Repost: Dragon Age: Origins Awakening Review

At the end of Dragon Age: Origins, Bioware did a great job of wrapping up the story depending on the decisions made by players while still leaving it open enough to add to the story.

In the expansion, Dragon Age: Origins Awakening continues a version of the story that introduces more of the background of the darkspawn and creates more decisions for players to make that will affect the outcome of the title.

Players who completed the original game will find a great continuation of the overall plot of the world of Dragon Age, though some might think that there is not enough content for this expansion to warrent the $39.99 price tag.

Plot

Possible Spoiler: At the end of Dragon Age: Origins, the Archdemon is defeated by the main hero and relative peace spread across the land of Ferelden. Though even with the defeat of the Archdemon, word spreads that darkspawn are still attacking villages and traveling merchants and even more bizarre is that there are talking darkspawn. In addition to the speaking darkspawn, the hordes are not attacking mindlessly but using strategy in their attacks.

The hero is now residing in Vigil’s Keep formerly owned by Arl Howe who in the beginning of Dragon Age: Origins, killed your family. Now tasked with rebuilding Vigil’s Keep, training more Grey Wardens, and discovering why the darkspawn are supposedly evolving, the hero takes off on their journey to find the truth and discover the plans of the Architect.

The Look

Dragon Age: Origins Awakening uses the same engine and assets as the original title, though the facial animations during conversations did look better. On the PlayStation 3, characters and background still maintain the high level of detail and in cities, the world appears to be a bit more alive than in the original. There is improvement on the darkspawn, with additional classes to fight and who are more varied than the standard classes of darkspawn. Particularly, the armored orge is a fun visual to watch move around during combat.

Otherwise, expect more of the same as the engine didn’t receive a total overhaul, not that it needed it.

There were a few glitches with the engine, like freezing during conversations and a slight pause before combat, but those are more bugs with the title itself rather than the graphics engine.

The Sound

Once again Dragon Age: Origins Awakening has a lot of audio. Though one new party member sounds strangely similar to Alistair, right down to the complaining. That was a little disappointing that that character type appeared to be so necessary. The other party members are different from the original group and the new NPCs are expertly voiced again like the original.

Combat retains the same sounds, screams, and blood butchering though a glitch early in the title selectively muted specific sets of combat sounds, like walking one second and then the sound effects of swords meeting flesh. It only occurred once, but was annoying that it wasn’t caught before the title released.

The soundtrack of Dragon Age: Origins Awakening also employs the same dramatic orchestral score and continues during the entirety of the game. If you liked the original, get ready for more.

Using a surround sound system does help in locating darkspawn in enclosed areas, but high level characters also have the same ability.

Function

At its heart, Dragon Age: Origins Awakening is the same as Dragon Age: Origins with an active RPG feel to the combat. While the Tactics slot still play an important part, having the title start characters at level 18 is both a blessing and curse. My character was level 19 when I started and while darkspawn survived longer during battles, they were still a little easy to defeat. The ability to import characters from the original title or create a new character is a nice follow through, but I’m not sure most will want to create a new character after spending so much time with them in the original title.

Dragon Age: Origins Awakening will take around 10 to 15 hours depending on how fast it is worked through along with the side missions. Some might also scoff at the 10 to 15 hours of content on the expansion, but considering other genres complete an entire title in that amount of time and Dragon Age: Origins Awakening expands on the story in a way that fills in a lot of holes, it’s worth the admission.

The increased level cap, spells, abilities, and specializations are a nice addition, but they don’t really play a lot into the combat. For those who import old characters, they are already ingrained in their classes and leveling from 18 to 30 is a lot quicker than expected. I completed the title at level 30.

There is enough content to make the purchase worth it, except that the story only has one returning character from the first title. Alistair visits Vigil’s Keep for all of thirty seconds before disappearing and there aren’t any other cameos of substance which is a little disappointing.

Decisions

Dragon Age: Origins Awakening is a worthy expansion for the Dragon Age universe. The ending of the expansion leaves room for a lot more story and depending on where Bioware decides the story should go, the Grey Warden that was created in Dragon Age: Origins has a lot of room to grow.

In some ways, the expansion does feel like a preparation for a much bigger battle and that something is coming in the future that will change the lives of the people of Ferelden for the worse. The plot is interesting and the expanding of the combat system is very good.

Dragon Age: Origins Awakening might be more of a step towards something grander, but it’s a worthy addition to the journey.

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