I recently completed yet another run in the Dragon Age Universe and I realized that I had never reviewed this expansion by itself. Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening certainly deserves its own review. Even if for the wrong reasons.
You can either start with a fresh character or import your hero from Dragon Age: Origins (for issues with this, please read on). The problem is that of all the characters from the the original game only...Oghren is available as a companion, you are roaming a completely different map and the story feels like an afterthought. The expansion takes place in a completely different map and the red thread that holds the story together, quite ironically, are the ...darkspawn.
The original game had a solid story with twists and turns and interesting characters. Don't get me wrong, I was eager to experience more Dragon Age too, however, neither the story nor the companions meet the high standards of the original game. I mean, you get an apostate mage, the rogue son of your father's murderer, a warrior spirit incarnated into the wrong body, a murderous elf who is constantly angry (I am guessing extra chromosomes), a dwarf with a death-wish - and Oghren.
As mentioned above, you can import your character from the original Dragon Age. Disappointingly, this does not include any DLC items(?!). So, say goodbye to your Starfang sword and beautiful Warden Commander armor set among other things. You will get even more powerful equipment in the expansion (although I still think the Sentinel armor set makes my hero look like Darth Vader!).
My advice: do a few test-runs to see what is or not imported and then sell everything you cannot bring into the expansion. You will need the money. Trust me.
BUGS. BUGS. AND MORE BUGS
Armor sets that do not complete because crates do not spawn or spawn empty. Equipment that is downgraded if left in your personal storage trunk. And you better enter the Silverite Mines...naked because most often than not all of your Hero's equipment will disappear - forever. And, no, neither the Ultimate edition nor the latest patch fixed most of these bugs. Save often (new saves, not quick ones) to avoid the grief of having to start over.
GRANDMASTER RUNE OF ANNOYANCE
Runes gain two extra levels, Masterpiece and Paragon and, besides weapons, they can now be slotted into armor as well. There is also a new skill, Runecrafting, to go with this. However, either the required ingredients are too rare or you have to decide to strip your weapons in order to augment your armor. I ended up slotting only the runes I looted and kept everything I brought from the original game.
Come to think of it, by importing a level-25 warrior (with a well-stocked...potion-cellar) I rarely had to craft any potions either.
NEW SKILLS & TALENTS
Almost every talent group gets a new tier of talents. So do Specializations and Skills. The talents are the most important as they offer new spells or warrior and rogue attacks and defenses. There seem to be more Tactics slots as well, a good idea, to accommodate the increased number of talents.
Most of the talents are well thought, useful in battle and beautifully realized on screen.
The original Dragon Age: Origins was a masterpiece of a game so if you played and enjoyed it I know you just have to play the expansion as well. However, if you don't, you are not missing much.
Keep your expectations low in order to enjoy the extra leg of the ride and to avoid being disappointed.