of an ability for players to role play. isn't that what the game is all about after all?

  11. I think if you are playing a truly benevolent character then you may want to give Logaine the option of attonement/repentance. unfortunately it comes a the cost of Alistair's life so it does make it a hard decision to make. Since I wanted the achievement for all 4 endings I took Logaine's side a couple of times.

    I wonder how many characters will travel with you to the new land, if any, when the DLC in March comes out

  12. @Shockwave562 Alistair doesn't have to die. You can just let him piss off and become a wandering drunk.

    I'm hoping Leliana and Shale, at the very least. Leliana would be a great tour guide for Orlais, but she also has history that should get you in trouble. Plus, she's just a beast with the bow. Shale's banter is just brilliant.

  13. good point ray, i forgot I took that route once. I love the multitude of options available to each player.

    Also, I'm on my latest run and I had no idea how many backpacks there were. I have the capacity for 110 right now which I love

  14. @Shockwave562 I don't know what I would have done with Soldier's Peak chest. I hate selling cool items. Also, I've always wondered about backpacks. You mean to tell me that the party can jump into battle while carrying a large arsenal on their backs? "Excuse me Mr. Darkspawn. I have to put this stuff down before I kill you!"

  15. Obviously at this point, there are more spoilers. Be warned. That means you.

    @Ray & Shockwave: See, while the pragmatist in my would kill Loghain every time, I never had an issue with the idea of potentially sparing Loghain's life. As I said, I just don't think putting him in the party made much sense. Here's why:

    To me, it would have made more sense to simply replace Riordan's character model with Loghain's during the final assault sequence rather than have him in the party. He dies in the assault instead of Riordan, and his honor is restored.

    See, the thing about Loghain is that he's widely considered the greatest general in Fereldan, and by putting him in the party you're reducing him to sidekick status. That doesn't help with the ultimate goal of defeating the darkspawn. If you trust him enough to make him a Grey Warden, then it makes sense to use him to his fullest potential. If you don't trust him enough to let him join, then you should kill him and move on.

    Should Loghain die in the final battle sequence instead of Riordan, Riordan could either simply show up in the background during one of the potential endings, or his situation could be left as a mystery. As a minor character, it ultimately matters a lot less what happens to him. And depending on who lived and died, background characters already changed in those end sequences.

    Alistair can still walk away when you spare Loghain's life, and there's no need to replace him in the party. Think about it…..do you REALLY need another Warrior at that point in the game? You could potentially already have Oghren, Sten, Shale, Dog and yourself. By comparison, Morrigan potentially walks away during the endgame and isn't replaced…and you've only got one other Mage (unless you're playing as one too).

    Anyway, my two cents. The thing about this type of RPG is the fact that no matter what "type" of character you play, there's always a small piece of you in there too. Thus this is the mindset of "The Grey Warden" from my perspective. No one's perspective on the character is wrong, because the character is basically "you."

  16. @Rpad, that's hilarious, I didn't think about that. I like the way oblivion approached it. Each level gain your character could carry more. Doesn't work the same with a party system. Typically I don't like inventory management and I too don't like selling cool stuff

  17. @Nightshade386 The reason why it works is because Loghain is a big deal. You're supposed to hate him. The conflict with Anora adds another layer. What you do decide to do with Loghain is really impactful.

    Besides, the commoners don't know that he's been relegated to sidekick status. He's being used as a symbol too, no?

    Oh, I never posted what that other "funny at 5AM" thing was in Dragon Age. The others were:

    Loghain = Rogaine

    Ortan Thaig = Randy Orton Thaig

    The one I forgot was:

    Prince Bhelen = Prince Bell End


  18. Well said nightshade, I think they felt the need to replace alistair so that there was more than one grey warden in your party, maybe it would have been better if the roles were reversed and Riordin joined your party when you spare logaine

  19. @Ray: I agree that what you decide to do with Loghain is extremely important for all the reasons you mentioned. But I still don;t think that means that he belongs in the party.

    The pragmatist in me would care more about winning than symbolism. Seems like from everything else in the game, while the nobility would care about the "symbology," the Grey Wardens would not. These are people who are willing to do anything to defeat the darkspawn. Loghain's honor is a trivial matter in comparison. Being able to trust him would be more important. Maybe that's just my interpretation.

  20. @Nightshade386 The trust factor has to do with the taint. What more can Loghain do to the grey wardens if he becomes a darkspawn magnet? It's also pretty clear that Loghain wanted to do good, but his methods were vile and his hate for the Orelsians clouded his judgement.

  21. @Ray: Ha…..so it comes back to my comment yesterday in another thread about the "Road to Hell being paved with good intentions," huh? Ah sweet irony.

    Anyway, I think it's fair to say we disagree on this one and move on. I don't think either one of us is wrong, we just have differing perspectives on how to play the main character.

  22. @ Ray

    For someone who hasn't played the game, when you said "The trust factor has to do with the taint."… it sounded really comical.

  23. @Shockwave: I think having Riordan join the party if Alistair leaves would have made more sense than Loghain. If they truly wanted to give Loghain an opportunity to atone, it should have been at the head of the charge.

  24. Crap. I just remembered that the only playthrough when I had Loghain in the party is the same one where I cleansed the Circle of Magi for the Achievement……meaning Wynne is not in my party. Crap.

  25. @Nightshade386 Whether it was from the archdemon or the taint, Rogaine was going to die anyway. At least he’d take out a lot of darkspawn along the way, since they’d be attracted to him, no? As for the dialogue, I think it was just a lack of time to flesh out that angle.

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