While Dragon Age: Origins was heralded as the underrated jewel of BioWare's gem-encrusted crown, Dragon Age II garnered a wider range of opinions. To be blunt, it certainly wasn't perfect; little flaws like recycled environments and repetitive combat threatened to undermine a strong story and world. So, does its Legacy DLC -- which promised to "address" some of those complaints -- finally realize the Darkspawn-decapitating RPG's full potential? Now imagine Sandal saying "enchantment," but in that sad tone he sometimes uses.
Legacy opens with the Hawke family under attack. Turns out, a clan of dwarves wants to get their collective hands on "the blood of the Hawke," and if that requires spilling said blood, so be it. What follows is a dungeon-spelunking adventure involving Hawke's dear old dead dad, forbidden magics, and an ancient Darkspawn whose face looks like an overcooked microwave pizza.
On paper, it sounds interesting enough. Problem is, there's not a whole lot to this game expansion. Only in the final act (read: last 45 minutes or so) does the plot really assert itself. And even then, your big moral choice only really decides who'll be your glorified tour guide up to the inevitable final boss fight.
On the upside, Legacy doesn't call any of Dragon Age II's overworked environments out of retirement. Instead, all three major environments are new -- and pretty nice-looking, for the most part. It's mostly style over substance, however, as you're still delving underground to battle your way through a series of largely linear hallways.
Speaking of battles, combat's definitely the star of the show in Legacy, hogging the spotlight for most of the DLC's four-or-so hours. Which is not to say that it's all bad; scattered among the many "quantity over quality" wars of attrition, there are some nicely designed enemy encounters. A heaping helping of pointy, decapitation-prone traps spices up the action -- even if pressing the big red button usually ends up biting you in the backside more often than it harms your foes.
Meanwhile, a few new enemies rear their horrifyingly disfigured heads, with the shield-wielding Genlock Alpha and hard-charging Bronto forcing you into some especially tense games of tactical cat-and-mouse. Environments seem more deliberately designed to facilitate interesting combat, too -- especially in terms of verticality and positioning.
More often than not, though, you'll find yourself duking it out with same-y dwarf armies or baddies that magically spawn right behind you. Even the few bosses you face off against end up being fairly straightforward - with the exception of Mr. Final Boss McDarkspawn himself, who's just a convoluted mess. In a nutshell, he enjoys blasting giant, nearly unavoidable streams of flame around the room, forcing you to manoeuvre between mini-mazes of rock to reach safe points. Problem is, party member pathfinding A.I. falls to its knees and sobs about never seeing home again at the slightest hint of an obstacle. So you're forced to babysit each and every one of them manually, and even after they're safe and sound, they tend to gleefully run right back into the insta-death fire. The end result is frustrating, time-consuming, and needlessly complicated.
I have to give that fight a hand, however, for at least daring to be, well, daring. Most of Legacy plays it safe, opting for a by-the-numbers approach that never really pushes any of the right buttons. Unless you're a Dragon Age II diehard, you're probably better off skipping this one.