25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Dragon Age Spin Off,
This review is from: Dragon Age Origins: Awakening (PC DVD) (DVD-ROM)
Dragon Age Awakening is a spin off from Dragon Age Origins that takes your character from the early level 20s to the early level 30s. It is perhaps a quarter of the size of Origins, takes 10 to 20 hours to complete and requires an Origins installation. You get two new specialisations and a few extra lines of abilities per character type. You find weapons ranging from tier 6 to 9. You find two new companions of each type. You can now craft runes, drink stamina potions, your camp contains a storage chest and sells respec books. The last three should have existed in Origins.
The game design is in some ways on par with Origins. The story, areas, characters, music and voice overs are of equal quality. At times any of those design aspects can be a little over familiar and feel like a cut and paste job. For the most part there is enough new invention to keep your interest right until the end credits.
It does have negatives.
Firstly its release has clearly been rushed. This will likely be fixed in time in future patches, but the game and latest patch to accommodate the game introduces bugs that didn't exist before (some of which mess with origins). The install likely works with a cleanly installed DAO but not always with an older install. Sometimes your character struggles with height changes on the floor. Some of your paid for DAO add on content will not transfer.
On entering the level 20s at the end of DAO the list of abilities on the quick bar had started to get overly large and the difficulty balance during the game started to tend towards the easy. Sadly this trend has continued into DAA. Your abilities bar becomes huge. To give you an idea of difficulty my mage had skills that in order of activation:
Sustained. Damage all nearby enemies over time.
Activated. Freeze and damaged all nearby enemies.
Activated. Stun all nearby enemies.
Activated. Heal party.
Activated. Smash a stunned or freezed enemy.
Activated. Reset all cool downs.
Add in a couple of thieves in tow who automatically backstab immobile enemies and you are looking at a tanking mage who finishes off groups of 1 to 10 in a few seconds usually without having to aim once and without worrying about slow to cast friendly fire spells. That worked for 99% of enemies on hard without using potions or occurring deaths. If it failed I had a skill bar full to the brim with other options. It wasn't an exploit tactic either; all 3 character types contain skills and a handful of options that tip the balance into a mass mash-up rather than a tactically balanced battle. The forums show people on insanity difficulty being disappointed with the level of challenge as well. The start of Dragon Age Origins felt allot more balanced even though it favoured mages. For those who find the challenge important, it needs fixing and it isn't just a little off. The difficulty does not help the size problem making the game an even shorter experience.
The size is just appalling for party banter or world creation. Despite finding the individual aspects of equal quality, it has not got chance to bewitch you. To give you an idea of how bad the size design problem gets. I picked up one character at the end of one area. Picked up another character at the start of the next. After I completed that area it went into end game mode.....OK the two characters seem interesting enough but when do I get to know them? I found out more about Oghren when I picked him up last at the end of DAO than those two combined.
The integration with DAO is slight. If this spin off was added to DAO as another of the 3 mid game main quests such as saving the arl then it would have made DAO even more huge and world like. As a separate entity with minor integration it feels like DA has become cramped.
Still despite its shouldn't have been released like this state, I still found myself warming to the world. Maybe it is because the "spiritual successor to Baldur's Gate" tag had worn off. Despite its long list of faults more Dragon Age is still fun. How many stars should you rate a more fun than most modern RPGs but also a missed opportunity? I'll go for four but you may well disagree.