Game Over Online ~ Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening

GameOver Game Reviews - Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening (c) Electronic Arts, Reviewed by - Thomas Wilde

Game & Publisher Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening (c) Electronic Arts
System Requirements Xbox 360
Overall Rating 80%
Date Published Thursday, April 22nd, 2010 at 05:17 PM

Divider Left By: Thomas Wilde Divider Right

There are two big problems with Dragon Age: Awakening: the difficulty and the price.

If you like Bioware's RPGs and/or Dragon Age: Origins, you know what you're in for here. The dialogue is never less than decent and is usually genuinely entertaining. The plot... well, Dragon Age in general has a weird sort of deliberately generic feel to it, and Awakening continues that trend. This is a world populated by ecoterrorist elves, drunken dwarves, a noble order of knights that's fallen on hard times, and monsters that are clearly identifiable as such just by looking at them. Dragon Age has virtues to spare, but subverting cliches isn't on that list.

Awakening is an expansion pack, so it requires the original game. There's no reason to waste anyone's time with a recap - evil monsters, good knights, web of intrigue, snarky compatriots, dialogue trees - since there's no reason to pick this up if you don't already own Dragon Age.

As the new Commander of the Grey Wardens in Awakening, you're sent to Vigil's Keep to reinforce the area against an influx of darkspawn. Said influx is currently burning the place down, so your first mission is to do something about that. Once you've cleared them out and stabilized the area, you get to deal with locals who're wary of you and your order, bandits, widespread civil unrest, and what appears to be a bizarre schism among the darkspawn themselves.

You can start Awakening fresh, with a custom-made 18th-level character, but you won't get any of the various stat bumps or tome bonuses from the main game, so you won't be quite as effective as an imported character.

Awakening lets you reach level 30 and unlock a couple of new classes while you're sorting out the issues at hand; you can also recruit up to five new characters and pursue a number of side quests, many of which have to do with the reconstruction of Vigil's Keep. The more time you spend reinforcing it and arming its guards, the better you'll fare in the endgame.

The game itself contains one city, with a mess of sidequests that are either in it or involve it, and three dungeons. Once you clear those three dungeons, recruiting the three members of your party that are waiting for you in each one, you can start the endgame. From start to finish, an absolutely complete clear of all the content in Awakening is probably about sixteen to twenty hours' worth of gameplay.

The problem is that BioWare, as its wont, has a habit of allowing you to utterly break the game. All the possible character builds are useful in Awakening, with a new battery of high-powered AoE attacks. One of the first characters you can recruit can get an ancestral bow in the first dungeon you enter thereafter, which turns him into a portable antipersonnel turret. The first character you recruit is a powerful healer. Granted, Sigrun and Justice wind up dead on the floor a lot, but it is remarkably easy to build a group that effortlessly bulldozes through everything you encounter. You have to actually work to challenge yourself.

Of course, the point's the journey, really, and Awakening is another chunk of BioWare's story, characters, and above all else, dialogue. I paid 3200 Microsoft Points for it and don't feel terribly ripped off, but ideally, expansion packs should either cost less than this or last longer. It's fun, but I'm not sure it's forty bucks worth of fun.


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