Finally, a Dragon Age 2 expansion with a bit of depth.
While previous DLC packs have offered interesting asides to the main plot - Legacy being the most recent example - they've mostly been linear fight-fests expanding Hawke's story. Fair enough, and we're glad of the extra loot, but none have felt like essential gaming.
Mark of the Assassin - finally - changes that. It all starts as Hawke and his / her team are attacked by a gang of assassins. Mid-scrap they're joined by yet another assassin, Tallis, who fights as an ally. As with every character in Dragon Age 2, though, Tallis wants something in return: help in recovering an ancient trinket from a thieving Duke.
The set-up is just another excuse to get you out of the city, but what follows is far more than a fetch and carry mission. Along the way you solve puzzles, use your skills in new and interesting ways, and even take part in a not-as-bad-as-it-sounds stealth section.
More importantly, Mark of the Assassin opens up several side-quests that directly link to other members of your party, giving them more game time. This makes the DLC feel more like part of the main tale, as if it was intended from the start, which makes a huge psychological difference.Playing through is like adding an extra four hours to the main game, not heading off at a slightly forced tangent.
The actual side-story holds up well too (watch out for Origins references), as does the loot you bag at the end of the adventure. Our only real bugbear is that Tallis, acted by live-action Dragon Age starlet Felicia Day, doesn't become selectable outside of Mark of the Assassin. Her flirtatious, often loaded dialogue is some of the best in the game, and she's handy in a scrap, so she'd make an ideal companion to spice up a second or even third DA2 playthrough.
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The best Dragon Age expansion to date, and well worth the admission price - for a change. Plus, the end-game loot is a decent bonus