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Dragon Age: Inquisition was a game absolutely filled to the brim with content. Every new area was a daunting challenge to obsessive compulsive players everywhere, with a map littered with so many icons it could be incredibly overwhelming at times. So, in that sense, one might say it is not in any great vital need of DLC. However, there will always be someone who wants more and here we are now with it’s first major add-on, Jaws of Hakkon. It acts as a kind of megamix of the various aspects that defined the main game, both good and bad. Whether you should take the plunge on it, though, depends on what you’re looking for.
The DLC provides us with a whole new area, the Frostback Basin. Whereas most of the areas in the main game focused around one environmental theme (ice, jungle, coastal etc.) this new area meshes together several of them, leading to a diversity in design that keeps things interesting. This variety extends to the layering of the area, with plenty of verticality and interlinking paths that make it feel more cohesive to explore than one might expect. It’s also just, y’know, really beautiful in the way you expect from this game.
Bioware should also be praised for how delicately and effectively they weave Jaws of Hakkon into the flow of the main game. Some missions from the DLC even loop back around into old quests you’ve previously encountered, a real rarity in add-ons of this type. And of course the’res plenty of new loot, abilities as well as all sorts of bits and bobs on the war table and customization options around Skyhold if that’s the sort of thing you’re into.
On the storytelling side of things though, the results are much more mixed. The meat and potatoes of the DLC’s storyline concerns the centuries old Inquisitor who proceeded your player character as saviour of Thedas. There’s also plenty little bits of lore to be found around the land concerning this as well as various other aspects of the Dragon Age universe for those who care to seek it out. The problem then, is not a paucity of story content, but rather how dry and uninteresting a lot of it is.
This series has always felt precariously close to falling into becoming just another bit generic fantasy storytelling, and this DLC is one of those times where the plot fails to do anything exceptional to elevate it beyond that. In one sense it feels a victim of it’s own status as an add-on. By making a DLC that is accessible to people who have yet to finish the story, Bioware have limited how much impact it can have on the overall Dragon Age universe. No main are continued, nothing about the finale of the main game is expanded upon. For some this may not be an issue, they may just only care about having more reasons to dive back into this world. For others though, the relative lack of meaningfulness to this DLC could be underwhelming.
Thankfully though, Bioware has attempted to compensate by making sure their is no dearth of of their trademark fantastic writing. The characters you encounter around the basin are as colorful as they come, and there’s plenty of great new writing for the pre-existing cast too. Of particular note is some funny new interaction between your party members as well as a delightfully increased role for Harding, the main game’s perennially loyal scout.
Bioware recommends that you leave tackling this content until your character reaches level 20 or above. A suggestion that becomes increasingly more vindicated the further you dig into it. This isn’t an overly major step up in difficulty, but it does provide a consistent challenge, even on normal difficulty, that wasn’t always on display in the main storyline. Some boss fights later on are especially reminiscent of particular tricky encounters from Dragon Age Origins.
Jaws of Hakkon isn’t going to alter your perceptions of the events of Dragon Age: Inquisition in the way that something like Dragon Age Origins – Awakening did for it’s parent game. This isn’t a substantial expansion in that sort of sense. It’s also odd that, given one of the main complaints about Inquisition was it’s overwhelming amount of side content, that it’s first major DLC is really more in that vein. However, if what you’re looking for is a reason to jump back into the game that captivated you last year, this is a solid enough reason to do so for the price.