Battling darkspawn and spirit dragons.
February 18, 2010 - Dragon Age: Origins was a massive game, and it's about to get even bigger. Though there have been bits and pieces of downloadable content released so far, the upcoming Awakening is the largest yet. It's billed by BioWare as a full-on expansion and continues on after the events of the base game. It seems the darkspawn from Origins are still a threat, though BioWare isn't commenting on the reasons behind their presence for obvious reasons. Nobody wants to spoil the story before the content is event out, right?
If you're one of those people who have seen everything they wanted to see in Origins and are hungry for more, then you should know you can import your base game character into the expansion. Or, if you either don't want to or lost your save, you can start a new character, a Grey Warden from a neighboring country. Throughout the course of your adventure you'll run into a number of new party members, including one returning character from the base game BioWare wasn't willing to reveal.
How much content can you expect in Awakening? It seems like everything is getting an upgrade. You'll find new class specializations, new skills, an increased level cap, plenty of new items, and obviously new quests, enemies to kill, and areas to explore. It's also firmly rooted in the fiction of the game world, as Fernando Melo, online producer for Dragon Age, explained. "We spent a lot of years developing the world of Dragon Age, and Awakening has a very defined place of what it's trying to reveal both geographically but also in terms of storytelling and timeline it fits into. Awakening is something that is a massive way to add not just a chapter to the story, but a volume, like a new book to the world. But each of the downloadable content types, even down to the really small items, will usually be very rich with lore or they'll foreshadow other things that are to come. Eventually these things converge and paint a much bigger picture."
Those concerned this expansion content might strike a different tone from what they grew used to in Origins should be happy to hear it's the same writing team fueling the content. It sounds as though the team is also keeping an eye to building out the world in the future. "So far with Origins, as massive a game as that was, we revealed a sliver of time in a very contained place in the world," said Melo. "With Awakening we expand that more, fast forward in time a few more months and it's in a different geographical location, but it's still a relatively small spec of what the bigger picture looks like. There's still a lot more to reveal. The really nice thing about doing your own mechanics is we can design it from the ground up to suit what the world needs and what the story is. More importantly, I think when you look at IPs like Dungeons & Dragons it doesn't always translate well to games and you have to sort of shoehorn it or smooth over the rough edges to make it fun. Whereas with our own system we can balance it until it becomes written law, as it were. We can change it as much as we want to make sure that it's going to make for fun gameplay. Much like the story, we're unchained."
As far as actual content, a few sections were playable at a recent event. One are had a party of two mages, one rogue, and a warrior going up against a gigantic spirit dragon. This is an optional boss fight, and man was it challenging. I played Dragon Age for a quite a few hours so I knew generally what was going on here, but this foe was capable of dealing out some severe damage in the form of a fan of lighting spewed from its mouth that nearly instantly killed my warrior and mages.
A few group heals later I was back in fighting form, but after chipping away about 25 percent of the boss' health, something curious happened. The dragon transformed into a ball of energy, and as I surveyed the scene a number of other smaller energy spheres were hovering around the battlefield. I stood for a moment not sure what to, then proceeded to hack away at the spheres on the periphery since they'd started to move toward the center of the battlefield. I'd wiped out about five of them by the time they reached the larger sphere that represented the dragon. To my dismay, when they made contact they healed the dragon, which then popped back into existence with most of its health back and flattened my party with more lightning breath. For experienced and brave players, this optional fight should prove to be quite the challenge, and BioWare promises that the rewards are appropriately epic.
Warriors can specialize in Spirit Warrior skills that augment attacks with a type of damage that bypasses armor, boosts movement and attack speed, and gives spell resistance bonuses. These types of warriors also get a cool effect of glowing blue white with a certain skill activated as they dish out spirit damage. Should you choose the Guardian specialization, you'll find your warrior will be more adept at keeping other party members alive at the expense of personal health.
Seems like exactly the kind of stuff those that played and loved Dragon Age would be interested in. Expect more coverage as the March 16 release date on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC platforms approaches.