Mark of the Assassin
Update: Since many people seem to be looking for this, I’ll post a link to the tile puzzle in the vault right on top: Picture Flip Puzzle Solution
Mark of the Assassin is a consequent follow up of Legacy, in that it doesn’t have mere copied maps anymore (like in Legacy, every area is new), there are some minor (that’s not meant to be a negative connotation) puzzles (and solving them usually pays off besides having the satisfaction for not failing them), it’s possible to find some noteworthy loot, the boss fights deserve that classification, all areas contain some minor quests besides the main, making exploring interesting and all is bound together by a storyline well enough, so that it feels like a real adventure. Again, it’s more or less what people already wanted to play in Dragon Age II. In that regard, the last 2 DLCs have an almost redeeming character. Of course it won’t change the mind of people anymore, who are dedicated to hate this game just for the fun of it and won’t ever forgive. For everyone else, this is probably a lot like the game everyone hoped DAII would be before its release. If this DLC was done by the same people who worked on the original campaign, most issues were the fault of the management for sure. At least BioWare still demonstrates the ability to listen and to improve.
Besides that, BioWare must have played The Witcher 2, there’s now a very similar stealth part in MotA (which I liked) and for a change, Hawke has to fight Wyverns (typical creatures in the Witcher verse) instead of Dragons.
After clicking on the proper Memento in Hawke’s house (isn’t it weird that they now put in such a memento for every DLC, when they set up the desk for this purpose and it even constantly has this – now completely useless – quest marker hovering above it?), the adventure kicks off by running into Tallis, an apparently nice rogue elf, who offers a quest to Hawke (and later rogishly steals Hawke’s nose :P). Without going into the question a lot, why Hawke and his/her party of merry adventurers should go along (why else get the DLC – DUH!), they embark on the mission.
MotA covers a lot of ground and is roughly the size of all environments outside of Kirkwall, this is really awesome, considering what players are used to concerning DLCs.
After Hawke reaches the chateau of Prosper de Montfort, it’s necessary to win a wyvern-hunt (that will wait for Hawke to win it, so there’s no pressure – I like to play it extra slow when someone is acting like there’s an actual time limit :P Remember Kirk flying needlessly around the Enterprise for 15 Minutes, while Earth is about to be destroyed?), because the winner will be invited to a party inside the chateau. The actual gathering then delivers all kinds of encounters with characters from all stages of DAII and even some from Origins. I was quite shocked myself, how well I’m versed by now in Dragon Age lore (which, btw, is one of the absolute strong points of these games – and I’m talking amount of detail and reuse throughout all quests, not necessarily just the creativity). But since I’m quite good with the names and all the various occurrences (still shocked), it had some flair of such a celebration. The lore, now that it was mentioned, is not just used very well, but also continually expanded upon and I’m happy that all this stuff is included, because I actually read almost all of it (yes!).
But the lore isn’t the only thing that was given a noticeable amount of detail (just look at the work they put into this minor bad guy, the party will fight). They put in quests for all companions (I know, right?!?), so Isabela would encounter some pirates and Aveline would find out something about her family (which was, what a coincidence :P, from Orlais). I’m repeating: They never put in this much effort in the main game. It’s all fully voiced – which is expected, but under this circumstances a little bit impressive. The banter too, between all (or at least most of) the characters, is back. I was glad I selected Isabela and Aveline, because these two “banter” all the time. :D It’s these details that motivate me and trigger lots of fun. It doesn’t feel like soulless crap this way. :P Because I’m someone who doesn’t care about achievements and the like. In doubt, I’m always looking for the former.
The final fight was more to my liking than the one in Legacy, because the player wouldn’t loose it, just for being too lazy to position the party members perfectly between all these obstacles. No such obstacles this time, the boss could make the party run around on the battlefield without these tricks.
The sole thing that I can remember, that sparked a little bit of hate inside me for a tiny moment, while playing this, was the puzzle with the painting (yeah). I thought I would discover this huge secret and whatnot, but all it did was revealing which tiles to flip in the main hall, to get to the chest with the new armor (that’s even more powerful than the stuff of the silent one from Legacy – but looks a lot uglier :P). It felt like it was a lot easier to guess the proper tiles in the main hall to shut down the fires, than solving the painting. :D In fact that’s what I did. So when I went down to still do this puzzle, so I would have solved them all, imagine my anger when all it did, was to show the solution to another puzzle I already passed… Oh and there was this other thing with the pressure plates, that would open gates to reach the vault. This room features two chests flanking the door. They both had quest items lying on them and I managed to stand in front of one them and it wasn’t possible to pick up the quest item (this would always happen with the second chest, whichever is approached first, would work right away). I was immediately convinced it was a bug, but after playing with it a bit, I noticed that it became possible again to pick it up, when the gate behind the chest was open… I don’t see the logic in that, so it still might be a bug…
Overall I have to say, I liked Mark of the Assassin so much, that I’d welcome a full expansion to DAII. They teased the pirate ship and crew for Isabela (in DAII she can get her own ship and in MotA she can get her first crew members :D) so much, that it would totally rock, if they’d come through and put Dragon Age onto the high seas. :P I equipped and skilled all my characters with so much care by now, that it would be sad, to not have another huge adventure with them.