Much of Dragon Age II's appeal had to do with its emotional impact. As protagonist Hawke's circle of friends grew, so did your connection to the ensemble cast--but it was a connection the game earned over the long haul. A two-hour add-on doesn't have the luxury of a long-form structure, so it must make an impact in other ways. Dragon Age II: Legacy makes a valiant attempt to strengthen your bond with Hawke, but ultimately it makes little impression. Not that there's anything wrong with a bit of fun combat and a nice new set of armor. But there are few standout moments in Legacy, unless you count the glitches and other sloppy details you might encounter. This downloadable content is entertaining in its own mindless way, but without a forceful narrative arc to support it, Legacy is soulless. It just goes through the motions and nothing more.
Thankfully, some of these calculated motions address problems in the original game. You don't return to Dragon Age II's recycled environments but battle through brand new ones. Most of these are the typically narrow brown corridors similar to those through which you've already passed; they're officially new but too dingy and familiar to generate much excitement. A few, however, are larger and more atmospheric. A dusty desert arena in the early going is surrounded by rocky cliffs, and dwarven snipers inhabit walkways above the main combat area. Meanwhile, you can pull levers to activate traps that plunge spikes into unsuspecting thugs standing in the wrong place at the wrong time. Throw in a charging bronto or two, and you have an interesting combat scenario that keeps you on the move. Such moments are fun, but they're also fleeting. In time, Legacy's levels constrict, and you can rely on hammering the usual keys and mouse buttons without giving battle much thought. But at least combat remains entertaining to watch. If you play as a rogue, you somersault and pounce about the place. When you leap into Varric's shoes, you let loose a rain of arrows from his beloved bow Bianca.
On a few occasions, fleeing enemies lead you into an ambush, which doesn't inject any challenge into the combat, but it is nonetheless a nice authentic touch. Unfortunately, such minor delights are cheapened by bugs and slapdash execution. You might trigger a wave of enemies to appear, yet their arrival doesn't feel the least bit organic. A cluster of snipers doesn't swarm from doorways--it just teleports in. This poorly veiled trick is common enough to draw attention to itself. Bugs are all too common as well. You might whittle a creature's health bar down to nothing, yet the thing won't die, no matter how long you hammer on it. Eventually, you might be able to destroy it, but only after you kill some random archer hiding in the corner and pelting you with arrows. And this isn't an isolated glitch--it may crop up multiple times. There are also notable sound bugs. Party members deliver story-related dialogue without regard for any ongoing party banter. The result: multiple characters talking at once, and you missing out on the important stuff. And in several big battles, the din of battle suffers from major audio crackles and pops, or the volume might suddenly decrease for no apparent reason.
The story that holds all this combat together is fine, but it has no singular moment to make it special. As it turns out, the Carta gang constantly dogging Hawke and company isn't just a bunch of hooligans seeking fun and profit. Hawke possesses something much more valuable: the blood of her (or his) father running through her veins. You soon learn what makes your blood so precious and what surprising role your father played in this world so many years ago. You meet a few new characters along the way, including a shuffling guide named Larius who appears from time to time just long enough to deliver some story exposition before moving on. If you enjoy the Dragon Age series for the element of choice, then you'll be glad to know that you will take sides in a key conflict before the confrontation that brings your journey to its conclusion. That final boss could have been an epic battle, but instead, it's a glitchy headache. The nature of its attacks makes retaining fine control over your party's actions a necessity, yet your companions frequently refuse to adhere to your commands for them to stay put. And the same bug that infests other enemy encounters can intrude here as well, allowing you to batter this abomination endlessly without winning, and forcing you restart the battle from the beginning.
You return home after this battle for a brief but heartfelt moment of nostalgia. It's unfortunate that this gentle postlude is betrayed by the routine encounters and slipshod execution that preceded it. Because it doesn't combine its bits and pieces into a cohesive vision, Dragon Age II: Legacy shines a spotlight on the run-of-the-mill nature of its individual elements. This add-on is passing amusement, but not $9.99 worth.