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Dragon Age: Origins DLC – Leliana’s Song

January 1, 2011

Where can you find a vague sense of dissatisfaction, three hours less life than you started with, and a whole two weeks of implied raping, for the low, low price of $7? In retrospect, there are actually quite a few answers to that question, although the correct one is the Dragon Age: Origins DLC, Leliana’s Song.  It’s set a few years before the events of DA: O, and chronicles Leliana’s fall from grace – the role of an Orlesian “bard” (criminal), her mentor’s betrayal, and her subsequent induction into (or should I say, “indoctrination by”) the Chantry.

Assume the role of Leliana, a young bard involved in a criminal ring that deals in political secrets. Accompanying her mentor Marjolaine on a high-risk mission, Leliana soon finds herself entangled in a game of intrigue that she cannot escape with just her beauty, charm, or stealth. The only way out of this game is to kill or be killed.

If this were DA2, those pumpkins would be ~animu-styled~ and on fire.

The story “opens” with you performing minor acts of vandalism and violence for your mentor, Marjolaine, in the market district of Denerim. Knocking out and humiliating a captain of the City Watch, bashing up a nobleman, stealing from a few merchants, etc. It was a little slow paced and slightly underwhelming – like a Neverwinter Nights community module. It did, however, have some goals beyond “kill this person”; it even had a small amount of actual writing.

I have to say, this was the best part of the module – it even looked like it had a branching “plot” (insomuch as there was a plot at all). As part of your brief, you’re meant to cause trouble, such as planting stolen goods on unconscious noblemen and making it look like one of your targets is an apostate. There are lots of possible combinations, but, sadly, after an hour of experimenting, I can save everyone the effort and tell you that there is only one option which does anything – to place every single incriminating item on the captain of the watch.

You see, this kind of half-assery is what infests DLC as a whole. The last real expansion of note for an RPG was the sublime Shivering Isles for Oblivion. Which was released, wait for it, four years ago. DLC is a plague on gaming in much the same way as consoles, and the newly christened wankery of casual gamers. After all, they disabled friendly fire from Dragon Age 2 for the console “gamers” (I use the term loosely), but they removed the option for friendly fire from the UI just in case it confused the casual player mouthbreathers (seriously, Bioware were concerned they might accidentally turn it on and smash their Xbox in a fit).

This is the kind of party I wish I were invited to. The kind with murder.

Anyway, the plot continues with a break in (to a castle map recycled from DA: O), another break in (to the same map – you wouldn’t want to blow the budget), a predictable betrayal followed by a harrowing suggestion that your protagonist spent 2 weeks chained in a dungeon “satisfying the guards” (complete with disturbing imagery). The last half an hour of the module allows you to escape, take out bloody revenge on your mentor and captor, and finish it off with a short detour into religion-induced insanity (don’t get too excited, it’s just a disembodied voice and a trip to a church).

I wanted to like this, I really did. Compared to the Darkspawn Chronicles, Leliana’s Song is like a perfectly pitched epic fantasy adventure. Unfortunately, so too is a baked potato. It suffers from the usual problems with DLC; bad pacing, no real investment in the characters, and the unmistakable  stench of “afterthought-ness”. It was quite strange to play, actually – it felt disturbingly similar to the innumerable, interchangeable NWN modules from 2003. Nothing really stood out as being good or particularly bad, it just started, happened, and ended. To be honest, the dungeon scene was probably the highlight of the whole thing because I at least remember it clearly.

Bioware may be making money hand over fist with stuff like this, but seriously, they need to try a lot harder if they want to keep their real fans.

A small slice of Dragon Age: Origins. It has a few small but vaguely interesting ideas (poorly executed, but what can you expect of the Bioware ca. 2010?) 6/10
Art Direction
Some new models! Someone actually had to modify the market district level a little bit! The new stuff isn’t bad, it’s just infrequent. 5/10
Story and Writing
Predictable and hammy, but not mind-meltingly terrible. I did try to look for the advertised intrigue, but I couldn’t find it. 5/10
Sound and Music
I have to give it credit here because they added some new songs to the game – not only that, but the music was both fitting and quite enjoyable. All the characters are voice-acted with Leliana’s actress reprising her role. 7/10
I didn’t actually get bored of it while playing until the very end, where they decide to pad it out with some pointless wilderness. It has a replayability factor of approximately zero, however. 5/10
I encountered a single scripting bug, nothing that made me too angry. 6/10

If anything, this module sums up the new Bioware – shallow, mediocre and unimaginative. I can’t even recommend it to serious DA: O enthusiasts because it’s just unimpressive. It costs about $7 in Bioware points, and gives you about 3 hours of playing time.

Links: Bioware DLC Information

  1. Johnny Guitar permalink

    I thought I was full of hate, even about console gamers, but yours is the kind that needs to be trapped and never released into the world. Seriously. That’s not a compliment. Really.

    I’m not a fanboy of this DLC, in fact I hated it nearly as much as you seem to, but for entirely different reasons. At least no one reads your blog. If I could seal the entrance with dynamite on my way out I would.

  2. Maxx Plank! permalink

    Im with Johnny Guitar, this DLC was awful – way to hard, and so much plot OMG get over it its a game not WAR AND PEACE! I just want to play and have fun instead of worying about who I am and where i came from and blah blah blah. eatplayhate cant even get the hating wright.! Will not be coming back.



  3. Maxx Plank! permalink

    Oh and you hate console gamers so much but who invented games in the first place?

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