But we’ll start with a couple of reviews for the “Return to Ostagar” DLC; neither of which are particularly positive. Like the one at MTV mentions “you’re better off staying at home”. Here’s an excerpt:
Why Do I Care?
From the onset of "Return to Ostagar" it attempts to create non-existent empathy for King Calain. Your brief conversation with the man in the core game revealed that he's a nimrod, a fairy-tale chaser more concerned with his heroic legacy than the Blight. So how can you possibly feel sorrow for him?
The review over at GamePro isn’t any better as you can see from the following bit:
Even seeing the aftermath of the Ostagar attack isn't terribly interesting. Crumbled guard towers and fences pop up here and there, but it's otherwise a snow-capped version of a setting you've already completed. Running the same trail as the original Ostagar mission -- crossing a busted-up bridge into the Tower of Ishal -- is also disappointing. Even the new areas, the spider-infested underground and the Ground Zero battlefield, prove lifeless because they don't show off anything new.
Considering all the delays it’s had (and how enjoyable I thought the main game was) it’s quite disappointing that the DLC isn’t better.
Moving on to Awakening then. It seems that BioWare and Penny Arcade are once again collaborating to bring us an online comic, this time for the expansion. You can see the first page by clicking on the image below:
BioWare also updated the Awakening world page with some new locations. For example, here is the description for the dwarven fortress of Kal'Hirol:
The dwarven fortress of Kal'Hirol was long known as a center of learning for the smith caste. Its workshops are where Paragon Hirol conceived his famous improvements to golem resilience and power, and where Hirol's favorite student developed a method for storing refined lyrium that is still used today. These breakthroughs brought Kal'Hirol great prosperity; its passageway are said to have glittered with gold and silver. But the fall of Kal'Hirol is shrouded in mystery. All that is known is that the fortress's elite one day showed up at Orzammar's great doors, exhausted and in despair over the loss of their home.
You can also find screenshots on the page (click the image right of the description and then use the arrows to scroll through them).
And BioWare also released some more character videos for the new companions (only one of the old companions, almost certainly Oghren, will return in Awakening as a party member). The first of these is the elven mage Velanna, as you can see on GameSpot:
Another video, as just released on G4TV last night, is the dwarven rogue (and member of the Legion of the Dead) Sigrun:
On to the impressions then. The first of these is over at IGN; here’s an excerpt:
How much content can you expect in Awakening? It seems like everything is getting an upgrade. You'll find new class specializations, new skills, an increased level cap, plenty of new items, and obviously new quests, enemies to kill, and areas to explore. It's also firmly rooted in the fiction of the game world, as Fernando Melo, online producer for Dragon Age, explained. "We spent a lot of years developing the world of Dragon Age, and Awakening has a very defined place of what it's trying to reveal both geographically but also in terms of storytelling and timeline it fits into. Awakening is something that is a massive way to add not just a chapter to the story, but a volume, like a new book to the world. But each of the downloadable content types, even down to the really small items, will usually be very rich with lore or they'll foreshadow other things that are to come. Eventually these things converge and paint a much bigger picture."
The second preview is over at GameSpot, which includes the following bit:
BioWare suggests that Awakening isn't about one new whiz-bang feature that totally changes the gameplay, but rather it's about offering more of what fans seem to care about most--a deep story with memorable characters and real consequences for the choices you make. The expansion is being developed by the same team of writers, designers, and artists who created the original game, but it will offer plenty of new stuff to play with, including six new characters to join your party, new elite character classes, tons of new high-level skills, an expanded level cap up to level 35, and more than 500 new items, including new, higher tiers of weapons and armor for your adventuring party.
The third preview can be found over at 1UP and includes the following text:
When it's time to actually play it, I find myself in control a pre-made Warrior Grey Warden with three new characters in his party: Anders is a mage with a penchant for trying to escape the Circle Tower; Velanna is an angry Dalish Keeper who can be difficult to deal with if you're human; and Sigrun is a female Dwarven rogue who also happens to be a member of the Legion of the Dead. All of them are meant to explore different facets of the Dragon Age lore; online producer Fernando Melo notes, "It's a really interesting way, an organic way, by interacting with these characters to learn about some of those facets, rather than just drilling you with codex entries and things like that."
Then there’s a preview over at Destructoid which has, among other things, the following to say:
Needless to say, it wasn't long into my playthrough that I found myself getting my ass handed to me over and over again. Thankfully, lead designer Ferret Baudoin showed me some tricks, and I got pretty far into the preview section. I ended up sticking with the mage, Anders, as his ability to heal my partners came a long way. The AI is pretty capable on its own, so as the Grey Warden and Velanna went hand-to-hand with the enemies, I hung in the background unleashing projectile attacks and healing spells.
And finally there’s the preview at GiantBomb with the following excerpt:
Since we're talking about a Bioware game, I don't feel too guilty in revealing that events may have occurred, and choices may have been made, that would make things difficult for your character to make a triumphant return to action in this expansion. Well, forget all that! If you have an indisposed character at the end of Dragon Age: Origins, you'll be able to bring him or her into Awakening via a bit of historical rewriting. Upon importing your character, you may find previous events did not occur the same way you remember, and certain choices have been made for you. This seems like an understandable concession, considering the circumstances, but retconning my previous choices definitely stings a bit.
For me personally this is definitely the biggest problem with Awakening. When I finished Dragon Age: Origins I got a wonder, powerful ending that’s probably better and more engaging than any ending I’ve had in any game before and with the expansion I was very much looking forward to how the world looked after. But BioWare isn’t including that one ending because, as Fernando Melo notes:
Fernando Melo wrote:Can you import the world 'state', but start new in Awakening as the Orlesian Cmdr? No. The world 'state' only exists and lives on as part of your character's choices - most of the reactivity to events and choices in Origins would simply not make sense if it wasn't 'you' that did it.
What I have a problem with here is that there doesn’t seem to be any reason for why they didn’t make it such that the reactivity does make sense if it isn’t ‘you’ (if you’re playing the same character you get one response and if you’re not you get another). In fact, since you can play a Warden other than the one who made the choices NPCs can react to they had to write separate responses anyway.
So yes, this has me very, very pissed off at BioWare at the moment (and I wrote a detailed post on my blog about it).
Anyway, IGN also has a couple of gameplay videos (part 1, part 2):
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And finally, stepping away from Awakening, it seems that Dragon Age: Origins won the AIAS award for “Role-Playing/Massively Multiplayer Game of the Year”, as reported by GameInformer. It seems that Uncharted 2 won in just about every other category (which kind of makes me wonder at the whole validity of their process, but then I haven’t played Uncharted 2). I’m glad to see that my vote helped BioWare win the award.
[link] to “Return to Ostagar” review at MTV.
[link] to “Return to Ostagar” review at GamePro.
[link] to Awakening Penny Arcade comic at BioWare.
[link] to Awakening world page at BioWare.
[link] to Velanna video at GameSpot.
[link] to Sigrun video at G4TV.
[link] to Awakening preview at IGN.
[link] to Awakening preview at GameSpot.
[link] to Awakening preview at 1UP.
[link] to Awakening preview at Destructoid.
[link] to Awakening preview at GiantBomb.
[link] to Awakening gameplay video 1 at IGN.
[link] to Awakening gameplay video 2 at IGN.
[link] to AIAS awards at GameInformer.