Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening review

Here are my thoughts of the recently released expansion for the 2009 RPG of the Year. I won't be doing into as much depth this time as lot of what I said in my original review of the main game also applies here. This review may also contain spoilers of the main game.

Format: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Bioware
Expect to pay: £15 - £25 (retail version), £19.99 (Steam version)
£31.99 (PSN version), 3200 points (Xbox Live version),

First things first - don't expect an audio-visual overhaul with this release, the graphics are pretty much identical to the original Dragon Age. So you get the same muddy, somewhat last gen looking textures, decent musical score and quality voice acting. There are fewer big name actors filling out the cast this time, but Robin Sachs is there in one of the more important NPC roles. Considering that Awakening takes place in an entirely different part of Ferelden, it is somewhat disappointing that the environments look so similar to what has come before. The foresty bits here look just like those set in the Brecilian forest last time for example. Some all new settings would definitely have been appreciated.

Luckily though things pick up a bit when you examine the plot and characters. There are 6 characters that you can recruit into your party for the duration of this expansion, 5 of which are completely new and one who is a returning character from the main campaign. Of the new bunch, I really liked Anders, the mage who has run away from the Circle of Magi no less than seven times, and Nathaniel Howe - son of the scheming wanker Arl Rendon Howe who was a prominent part of the Origins story. Throwing you together with a supposed enemy and then helping him restore his family name was an entertaining way to pass the time. I didn't feel that I got to know the returning character (Oghren) in the main campaign because I ended up recruiting him last, so it was nice to spend more time fleshing out this character here and eventually he became a valuable part of my party. There are also plenty of humourous pieces of dialogue between the many characters as you roam around the world, and I would frequently stop what I was doing just to hear what they had to say.

Other new stuff includes two new specialisations for each character class and new abilities to go with them, and a raised level cap to 35. There are also more achievements/trophies to earn as you would expect. With the new specialisations the rogue and warrior classes are now more of an even match with the mage, who was way more powerful (and cool) previously.

Whether or not this package offers good value really depends on how you decide to buy it. The disc based version and the Steam version are a decent price and you probably won't feel short changed at the end of the 15-20 hours that it will take you to complete the story (assuming you do all the side quests as well). The PSN and Xbox Live versions though are grossly overpriced in my opinion and really not worth it. The story also comes to a rather abrupt end, and it's a shame that you only get to play around with the new characters for a little while - hopefully Bioware will bring them back for further DLC or possibly a fully fledged Dragon Age 2.

So then, Awakenings doesn't do anything to radically change the Dragon Age experience, but if should you fancy a trip back to the realm of Ferelden, you will be suitably entertained while it lasts - just make sure you don't get stung by a horrendously expensive downloadable version.

Overall: 7 out of 10

Here's Boris - leader of the Amaranthine neighbourhood watch scheme.

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