Let’s start with a BioWare Blog entry in which Lead Writer Ferret Baudoin talks about Sigrun, the dwarf rogue that can join your party in Awakening. Here’s an excerpt:
What is her personality like?
People picture the Legion of the Dead as fatalistic warriors who are grimly eager to impale themselves upon a darkspawn spear. Sigrun defies that. She’s perky, upbeat, with a macabre sense of humor. As bleak as her life is in the Legion, it’s actually a step up from her threadbare existence in Dust Town. So she has that going for her. She also has a fascination with the world above, which she has never seen.
About the only thing she has a proper legionnaire attitude about are the darkspawn. She was initially afraid of them, but as new comrades and friends die one-by-one, it stokes her hatred. Now it burns very bright indeed.
A few more reviews have popped up, first two for the Return to Ostagar DLC. The first of these is over at Eurogamer and they’re not terribly impressed, giving it a 4/10. Here’s an excerpt:
For a game so driven by character and story, it's a depressingly uneventful journey though. The path through Ostagar is completely linear, with only a few inessential trinkets and locked chests to find along the way. There are no puzzles, no curious secrets and, apart from the ill-fated soldier who sends you on the quest, there's no NPC interaction. You march through the map, slaughter everything in your path and open every sparkling box, crate or sack you can find.
Of course, they were one of the sites least enamored with the main game as well, but just from that quote above it seems that Return to Ostagar has pretty much nothing of what made the original game so good in the first place.
The second review for the DLC is over at IGN who give one of the most positive reviews for the DLC that I’ve seen (giving it an 8.5). I find myself wondering if they’re just giving it a better review because it’s “more Dragon Age”, or whether it is because they just really liked the combat (in both) and just really got into the DLC. Either way, here’s an excerpt:
It's particularly cool to see the changes that have taken place in the ruins. I mean, they were already ruins, but now these are some ruined ruins. Getting a look at the demolished dog kennels or Duncan's old fire really gives players a chance to mark just how far their own story has progressed from those first days with the Wardens. On a purely practical level, it also gives us all a second chance at that intriguing Mage Chest.
The third review is one for the game itself over at GameBanshee, which I haven’t taken the time to read yet (it’s four pages long). Even so, here’s the review’s conclusion:
If I had to come up with a single phrase to describe DA:O, it would be very professionally done, with numerous goofy exceptions. The game is smoothly executed. Everything fits together well. It looks good. The faces of the NPCs draw you in. The music stirs the heart. The voice actors are well chosen. The party dialog is vivid. There are strange anomalies, such as hand poisoning, and corpses loaded down with safety net products, and a walking, talking DLC ad in your camp. The latter are the price of the admission for the former, and if you want the game you just have to accept the bizarre flaws as the price to pay for everything else.
Yet at the same time, I get no sense from the game of a giant creative vision, or even a strong imagination. It is an exceptionally slick hack-n-slash, and a good example of what this new engine and system can do. The structure is there, with some tweaking, for an RPG that could do a lot more. DA:O’s dull, obvious plot, unbalanced, boring combat, rote quests, pay-for-combat AI, and numerous reality breakers simply get in the way too often for me to regard it as superlative. Yes, I moderately enjoy it, but I’m frankly more curious as to where BioWare will take the DA franchise next. Hopefully, it won’t be into the kind of cookie cutter mode that made those SSI gold and platinum games of the 1990s so interchangeable and ultimately forgettable. There’s a great opportunity here to improve upon a first offering, and I hope BioWare rises to the occasion.
Seems as if they’re not too enamored with the game, and I must say that I don’t really agree with their conclusion. But ah well, guess tastes differ or such.
Anyway, on to some comics. First with some disappointing news as it seems, as The Escapist reports, that the Dragon Age comic has been delayed to April. Here’s what they have to say:
The Dragon Age comic series originally scheduled to launch next month has been pushed back to April, while the second issue in the series won't hit shelves until June.
Announced in December, the Dragon Age comics won't retell the story that unfolded in Dragon Age: Origins, but will instead focus on the powerful Circle of Magi, which unwittingly unleashed the Darkspawn on the world centuries ago. "Now magic is carefully controlled, taught behind the sacred walls of the Circle of Magi, and monitored by the ever-vigilant Templars," publisher IDW said in the original announcement of the series. "It is in this arena that a new generation of Mages in training will arise, warriors of sorcery who will defy the rules of the Templars and change the course of the world forever."
Sounds ominous! Unfortunately, Dragon Age fans are going to have to wait a little longer than they thought to find out what's in store for the world of Thedas; IDW now says the debut issue won't be coming out until April, while the follow-up is scheduled for a June release. Also interesting is the fact that, according to Big Download, best-selling author Orson Scott Card is still "expected" to co-write the series along with Aaron Johnston.
And now, here's a little insight from someone who used to buy a lot of comics. When the first issue of a new series gets pushed back a month and the publisher admits that it'll take another two months to come up with the second issue, things are not going well. Add to that the fact that Card, best known for the Ender's Game series of books, is now "expected" to write the series and it's probably fair to say that the Dragon Age comics may be in for a very rocky ride.
But luckily there’s some other comic news to make up for it. First being that the third page of the Penny Arcade Awakening comic has been released. There’s quite a bit of speculation that the guy in the comic will be the last new party NPC (with the announced onces, the last of which is below, and the returning Oghren making six party members).
But perhaps even more interesting is an entirely new comic available for viewing online. Called Dragon Age: The Revelation it’s been created as a collaboration between Lead Writer David Gaider and fan artist Irma “Aimo” Ahmed. Aimo has been making a ton of Dragon Age fan art, all of which really good, and that drew David’s attention for this collaboration. You can see more of her artwork at her website.
The story of the comic details one of the cutscenes that ended up being cut from the full game in which Morrigan struggles with a dilemma just before the final battle. If you’ve played the game then you know what I mean when I say “it’s just before she meets with you”. It gives the character a lot more depth and, had it been in the game, I know it would’ve made the choice I made right after more difficult. Oh, and I like that they’re referring to the player’s Grey Warden character as “her”. Anyway, well worth the minute or two it takes to read the eight pages.
Sticking with the main game for a moment, there’s a bit more awards-related news. Over on RPGamer they have a “The Top RPGs of the Decade” article where they list what they feel are the five best RPGs in the last ten years. And of course Dragon Age: Origins is in their list. Here’s some of what they had to say about it:
But what makes Dragon Age so impressive? The answer is simple: choice. Lots of RPGs offer choices, but Dragon Age really took things a step further by applying the consequences of these decisions to all aspects of the game. Who will live and who will die? Other RPGs have offered this choice, but most tend to end there. In Origins, make a wrong choice and your party members might turn on you. The decisions forced upon you are not clear black and white, but lots of shades of gray, and this more than anything is what sets Dragon Age: Origins apart. Taking up the mantle of a user-created character, players actually play a role and that requires them to make the character their own and live with the choices.
The other games in their list are: Fallout 3, World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy X and Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3. Though I haven’t played their number one (Persona 3), I must say that I don’t entirely agree with their list or their order (I’d personally have Dragon Age take the top spot). For example, I don’t feel that WoW actually fits the title “RPG”. And for another I’m missing Neverwinter Nights from the list (not for its main campaign, but for the community around it). Ah well, different people have different tastes.
Not quote any awards yet, but The Escapist posted their list of nominees (in lots of categories) for their “The Escapist Awards 2009”. And it seems that the people over at The Escapist really like Dragon Age: Origins, since it’s nominated in numerous categories including: Game of the Year, Best RPG, Best PC Game, Best Box Art, Best Voice Acting, Most Intense Death Scene, Most Escapist and the War Hound for Most Companionable Canine. Of course it’s still the question whether it’ll win any of those. It should at least get Best RPG and Best PC Game I think, the others are more questionable (I know what I would choose in each category, but that doesn’t mean that The Escapist agrees ). As far as I know they haven’t said when they’ll announce the winners yet.
Back to Dragon Age: Origins Awakening then. A number of sites, including Voodoo Extreme, have let know that BioWare will have a live demonstration of the expansion this Friday. Here’s their news:
On Friday, March 5th, BioWare's Ferret Baudoin will be presenting a live demo of Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening over the Xfire network. The action is set to roll at 5:00 PM PST, and demo will offer insight into the level design and will show off some of the new features of the upcoming DA:O expansion. There will also be an interactive chat session where your questions about Awakening will be answered; and there will be prize giveaways during the event.
I suspect that once the demonstration is done the videos will be available somewhere online. We’ll see.
BioWare also has a bunch more updates for Awakening on their website, including a description of the Dragonbone Wastes area (with screenshots) and the Rogue “Shadow” Specialization along with a bunch of Rogue Skills and Abilities. Here’s the description for the area:
Far to the south of Thedas, nestled between high, forboding mountains, is a place where they say dragons go to die. There, in that harsh and wild land, a dragon at the end of her days would lie down and allow the bitter cold to take her. The Tevinter Imperium believed the tales, and imagined that the bones of these great and ancient beasts must be suffused with power--power they could take for themselves. And thus they sought out the place that their legends spoke of. When they found it, and saw the bones piled upon ancient bones, they named it Drake's Fall.
Over at IGN they have a Hands On Preview for the expansion, giving quite some detail as to the kind of problems you’ll face. As such it might be considered a spoiler, though as you can see in the following quote they don’t consider it spoiling more than the introduction (I’m not sure if I agree considering the detail they go into, but then I haven’t played the expansion yet):
It goes without saying, of course, that some of the information that follows spoils the first game. That's assuming of course, that you consider the player's potential to actually do something positive about the Blight as a spoiler. With that said, you won't find any details here that spoil the Awakening story beyond the basic introductory information. We're even holding back on a few specific details for the sake of those who don't want to know absolutely everything about the opening hours of the game.
With the Hands On also come a number of new gameplay videos. Though one might consider them slightly spoiler-ish (if you’re really sensitive to learning even the slightest thing) I don’t think that they’re that bad:
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And finally there’s that new party member I mentioned above. As reported by Curse (among other sites) her name is Mhairi and she’s a warrior. Here’s her description followed by the introductory video:
When Mhairi was a child, she was enraptured by tales of kings and nobles. All she wanted was to be like them, to fight for what she believed. Betrothed to a trader when she turned 16, she saw the life that lay ahead of her and enlisted in the army instead. Her fierce loyalty and devotion to Ferelden earned her the love and respect of her commanders and brothers-in-arms. King Cailan's betrayal and death hit Mhairi hard, and when she learned of the two Grey Wardens who quelled the Blight almost single-handedly, she vowed to serve the Wardens. When the call came for volunteers to help rebuild the order at Vigil's Keep, Mhairi jumped at the chance to join.
Sounds like a nice character to have in the party.
[link] to Sigrun Q&A at BioWare.
[link] to Return to Ostagar review at Eurogamer.
[link] to Return to Ostagar review at IGN.
[link] to Dragon Age: Origins review at GameBanshee.
[link] to comic delay news at The Escapist.
[link] to Penny Arcade Awakening comic at BioWare.
[link] to The Revelation comic at BioWare.
[link] to Top RPGs article at RPGamer.
[link] to The Escapist Awards 2009 nominees at The Escapist.
[link] to Live Demo news at Voodoo Extreme.
[link] to Dragonbone Wastes info at BioWare.
[link] to Rogue “Shadow” Specialization info at BioWare.
[link] to Rogue Skills and Abilities info at BioWare.
[link] to Hands On Preview at IGN.
[link] to gameplay videos at IGN.
[link] to Mhairi trailer at Curse.