Though not the fan-anticipated “Egg Hunt”, Bioware surprised players of Dragon Age: Inquisition this week by releasing the game’s first DLC, The Jaws of Hakkon, on Tuesday for Xbox One and PC (sorry, other systems!). What makes this release surprising is that Hakkon was released with absolutely no promotion, save for a teaser image that came out one day before its release. I’m not exactly sure why Bioware chose to do this, but the buzz and hype this move created seems to have been worth it: I doubt there’s a DA fan out there who isn’t aware by this point. However, people have been speculating on the quality of the DLC itself, which bears a fifteen dollar price tag. Personally, I think this speculation is deserved. Within both the Dragon Age and Mass Effect franchises, some DLCs just haven’t necessarily met the bar on the price they asked for. Fifteen dollars is a lot to be asking for on a DLC that no one knows anything about outside of an image and, as of this morning, a trailer.
This doesn’t answer the question of whether or not the DLC is worth the price of admission. Well, for some it might. As for my opinions on it, whether or not to buy it lies solely in what drives you as a player.
Spoilers for The Jaws of Hakkon and DA:I under the cut.
Let me be clear with you right now: I really tried to finish this DLC to write this article for my deadline. Yet, since the PC version didn’t get the early leak of Hakkon that the Xbox One did, I sat around refreshing Origins until it finally did release around noon EST. It is now around seven in the evening when I’m writing this, and I have gotten one mission into the plot of the DLC. So, as the title says, these really are my initial thoughts.
That being said, the plot is certainly intriguing. At some point during the course of the main game (DA:I) the inquisition comes across information that the corpse of the leader of the previous inquisition was found. Hoping to put his body to rest after eight hundred years, and maybe hunt the same dragon that had called him there in the first place, the inquisition travels to the Frostback Basin. However, upon arrival the inquisition runs into conflict with one of the Avvar tribes in the area: the Jaws of Hakkon.
A short bit of lore for you: the Avvar are long-standing human tribes who live in the seemingly uninhabitable Frostback Mountains. They once belonged to the Alamarri—the proto-Fereldens—but split apart after the First Blight due to a civil war. Just to let you know what we’re dealing with in the DLC, Hakkon is one of the Avvar gods—the one who has dominion over Winter and war. Needless to say, the Jaws of Hakkon are not the friendliest people among the Avvar tribes, and less so to the so-called “lowlanders” (ie: everyone else).
While attempting to gain the support of other Avvar tribes in the area, the inquisition must also seek out the aid of Orlesian scholars and find the secrets that the Tevinters left behind in the area. Mostly, though, they must stop the Jaws of Hakkon from literally summoning Hakkon himself and destroying all the lowlanders in a bitter cold rage. Well, for an inquisitor that may or may not have already killed an ancient Magister claiming to be a god, potentially killing an actual god shouldn’t be too much harder, right?
The largest worry I’ve seen from fans is that The Jaws of Hakkon will offer nothing much in terms of story content, or new content at all. The answer I have for this worry is that it’s a little of both. What Hakkon does do is give the player a new area to explore: the Frostback Basin. This area is larger than some of the other core game maps and, as to be expected, it looks gorgeous. From scenic coasts to misty swamps, it’s clear that Bioware really put their effort into expanding the world in a visually pleasing way. Additionally, the map is full of interesting things to explore. In my hours of playing I’ve seen the aforementioned swamps and coasts, but also ancient Tevinter ruins, sewer systems, and so many interesting twisting paths that I’m honestly surprised I haven’t gotten lost yet. If you’re into exploring, you’re not going to be bored by this DLC.
Furthermore, I really appreciate how Hakkon is supplementing the players who have already reached the end of their core game journey. While you can start the DLC at any point after you unlock Skyhold, the enemies within are level 20+ and continue scaling with the inquisitor’s level. This provides a new challenge to those who have already destroyed all the dragons in the core game without adding a loathed boss rush or weird coliseum gimmick. Although, admittedly some of the fade rifts do feel a little bit like boss rushes: making me fight five despair demons at once is not cool, guys—no pun intended.
Unfortunately, there is very little new content. There are no new plants to harvest, the types of quests feel same-y, and I have only seen one cinematic scene as of writing this, though I do expect to see at least one more before I’m finished. The thing that bothers me most, though, is that I have not heard any new companion banter. There are new lines from the companions in terms of “we should find [plot important person]” and other such hints, but no amusing quips from your party mates, and barely any reaction to the events that are happening at all. I’m hoping that this is just because I’m not that far into the plot mission, but somehow I don’t feel hopeful about this.
Despite these things, I do feel that as a first DLC The Jaws of Hakkon does its job sufficiently. It manages to expand the universe in small ways, giving the players a chance to connect some dots themselves, but also giving them an interesting plot with lore that may have otherwise been ignored or forgotten. (You do actually meet other Avvar in the core game, and it’s nice to see them brought back.) Hakkon feels like its easing players in to what future DLC could be like: expansive, intense, and heavy on lore. Some fans may feel like this is what Bioware should have started with, but I don’t feel particularly cheated out of my fifteen dollars. Seriously guys, it’s only been like, five months since DA:I’s release; they haven’t had the time to make something super intensive yet.
So maybe you jumped to the end here to see whether or not you should drop your fifteen dollars on it yourself. If you liked DA:I for the relationships between the characters and the feeling of accomplishing something huge, I would wait off on buying this or maybe skip it entirely. Though the main goal of this is to prevent a god from destroying those who go displease him, the DLC is narratively small in scope, and will not have an impact on the main game. If you like DA:I for the way it expanded on the lore (something Bioware seems dedicated to doing this time around), added new pieces of lore, or just enjoyed walking around pretty maps, then I would say go for it. The Frostback Basin is an extremely satisfying map to walk in with lots of things to keep completionists entertained while also adding new challenges and new pieces to the puzzle that is the history of Thedas.