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3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Platform: PC|Change
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on 25 July 2017
Good game
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I recently completed yet another run in the Dragon Age universe and I realized that I had never reviewed the expansion by itself. And it certainly deserves its own review, even if for the wrong reasons.

You can either start with a fresh character or import your hero from DAO (for issues with this, please read on). The problem is that of all the characters from the the original game only...Oghren is available as a companion, you are roaming a completely different map and the story feels like an afterthought. The expansion takes place in a completely different map and the red thread that holds the story together, quite ironically, are the ...darkspawn.
The original game had a solid story with twists and turns and interesting characters. Don't get me wrong, I was eager to experience more Dragon Age too, however, neither the story nor the companions meet the high standards of the original game. I mean, you get an apostate mage, the rogue son of your father's murderer, a warrior spirit incarnated into the wrong body, a murderous elf who is constantly angry (I am guessing extra chromosomes), a dwarf with a death-wish - and Oghren.

As mentioned above, you can import your character from the original Dragon Age. Disappointingly, this does not include any DLC items(?!). So, say goodbye to your Starfang and beautiful Warden Commander Armor set among other things. You will get even more powerful equipment in the expansion (although I still think the Sentinel armor set makes my hero look like Darth Vader!).
My advice: do a few test-runs to see what is or not imported and then sell everything you cannot bring into the expansion. You will need the money. Trust me.

Armor sets that do not complete because crates do not spawn or spawn empty. Equipment that is downgraded if left in your personal storage trunk. And you better enter the Silverite Mines...naked because most often than not all of your Hero's equipment will disappear - forever. And, no, neither the Ultimate edition nor the latest patch fixed most of these bugs. Save often (new saves, not quick ones) to avoid the grief of having to start over.

Runes gain two extra levels, Masterpiece and Paragon and, besides weapons, they can now be slotted into armor as well. There is also a new skill, Runecrafting, to go with this. However, either the required ingredients are too rare or you have to decide to strip your weapons in order to augment your armor. I ended up slotting only the runes I looted and kept everything I brought from the original game.
Come to think of it, by importing a level-25 warrior (with a well-stocked...potion-cellar) I rarely had to craft any potions either.

Almost every talent group gets a new tier of talents. So do Specializations and Skills. The talents are the most important as they offer new spells or warrior and rogue attacks and defenses. There seem to be more Tactics slots as well, a good idea, to accommodate the increased number of talents.
Most of the talents are well thought, useful in battle and beautifully realized on screen.

The original DAO was a masterpiece of a game so if you played and enjoyed it I know you just have to play the expansion as well. However, if you don't, you are not missing much.
Keep your expectations low in order to enjoy the extra leg of the ride and to avoid being disappointed.
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Several months have passed since the last surviving Grey Wardens in Ferelden defeated the Blight, ended the Ferelden civil war and restored peace to the lands. The hero of that war has found a new job as commander of Vigil's Keep, from where he (or she) will rule over the province of Amaranthine and try to replenish the ranks of the Grey Wardens. However, when Vigil's Keep falls under attack from the supposedly-vanquished darkspawn before she (or he) even arrives, it becomes clear that Ferelden is in danger once again.

Awakening is the expansion pack to Dragon Age: Origins, adding a chunky new storyline (weighing in at around 20-odd hours), numerous new locations and five new companion characters to the mix, as well as a number of modest improvements to the game engine and a plethora of new spells and skills. The default review for expansion packs is, "If you liked the original, you'll love this," and whilst that's true for Awakening it is also true that it may appeal to you even if you disliked the original.

Awakening is a tighter, marginally better-written and characterised and considerably better-paced game than Dragon Age: Origins itself. It often took a conscious effort of will to force myself to load up Origins during the interminable midgame, whilst I tore through Awakening in a couple of days or so. The storyline is more interesting, since rather being another epic battle against the vast forces of evil, it instead explores the aftermath of such a conflict and also delves back into the reasons for it. Looking back, there's rather a lot that Dragon Age: Origins left unexplained about the Blights and why they happen, and Awakening is happy to fill it in, adding depth and understanding to the first game whilst also improving on it.

Some will bemoan the lack of Dragon Age: Origins's cast of characters, though I found them mostly an uninteresting bunch. I did find it odd that arguably the least interesting, Oghren, is the only playable character to continue into this game. Other than that, the characters in Awakening are improvements. Justice, a spirit of law and order forced into the body of a dead human, feels like a character imported from Planescape: Torment with his moody musings on ideology and its rigidity providing some (moderately) intellectual food for thought. Anders, a persecuted and highly sarcastic mage, adds some colour and humour to the game. Nathaniel, the son of your enemy Rendon Howe from the first game, is an interesting addition as he starts out hating you and only over the course of many hours of adventuring learns the truth about his father and how he can escape his father's legacy to become his own man. Standard fare, perhaps, but well-handled.

Where Awakening scores its biggest points is in turning the darkspawn from a raging morass of fanatical monsters into more of a civilisation with different factions and leaders. The threat of one such hostile faction is kept front-and-centre in the game, with side-quests presented firmly as sidelines and not confusing matters. Dragon Age was rather unconvincing in how the darkspawn were a raging menace for the first 10 hours of the game and then put on hold for the next 40-odd hours whilst you dealt with Loghain and then suddenly the darkspawn were back as the main bad guys for the endgame, but Awakening maintains focus throughout. Awakening also abandons the somewhat cheesy 'campfire' mechanic from the first game to give you a permanent base of operations, Vigil's Keep. In between quests it's a good idea to repair to the Keep to offload loot and talk to the keep's inhabitants, who keep up a steady stream of news and provide new quests, and equipment to help in your adventure. You also have the ability to upgrade the Keep by repairing its walls, bringing in new merchants and reinforcing its soldiery. It's another nod for this franchise towards the excellent Baldur's Gate II (though you only have the choice of one base of operations) and this one works a lot better, especially when the endgame asks some really hard moral questions of the player.

On the downside, some of the UI oddities of Dragon Age: Origins remain intact. Characters knocked back from melee by spells or attacks will just stand there a few feet away from the fight until you order them directly back into it. The camera controls remain as mixed a bag as in the original game. Sometimes quests will be rendered un-completable without warning: for example, having recruited a new follower I was directed to return to Vigil's Keep to induct them into the ranks of the Grey Wardens. Yet upon returning to the Keep, whenever I talked to the seneschal to start the procedure, instead he'd demand an answer about an unrelated story event. Replying yes would instigate the end of the whole game, making it impossible to formally induct the new follower into the ranks.

Still, these problems aside Awakening achieves a lot of the promise left unfulfilled by Dragon Age: Origins and works as both an effective epilogue to that game and a bridge to the controversial Dragon Age II.

Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening (****½) is a significant improvement over the base game in terms of writing, structure and characters.
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on 28 August 2010
This is a good expansion for Dragon Age Origins. I like the ability to continue the story with your original characters and also start a new character if you wish. It is a very playable game with a number of possible outcomes that allow you to explore new character skills and talents and also alternative story boards as you progress through the game. This expansion does follow on from the original game and although though you meet some of the characters from the original game there is only one who can join you on this adventure. However you do meet some new characters who easily slot into your team.
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VINE VOICEon 25 March 2010
It is only an expansion, not a full-blown sequel, but here's a rush of reasons why Awakening is under par, followed by optional waffling:

Half-finished. Half-written. Small-scale treatment of epic matters. Buggy. Crashes to desktop during combat. Loses items. Wait for a patch if you need immersion. Lacks coherence. Lacks fire. Disconnected with DA:O. Too easy. Limited conversations. No romance. NPCs and party members not as interesting. No camp. Limited effect of choices, but more epilogues, which is nice. Lacking depth. Lack of atmosphere - even with the decent level design. No tension. Short, should be cheaper. Enjoyable. Bizarre bring-back character choice justified overall. Still slightly addictive, qualified Dragon Age fun.

-Mild spoiler for Dragon Age: Origins (but not for Awakening, except at the end*)-

If you accepted its limitations Dragon Age Origins was a blast, a Hollywood blockbuster version of role playing games. Although falling short of Baldur's Gate, it was its illegitimate nephew, rising to take the RPG crown.

With Awakening we have been promised more of the same things we loved about Dragon Age. Apart from the combat that's a promise which has been broken. That's because what got everybody really involved with Dragon Age, and generated the headlines, wasn't the loot, but the personal relationships, running the gamut from sleazy to meaningful. Despite itself we loved the plot too. All of this is limited and half-hearted with Awakening, and tension, either with characters or in the plot, is almost non-existent.

Dragon Age was a multiple personality of a game written by too many people. One minute incredibly and sincerely lame, the next bouncing back with a killer one-liner. One minute awkwardly contriving a plot device, the next springing a twist that would put any soap opera to shame. The laughs are still in Awakening but conversation is blander and there's no camp (in the tent sense and Shale and Zevran sense as well). Instead you have to hold down the tab key all of the time looking for trees and statues to talk about. The languages of the Elves, Qunari and Dwarves still all sound like Klingon - but fortunately the dull, instructional, Star Trek Voyager-like feeling in some world areas is mostly gone. Another good thing is that the voice talent is talented, with plenty of British accents to water down the American.

The claustrophobia of a vast world packed into small locations is much worse in this add-on - given the story, the abilities of PCs and consoles now and the amount of people on the credits, the anti-epicness of the delivery is astounding, from the supposed city to the supposed large-scale battles.

As an add-on it doesn't gel very well, you can't visit Soldier's Peak or any part of the old map. The set up is as forced and unnatural as DA:O except moreso. For some reason your character walks alone to Amaranthine. Yes, even if you're effectively the King as well as the Grey Warden leader, your only escort will be some girl sent to fetch you for the last 5 miles. As well as some of my best gear I had also `forgotten' all of my shields, so my skillset was useless for some time - it seemed to be a bug, apparently there is a mod out there that fixes this.

In the brief moments of continuation from the previous game my DA:O decisions seemed to carry through, so thankfully Alistair stayed dead, although I was given another whiney miserablist voiced by a similar sounding actor. Bioware please, after Carth and Alistair I've had my fill of damaged needy men (don't shout that too loudly down the pub if you're a bloke).

This is combined with one of the worst patches ever, 1.03. The majority of people play a game soon after release so it is criminal to subject them to simple and obvious bugs. Now we have extra crashes to desktop, and an easy game made technically even easier. This will not stretch anyone who EA/Bioware ought to have remembered must have played and got used to the first game. Even a well-signposted chance to repeat one of the best and hardest battles of the first game is thrown away.

It's not as much game as I expect for the RRP, even with Amazon's discount - after the rip-off of Soldier's Peak I should have expected that.

If the fighting was all you cared about, it is still good fun even if it is too easy and similar. The same simple types of groupings appear over and over again. Loot is overly plentiful, although I still kept my old armour throughout. The new rune system tiresome. Some of the new combat abilities are fun and improve a system that was too simple to begin with, but make you even more overpowered for the competition. Awakening was still a game I had to complete, but I can imagine some abandoning it.

My advice to Bioware? Replay Baldur's Gate to relearn atmosphere. For graphics swallow your pride and take on board what The Witcher did with your own engine, and take advantage of the power of today's machines.

*Ughh, emo darkspawn.
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on 26 March 2010
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.
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on 18 December 2014
This game will go down as a tremendous missed opportunity in my book.

After the triumph that was the original game, any expansion would have had the opportunity to really flesh out the world in more detail. I was looking forward to a riveting new story and exploring other corners of Thedas, each more exotic than the last. It could have been an opportunity to flesh out some new, really interesting characters.

Unfortunately, this expansion misses the mark on almost every level.

The game is still set in Ferelden. In fact, it focuses only on a small stretch of its northern coastline. The keep you are awarded at the start to function as your main base of operations is quit nice, but the area's main city, Amaranthine, is a disappointingly small hub which never really feels anywhere near as expansive or interesting as Denerim (and even Denerim wasn't all THAT impressive).

The other locations in the game are much the same as in the original; swamps, forests, the odd bit of countryside, caves, and Dwarven tunnels. Nothing really eye-popping or particularly memorable.

The story is equally forgettable. It's quite short and requires probably only a few hours to complete. The premise: you're basically hunting down the remaining Darkspawn who managed to flee after the final battle in the last game. They've reorganised themselves under a rare, intelligent Darkspawn and march upon the aforementioned city. (Spoiler alert!) You're eventually forced to decide between saving the city or your own keep. As I didn't hold much love for this bland excuse for a settlement, this was a no-brainer for me. I let the city burn without so much as an afterthought.

The companions also don't leave much of an impression (with the possible exception of Justice), and there isn't a lot of choice either. They're all good-hearted one way or another. There aren't really any who are morally ambiguous so if you're doing a playthrough with an evil character (like I was), it's hard to shake the feeling you're being accompanied by a group of bafflingly compliant idiots.

The gameplay, however, is still a positive. There are plenty of challenging battles to test your skills, and the new spells and abilities - though limited - are a welcome addition to the game and leave more room for customisation. The increased amount of levels you can gain are well-balanced, and the game neatly avoids the levels of overpowered silliness you get in D&D-based games once the 'epic' levels are reached (like Neverwinter Nights).

Overall though, the good gameplay did little to sway my opinion. Singleplayer titles stand or fall by their storylines. Awakening unfortunately fell dismally short on that account. It could have been so much more if the developers had only put some more effort into designing a better setting and a more enticing story. Instead, it just feels like BioWare (or EA... probably EA come to think of it) just tried to cash in on the success of the first game with a hastily released sequel. What a shame.
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on 9 August 2011
An excellent expansion, but it honestly felt more like a separate game using the DA:O engine, since it didn't really add anything to the original game itself, beyond adding a second campaign into which you could transfer your DA:O characters at any point. With the Dragon Age DCs adding new content directly into the original campaign, I had expected the expansion to do the same, but alas, I was sorely disappointed on this score.

That said, Awakening does add a whole new dimension to the game that wasn't quite there before - making the Darkspawn less faceless and pure evil by adding personality and more of a 'goal' post-Blight was a really excellent move. The gameplay is, as you'd expect for DA:O, terrific, but at the same time, it blends nicely between the epic-level play of a high-level character with battles sufficiently challenging that you won't get bored playing through.

Only other downside? Absence of engaging NPCs in your party - with DA:O, Alistair, Wynne, Leliana, Morrigan, Shale, even 'Dog' all added to the ambience in many beautiful ways. Familiar face Oghren continues to party with you, and Wynne makes a small appearance, as does Alistair, but beyond that, it's practically a brand new game, with few references to the relationships explored so heavily in the original game. The new NPCs felt a little stale in comparison, and I can't help feeling that DAO:A was just something to keep us occupied between DA:O and Dragon Age 2.

Still, well worth the purchase all the same (though I probably wouldn't have said so when it was going to set you back £30), but not quite up to the standards of the original.
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on 19 August 2010
This expansion fails to live up to Dragon Age Origin, it feels very much like a rehash, but without being epic in scope. The companions featured are mostly new, and they fail to have the same impact on the game as those in origin. The game overall seems to lack the bite of origin, battles are too easy which means that you simply dont have to bother planning for them. A good but not great game, if you loved origin and are a fan of the genre probably worth getting, but casual fans of origins should probably avoid.
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on 1 July 2010
I know some people won't agree but I find that this game (and it's predecessor ofcourse) give endless options in the storyline. I have only played 2 different races because the storylines are so complex I don't have to time to play all.

The other top RP/fantasy games (World of Warcraft) just don't compare, through storyline options anyway. Graphics are great and the game controls are excellent, they are a cross between World of Warcraft & Final Fantasy 12 controls, but a lot more options. The npc interaction is amazing also.

Definately recommend purchasing, wish I could still play it atm, but my computer has the dreaded BSoD (Blue Screen of Death) but i know nothing to do with installing this game.
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