Sometimes, when writing reviews, we have a tendency to write more than is necessary. Especially when writing about games we enjoy, like Dragon Age: Origins: Awakening, the expansion pack to Dragon Age: Origins. In lieu of going down that road, however, I'm just going to link to our review of the first game and move right along to why you should care (or not) about the expansion.
Probably the most meaningful thing I have to say about Dragon Age: Origins: Awakening in this, the Dragon Age: Origins: Awakening: The Review is the following: Dragon Age: Origins: Awakening is, for all intents and purposes, nothing more or less than simply more Dragon Age. And now I've used as many colons in two paragraphs as I typically do in two pages.
Awakening picks up after the conclusion of Dragon Age: Origins. You can import your Dragon Age character if you like, and immediately begin amassing even more loot and levels, or you can create a new character. Whichever you choose, you will begin the game on the road to Amaranthine to reclaim Vigil's Keep from the Howe family in the name of the Grey Wardens. Your mission: to assume command of the Wardens and establish Vigil's Keep as the new home for the Wardens in Ferelden. Oh, and also to look into some strange happenings involving Darkspawn.
Awakening is a solid expansion in every way. The one down note is that, after having saved the world by defeating the Archdemon in Dragon Age, all that's left in Awakening is to perform some routine maintenance. The expansion does a good job of not saddling you with too many "kill rats for Gramma" type quests, but it's hard not to feel a little bit let down by the adventure after having experienced the vast, epic storyline of Dragon Age. That said, the writing, acting and characters are all awesome, and the missions are suitably varied to grab your attention and keep it.
If you're into numbers, here they are: six new characters, six new class specializations, 24 new spells, 32 new talents and one badass new evil guy. Plus a new city, a handful of new locations and more missions that I could easily count (note: I suck at math, so this is not necessarily a stupid high number).
The new characters are a delight and, at the risk of spoiling a plot point, I have to put it on the record that the zombie is probably the coolest RPG character I've ever seen. High five for that one, BioWare. They've also added a new twist to the formula in that all of your party members must now become members of the Grey Wardens. This means they will have to undergo the Ritual of The Joining before you can permanently add them to your roster. So prepare for the possibility that somebody will die. You also have the option of sending characters away rather than allowing them to join you and you can sentence at least one character to death. In all, the new characters are the game's strength and I've found each of them to be full of surprises and fun.
There is plenty of new loot and some truly excellent new weapons, which, combined with the new spells, talents and specializations, make the adventure just as much fun as it was the first time, the whole "already saved the world" thing aside.
And that's really all I have to say about this game. If you want to know more about what it's like to play, as I said already, go here. There is very little different in Awakening, the first expansion, except for the new stuff which does little more than enhance all that was already awesome about Dragon Age: Origins. Just about the only bad thing I can say about Awakening is that I wish it were longer, but at 15 hours, it's already the length of most games. If the worst that can be said of something is that you want more of it, then that's not really a negative, is it?
Bottom Line: If you've finished Dragon Age: Origins and that 80+ hour game left you wanting more, then here it is, wrapped up in a bow. The 15 or so hour adventure in Awakening should tide you over until the next installment and the next, and the next and the next.
Recommendation: You already know if you want this game or not. If you do, then buy it. Or else wait a year or so for a comprehensive "total package" release containing Awakening and whatever the next couple expansions will be.
Russ Pitts is the Editor-in-Chief of The Escapistand is currently entertaining himself by attempting to become the most tyrannical Chief Warden in the history of Ferelden.