Dragon Age: Origins is an RPG that gave fans a strong does of action as well as solid gameplay and a fairly decent storyline. Not long after the release of the game, developer BioWare released a small expansion pack available to gamers via download. Return to Ostagar was surprisingly short and didn't do much to satisfy fans of the game. Hearing the complaints, BioWare has officially launched it's second expansion for the game, Awakening.
Awakening is BioWare's first major expansion for Dragon Age: Origins and it aims to bring far more story, far more action and far more satisfaction to the game. Compared to the original game, Awakening contains most of the same pros and cons. Visually the world is still pretty brown and plain and compared to some of BioWare's other games (namely Mass Effect 2) it doesn't really tickle the ocular fancy of most gamers. However, it doesn't take Awakening long to draw you, once again, into the dark and riveting world of the game.
With this expansion you can hop right into the game by importing one of your characters played during the original game, even if that character didn't survive the endgame. On the other hand, you can create an entirely new hero and start the game off fresh. If you choose to do this, however, your character will begin as a level 18 Grey Warden. The game begins as you approach Vigil's Keep, a Grey Warden fortress on the outskirts of Amaranthine that serves as protection for the city, where you are to become the new commander. When you arrive you find out that Darkspawn have been launching intense attacks on the Keep and that the Darkspawn seem to be getting smarter with some even able to speak.
A lot of new features have been added to Awakening. First off, your character's level cap has been increased to 35 and there are 5 new character specializations which come with a ton of new abilities and talents. This just allows you to develop a more highly specialized character than you could in the previous game. Doing this also gives you a more tailored combat experience. In Awakening, combat is the way of the world. Your main story is centered around your investigation of the new, smarter strain of Darkspawn. The narrative doesn't require the need to step up the whole Dragon Age world so the story does not feel as cliche as the original.
Your main character will gain a host of new squad members which gives you a greater look into some of the dark corners of the Mage's Circle as well as the history of the Dwarves. One nice thing to see is a comedic relief delivered through an Elvish Mage and a wounded yet very boastful Dwarf. The management of inter-party personalities is still important though in Awakening you will also have to spend a decent amount of time planning on how to best oversee the land around Amaranthine. Deciding where to place troops and whether or not you have enough coin to upgrade your soldiers and fortifications adds a stronger sense of responsibility to your game which works with your new character who has a stronger, higher level character with more responsibilities.
Awakening didn't do a major overhaul of the original game's underlying features, like inventory management and party management simply because there was no need to. PC players will have an easier time with things mainly because almost all of the games systems are designed for the PC platform. The console versions do the best they can at capturing all the traditional mouse and keyboard controls PC gamers are used to but managing your inventory on the console can still be difficult at times. More tactics can be applied to various party members than seen before though managing the full range of your combat options can be tough. The auto-save feature is still there but you will want to make frequent mandatory saves due to the fact that the auto-save feature doesn't kick in as much as some gamers would like. If you rely too much on the auto-save, a surprise attack and defeat could set you back a whole hour of gameplay.
As with the original game, Dragon Age; Origins, Awakening's small technical faults are nothing compared to the intense and highly praised entertainment value that the game delivers. If you find the core role-play less intense or gripping than Dragon Age: Origins then the combat and character customization additions will definitely pick up the slack. Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening is a solid expansion and definitely one that fans of the original game, as well as RPG fans in general, should definitely pick up. You can pick it up now for the price tag of $40.
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