Jaws of Hakkon, the first of presumably several additions to Dragon Age: Inquisition coming by way of DLC, exists in a weird space. On the one hand, its nature is very appropriate for BioWare?s flourishing fantasy series?understated, subdued. You won?t find any drama manufactured with reckless contrivance. On the other hand, this is exactly the sort of innocuous ?additional content? that some might find lacking.
Jaws of Hakkon feels like a slice of Thedas that BioWare needed more time to bring to life, and so sidelined for the sake of greater focus on more important places. The Frostback Basin?the southwestern home of the Viking-inspired human sect called Avvar?amounts to little more than a new area to explore (made available through the war table only after completing the final mission). Though, anyone who?s played Inquisition knows most of its realms can hardly be called ?little,? and Frostback is anything but. It?s not nearly as sprawling as the Hinterlands, but the valleylike environment is no slouch in terms of size, sweeping across the dark-drenched depths of swampland to the sun-baked heights of the Avvar?s cliffside settlement.
Like any other area, the Frostback Basin juggles garden-variety mission types (close rifts, secure camp locations, fill requisition orders) with a fistful of others that flesh out a short story of sorts surrounding the last Inquisitor. It seems your predecessor died under mysterious circumstances, and some pencil-necked academic and archaeologue with a big thing for belts wouldn?t mind some assistance digging up artifacts that might shed some light on the matter. There isn?t a narrative throughline to Jaws of Hakkon so much as a series of missions that comprise a vignette, one that helps expand upon the considerable amount of lore propping Dragon Age upright. The intersection of mythology and truth are explored, as is syncretism in a subtle way, but there?s never any cue-the-brass-section big plot beats. This is the other side of Dragon Age, its better side. The one that?s nuanced and character driven?not the tropetastic villainy of Corypheus.
Threads overlap one another and weave together, but they ultimately never ratchet up the tension for the sake of grabbing the audience?s attention. And, frankly, if Dragon Age doesn?t have yours already with Inquisition, you aren?t the audience for its DLC in the first place. Really, after sealing the Breach and beating down Corypheus, there ain?t much anyone can throw at the Inquisitor that she (or he) would bat an eye at.
Still, for all that Jaws of Hakkon does right and smartly sidesteps, and even though I sunk at least 10 hours into it, I can?t help but feel like it?s light on the ?new.? It?s unfair to judge Jaws of Hakkon for what it isn?t rather than purely for what it is, but as compared to Dragon Age 2?s first add-on, The Exiled Prince, Inquisition?s feels somewhat light. The absence of a new companion is a bit of a bummer. If not a new friend, then perhaps there should?ve been a situation that resonated with an existing party member. Without either, the Frostback Basin?for all its personality and welcome expansion of Thedas?feels a tad tacked on. Regardless of how noticeable it?s been stitched to the southwest border of Ferelden, though, the Frostback Basin makes for a fine addition to Thedas, strengthening its already time-consuming captivation.
Jaws of Hakkon most glaring misstep is the inelegance of its difficulty, which spikes wildly in some situations and serves up pushovers at others. The final encounter is particularly challenging. And by challenging, I mean ?punishingly difficult.? Between how hard the Big Bad hits and the chaos caused by randomly summoned minions, it?s hard to micromanage your companions and still find the time to dance fingers across the face buttons and lead the charge as the Inquisitor. Complaining about a boss fight being tough might sound like whining, but it?s not as though I wanted a cakewalk. I welcome a challenge, but a slaughter is exhausting?especially when the only way to back out and beef up Inquisitor and the Gang is to abort the mission wholesale. It?s a minor inconvenience, I suppose, but one that feels like a bitter last resort that?s unfair to players.
Trying to review a new area that operates in the same fashion as the rest of Thedas? various scenic hot spots would be as unfair as, say, assigning a grade value to the Emerald Graves or Crestwood or Storm Coast. A lot of it has to do with aesthetic appreciation (some people dig swamps?I can?t stand ?em, but I?ll swoon for a desert wasteland every time). But as far as recommendations go, the price is right. Provided, of course, that the obvious requisite of ?Dragon Age fan? is met. Jaws of Hakkon is not out to win over newcomers but to give Thedas vacationers another few hours of furlough.
Jaws of Hakkon is now available on Xbox One and PC. PS4, PS3, and Xbox 360 versions are set to launch in May. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One using review code provided by EA and BioWare.