Monday, 22 March 2010

Dragon Age: Origins Awakening (Expansion Pack)

Well I went out on Friday and I bought myself Dragon Age’s new expansion pack, Awakening. It ended up being more expensive than I thought it would be, but I couldn’t resist getting it there and then on the spot despite knowing I could save money getting it elsewhere. I have to say, however, that it was well worth the price I paid.

Awakening is like a separate game in its own right. After installing it, in the menu on starting a new game you will be asked which one you want to play. Selecting Awakening allows you to either start a new character from scratch (they’ll come in at level 18), or to import one who’ll have all of the skills and spells they earned from before. You can select any save file you like from that character, importing them at any point in their development. Despite a few nagging logic issues with the story, I decided to start the game on my Mage, as my rogue hasn’t yet gotten to the end of the game – I don’t fancy skipping her forward in time.

The start of the expansion has you walking into Vigil Keep where you will be attacked by an onslaught of Darkspawn. These are different however, as they are more intelligent; plotting, planning and even talking. After clearing out the keep it is then your responsibility as Commander of the Grey Wardens to deal with the threat and to recruit new members. You are given the ability to put any of your new party members through the joining, although I'm not sure if there's a risk here, such as the possibility of them dying. I think it’s quite cool that the game places you in this position, as the first one makes you feel more like the pupil under Duncan’s wing, and then in this one you’re the one who’s in charge actually foreseeing the joinings – Ah, brings back the memories. People seem to treat you with respect (well mostly) and you’re given some responsibility over where the armies go to defend and who deserves punishment for various reasons. The plot is really interesting and keeps you wanting to play more.

The game-play is also fun. Everything seems to work at a faster rate, gaining experience and levelling up faster (I guess this is to balance it with the games length.) This allows you to get new skills and spells to try out quickly, which I guess is a good thing if you feel like trying a build out quickly or feel like a small dose of Dragon Age but don’t want to go in for the long haul. There are also new abilities and some of them are pretty good. Each class has new abilities/spells, and two new specialities. There are also three new skills; Runecrafting, Vitality and Clarity. The latter two are pretty simple in that they simply improve HP and MP, but Runecrafting, well does exactly what it sounds like, lets you craft your own runes. I haven’t yet used this feature, but it looks pretty interesting. There are a fair few new runes to choose from, and you can now enchant armour – something I had actually questioned the lack of while playing the main game. I’ve now gone for an arcane Warrior/Blood/Battle mage – quite a mouthful I know – and she uses Arcane Shield with Fade Shield, Rock Armour, Death Syphon, Fade Shroud and Draining Aura, so she’s pretty glowy to say the least. I’ve only got to the second skill on Battle Mage so far (Hand of Winter), which I’m liking very much. The only problem I’m having so far is that there are way too many spells to be able to fit them comfortably on my bar anymore and I most certainly don’t have enough A.I. slots to get her to use everything I want successfully.

Another special ability you also have in your arsenal goes by the name of Ser Pounce-a-lot, a random ginger kitty I found roaming around outside Vigil Keep. If you give the cat to Anders he names it and it gets added to your inventory with the new title. You can place this into your skill bar and use it when team members die. Somehow – don’t ask me how – this cat possesses the magical abilities of being able to revive dead party members. When using it you’ll also get some amusing quotes such as:

‘You know, mages created mabari hounds. Maybe I could make you just as smart as those stupid dogs.’ – Anders
‘Meow.’ – Ser Pounce-a-lot

Overall, I’d say this is a must buy for any fan of the original game. It still contains the same fun game-play, great story and witty dialogue. The new characters are interesting and the abilities awesome to use. The only real downside I can think of is that the original game doesn’t seem to have been updated with the new skills and specialities, but this is liveable I guess. It also seems to have a lot of content and things to do. I’m not really sure just how long it is yet, but looking around I’m finding a lot of additional quests to do on the side of the main storyline so I’d make a guess at saying it’s long enough for the price you're paying.

“All I want is a pretty girl, a decent meal, and the right to shoot lightning at fools.” - Anders

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