Hawke returns in the second piece of DLC for Dragon Age II, and this time he’s brought along a new friend. A knife-eared assassin named Tallis leads our hero on a mission to the oft spoke of, but heretofore unseen, land of Orlais for a quest that runs the gamut from hunt to heist. A collection of cool new enemies to slay and loot to collect pads out the $10 asking price for this one, but the lackluster story and setting, compared to the last piece of DLC, left me wanting a bit more.
The story of Mark of the Assassin begins simply enough. Following a lead from a friend of our favorite story telling dwarf, Varric, Hawke and his merry band of murderers find themselves at the center of an ambush. The odds seem drastically against them, until a strange elven assassin rushes in and mops the floor with our hero’s attackers. Of course (because it’s Dragon Age) she doesn’t do this out of the kindness of her heart, but because she needs Hawke’s help. It seems Hawke’s been invited to a party/hunt/all around good ole’ time by an Orleisian noble and Tallis wants to tag along. You see, she wants to steal a jewel back from this noble, and she can’t do it alone. This is the setup for Mark of the Assassin, and while the story winds through some twists and turns, it didn’t grab me like the story for Legacy did.
The real strength of this DLC falls on the characters. Tallis is modeled after and voiced by “The Guild” star, and modern geek icon, Felicia Day, and she does a great job giving life to the mysterious elf. The lines written for Hawke are also very strong and delivered quite well. This DLC sets up almost perfectly for anyone who is a fan of the “sarcastic” remark option; the dialogue options there are particularly charming.
The array of quest types on display here is somewhat diverse, with some interesting new ideas sprinkled around a decent amount of “same old Dragon Age”. This DLC features a full on stealth section, which is certain to be the most polarizing. While the mechanics here are relatively simple (throw a rock to distract a guard, knock one out when he’s not looking etc.), I found it to be enjoyable enough and fitting for the story and setting. It’s not perfect however, and it’s clear that the engine wasn’t built for stealth style game play. Puzzle fans will also appreciate the Vault section of the DLC, which features some color matching and tile flipping excitement for those of you craving something more cerebral than “go…kill…loot”.
The quality and diversity of these quests helps to make up for the lackluster story, and sets Mark of the Assassin apart from most of the rest of DA II. Halfway through the DLC I found myself caring more about what the next section would play like than where the story would end up. For those of you looking for some unique gameplay to rekindle your interest in the game this should be looked at as a positive, but for you lore hounds out there, you may be a bit disappointed.
The setting on display here is ok, if a bit pedestrian compared to Legacy’s landscape. You’ll fight through a familiar looking, but not recycled, forest and a castle that looks like…well…a castle. You’ll even find yourself in an underground tunnel that looks just like every other underground tunnel you’ve found yourself in. I was hoping for a bit more diversity in setpieces compared to the main game in this DLC, but at least the maps are new.
Overall Mark of the Assassin is a solid if unspectacular piece of DLC. While I personally enjoyed Legacy more, there is some interesting new stuff here. The puzzles in the vault section are great, Tallis is an intriguing new character and I enjoyed most of the new enemy types. MOTA runs about 3-4 hours in length, which is fair for the $10 price tag. The ending also has the potential to substantially impact Dragon Age III so I am excited to see where that leads. If you’ve been craving some new adventures with Hawke and his crew, you’ll have a good time here. Just be sure to keep an eye out for Wyverns…nasty creatures.
Review copy provided by publisher.