Joystiq - How to keep a good RPG going
Joystiq's weekly RPG column looks at the different styles of DLC being made for RPGs and concludes a number of models just aren't suited to the genre. The piece is built around Dragon Age: Origins, with the author having just caught up on the DA:O DLC:
Add New Quests: Two of the Origins add-ons, "Warden's Keep" and "Golems Of Amgarrak," simply give you a new location and new quests to do. "Warden's Keep" is nothing special, but it succeeds in giving you a new location to travel to while playing Origins, a decent challenge, and an expansion of the world. On the other hand, "Golems," which takes place after Origins and can only be accessed from the "Other Campaigns" menu, is a disaster. Detached from the main quest and the main characters, "Golems" has to stand entirely on its own – and it doesn't.
This helped me realize something critical about adding content to RPGs: it has to fit within the game. Dragon Age: Origins is an epic, multiple-character-based RPG. It's not perfect, and not every quest is a model of storytelling, but by building the characters and world over the course several interconnected quests, under the aegis of saving the kingdom, each quest can feel bigger than it would be on its own. The weaknesses are papered over by the larger context. In "Golems Of Amgarrak," there is no larger context. It stands on its own, without a connection to the troubles of Ferelden, and without the characters who make Dragon Age: Origins so interesting. On its own, the weaknesses are all that's apparent. "Golems" might have been a decent quest had you wandered through it with Morrigan and Shale, as "Warden's Keep" was. Instead, it's a waste of time and money.