Review: 'Leliana's Song' DLC for Dragon Age: Origins

Leliana's Song DLC
There's a strange calculus that we all apply to digitally-distributed gaming content. iPhone games, XBLA and PSN releases, etc., divorced from the usual MSRP for retail products, all suffer the same fate: intense pricing scrutiny. While our reviews aim to be more experiential and less commercial, I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't applying that same calculus to the latest Dragon Age: Origins DLC, "Leliana's Song," while I played it. How much new content is there? How long is it? How does that compare to the retail version? And, of course, how much does it cost?

Let's cover that new content first: "Leliana's Song" is a fully-voiced expansion featuring several new characters (like your companions Sketch the mage and Tug the dwarf), some new music, and some new (albeit dull) locations. A particular disappointment: despite Leliana's Orlesian (read: French) lineage, and despite this being her origin story, you won't see a single Orlesian blade of grass in this adventure. Instead, you'll spend time in the oft-recycled Denerim Market and you'll sneak through the Arl's castle; familiar environments, to be sure. Depending on what you're hoping to extract from "Leliana's Song," there's either a wealth of content (new dialogue! new music!) or a dearth of it (old locations!).
At over two hours in length, it felt comprehensive enough for a larger Dragon Age: Origins quest. In fact, since you're being dropped into the role of Leliana (there was no sign of Sneakblayde, my rogue elf, anywhere) with no chance of really grinding, you begin this standalone DLC with points to level your characters up. Throughout the 2+ hour adventure, you'll actually improve your skills and armor far more frequently than you would in the actual game. It feels like an accelerated, Cliff's Notes-esque rendition of an epic RPG. Leliana's Song begins with the Orlesian game of intrigue, a mischievous series of quests that has you stealing here, planting there, and even swapping some naughty underwear in an attempt to humiliate the local guard. This is all performed under the impish direction of Marjolaine, a familiar name for those of you who played Origins with Leliana. As you might expect, things go sour at some point; there's backstabbing (literally!), espionage, the Chantry, torture and, if you choose, some revenge.

So, here's the bitter gamer calculus: If you're the sort that spent 300 hours in Dragon Age: Origins, finishing every permutation of every quest, $3.50 per hour is going to seem pretty brutal. So the players most likely to want to play more Dragon Age are the same players that will be more likely to find the cost unpalatable.

But for me, "Leliana's Song" was a great opportunity to get to know one of the characters that I didn't spend much time with on my own. Despite the application of our cruel gamer's calculus, $7 for two hours of game still clocks well below a movie ticket and falls within what I'm comfortable spending on entertainment. If you've long since finished Dragon Age: Origins, and don't want to revert to an earlier save for your DLC, you too may welcome the condensed experience that "Leliana's Song" offers.

This review is based on the Xbox 360 retail version of Leliana's Song purchased by the reviewer.

Note: Joystiq does not provide star ratings for downloadable content reviews with the understanding that the quality of the core game's experience is unchanged from the retail release to DLC add-ons; see: Dragon Age: Origins review.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.