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Review: Golems of Amgarrak (DLC)

dragon-age-golems-of-amgarrakAs I noted in my review of Leliana’s Song (the previous DLC for Dragon Age: Origins), Bioware is taking a very experimental approach to its DLC. Each release is different in some way, perhaps as Bioware makes careful plans for their post–Dragon Age II DLC? The Golems of Amgarrak continues in this vein as Bioware gives us a dose of high-level dungeon crawling.

Golems of Amgarrak is a stand-alone adventure that can import a character either from the main Dragon Age: Origins game, or from the Dragon Age: Awakenings expansion, or start a brand new level 20 character (though why would you want to?).

Your goal is to travel from the dwarven city of Orzammar into the Deep Roads to find the fate of an expedition sent to the city of Amgarrak, once a source of golems and research. Something went horribly wrong, and a concerned relative has begged for the aid of a Gray Warden.

My introduction to Golems of Amgarrak was not terribly auspicious, as you are given a short expository cut-scene before you are dumped into the Deep Roads near to your target with one new companion, but otherwise alone. Yes, that’s right, all of those fun characters from Origins as well as your new pals in Awakenings get to sit on the sidelines. It also does not take you long to realize that you won’t have any opportunity to explore new characters or your new environment by talking to people.

Aside from a few cursory dialogue options at the beginning, there’s combat, combat, and a some light puzzle elements before you have some more combat. The puzzle elements are color-coded and relate to matching up the right switch to the color of the area that you want to explore. As long as you don’t mind some back-tracking, there won’t be much of a challenge here. You do pick up some party companions along the way to help you fight off the darkspawn, but one of them is mute and the other has had his faculties addled by magic, so there’s not much to talk about even if the game let you talk to them.

You get a few dabs of plot thrown in to keep things interesting, but Golems of Amgarrak exists solely to give you a moderately difficult dungeon crawl. In showing this DLC to members of the press, Bioware made sure to emphasize that it presented a challenge even on the easy setting. Bioware further scares players into respecting the difficulty of Amgarrak with a first for the series: There’s an achievement linked to difficulty, namely beating the final boss on hard or nightmare. I generally played Origins and Awakenings on casual or normal (and quite enjoyed a game that didn’t prod me into a high difficulty playthrough), so I was a little dubious about playing Amgarrak on hard. I have to say that I enjoyed the experience, at least as a change of pace from an easier setting.

If you have patience, and a good command of the various skills, talents, spells, and equipment available to your character and party, I recommend trying Amgarrak on hard. Most of the battles can be fought in your typical fashion, but I’d recommend treating the final (and difficult) boss like a turn-based combat. Pause and look around frequently, and as soon as your cooldown is over, spam the attack or queue up your next trick.  If you take your time, I don’t think this is as hard as Bioware leads us to believe, but it does amp it up a bit.

While I appreciated the effort and the novelty of playing at a higher difficulty than usual, I’d have to say that Amgarrak is probably the weakest DLC so far. Combat is not the best part of Dragon Age: Origins, but that’s pretty much all you get here since dialogue and plot are practically non-existent. Fortunately, this is priced at only $5 (400 Microsoft Points) and you can get another 100 Gamerscore points for your three hours of time (at least if you check out all the nooks and crannies).

Pick this up if you are pining for a dungeon crawl, or for another dose of achievements to feed your addiction, but wait for Dragon Age II if you are looking for something meatier.

Golems of Amgarrak DLC
Bioware
Xbox Live Marketplace
400 Microsoft Points
Available now

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