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Witch Hunt Impressions

by Brian "Dhruin" Turner, 2010-09-08

Wanting a break from work and a change of pace, I played Witch Hunt today.  This isn't a formal review but this last Dragon Age DLC is very short, affording me the opportunity to kick up these quick impressions.

To start, I'm quite a fan of Dragon Age despite some obvious shortcomings.  The repetition of trash mobs, small areas with limited exploration and the linear skill progression are among my complaints but I enjoyed the storytelling and the basic gameplay -  and even though it's but a distant echo of Baldur's Gate II, some of the fights were thrilling.

Even with my enthusiasm for Dragon Age, I haven't played any of the DLC packages beyond those packaged with my version of the game (Wardens Keep and The Stone Prisoner) and the expansion-sized Awakening.  I'm quite open to the idea of DLC but firing up a game I spent over 100 hours with to play some little two-hour segment in isolation just doesn't seem that enticing.

Until this one.  Morrigan was a central part of my game - a mainstay of both my standard party and the focus of the most interesting decision in the game.  Completing that story sounded like a good way to close the book on Dragon Age.

Disappointment ensued.

Witch Hunt starts with the sighting of a young woman in the southern wilderness.  Could it be Morrigan?  And the hunt is on.

The actual start is rather abrupt.  You find yourself at Flemeth's hut with a Mabari hound as companion.  While it's easy to imagine the circumstances, I would have liked a little more introduction to the story.  It's literally minutes before meeting your next companion, Ariane, and then it's on to the Circle Tower to follow a lead.  Yes, that's the second re-used location in the first 10 minutes of play.

The mage Finn soon joins the party, alongside some careless dialogue (Finn remarks on the search for Morrigan, something no one has actually revealed at that point).  Two new locations follow - a new Dwarven Thaig and some Elven ruins - with a linear path through both and a series of throwaway encounters with shrieks, standard darkspawn and the like.  Having imported my Awakening character (it didn't seem to make sense to "go back in time" and choose an older character), the combat is hack'n'slash -like.  At no point did I really have to think beyond clicking on an enemy...and then the next.  Even the big, new monster - the impressive looking varterral - required no more than randomly clicking some of my rogue's special abilities without any real tactics.

On to the next location - another familiar one - and this time it's shockingly short.  I've barely entered the building and we're at the climax.  The dialogue does have a couple of different outcomes but there's no real resolution.  More mystery is dangled in front of me and the credits roll.

In hindsight, it was probably asking too much for a DLC to resolve the story of Morrigan.  If anything, this is almost an advertisement that foreshadows the role of Flemeth in Dragon Age 2.  I would have been satisfied with some real story development, or a taste of great gameplay - but really, it's neither.  The story moves an inch forward and the gameplay areas are perfunctory.

To be fair, some of the problems aren't really the fault of this content but come from the DLC implementation.  There's no real reason to care about loot or levelling, for example, because you'll (probably) never to get to use them again.  There's some humorous banter but it felt a bit forced: I don't know these people.  The combat is extremely dull, possibly because it has to scale to various levels (or because BioWare has pulled back from the initial difficulty?).  Being at the end of the Dragon Age: Origins road, my character is an overpowered god.  I could have created a new character (the option is provided at the beginning of this DLC) but one of the major attractions for this content is finishing a previously started journey.

So, was it worth it?  Quite simply: no.  I'm not someone who measures content in dollars-per-hour-played but rather in terms of the experience.  Witch Hunt didn't provide story closure, the gameplay was dull  - and the two or so hours not worth the $7.

Box Art

Information about

Dragon Age: Origins

Developer: BioWare

SP/MP: Single-player
Setting: Fantasy
Genre: RPG
Combat: Pausable Real-time
Play-time: Unknown
Voice-acting: Full

Regions & platforms
North America
· Homepage
· Platform: PC
· Released: 2009-11-03
· Publisher: EA

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