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The Descent: Finally, Dwarves

Jessica Cook Posted:
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The original launch version of Dragon Age: Inquisition had much of what fans of the franchise were looking for. There were the open zones and the interesting and chatty group of companions. Inquisition had huge plot-shaking fights with evil dragons, and small sweet moments with friends around the card table. There was one area, though, where the game fell short: Dwarves. Uh, no pun intended.

Fortunately, the game’s latest DLC is here to rectify that mistake. The Descent takes players down into the legendary Deep Roads, where darkspawn -- and treasure -- abounds.

Fans of the Dragon Age series will likely have already ventured into the Deep Roads in the first game, Dragon Age: Origins, but the setting was a little anti-climactic these. Due to technical and time considerations, the mythical underground kingdom of the dwarf empire showed up in Origins as little more than a series of tunnels filled with enemies.

The Descent, on the other hand, treats its setting majestically, and in fact the zone design is probably the best part of the DLC. It’s gorgeous, frankly. These new Deep Roads are huge subterranean caves dotted with giant statues and crumbling stone roads from when the dwarves still ruled. Some places are lit only from cracks in the ceiling, while others are literally pitch black. It’s hard in that setting to not think about how the Inquisitor and friends are very much alone on their quest, and very far away from civilization.

Fortunately you won’t have to travel between the surface and the Deep Roads very often while playing through The Descent. Within the first hour or so the DLC does an excellent job of giving you everything you might need just inside the entrance. Aside from the usual camp amenities there are crafting and modification stations for weapons and armor, and a vendor that sells huge quantities of crafting materials.

If you need to gear up your party in anticipation of the new content, the vendor sells up to 100 each of Tier 4 materials for a reasonable price, and the game is pretty generous with loot drops. This is useful because not only may some of your geared characters from the original campaign be unavailable to fight – looking at you, Cassandra – but the fights in The Descent are not messing around.

On at least two occasions you’ll be asked to handle waves of darkspawn and other, even worse, enemies. You can’t clear objectives and continue with the game until a certain number of creatures have been killed, which leads to some epic battles. Even if you blew through the final battle in the original Inquisition with ease you’ll quite likely have trouble here. Be prepared to run backwards to potion-refilling caches during fights, and keep an eye on hostiles on your mini-map.

One interesting feature in The Descent is the addition of a “mini” War Table to the main camp. Players can use the War Table to open up special bonus areas in either The Deep Roads or The Uncharted Abyss. There are roughly 7 missions on each side. The vast majority are instant, but one takes 40 minutes, which seems a little strange in a short-ish DLC. It’s probably not an essential mission, but the wait is a little irritating.

Speaking of those special bonus areas, fans of the collection elements of Inquisition will find plenty to love in The Descent. There are dwarven mugs strewn around the caves to collect for additional bits of lore, sort of like the mosaic pieces in Inquisition. Explorers will encounter a number of rune-warded gates tucked away in bonus areas or down half-hidden corridors. To open these gates, the player must collect a various number of “Ancient Gears” which are themselves hidden away all over the environment.

Opening the gates often starts up fights with powerful monsters, but also rewards players with the best loot and often more ancient gears to open up the next gate. For the most part they’re not mandatory, and finding gears might be annoying for goal-oriented players, but for those who were going to explore every nook and cranny anyway they’re a nice bonus.

Without giving away any of the plot, fans of the lore will likely be pleased with The Descent as well. You’ll be travelling with two new (non-party) friends, dwarves Shaper Valta and Lieutenant Renn, and following all of their conversation options will teach players a lot about dwarven society, both modern and ancient. And what exactly IS that strange inhuman breathing noise that keeps shaking the walls of the Deep Roads, anyway?

What you won’t get from The Descent, unfortunately, is a lot of new companion interaction. Even the usually chatty Varric is fairly quiet on this trip and a lot of the comradery and banter that happened between your party members in Inquisition is both missing and sadly missed. Also, there’s very little dwarf-specific dialogue if your Inquisitor happens to be a dwarf. There’s no reason to expect there would be, but it seems like a lost opportunity for customization.

Overall, if you enjoyed Dragon Age: Inquisition for the lore and dramatic scenery then The Descent should be right up your alley. Collectors and explorers will be happy, and players wishing for more difficult combat situations will be thrilled, but if you wanted more witty banter and character development from your favorite companions then you may want to sit this one out.


Jessica Cook

Jessica "Liores" Cook is a longtime MMO blogger, fan, aficionado, and community goodwill ambassador. She hosts the MMO podcast Game On, and writes the weekly column: Tales from the Neighborhood. You can read more at www.lioreblog.com.