Review: Dragon age: origins + Awakening

Dragon Age : Origins Screenshot

Wardens around the fire

Title: Dragon age: origins (and the extension: Awakening)
Developer: Bioware
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Available on: PC, PS3 and XBox360
Genre: RPG

Been a while since I updated my page! But here’s a new review. Part of why I haven’t updated the site in well over the last 2 months, is because of the 150+ hours I spend on this game. So I thought it would be fun to write a review about it.


Where the darkspawn came from is not certain. The chantry tells a story of mages who became arrogant and overconfident. They tried to get into heaven, but were cast out and doomed to roam the earth under the influence of a dark taint. They became the darkspawn and caused the first blight.  The darkspawn woke the first arch demon and attacked the human cities. When everything seemed lost, an order of humans named the gray wardens protected the people, slew the arch demon, and drove the darkspawn back under ground. After the 4th blight, the darkspawn had all but vanished. Hundreds of years passed and people had almost forgotten who protected them for so long against the taint.  This is where our story starts. Dragon age is a story driven game. And the story is very strong and well written. I cannot tell you a lot about it here, since everything else would pretty much be a spoiler 😉


The game takes place in a world/continent called Thedas, which feels a lot like medieval Europe.  The name thedas, apparently, was an abbreviation for “The DragonAge Setting” which was used a lot during development, and sounded pretty good so it stuck around 🙂 The game is set in a land called Ferelden. It has a damp and rough landscape, much like it’s locals.  Neighbouring Ferelden is Orlai, whose people have a French accent 🙂

Dragon Age: Origins ScreenshotTalking to the First Enchanter


You can play DragonAge as Human, a Dwarf or an Elf. DragonAge has six different so called origin stories.  You can choose to start as a Human Noble, a City Elf, a Dalish Elf,  a mage, a Dwarven Commoner or a Dwaven Noble. Each origin story is very well told and will have some influence further along the game. Funny part of DragonAge is, that a choosing a different origin story may give you a different outlook on certain events. You can meet some key characters early on in the origin stories which will play an important role later on on the story, and these characters may react differently depending on which story you choose. This makes the characters very real.

Another great aspect of the characters in Dragon Age: Origins is the people you meet. You can ask certain individuals to join you on your quests and form a party. But who you take with you is entirely up to you. If you choose to ditch a party member for another (you can have a max of 4 party members inc. you) the other will be waiting for you in camp. This means you can choose who you take with you on your next adventure, and who gets to stay in camp.

If you ask me, Bioware managed to REALLY give these characters personality. Every one of your party members has a story for them selves. They can like you , or dislike you, depending on gifts you give them, or the decisions you make. Party members will also speak their mind in certain conversations to explain to you how they feel about a certain subject. If they dislike you too much or you go against their values, they might leave the party or attack you but a high approval and the right choice of words can also start a romance.

The different party members can also like or dislike each other, and they have conversations with each other as you walk around which can be funny at times. It also gives these characters more personality and makes them seem more real.

Dragon Age: Origins screenshot

Casting Winter's Grasp

Game play

Being an RPG, the game is a lot about fighting alone or with your party and leveling your character and party members. A fair share of the game however, is also about

interacting with your environment and doing side quests or playing out short pieces of story. All XP you gather during these quests or battles is gathered for your entire party. The characters that stayed in camp also level and will be about one level behind at max, so you never have to take them with you to level them.

During combat you control each of the 4 party members. Each of the party members will attack on their own based on a set of rules (which you can alter and can be made pretty complex as you level up and get more options) , or you can give them commands directly. The game can be paused at any time during a fight. This can be used to issue instructions to your party members before the fight continues.

The game can be quite difficult at times when played at normal difficulty or higher and depends a lot on you pausing the game and pointing out a proper strategy. Setting up your next move like this and finishing a fight in your own cool way can be satisfying and quite a challenge . If you don’t like to do this, and are more into real time  combat, don’t be ashamed to put the game on easy. It’s meant for that. Mind you that this is a game where friendly fire is possible (not on easy and 50% damage on normal) so you have to be careful about your mage throwing out area of effects spells like a mad man.

Pausing the game, issuing commands and setting up your strategy for the next move might put some off, but it adds a small strategy element to combat, enables you to take down powerful enemies and makes you feel like you’ve earned it 🙂 The animations are good which adds the the sense of epic combat.

Dragon Age: Origins Screenshot

To Battle!

Dragon Age has a lot of voiced dialog, and the voice acting is really quite good. The animations on the NPC are not bad, but a bit shallow. Facial animations are diverse, but sometimes not strong enough or would be better when accompanied by better character animation. However for me it didn’t break the experience.  Aside from the battles, Dragon Age offers a great atmosphere, detailed level design, large and epic environments and plenty to see and to do when you’re not trying to break your sword over some poor Darkspawn’s skull.  A lot of information is available about the world, which can be collected and can be read in the in game codex

Overall the game starts a little slow. It took me a good 8 hours of game play before I really started to like the game. But when I did, I REALLY liked it, and I’m regretting that I wasn’t able to get the collectors edition on thisone 🙂

Dragon Age: Origins Awakening Screenshot

Standing in the Moonlight


DragonAge Awakening is an extension on the main story line. Bioware claims that you can also start the Awakening extension before playing the game, and while this is indeed technically possible, I don’t think it’s something you want to do. Awakening on its own has a shallow story build-up and if you start it without having played Origins first you’ll miss a lot of references and information about what is going on.

Awakening is not so much the finished and polished product that the Origins game is. Only one character from the main game returns in the extension which is a shame. Your party members have less than half the amount of dialog and backstory as the characters in the  main game. You can no longer strike up an arbitrary conversation with one, and basically aside from their personal side quest, they want nothing to do with you. They still talk to each other which is cool.

As I said before, Awakening has a shallow story build up. The story is simple and comes to a sudden end when you finish the game. There’s just no complexity to it. You meet a few new characters on certain intermediate missions however, and each of those sections is neatly designed and great addition to the game. The environments are very nice and worth exploring. There  certainly was room for some more story telling around the main plot of Awakening. It’s too bad they didn’t go into that a bit further.

Awakening also brings new abilities/spells to learn and new equipment to collect which is nice. The extension raises the level cap to 35 and you can import characters from the first game into awakening. If you have played origins before, its interesting to know, that fairly early on in the game, you get the chance to buy books which resets all your skill and attribute points, so you can rebalance your character if you like.


What can I say? I finished it two times in a row and spend over 160 hours on it! Dragonage : Origins is great game. It’s LONG … Really long, and offers a great deal of content and possibilities to explore. The atmosphere is great, the graphics and environments are polished, the voice acting is superb and the back story is REALLY extensive. Pausing the game in combat took some of the immersion out for me at the start, but I got used to it and it didn’t bother me in the end. If you are into RPGs, be sure to pick this one up. The game starts a little slow, but give it some time.. it gets great later on 🙂 The game has good buildup, and a grand finale. It’s definitely worth a second run or a third according to a friend of mine 😛

Awakenings is good. It’s not great, but offers some nice extra content, and is worth it’s price. A lot of labor went into it… I just wish it was a bit stronger on the story and character side.


Dragon Age: Origins: 9/10

Awakening: 7/10

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