Sunday, March 21, 2010

Dragon Age Origins: Awakening - Review

Dragon Age: Origins Awakening
In the age of DLC we get these rare artifacts called expansion packs and what they are is a significant amount of game content that offer enough enjoyment to be called a game on their own. Now the real question is whether or not Dragon Age Origins: Awakening deserves to be called an expansion pack. My resounding answer is “Yes this is an expansion pack!” Whether it’s worth its weight in gold (cash) is subjective on how much you enjoyed the original game.

Story wise this game takes place not too far in the distant future of the original game. You can be a new Orlesian Grey Warden or import your character from Origins. So you are on a quest to rebuild the Grey Wardens and you become the new Arl of Amaranthine. So you’re in charge of this province and must hear out the peasants and nobles while making decisions that will affect your outcome against an impending darkspawn threat. This threat is different because they are more intelligent and coordinated than ever before. Without giving away too much of the plot the Awakening is about these new darkspawn with free will and you must get down to the source and find out what’s going on. You get some cameos from key characters of the original game but don’t expect them to make a huge impact on the story. The most interesting part of the game would be finding these new Grey Warden recruits and they can be quite memorable sometimes. Each character is unique but won’t hook you in like the Origin’s cast. Sometimes I think Anders the mage tries too hard to crack jokes and they are only funny about 70% of the time. The other characters seem to have their own charm and vice at the same time but there is some depth in their own stories that flesh out their personalities. If anything the expansion is more like an epilogue and adds some closure to your original character’s story if you chose to import them.

Visually the game is well designed and each area has a unique look. Vigil’s Keep looks like a fortress that you can wage a war in, Amaranthine is a fairly large city that you can roam around. The areas you travel while on your quest to find new wardens are massive in scope compared to some in the original game and you can wander for hours in these sections of the game. There are new models of armor and weapons that look absolutely cool. Then there are a few new creature models that look menacing and frightening. Bioware definitely put in some work without having to recycle too much from the core game.

From a gameplay standpoint the mechanics haven’t changed too much. The game is still Dragon Age Origins and you use the same interface and most of the same skills. The main difference is that there is a new level cap and two new specializations for each class with new level 20 skills that weren’t in the original. You also get to spec into three specializations instead of two. You don’t have to worry about speccing your character wrong because you can buy manuals of focus and these will reset your character’s stats, specializations and abilities. If you were into crafting there is a new added profession called Runecrafting and you can make runes to fit into your weapon and armor slots. The quests are fairly standard and you can find a few amusing ones out of the bunch of stale ones. Monsters aren’t too challenging but you encounter them in droves and the Boss fights are difficult since they test your tactical expertise. They felt very satisfying to kill on the hardest difficulty setting and yes there are epic dragon fights in this game that will take you some planning beforehand in order to kill them. The game isn’t without flaws as I have found quite a few bugs. I found quite a few quest breaking bugs and definitely broke my immersion with the game at points. If you don’t have a save before you break the quest then you are stuck being unable to complete them. These are unfortunate bugs but I don’t feel it ruins the game completely.

For forty bucks you get about 15 hours worth of game which seems small compared to what you got with the core game. But 15 hours is a lot more game than most retail games out these days and if you liked Dragon Age Origins then this expansion pack is definitely worth picking up.

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