Awakened – Thoughts on the DA:O ExpansionMarch 20, 2010
Don’t worry, non-spoiler post here. I just finished Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening on the Xbox 360, and even as an expansion it still managed to eat up 35+ hours of my life. Was it worth it? I’ll say, if you enjoy the IP as much as I do! Sure, there were a few aspects of the game that just weren’t as fleshed out as I’d hoped, but over all it was still one of those games I couldn’t put down no matter how hard I tried. Some thoughts:
Characters – Awakening features mostly a brand new cast of characters and companions, but it doesn’t mean they are any less developed. Every companion has a unique personality, and once again I found myself trying to gain favor with each them by pandering to their every whim, as well as bribing them with shiny gifts. I was glad to see that the random banter between companions made it to this expansion, and you’re guaranteed some moments of humor by bringing different combinations of them out with you on your adventures.
One thing I must lament though: no romances! While I’m aware that the game’s faq has already stated as much weeks before its release, still…I think most of us have gotten so used to associating Bioware RPGs with romance arcs that it’s really not that unreasonable to expect a little something something. I mean, come on, not even a chaste little kiss with the roguish Nathaniel Howe? Okay, so what if my character is already happily married to King Alistair? As if a lusty romp through an extramarital adventure is anything new when you’re talking medieval monarchy.
Story – Awakening is plot-driven, so story junkies rejoice. I had a real sense of being immersed in the game, as well as feeling like my choices will matter. There will be more than a few decisions that you can’t take lightly. In fact, there were times I was ready to tear my hair out trying to decide which path to choose. Overall, I thought the premise of the story was decent as far as expansions go, and without spoiling anything, all I’ll say is that the ending was simply epic.
Combat – I was pleased to find plenty of new areas to lay waste to in Awakening, and more darkspawn to kill. So many new abilities and talents were made available to my character and her companions, I don’t even think I had the opportunity to experiment with all of them. One thing I did notice was that combat seemed a little easier in this expansion. I only died once during my entire playthrough (and that was at the end), which for someone like me is just…astounding. Maybe it was because I was able to transfer over my superior gear and items along with my character import, which may have helped my performance in the early stages of the game.
Graphics – Keep in mind I’m speaking as someone who played both the original game and its expansion on the Xbox 360, but Awakening definitely looks a lot prettier. The environmental textures look a lot smoother, as do the character faces. I also noticed added variation and improvements in the facial expressions on my character, her companions and other NPCs in the game. Believe me, it was a relief to finally play and not have my character look constipated all the time.
For the most part I truly did enjoy my time with this expansion, and appreciated the opportunity to continue my Dragon Age story.