I stopped by BioWare’s suite at GDC 2010 to check out Dragon Age: Origins Awakening. Most of you know that Dragon Age was my favorite game of 2009 and I played through that sucker four times. As much as I love the Final Fantasy and Pokemon series, those games will have to take a backseat to this expansion pack. I already know that I’m going to love it, but in the spirit of my friend Augustine’s binary system, here’s a preview of the expansion using two categories: good and bad.
Good: Accompanying Awakening is a title update that will fix several issues with the original game. One of the biggest glitches it will patch is the dreaded dexterity bug in dagger-damage calculation. This bug made dexterity-based rogues far less effective than they should have been.
Bad: Players that went with cunning rogues will be steamed that their carefully crafted thieves will not be able to exploit the dexterity fix out of the box.
Good: Thankfully, the expansion has tomes that will allow you to redistribute character stats and specs. Keebler, my city elf rogue, will be deadlier than ever by the end of the week.
Bad: I don’t care if intelligent, talking darkspawn are supposed to be menacing. They (pictured in the header image) still look like evil raisins to me.
Good: Several characters will make cameo appearances in Awakening. Those of you keeping up with the expansion’s trailers already know that Alistair takes a break from ruling Ferelden to check up on your party.
Bad: Only Oghren returns as a playable character. I understand that new blood needs to be introduced and I’m looking forward to adventuring with the new characters, but I got super attached to Leliana, Shale, and Dog. I’m sure that those of you that worked hard to avoid the Leliana romance glitch will be disappointed that the sexy Orlesian bard will not playable.
Good: Fans of the original game will want to play the expansion at least twice. If you play as your original Dragon Age character, you’re viewed as the hero of Ferelden. People will treat your favorably and there should be some nice perks you can enjoy during Awakening. You can also start from scratch and play as a grey warden from Orlais. Some people will view you as an outsider, remembering the harsh treatment Ferelden received during the Orlesian occupation.
Good: There are loads of new talents and skills to enjoy. Characters will be able to craft their own enchantments (enchantment!). Bow slingers will get to abuse a new area-of-effect attack. As a rogue fan, I saw some outstanding defensive and offensive skills that left me drooling. Realizing that mages were ridiculously powerful in the original, BioWare wanted to beef up the other classes in the expansion.
Good: Enchantments (enchantment!) can be used in armor now!
Good: The dialogue seems well done. The characters had lots of great banter, with Oghren and Anders providing excellent comedy to Mhairi’s straight woman.
Good: Speaking of Mhairi, she was apparently requested by Dragon Age fans. All the tanks in the original were male. Mhairi will show that women can tank with the best of them.
Good: Each class has two new specializations to learn. It’s the same deal as the original; specializations can either be learned from other characters or through tomes.
Good: You have a new base of operations called Vigil’s Keep. No more crappy campsites for you and your party!
Bad: Vigil’s Keep requires some management. You can fortify its defenses or keep the local peasants happy. Sure, you can let your seneschal take care of things, but you really ought to do this yourself. It’s cool that it adds another activity to an already deep game, but it’s bad because it takes time away from killing evil raisins that are threatening the land.
Good: Since you’re the new commander of the grey wardens, you’ll be able to recruit new members to the cause. This includes busting out the right of conscription.
Bad: As you know, becoming a grey warden requires a ceremony that some of your recruits will not survive. I’m not even attached to the new characters in Awakening and I’m already sad that some of them will not make it to the end.
My binary preview is over, but I’ll be writing about the game a ton (not reviewing it!) as I play through it. I’m sure I’m going to have a blast and I hope some of you play it too so that we can chat it up. Is it Tuesday yet?!?