Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dragon Age: Origins- Awakening - Review

Dragon Age Origins Awakening is the expansion to, and also what appears to be, the final chapter in the Grey Wardens Origins story. The story picks up after the Grey Warden slays the Archdemon and effectively brings an end to the Blight. However, the Darkspawn hordes continue to endure and once again the Grey Warden is called upon to investigate and end this threat. What’s different this time around is that there are reports of raids on human lands that are led by a Darkspawn that can actually talk. To complete this investigation, the Grey Warden is sent to the northern lands of Amaranthine to take helm of Vigil’s Keep.

Warden’s Keep redux

To their credit, Bioware has made significant addition to the character development side of things. The expansion has six new specialization classes and over 50 spells and talents. It also adds the ability for the player to craft runestones, along with new recipes for potions, poisons, traps and salves. The most welcome addition to crafting is Stamina Draught, which recovers a character’s stamina pool. On the flip-side, crafting runes is a tedious and boring process. Another significant addition is the ability to redistribute skill and attribute points of the playing character as well as all the other part members. It would have been great to see Bioware fit this feature in the original campaign as this freedom to tweak party member’s abilities significantly raises a member’s utility in a party.
The new abilities and specialization classes become available beyond character level 20 and they raise a character’s ability to epic proportions. On the other hand, the enemies do not scale up according to the party’s abilities and due to this combat is a cakewalk compared to Origins. Significantly scaled down difficulty means that it takes much less time to beat the game and the entire expansion has about 10 -15 hours of game-play. When compared with 50- 60 hours worth of game-play in the original game, Awakening comes out as too short even for an expansion pack. This difference in the ratio between new content and actual game-play makes plot development seem rushed.

No time to chat

The pace of party member’s character development is similar to speed-dating and the player is inundated with gold and magical items of ungodly proportions. What emerges out of this is that Bioware has modified its original plan for the franchise and are shifting towards more fast-paced, action-based role-playing games— like their very own Mass Effect series— and moving away from old-school RPG with challenging, tactical combat. It’s either that or it’s a result of spending just four months on an expansion pack and consequently spending less time balancing the game’s difficulty.

A detour
Overall, Awakening is a hit-and-miss in equal proportion, making it an underwhelming—and almost disappointing— follow-up to the original game. The climax does not live up to the build-up and the insane gear that you have by the end of the game feels wasted on the final boss. The antagonists in the expansion pack are sentient, intelligent beings— as opposed to Archdemon from the original campaign, that was essentially a possessed Dragon. Unfortunately, very little time is spend exploring their personalities or their motivation, and effectively the only difference in this final battle is that you get to have a short conversation with the antagonist before inevitably engaging in combat.

Those who found Dragon Age: Origins too long and difficult, will appreciate the new direction Bioware has taken with Awakening. On the other hand, there is a good chance that those same changes will disappoint the hardcore.

Rating: 7.5/10
Genre: Role- Playing Game
Studio: Bioware
Publishers: Electronic Arts
Platforms*: PC (MS Windows), PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
*Reviewed on PC