Though I listed a lot of reviews in the previous Dragon Age post, there’s a few more stragglers. The first of these is the one over on GameBanshee. Here’s their conclusion:
Overall, I was underwhelmed by Awakening. The expansion pack is competently made, and it might provide you with 15-20 hours of entertainment, but as I played it I kept feeling like I was getting Origins leftovers. Now, I enjoy leftovers from time to time, but I'm not really a fan of paying $40 for them, especially when they could have used a few more minutes in the microwave. So buyer beware. If more of the same sounds good to you, then you’ll probably like Awakening. But if you were hoping for something new and unique, then not so much.
A second review is over at a site I’ve never heard of before; 2404.org. Here’s their concluding paragraph:
Still, when distilled down to its core, I did enjoy Awakening a little bit more than I did Origins. I found the focus in the story to be very strong, and I always felt like what I was doing was important or building towards some goal. Perhaps Origins would have benefitted from a bit more focus and less needless map screen marching, which still makes an appearance here but is far less annoying. I would love to describe and discuss the ending and my observations about the importance of the decisions you make within the game, but that would add far too many spoilers to a simple review (expect an upcoming blog discussion). Overall Awakening is an expensive but fun extension to a quality game and easily recommended to fans of the series.
And finally there’s a Micro-Review over on Kotaku. They list two “Loved” points and one “Hated”, noting the following after the latter:
I suppose my only complaint with Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening, then, is that the development team put effort into the expansion. It seems silly, but the feeling remains. While I enjoyed my time with my new companions, taking on a revived and evolved threat and making decisions with consequences just as world-shaking, if not more so, than in the original game. I just felt that right when I was reaching my stride, the game stopped, as if afraid I might enjoy myself too much.
Having played a fair bit of Awakening myself, though not having quite finished it yet, my feelings on it are as follows.
I’m finding that I’m not really enjoying it quite as much as the original game, as evident by the fact that I haven’t played it in nearly two weeks. Though I think that this is mostly due to some quest bugs in the city (there are two quests which are supposed to be mutually exclusive, but due to a bug I can’t finish either. And the quests themselves do a lousy job of letting you know that they’re going to be exclusive so that the quest I wouldn’t have picked if I knew is now listed as the action I took). I’m also finding the companions not nearly as engaging, in part because you can’t really talk to them (they just talk to you at set points). And the environment doesn’t really feel new either; every place feels like places I’ve already visited in Origins (including another section of Deep Roads, of which Origins already had way too much).
But I am enjoying the fact that it’s more Dragon Age (where most of the DLC released so far apparently doesn’t quite meet that level) and I’m enjoying playing the role of mistress of the keep. It’s nice being asked to give judgment, attend official function (and trying to make them work in your favor), solve disputes (not that I’ve had much success with that), helping to build up the keep again, etc. Though I do feel that it could’ve been a lot deeper, and though I expect some references to my decisions near/at the end so far it doesn’t feel like my decisions matter at all.
To story I find less engaging as well. It feels like the story is trying to give a complex situation with several parties, while not having the length to properly deal with all of them or in enough depth. Thus it feels a bit as if the focus is all over the place; go to one area and the focus of the main story seems to be on one thing and go to another and the focus seems to be somewhere else. The area’s sub-stories also aren’t always quite as engaging, though a few are decent enough. They mostly revolve around the stories of specific characters, which is nice. Dragon Age’s strength has always been more in its individual narratives instead of its ‘epic stories’, which makes it a shame that they seem to keep insisting on these epic stories; the more personal things get the better they tend to be.
Overall it’s nice because it’s more Dragon Age, but doesn’t fulfill me quite like the original game (probably in part because it’s so much shorter and you can feel that when playing). And with the high price tag, though I don’t personally regret paying for it, I can imagine that many might feel better off passing on it.
If you loved Origins as I did then you might like Awakening, but otherwise you might want to carefully consider if it’s worth it to you.
There are a number of other, relatively little, things to report as well so I’ll group all of those here.
To begin with GameBashee has filled their database with information. Equipment, codex entries, companions, skills, achievements and more do they have available. And since they made the linked post the full walkthrough they mention has been completed as well. Of course, all of it is full of spoilers.
During April Fools BioWare released a bunch of “feastday gifts and pranks” to players of Dragon Age: Origins. These are actual ingame items that allow you to mess with your companions, though you’ll have to pay for the DLC. Though I haven’t tried them and thus have no idea what they do, you might be interested if you’ve still to play Origins. You can read a description of the DLC over on VG247.
GreyWardens, which I think can be called the premier Dragon Age fan blog site, has a two-page interview up with Lead Writer David Gaider (part 1, part 2). Here’s an excerpt:
We’ll start with the basic question of who are you and what role do you play whereas Dragon Age is concerned? Additionally what is it like to work for BioWare: any amusing anecdotes you’d be willing to share?
My name is David Gaider and I’m the Lead Writer for Dragon Age. This means that I’m involved in decisions regarding the game’s overall narrative – how the story is going to be presented to the player and how characters are going to be interacted with.
I also had a lot to do with the building of the Dragon Age world, and over time I’ve kind of evolved into the Dragon Age “lore keeper”. I work directly under the Lead Designer, who is the person responsible for all the larger design decisions whether they relate to story or gameplay.
As for what it’s like to work for BioWare, it’s interesting. In some ways it’s like any other job – there are days you want to do a faceplant on your desk or just go home, pull the covers over your head and never come out again. There are days you hate everyone you work with, and are tempted to light the place on fire because that’s really the only way the unclean spirits will ever be driven out. Then there are days when you turn to the others sharing your office and have an amusing chat about the more disturbing aspects of Sailor Moon, and they’re right there with you – not a single beat where they stare at you in bewilderment like you just stepped off the last flight from Mars – and you realize that nobody else gets to do this sort of thing at work. There are also days when you get to write the most amazing quest and somehow it all comes together and nothing is cut, and you discover that everyone you work with is trying just as hard as you are to make it perfect – not because it’s their job, but because they love games as much as you do. Those are the days when you realize you have the best job in the world.
Kotaku has a closer look at the Dragon Age action figures. These figures, which go on sale on September 29, include Duncan, a Genlock, Loghain and Morrigan. Alas, no Leliana figurine. No Alistair either.
And while we’re talking about useless junk, it seems that BioWare has made some Dragon Age-themed letter openers available. Go figure.
And finally, yesterday it was announced that Dragon Age: Origins won Game of the Year (as well as Best Writing) at the Canadian Videogame Awards. Congratulations BioWare. I’m sure you make your fellow Canadians proud.
And now for the newly announced DLC.
Early this week rumors started to float of a new DLC for Dragon Age titled “Darkspawn Chronicles”. Beyond the price (which comes down to about $5) nothing was known but, as Kotaku notes: “I'm guessing that the Darkspawn will be involved, and there might be some chronicles, if we're lucky.”
But then the next day BioWare officially announced it:
For the first time ever, fight as the darkspawn in BioWare’s Dragon Age: Origins. In the new downloadable content pack, Dragon Age: Origins Darkspawn Chronicles, players have the chance to experience life on the dark side, playing as the corrupted army of the Blight, are enslaved to the will of the Archdemon. In Europe, Darkspawn Chronicles will be available for the Xbox 360 videogame system for 400 Microsoft points and PC for 400 BioWare points on May 18th and on PlayStation Network for [html]£[/html]3.99/[html]€[/html]4.99 with its launch date to be announced later.
The Darkspawn Chronicles offers players a look at an alternate history in the Dragon Age universe. Darkspawn Chronicles begins as your character dies during the Joining ceremony, and the Grey Wardens now march under Alistair's command. As a hurlock vanguard, you alone hold the power to make thralls of their fellow darkspawn and drive them into the heat of battle as Denerim burns! This adventure gives you command of genlocks, hurlocks, shrieks, and even the mighty ogres.
Key Features Include:
- Imagine a world without heroes, where the greatest among you never became a Grey Warden.
- Play through the Fall of Denerim from the perspective of the darkspawn.
- Complete the module and unlock an epic darkspawn item for use in Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening.
- Use the “Enthrall” ability – recruit any darkspawn you encounter into your party.
Yes, that’s right. You play as a darkspawn in this DLC, commanding other darkspawn.
Though the DLC is likely very light on story, it reuses models (namely the darkspawn) and locations (namely Denerim during the final battle) already used in Origins, and at that price it’s not likely to be very lengthy, it could still be a fun diversion.
Here’s the announcement on The Escapist and IGN.
In addition GameSpot has an interview with Rob Bartel about the expansion. Here’s an excerpt:
[GameSpot]: Perhaps the greatest strength Origins had going for it was a deeply involving story and well-developed characters. How do you do storytelling when your central cast of characters includes the likes of genlocks and ogres?
[Rob Bartel]: We're definitely positioning Darkspawn Chronicles as a powerful visceral experience rather than as a moving coming-of-age story about an ogre and his pet blight wolf. The lives of the darkspawn are brutish, cruel, and short, but that's part of what makes them compelling. The archdemon has put you in charge of capturing the city of Denerim and eliminating the threat posed by the Grey Wardens. As a fan of the Dragon Age story, you can't help but feel powerful as your ogre tears through the defenders' barricades. When your emissary sets fire to the great tree in the elven alienage, you can't help but understand the emotional impact that that would have had on that community. When you come to the archdemon's aid in the final hour and drive your blade through the heart of the Warden King, you can't help but realize that you have turned history on its head. So, while there isn't a lot of dialogue and talking heads, the Darkspawn Chronicles is a story of loss and of absence--what would the world have become if your hero had died in the joining?
And they have a trailer video as well:
You can find the official information on the DLC at BioWare’s Dragon Age website.
And that’s it. I’ll be sure to post reviews on the DLC once those have surfaced.
[link] to Awakening review at GameBanshee.
[link] to Awakening review at 2404.
[link] to Awakening micro-review at Kotaku.
[link] to Content Database at GameBanshee.
[link] to April Fools DLC at VG247.
[link] to interview with David Gaider part 1 at GreyWardens.
[link] to interview with David Gaider part 2 at GreyWardens.
[link] to Dragon Age Action Figures at Kotaku.
[link] to Dragon Age letter openers at BioWare Store.
[link] to Canadian Videogame Awards at Gamasutra.
[link] to Darkspawn Chronicles rumor at Kotaku.
[link] to Darkspawn Chronicles announcement at Voodoo Extreme.
[link] to Darkspawn Chronicles announcement at The Escapist.
[link] to Darkspawn Chronicles announcement at IGN.
[link] to Darkspawn Chronicles interview with Rob Bartel at GameSpot.
[link] to Darkspawn Chronicles trailer at GameSpot.
[link] to Darkspawn Chronicles at BioWare.