Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening

Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening Review for PC

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Designed and written by the same team that brought you Dragon Age: Origins, the Awakening expansion pack offers a brand new area of the world to explore known as Amaranthine.

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8Out of 10
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I'd turn back, personally.
I'd turn back, personally.

I'd turn back, personally.

It's not long before a few party members present themselves. Anders, an apostate mage with a quick wit and a keen eye for trouble, joins the club, as does Oghren, the loutish dwarf from Origins. Both help you take your first tentative steps as ruler of all things Amaranthine. After an hour or two, Awakening apes Origins' structure by setting out a three-pronged main quest that can be tackled in any order you wish. You go to three areas - each distinct - fight a bit, make some difficult decisions, then gain a new party member. There's loads of fun to be had meeting the new help, so we won't tell you who they are, but know that they're all pretty cool, interesting, and useful in a scrap. One's very, very sexy. Another is an emo with a chip on his shoulder. The last one's just… confused. BioWare has always had a knack for drumming up memorable party members, and it's done it again here.

But, you can't have sex with them - a juvenile criticism, perhaps, but important to note. Dragon Age's relationship system is great, and in many ways more sophisticated than Mass Effect's Paragon/Renegade karma system. As before, your party members act as a mirror that reflects your moral compass. Your decisions, good or bad, affect the relationships you have with the guys and gals of your crew. A decision to kill first, ask questions later, may impress Oghren, but it'll probably piss someone else off. Completing quests for the Chantry - Ferelden's resident religious group - may reward you with loads of cash, but Anders, who hates the Circle of Magi with a passion, won't be happy. In Origins, I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to please sultry shapeshifter Morrigan so that I could get my leg over. In Awakening, there are no romance options, so I just don't care as much.

But the new characters do a good job of filling the void left by the mysterious disappearance of your old team, and are just as messed up in the head. As you'd expect, there are plenty of twists and turns in the story, with the odd moral conundrum to itch your beard to (the game's ending asks you to make a particularly difficult decision). It's all classic BioWare: the big quests can usually be resolved in a number of ways, and the consequences are varied. But the quests themselves don't have the same pizazz as they did in Origins. There's the odd highlight - like taking on two terrifying dragons in a crypt, and dishing out justice in a court of law - but on the whole Awakening lacks something. The characters aren't quite as memorable, the story isn't quite as compelling, and the dungeon crawling isn't quite as imaginative. Awakening feels like Origin's younger, slightly less impressive brother. They're both born of the same mother, but one isn't quite as developed as the other.

The opportunity to experience the aftermath of war is a rare one in video game land, so Awakening's main theme, 'what happened next?', is a welcome one. But don't expect blooming flowers and laughing children. Amaranthine is as gritty and brutal as Origins-era Ferelden. People live in squalor. Blood soaks your face. Nobody smiles. Depressing, huh? Of course it is. This is Dragon Age after all. But I know what'll draw a smile from your pursed lips: new spells! All the new skills, specialisations, talents, items, and spells Awakening enters into the fray are welcome, and at best, spectacular. Runecrafting allows you to fashion your own weapon and armour-boosting runes. The new Mage Keeper specialisation is an interesting one; it grants powers associated with control over the roots of the earth. Some of the new tier eight and nine gear is great, too, with stats that make your eyes water. There are loads of new toys to play with, all befitting a post level 20 bad ass with a whopping great big sword.

"What you lookin' at?"

"What you lookin' at?"

Still, there's a feeling that an opportunity has been missed here. As an expansion released some time after Origins, we had hoped Awakening would address some of Dragon Age's problems. It doesn't. The game, functionally, works and plays exactly the same. It's still much better on the PC, where you can zoom out and fine tune your battle strategy with the mouse and keyboard. The graphics, as they did in Origins, at times look half a generation behind Mass Effect 2. And the archaic PC RPG design remains untouched.

Which is why Awakening isn't an expansion that'll convince Dragon Age sceptics to dip their toes in BioWare's fantasy universe. If Dragon Age didn't float your boat, neither will Awakening. Dragon Age enthusiasts, however, should consider it an essential purchase. It offers more of the same - no bad thing - in a great value package. With it, BioWare is honouring its commitment to its fans and making good on its pre-launch promise of treating Dragon Age as a platform. Just don't expect an evolution.

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11 Comments

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renegade's Avatar

renegade

This game is not 25 hours long... it took me 10 lol, and i did mostly all of the quests,.
Posted 14:33 on 19 March 2010
calvinlo's Avatar

calvinlo

I don't care about improvements and all that. I just want the storyline in Dragon Age to continue and it did! Definitely buying.
Posted 15:55 on 17 March 2010
wyp100's Avatar

wyp100@ Endless

Awakening is set after the end of Origins, which I think is pretty cool. It's not often we get to see the morning after the night before in video games. But, conversely, there is a risk that the epic-ness of game endings is diminished by this sort of thing.

In this case, I think BioWare has handled it well.
Posted 14:07 on 17 March 2010
Endless's Avatar

Endless

You only played Origins for 40-50 hours? Damn my clocked playtime was well over 80 by the time i'd finished the game. I'm just not sure i'm bothered about DLC for RPGs. I don't know where it fits for me, it seems perfect for other game-types, but I just tend to find myself thinking....but this is all over isn't it? Surely I've righted all the wrongs by now? Meh.
Posted 11:20 on 17 March 2010
Wido's Avatar

Wido

25 hours gameplay? I will invest in this! I did enjoy the Origins story and the story for this sounds interesting as well. Good stuff Wes, keep it up :D
Posted 23:28 on 16 March 2010
Clockpunk's Avatar

Clockpunk

I do wish they had incorporated the inter-party politics system within Mass Effect 2. I still dislike the very clumsy feel to combat within DA:O, but will pick this up when the summer lull hits us.
Posted 22:01 on 16 March 2010
renegade's Avatar

renegade

Dragon age cost v content.

Dragon Age Origins - 20 pound = 40-50 hours gameplay
the 3 paid DLC 7 pound (i got one free) -5 hours
Awakening - 15 pound - 25 hours

So for about 40 pound you get 70 hours of content. Epic :D
Posted 19:22 on 16 March 2010
dudester's Avatar

dudester

Nice wes I was convinced it was something I could skip but now I have doubts damn you Wes!
Posted 17:55 on 16 March 2010
SexyJams's Avatar

SexyJams

Wow, I have no idea if I'd buy that if I ever played Dragon Age.
Such a massive expansion, four times the size of most games!
Posted 17:13 on 16 March 2010
Neon-Soldier32's Avatar

Neon-Soldier32

I waaaaant. Although a little annoyed that I'll have to download it.
Posted 16:42 on 16 March 2010
renegade's Avatar

renegade

25 hours of gameplay :O seriously lol. DAM im sold.
Posted 16:29 on 16 March 2010

Game Stats

Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening
8
Out of 10
Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening
  • Loads of new toys to play with
  • Some cool new characters
  • 25 hours of gameplay
  • No sex please
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 19/03/2010
Platforms: PC , Xbox 360 , PS3
Developer: Bioware
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: RPG
Rating: BBFC 18
Site Rank: 405 15
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