Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening
Publisher: Electronic Arts
North American Release Date: March 16, 2010
European Release Date: March 18, 2010
Dragon Age: Origins is the first expansion pack for Dragon Age: Origins. It takes place directly after the events of Dragon Age: Origins and follows a new storyline involving the darkspawn after the Archdemon, complete with a new cast of characters and a mix of new gameplay options.
There really is not a whole lot to comment on here, being an expansion pack this game is primarily taking what is already in Dragon Age: Origins and expanding on it. The first thing BioWare did is add the capability to go above level 25, adding a new specialization and a new set of talent branches for each tree. There has also been some more balancing in thought in this than there was in the original game, with each tree being viable for one of the respective jobs (tank, DD, healer) and bringing ranged damage up to par finally. I can not stress that specific aspect enough, it is very nice to see a company acknowledge some issues and fix it in this expansion without nerfing everybody else. 2-handed weapons were brought UP and Ranged weapons were brought UP rather than knocking magic and 1-handed weapons down.
My only real complaint in this regard is that not all the items you have will transfer. This may be fixed at a later date, but as of right now it is not implemented. If you obtained any items via DLC for the first Dragon Age, you will not have access to them in Awakening. I really don't understand why this was done at all, its really only punishing you for buying the DLC. You spend the money on DLC, obtain a kick-ass item, and when you move into Awakening, you have to have an alternative in place. Whats more is Awakening doesn't talk to Dragon Age: Origins, if you start up a new character in DA, you will not have access to Awakening talents.
The singleplayer is the one-point I take issue with this game. Where the other two areas are both improved in some way, the singleplayer has regressed from the first. My problem is it falls into two major pitfalls. First, it assumes a canonical ending in a game with two very different endings and with other different elements which can change the outcome. The problem I have with this has more to do with how BioWare defines its gameplay experiences... BioWare built the first game around "choice," but by building an expansion pack assuming an ending is canonical you only further underplay the "choice" element of your game. I would have been more happy had this gone in a completely different direction and not allow character imports because it just feels like a regression. Had they just left it open completely, you wouldn't have to assume a canonical ending.
Second, You are building a story as an expansion, using the same character built in the previous game, following the same storyline directly, but abandoning all the other developed cast in favor of a new cast... in a story that is significantly shorter. Its one of those things, echoing the previous paragraph, where I would have preferred a different design choice. The problem is in a 15 hour experience, you don't have time to really develop such a large cast of characters, so many of them will end up being throwaway characters. Given the expansion-nature of the game, I would have much preferred either a smaller cast or re-using the characters you developed in the previous game. This same problem is seen in the darkspawn, with the archdemon dead you are left with a new mysterious force and a power struggle in the darkspawn ranks. This premise is ripe with potential, its brilliant, but no real time is taken to develop it into anything more interesting than the sentence you just read. There is a big mystery to it, and then at the end in the last hour everything comes together and you are left thinking "Ok?"
The whole story reeks of not being able to just make a choice and take a risk. There are several elements which try to treat this game as a standalone flavoring of Origins, and others that truly treat it as an expansion pack. The problem is it just never comes together, and this is really just for lack of design focus. Had they bit the bullet and just done an expansion pack or a standalone game and stuck with that vein, the game would have been better for it.
The end result is a story that, while interesting and ok, really falls short of what it could be.
Awakening makes several technical fixes over Origins. There are alot less bugs in this version, character animation and dialog cutting out is gone, and load times have been improved. These are all very welcome considering the technical aspect was the one pitfall the original game had, my only complaint is that this seems to be the only area that is head-and-shoulders better.
Graphically Awakening is the same and the same issue with everything being an earth-tone is still very present, as is alot of the organic texture work which is prevalent alot in the Darkspawn areas. The graphics are by no means bad, they are un-changed. I am hoping that the next Dragon Age game makes steps to rectify this given how amazing its sister-game, Mass Effect, looks.
The Trophies for Dragon Age: Origins Awakening are fairly straightforward. You get one for reaching the mid-point of the new set of levels added, one for each story mission, one for beating the story, one for a story-choice made, and finally one for completely upgrading your keep. You'll need two playthroughs to get back to 100%, but nothing is going to be hard.
- Gameplay is what you would want in an expansion pack. It re-balances and expands on the same formula
- A singleplayer experience that screams of poor design choices.
- There are some bug fixes and optimization, overall a good presentation. Only issue is the lack of graphical improvements.
Overall: 7/10 Good
- Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening is worth the purchase price if you are a fan of the original. The story will leave you a bit disappointed, but the experience is well worth it for the price. The problem with this game is it doesn't bring anything to the table that is really new or interesting.