Looting is in the eye of the beholder.
[Spoiler Alert: If you're reading this review of Return to Ostagar, then you probably know what happens at Ostagar in the main game. But if on the off chance that you don't know and don't want anything ruined for you, don't read any further. ~Ed.]
When you first played Dragon Age: Origins and watched King Cailan get his ass royally handed to him, did you feel like you wanted to linger on that particular moment? As you fought your way through the invading darkspawn hordes, did you wonder what the havoc they wreaked would look like after the fever of battle had subsided? Are you really into the Dragon Age combat system, but somehow not so down with its character-building dialogue trees? Do you think a golden helmet with a purple ponytail sounds like it would go perfectly with the ensemble your character is wearing right now?
[image1]If you answered 'yes' to all of these questions, Dragon Age: Return to Ostagar is for you. This $4.99 DLC functions as little more than a morsel to tide you over while you wait for the proper expansion, Awakening, to be released in March.
Disguised as an extra sidequest, it's a delivery system for some warrior class-oriented loot: King Cailan's golden armor, which is first glimpsed in Origins adorning the optimistically naïve King himself... before his hubris proves to be the death of him. When you first spy that massive, gleaming suit, it serves one purpose: exciting an armor-envy that makes you embarrassed, nay, ashamed of whatever pathetic leather scraps you've managed to acquire by that point. It sets the bar for the loot you lust after, and until now, it was unattainable. No longer!
Now, you can
buy gain the privilege of retracing your steps through Ostagar, hacking up some awesome run-of-the-mill darkspawn, and collecting the pieces of said armor. Perhaps that's overly sarcastic - for what it's worth, Bioware's done an excellent job of re-imagining Ostagar, the Helm's Deep of the Dragon Age universe. There is a certain dramatic weight while exploring the shattered, snow-buried remnants of what was once the front lines of the epic battle against the Blight.
Unfortunately, no one's home. There's a fair amount of combat to be had, most of it rote battles against cookie-cutter enemies, but the rich character development and branching storylines that made the original game so worthwhile are conspicuously absent. They've taken the "RP" out of "RPG", and what's left simply doesn't stand on its own.
[image2]Even when it comes to the transparent real-money-for-imaginary-gear transaction, Return to Ostagar's value is questionable. King Cailan's Armor is really only useful to warriors, and the class-based random loot is hardly epic enough to justify the drudgery.
If you really want to trudge through the King's final resting place once more, and you really want to relive the tragic defeat of the Grey Wardens, then I suppose there's something here for you. Most of the cut-scenes, though, that are supposed to enhance the pathos of the experience, are literally just slow-motion replays of the cinematics you saw when you were here the first time.
All told, there's not much to recommend in this DLC. The loot isn't game-changing, the plot is bare-bones, and the story-building basically nonexistent. Unless you absolutely need to possess Cailan's sweet golden shoulderpads, stop your plans to Return to Ostagar and turn straight back.