Welcome to Amaranthine, Grey Warden.
Over the weekend I started playing the just-released RPG DLC/expansion, Dragon Age: Origins Awakenings. Though there are some bits that I wish the game had pushed through more on, overall this is a good return romp to Bioware’s Dark Fantasy gaming realm.
It is highly recommended that you finish the original Dragon Age: Origins first before tackling Awakenings, simply for the continuity. You are given the choice of transferring over your DAO character into the game, conferring your status as the Hero of Ferelden for some satisfying interactions and reactions from some of the folks you’ll encounter. For those not caring about their avatar’s past, you can start off Awakenings as an all-new character, a Grey Warden from the neighboring land of Orlais.
You start off the adventure running, your Hero just arriving at Vigil’s Keep in the new land of Amaranthine. This region, or Arling as its called, is actually connected to the original game; It was the former domain of the late Rendon Howe, ally to Teyrn Loghain and murderer of your Hero’s family (if you played the Human Noble). Obviously, your arrival as the new master of the land and commander of the Grey Wardens comes with pros and cons.
On the pro side, you’re literally THE Boss… how the land is governed or cared for goes by your decisions, and people will hop to your will as you command. On the cons side, there are daggers hidden behind some of the pasty smiles around you, so you’ll have to watch your back else you get yourself nailed. You’ll make good decisions, bad decisions and probably lose a bit of your innocence (in case you still have such going into Amaranthine from Ferelden), but then, everyone in Dragon Age accepts that Not All Heroes are Pure.
Continuing your career in Amaranthine plunks you straight into a freaked-up new workplace that Leon S. Kennedy would feel right at home in. The Grey Wardens’ new HQ has been invaded by Darkspawn, who apparently used subterfuge and strategy… something they never did before. In fact, you soon encounter TALKING Darkspawn, which is apparently a big thing. Eventually in between ruling your new land, dispatching bandits, uncovering conspiracies and gathering new recruits into the Grey Wardens, you’ll have to find out what is behind all the talkative baddies and bring peace to the strife-ridden county. To help you on your way there are new skills and talents, new weapons and armor that will make your Juggernaut Plate Mail look like old junk, and new creatures to use them on. The level cap has been bumped up to 35, so this adventure is really for the big boys now (entry level heroes start at 18).
So far I’m enjoying my romp back in Dragon Age; there’s a pleasant vibe of being kinda familiar and respected, though really- I wish that there was more from the previous game that carried over. SPOILER WARNING! So far I enjoyed having Alistair- scratch that- KING Alistair show up for an all-too-brief reunion and chitchat, although I understand that your former Grey Warden bro can’t go waltzing around Amaranthine with you since he’s busy as the new monarch. Irritatingly they had to pick the one companion from DAO that I liked the least to be your returning ally. To be fair, Ohgren has so far been entertaining (his Joining ritual is priceless) but really… I would have preferred they had given us a choice of two or three of your previous gang to pick, depending on the class of your main Hero. Oh well.
Anyway so far it’s been cool, though I have no idea so far what’s going on with The Architect. Who is this creepy new villain? What is he? What are his plans? Awakenings doesn’t seem to be anywhere as big as Ferelden, but I think I’ll be in for quite a bit of gaming in my first run, and surely I’ll be playing again in repeat plays with other characters soon after. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think there’s a Peasant Revolt I have to put down somewhere…