Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening Hands-On - First Details, Combat, and Dragons

We get our hands on this expansion for Dragon Age: Origins.

Some days, you just can't get rid of a monster invasion. In Dragon Age: Origins, your character tried to do just that by joining the Grey Wardens, an ancient society dedicated to hunting down the monstrous darkspawn, a race of murderous subterranean creatures with a mysterious resemblance to the uruk-hai of the Lord of the Rings motion pictures. And hunt the darkspawn you did, eventually confronting the hordes and ending their invasion, known as the Blight. Or, so you thought.

In Awakening, the first expansion for Dragon Age, you'll play as the leader of the Grey Wardens in pursuit of a new enemy, a mysterious darkspawn general who can think, talk, and raise armies of new darkspawn, who appear to be breeding underground. Interestingly, you can import your character directly from Dragon Age and be the hero that game made you--the uniter of the scattered Wardens and enemy of the Blight. Or, you can start a new game with an entirely new character, a Grey Warden emissary from a neighboring country that was once at war with Ferelden, in which case you'll be met with suspicion and distrust even as you try to save the land.

Welcome back to Ferelden. Hot enough for ya?

BioWare suggests that Awakening isn't about one new whiz-bang feature that totally changes the gameplay, but rather it's about offering more of what fans seem to care about most--a deep story with memorable characters and real consequences for the choices you make. The expansion is being developed by the same team of writers, designers, and artists who created the original game, but it will offer plenty of new stuff to play with, including six new characters to join your party, new elite character classes, tons of new high-level skills, an expanded level cap up to level 35, and more than 500 new items, including new, higher tiers of weapons and armor for your adventuring party.

We recently had an opportunity to play through two different areas of the game and get a peek at what's in store. The first area put us in the boots of a warrior Warden hero allied with two of the expansion's new characters, both spirit healer mages: Velanna, a sharp-tongued elf, and Anders, a human wizard with a smart mouth not unlike that of Origins' Alastair. Our party began its journey into the ruins of a captured city, which had been fully assimilated by a new brood of darkspawn to the extent that even the walls and floors were covered with pulsating pink flesh.

After hacking our way through several alpha genlocks and hurlocks, we managed to rescue Sigurd, a bitter dwarf burglar who had been part of a previous war party sent to curtail the darkspawn threat. Apparently, her comrades were overwhelmed and she fled. As the only survivor, she was captured and was in the process of being dragged away--as she suggested, perhaps as part of a sinister plot to seize women to breed more darkspawn--when we cut down her captors. Despite her earlier act of cowardice, she was eager to join our party and seek revenge. We were given the chance to change our party by adding her, but we declined in favor of using both mages to blast our foes to bits, and we descended further into the city. A dying dwarf warned us about the "children," one of the expansion's new types of enemy--slimy creatures that spawn from darkspawn brood mothers--though sadly we weren't able to tangle with them, since we had another engagement with the Queen of the Blackmarsh.

A classic case of darkspawn infestation, plus the place costs a fortune each winter with all this shoddy insulation.

The queen, as it turns out, doesn't hold a court. She's an ancient spectral dragon who can be summoned only by reassembling the fragments of a shattered dragon's skull in the midst of a dank, forbidding swamp blocked off by a tear in the Fade--a barrier created by the netherworld from which all magic originates. Once we clicked on the skull to reassemble it, the tear disappeared and we were free to enter the Queen's court, a small, flat clearing paved with a circular panel of stones. The queen herself swooped down on our party of a warrior and two spirit healers, along with Sigurd. Like with the dragon battles of Origins (and other previous BioWare games), special preparation and strategy will clearly be needed to conquer the queen.

Among other things, the queen can knock back one or more of your party with a sweep of her wings and take one of your comrades out of play by clutching her victim with her talons before tossing her victim aside. Interestingly, when she takes enough damage (whether that be from repeated backstabs, whatever feeble melee attacks you can deliver from the front, or all those magic spells she keeps resisting), she'll change forms to a giant sizzling orb of spirit energy locked into the center of the stone circle, while a group of electrified wisps spawn at the edges of the circle and drift inward toward the queen, presumably to recharge her energy. We managed to have our party chop down most of these wisp creatures, but the last one met with the queen in orb form. The orb then faded away and the queen made her triumphant reentrance from the sky, just in time to utterly crush our exhausted party, though to be fair, this was the first time we'd ever fought that battle, and we're assured by the BioWare team that this sort of thing happens to Dragon Age players all the time and doesn't make us any less of a video game player.

Awakening is on its way out the door in March. You'll be back to fighting life-or-death battles in no time.

In any case, it's clear that Awakening will have a great deal to offer for Dragon Age fans. The expansion will be available in March both as a retail in-box product and as downloadable content.

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Discussion

148 comments
minnlucifer111
minnlucifer111

omg 2010 is full of xbox 360 exclusive games AWESOMEEE!!!

King_Wii
King_Wii

@textroot I can totaly agree! FF has a lot of style, the characters and their clothing look as if they are high fashion... as if LV or Prada helped with some of the costumes. American fantasy games and MMOs period could use a dose of style added to them. On the other hand Japanese fantasy games could use a bit of a revolution in gameplay. If both were to meet then the world would shudder with joy at the great product that would be made. When it comes to games with style I'm hoping Star Wars the Old Republic fills in for that. I've noticed that Star Wars things period tend to have a lot of though put into costumes and artwork. With luck we'll see a colaberation one day and we'll get the ultimate RPG.

textroot
textroot

@King_Wii You make some good points. DA has much better character development than FFXIII ... or any Final Fantasy for that matter. But on looks alone, though I'm not particularly fond of FF's style, it is still miles ahead of Dragon Age. And I think that's my beef with BioWare: there games would have so much more appeal if they had a better sense of style. Square-Enix may be stuck in the 80's and 90's but BioWare is stuck in the art style of 60's and 70's fantasy literature cover art.

AJRiley
AJRiley

Great to hear; cant get enough DA!!

Flinet91
Flinet91

Awesome! Its that simple!

King_Wii
King_Wii

@textroot What are you talking about... FFXIII isn't that great looking in my opinion and to this date I'm disaponted with the game as a whole. I feel very unatached to the characters and honestly the game feels like a movie with a battlemode. So to say that FFXIII even compares to DA is silly they are to disimilar to compare. One is HIGHLY interactive the other is a story that is fed to you as you play. In my opinion DA is genuienly a more solid game than FFXIII is, the FF series is stuck in the 80s-90s its time Square-Enix pushes that franchies into the interactive future.

Raeldor
Raeldor

Arcane warrior is a little overrated I think. It takes so long to switch between spells and weapons (unless you use the alt weapon switch, but that's a major pain in the butt). If they allowed spellcasting with weapons drawn it would be cool, but as it is I think regular damage dealer + spirit healer + some knockback glyphs is a great combo.

oblivion-IV
oblivion-IV

Can't wait....I already ended origins nine times....

rock_a_sam
rock_a_sam

Holy Crap!!! I'm on the verge of finishing my second play-through of Origins... Now this?? AWESOME!!! I can't wait... But, when we use our character from Origins, do the same companions follow? Coz, in my first playthrough, when I played as a male elf-warrior, I sent away Alastair and recruited Loghain, only to find that while he may be better in the fight, Loghain is better off dead for the sake of the story... Changed that in the second, as a female human-mage And yes, I totally agree with *mtham5*... Arcane Warrior and Spirit Healer is the best mage combination possible...!! And even better is when you keep two of those in ur party, and both can access higher level primal spells, like Inferno... Just cast a couple of 'em spells, then sit back and watch em squirm...Sweet!!!

mtham5
mtham5

arcane warrior and spirit healer is the best class. lol i had my main character and wynne being arcane mage and spirit healer while i had morrigon being arcane warrior and spirit healer and i had alistair taking up the front which made the game so easy all u do is just bind enemys continously until something dies. XD

mtham5
mtham5

This game looks sweet and i cant wait, hopefully it wont disappoint fans. but if it does pfft ill still finish it anyway.

phaedruslives
phaedruslives

the guy below me is a moron, even the japanese think ff13 is a stanly steamer. his terminal grade consolitis will never allow him to enjoy games intended for higher brain-functioning individuals. jgames have been authentic rpg's and more than likely never will, but some people are too conditioned to believe franchise= better than new ip.

textroot
textroot

With all the great games coming out in March, I feel like this is too little, too late. I was able to forgive the graphics the first time around but I'm not sure I'll be able to do that after FF XIII, Resonance of Fate.

Urik_187
Urik_187

@radziismael suppossedly yes. there will prob be a ton of promotional items at launch. seems to be the latest marketing scheme from game producers. there is a planned full DLC i hear tho...

Xaiteev
Xaiteev

EternalXx you dont have to be a mage to win you just need to have a healer or two if your not but it is possible

PhoenicianSon
PhoenicianSon

I am so excited about this that I actually am playing through a second time to get that mage character that everyone is talking about. Although the Rogue was a great class, I can see how the mage is all the better, especially after playing through an unlocking the warrior specialty for the mage. I am quite excited about this expansion. Ding, ding, ding, tell them what we have for them Johnny... "great story, great action, great strategy - the force is strong with Bioware."

EternalXx
EternalXx

My choice of difficulty was the extreme hard one, and wow let me tell u unless ur a mage its impossible. Even with the mage at the end i was having problem killin the major dragons. Did any1 kill the High Dragon on the hardest difficulty? i failed at this lol.

DrSponja
DrSponja

Whoa, thanks the Lord soon it's here.

IMOUSEYI
IMOUSEYI

if dragon age get any better i might just s**t myself!

MehowPwned
MehowPwned

Dang this looks awesome can't wait!

RockonGOW
RockonGOW

Do you need to finish the game to play the DLC

recvx_freak
recvx_freak

I burned my old motherboard playing dragon age whole for whole 2 months, so as soon as i get money ill buy a new board and then probably going to end up burning it too :D cuz keeping my hands off this game is HARRRDDDD. so i request my fellow grey warden world; pleasseeeeee pray for me getting more cash so i can buy a decent motherboard then wont burn out. Amen

twistyanddark
twistyanddark

After 76 hours of intense exploration, trap setting, boss kiting, hiding in shadows and one-shotting enemies with Arrow of Slaying I do not want to play this game till 2015. But the expansion looks good for those who still can go on.

Templar-sgt
Templar-sgt

Awesome..!!Can't wait to get my hands on this one.

protoroc
protoroc

I'm still going to wait for EA to release a Gold Edition later on down the road.

FlashCharge
FlashCharge

Logged in over 60 hours of gameplay on the original; wonder how many more hours are facing me?

LTMarine
LTMarine

MERGATROYDER maybe it would make sense if it was like oblivion where u control only 1 character but if u had to push every time to hit your enemies it would be retarded ,i already have to pause every few seconds to use heals and other skills ,no time for pushing attack button.. anyway im looking forward to this ,bioware has never dissapointed me.

killeridis
killeridis

can't wait for the expansion !! :D

Lordan007
Lordan007

Dragon age is realy fantastic game,but i lost my savegames with my mage.I was passing lvl 16 i think and i must realy force myself to play again :((

Ronnie_360
Ronnie_360

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

ric_mac
ric_mac

@ MERGATROYDER Well, that's classic Bioware action for you. It seems like you're the type who'd like Demon's Souls though. You should give that a try instead.

weirdorado
weirdorado

This looks awesome...I love my dragon age origins...I bought the collector's edition for PS3 though the delay for DLC is kinda annoying but I'm really looking forward to this 1!!

MERGATROYDER
MERGATROYDER

Will the expansion give me the ability to turn off the "press a single button and watch my character attack till the enemy is dead." The game just isn't worth playing. Maybe the game isn't meant for people like me who like to press a button every time I want my character to swing, but I think it should still be an option none the less. If there is an option, I have yet to find it and would love for someone to tell me where it's at.

TheGreyArea
TheGreyArea

Actually gamespot, what I am interested to know, is roughly how many more hours of gameplay we're likely to get for our bucks? As I am aware that - as far as DLC goes usually - this one will be coming with a rather hefty price-tag (which, considering the amendments to gameplay, new characters, items and level etc is reasonable... but I would like to know just how much more time we're likely to spend enjoying those things). I'll definitely purchase the expansion, because I did love the story and a lot of the gameplay from the full game (even if my one niggling gripe was how limited I have to admit, I found the maps in general). I'll wait to hear more

TheGreyArea
TheGreyArea

hmmm... time to ditch my xbox360 character and completed play-through, and take the story from the start again but this time on PC I think

philmemoney
philmemoney

The only problem I had with DragonAge is that when you beat the final dragon you can't go back and do all the other missions with your guy. It was kind of a bummer walking out of that exit door to the credits. Oh well, RIP Alistar.

kozzy1234
kozzy1234

God I cant wait for this.. Dragon Age is so awesome and one of the few rpgs that I can play thru again and again and see new stuff. Such an underrated rpg and 2009's best game imo. Ill buy anythign Dragon Age related. And since when is a big expansion pack (that comes on disc) just normal DLC? 30+ hours I have heard it adds.. thats more then most full games.

prometion
prometion

the final dragon in dragon age was hard to kill, i imagine that if it is as hard as that and we dont have any firing weapon to help its going to get tought to kill

Shardz7
Shardz7

Hrmmm...milking that DLC some more. Looks like more of the same to me.

sylvaedawn
sylvaedawn

it will be available in march but which day? im looking forward to this expansion, and dont even care too much how good the playing would be - the story is what matters to me. (well, actually, the story and characters)

philmemoney
philmemoney

@Keith805 That's Cairiden famous for Caiden's Cross ... @Leandrito , so I'm starting to think I should have taken Morrigan's offer?

Wolfman104
Wolfman104

@hrothgar99, as the final pargraph states : The expansion will be available in March both as a retail in-box product and as downloadable content. I hope that answers your question.

hrothgar99
hrothgar99

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

shafeeq007sam
shafeeq007sam

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Leandrito
Leandrito

Both the hero and alistair could well be alive. If you accepted morgan's proposal none of them has to die.