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.