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Old 07-11-2010, 04:40 PM   #1
Zarmaka
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Please Rate this Review: Dragon Age: Leliana's Song

High: killing the secondary villain
Low: being asked to care about a pointless character's death
WTF: why do "bards" do this?

Leliana's song is a downloadable adventure for Dragon Age: Origins. At seven dollars, it comes at a reasonable price, but the tale lasts only two and a half hours. For any other game, that short length would have been ok, but Bioware games are known for their plot and characters. Due to its short length, this story fails to satisfy. The narrative seems to be building up to a huge event that never happens. I felt cheated and without a proper ending.

If you're reading this review, you probably already know about combat and the core mechanics in Dragon Age, and Leliana's song is mostly more of the same. The key difference here is that the dialogue trees are made the same way they are in Mass Effect. Unlike in Origins, which features a silent protagonist, when you select a dialogue choice, Leliana, who is fully voiced, paraphrases the choice in her own words. The intended result is a deeper look into Leliana's emotions, but the short length and simplicity of Leliana's song prevents players from truly attaching themselves to any of the characters or events.

Without revealing any spoilers, the gist of the story is that Leliana is on a mission with her long time mentor, friend, and lover, Marjolaine, and is betrayed. She then takes revenge.

Leliana doesn't drudge through this tale alone, however. She has an Elf mage named Sketch and a Dwarf warrior named Tug. Both of these characters are unsatisfying because they are not fleshed out. The player walks away disappointed, knowing virtually nothing about either of them. For a spoiler related reason, you are asked to care deeply about them, but the game does not give you enough information for your companions to connect with you emotionally. Later you are joined by Silas, who is the only good part of the game. I liked Silas because his motivation was clear, he had a little bit of depth to him, and a satisfying character arc.

The original Dragon Age also had a great villain, but the two badguys in Leliana's Song are totally flat, uninteresting, and disappointing to the player, which takes away from the experience. The main problem with their design is that players don't get a good look into their heads, something which could have been accomplished with a few simple voiceovers.

Leliana's Song feels like it was written by a totally different person than whoever wrote Origins and Awakening. If you played Dragon Age and went through Leliana's dialogue trees, then there is really no reason to play Leliana's Song. You already know enough of what happened, and this DLC simply isn't up to par with the storytelling and characters of the main two games. Yes, it's only seven bucks, but I would have gladly paid ten or twelve dollars for a slightly longer, more compelling experience.

Rating: 3/10 (below average, unrecommended)

Disclosures: This game was downloaded straight from Bioware's website and reviewed on a PC. Approximately two and a half hours of play were devoted to the campaign.

Parents: Lots of blood and one scene heavily implied that Leliana is raped. Do not play around your kids.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing: the default setting has subtitles on, so you should be able to pick up and play. Nothing in the battles relies on listening for a particular sound.

Last edited by Zarmaka; 07-26-2010 at 11:47 AM. Reason: made more concise; removed plot specifics
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Old 07-16-2010, 09:53 AM   #2
Richard Naik
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Re: Please Rate this Review: Dragon Age: Leliana's Song

Hey Zarmaka, good to see a review from you after the opinion pieces. This has got a lot of rough patches though.

You have a lot of awkward phrasing in there, like "The plot is that Leliana is on a Bard mission" and "The next hour and a half consists of Leliana hunting down Raleigh, threw her in his personal dungeon and (it is heavily implied that he) raped her.". Try and say it aloud or in your head when you're writing it and see if you can make it sound a little better.

You're talking *way* too much about plot specifics. A review should focus on the quality/lack of quality when talking about story and not on specific plot points. You don't want to spoil anything, and spending so much time on specifics takes away from your opinion of it. Remember, you're reviewing, not giving a synopsis.

A lot of the shorter paragraphs could stand to be either combined or done away with. Again, so much time dedicated to the plot isn't needed.

In a nutshell, this needs a lot of work, but put it through some edits and see what comes out of it.
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Old 07-16-2010, 11:57 AM   #3
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Re: Please Rate this Review: Dragon Age: Leliana's Song

Richard,

I edited it a few times, and made it much shorter and less spoiler-y.
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Old 07-21-2010, 12:15 AM   #4
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Re: Please Rate this Review: Dragon Age: Leliana's Song

Hey Zamarka, thanks for the edit. But this is still pretty rough.

You're still talking about plot specifics too much. Try to only talk about how you felt about it (the story fails to satisfy because...?) and don't do the plot or character descriptions. As a reader, I really don't need to know any more than that.

Brad's Return to Ostagar review is a good example of what we're looking for in a review like this-look it over and see if it helps any.

I think you can make this work, as you've definitely got some chops. But this really needs to go through the grinder again.
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Old 07-21-2010, 12:52 AM   #5
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Re: Please Rate this Review: Dragon Age: Leliana's Song

Ground. I removed all plot specifics, and characters are no longer described.
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Old 07-26-2010, 03:24 AM   #6
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Re: Please Rate this Review: Dragon Age: Leliana's Song

Hey Zarmaka,
Thanks much for the submission.

After the edits that Richard had asked you to do, this is in pretty good shape. Reading it over again, I think the remaining bits that might need a little polish are:

1> you say the price is reasonable, but that it’s “only” 2.5 hours. That feels like a contradiction to me. Based on the rest of the review, you might want to cut and paste this and add it to your first paragraph.
Bioware games are known for their plot and characters, but this story fails to satisfy. The narrative seems to be building up to a huge event that never happens. I felt cheated and without a proper ending. saying that at th ebeginning sets the tone for the rest of the piece.

2> I have no idea who Marjolaine is, and other readers might not as well. In this particular chunk, I would say skip the proper name and simply give me a brief description of the situation without too many specifics. Just give me the gist of what's going on so I can basically understand why you are dissatisfied.

I think that's about it, but like Richard said, this is a pretty good piece overall.

Thanks!!
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Old 07-27-2010, 11:59 PM   #7
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Re: Please Rate this Review: Dragon Age: Leliana's Song

Ok, I fine tuned it one more time. I was having a hard time balancing necessary "gist" with providing too much information, but I think I found a good balance.
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Old 07-30-2010, 02:21 AM   #8
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Re: Please Rate this Review: Dragon Age: Leliana's Song

hey Zarmaka.

Thanks for the edits. However, after reading through it a few more times, it lacks the proper flow. the best way I can desribe it is that it's got kind of a stop/start feel to it, and doesn't really dig into things.

that's about as specific as i can be (which i know is hopelessly vague...) so if you want to take another stab at a rewrite, go for it. otherwise, i'd say maybe kill this one and try again with a fresh piece.

it's just not doing it for me. sorry.
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