Saturday, January 15, 2011

Dragon Age: Origins - Witch Hunt

Written by Joe the Revelator

Ferelden, not Salem.

I don’t often comment about downloadable content for games since I consider them part of a whole, although most DLC comes at a small price nowadays, separate from the on-shelf version. But Dragon Age: Origins has been releasing a constant flow of extra material since its initial launch, bridging the financial gap to their next project, Dragon Age II.

Warden’s Keep, The Stone Prisoner, Return to Ostagar, Darkspawn Chronicles, Leliana’s Song, and Golems of Amgarrak were all released between late 2009 to 2010, containing a few additional hours of gameplay per DLC package. The cost of these packages range from 5$ to 15$, and are playable as either separate smaller campaigns, or as side-quests within the primary module Dragon Age: Origins.

With so much content, why focus on Witch Hunt? Because it’s a weak offering.

Witch Hunt picks up where Dragon Age Origins left off, importing your character from either DA:O or the Awakening expansion. Morrigan, the cynical witch with abandonment issues, has run away after the final battle with the Arch Demon, possibly carrying the god-child of one of the Gray Wardens (depending on your choices in DA:O). It is up to you, nameless hero of one-of-three potential races, to bring her back, although I’m not exactly sure why.

Nor does the game know why you’re chasing the wayward party member. In your first dialogue with a new, shallowly fleshed-out companion, you’re questioned about your reasons to pursue her. Your options, respectively: A) I want to kill her. B) I want to love her. C) I don’t know why.

So, with your character’s motivations firmly resolved, you set off through a series of quests to unexplored lands, against horrors unseen, discovering new and frightening monsters…

Just kidding, it’s all stuff you’ve seen before. Witch Hunt rehashes old maps from the Origins campaign and from the other DLC’s, shaking them up like an etch-a-sketch and filling them with the same old Darkspawn you’ve mowed down before. Instead of fighting a giant dragon in the Dragonbone Wastes, you fight a giant bug. Instead of finding clues about golems in Cadash Thaig, you find clues to an ancient mirror. In Flemeth’s hut you don’t encounter Flemeth, you encounter an elf. Witch Hunt feels like a racing game in which you run the same old tracks in reverse.

And if you aren’t playing for the content alone and feel truly invested in the story, again you may be disappointed. The only familiar characters we see from Origins are Morrigan, in one brief scene where she tells you ‘adios’, and Sandal, the enchantment-happy halfwit. Oh, and if you started as a human noble in DA:O, you also get your Mabari hound back.

When the spells fizzle:

DLC’s are a great way for bigger game titles to stay afloat while they produce new content, and until now Dragon Age has had a good run. But if you want to know how Morrigan’s side of the story resolves, look up the end cinematic on youtube and send Bioware a check for five bucks. It’ll save you an hour or two.


  1. What did you think of the other DLC? DOA:O is a game that I've wanted to go back to, as I feel it deserves another shot (I feel like my judgment of it may have been too harsh), and the DLC has been an interesting tease making me want to return. However, I've little experience of DLC in games these days, hence my curiosity of what you've encountered.

    Also, have you been playing DOA:O on the PC or console? I have my version on the console (where all my hatred was directed), but I hear the PC version is completely different gameplay-wise.

  2. I have the PC version, which plays like a Neverwinter Nights - WoW hybrid, so the gameplay is smooth enough once you get used to it.

    As for DLC in general, I think the best model for how it should be handled is Fallout 3 and the content that was released before New Vegas. (Broken Steel, The Pitt, etc) The quests were unique and lengthy enough to hold interest, and felt much more substantial.

    Dragon Age's DLC takes between 1 and 2 hours per, and the best (in my opinion) are those that tie into the primary campaign, which are about half the DLC's. Even those feel a bit redundant and only offer a few new pieces of equipment. The storylines aren't long enough to impact the player, so it feels like you're outright buying equipment from bioware.

    I think the best option if you don't already own the game it is to buy the big pack Bioware is selling, maybe once it goes down in price. Includes Origins and Awakening, and all the DLC up till now.