CAUTION – This post contains spoilers for Dragon Age: Inquisition. Check out the Dragon Age website for information on the game.
Overall I enjoyed this addition to my Inquisitor’s story.
The insight into Avvar culture was a nice addition to the lore, and I loved their earthy sense of humour – it made a nice change from being patronised by Orlesians. Their approach to magic and spirits, and dealing with abominations, felt revolutionary, and actually made me hope I’ll have the option to play as an Avvar in a future Dragon Age game. I did have a twinge of “If only the Avvar hadn’t been dismissed as Barbarians, we might have known about this and been able to save Anders”. But then I thought, as I mentioned in an earlier post, does Anders really want to be free of Justice? Which is probably a post all of its own so let’s move on.
Inquisition history in the main game came from a Chantry viewpoint, so I appreciated the chance to explore it from a new perspective. In fact working with Kenric and Colette let me indulge my Indiana Jones fantasies for a bit as we pieced together the truth about Ameridan. One of my favourite aspects of the Dragon Age franchise is the decision to write all lore as in-game history, attributed to characters such as Genitivi, precisely because it allows the kind of mutability that reminds us that history is general written by the victors.
The revelation that Ameridan was an elf, and a mage, and that his lover Telana was a Dreamer, gives us a glimpse of what the elves could have had, even after the glory days of Arlathan, and shows the skill, magic, and history that have been lost in the diaspora of the Dalish. Cass actually commented that while the Avvar plan to destroy the new Kingdom of Orlais, failed, their plot effectively destroyed the elves. It is implied that Ameridan and Telana could probably have rallied the elves to help with the Blight – in their absence the isolationist faction kept the elves out of the fight. The fact that Ameridan was willing to honour Andraste alongside his own gods points to an alternative history whereby, if there had not been an Exalted March against the Dales, and the elves had had a settled home there, potentially worship of Andraste could have taken over. My feeling is that a lot of the prejudice against the elves stems from a sense of shame over that Exalted March, and the differences between elves and humans, caused or exacerbated by that same March, are marshalled to defend the prejudice. The Jaws of Hakkon DLC hints at what could have been, and learning all this while playing a Dalish elf is particularly poignant.
The range and number of quests seemed about right, and they all felt like they had a purpose, even if it was just to get me to explore a new part of the map. The options for gaining favour with the Hold were excellent, with several relying on earlier decisions or quests (recruiting the SkyWatcher, locating Tyrdda’s weapon), which tied them into the main game.
The environment wasn’t really my cup of tea – there was a lot of climbing (and falling), and I found it hard to judge viable routes from the map, so spent a lot of time backtracking; plus navigating the swamp for too long gave me motion-sickness. The change from day to night on leaving the Temple was annoying; it didn’t seem to have a purpose (it made the ice rink for the Dragon fight more dramatic?) and made completing the outstanding quests a frustrating endeavour because I couldn’t see anything properly. There seemed to be less metals and herbs, but a lot more creatures, than in other regions, but that could just be my perception as I got fed up of being ambushed by Gurguts, Lurkers and Spiders as I traversed the rivers. The Codex entries were a lot of fun, as they gave tantalising clues about Ameridan’s travels in the Basin, as well as hints as to the Tevinter interest in the area. I also loved the cheeky nod to the fandom in the note on tree-top camps where the Advisors discuss how to deal with the terrain.
Playing the Jaws of Hakkon DLC post-end game had its advantages. With Corypheus gone, I could concentrate fully on this new ‘God with dragon’ threat. I’d finished all the big side-quests elsewhere, so was able to focus on the Frostback Basin, with only occasional trips back to Skyhold for the War Table. This meant that I completed and collected everything, which gave me a nice sense of accomplishment. The additions to lore: Avvar culture and religion, Ameridan and the Inquisition, the history of Orlais and the Elves, are all things which can stand alone, but would slot neatly into the main game if played earlier; the new insights into Scout Harding’s background and personality, equally would fit at either time. The downside: I don’t generally like going back into games once I’ve completed them, especially, in this case, as you can no longer interact with companions in the same way back at Skyhold; this was jarring, because the same level of banter and commentary was happening out in the field, but no one would talk to me when we got home.
Since I have no other complete playthroughs, the next attempt at Jaws of Hakkon will be played within the main game timeline. I’m particularly looking forward to exploring all this again with Solas in the team, and seeing his reaction to the revelations about Ameridan, and the Avvar engagement with spirits. Once I see how it plays out as part of the main game, and can compare the experiences, I’ll have a better idea of when I’m likely to play this in other future playthroughs.
From a more mercenary standpoint, I had a moment of “£11.99 for DLC?!” while downloading this, and wondered if it would be worth it. I don’t have a good basis for comparison with other DA DLC because it was bought back when we were still using Microsoft points, but I do know I spent more on Awakening. I don’t think, if you complete all of the quests and collect all the shards, landmarks, etc, that Jaws of Hakkon is any shorter than Awakening – I put in 23 hours and I’ve easily completed Awakening in the same timeframe. So to me it was definitely worth the money. YMMV.
Hopefully we have more DLC to come. A region called the Nashashin Marshes was teased in some early gameplay demos back in 2013, and I don’t recall hearing that it had been completely scrapped, so it seems there are still places left to explore. I’m not convinced I want to traipse around in more swamps, but after the fun I’ve had playing Jaws of Hakkon, I will definitely be giving further DLC releases a shot.