(warning: minor spoilers for all Dragon Age games)
With the release of Dragon Age: Inquisition’s Trespasser DLC, BioWare not only paid tribute to the franchise’ most hardcore fans, but also reminded everyone that the studio could still craft moving, important and satisfying story-driven downloadable content.
BioWare’s history with Dragon Age DLC is a rocky one, with great hits and wide misses. Thrown into the equation is the seemingly huge opinion gap between fans of the franchise and casual Dragon Age players. With that in mind, this article aims to give you the best information possible for choosing which DLC to check out, and which to pass on.
This list does not include character, multiplayer or item-based DLCs. The list also assumes that you actually enjoyed the Dragon Age games to which the DLCs were attached. (Yes, it’s funny that I have to say that, but I do.)
So gather your party and venture forth as we list the twelve Dragon Age franchise story DLCs from worst to best!
12. Golems of Amgarrak
August 10, 2010 marked the release of Golems of Amgarrak for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3. In this quest, Jerrik Dace brought on the Warden Commander to help him find his missing brother, Brogan, who was part of an expedition to Amgarrak Thaig.
Although Golems of Amgarrak featured a new story and new companions, the thaig was almost identical to the Kal’Hirol area in Awakening. This would be a common theme in much of the Dragon Age DLC as well as for the game Dragon Age II. The re-use of dungeons may have saved developers time in creating new content, but it enraged many fans.
Golems of Amgarrak set the stage for a future villain in Dragon Age II, but, at the time it was released, just seemed to be a one-off tale without much tie-in to the main story. The new companions, Jerrik, Brogan, Snug and the Golem weren’t very interesting, and the ‘mystery’ that the story perched around was pretty obvious from the moment players found the first set of research notes.
This DLC also featured some pretty difficult battles and puzzles. Normally, this would be a good thing, but the rewards for winning the fights or solving the room puzzles were negligible. The final boss battle is best remembered for being both difficult, and yet also somehow boring.
For current players, Golems of Amgarrak is easily skippable, as it provides no must-have gear and the story is not needed to appreciate the appearance of the applicable boss in Dragon Age II.
11. Darkspawn Chronicles
Darkspawn Chronicles was an add-on for Dragon Age: Origins released on May 18, 2010 for the PC, Xbox 360 and PS3.
The DLC asks the question “What if the Warden died at Ostagar?” and allows players to take on the role of a hurlock vanguard sacking Denerim with the other darkspawn. Players who enjoy removing pool ladders from swimming pools in the Sims should have no trouble grasping the concept: kill all those annoying party members and NPCs!
While it was interesting to try out the different darkspawn classes, the DLC just did not have enough meat on its bones. Darkspawn Chronicles could have been a great chance to delve into the lore and minds of the darkspawn but, instead, players were treated to a very simple and straightforward jaunt. So straightforward, in fact, that the DLC is completely unmemorable. There is no new dialogue, no customization options and really no incentive to bond with the character or his thralls.
Darkspawn Chronicles also committed the cardinal Dragon Age sin that BioWare seemed to repeat over and over with Dragon Age content: using locations players have already visited.
This DLC might have worked better as an April Fool’s joke, but kudos to BioWare for trying something creative and fresh.
10. Return to Ostagar
Most notable for allowing another chance to recruit darkspawn, Return to Ostagar was released on January 29, 2010 for PC and Xbox 360, and on March 11, 2010 for PS3. Along with Warden’s Keep, it is one of only two Dragon Age: Origins story-driven DLC to let the players keep their chosen party members.
The Return to Ostagar DLC offered the Warden a chance to re-visit the site of the Grey Warden’s great defeat to find Cailen’s body and to gain a little more understanding and closure about the events leading up to Cailen’s betrayal and death. Much like Warden’s Keep, Return to Ostagar is simple and quite short, featuring a few battles, new armor and weapons, and the chance to read some interesting letters revealing Cailen’s secret political ambitions. The DLC is most interesting when the correct companions are chosen for the jaunt. I recommend taking the Secret Companion, Wynne and Alistair for interesting party banter and conversations.
For players who long for more quests in the world of Dragon Age: Origins, Return to Ostagar is a nice snack to satiate that need.
9. Witch Hunt
The final DLC for Dragon Age: Origins, Witch Hunt was released on September 7, 2010 for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3.
Witch Hunt sees the Warden join forces with Dog, and new companions Ariane and Finn to track down Morrigan nearly a year after the Archdemon has been slain.
Ariane and Finn were one of the most enjoyable aspects of this DLC, as their banter and conversations made the story feel more urgent and important. Unlike Jerrik and Brogan, these characters have the same charm found in the normal campaign companions.
There were also some great fights, with the introduction of a new boss that we’d see a lot more of in Dragon Age II. There were also a few creative quest types, such as closing veil rips during fights (sound familiar?) and using an index to track down important books in the library.
Much less enjoyable was the blatant recycling of locations and dungeons, although, in this case, the recycling made a bit more sense in regards to the story. Or they wrote the story in such a way that they would get to reuse locations.
Speaking of story, it was surprisingly anti-climactic. Much like The Descent DLC, this was a DLC that raised more questions than answers, which is not what fans believed they would be getting. Those questions were eventually answered in Dragon Age: Inquisition, so anyone looking to play Witch Hunt for the first time will be much less disappointed than players who picked it up five years ago. (Can you imagine waiting almost four years to find out what the ending of the last DLC for one of your favorite games really meant? It was torture.)
On the other hand, it makes sense that BioWare could only do so much with the Morrigan scene. Depending on player actions, Morrigan could be a stranger, lover, the mother of the Warden’s child or a cherished best-friend. With the limited budget of downloadable content, the developer’s hands were a bit tied in what they could show and how many lines they would be willing to pay Claudia Black for.
It made sense, but it doesn’t mean fans liked it.
In all, Witch Hunt is fun for the introduction of new characters, some closure with Morrigan and the introduction of the importance of the eluvians.
8. Warden’s Keep
Warden’s Keep was available on day one of Dragon Age: Origin’s release. Criticized at the time for breaking in-game immersion, the DLC could be bought by interacting with an NPC at the Warden’s camp. This DLC follows the Warden’s quest to help Levi Dryden clear the name of his famous ancestor, Sophia Dryden, by revealing the mysteries of Soldier’s Peak.
Warden’s Keep featured a new location, a funny Superman reference, inventory storage, plenty of fights, a new power, a meteorite-based weapon and an explanation for the distrust of Grey Wardens in Ferelden.
The problem with Warden’s Keep is that it is extremely short; taking less than an hour to romp through the keep, beat up a few baddies and make one or two moral decisions. It is a Dragon Age: Origins quest in miniature.
Despite the short length of the DLC, Warden’s Keep is still very solid content, as your Warden will leave with new weapons, a storage chest, some answers and, potentially, a dark new power.
7. Leliana’s Song
Released on July 6, 2010 for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3, Leliana’s Song was a prequel meant to explore one of the most beloved characters in the Dragon Age franchise.
Players take the role of Leliana, who is living the life of a carefree bard along with her mentor Marjolaine. That is until she is brutally betrayed and must find the strength to outwit Marjolaine and to rescue her friends. With eight quests and three new party members, this DLC is perfect for Leliana lovers, filling in her backstory and helping to explain the seeming duality of her nature in the core game, as both a member of the chantry and a bard.
The biggest downfall of this DLC is length. The story moves very quickly and adds nothing to the core game, with the exception of a suit of armor for Leliana. And players who are not fans of Leliana will find this DLC to be a waste of time, as its sole purpose is to tell her story.
With fully voiced cutscenes, full dialogue options and a well-fleshed out story of growth and inner strength, Leliana’s Song is a great DLC for fans of the character, but not essential for anyone who didn’t enjoy the Orlesian bard.
6. Mark of the Assassin
The second and final story-driven DLC for Dragon Age II, Mark of the Assassin was released on October 11, 2011 for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3.
In Mark of the Assassin, Hawke, with the help a mysterious elf named Tallis, must infiltrate an Orlesian estate outside of Kirkwall and steal a precious relic. Tallis, voiced by Felicia Day, is charming and offers a deeper glimpse into the Qunari religion, as well as into the life of an Orlesian noble.
The gameplay is also unique from the core Dragon Age II game, as players will search for wyvern poo, gossip with guests and sneak past guards. This DLC doesn’t take itself too seriously and that’s the best part.
The only drawback to the main mission occurs if players have also completed Kasumi’s mission in Mass Effect. Mark of the Assassin plays out in much the same way, leading to an odd feeling of deja vu, though the concept of sneaking into a party to steal a great treasure is nothing new.
Featuring tons of humor, mystery, romance and action, Mark of the Assassin is a fun addition to the Dragon Age universe.
Legacy, the DLC that introduced the main baddie of Dragon Age: Inquisition, was released on July 26, 2011 for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3 and was the first story-driven DLC for Dragon Age II.
Given the stripped-down feeling of Dragon Age II, it was quite surprising how well BioWare seemed to listen to fans with this DLC. Legacy takes Hawke and friends to an ancient Grey Warden prison to discover why the Carta are after “the blood of the Hawke”. For additional party dialogue, be sure to bring Varric, Bethany/Carver and Anders.
Unlike the main Dragon Age II game, Legacy featured no recycled dungeons and introduced new enemy types along with the new environments. The story is very linear, but that only serves to strengthen it, as players will learn new information about Hawke, the Grey Wardens and the lore of Thedas.
The fights were fun and slightly more difficult, with a unique and dangerous boss fight at the end. Except on the easiest modes, players will need to use strategy to defeat the monster in the Grey Warden prison. With new armor, a new weapon and tons of heart, the Legacy DLC was a great example of what BioWare could do with a Dragon Age add-on.
4. The Descent
Released on August 11, 2015 for PC, PS4 and Xbox One, The Descent focuses on the dwarves and darkspawn, two races who got much less airtime in Dragon Age: Inquisition than in the previous games.
In The Descent, The Inquisitor is asked to look into the seismic activity rocking an important lyrium mine. Players are joined by two new NPC companions, a shaper named Valta and a Legionnaire of the dead named Renn. The banter between the two characters is heartwarming and funny, in much the same way that Ariane and Finn were. However, their banter appears to come at the cost of normal party dialogue. For example, in my playthrough, Varric picking on Renn for being such a downer was pretty much the only time I heard my companions speak.
The most interesting part of The Descent is that it is essentially a multi-level dungeon crawl. The focus is on fighting, with heavy waves of enemies and our first ogre of Dragon Age: Inquisition. The final boss fight is extremely difficult depending on the chosen party members, and requires a different kind of thinking than all of the previous fights in the DLC. I thought it was a breath of fresh air, but many players seem frustrated by it.
The story is interesting and introduces the idea of a titan, a creature that lives deep underground and is somehow tied to lyrium as well as an entirely new race. Unfortunately, the ending reveal was incredibly disappointing, and, instead of answering any questions about lyrium, simply gave the players even more mysteries. Another odd choice was the use of after-game codex entries to explain what just happened.
The Descent is the perfect DLC for players who enjoy combat, dungeon crawls and funny party banter, but will be less exciting for those looking to learn more about the mysteries of Thedas.
3. Jaws of Hakkon
The first story-based DLC for Dragon Age: Inquisition, Jaws of Hakkon was released on March 24, 2015 for PC and Xbox One and then on May 26, 2015 it was released for Xbox 360, PS3 and PS4.
In Jaws of Hakkon, The Inquisitor has received news of the possible final resting place of Inquisitor Ameridan, the first Inquisitor. Journeying to a new area, players will have to navigate hostile swamps and Tevinter fortresses all while facing hostile Avvar.
It was great to get DLC that showed more of the Avvar, a much talked about but little-seen race in the Dragon Age franchise. I particularly liked that the Avvar were both enemies and potential friends, allowing for a well-rounded dive into their culture.
As the first story-driven DLC for Dragon Age: Inquisition, Jaws of Hakkon set a high bar. Not only were big lore questions answered, but a wonderful reveal near the end was unexpected and very moving, depending on the type of Inquisitor players bring to the fight. The numerous side-quests, rifts and shards fully fleshed-out the area into a microcosm of the larger game. My only two complaints are that the party members have very little DLC specific banter and that the multi-leveled terrain seemed to confuse enemy paths.
Fans of the core Dragon Age: Inquisition game will love Jaws of Hakkon, as it is more of the same gameplay as the main game, but with harder enemies, better loot and an awesome reveal.
The latest Dragon Age DLC is Trespasser, released September 8, 2015 for the PC, PS4 and Xbox One.
Trespasser takes place two years after the end of the core Dragon Age: Inquisition game. Orlais, Fereldan and the Chantry are calling the Inquisition to task for still existing past its original purpose. Further confusing the matter, the qunari seem to be using the eluvians to infiltrate places of interest for the purpose of assassination.
Most importantly, this DLC answers one of the major mysteries that has haunted Dragon Age fans since Dragon Age: Origins: were the Elven gods real?
This final DLC for Dragon Age: Inquisition is a true love-letter to hardcore fans, and features tons of codex entries, many new conversations and dialogues with party-members, and even a wedding, if you play your cards right. It also boasts the return of Solas, who, unlike Morrigan in The Witch Hunt DLC, actually answers questions in great detail.
It was very interesting, in fact, how much this DLC seemed to follow the path of Witch Hunt, which featured a journey across multiple lands culminating into running into everyone’s favorite moody mage who leaves at the end of the conversation via an eluvian. Except this time, BioWare righted many of the wrongs they made with past DLC.
Besides a bit of the Winter Palace (which is expanded), the locales are all new, party-members have reasonable reactions to the quests, questions are answered and weighty-feeling choices are made. In the same way that Citadel was Mass Effect’s fan-focused DLC, Trespasser will give players a fun romp and closure with the characters they’ve grown to love over their time with the game.
Oh, and be sure to watch the credits with the sound on.
Now we come to BioWare’s greatest story-driven add-on for the Dragon Age franchise.
Released on March 16, 2010 for PC, 360 and PS3, Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening remains the only full expansion of the Dragon Age franchise.
And that is such a shame because it was amazing.
In Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening, players take on the role of the Warden Commander as they set up their new headquarters in Vigils Keep in Amaranthine after the death of the Archdemon. The Warden Commander is either player’s Warden from Dragon Age: Origins or a new Orlesian warden if that warden made the ultimate sacrifice. Players recruit an all new set of party-members, explore a new section of Thedas and unravel the mystery of The Architect, a Darkspawn who can speak.
While some reviewers complained about the story, your opinion on it might change depending on whether or not you’ve read Dragon Age: The Calling, which sets up the rise of the main villain perfectly. Awakening adds about twenty hours of gameplay, five new companions, one old companion, eight new locations and at least ten new enemy types. The expansion also offers new gameplay mechanics, a new level cap and two new armor tiers.
Interestingly, when I played Dragon Age: Inquisition, the first thing I thought of was Awakening. Many of the ideas in Awakening did not make it to Dragon Age II, but appeared in Dragon Age: Inquisition, such as using resources to upgrade the player’s base, having followers join the main character in their fortress, and being a commander in control of many forces. In that regard, Awakening has always felt more like a sequel to Dragon Age: Origins, rather than just an expansion.
If you’ve been holding off on playing it, do yourself a favor and get Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening right now.
So there you have it, a complete list of all of the major story-based DLCs for the Dragon Age franchise. Agree with the list? Disagree? Think Shale and Sebastien should have been included? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook!