A No-Spoiler Review of the Jaws of Hakkon

I finally bought and played the Dragon Age: Inquisition DLC this past weekend and, I have to say, I’m delighted. The Jaws of Hakkon gives you a big new area with all kinds of brand new goodies, lore, and challenges. Since most people can't even play it yet I thought I'd post my thoughts without spoiling the story for anyone.

When BioWare made the Frostback Basin they took pieces of the most gorgeous areas in Inquisition and blended them. They took the Arbor Wilds and combined the best bits of the Storm Coast and Crestwood into it. There’s a dash of Fallow Mire for flavor and you might find a hint of the Western Apprach in the ruins.

It’s late afternoon in the Frostback Basin and the mountains shade parts of the landscape (until later, when you emerge from a ruin and it’s night with that huge moon from the Hissing Wastes laying a silver glow over the still-active forests.)

Trails through the area wind up and down steep cliffs. Caves riddle the place with enough mysteries and easter eggs to make exploration more rewarding than simply enjoying the glorious scenery. Branches and roots stretch across deadly drops and dare you to see what’s on the other end. My favorite surprise? Ewok villages with elevators for my camps. Oh, BioWare! I love you more every day.

Lest you fear the dread silence of your companions that plagued the game, I can report regular banter between my companions, none of it I’d heard before. Of course that’s partly because of the original banter bug as I loaded my initial, complete game to play. You also get a couple of good conversations with Scout Harding and a professor that could be Sebastian’s first cousin though he’s employed at the University of Orlais.

Rather than disappearing, Scout Harding not only sticks around for the whole story she comes along on a mission! She and the professor can’t stay away from some of the fascinating discoveries.

The Avvar turn their barbarian image on its head. You can tie in your pal from the Fallow Mire via the War Table and the results made me laugh. Indeed, the Jaws of Hakkon displays plenty of the sly, winking humor that brings me back to BioWare games again and again.

As a bonus, it made me join the Avvar love that’s been growing on the BSN lately. You get a whole new mess of lore to digest and the DLC continues Inquisition’s theme of pondering what makes divinity divine.

I went into the Jaws of Hakkon at level 25, with my crew at 24. By the time I’d finished level 28 was comfortably in sight. I played my first game on casual and even on that low difficulty my companions insisted on an embarrassing number of deaths. Heck, my whole party bit the dust on two separate occasions! (Be warned: dead pirates don’t mess around when it comes to protecting their treasure.)

Not only are the usual enemies tough but BioWare added new wildlife to challenge you. The spiders aren’t any bigger but they swarm the river. Tuskets look like sneufflers but (rarely) give you Tier 4 leather. That’s right, boys and girls: we’ve finally gotten Tier 4 crafting materials and schematics. Love Vivienne’s original hat? Guess what.

While I adore the setting love the lore, it’s the loot that clinched my love for the Jaws of Hakkon. You get new schematics, new mats, and new unique weapons. At the end you even get a new armor design (and a new ability in cast that’s not enough).

The main story itself doesn’t take too long but the Basin offers enough reason to explore that it doesn’t really feel like a chore to knock off a generous handful of side quests along the way. Thankfully, the main quest drags you all over the map so why not kill a lurker with the health bar of a dragon while you’re passing?

Yes, they’ve added more shards. Remember how you unlocked all of the doors in the Forbidden Oasis and thought, “What about frost damage? Where’s the rest of my protection?” Now you know—and you’ll need it.

Is the Jaws of Hakkon for you? That depends. If you like the main game and just wish the areas had stronger stories of their own, then yes. Likewise if you craft and spend ridiculous amounts of time gathering and making custom gear you’ll love it. If tougher combat floats your boat the get your oars ready.

If you want a continuation of the main Dragon Age: Inquisition story, however, you’re going to be disappointed. The DLC gives you lots of lore and some new allies but otherwise its focus stays on the last Inquisition, not the future of Thedas. I'm still excited to run it again with an unfinished game so I can take the Divine and Solas.

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