There was something that was always very heartwarming about playing Dragon Age: Origins
. Beyond my personal reasons (attributed to a particular connection to role-playing games set under a war-torn, fantasy and creature-filled environment), BioWare has always had a knack for developing games rife with personality and deep underlying themes. If you appreciated the game as the elaborate tale that I saw it as, Leliana’s Song
is a short extension of that story that uncovers what should have been an intriguing past history of one of your companions.
The downloadable content puts you in the role of Leliana - a bard and member of a small group of criminals - before the events of Origins
. Character introductions are made hastily. A la Borderlands
, the screen is temporarily frozen and character names highlighted in the background before returning to the game. Soon after, you set off to conduct your criminal deeds with your party members at the request of your leader and mentor, Marjolaine.
If you explored conversation with Leliana in Origins long enough, she most likely revealed some of her history to you. I remember being interested in her tales because they involved deception, betrayal, and more of the blood and gore Origins is known for (including the Dragon Age trademark of blood splattered across characters’ armor and face). It came with a positive outlook, then, that I came to play and review Leliana’s Song. But then why, after completing the missions the DLC had to offer, did I come away feeling that the add-on was empty?
Reflecting on it, I realized there was too much disparity between what was meant to enhance your experience of the original game and the original game itself. First, there is the fact that the DLC took only 2 hours to complete. The content felt rushed, and ultimately unfulfilled. Whereas Origins is about discovering your story and going on to save Ferelden, Leliana’s Song is small story of betrayal laden with a few political qualms.
I undertook a similar experience of betrayal when playing as a dwarf with royal lineage in Origins. Under this origins story, you spend a hefty amount of time in the underground realm of Orzammar, thereby instilling the feeling of familiarity with it. I conversed with its townsfolk, raided every room in every building, fought there and quested there. That connection was never made in Leliana’s Song. Although your home is the road, I was hoping to establish a connection to Marjolaine and the rest of the crew before being asked to call up emotions for them. I spent perhaps 20 minutes questing with my newly acquainted teammates before situations arose in which I was undoubtedly meant to feel despair for them. From what I could tell in Origins, Leliana’s background is convoluted and tragic. The impression I gathered from the game did not resonate in this add-on.
The game quickly shifts gears when you are stripped of your armor and weaponry, and attempts are made to coax you into revenge mode, hoping that your emotions have been stimulated. Unfortunately, instead of being motivated to seek out revenge, I felt I was more so abiding by the game’s rules than setting out on a personal vendetta.
Marjolaine is not a very deceptive character. Her guise is in her flirtation, and these tactics are only receptive to someone who would be intrigued by her to begin with. A journalism professor I once had the pleasure of learning under told me a very simple rule: show, don’t tell. I am aware that Leliana has an attraction to Marjolaine, but only because I am told so. The thought never crossed my mind under my own inspection. Rather, it was thrown in my face when Marjolaine was circling Leliana flirtatiously, eyeing her like dessert and tossing compliments around. Marjolaine’s character was trying too hard for me to believe her act.The other characters aren’t anything to particularly write home about either. One of the more valued qualities of Origins was the ability to constantly converse with your party members. The characters would even present their personalities by talking idly beside you as you walk over to your next destination. This sort of character building was minuscule in Leliana’s Song.
Obviously, comparing an entire retail game to its much smaller counterpart is not wholly fair. I never expected the DLC to deliver as well as Origins did. However, what made this DLC stand out as so obviously disparate from Origins was the fact that you are stepping into another character. Instead of feeding off of the content from the original game, you are embarking on what is a separate storyline that does not fit with the main game as a DLC component should. The fact that the game feels so separate makes the 2 hour long length even more apparent.
This begs the question: what is the worth of this DLC? The storyline is minimal, the characters are a moot point, and with the addition of the length, it is altogether forgettable. Fortunately, the DLC’s aesthetics match that of Origins. The environment is convincingly dreary, and the new music compositions compliment the setting perfectly.
If there was a cue that this DLC should
have taken from Borderlands, it was that loot is awesome and gamers value the hell out of it. In Leliana’s Song, however, you can expect even more lackluster loot than Origins. Only higher level enemies will even drop loot to begin with. With what is ultimately a lower drop rate, this makes sorting through the many useless items even more so unfruitful. The weapons are fairly dull, and you can forget about health/lyrium potions. None of the loot gives any immediate use in battle, which is the main focus on Leliana’s Song given that it has been stripped of the quality of content I am used to from Origins.
If you’re really a sucker for Leliana and some lesbian romance, the DLC might prove worthwhile given the small price tag of roughly $7, but don’t expect the level of quality that you might be familiar with from Origins.