Dragon Age: Inquisition launched at the end of 2014 to no small amount of hype, which turned out to be well deserved, for the most part. However, upon finishing my 120-hour play through, I found myself completely drained of the Dragon Age universe, to the point that when the first DLC, Jaws of Hakkon, was released in March of 2015, I couldn’t even bear to look at it. The endless hours of battling similar enemies and hunting out shards were still too fresh in my memory.
Fortunately, enough time eventually passed for me to miss the world of Thedas, with its political tension and ridiculous Orlesian finery. I remembered the way that the DLC for Dragon Age: Origins had enhanced and expanded the base game, adding new abilities and more depth to the darkspawn with Awakening, and giving us a hilarious new companion with The Stone Prisoner.
So does Inquisition’s DLC offer this same magic? Yes and no. Mostly no.
Jaws of Hakkon
The first DLC released for Inquisition, Jaws of Hakkon seems great on paper. You’re tasked with tracking down the original Inquisitor and what caused his disappearance, exploring a new area with new enemies and abilities at your fingertips.
The problem is, none of this feels new. The Avvar are pretty much carbon copies of the Wildlings from Game of Thrones, right down to their accent. The vast open area to explore bears little difference to all the other vast open areas I struggled to fully explore in the base game. The enemies are mostly re-skins of standard goons, with hulking mallet-wielding warriors being the most frustrating. I barely found any loot or recipes worth collecting, and my team were already a high enough level that XP was basically worthless.
The story is also given little attention, with most dialogue occurring in static conversations lacking in any kind of immersion. I don’t think I saw an actual cinematic until I was about halfway through, and even this was only brief. The story did pick up towards the end, but only just. Looking back on my time with Jaws of Hakkon, I can’t remember what I actually achieved throughout any of it, besides killing a dragon, which was just like every other dragon fight in Inquisition.
One good addition that Jaws of Hakkon provides is the Aegis of the Rift ability for your Inquisitor. This creates a bubble around you that blocks all ranged attacks for a time, and when upgraded, deals damage back to attackers. Of everything I encountered in this DLC, this was the only thing that really changed the way I play. It alone isn’t enough to justify this unnecessary addition, however.
Fortunately, The Descent streamlines the experience, providing more linear, tightly plotted adventure through the dwarven Deep Roads. Less fortunately, it feels very much like Origins’ DLC Golems of Amgarrak, in that the problem in question has almost nothing to do with the protagonist. Oh sure, you need to protect your lyrium supply so your mages can keep mageing and your templars don’t knaw their fingertips off, but this feels like a matter that the leader of a powerful organisation such as the Inquisition could easily delegate to an underling.
You don’t get any new playable characters, but you do have Renn, a gruff Legionnaire and Valta, a curious Shaper along for the journey, effectively increasing your party size from four to six. While neither character is hugely original, they interact with genuine warmth that makes you feel like they’ve known each other forever.
While any trip to the Deep Roads means a lot of the same old darkspawn to slay, there are actually a couple of new enemies that I didn’t see coming. The Sha-Brytol were a big surprise, and look completely badass with their almost alien-like armour and crossbows (although even they have huge guys with mallets). The final boss was a bit of a letdown, however; what I thought was the first stage of the fight turned out to be the whole thing.
Being a more linear adventure, there’s not a lot to do off the beaten track. You can sniff out a couple of dozen gears to unlock special doors, but the rewards on the other side can be a bit hit and miss. The really annoying thing is that some areas aren’t accessible until you return to camp and complete the relevant operation at the war table, creating lots of unnecessary backtracking for little payoff.
The final DLC for Inquisition is set two years after the main quest of the base game, during which time everyone but the Inquisitor and your advisors seems to have buggered off. But the band gets back together when you’re summoned by the Exalted Council, who no longer give a toss about all you did for them and want your order disbanded. Fortunately, a murdered Qunari derails the proceedings, and you head off through a mysterious Eluvian portal to investigate.
It doesn’t take long for frustrations to emerge with this story, however. First of all, there are a crapload of Eluvians, which are supposed to be these super rare and powerful portals that can transport a person across Thedas in an instant. What are they used for here? Bouncing around a ruined castle. This completely cheapens the reveal of the mysterious Crossroads that Morrigan showed earlier in the game, and even more so Merrill’s dangerous quest in Dragon Age II to repair a single Eluvian in the first place.
The second major annoyance with Trespasser is in the companions. BioWare have almost done another Citadel by taking the character interaction we loved and added so much goofy chumminess to it that it starts to detract from the gravity of the situation. To be fair, the invisible Cole has a nice moment of compassion, helping others find the companionship he can never have for himself. But surrounding this we have a bizarre night at the Orlesian theatre with Josephine, Iron Bull’s birthday party and an otherwise steely Cassandra babbling like an idiot. It’s just too heavy handed to be effective, and for the first time I found myself wanting to skip what used to be a major draw card of the series for me.
Worst of all, however, is the burden of knowledge. If you’ve finished the main Inquisition story (which you have to before you can access Trespasser), then you already know more than the main characters about what’s really going on. Watching them take forever to figure out who’s behind everything is infuriating, and it’s hours before someone finally spells it out to them. While things do pick up once you and your team are on the same page, in the end the plot of Trespasser amounts to the same as that of Dragon Age II, serving mostly as a setup for a greater adventure to come.
Overall, Inquisition’s DLC feels like a problem of quantity over quality. Origins’ DLC worked so well because they gave something fresh and new, and since the base game was only a few dozen hours long, I was hungry enough to not mind the less imaginative sections. The Inquisition DLC offers no new characters, one new ability and only a little meaningful story. Good DLC should fill in the gaps left by the original, but instead, BioWare has doubled down on what we already had and hoped for the best.
As nonessential as it gets.
You really won't be missing much if you give this a pass.