When Dragon Age: Origins was released last year, gamers were exposed to one of the best role-playing game entries to grace a home console Sure, it had its flaws – mostly concerning visuals and lag – but its intricate story and characters made for a one of the best RPG experiences of 2009. Playing as a Grey Warden, the land of Ferelden’s elite and sacred protectors, you were tasked with removing the blight and defeating the Darkspawn. If you beat the game, you accomplished this task and your character is pretty much the most important person in all the land. But, apparently all of that peace was short lived as BioWare and EA have given fans of the game a whole new chapter the play through.
Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening is the first expansion for the game and comes with a ton of new content. Just like all other expansions to RPG (or any game, for that matter), there is a hefty dose of new content, weapons, abilities, skills, monsters, and characters. In addition, the level cap has been raised to 35. The game is available as either a Blu-ray disc, or it can be downloaded. Either way, you’ll need to have the Origin’s game data and your saved data to play the expansion. With all this new content you may expect some new features or gameplay tweaks. Unfortunately, some of the issues from the core game still persist in the expansion.
Even though you managed to end the Blight at the end of Origins, the Darkspawn have managed to reassemble. In Awakening, the Darkspawn are smarter than before – they even know how to communicate with one another. The expansion picks up shortly after the events of the core game, so everything will feel familiar if you’ve been engrossed in the title over the past several months.
When you launch the expansion, you are given the choice to import your character from Origins, or start a completely new Grey Warden character. If you played Origins but didn’t finish the game, your character will be outfitted (with upgraded skills and levels) as if he or she completed the final task. Starting a new character means more than just having someone new to get used to. Your new character is from a neighbouring land, and as such is met with a bit of skepticism from the NPCs you meet.
Awakening features the same cast as Origins and has the same quick lipped dialogue. You’ll run into characters from Origins, but you’ll have a whole new party to play with. These new characters are quite varied and just as entertaining as those found in Origins. You’ll find an even greater emphasis on your decisions, specifically regarding whom you take with you and who you just kill.
In terms of visuals, the expansion still carries the same glitches and problems from Origins. There are dialogue and voice sync issues, and occasional lag during the game’s larger battles. All of these problems draw attention from what the game does so well – tell a great story. Combat can also at times prove problematic. Nothing has changed in that regard, but if you didn’t have a problem with the graphic glitches, lag, or combat issues then you aren’t going to have a problems in Awakening. The actual fight mechanics are identical to before. You can control one of your party members (the other are controlled by AI). The character you control has a host of abilities attached to the circle, triangle and square buttons – X is used as the simple auto-attack. Of course, you can pause the game and delegate orders more efficiently. This will give you time to strategize, which, given the mammoth boss battles you’ll encounter, is often needed.
Awakening introduces three new skill chains (obtainable at level 20). One skill, Runecrafting, allows characters to enchant weapons and armor. This requires a bit of micromanagement – finding the appropriate items and deciding which stats would be best for different characters. In true RPG form, you can spend a long time perfectly enchanting your gear, brewing potions, and creating traps. If you love this sort of detail in your RPG, then Awakening only expands on what Origins introduced.
The expansion provides two new specializations for each class and gives characters a third specialization point at 22. You’ll get all but two specializations unlocked at the start of the game. One of our favorite new specializations, Battlemage, gives mages a host of abilities for close combat, meaning there’ll be plenty of opportunities for them to unleash all manner of gruesome attacks. In addition to the new skills and specializations, there are more than 500 new items. You’ll also see two new tiers added to weapons and armor.
Awakening produces plenty of new content to warrant a full-on expansion. There are many hours to keep you busy and fully draw you back into the world of Dragon Age. In part, not changing any of the core gameplay mechanics or visuals means the game is still lacking in certain areas, but if you can get past these flaws you will be in for quite a treat. The new story is well told through dialogue, which like the core game, requires you to think and choose what you say carefully. Awakening is more than just the cherry on top of an awesome sundae that is Dragon Age: Origins; instead, it’s like you’ve been given a few extra scoops of RPG goodness.