Dragon Age: Origins- Awakening was the expansion pack for Bioware's hit 2009 Role-Playing Game Dragon Age: Origins. Released on March 16, 2010, Dragon Age: Origins- Awakening continued the story from the ending of Origins, and added significant amounts of content to the game, including an entire cast of new party members, a brand new map filled with multiple unique locations to explore and numerous new enemy types and bosses to battle. The expansion raises the level cap to 35 from 20, and includes new spells and talents for all classes, as well as brand new specializations with their own skill branches, to give players meaningful content to place their new points into, and radically altering the possibilities of some classes.
Awakening does little to change the core gameplay of the original, as an Expansion Pack, but it does add a great deal of content into the mix. There are six new class specializations, two for each of the core classes: Battlemage, Keeper, Legionnaire Scout, Shadow, Spirit Warrior and Guardian. Battlemages, like the name imply, allow mages players to obtain skills that make them viable at closer ranged combat alongside warriors and melee-spec'd Rogues. Battlemage spells allow the Mage to absorb health from nearby enemies, keeping their lower endurance stats from hindering them in group combat, and gaining mana each time they're hit, allowing them to cast more frequently and without consuming excessive potions. Keepers, based on the Dalish Elves of the same class in the main game and lore, are Mages that focus on defensive abilities- their spells create shields, heal themselves and summon roots that impede and damage enemies nearby. The Legionnaire Scout, inspired by the Dwarven Legion of the Dead faction, transforms Rogues into more hardy, damage absorbing fighters, increasing their base dexterity and damage. Legionnaire Scout talents focus on increasing strength and fortitude, making the Rogue immune to damage for brief periods of time and making them immune to spells. On the other end of the spectrum, the Shadow specialization takes the approach of stealth and dealing high damage from single, sneaky attacks. Shadow Rogues gain large increases to their dexterity, and can use their talents to turn invisible, distract the enemy with a decoy, and wield airborne toxins against the enemy. The Guardian specialization for the Warrior increases fortitude and defense, and makes the Warrior the central point for the enemy in battle, deflecting damage off weaker party members to the Guardian. Finally, the Spirit Warriors are able to use magical abilities to bless and buff themselves and their allies, resisting spells while making the Warrior more capable in magical combat.
The core classes each receive notable boosts as well, gaining new spells and talents to accommodate for the increased level cap. Mages gain access to the Fade Shield, Elemental Mastery, Attunement, Time Spiral, Repulsion Field, Invigorate, Arcane Field and Mystical Negation spells as part of the Arcane skill tree. Rogues now have the ability to use the Heartseeker, Ghost, Weak Points and Flicker abilities. Warriors gain access to the Second Wind, Peon's Plight, Grievous Insult and Massacre abilities as part of their standard skill tree, while the can learn the Juggernaut, Carapace, Air of Insolence and Bulwark of the Ages ability as part of their sword-and-shield skill tree. The Expansion also adds three new skills: Runecrafting, Vitality and Clarity.
With a cast of new party members, the Companion Approval system returns in full-force in Awakening, though none of the relationships can blossom into full romance like in Origins. However, all characters retain the concept of having a personal quest when their approval meter is high enough, making a pivotal impact on the relationship between the player character and the party member. Party Members can also now be placed through The Joining, the ritual that transforms a person into a member of the Grey Warden. Though in-universe, every Joining Ritual has a chance of killing the attempting recruit, none of the characters from Awakening can die during this sequence, nor is their any gameplay benefit for doing so- only story benefits.
Like many of Bioware's modern RPGs, Dragon Age Origins- Awakening offers players the ability to import the choices they made during the events of the previous game to change the plot, world and character interactions throughout. Awakening specifically features numerous characters that are only present and items and notes that will only appear if the player decides to import, and there is a large number of dialogue unique for Warden's who have stopped The Blight and slain the Archdemon on their own saves. Specific cases and benefits of save imports are listed in the Origins Importing section of the article.
Six Months after the defeat of The Archdemon and the victory over the Darkspawn that ended the Blight in Ferelden, a Grey Warden Commander makes their way to the land of Amaranthine, where they need to take command of the Warden Fortress of Vigil's Keep to maintain order in the land. This Warden-Commander is either an imported Grey Warden from Ferelden, and the very one who slew the Archdemon themselves, or an Orlesian Commander sent to reinforce the Fereldens due to the significant numbers of their loses in the battle at Ostagar. The Warden-Commander, accompanied by the human warrior Warden Recruit Mhairi, arrive at Vigil's Keep to find it overrun by Darkspawn, who have slaughtered most of the guards. Surprised to see organized packs of the enemy still roaming the land after the Archdemon's death, the Warden and Mhairi begin to fight through the Darkspawn, rescuing as many troops as possible and sending them out to signal for reinforcements. Inside the keep, the Warden encounters a solitary Mage, holding out against the Darkspawn forces over the bodies of multiple fallen Templars. The mage introduces himself as Anders, an apostate wanted for numerous attempted escapes from the Circle, though he is quick to clarify that he wasn't the one who killed the Templars- only that he didn't put up much effort in defending them. Anders spells' healing nature made the invaluable in battle as he could quickly keep all the Warden-Commander and Mhairi on their feet during tough battles. Venturing further through the Keep, the Warden-Commander meets Oghren- a Dwarf berserker who, feeling inspired by the Warden he followed during the Blight, had come to Amaranthine to become a Warden himself. Oghren will either introduce or reintroduce himself, and joint the party.
Shortly thereafter, the Warden-Commander encountered Rowland, a mortally wounded Grey Warden and old friend to Mhairi. Despite Anders' spells and the healing supplies the Warden carried, Rowland was too far gone for the party to make a difference- but in his final moments, he warned the Warden-Commander that the leader of the Darkspawn attacking the Keep could talk- much to Oghren and Anders disbelief. Regardless, the Warden-Commander gives Rowland his final comforts, and the party continue through the Keep- past hordes of Hurlocks, Genlocks and the occasional Shriek. Reaching the Keep's rooftop, the group encounter The Withered, Rowland's talking Darkspawn. The Withered has taken Seneschal Varel, the Keep's care-taker, but before he was able to end the Seneschal, the Warden-Commander drew his attention, attempting to speak with The Withered, who claims that the Wardens know nothing of the Darkspawn, before revealing his intentions were to capture the Commander and destroy the Keep for his master. The Warden and The Withered cross blades, and after a brief battle, the talking Darkspawn fell, routing the Darkspawn forces from the Keep. With the Darkspawn falling back, Templar reinforcements lead by the leader of Ferelden (either King Alistair, King Loghain or Queen Anora, depending on choices made in Origins) arrive, securing the Keep. After a brief conversation between the Commander and the Royal, the leader of the Templars attempts to have Anders arrested and hanged for his crimes, forcing the Warden-Commander to step in and conscript the Mage into the Wardens to prevent his death. The Warden-Commander can also choose to allow Oghren into the Order, leading to Seneschal Varel to commence with The Joining. During the ritual, only Oghren and Anders are able to survive- with Mahiri dying like many recruits before her, much to the dismay of Varel and the Warden.
With the Darkspawn not retreating back into the Deep Roads like history claims, the Warden-Commander is forced to begin rebuilding the Wardens Order and repairing the damages done to Vigil's Keep. Turning the advisers of the Keep; Seneschal Varel, Mistress Woolsey and Captain Garevel, the Warden-Commander begins preparations to recruit aid and hunt the Darkspawn across Amaranthine. Garevel believes that the Darkspawn attacks could be connected to an entrance into the Deep Roads under Vigil's Keep and Knotwood Hills, advising the Commander to investigate. Varel informs the Commander about the Grey Warden Kristoff, who was not present when the Keep was attacked. Kristoff had been investigating the reason why the Darkspawn were still on the surface, and the last the Seneschal had heard, his investigations lead him to the City of Amaranthine. Finally, Mistress Woolsey tells the Warden that traders aren't getting their supplies throughout the area, as they are being attacked and wiped out on the roads, making the merchants nervous to even attempt the journey. Claiming that without a flowing economy, the Keep will not be able to be repaired or defended properly and the people will suffer. The Warden-Commander is also made aware of a prisoner in the Keep: Nathaniel Howe, son of Arl Rendon Howe. Angered that the very Warden Order that killed his father had taken his home, Nathaniel broke into the Keep, but was captured and imprisoned. The Warden-Commander can choose to execute him, or recruit him into the Wardens, making him a party member. Nathaniel is hostile towards the Warden-Commander at first, especially if the Commander is the very same who murdered Arl Howe, and even more so if that Commander is a Human Noble, but over time, Howe warms up to the Warden and realizes the depravity of his father, vowing to undo the harm done to their family's name by becoming an honorable man.
Note: the order these quests are done are up to the Player, there is no canon reason one of the three would come before the others.
Following Woolsey's tip, the Warden-Commander leads a party into the Wending Woods, where they quickly encounter a pack of Bandits salvaging a desecrated caravan, who are scared off by the arrival of Wardens. Believing that they may have discovered the cause of the disappearances, the Wardens ventured deeper into the woods, meeting an angry Dalish Elf Keeper who has been slaughtered the humans inside the Woods. A dying militiaman explains to the Warden-Commander that the Keeper, Velanna, was burning all the caravans that entered because she believed that humans had kidnapped her sister, when the truth was that the Darkspawn had done so. With this knowledge, the Commander is able to talk Velanna down from attacking them, and can possibly even recruit her into the Party. Velanna leads the Wardens into a Silverite Mine where the Darkspawn have holed up, but they are quickly knocked out by a trap set by an enigmatic Darkspawn named The Architect. The Architect has the Wardens stripped of their equipment and placed in holding cells. Velanna's sister, Seranni arrives after the group wakes up to bring them a key to help them escape, though she appears to have the corrupted appearance of a Ghoul. Velanna attempts to get Seranni to come with them so they can get her help, but the elf refuses and quickly makes herself scarce when she hears the Darkspawn coming to check up on the prisoners. Fighting their way through the Mines, the Wardens are able to reach the Architect's Lab, where they break the magical seals on the doors ahead and obtain some equipment to defend themselves.
Nearing the exit of the mines, the Warden's encounter an Orlesian Warden named Keenan, who has been mortally wounded at the hands of the Darkspawn inside. Before dying, Keenan warns the Commander of an imposing Hurlock with a massive hammer who was responsible for his injuries. Wardens hunted this Hurlock down and slaughtered him, avenging Keenan's death. Just before their escape, the Warden-Commander met face-to-face with the apologetic Architect, accompanied by his servants- Seranni and a dwarf named Utha. Before the Commander can confront or get answers from the Architect, his young Dragons attack the party, forcing them to defend themselves. When it became apparent that the Wardens would conquer the dragons and escape the Mine, the Architect and his servants chose to flee, rather than answer any questions. Reaching fresh air in the Wending Woods again, Velanna offers her service to the Commander as a member of the Wardens, and survives her Joining ceremony when the Party returns to Vigil's Keep.
Choosing next to venture to Knotwood Hills, the Wardens encounter a massive chasm leading into the depths of the Deep Roads, where they encounter the Legion of the Dead scout, Sigrun. Sigrun reveals that the Chasm leads into the fallen Dwarven city of Kal'Hirol, now infested with numerous Broodmothers who are continually pumping out new Darkspawn units to fight throughout Amaranthine for their leader, a Broodmother named "The Mother". Seeing the need to destroy these creatures, and having no other ways of entering the city without the Scout's aid, the Wardens and Sigrun join forces to kill out the Broodmothers. Sigrun and the Wardens fight through hordes of Darkspawn and ancient Golems while overcoming numerous traps, eventually discovering one of The Mother's talking Darkspawn servants like The Withered- this one named The Lost, who has obtained his own flaming Inferno Golem. Overcoming both of these foes in combat, the Warden-Commander turns towards the Broodmothers assembled in the pits below. Seeing too many of the creatures in the breeding pits to overcome in traditional combat, the Wardens resourcefully sever the chains holding a massive Lyrium storage container suspended on the upper levels, which falls into the pit, crushing it with a massive, crippling blow that shatters throughout Kal'Hirol, killing most if not all the Broodmothers and preventing them and their broods from leaving the chamber. Sigrun decides to tag along with The Warden-Commander, as her vow to fight Darkspawn drives her towards the same battles as the group, and her perspective on life as a member of the Legion making her believe herself dead anyway prevents her from fearing death in the Joining. Like most of the recruits, Sigrun survives the initiation and begins to help the Warden throughout Amaranthine.
Returning to Vigil's Keep, the Warden is alerted by Anders that there is murmuring among the Arls of a conspiracy to assassinate the Warden-Commander. Speaking to Varel about it, the Warden is given numerous options- the ability to contact a shady informant named Dark Wolf to discover the identities of the conspirators, the option to invite a member of each royal family to stay at the Keep to be held indefinably under threat of execution to keep their families in line, or the Warden can delegate the job to Varel, as the Darkspawn problems have occupied too much of the Warden's time to be concerned with possible conspiracy theories. If the Warden fails to do either of the first two options, the conspiracy reappears when a riot breaks out in front of the Keep, and the Banns demand an audience with the Warden. Bann Esmerelle blames the Wardens for the death of Arl Howe and the plights faced by their people today and orders a Crow Assassin to open fire on the Warden with a crossbow, but Varel quickly leaps in the way, taking a devastating crossbow bolt to defend his Commander. The Wardens leap into battle, slaying the Assassin and the conspirators before Garevel arrives. The Captain determines that Varel will survive the injury, but that the Warden should keep the Conspiracy a secret for now, as the people of the land have enough to be panic-stricken about with the Darkspawn still roaming about.
Traveling to the City of Amaranthine, the Warden-Commander discovers the last known location of the missing Warden Kristoff; he had been staying in a room in the Crow and Lion Inn. While the Innkeeper had only trivial information about the man to share, when the Wardens investigated Kristoff's room, they discovered his journals and maps where he believed the goal of his quest to be located within the nearby swampy Blackmarsh. A few days journey later, the Wardens arrive in the Blackmarsh, and are immediately able to sense the presence of Darkspawn throughout the murky land. Finding the abandoned camp of Kristoff first, the Wardens are able to follow the trail to the Warden's body- only to be ambushed by Darkspawn forces lead by The First, one of The Mother's talking Hurlocks, who claimed that The Mother wanted Kristoff's body left alone to draw the Warden-Commander to him. Pulling out a magical orb, The First claims that The Mother knows that the Wardens are helping "The Father", and pulls them into The Fade.
Waking up in the nightmarish world of The Fade once again, the Wardens (including Oghren if he is present, suitably disturbing him as Dwarves are unable to enter the realm in theory) find that The First has also been transported alongside them- much to his surprise. Refusing to help the Warden despite The Mother's obvious betrayal, The First orders his Darkspawn to attack while he left to find his own way out of The Fade. Dispatching the enemies quickly, the Wardens discover that where there was only ruins and swamp in the Mortal World, a large village stood untouched by time in The Fade. Entering the town through undead infested catacombs, they learn that the town was ruled over by The Baroness, an Orlesian from the time of the Ferelden Occupation who had dragged the entire town into the Fade with her wicked magic when they rioted and tried to burn her to death within her own home. When the Wardens arrive, the villagers are still rioting at the Palace gates, demanding The Baroness come forth. The Warden-Commander is approached by a powerful spirit named Justice who explains the Baroness' role in the Villagers entrapment and the need for justice to be taken upon the cruel Orlesian, asking for the Wardens aid. Convincing her to come out, the Baroness offers the Warden a deal of her own- she can help the Wardens return to the mortal world if they help her defeat the villagers. The choice is up to the Warden-Commander, but The First will arrive to reinforce whatever side the player does not choose.
Regardless of the choice, Justice and the Villagers storm the palace gates, and the battle spills out into the courtyard, where the Warden-Commander faces down and finally kills The First. If players side with The Baroness, she will keep her word and return the Wardens to the mortal realm after the battle, but if the Wardens sided with justice, she will transport everyone to there in a desperate attempt to escape death. When she crosses through The Veil, the Baroness accidentally drags Justice along with her, bringing him to the mortal world as well. With no living body, Justice is forced into the nearest suitable vessel- Kristoff's corpse. Justice warns the Warden-Commander that The Baroness is possessed by a powerful Pride Demon, and when they encounter the Orlesian in front of her ruined estate, she begins to lose herself as she envisions what it would be like to rule over the mortal realm. Shedding her skin to reveal her true Pride Demon form, the Baroness attacks Justice and the Wardens, forcing them to kill her. Afterwards, with no purpose in a mortal life, Justice can be convinced that fighting the Darkspawn is a cause worthy of his outlooks on life, and can be recruited into the Grey Wardens, though his rotting, decayed appearance left others disturbed frequently.
With all of these paths followed, the Wardens receive word that a massive Darkspawn force sent by The Mother has converged on the City of Amaranthine, and have overwhelmed most of the defenders. Choosing three Wardens to accompany them, the Warden-Commander sets off to battle the Darkspawn, but after arriving at the gates of the city, a talking Darkspawn named The Messenger, sent by The Architect, arrives to warn the Commander that a massive army of Darkspawn is likewise marching on Vigil's Keep, where the rest of the party and the Warden's forces are trapped, forcing the Warden to chose between saving Amaranthine or Vigil's Keep. If they chose to save Vigil's Keep, the Wardens set fire to the city, burning the Darkspawn and people still trapped inside, and arrive quickly enough to minimize casualties at the Keep, though the amount of damage changes based on how many upgrades and sidequests have been completed to empower it. Choosing to save the City will lead to a drawn out battle between the Warden to reclaim street by street of Amaranthine and rescue numerous civilians and militiamen before turning the tide of battle- allowing them to quickly march back to the Keep and reinforce any remaining Vigil's Keep survivors (once again dependent on the Commander's upgrades), though this choice dooms Varel to death in battle.
Though the losses for both sides were heavy, the Warden-Commander is able to turn back the Darkspawn sieges, and sees an opportunity to fight into the Darkspawn's own home and strike at The Mother where she lives. Venturing to the Dragonbone Wastes, the Warden-Commander faces the most powerful Darkspawn yet, including armored siege ogres and a High Dragon. Entering Drake's Fall, the Wardens make their way for The Nest, where The Mother waits- but along the way they encounter The Architect and Utha once again. The Architect apologizes for the incident in the Silverite Mines, and explains his motivations and goals at length with the Wardens. He reveals that he has been trying to save his people, The Darkspawn, from The Calling that drives them to surface during Blights and makes them into bestial monsters without an Arch-Demon, and that his experiments accidentally corrupted one of the last remaining old gods into the Arch-Demon slain at Denerim six months earlier. He further explains that, just like the Wardens need the blood of Darkspawn to fight the Taint, the Darkspawn need Warden blood to fight the Calling, and asks for the Warden-Commander's help in freeing his people. The Warden can chose to agree to help him or can attack and kill the Architect before continuing down the path to battle The Mother. Fighting and eventually killing the powerful Broodmother, the Warden-Commander puts a stop to the Darkspawn threat in Amaranthine...at least for the time being.
In the epilogue, it is revealed that the Warden returns to their love interests or to the seat of power in Denerim, based on choices from Origins, before eventually vanishing a few years later under mysterious circumstances. If the Warden-Commander is an Orlesian, they will be called back to the Grey Warden capital, never to be seen again, with the common rumor being that a new Blight had begun there- though none knew anything for certain.
Like with all modern Bioware video games, Dragon Age Origins: Awakening is able to import an Origins save to radically alter the world and interactions with the characters. Major changes include:
- Either Alistair, Anora or Loghian appears at the beginning of the game, depending on who was made King/Queen of Ferelden at the end of Origins.
- A Human Noble character has a significantly different relationship with Nathaniel Howe, as Nathaniel's father murdered the players family in Origin's opening, making their rivalry and eventual friendship more poignant.
- Amaranthine NPCs have a deep respect for an imported Warden-Commander, as they have already proved themselves as Heroes of Ferelden. They will be extremely suspicious of an Orlesian Commander, due to bad blood from the Orlesian occupation of Ferelden.
Dragon Age Origins: Awakening was received positively by most critics and fans, though not as unanimously praised as the base game, with many feeling disappointed in the content, citing less interesting characters and a less interesting plotline. Gamespot gave the expansion an 8.0 out of 10.0 for these reasons, while IGN gave the game an 8.5, claiming that while the story was "epic", it felt disconnected from the original game too much.