Dragon Age II’s second major DLC outing is here and it goes by the name of “Mark of the Assassin”. This instalment features Felicia Day-created and -voiced character Tallis, an elven assassin and servant of the Qunari. The DLC was released in conjunction with the Dragon Age: Redemption web series, a live-action story also featuring Day’s character.
MotA sees Hawke meeting Tallis after an unsurprising ambush in Kirkwall (seriously, how do people walk anywhere in this town without getting murdered?) and agrees to help her steal back the ‘Heart of the Many’, a jewel currently in the possession of the Orlesian Duke Prosper.
From there, you’re off on an adventure to the Vimmark Mountains – the same location as the “Legacy” DLC – to visit Prosper’s home, Chateau Haine. As it turns out, the Duke had conveniently invited Hawke just off-screen to a wyvern hunt at the Chateau, and accepting his invitation is your ticket in. The initial quest consists of luring and killing a wyvern (an offshoot species of the dragon) to gain entrance to the party at the Chateau, which leads you on a journey through entirely new, beautiful forest regions to collect enough bait to draw your prey.
After that’s done and sorted, it’s off to the party to find your way inside the Chateau and look for the jewel. You’ll see a lot of cameo appearances from both Dragon Age II AND Dragon Age: Origins characters, some of which will vary depending on whether you imported a save file from Origins. This includes a run-in with Leliana(!) who seems to have some awkward former acquaintanc ewith Tallis which is never really explained. The whole sequence of tracking down a way inside is clever and funny to watch, and helps ingratiate Tallis’ character.
The biggest feature of the DLC however, comes when you enter the Chateau. The entire area can be played either in the usual hack-and-slash method, or you can engage in some simplified Metal Gear Solid-eque stealth. You are rewarded for making it the whole way without being noticed by the guards with an achievement/trophy, but either way it’s fun to have a new gameplay element to mess around with.
I won’t spoil anything about the later parts of the quest, but suffice to say you’ll encounter some new enemy types and be faced with just enough choices to keep the DLC engaging. As mentioned above, Bioware are still working hard at keeping areas unique and good-looking, just like in “Legacy”. The effort really shows; forest areas feature skinny, winding paths and the castle areas are huge and varied, but still designed well enough that you get an idea of which way to head at any given time. There’s also some fun digs at the complaints about Dragon Age II – whilst wandering up a mountain, Merrill and Hawke had a cute exchange about how nice it is to be out travelling as ‘after a while, Kirkwall all starts to look the same’.
As a new character, Tallis fits in fairly well with the overall theme of ‘sassy’ that most of your companions seem to adhere to. After some initial woodenness in her introduction, her animation and cutsenes come across naturally and fit in overall with the game design despite being one of the few (only?) characters to be based on an actual person’s face. Further information on the Qunari is also nice to see, as I found the insights into their culture the most interesting part of the main game.
All in all, “MotA” is a fun distraction for a couple of hours and is varied anough to stand apart from other content in Dragon Age II. Tallis’ story is very clearly left open for further content, but whether this is due to some plan on Bioware’s part or just to be safe, we can’t know for sure. For my money, more Tallis and a visit to the Qunari homeland of Par Vollen would be welcome in future DLC or Dragon Age III. Until then, enjoy having a redhead in your party again and beating up a new kind of dragon.