After reviewing the main adventure of Dragon Age: Origins some time ago, I had the chance to play some of the add-ons, yet on a different platform. This series of expansions, particularly Dragon Age: Awakening, may in fact, stand as Origins 1.5, both in style and substance, as DAII was initially not well received. As well, it represents a nice break from the usual Bioware formula.
As stated, the main
course is Awakening. You can create your Grey Warden from scratch or import,
that which will become the Warden Commander, in order to deal with the
aftermath of the victory over the Archdemon during the blight, as was told in
Origins. The new team may lack the charisma of the original one, but there are
brief cameos from the first one, plus a playable Oghren, and new brand of
darkspawn to battle against. Awakening is also more plot-driven than
interpersonally explorative in contrast to its predecessor. It may also teach you
a thing or two about going against local aristocracy.
Ferelden is now something
of a no-man's land, as a powerful new alliance lurks. There's not much to be
said about the quests; as in any RPG, you are still required to solve
everyone's problems. Yet some levels are particularly well made, such as
Kal'Hirol; gaudy but rather well designed. The obligatory visit to the Fade is
also quite enjoyable. The battle synergy between your party of four, as in
Origins, teaches you by painful example that your team should be well balanced.
A considerable problem with triple A titles is their brief length; Dragon Age
Origins and its expansions are an exception to the rule, along with The Witcher.
Leliana's Song tells the
story of series' regular Leliana and her bard and burglar past, which is
alluded to in Origins. Here, she has a wilder, sultrier look, which reflects
her life at the time. The fact that you can play with a secondary character here
is fairly significant, as in the add-ons from Bioware's Mass Effect series,
this was not possible. The adventure is more upbeat than is usual for the
goings-on in Ferelden, with quips, stealth, jealousy, and a tight team which
dispatches enemies in a breeze. Of note is the presence of Leliana's mentor
Marjolaine, whom she confronts about the events from this add-on in Origins.
This particular adventure
brings me to the "tricky spot" many RPG developers introduce in some
games. For instance, the very character of Leliana could be entirely missed in
Origins if you didn't go into an inn in Lothering at one point, as her town
would later be decimated. Ditto for having to stock up the ship with minerals
in Mass Effect 2 before the "suicide mission." And what to say of The
Witcher's fight with the hellhound in the first chapter, which is nigh on
impossible unless one prepares well. Just a few examples, though these tend to
render the games more interesting.
The unfortunately titled
Witch Hunt presents the idea of going after an ex original-team member,
Morrigan. As you arrive in her empty house, you realize you are not the only
one looking for her. It's not overly exciting, yet there are a few good quips
courtesy of the mage du jour. It is, however, the most cinematic, as it plays
like a treasure hunt; from inspecting a library to going from one mysterious
site in Ferelden to another to gather magical artifacts. In her monologue,
Morrigan actually sets things up nicely; considering also Origins, for a
sequel. Alas, this was not followed through.
Finally, the Golems of
Amgarrak spices things up granting you a Golem and a big Bronto on your team,
making it the biggest departure from the usual, but often amusing, team banter.
Taking place in the dwarven Deep Roads, there is a bit of puzzle-solving, with
switches as well as though opponents. It is somewhat harder than the others,
and doesn't offer much story-wise. This may be the least satisfactory of the
add-ons here presented.
Add-ons also include
Return to Ostagar, Warden's Keep and The Darkspawn Chronicles, among others.
While the PC version has more tactical options, some players may lean towards
the console ones, as those versions are also quite good. Dragon Age:
Awakening brings home the magic yet again.