Publisher: Electronic Arts
ESRB Rating: Mature
Release date: Available now
If you haven’t played Dragon Age: Origins, stop reading now. There are no spoilers below for Witch Hunt itself, but given the premise of the DLC and how it’s all about the story, there’s no way to discuss it without spoiling Origins. Head on over to the Origins review, decide if it’s worth a play, then come back when you’re ready. For the rest of you…
Everyone has their own special relationship with Morrigan, but whether you love her, hate her, or are somewhere in between about this particular Witch of the Wilds, there’s no minimizing the role that she plays in Origins. Whatever your decision was on the eve of the fateful battle, you have some serious issues to discuss. You return to Flemith’s abandoned hut to discover that someone has been there since the Legendary Witch’s exit. Your only traveling companion: your faithful Mabari hound. It appears you’re not the only one hunting Morrigan, however, and your Merry Band almost immediately begins to grow. The Dahlish have a bone to pick with your favorite apostate, and have sent Ariane to ask for your help in doing some research at the Circle Tower that might assist both of you in achieving your goals. Let the fetching and fighting begin! Upon arriving at the Tower, you discover that there’s someone new in charge (Gregoir might’ve finally taken a long-needed vacation), but being the Warden Commander has its perks, so you’re given the access that you need. You also discover that a particular enchantment savant (though slightly more mature and with an almost grown-up voice) has survived the final battle and resides within the Tower’s walls. It is here that you also meet up with Finn, who, despite his abilities, doesn’t seem all that far removed from his apprenticeship. He also has an interest in Elven relics, and now your foursome is complete. There’s more to explore, and no trip to Ferelden would be complete without a detour through the Deep Roads (they really need to build an inn down there). What at first had seemed a simple journey to find one lost witch has turned into so much more.
Just like the last DLC, once you complete the install, select “new game” (you must have an available character slot), “Witch Hunt” from the external menu, and “import character.” You can import from either Origins or Awakening, but you want to do it after you’ve slain the Archdemon (or at least after Morrigan’s departure from the party) for the story to make sense. Creating a new character would be pointless (unless you’re dead, but that raises a whole other set of issues). One neat new feature is the ability to auto level. I guess it was included for those who don’t need to control everything, and allows you to hit the easy (“Y”) button to gain AI-suggested attribute points and abilities when the time comes. It felt good coming home to the original map upon leaving Flemith’s Hut. While you can’t actually travel to Redcliffe or Denerim to check on the homestead in this expansion, it’s comforting to see that they might be options in the near future. This time inside the Tower library (it looks much cozier without all of the body parts strewn about) you must explore and actually read some of the books (“Just Say No to Elfroot: A Guide for Parents”). Of course, there are basements that need clearing and magic gone awry. If you get stuck on something (though the linear nature of this DLC would make that difficult), listen to what your companions are saying. These two are more useful than your usual dungeon-diving buddies. Combat hasn’t changed, but if you think the Darkspawn are gone, think again. There are still a few scattered bands lurking about, and they’ve learned a few new tricks since we last met in battle (even if you’ve completed Awakening). There is one challenging boss battle to wage, and as for loot, while there’s not much in quantity, you come across such new goodies as Paragon-level runes, two or three shiny swords and…let’s just say a gift from an old friend. There’s also a few more achievements included, so the completionists among us have a tad more about which to brag.
Sparkly dialogue returns, so listen closely to the folks talking about you in the background for some seriously laugh-out-loud moments. I heard an interesting rumor about Aidan Cousland, the Pirate Queen and three nugs, but I dare not repeat it here. Claudia Black (TV’s Farscape) returns to voice the Witch herself in the final scene, and I can honestly say that I don’t think that I’ve seen Morrigan give a more powerful performance.
As for its downsides, are we still talking about how the game has the best possible graphics for a 2005 title? I think we all admit by now that it’s no imaging superstar, but since that’s not going to change until at least March, we just need to accept it and move on. My only true gripe with Witch Hunt is its length. It doesn’t even take two hours to complete. You’re paying $7 for the last five minutes of the expansion (admit it, the final scene is really why we all downloaded it), and that’s just a bit too steep. Still, we’d probably agree to pay even a little more just for a glimpse of the answers to some very important questions.
Of all the Dragon Age DLC thus far, Witch Hunt appears more thoroughly thought-out and rolls very much like a natural progression from either the Origins or Awakenings finale. This is a must-have DLC for all Ferelden adventurers. Its “to be continued” ending left me screaming (literally) for more, and I found myself trapped in a cliffhanger-type ending from a 1940s adventure serial. When the next piece of the puzzle comes out, I will have no choice but to join in. There are still too many loose ends to be tied. “Change is coming to the World!”