Return to Ostagar: Short on story, heavy on combat.
Dragon Age is a great game with a lot of content. Return to Ostagar is yet another little diversion to keep you busy until the next game comes out, giving you more of the same great story-infused tactic gameplay, but ultimately not offering anything different or meaty enough to be of much worth.
The gist of things is that you’ve been tasked with retrieving the gear of the late King Cailin. That means, as the title suggests, returning to the battle-torn Ostagar. What you’ll ultimately get out of Ostagar depends somewhat on the party you take with you. Although you’ll hear typical party banter from everyone, you’ll get some especially interesting stuff out of having both Alistair and Wynne, survivors of the battle of Ostagar, with you. The interaction between the two is probably the biggest strength this DLC has to offer. Of course no matter who you take, there’s still an overarching story you can’t miss. It seems partly meant to bridge some of the gap between Origins and the upcoming expansion pack Awakening, but there’s nothing overly heavy here, save for the nostalgia of backtracking to a familiar area and seeing the gravity of the darkspawn threat.
Ostagar’s biggest problem lies in where in the game you’re playing it for the first time. As just another side quest meant to gain experience and loot, it seems fine. If you’re starting this up under a character that has completed the main quest, however, the whole thing seems rather anti-climactic. The fact that you’re given a message explaining that this is supposed to take place before the final battle, in terms of story continuity, doesn’t really help. It also means that a lot of the loot you’ll be collecting will be mostly useless to you until another batch of content arrives.
Also of note is the combat, the bulk of which consists of fighting the same enemies you’ve probably encountered dozens of times by now, though it is somewhat redeemed by the interesting ways in which you encounter them. Similar to the way much of the main quest’s more interesting battles occurred, since you’re fighting on what is now darkspawn territory, you can expect plenty of unfavorable ground to march on. You’ll be facing ambushes and enemies in droves. It helps to keep the otherwise repetitive task of killing darkspawn from growing utterly dull. Unfortunately, with both of my level 20+ end-game characters, I was still able to romp through the crowds of enemies and finish it in just over an hour each. That’s a little disappointing.
Beyond a little loot and a smidgen of story, Ostagar doesn’t really have much to offer. At $5, its budget price helps to make up for its shortcomings enough to recommend it only to those who just can’t miss out on the story, because what little is there is great. Overall, it sort of makes a good argument for why the full expansion pack should still exist.