Game On!: "Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening"

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

You've defeated the blight, banished the archdemon and spent countless hours tromping across the fantasy world of "Dragon Age: Origins." So now what?

If your answer is kill some more darkspawn and set up house in the mountains, then this expansion is just what you're looking for.

"Awakening" is a fairly sizable expansion pack for Bioware's fantasy masterpiece, one of the best games released during last year's holiday rush. Fans of the first game can expect more conflicted, gritty dark fantasy as they adventure in the aftermath of the world-threatening rise of the darkspawn.

Instead of a "happily ever after" story, as expected, the world of Ferelden is still plagued by the vicious underground foes. In fact, people are beginning to disappear mysteriously - and a new darkspawn general is scouring the land looking for the hero of the blight.

This new threat rises as the kingdom you saved in the first game is in the process of rebuilding, and the hero's companions have gone their separate ways. The choices you made during "Origins" have an impact in this expansion, so it's a good idea to continue with the same character and import from that save game.

But even if you chose to sacrifice yourself to stop the blight in the first game, the expansion has a way to continue the story in the form of a new origin - a visiting Grey Warden commander. You can create a new character for the expansion with this background, and doing so allows you to experience quite a different side to the tale.

"Awakening" offers another 20-plus hours of gameplay, some new character options (like two new specialties per basic class), some new talents and high-level spells, and a new cast of companions to aid you during the tale.

The new companions are as well-written and developed as expected. While only one companion returns from the first story, your new friends will make you forget the old gang pretty quickly.

This expansion has as much content in it as most full retail games, though it feels like Bioware pulled back a bit to keep the story contained in preparation for eventual sequels or later expansions.

It's an excellent addition to a series that's looking to be a strong franchise. While "Awakening" is not as amazing a game as, say, "Mass Effect 2," it's definitely a worthy continuation to the "Dragon Age" series.

"Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening"

System: Xbox 360, PS3, Windows

Price: $40 (3,200 MS points)

Players: 1

Rated: M for Mature

Who Should Buy it?: Accomplished Wardens

GameOn! Grade: A