I should probably start this review off saying that I am a big BioWare fan. I cracked out on Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Jade Empire, so I wasn’t shocked when I lost many hours of my life to Dragon Age: Origins. Being a huge RPG fan, I found Dragon Age to be fantastic. When a proper expansion was announced, I was excited and counted down the days. Three DLC packs had already been released – The Stone Prisoner, Return to Ostagar, and Warden’s Keep – but they weren’t long enough, or at least in my opinion. I guess you can say that I am hard to please.
Anyways, knowing that the Dragon Age: Origins Awakening expansion was to be released on a disc, and not DLC, I knew I was in for a treat. You start off having the option of using the character you already have, or starting off as a random Grey Warden sent from Orlais to restore the order in Ferelden. This time your travels take you to Amaranthine, which was once the land belonging to that corrupt asshole Arl Rendon Howe (who, might I add, was wonderfully voiced by the amazing Tim Curry), and now the domain of the Ferelden Grey Wardens. The primary character has been given the title of Warden Commander, and your stronghold is Vigil’s Keep.
I have to admit that I missed my old companions. I put in close to 100 hours in Dragon Age: Origins, and as corny as this may sound, one starts to get attached to their party. I loved the banter between Shale and Alistair, but I was very happy when I saw Ogrhen. For those who might not remember that name, he was the fabulously drunk dwarf, and he is still a little boozer. Depending on the sex of your imported character, and the relationship you went with regarding Alistair, you will get the appropriate conversation when he comes to visit briefly. I did run into Wynne, had a short conversation with her, got a little side quest, and depending on what you did with Loghain and Anora, I know you run into them too. I didn’t see them because I happily slaughtered Loghain and locked Anora away in Origins. At Vigil’s Keep, Herren and Wade, the blacksmiths from Denerim’s Market District, join you and become your go-to guys for armor and other items. Other than that, I didn’t run into any familiar faces.
After awhile I started to get used to having different people, but there was one character I had a hard time with. In the beginning at Vigil’s Keep, you hear of a prisoner who was trying to steal some things. When you go to investigate, you see that he is Nathaniel Howe, the son of Arl Rendon Howe. My imported character is from the female human noble origin, and if you’ve played through that, you know that Arl Rendon Howe was a close friend of your Father, and somebody he trusted. The Arl decides to be a complete dick, betray your family by attacking your home, and in the end you are forced to leave with Duncan while your Mother dies trying to defend your fatally wounded Father. The last thing I wanted was a Howe in my party, but at the time he was the only rogue available and I needed somebody to pick locks open.
Everybody else was pretty basic – two mages, another rogue, etc – except for a warrior named Justice. At one point, you get sucked into The Fade, and you come across a group of people protesting a woman known as Baroness. You are greeted by a Spirit of Justice, who explains what is going on, and after the events unfold you are sent back to the “real” world. Only problem is that Justice gets sent as well, but he inhabits the body of a dead man you were tasked of finding. So yes….you have a Zombie Warrior in the Awakening expansion, and as time goes on, you see his face decompose more and more. I approve BioWare, I approve.
Graphics, controls, and gameplay are the same, and that’s to be expected. The main differences are the locations you go to, the people you interact with, but most importantly the Darkspawn. Before they were mindless drones, but now they plot, have strategies, and can even speak. What were once idiotic creatures are now pains in the ass who have a thought process. Also, this time around you have two big bads to worry about: The Architect, in which there is a method to his madness, and The Mother. I only have two words when describing The Mother – sagging boobs. If you thought the Broodmother was disgusting from Origins, wait until you catch a glimpse of The Mother. Just looking at her for a split second made me want to rush out to the nearest store and buy several bras with underwire support. If those Darkspawn can talk, they need to do her a favor and encourage her to put a top on, even if it’s just a bundle of twigs or something.
Dragon Age: Origins Awakening has a darker feeling to it. There is much more corruption, deceit, betrayal, and manipulation in this than in the original, and I like it. I love the twists in the plot regarding The Architect, because you find out he really isn’t as bad as he seems, but I highly suggest that you pick up the two Dragon Age books that are out there. Not only will you get some fantastic back story regarding Alistair’s bloodline, but you find out more about the bad-ass known as Duncan, and you get to know even more about The Architect. My only complaint is that I wanted it to be longer. I never want to put this game down, but when the credits roll I don’t really have a choice! BioWare has created something really special here with Dragon Age, and I can’t wait to see where they continue to take this already incredible franchise.
I give it an 8 out of 10.