(I don’t normally worry about spoiler warnings, but, given how recently this DLC came out, I’ll give one here.)
I thought that the first piece of DLC for Dragon Age: Inquisition, Jaws of Hakkon, was meh; but still, not every piece of DLC is going to advance the series. And, going through the first half of the next DLC, The Descent, I was enjoying the experience more: I’m not a big dungeon crawler fan, but it connected to themes we’d seen before with a promise of some interesting lore.
And then I hit the second half. You go beneath the Deep Roads, with the promise of a Titan below, but you’re not sure exactly where you are, how it will work out, or even what a Titan is. And what happens is: you get attacked by a group of people that you’ve never seen before.
This could have been a moment of reflection: we’re some place strange, we’re the invaders, let’s think about what we’re doing. Instead, it just turns into (or rather continues to be) a bloodbath: we’re constantly attacked by people trying to drive us out, we slaughter them, and move on.
What made me really angry about this was the vocalizations: over and over again, when meeting a new group of enemies in this section, your character would say something like “we don’t want to hurt you!”. This is manifestly not true: if we didn’t want to hurt the people who were there, then we would retreat, we’d find some way to defend, we’d find some way to talk to people, and if that didn’t work, we’d go back up to the Deep Roads. If I wanted to be generous, this is the game making a commentary about game violence, but I don’t believe that: that may have been something that the developers would have liked to do, but, if so, they absolutely didn’t carry that sort of commentary through with conviction.
Then we get to the bottom level, entering into a world of wonder, into a city that’s the body of the Titan. It’s glorious, and it raises so many really interesting questions: what is a Titan, how does the city work? But it doesn’t answer those questions: you hack your way through the level, you don’t talk to the Titan, you can’t even go into the buildings.
Which brings us to the final battle: after killing everybody who stands in your way, enemies who are presented as trying to defend the Titan from outsiders, you get to what seems to be the Titan’s heart. And then the game tells you to kill that heart.
I almost turned off the game right then; honestly, the only reason why I didn’t was that the DLC had been so lacking in moral thoughtfulness that I was fairly sure that the game would somehow turn the fight into a good thing. And, of course, I was correct in that: it turns out that destroying the Titan’s heart is the correct moral choice, because it wasn’t really the Titan’s heart, and it had gotten corrupted somehow, and it’s your White Man’s Burden (or, in this case, a dwarf NPC’s burden) to set things right by destroying the corruption and becoming an avatar of the Titan.
Fuck this DLC; and, in retrospect, fuck this game. There’s way too much playing things by the numbers: huge amounts of slashing your way through enemies (whom I can’t even characterize as enemies any more!), huge amounts of item gathering, a completely stereotypical “savior of the world” plot, a lack of editing and thoughtfulness in the experience that it’s trying to present. Yes, there’s more to the series than that, and even to this game; but, after this DLC, I can’t pretend that the parts of the series that I like are the core to the series and the rest is some sort of necessary reflex.
This post has not been revised since publication.