Dragon Age II is almost upon us, along with the game's first downloadable content pack: The Exiled Prince. It's no secret that some fans were less than thrilled with the implementation of the previous Dragon Age's DLC. This time developer BioWare has tried to craft a content pack catered to their desires by extending the game's storyline and not deviating from the main party. On the eve of Dragon Age II's release, we got the chance to try out this upcoming content pack and put the noble Sebastian Vael through his paces.
"All of the quests in The Exiled Prince revolve around a coup that you learn took place in the city of Starkhaven, elsewhere in the Free Marches," explained Ferret Baudoin, lead designer for The Exiled Prince. "During the coup, all of Starkhaven's ruling family was killed in a bloody massacre, except one: Sebastian Vael. Sebastian was third in line for the throne of Starkhaven, always overshadowed by his elder brothers. So he led a life of excess--wine, women, and song. In the process, he became a headache for his father, who decided that Sebastian would do better with a life of religious contemplation in Kirkwall."
"He was an unlikely addition to the Chantry there. But under the benevolent and patient (very patient) guidance of Revered Mother Elthina, he found real faith in the Maker. As a man, Sebastian could never become ordained--only women can be clergy in the Chantry--but as a lay brother, he could still devote his efforts to the Maker. Over the years, he became one of the Chantry's most devout believers. But this surprising life was shattered abruptly when he heard of the tragedy that befell his family. So he broke his vows in order to reclaim his crown."
The mission we played through was actually the second in Sebastian's story arc, titled Repentance. Previously, we had helped Sebastian dispense justice to those who had ended his family's life. Now we had finally learned who had hired those rogues to do the deed. Without spoiling any of the juicy details, we'll just say that we ended up fighting a lot of monsters in our pursuit for vengeance.
As a rogue and an archer, Sebastian is a well-rounded character who excels at fighting enemies from afar while still holding his own in melee. He is also the only character, outside of the main hero, who can wield a longbow in combat--which comes with its own royal archer skill tree to complement it. For us, it was all about the hit-and-run tactics combined with liberal use of the pinning-shot ability. This skill let us snare foes in place while we retreated back to a safe range.
Sebastian's role in battle is dealing high damage to single targets. Many of his abilities are single-shot attacks that can be combined with other abilities from his allies to devastating effect. For instance, a mage can douse an enemy with his cone of cold, which will make the enemy brittle. Sebastian can hit the frozen target with a shattering arrow, dealing a whopping 600 percent additional damage. Of course, nobody told us this until after we finished the quest, so it didn't do us a whole lot of good.
"DLC is still a relatively new phenomenon," Baudoin admitted. "With Dragon Age: Origins, we'd often have discussions about what we thought the fans wanted, but we'd hit an impasse--one person's gut would say one thing, and another person's gut would say another. We released a lot of different flavors of DLC and learned a great deal. One thing I've learned is that the fans want something close to the original experience. There's a reason they loved your game enough to buy DLC in the first place, so the DLCs that work best are the ones that tell yet more of the tale or add elements that enhance the experience, not replace it."
Our brief time with noble Sebastian revealed him to be a character torn between his religious teachings and duty to the throne. It also didn't hurt that he had an awesome Scottish accent to boot. In combat, he is a high-damage assassin adept at dropping single targets in record time. If you find your party in need of another rogue with some ranged expertise, you can download The Exiled Prince for Dragon Age II on March 8 for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, and Mac.