Jeff Markiewicz On April 29, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Dragon Age Origins: Awakening is the expansion pack to the main game released last fall. Bioware have finally brought Baldur’s Gate to the modern day and now are attempting to revive the traditional expansion pack. Dragon Age was a critical success for Bioware but can it keep the horde satisfied with this new addition?

Dragon Age Origins: Awakening is the expansion pack to the main game released last fall. Bioware have finally brought Baldur’s Gate to the modern day and now are attempting to revive the traditional expansion pack. Before the recent generation redefined them as a cheap couple hour downloadable experience, expansion packs use to be much larger beasts costing over half the original price. But for this fee you were rewarded with a lengthy experience that typically included a complete new campaign and other things that easily beat an equivalent purchase in downloadable content. Dragon Age was a critical success for Bioware but can it keep the horde satisfied with this new addition?

The story picks up shortly after the conclusion of the main title in the lands of Amaranthine and you’ve been promoted to the rank of Warden-commander. Once you’ve arrived at your new headquarters in Vigil’s Keep, you find that it is under attack from by darkspawn. Even though the blight is gone, they are still here and are starting to show signs of intelligence. It’s up to you to run your lands while simultaneously uncover the meaning of this new predicament. The story is pretty good and the revelations seem like they will prove pivotal to any future titles. For the most part your prior decisions don’t hold any weight here which is a little disappointing but this is a new land with new choices to be made.

You can import your character from the main game or create a new one. There are no origins anymore as you’ve already done that in the main game but it would’ve been nice to see some more back-story on the new Warden from Orlais as people will comment on your chosen background in the main game. If you chose a particular ending in the main story, there is a little wiggle room provided for you to bring in your old character which is pretty cool. There are 6 new companions for you to recruit and many more characters to meet. They all have decent development but not nearly as much as in the main game. This is mostly because you can’t randomly strike up conversations with them anymore like you could in the main game. Unfortunately you’re unable to romance any of them but it would’ve felt superficial since the characters are not as developed and not in character since you’ve most likely romanced another character in the main game.

Most of what you’ve come to know and love from Dragon Age: Origins is back with some nice new additions. Part of your role as Warden-commander is to run your lands. Some of these decisions manifest themselves in your ability to upgrade Vigil’s Keep and equip your men with better weapons. Then there are the decisions of where to place your men and dealing with the criminals and qualms of nobles in your court. A lot of this works great, especially the court sections but there is no gauge as to how much men you have so whenever someone asks for the aide of your soldiers, you provide them. It doesn’t particularly help that there doesn’t feel like there are consequences for your choices for troop distribution either. The fade returns but it handled much better this time around and is actually enjoyable to play. Puzzles also make reappearance but they are all incredibly simple so no more difficult stuff that requires the reading of a codex like there was in the Mage’s Tower.

The level cap has been lifted and you will now have some new skills to acquire. Nearly every talent will have a new row of abilities to learn except for the specializations. Instead for them, you will now have a choice between two new ones for each class to choose from. If you missed a certain specialization in the main game, you can now easily pick it up in the form of a book at stores. A new skill that’s been added is the ability to craft runes. These are special items that you can infuse into weapons and armor for added effects. For the most part though, most people won’t deal with this unless you bump the difficulty up fairly high. There is no more backpack space to acquire unfortunately but the maximum was still plenty. For stuff you want to keep but can’t carry, you can now stow it in a chest at your base for safekeeping. If you don’t like how you developed your character, you can now respec for a fairly low price. This allows you to reallocate all your points across your attributes, skills, and talents.

Some of the downloadable items from Origins don’t transfer over which isn’t a huge deal but since the game throws you immediately into combat, you may find yourself scrambling to equip something else when you realize you don’t have a shield or something similar. If you’re playing the standalone disc, you’ll find that your settings do not transfer over despite it just being a launcher for the new content. Everything is virtually identical. The game tacks on 8 new achievements for a total of 250 points. The new items quickly become quite superior to those in the main game so losing your old favorites is not a huge deal. You can now add an emblem onto your shields for an added personal touch. You gain money much quicker than before so other than at the beginning, it is rarely a hurdle to equipping your party with some powerful items.

Glitches are still quite prevalent in this title unfortunately. During a scene my upgraded city switched back to not being upgraded (even though the NPCs indicated it was). Once I mysteriously was unable to talk to anyone until I left and came back. Another time I loaded up a save and actually spawned outside of the city and wasn’t able to correct myself until I reloaded the game. There are also some graphical ones as well. For the most part, this isn’t much different than what people encountered in the main game so it’s no surprise that they are also present here. None of them are showstoppers and the more severe ones were easily corrected by reloading the game but it’s something to be noted.

There are still poor graphical effects and random odd glitches still but nothing drastically worse than before. There is a cup used during the initiation of your recruits that has an odd pixilated glow on it. Sometimes the ceiling will flicker if it gets in your way. Arrows will get stuck in the air. A glitch that makes a certain character transparent at times and you can easily see his eyeballs and jaw which looks hilariously bad. There are some minor frame rate drops at times as well but never interferes with the gameplay. It’s not all bad though. You will visit some interesting locations, though most are a little familiar looking. The enemies are mostly the same but their more challenging versions have been visually tweaked which is nice. One of the new enemies, while neat, seems to be basically a reskinned version of another monster. Some of the areas are quite small which compounds the feeling that the expansion is not nearly as large as the main game. Random encounters largely take place on a single map and it also happens to be a place you can visit which just makes the world feel that much smaller. There is new armor and weapons which look really cool to find and the ability to skin your shield is a nice touch. A lot here will feel familiar but never comes close to feeling repetitive. The looks of the game are as competent as always but you won’t be singing it any praises, especially with the glitches.

The voice acting is just as good as the main game. Everyone is well casted and have quite a bit of dialogue. The nice party banter is back so occasionally on your travels your party members will talk to each other. If you don’t switch up the party though, some of it can get pretty repetitive. The amount of conversing is a bit less this time as you can’t randomly strike up conversations with your party members. What’s there is still quite impressive considering this is just an expansion pack. Most of the effects are just reused from the main title as you’d expect and there is no new music to relish in.

Dragon Age Origins: Awakening has brought back the traditional expansion pack. If you didn’t like the base game, you’re out of luck here because nothing has significantly changed. The story begins right after the first one, with you assuming the role of the new Warden-commander. Some of the revelations along the way may prove pivotal to the sequel. Some may be a little disappointed with the length compared with the full game but it is still much better than many full titles. It should net most gamers a bare minimum of 15 hours with it easily reaching quite a bit more. The amount of content you receive easily beats the equivalent spending you’d get from other downloadable expansion packs. Add indicated already, this is more of the same. The skill system has a couple more tiers and there are more specializations. By the end you’ll definitely feel like you’ve maxed out your character without it feeling like too much. Running your lands and upgrading your keep provides some nice variation from the base title. The new rune-crafting ability is neat but will only be used by the most diehard. On the negative side, the glitches are a bit worse than before and can hamper your experience but base title wasn’t exactly perfect in this area either. The graphics will feel a bit familiar but are used creatively to make the areas feel sufficiently different.


The same great gameplay you’ve come to love with just more tacked on and some things tweaked. Story may prove pivotal to understand any sequels. Characters a little under developed. Glitches can hamper the experience a bit.


The graphics feel a bit familiar but are used creatively to make the areas feel sufficiently different. Some areas are quite small which make Amaranthine feel tiny. A particular glitch can be quite hilarious.


Voice acting is as great as before and quite beefy for an expansion. Most other effects and music are just reused from the main title but nothing wrong with that as it is an expansion.


If you’re hungry for some more Dragon Age, this expansion definitely delivers in both story and gameplay. Not much has changed gameplay-wise but that is exactly what you should expect from an expansion. The game is a bit short compared to the main game though and a bit more buggy but nothing game-breaking.

Comments are closed.