Dragon Age 2 DLC: Mark of the Assassin Review

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Posted on October 17, 2011, CJ Miozzi Dragon Age 2 DLC: Mark of the Assassin Review

Dragon Age 2: Mark of the Assassin DLC (PC [Reviewed], PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
Developer: BioWare
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Released: October 11, 2011
MSRP: $9.99

Dragon Age 2′s first major DLC, Legacy, addressed many of the criticisms players had about the base game, such as the repetitive battles and recycled locations. It succeeded in refining Dragon Age 2 to the level it should have been upon release. That established, Legacy paved the way for BioWare’s next major DLC to take things to the next level.

Enter Mark of the Assassin. Featuring a new companion voiced by actress Felicia Day, this DLC had its bar set high. Mark of the Assassin kicks off with an ambush — oh, does Dragon Age ever love its ambushes — in which an elf assassin named Tallis leaps in to save the day. The star of this DLC, Tallis gets her “badass moment,” singlehandedly taking out several ambushers with little effort, while Hawke and his companions presumably stare on dumbly, slack-jawed, awaiting their cue to join the battle.

Tallis, modeled to resemble Felicia Day from her same-named role in the Dragon Age: Redemption web series, is a knife-throwing rogue with a light-hearted sense of humor. Character development throughout the plot reveals that there’s more to Tallis than meets the eye and fleshes her out into a three dimensional person rather than a clichéd assassin archetype.

After some quick introductions, Tallis persuades Hawke to help her steal a jewel from an Orlesian Duke. Fortunately, Hawke just happened to be invited to an upcoming soirée at the Duke’s estate, so off he goes, new companion character in tow. The quest takes players through a series of outlandish activities, starting with a wyvern hunt in which Hawke must race against foppish upper-class wannabes to be the first to slay/capture a wyvern, followed by a socialite gathering in which he dons his finest silks and mingle with snooty Orlesians as he searches for a way into the keep, and a stealth sequence in which he sneaks by guards in a manner reminiscent of the old Thief series.

The stealth sequence includes new gameplay mechanics — rather than spray blood everywhere, you defeat enemy guards by distracting them with thrown stones or temporarily knocking them out with a sap. This sequence isn’t as refined as it could be, as the AI makes the guards appear moronic — I encountered far too many guards that stood in corners, staring at walls.

When you do get to spray blood everywhere, you encounter new enemies, including impressive wyverns whose build-up made their battles all the more exciting, and annoying ghasts, who played no role in the adventure other than to provide filler. Oh, and you don’t battle a single spider throughout the adventure — thank the Maker.

The overall tone of Mark of the Assassin is light; between Tallis’ humor, the ridiculous situations you’re put in, and the pompous Orlesians posturing flamboyantly and speaking in their over-the-top accents, it’s impossible to take the quest too seriously. As an Orlesian repeatedly called me a turnip, I couldn’t help but feel as though I was in a Monthy Python skit, and half expected the fellow to say, “I fart in your general direction!” The humor won’t have you in stitches, but it’s good for a few smirks.

Mark of the Assassin does a fair job at balancing puzzles, stealth, and socializing with combat — it’s more well-rounded than the combat-heavy vanilla game. Unfortunately, there isn’t a wealth of content — Mark of the Assassin can be completed in one sitting. My slow-paced playthrough took 3.5 hours, and some of that was filler: tedious side quests that sometimes involved running back and forth along the same tract of land due to poor map/quest design.

Ultimately, Tallis is the main attraction of this DLC. Remove her from the equation and you’re left with a mediocre adventure with a couple of gimmicks. Mark of the Assassin relies almost completely on the success of the Tallis character. Fortunately, Dragon Age 2 has always been a story about characters, and this DLC continues the trend of strong characterization, providing an endearing, deep, memorable companion — who you cannot use outside of this quest. That’s right — once the quest is over, say goodbye to Tallis.

Does Mark of the Assassin live up to expectations? In my opinion, it doesn’t. There’s nothing grievously wrong with the quest — it’s just more Dragon Age 2 goodness. Legacy had a much more epic scope and was a starker contrast to what the base game was missing, so Mark of the Assassin didn’t impact me the way Legacy did. That said, it’s still quality content that DA2 fans will enjoy.

Final Score: 90/100

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