The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
The Archdemon is dead, the Blight is quelled, and peace is restored
to Ferelden. For a Grey Warden who specializes in saving the world, what
else could you possibly accomplish? As a full expansion to Dragon Age:
Origins, that’s the question Awakening is called upon to address.
Unfortunately, the answer seems to be “not much.”
I’d be the last
person to complain about getting more Dragon Age; I still love the core
gameplay, so Awakening’s additional quests, skills, and items are all
the reason I need to start killing darkspawn again. However, as an
expansion, Awakening doesn’t contribute much beyond simply lengthening
the time you can spend as a Grey Warden. It feels like a direct-to-video
film sequel, shuffling the core components of the Dragon Age world to
create a new story in a familiar skin.
With the major darkspawn
threat neutralized in Origins, you’re left with clean-up duty in
Awakening. By importing your old character or creating a new one, you’ll
assume the position of Warden Commander in Amaranthine and deal with
the aftermath of the Archdemon’s death. The darkspawn that didn’t
retreat have begun fighting each other, and you need to get to the
bottom of the conflict and restore order to the region. The premise is
cool – especially since you are essentially the feudal lord of
Amaranthine – but it doesn’t evolve the basic formula.
All of the
features where Awakening could have built on the Dragon Age foundation
are sidelined, like the team at BioWare knew where to expand but didn’t
have the time to flesh them out. Building up your base at Vigil’s Keep
is just a handful of simple upgrades. Governing the region is handled in
a single sequence where you mete out justice. Unraveling a conspiracy
against your rule is a brief sidequest. Maybe a 15-hour adventure isn’t
enough to time to dig into these concepts, but they feel pretty hollow
and unsatisfying as implemented.
Despite some disappointments,
Awakening is still worth playing for the devoted Dragon Age fan. The
tactical combat hasn’t gotten any less entertaining, and the story
reveals an interesting twist on the world’s compelling lore. Awakening
enriches the universe with new revelations and characters (two of the
new party members are particularly awesome), but only makes half-hearted
attempts to improve the basics.
Email the author Joe Juba, or follow on Twitter, Facebook, and Game Informer.