It’s been just over five months since I first picked up Dragon Age: Inquisition and boy, what a great five months it has been.
I’m currently on my fourth playthrough; I know, I am a little obsessed. But with good reason: you can read in my review of the initial game just how much this series means to me, and just how captivated I am by the story, the characters and the world of Thedas as a whole. Dragon Age: Inquisition was exactly what I hoped for after being let down by Dragon Age 2. So far, I’ve put around 200 hours worth of playtime into each of my Inquisitors, and have just about exhausted everything on offer – yet somehow I’m still not sick of it.
So it’s perhaps not surprising that when Jaws of Hakkon was announced, I was absolutely thrilled that I could go and revisit each of my characters and experience a new and exciting adventure with them.
If you’ve played the entirety of the content that Dragon Age: Inquisition has to offer, Jaws of Hakkon will seem massively familiar to you. The first single-player expansion from Bioware’s award-winning RPG of last year adds an entire new area to the game, which stand on its own, not having any real input into the main storyline. The region – entitled the Frostback Basin – isn’t as cold as it sounds. It boasts a rich, sumptuous environment, brimming with billowing fauna, and lively with creatures unique to both the world of Thedas and the region. Frostback Basin is actually one of the more interesting regions that can be found within Dragon Age: Inquisition, with a plethora of content to discover and explore and plenty of variety. It’s similar in approach and size to the main game’s vast Hinterlands area, in that several different themes sit next to each other within the same region. And while the story is isolated from the main plotline – due in part to being able to play this latest add-on whether you’ve finished the main story, or are still working through it – it’s largely well-written, with a plot that’s just interesting enough and keeps moving things along at a nice pace.
Possibly the most noticeable thing regarding the area is just how three-dimensional the surroundings are. Although many of the other realms have just as much to discover, so many of them simply have you navigating your way at ground level. Frostback Basin does away with this, and has you climbing twisted, bewildering tree trunks to find a good spot to camp, delving into underground swamps which will have you wandering around in a daze, not entirely sure how it is you’re going to return to the surface, and exploring abandoned Tevinter ruins: everything that made exploring in the base game so fantastic. The map does have some trouble communicating which levels particular quests and items can be found on, and this may provide an annoyance for some players. But if you aren’t overly fussed about games leading you to specific points and prefer to explore the world for yourself, this could be right up your street.
In Jaws of Hakkon, your Inquisitor is thrust into the middle of a thriving war between a group of Avvar calling themselves, well, the Jaws of Hakkon, who are attacking both the Inquisition troops and the tribe of Stone-Bear Hold – a peaceful group of Avvar who want nothing more than peace and quiet across their lands. Your Inquisitor sets out to help them achieve this, during which time they uncover the true fate of the last Inquisitor and the dragon which he hunted, and take the opportunity to explore an ancient Tevinter fortress to unlock a powerful secret.
The story itself may not prove particularly endearing for some players; however, if you’re like me, and filled with anticipation to learn more about the lore surrounding the Avvar – a group which have had very little impact on the trilogy of games thus far – and their culture, explore the origins of the old Inquisition and learn some key information about the Rite of Tranquility, there is a need for you to play this DLC. I personally feel that this expansion is one for the fans, players who have committed lots of time and effort into the franchise and feel a need to learn more about the world of Thedas. I personally learned a lot in the twenty hours I played, and both the time I spent playing and the experience I had were well worth the £11.99 price tag. But if you aren’t bothered about simply having more of the same things you’ve already experienced, perhaps hold back for now; at least, until the price tag comes down a bit.
Another thing of note is the ramp-up in difficulty within Jaws of Hakkon compared to the main storyline. At first, I wasn’t sure if it was simply because I hadn’t played with the rogue class since I finished my first game, choosing to play a character I hadn’t revisited since I finished with her back in December. But I decided to go back for the DLC and my God. From what had been a few Greater Shades, wraiths and maybe one or two rage demons at fade portals before, suddenly became a case of being confronted with an abundance of Pride Demons – they’re the big ogre-like ones with the lightning powers – and Fear Demons galore. At one point, I faced four Pride Demons at one portal at the same time. Luckily, I had Cassandra and Blackwall in my party, so I got them to tank it while Dorian and I attacked from a distance.
It’s worth noting that these moments in Jaws of Hakkon were among the first times I really felt the need to use Tactical View outside of dragon fights to make sure that my characters were actually positioned correctly. It made a nice change initially, but the whole process is slightly tedious, and is really only needed for difficult encounters.
This change in difficulty is by no means a bad thing, however. Often when your characters hit their full potential in a game, it can be second nature to become so used to the power granted to you that certain battles are no longer challenging. Jaws of Hakkon sets out to challenge this, with both general combat and boss encounters being much more difficult than I ever remember the main game being.
Oh, and there’s more dragons. I will never complain about a game having more dragons.
Jaws of Hakkon is never going to be a game – or even an expansion of a game – which completely blows your mind and revolutionizes the role-playing game genre. But for someone who has a genuine passion for the franchise, it acts as a solid piece of DLC which is well worth the price you pay. If you have no real intention of learning more about the Dragon Age universe, or want a completely new playing experience separate from the game you already own, spend your money somewhere else; however, if you’re like me and thrive on learning more about this wonderful world that is on offer to us, enjoy the few hours more on offer to you here as you delve into the sights, sounds and stunning world of the Frostback Basin.