Dragon Age: Origins: Awakening is the expansion to the widely acclaimed game of 2009, Dragon Age: Origins. It places you back again as the Grey Warden, Warden Commander in this one, or if you kicked the bucket in the last game, a new warden Commander from Orlais.
How is the plot? Are there any changes to the gameplay? What are your companions like? Do the choices of Origins you made have an impact? Let’s find out.
The story takes places six months after the end of Origins where we found out the darkspawn seem to be massing north instead of fleeing back to the Deep Roads. In the north you (the Warden) are tasked to rebuild the Grey Wardens and find out what is happening to the darkspawn.
As the Warden who killed the Archdemon (or was the last Warden standing after the debacle or you’re a foreign Warden send to Ferelden to rebuild) it’s your task to construct Vigil’s Keep and train more Grey Wardens for your ranks.
No more travelling around with a group of party members all over the nation, instead you’ll be running your keep and helping your nobles and citizens with their problems. Food supplies, rivalry over land, protection from the darkspawn, that’s your job now.
Which does take away a bit of charm from Origins. Your bound to a place now and your responsibilities to Amaranthine, the province where Awakening takes places, does not allow you to go back to Denerim or the other places you had in the previous game.
You want to go see your friends in the tower? Though nug droppings son, you have to toil away to build a wall for your keep. You want to see your son you spawned with that noble hunter? Nope, cant have that, you have to clear a basement full of darkspawn.
Yes, the armed professional soldiers ask YOU, the WARDEN, who killed an ARCHDEMON to clear out a basement of darkspawn, while you have bigger fish to fry. Sadly you do not have the ‘slap a bitch’ option to say no, and if you don’t do these side quests the ending of the game might be quite bad for your order you tried to build.
Overall the plot is alright and it does raise some very good moral choices and questions, especially when you find out a faction of darkspawn are sentient and wish to be free of the rule of the archdemons. But are you willing to grant them mercy....or are you treat them all the same and kill every single last one of em? The darkspawn civil war really does come across as a interesting development for the franchise and actually gives character development for a race that was only created to be the raping/pillaging bad guys.
It adds a dilemma to see creatures you spend in-game two years fighting in the previous game commit horrible acts on mankind for only now ask for forgiveness. They wish to be free and throw off the chains of the archdemons and fight with the other faction of darkspawn that want to go back to those chains.
But there are more dilemma’s. Will you defend the town nearby and let the keep fend for itself when the darkspawn attack, or set the town to burn so you can focus entirely on the darkspawn threat? Will you help the guards nearby and help them restore order in Amaranthine, or aid the criminals and receive a lot of gold for your keep and your gear?
Like Origins, it’s all about choice and some choices you made from Origins do come over in this one. Wynn and Alistair/Loghain make a cameo, but sadly do not stay to help , if you left them alive or not. The choices you make her carry over to DAII, which we’ll go into some other time.
The only regret I have from this story is the length (only 15 hours or so of gameplay which does not give you a lot of time to connect with your new position or friends) and the ending. The ending, I can safely say without spoilers is disappointing. Directly after your end battle, you get an epilogue screen. No dance and celebration, no stroking your ego as you once again claim your BAMF status of all of Thedas, no swooping music. Just an epilogue. Lame.... Seriously, even Shakespeare plays have better endings then this, and his endings suck.
No offense to Shakespeare, his plots are awesome, but the endings man, to open ended for my case...anyways, moving on.
You see this game FINALLY starts treating you like it should, you’re the Warden after all, the one person who was bad ass enough to kill an Archdemon and gloat about it. You probably have it’s skull in your backpack and drink wine from it because you can!
What’s so funny is some nobles or assassins with a death wish still go after you. I wish you could go-
Warden: Son....look at me. I’m the Warden Commander, the slayer of the Archdemon and Hero of Ferelden. Now look at you...your an assassin who is barely my level and hit like a bitch. Me and my red bearded friend here can take you lot on single handedly if we wanted to. Also the monarch was put on the throne under my behalf, so even IF you could kill me, you’ll be risking their wrath, is money that much worth to you you’ll spend eyars in agony in the King’s:/queen’s dungeon? Do you REALLY think you got a chance? Yeh, start running...
People respect you if you imported your Warden from the previous game and will call you an Hero (as is your goddamn right.). However they also expect you to do the typical hero stuff like cleaning basements of darkspawn, saving their daughter from robbers, saving kittens from trees, doing the laundry...
You know, stuff you shouldn’t be doing since you have Darkspawn to deal with, but you need the money.
However the Big disappointment is your Orlesian Warden. If you create a new Warden if your original died, you start off exactly like your own Warden, but people frown upon you more. There is no special origin or anything, no small explanation from your boss at Orlais who could’ve told you what choices the fallen hero of ferelden made and what is expected of you. You got shoved in there, and hope for the best, your starting gear isn’t even that great either! Big disappointment really, but thankfully you have your party members to count on for some character development.
The companions in this game are all different from your previous set. Characters like Alistair, Morrigan, Leliana, Sten and Zevran will not re-appear to help you out in this one. Yes, not even the dog is in this one. Which is a big loss since you invested a lot of them into knowing their backstory and got to like them, or hate them.
Even your love interest does not appear in this game. If you romanced Zevran or Leliana, you only receive a letter in your Codex saying their sorry but their voice actors weren’t available-I mean they are busy in Antiva/Orlais on person matters and will return shortly after. Alistair himself only makes a cameo if you married him or stayed his mistress at the end of Origins, so no word from him if he remained a Grey Warden until the Epilogue at the end. So they can be called ‘Ser who does not appear in this film’.
You cant even romance your new party members (or get laid for that matter which is a shame for my Warden Aeducan with his little vices) which is pretty sad since it could’ve made a Female Human Noble and Nathaniel Howe relationship very interesting.
The only party member to appear is the one...the only...Oghren!
That’s right, your favourite beer drinking, swearing, womanizing (still trying) ax wielding dwarf is BACK and he’s going to be one of your first Grey Warden recruits! He’s just a love-able and still drunk as hell!
If you imported your Warden from Origins he’ll acknowledge you more and reminisce of the good old days back during the Fifth Blight. At least, that is what he should be doing. It doesn’t matter if you two were best friends or not, in this expansion you start from zero.
True he’s easy enough to befriend, give him a keg of ale and he’s your loyal buddy for sure, but when his personal quest arrives, you have to fill your friendship bar to full before you can resolve it. Which shouldn’t be needed since you, the Warden, and Oghren were brothers-in-blood for a long time. I even killed the Archdemon with him at my side! But that’s my opinion anyway.
Anyways, on to the new characters.
The 1st character you’ll have is Mhairi, a warrior woman of the King’s Army (even if Anora is Queen) who joins the Grey Wardens because.... well you really. From what few she can tell you, your actions in the last game inspired her to join. I don’t think the first meeting went well though...
Mhairi: Warden, you are drunk! Warden: That may be so, but you Mhairi...are a red shirt! And by tomorrow, I’ll still be the biggest bad ass in all of Thedas (Bigger then that bastard Hawke, champion of Kirkwall my ass) and you’ll be...well...whatever red shirts are will be. Mhairi: T.T
So yeh she doesn’t last long.
Next up is Anders, a escaped mage from the Circle who has escaped seven times. He’s sort of like Harry Houdini, except he’s way cooler and snarkier.
In fact he reminds me of Alistair since the two are very much alike. Except he’s a mage and has templar’s after him. But that’s alright, your there to back him up and he’ll be forever at your side......coughbullshitcoughdragonagetwocough. Sorry bout that, internet cough.
Next up is Nathaniel Howe, the son of the guy you wacked in the first game. The Tim Curry one. He tried to get revenge on the Grey Wardens for killing his daddy, but that didn’t go well.... You meet him in the dungeon and you can choose if you want to release him or not or make him a Grey Warden. Personally I recruited him and forced him to join because...Well Warden Aeducan is a womanizing power mad asshole who likes to screw folks like him over, but I managed to persuade him of his father’s wrong doings and he’s trying his best to bring glory back to the Howe family name.
He’s the archer guy of your party and can lay down the law with his bow, he can kick even kick more ass if you give him his family bow, used by granddaddy Howe who was, ironicly, also a Grey Warden.
He’s sort of like Sten as he grows on you as the game develops, and his crush on Velanna is kinda sweet.
Velanna is an Dalish elf mage (or Keeper) who is exiled from her clan because...well she hates humans. The nearby village apparently kidnapped her sister, and she went off on a killing spree. When the darkspawn become involved she stops her man killing ways, unless you tell her to kill some human fools who get in your way, and asks to become a Grey Warden to save her sister.
She’s...well, not a very nice character since it’s VERY hard to be her friend. She’s overly snarky, disproves of most things you do and...well she’s more of a bitch then Morrigan is. Seriously, she is. Doesn’t even matter if your Warden is Dalish, she still hates you. More then often I left her in the keep because I cant put up with her. Which is a shame since I’m a big fan of her voice actor Grey Delisle, better known as Azula from Avatar: the Last Airbender. Again, bitchy character so it does make sense why Bioware picked her.
Skill wise her set is quite egocentric since it only keeps herself safe and not your party members, further complimenting her bitchyness. She does seem to like Nathaniel, banters with Oghren and she loves her sister, so there are some redeeming qualities.
The next party member is Sigrun, a dwarven rogue of the Legion of the Dead. Imagine the French foreign legion, except with dwarves in it, that’s the army she is from. When you meet her, her group is wiped out. You both need to clear out a thaig infested by Darkspawn, from both factions. After that she is willing to join the Wardens since she doesn’t have anywhere else to go.
Unlike elf bitch, she is a sweet and kind character, but rough when needed. As a rogue she’s skilful in melee combat and quite deadly. If you need a melee dps, she’s the best person to go with. Also every time Oghren flirts with her, it’s just amusing to see her retorts.
And the last character is Justice, whose name alone spells AWESOME. He is a Fade spirit who gets stuck in the corpse of a Grey Warden and decides to follow you around because...Well he needs to bring justice to whom killed his host body, aka Darkspawn. He is a warrior whose special skills make him an excellent tank. He is very easy to get along with, and eve since he is a zombie I never had to urge to shoot him in the head. Very few zombies do that to me.
So if you need a good tank, go for GREAT JUSTICE!
Overall the characters are still very interesting, but like I said the length of the game does not allow you to be properly connected with them and it’s not possible to spontaneously talk to them as you could in Origins. They’re these set milestones in the game (like a event or a piece of scenery) which triggers these conversations, but nothing else. It’s annoying since the reason why Origins did so well character wise, it was because you could learn your characters backstory from these long chats.
But that is more of a designer thing then anything else.
It still plays like Origins, and it doesn’t add anything new to the game except a few new talents and the chance to grab the classes you missed in Origins via manauals if you weren’t an evil jerk. (Blood mage and Reaver) Which is disappointing since games like Warcraft III or even Halo ODST had something new to offer like new gameplay mechanics. (like in WC III’s case mercenary heroes and vehicles or night vision, a new health system and a map in ODST) Combat is still slow, your still walking around like Donkey Kong and some new spells look and sound the same like you saw in Origins, a big waste.
To be fair I think they could’ve done some RTS influence, since you do in fact own a keep and troops. Maybe sending troops to a location, like a chess board and try to overcome the darkspawn areas. That kind of thing. True there was only a year in development but still, I would’ve waited another few months if they would add something new.
Bossfights are the same, quests as well. Overall there is little to no improvement and in fact Awakening seems to be taking a few steps back rather then step forward and take a risk. Also the main bossfight at the end? Yeh, push over....but then again you ARE the Warden, the biggest BAMF in Ferelden.
Awakening is a good game, it’s just like Origins except shorter and a bit less well polished. I suggest you buy it if you feel like you want to play with your Warden a bit longer and it’s going very cheap. Not as good as the original, but still a fine game.
Next up, we’ll do the DLC’s of Dragon Age: Origins and the flash game on Facebook called ‘Dragon Age: Legends’.