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Saturday, 15 August 2015

Dragon Age: Inquisition - The Descent.

Dragon Age: Inquisition
The Descent.

Contains spoilers.

You know, I don't really keep a track of DLC releases. I find the whole DLC model of business to be pretty consumer-unfriendly, and only matched in its unfriendliness by a bunch of other guff the video game industry likes to pull, so as a general rule I don't bother buying DLCs. But Dragon Age's DLCs tend to be the exception, not least because they often contain hinting forward as to who the villains of the next few games are going to be (Dragon Age II, for example, had both Corypheus and Fen'harel be the focus of DLC).

The Descent takes the Inquisition to the Deep Roads, where mysterious earthquakes are threatening lyrium mines, and allowing darkspawn to get increasingly close to Dwarven cities. Heading down deeper and deeper into the Deep Roads, and eventually beyond them into the caverns and chasms below the Roads, the search for the source of the seismic activity exposes the secret history of the dwarves, and a vast and ancient being lying deep beneath the earth.

As far as gameplay goes, the entire DLC is pretty much one long dungeon - okay, that's not entirely true, it's one long dungeon with a small hub area near the beginning (through which you can spend power to unlock hidden rooms, usually with delightful loot within), and the main storyline mostly consists of you forging a path through that dungeon, getting (as the title implies) deeper and deeper. On the way, you'll be attacked by darkspawn with startling regularity and - that's it, really. Later on in the DLC, it mixes up the relatively dark, claustrophobic, and often quite dull environs of the Deep Roads by giving you vast, lyrium-lit chambers full of lyrium-infused pseudo-dwarves with techno-crossbows, which comes as a welcome change, given that the Deep Roads are decidedly not the most interesting setting that the franchise has to offer.

The Deep Roads.

It's very easy to get fatigued while playing, because there's really only so many dark, cramped caverns waveringly lit by torches you can be ambushed by darkspawn in before the whole thing just kind of loses its novelty. Another group of angry darkspawn? More dark caves? Further dwarven ruins? Do I have to? That's not a great impression to be leaving on a player, and when their reaction to finding a vast, blue-glowing cave isn't awe but sheer relief at the new colours and space, you've probably fallen into the trap of making your DLC a tad too repetitive.

(I was reminded, incidentally, of the Deep Roads section of the very first Dragon Age game, which was also too long and got boring quickly. Luckily, you can't get lost in The Descent as easily as you could in Origin's Deep Roads, so you won't spend hours running around the same areas desperately and futilely attempting to figure out precisely what the game wants you to do.

But hey, you know what's worse? The Fade. I once saw someone say they thought an entire game should be set in the Fade, so I can only presume that they got somebody else to play those sections.)

I don't even know what this is.

In terms of plot, I am - ambivalent about this DLC, as I always am when Dragon Age introduces new, massively important plot elements, especially ones that weren't really foreshadowed beforehand. Inquisition prompted some ambivalence with its sudden reveal that the elvish gods, previously more background lore than anything else, were actually important. In The Descent, the new massively important plot element is the Titans, ancient stone beings that can shape the earth as they will, and which were very vaguely alluded to in Inquisition but which are otherwise coming completely out of nowhere.

Seriously, while the idea is cool and all, I spent the entire DLC from the time they were mentioned sitting and thinking 'Okay, but isn't the universe getting a bit crowded with powerful, godlike beings now? C'mon, guys. C'mon. There's no way you can make all of them plot relevant by the end.' In many ways, the Titans feel like an afterthought, a cool idea that doesn't really tie into the plot at all, but which the writers thought was neat and would add a little bit of flavour to the otherwise oft-overlooked dwarves.

I'll probably warm to the idea eventually, but what would make me warm to it more is if there was any suggestion that this was actually leading on to anything. I mean, giant earth-shaping creatures should be relevant, and yet I feel like they're never going to be mentioned again.

One of the new characters.

All in all, it's a fun DLC, but I'm not convinced it's worth the fifteen quid asking price. Unlike the Jaws of Hakkon, which gave you an entire new area with sidequests and its own story line, The Descent seems a little thin on the ground to be asking for what is essentially the price of a decently sized indie game. 

Also, man, I was hoping for more Old God stuff. Love the Old Gods. Love 'em. 

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