Electronic Arts has unveiled The Exiled Prince, the first DLC for Dragon Age 2 that will be available free to anyone who preorders the game before January 11.

In The Exiled Prince, players will meet Sebastian Vael, a “noble archer” who joined the priesthood as a boy but returns to the business of killing everything he sees after his family is brutally murdered by forces unknown. Players can assist Vael in his quest for revenge and also turn his talents with the bow to their own purposes by enlisting him in their party.

“Our goal for the Dragon Age 2 DLC is to extend Hawke’s journey and the Dragon Age universe by introducing additional characters with meaningful storylines and intense, dynamic missions,” said Executive Producer Mark Darrah.

So here’s the deal. Anyone who preorders Dragon Age 2 before January 11 will automatically be upgraded to the “Signature Edition” of the game, which will include The Exiled Prince as a free download. If you don’t preorder in time, you can still get the DLC but it’ll cost you 560 Microsoft Points.

Sound familiar? The Exiled Prince is very much like The Stone Prisoner add-on that introduced the character of Shale to Dragon Age: Origins. There is one big difference, however; The Stone Prisoner was included with all new copies of Dragon Age: Origins as a way to recover revenues lost to the preowned market and only those who bought used copies had to spring extra for it. The Exiled Prince, on the other hand, is all about marketing. No preorder, no Prince.

I’m on record as a fan of “Project Ten Dollar” extras that promote new game sales over used and I generally like preorder bonuses too, but there’s a fine line between rewarding your supporters and punishing everyone else and I think this may cross it. A fully-developed party member with his own unique quest line is a little beyond the throwaway goodies usually offered as preorder incentives, and what’s the deal with putting a time limit on the preorder window? I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see EA eventually back down and give the DLC to everyone who preorders, but why put that restriction on it at all? I think EA may be seriously overplaying its hand here.

One more thing, and this news is good: The Escapist is giving away two copies of the Dragon Age 2 Signature Edition but like The Exiled Prince itself, the window of opportunity is closing fast. You’ve got just 24 hours to put your name in the hat for a chance to win a free copy of the game that includes The Exiled Prince DLC along with a digital soundtrack and a variety of exclusive weapons. Check out The Escapist’s Dragon Age 2 Signature Edition Giveaway for details!

Dragon Age 2 comes out on March 8 for the PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

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