I have a theory that EA has corrupted BioWare beyond forcing them to submit to the treachery that is black and white instruction manuals. EA makes BioWare create needless DLC. It has happened with Dragon Age: Origins, and it will happen with Mass Effect 2. I hope BioWare did not make Return to Ostagar of their volition.
Note: Spoilers for events that occur early in Dragon Age: Origins follow.
Evidently, someone else survived the slaughter at Ostagar besides the last two Grey Wardens of Ferelden. Unfortunately, he’s about to die too, but before he gives up his ghost, he has an important task for the remaining Grey Wardens. He or she must return to Ostagar (!) and locate a chest of important documents as well as Cailan’s body and armor.
Predictably, Return to Ostagar takes players to a place they’ve already visited, although this time snow covers the camp at Ostagar and there are no interesting NPCs to converse with, just more dirty darkspawn. Besides the camp area, the DLC introduces two new areas, both of which offer little of the exploration that makes DA:O’s dungeons so wonderful. The story and history, another of DA:O’s strengths, is also muted. The important documents in Cailan’s royal chest, which reveal a bit about Ferelden’s relationship to nearby Orlais, mark the only new codex entries. The fate of Cailan’s body, while not altogether surprising, manages to stir the heart a bit, but it’s not enough.
Return to Ostagar is mostly combat, none of which is very challenging, although the material rewards are arguably worthwhile. The new equipment is decent, but there’s enough of it in the core game already. This DLC recycles enemy types as well, although there are a few with different names! Return to Ostagar is just empty. The entire quest can be completed in an hour, and players aren’t likely to remember anything but Cailan’s fate afterward.
I like the version of Ferelden history before BioWare released Return to Ostagar. There shouldn’t have been any more survivors from the battle at Ostagar. That does a disservice to those that did survive. And, I could have gone without knowing what happened to Cailan. Even though that is the most compelling element in this DLC, I’d rather not know. There’s something much more mysterious and romantic about losing Cailan and Duncan and the rest and never knowing the details. That version of history is much more akin to Dragon Age’s flavor. And BioWare’s. But, don’t worry, BioWare, we all know EA is trying to control you like a demon from the Fade. As long as EA isn’t tarnishing the core games, however, it’s fine by me if it brings BioWare a little extra money. After all, unlike the core games, we can not buy the DLC.