It may not be the first Dragon Age: Origins expansion, but Dragon Age: Origins Awakening is certainly the biggest and the best. Boasting a slew of new characters, enemies, skills, locations, and quests, Awakening is a worthwhile continuation of BioWare's stellar saga, and entirely worthy of its disc-based release.

I've beaten Dragon Age: Origins Awakening three times now. After playing through the main campaign, I went back a second time just to get married, then a third time to experience all of the other romance options. I did this because Origins is, without a doubt, the most emotionally driven game I've ever played.

To further feed my Dragon Age: Origins addiction, I've downloaded all of the concurrent DLC packs, but I was most eagerly anticipating BioWare's next big expansion, Awakening. After playing through it, I can safely say that it's a terrific addition to the game. Boasting plenty of new locations to explore and tons of new side-quests and missions to complete, Dragon Age: Origins Awakening reignited my love for Origins - no small feat considering how many ours I had already invested in the original.

Dragon Age: Origins Awakening

I was instantly impressed with how easy it was to import one of my existing characters from Origins into Dragon Age: Origins Awakening, but I was disappointed when I found out that all previous DLC items would not carry over to the expansion. It's a curious decision, as it unnecessarily robs you of the hard work you put in during earlier adventures.

However, while I was forced to start without my trusty weapons and armour, I was very pleased to see that the choices I'd made during Origins carried over into Dragon Age: Origins Awakening, deeply affecting specific situations and character interactions. For instance, my computer-animated lover Alistair greeted me as his wife, wished me luck against those pesky Darkspawns, and gave me a quick kiss before heading off to attend to his kingly duties. Gamers who haven't beaten Origins need not be shy either, as they can still find enjoyment in starting a new game from scratch as an Orlesian immigrant attempting to impress the villagers with their Darkspawn-killing heroism.

Of course, to get the full benefit of what Dragon Age: Origins Awakening offers, it helps if you are intimately familiar with Origins. Established characters frequently make cameos and it felt as though I was reuniting with old friends; I was even more delighted when they would decide to join my party. The annoying thing is that Awakening will reset your approval rating; when I finished the original game, I had one NPC, Oghren, at 100 percent friendship, but when he joined my party in Dragon Age: Origins Awakening, he did so with the default 50 percent approval rating instead.

It isn't a big deal, as I enjoy character interactions, but gamers who don't may be annoyed that the work they did put into establishing relationships has been undone. But I did appreciate the two new specializations (two for each class), three new skill tracks (Rune Making is one of them) and a whole slew of new talents, which added just enough new content to keep me interested over the course of the game's main quest.

Whether you are scoping out new party members or looking for the Architect in the main storyline, each quest has the same attention to detail that I came to expect from Origins. The story of why the darkspawn are back and smarter than ever before is intriguing, and the plot takes some rather interesting dips that will require you to decide on how you want to react to each twist.

NEXT: our expert verdict >>

See also: Dragon Age: Origins review

Download/buy:

Dragon Age: Origins Awakening: Specs

  • Copy of original Dragon Age: Origins game
  • Windows XP SP3/Vista SP1, Win 7
  • 1.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo [equivalent AMD CPU]
  • 1GB RAM for XP/2GB RAM for Vista/Win 7
  • Hard Drive: 15GB
  • DVD-ROM: 1x SPEED
  • Video Card: 256MB [with Pixel Shader 3.0 support]
  • Sound Card: DirectX 9.0c compatible
  • DirectX: DirectX 9.0c August 2008 (included)
  • Input: Keyboard, Mouse
  • Copy of original Dragon Age: Origins game
  • Windows XP SP3/Vista SP1, Win 7
  • 1.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo [equivalent AMD CPU]
  • 1GB RAM for XP/2GB RAM for Vista/Win 7
  • Hard Drive: 15GB
  • DVD-ROM: 1x SPEED
  • Video Card: 256MB [with Pixel Shader 3.0 support]
  • Sound Card: DirectX 9.0c compatible
  • DirectX: DirectX 9.0c August 2008 (included)
  • Input: Keyboard, Mouse

OUR VERDICT

All in all, Dragon Age: Origins Awakening is a must-buy for any Dragon Age fan. It's packed full of new adventures, side quests, cameos from old favorites, and an engrossing original storyline that will keep players busy for hours. Of course, while it may be obvious, it must be said: if you didn't care of Origins or don't have an active interest in revisiting that world, then this is one DLC pack you can safely avoid.

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