The Games Of Christmas ’10: Day 12


Add-on packs feel like relics from the past now, in our world of DLC and quickly turned around sequels from a second studio. The notion of spending two-thirds of the cost of the first game again to be able to make it bigger, longer, or more involved, seems quaint. But it’s one of these olde-worlde notions that lies behind the twelfth window. What might it beeeeeee?

Oh, hello.

It’s… Dragon Age: Awakening! (Be warned, the below contains spoilers for the original Dragon Age.)

John: I really feel like Dragon Age has fallen into that strange crack in the world of gaming where something truly excellent gets looked over because there was too much accurate expectation that it would be great. BioWare make excellent RPGs, and even despite one of the worst promotional campaigns in gaming history, it’s no surprise that Dragon Age was an excellent RPG. Mass Effect 2 came out in the same year, and was not only designed to have a broader appeal across multiple genres, but courted more controversy by making large changes since its original. So of course Dragon Age received its backlash, including from major reviews. It was never going to appeal to everyone. But to those who wanted a classic RPG on an epic scale packed with stunning characters and a depth of history and lore to boggle fans of the dustiest of fantasy series, it succeeded astonishingly. And yet fails to have received the place in history I believe it deserves alongside Deux Ex, Planescape: Torment, even Baldur’s Gate.

So Awakening, an exceptional continuation of the first game, barely made any noise at all. It came and went without the deserved fuss.

This probably wasn’t helped by following on from a barrage of the most abysmal DLC imaginable. The reputation of the game’s name had been tarnished by the lazy, boring and tedious mini-stories that had been released, often with disastrous delays and dismissive treatment of a bemused audience. Awakening may easily have been the latest of these to a weary player. But coming in a box, with a heftier pricetag, there were clues this was going to be a bit more.

However, it was with the trepidation I’d learned from slogging through the horrible DLC that I approached. Fortunately, it was almost immediately obvious this was something else. That same feeling of sinking deep into an absorbing world enveloped me, and I smiled. Phew, more Dragon Age.

In whichever way you defeated the Archdemon at the end of DA, the story allows you to pick up while maintaining all the decisions you made. (It doesn’t matter who became King, who survived, etc, the continuation respects this and adapts to it.) But the darkspawn, for some reason, haven’t retreated to the Deep Roads as they might usually after a Blight. Instead they appear to be better organised, more coordinated, and, er, talking. The game picks up on interesting themes from the original, most frequently focusing on the relationship between the mages and the fundamentalist religious sect, the Chantry. It’s an area that allows a great deal of commentary on contemporary religious conflict, and is handled smartly and gently.

While you could easily make the original DA last 100 hours, this is a quarter of the length. Which would still be four times the length of the average AAA release. It’s still an enormous game. And to make sure it’s an entertaining time, you’re given a new party, and so many new skills and abilities to learn that fit in so perfectly. Best of all, you get Anders, an apostate wizard. And yes, sure, he’s a direct replacement for Alistair’s splendid sarcasm, but it’s a role that needs filling, and one that’s a pleasure to see filled by someone with no good intentions at all.

Honestly, I think this game deserves a place in this calendar for one reason alone: Ser Pounce-a-lot. The interaction between the miserable arsehole Anders and the kitten is such a delight.

The big weakness is its tendency to have quest series go nowhere. Side-quests, while a lot of fun to complete, don’t seem to have endings. It throws you out of the world, and feels almost humiliating. “Ha ha, you allowed yourself to believe in this little story. But it was just some mechanics, and you reached the end.”

But most of all, this is a more complex, more refined version of what was one of the greatest games ever made. It should have been championed loudly by the universe. I shouldn’t be the only person writing an entry for it here. But Dragon Age is – for whatever reason – stuck in that crack between too popular for its own good, and too old-school to be heralded as a new innovation. I don’t know. It just seems to me that a game of the standards of Awakening shouldn’t be something that most people probably forgot was released this year at all.


  1. Mike says:

    Man, John Walker likes Dragon Age….alot.

  2. Lambchops says:

    I started Awakenings. I had intentions of finsihing it as I did rather enjoy Dragon Age. But alas exams took over and I haven’t yet found the time to go back to it. which is a shame really. Will get round to it eventually.

  3. KauhuK says:

    Oh man. BRB installing Dragon Age and awakening again. Though I still have many games I haven’t finished yet. (Those games are Darksiders, Fallout NV, Settlers 7 and Alpha Protocol) Oh and then I have thought of getting the two worlds 2. Time to time.

  4. Giant, fussy whingebag says:

    Here, here! (Or is it hear, hear?)

    One of the things I liked best about Awakenings, and something I’m sure a lot of people hated, was the new way they treated talking to companions.

    In Origins, I found the fireside chats, which made up the bulk of your companion interaction, to be too far removed from everything else. All too often I’d end up slogging through large chunks of it every time I went to camp to swap in some new runes. There’s absolutely no control over the pacing, essentially.

    Awakenings fixes that and is much better for it. Sadly, the characters themselves are, largely, less memorable. It also would have been nice if some of the conversations triggered automatically, rather than being linked rather flimsily to objects. Still, a big improvement.

    • Paul B says:

      I thought the Justice-spirit-corpse-possession character was an interesting companion. Though some others like Elf nature woman were quite boring. And agree that it would have been better to make companion dialogs more organic, then being able to win them round with gifts (which I did even though I didn’t like some of them, but wanted the stat bonuses).

    • TheApologist says:

      I reckon it’s ‘hear, hear’

  5. Kevin says:

    I enjoyed DA a lot. But an excellent rpg along the lines of Deus Ex/BG/PST?
    None of those games were anywhere near as polished as DA, but they offered roleplaying on a whole different level.
    If DA had have come out around the same time as them, it’d have been called an Action RPG by press/players, emphasis being on the action.

    • Wulf says:

      This is a truth. That there wasn’t much in the way of personal involvement or roleplaying was what I didn’t like about Dragon Age. Dragon Age was no more an RPG than Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel, but at least the latter didn’t pretend to be an RPG (badly).

      It’s brilliantly polished, I’ll give it that and I’ll never deny it, but it’s wooden, emotionless, and it lacks any ambition or personal involvement (as I mentioned). I was never conned by the notion of it being an RPG, it’s more of an action strategy game rather than an action RPG, even, since I don’t believe the RPG quotient in Dragon Age was high enough to even contain the acronym. I didn’t really feel like anything mattered, at all, ever in Dragon Age, not at any point. I’d have felt more involved watching a film.

      The games you’ve mentioned are ways to do it right, but also the past Fallout games, too. Fallout 2 was a fantastic example of an involving game, which became even moreso with killap’s restoration project. New Vegas is a throwback to that. To be honest, if they’re going to include the polished corpse of Dragon Age, but not New Vegas, then that’ll pretty much put the last nail in the coffin of any faith I had in RPS. And I know for a fact I’m not the only one who feels that way (and I’m not just talking about personal friends, either, but long-time RPS readers).

    • The Hammer says:

      Are we, er, going to see a repeat of last year, Wulf?

    • mlaskus says:

      That there wasn’t much in the way of personal involvement or roleplaying was what I didn’t like about Dragon Age. Dragon Age was no more an RPG

      I don’t agree with you about Dragon Age, but I applaud you for calling it a non RPG for the right reasons. People usually associate RPGs with the character stats and inventory screens and not with the role playing itself.

    • alh_p says:

      Bang on, DA is not on the same shelf as BG. Yes it does have a detailed world, alters some of the traditional fantasy stuff (e.g. Elves as underclass) and has some fun characters but it by no means felt as rich as BG. Maybe it’s the WoW-yness that soils it for me.

      I have to say, pushing well over 100 hours of NV now, I will be bemused not to see it on the crimbo list…

    • Jack says:

      W-what happened last year?

    • Mo says:

      To be honest, if they’re going to include the polished corpse of Dragon Age, but not New Vegas, then that’ll pretty much put the last nail in the coffin of any faith I had in RPS. And I know for a fact I’m not the only one who feels that way (and I’m not just talking about personal friends, either, but long-time RPS readers).

      Why bother announcing this at all? The most important part of RPS is the guys giving their honest opinions, unhindered & uninfluenced. They aren’t about to change that on the basis of your “threat”. If you’re dissatisfied with the site, leave. I imagined you as being too mature for this “gamer’s sense of entitlement” crap…

      PS: @RPS boys: I’ve been here since (literally) day 1 … you guys are doing an awesome job / keep it up / etc.

    • Torgen says:

      @Wulf: Until you start funding the site out of your own pocket, your snits will change nothing. Grow up, and stop with the attention whoring like you’re someone special.

      Alternatively, you and your leet friends start your own gaming blog and compete with RPS, if you think they’re doing it so wrong. That’s the only place your little “threats” will matter.

    • Ateius says:

      Torgen is on a fast-track to winning my heart.

    • MikoSquiz says:

      I think “wooden” hits the nail on the head for me. It just didn’t grab me. Playing Dragon Age felt like going through the motions, there was barely any emotional involvement apart from constant irritation from Morrigan. If there’s been some sort of quest chain leading to the goal of pushing Morrigan off something high or at least into a lake, maybe it would’ve pulled me in, but as it was I stopped playing some ten hours in and couldn’t bring myself to continue.

    • Luke says:

      To be honest, if they’re going to include the polished corpse of Dragon Age, but not New Vegas, then that’ll pretty much put the last nail in the coffin of any faith I had in RPS. And I know for a fact I’m not the only one who feels that way (and I’m not just talking about personal friends, either, but long-time RPS readers).

      If you leave, who will then post pompous, hyper sensitive comments about the uncanny symbiosis between works of genius and their own opinions? : 0

  6. MartinNr5 says:

    *Spoiler alert!*

    In this one, the dragon wakes up!

    *End spoiler!*

    • Thants says:

      *Spoiler Alert*

      It’s 35. The Dragon’s age, that is.

      *Spoiler Alert*

  7. Lambchops says:

    As for Dragon Age’s reception and place in terms of “great RPGs” . . . well that is definitely an odd one. It certainly deserves it’s place it is a great game. Heck, it’s even one of the rare games that I played again straight away. And there, perhaps when it comes down to it lies the ultimate problem. When playing it for the first time it feels like your decisions are far reaching, that they could shape the world in entirely different ways. To an extent they are, you could kill characters who may have become part of your party, there are plenty of NPCs whose lives you can touch in radically different ways. You feel that if you play from a different Origin that things could be radically different. However playing the second time exposes that the choices you make, your background all that sort of stuff has a much smaller effect than you may have expected. That references to your background are there and quite cleverly done, but not quite what you hoped for (for example expected Orzamaar to be radically different playing as a Dwarven exile but I couldn’t use my background to connive and manipulate as much as i’d hoped considering my character’s personal stake in the situation there).

    on the second playthrough it was still an enjoyable game. You could appreciate some of the world even better. You had a better grasp on the mechanics. But it just didn’t live up to that epic first run through. Controversially perhaps Dragon Age could benefit from not being able to be replayed. I certainly know that if i hadn’t played that second time I’d perhaps be more vocal in singing it’s praises. As it is I probably am guilty or underselling just how much I enjoyed it.

    So yeah, play Dragon Age, it’s brilliant – but, odd as it may sound, think twice before taking it on again!

  8. Gundrea says:

    That’s the problem. Dragon Age wasn’t stunning and it wasn’t bad. After I finished it I uninstalled it and looked about for something else to play. I never even considered buying this expansion or any of the DLC. Even Mass Effect had a more lasting impression.

    • Wulf says:

      I still think that’s because of the lack of emotion (Cassidy, Gannon, Lily, and Raul bring this to the table in New Vegas), and the lack of choices that really make you feel kind of screwed up no matter which you pick (Vault 34, Lily, the Whitewash quest, the Return to Sender quest, and a few others in New Vegas don’t pull any punches in this regard), and the things you could change felt incredibly muted compared to RPGs past. The consequences felt light-handed and cowardly.

      I’m just going to shake my head in disdain at the very notion of Dragon Age being a great RPG. It was an okay action strategy game, definitely not an RPG in any sense of the acronym.

    • PlayOm says:

      Pretty much sums DA up for me. I tried to like it but all my replays got boring around the half-way mark. There was just nothing to keep me coming back. Maybe its the terrible story design (ie, do four self-contained stories in random order and then come back to us) that Bioware seem wedded to these days, but the game just seemed flat and without any sort of charm. Didn’t even consider getting the DLC

    • Fumarole says:

      Maybe its the terrible story design (ie, do four self-contained stories in random order and then come back to us) that Bioware seem wedded to these days[…]

      What do you mean, these days?

      link to

      Even knowing this, Bioware RPGs remain some of my favorites.

    • Gassalasca says:

      Go Wulf!

    • jackflash says:

      Agree with you guys. In the end, Dragon Age lacked a real emotional core. Look at any of these other games – Planescape, in which you are struggling with your nature and you sort of worry about your companions, all of you feeling damned, or Deus Ex, when you really, really care what happens to your brother – and you see how flat Dragon Age feels.

    • PlayOm says:

      @Fumarole: Basically everything since NWN or Kotor. That chart is misleading insofar as in BG the areas you visited were roughly linear (in plot terms at least). It wasn’t simply ‘visit these four areas and obtain the McGuffin’

      But then that chart does sum up why I really don’t pay much attention to Bioware these days. I used to be a huge fan but their games have become consistently more formulaic (or at least the formula is wearing thin) over time

    • Nick says:

      Boone doesn’t bring emotion? WHAT?

    • DigitalSignalX says:

      +1 for cliche’ chart

    • FunkyBadger says:

      Go Wulf!

      You missed a comma.

    • Luke says:

      “I’m just going to shake my head in disdain at the very notion of Dragon Age being a great RPG. It was an okay action strategy game, definitely not an RPG in any sense of the acronym”

      Friends’ Forgive me, for I…I enjoyed Dragon Age.

      Pity me, as my doing so is clearly indicative of a life devoid of real cultural substance and emotional depth, an aesthetic immaturity fed on a diet of narrative gruel and the choleric thin water of mainstream entertainment. I know my salvation lies in the disregarded labour of non conformist, independent artists, but I am fear I am too far gone, my mind muddled by boobs and swords, drunk on the notion that a game which is popular with console owners could ever be regarded as good.

      Brothers, Sisters! Purge my soul of its yearning for tawdry achievements and physical conflict ! Cleanse me with the balm of rheams of text in a medium with a considerable graphical component! Speak over me the words of the misunderstood and under appreciated which leads to the heavenly rejection of the worth of popularity, nurtured by the balm of smugness and notions of artistic piety, which blinds me to troubling truths which I do not want to have to consider beyond my own righteously enforced opinion.


  9. noodlecake says:

    It is a fantastic EP. I’m actually enjoying it more than the original campaign. It’s a shame that all the other DLC were so lame. I don’t want to play anything that gives your items that are so overpowered that they completely unbalance the game and make it unplayable. I do dig the camp golem though!

    • Archonsod says:

      So just sell or ditch the items.

      The DLC wasn’t all bad. Leliana’s Song started off quite well, but petered out towards the end. Witch Hunt had it’s moments, and Darkspawn Chronicles was interesting due to the viewpoint, if frustrating at times. Oh, and the Stone Prisoner pseudo-DLC which added the best NPC in the game.

  10. Paul B says:

    Yes, I can’t understand the negative reaction DA: O received from some internet commenters and blogs. Maybe one of the reasons was that it wasn’t close enough to (or wasn’t) Baldur’s Gate II for some (see the simplified talent trees in place of D&D style levelling).

    But, I greatly enjoyed it, and liked that it was slightly more morally grey then some of Bioware’s recent works (like Mass Effect). And in Sten, produced a character who was very interesting, but very difficult to read unlike most of your companions. I was a little disappointed when I read that DA2 would be more like Mass Effect, as I thought DA: O harked back to Bioware’s earlier great RPGs.

    • Stick says:

      Sten frustrated me by refusing to behave as a standard NPC. Which is why I ended up liking him.

      Oh, and DA2 has a voiced, human, male or female protagonist. There ends the significant “more like ME” portion. Unless you count “improving the combat and the visuals and cutting down on inventory clutter in the sequel”. Everything else works in pretty much the same way.

      Not that this stops anyone from going apedoodoo about “Dragon Effect”. Not that you’re doing that.

    • Nick says:

      Thats actually a fairly big thing, having a forced 1 race choice and voice in a game that previously had neither. As for improving the combat, have you SEEN the videos? It looks fucking awful, people flying through the air like an anime or something.

    • Stick says:


      Yeah, the character customization might be a big thing, but that doesn’t make it Mass Effect. (It’d be more accurate to say the changes add up to “Dragon Age: Torment”…)

      I’ve seen the videos and listened to the dev podcast where they talk about the whats and whys of combat mechanic changes. They’re very reasonable.

      But, sure, I personally don’t object to flashy and stylized animationon principle. Milage variable.

    • Paul B says:

      @Stick – Exactly why I liked Sten as well – I tried all the tricks in order to get him to like my character, and yet he flatly rejected all of them. He was different, which made him stood out.

      And the Mass Effect thing was probably a knee-jerk reaction from me – as you’ve seen the dev diaries I have more faith in your opinion then mine. Bioware haven’t made a really bad RPG yet (in my opinion) so let’s hope it doesn’t start with DA 2.

    • Stick says:

      @ Paul B:

      I’m not sure I’ve ever had anyone on the ‘net say that to me before.


      Errr… Bioware social site / forums do have some good tidbits! Yes!
      (It can be a chore getting at it, but if you’re bored and/or interested… :)

    • Qjuad says:

      Sten was a great character and one of the my favourites from any Bioware game. His whole arc and dialogue was probably the best bit of writing in the game.

    • Nick says:

      Yes but its fairly obvious that giving a forced identity/voice to the character “hawke” is a leaf taken directly from Mass Effect, what with it being their other current big RPG series and everything. So its not hard to see the lines drawn from that, even if its not the only RPG ever to do that.

  11. Tyshalle says:

    I really did not like Awakening at all, despite having loved the original more than just about any other RPG I’ve ever played. In a similar vein to Mass Effect 2, Awakening took all the characters I fell in love with, the relationships I’d created, and all of the hard, painful decisions I made in the first game, and made all of them not matter in the slightest.

    I understand that since they’re allowing you to keep your character from the original, along with the decisions, it would be pretty damn hard to create a game that would flow well from the numerous decisions you made from the original game, but going the terribly generic route to fix the problem just felt lazy, and made me resent the game.

    And this doesn’t even go into how lazy the world building and adventuring felt this time around. It seemed like a much more straight forward adventure, with everything being tossed into a generic dungeon crawl to pad the length of the game. It was boring, and made the combat system feel much more tedious than a hundred hours in the original ever did.

  12. Colthor says:

    Dragon Age is probably my favourite game since the original STALKER, but this is still on my shopping list. I blame DD sales; there’s just too much to play for so little money…

  13. Mr Labbes says:

    I’m glad that I am not the only one who really, really enjoyed Awakening. None of my friends played it, having been disappointed by DA:O, although I told them that Awakening was better than it’s core game.
    That said, I’m not sure it actually is better, but it feels more intimate, more local, and it also has a great antagonist, very much unlike DA:O (at least my friends thought so, I still think that the Blight as some kind of “environmental catastrophe” is a great idea.).

    For me, there are two things that just stick out in Awakening: BEWARE HERE BE SPOILERS:

    The first one is the choice between saving the city or saving your friends. It quite literally made my jaw drop. I thought really hard, and ultimately, I saved my friends, while not being sure at all that it had been the right choice.
    The second thing is that in the epilogue, it seems everybody hates you, and all your actions really have repercussions – much unlike DA:O where the epilogue was mostly positive.


    I’m currently replaying ME2, which has a rather disappointing overall story arc, so it’s great to see that Bioware have not forgotten how to write a good plot.

    Edit: PS: One thing ME2 and Awakening have in common, though, is the far superior cast of characters. Justice rules.

  14. BigJonno says:

    Agreed on all counts, except for one. It was a brilliant marketing campaign, (which the sales figures back up, I believe) it just wasn’t intended for us. How many RPG-playing PC gamers are there who weren’t going to buy DA, but would have been convinced with the right TV spot? Not very many, I’d wager. They decided to go for the people who could be enticed by sword swinging, blood spilling, Marilyn Manson and boobies; exactly the right decision, in my opinion.

    • Wulf says:

      I actually felt that way about the game. Except I wouldn’t make a sweeping statement of ‘us’, since that involves talking for other people, and comes perilously close to falling into the undesirably decrepit pit of binary thinking. I felt that Dragon Age was meant more for the console audience; or those who like boobies, sword-swinging, and blood-spilling, more than it was meant for the old-guard RPG fans.

      Maybe I’m just getting old, but I do remember what a good RPG was. Dragon Age was many things, even a decent game in its own right, but it wasn’t an RPG. Or if it was, it was some new-fangled sort of RPG-lite that wasn’t meant for me.

    • bleeters says:

      We heard you the first time, Wulf :(

    • thebigJ_A says:

      It’s funny. I’m right now playing Planescape: Torment for the first time ever. It’s excellent.

      Dragon Age is no less an RPG than Planescape. In the sense of ‘RPG’ that you are going for, Wulf.

  15. Flint says:

    Absolutely adored the original. Bioware really has a gift for making characters and worlds that you genuinely care about, and DA didn’t fail there in the slightest. The main flaw of the original is actually in the way the like/dislike meters constantly attempt to mechanise the characters and turn them from fleshed-out personalities into I LIKE/I DISLIKE automatons that you need to try to please in an equally mechanical way (HERE HAVE GIFT / I AGREE WITH YOU) in order to achieve some bonus stuff. I don’t mind romance options in games and friendship meters are pretty much a Bioware staple that most of the time they know how to work with but they really felt awkward and tacked-on in Dragon Age.

    Haven’t picked up Awakening though yet. Just not had the time and I’ve heard more mixed opinions from that than I did of DA. But eventually…

  16. Caleb367 says:

    Hmm. Could it be DA:A deserves another look. I’ve played the original DA:O, but was more meh than awesome, in my book. (‘cept Zevran. You can’t not like a guy who stares at you luridly when you talk.)

  17. Ajh says:

    I guess there’s spoilers in my comment, but if you haven’t played this game by now what are you doing?!

    I’ve never been upset that I purchased dragon age, nor have I regretted buying Awakenings. Ultimately I put as many hours into replaying Planescape, finally getting a copy of Oblivion, or getting lost in Mass Effect’s story this year as I did to Dragon Age, but that doesn’t make it any less special.

    I knew origins had me in the deep roads when I felt sorrow and rage for the dead dwarves in the second to last area there, and horror at what she wanted to do.

    I read the novels before I could afford awakenings, and had to replay origins before I allowed myself a chance to touch it. I couldn’t let Loghain die after reading the books. I just couldn’t.

    Then we get to Origins, and there’s a kitten, a mage who’s general attitude is “Uh it wasn’t me..look at that over there!” I liked how the Howe family got a decent ending, as it’s more realistic that not all of them were horrible people. I ADORED the banter between the characters. Sigrun was one of the best for banter.

    I made the choice to save the city, instead of my friends, hoping that my friends would hold out. I was never sure if I made the right choice…So yes, Awakenings, and Origins as I can hardly separate the two have a spot on my list for favorite games I played this year.

  18. Nova says:

    Phew, I had truly forgotten Awakening till that post.

    After playing through Origins twice the add-on just didn’t really grab me. I am not sure if I just had enough Dragon Age by that time or it was missing something.
    I played through it and it was good, but not more.

    Thinking back now I can’t properly pinpoint why I didn’t enjoy that much.

  19. Wooly says:

    I *loved* Awakening. Origins was amazing in its own right, but Awakening took everything and improved on it. It was also an incredibly BEAUTIFUL game, whereas Origins was… not so all the time, but had its moments.

    My only complaint was that my dead warden’s achievements couldn’t be imported :( I gave my life for Ferelden! I should at least get a statue or something!

  20. Theoban says:

    I wanted to pick up Awakening earlier this year, after getting back into Dragon Age and finally giving it a proper go.

    I didn’t in the end, because I was so put off by the last section of Dragon Age that I gave up and haven’t finished the game.

    From the Landsmeet onwards, I found Dragon Age to be a bit of a let down. Whereas before I’d had difficult choices, now I was presented with choices I just didn’t care about. It became almost a corridor shooter, run down corridor, hit darkspawn, repeat ’til end of game.

    It just put me off getting Awakening, something I mildly regret.

    That’s only because the first 5/6ths or so of Origins was so wonderful, to have it end in bashy bashy combat stuff seemed inappropriate.

    Having said that, like I said, I didn’t finish it, so maybe I’m entirely wrong!

  21. Man Raised By Puffins says:

    Deux Ex

    That’s what they should have called Invisible War!

  22. The Great Wayne says:

    And there we are with wulf repeating three time in the same comment page his same exact opinion ;)

    Btw wulf, no games at all on any platform other than pen & paper can be righlty qualified of RPG. Immersive adventure game would be the closest for games like PS:T. RPG is used too widely and too vaguely these days to mean anything as far a video games go anyway, so let’s just leave it at that and not add to the rhetorical mess.

    That said: Dragon Age = good. Awakening = not so much. I found its quests to be quite poor and short lived, while at the same time the game got quite easier thanks to equipment/skills allowing your team members to become combat beasts.

    It didn’t felt fun anymore when I realized I could steamroll every monster in the game, remembered me the worst D&D games I’ve ever played when I was fourteen and our MD allowed us to reach such power that god slaying became an option.

  23. The Hammer says:

    Gaaaah, I’m only going to buy Awakening when I finish the first Dragon Age. And I’m only going to do that when I don’t get distracted by other games or work!

    I may just… make do with the sequel.

  24. Nevarion says:

    Amen to that!

  25. Joe Maley says:

    I haven’t bought a game for it’s single player in a long, long time. I mainly stick to SC2, TF2, CSS, L4D2, and BFBC2.

    However, recently I went on an RPG-buying spree. I picked up DA:O & DA:A, the Witcher, Divinity2, ME2 (despite that I haven’t played the first), and Arcania4.

    I just finished DAO yesterday, and it was superb. I really enjoy being able to play through a story without the interference of trolls and internet meme’s.

    I also bought minecraft last night, so I’m going to play that before awakening.

    • AlpineBob says:

      @ Joe Maley
      I also bought minecraft last night, so I’m going to play that before awakening.

      I like how you plan to play Minecraft in your sleep…

  26. Sobric says:

    Haven’t got Awakening yet because I haven’t finished Origins. I just get incredibly bored by the mechanics and the broken-up story that takes up the first 1/2 (or maybe 1/3?) of the game. There are some great moments in that game, but I just didn’t feel that the mechanics (the limited classes & skills; sluggish combat; mages being do-it-alls) worked well enough to draw me back in.

  27. simonkaye says:

    It’s strange. I enjoyed DA:O enormously as I was playing it, and Bioware certainly made a lot of money out of me as I gobbled away at their DLC. I liked the setting and the rich mythology, and I adored the characters and the depth of interaction with them. The complexity of the game’s responsiveness to your choices in the final quarter was wonderful, and the actual gameplay was actually stubbornly challenging and stimulating.

    But. But. It’s been a year. And DA simply hasn’t persisted in my memory – my affection hasn’t lasted. I tried starting a replay, and got bored. In fact, I didn’t even have the heart to finish off the last few battles in Awakening – I switched it off, and never switched it on again. Mass Effects 1 and 2, by comparison, have really stuck with me.

    I honestly don’t know why this game didn’t prove to be memorable. John is right – there’s something going on when such an excellent title departs from the collective memory so quickly.

  28. Qjuad says:

    I endorse this decision.

  29. malkav11 says:

    I think a fair bit of it seems to have to do with Mass Effect 2 coming out so soon after Dragon Age did. It was flashier, more controversial, and invited comparisons to Dragon Age that were really not warranted…and then somehow Dragon Age seemed to come out the worse in them for a great many people, a sleight of hand that I still don’t understand. Dragon Age is everything that I wanted Bioware to be going towards: involving combat with plenty of tactical nuance. Engrossing and memorable characters. Meaningful decisions and relevant worldbuilding. Reveals of genuinely shocking nature. And the brilliant Origins decision, which gave a personal background to the game that colored the way I saw everything.

    Mass Effect 2 was a deeply disconcerting voyage away from almost everything I wanted from Bioware. RPG gameplay largely stripped from things. The plot pretty much discarding any momentum from the first game in favor of being forced to work for a clearly villainous organization without any player agency and then haring off on an enormous number of sidequests while having a super-truncated main branch. A sudden emphasis on being a bland and dull cover shooter. Party NPCs that were functionally all but entirely interchangeable because they virtually never had anything to say except for shipboard one-on-one conversations and any of them were perfectly capable of killing any of the three or four enemy types in the game.

    The final blow, of course, that Dragon Age 2 appears to be going down the ME2 school of design and not that of its forefather.

    Don’t have much to say about Awakenings, though. I own it, I just haven’t gotten to it yet.

  30. Stephen Roberts says:

    I bought Dragons age: Origins a couple months back. Tried to enjoy it. Twice. Failed.

    It does have redeeming features (characters, voice acting) but seemed utterly dull to play. Talking: dull, combat: dull. Game: Talking and combat. Also I found the combat to be quite punishing if you didn’t pause every second for about twenty.

    I also thought the world design felt really flimsy and poor. Like levels in ‘The Void’, they just felt like test map rejects. And I hate invisible walls on any game.

    Invariably if I had been able to get along with the game I would be telling you how much I agree that Awakening is excellent and it’s a fantastic choice for this list, or indeed just a great game to recommend to friends and so on. But I didn’t. I feel like I’ve missed out on something that could have made me enjoy it but… well I tried to enjoy it but it was like a fucking sedative mixed with a rash. Soporific and irritating.

  31. Garrett Fitzgerald says:

    Never commented before, but when the topic of Dragon Age: Awakenings comes up, I kind of want to.

    I thought Origins was great. One of the best RPGs I’ve ever played, second only to something like Chrono Trigger. Then I played Awakenings and started to wonder, was Origins really great for everybody, or is that just if you hit the lucky path that really speaks to you and reacts logically to your expectations? When I bought Awakenings, right after finishing Origins, I immediately found that I couldn’t bring my story directly over — I don’t want to spoil it, but my endgame choice was the only one not supported by Awakenings, so I either had to change it or make a new character.

    Then I make a new character, retaining none of my 100 hours of Origins story, and decide, “Okay, I’ve made a legal little Elf mage that isn’t an apostate and doesn’t break the laws — they seemed kinda like snobbish jerks, so let’s RP that.” Being a snobbish jerk left her with practically no party very quickly. So it’s just her and the Dwarf, against quests that are tuned to a four person party and won’t scale whatsoever. I like hard games, but it felt like I completely went off the rails and broke the game, depriving it of sane mechanics or a detailed story. And I wonder to myself, was this a failure of Awakenings, or were these the unlucky choices that some Origins players made that convinced them to hate the game? Maybe I just got lucky with my choices the first time.

  32. Zenicetus says:

    I thought I got my money’s worth with both DAO and Awakenings, although I can’t rate either as classics. The two main flaws in the first series, I think, were:

    1) Generic, uninspired world design. Just the same fantasy tropes we’ve seen for years with humans, dwarves, and elves. Mass Effect suffers from that too. It’s all recycled ideas. It does make for a familiar game world where the player can immediately slot into the experience, because it’s all so recognizable. But I was hoping for something more original from Bioware, in both cases.

    2) Very repetitive combat, with limited enemy types. Both DAO and Awakening are padded out with combat against small groups of Darkspawn that are always the same, or just limited recombination of the same 4 basic types (sword guys, archer guys, one or two mages, and the occasional big troll dude. The tactics for dealing with that were mind-numbingly repetitive, once I had a good party put together. At least 50% of the time I spent in DAO and Awakening felt like grinding for XP in a MMO.

    • DrGonzo says:

      I would say Mass Effect has enough to stop it being completely generic and is quite an interesting world. While most if not all of it’s ideas are taken from elsewhere, I don’t think I’ve seen them in games before which is why I enjoyed the world. But I agree with Dragon Age, it just seemed to be the same world I’ve played in a million other bland Rpgs.

  33. Hunam says:

    Awakenings was alright, but you were too powerful by that point that nothing could really trouble you too much outside the final boss. I found the none Origins characters forgettable and whilst the story was good, it wasn’t interesting enough to be the main focus of the game when everyone was more interested in what Morrigan was up to, which got dumped into some shitty DLC package that lasts next to no time and covers almost nothing story wise.

    • FunkyBadger says:

      I think the people that label the DA setting as generic don’t actually like fantasy tropes whatsoever. A very well worked, different, setting.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Different in what sense?

    • FunkyBadger says:

      They did some really cool stuff with the dwarves and the chantry/mages tower dynamic was very fresh. Certainly different to Forgotten Realms, which makes up 80% of CRPGs over the past X years or so.

  34. DrPepper8 says:

    I’m replaying Dragon Age at the moment and am planning to go straight into Awakening after that. I loved Dragon Age and can’t believe I haven’t got round to playing Awakening sooner (I bought it months ago) – hopefully the motivation to get it finished before Dragon Age 2 comes out will give me a much needed kick up the ass to get back to it.

  35. Nick says:

    I do love it when people have the what defines an RPG “discussion”.

    Anyway, I loved Dragon Age but honestly got bored and stopped playing halfway through Awakening. Not sure why exactly.

  36. fuggles says:

    John, my question to you is are you nominating this in relation to Dragon Age or just in a standalone context?

    I went into DA: A straight out of DA:O and I bought the wardens keep DLC so had the extra blood powers and some nice DLC gear. DA ended with a lot of loose ends to be tied up, especially relating to a certain companion and I was very keen to see how this continued.

    So, come the start of Awakenings, I find that my character is naked, with no weapons as the DLC content does not transfer and I now have buttons on my GUI relating to the blood powers which do not work and have text tags that don’t work any more. On top of this, the story does not continue and my companions are barely mentioned, apparently so they could make a further DLC to charge me for the story ending.

    Whilst there was some nicety to Awakening, it was buggy, so that I got a debug message on screen every time I used the castle weapons at the end. A very common bug caused players to lose all their gear and weapons part way through the game, which would obviously be annoying.

    There were some nice fight sequences but the characters all felt like poor copies of the other characters, with that idiot dwarf back again, who I get the impression is the world’s least liked DA character. Crafting, whilst a good inclusion was very cumbersome, and I spent a good hour or crafting lower level runes to combine into the upper runes.

    The choices involving manpower were an interesting idea but the main plot was still go to three places and then onto great victory, which is I guess now a genre staple, and somewhat unimaginative.

    Which brings me back to my opening question. As an RPG, it was okay, and I certainly had a pleasant time playing it in what was a mostly solid RPG experience, which could be where you are coming from. Awakenings however is not a standalone and you will have played Origins, which it is significantly lower quality than and does not even gel properly with the official DLC. At the time the fact the story doesn’t properly continue was irksome, and in the context of the witch hunt DLC is no less irksome.

    I frankly wouldn’t recommend DA:A to any one, and would go so far to tell people not to play it.

  37. Carra says:

    Dragon Age was a great game.

    The expansion was ruined for me the minute I started it. So I log in and I was… completely naked. All my gear was gone. I decided to wait until a path hotfixed that but well, haven’t looked back since. I should give it another try.

    • bleeters says:

      I’m assuming you were wearing the Warden Commander armour from the soldier’s keep dlc? For some vaguely explained reason, that doesn’t import into Awakenings.

      In which case, have a looksie over here: link to

  38. Freud says:

    I was all Dragon Aged out after playing the first game (if I am completely honest probably 10 hours before that). No desire at all to play any DLC for it.

  39. Zogtee says:

    I’ve been a fan of Bio ever since the first Baldur’s Gate. I’ve played all the games, multiple times, and evjoyed the experience. The only game I haven’t finished is Dragon Age and the reason is purely technical and related to the DLC.

    The DLC for Mass Effect 2 worked flawlessly for me, while the DLC for Dragon Age screws up frequently and gets flagged as invalid, unavailable, etc. It’s been like that since the release of the game and it still persists today. I love what I have played of the game, but the technical issues is what puts me off actually finishing it.

  40. Easydog says:

    It’s nice to see Ser-pounce-a-lot get the props he deserves. That alone made the expansion for me.

  41. Wizlah says:

    Time is running out for Alpha Protocol. I realise the odds are stacked against it, but I’m hoping it makes the grade. I dunno why. I’m still in Saudi Arabia, for gods sake, and sorting out the mouse and what not was a proverbial pain. But that perks system is a sound game mechanic, and could really point a way forward for CRPGs.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Give in to the ways of the dark side. I gave in and am now using my 360 controller and am having a lot more fun now. The actual combat isn’t all that great anyway, it’s all about the talky stuff.

  42. Pockets says:

    Dragon Age:Origins is the first time I’ve really felt a game being stuck in the uncanny valley with its NPC characterisation and interaction, and with the decisions it allows the player to make, to be honest.

    • Lilliput King says:

      It didn’t do much to help itself in that regard. The visual side of the game was completely duff. Tiny colour palette, tacky blood effects, awful animations, especially facial. It’s not totally related, but while I thought the writing was fine, a lot of the voice work (party members included) really broke the immersion for me.

  43. DrGonzo says:

    Bah piffle, I hate Dragon Age, your opinion is completely invalid because it isn’t the same as mine.. etc..

  44. Melf_Himself says:

    The problem with Bioware is that they can create every single awesome thing that makes an RPG awesome…. except for the combat system. Dragon Age’s combat system was boring, and to me that took too much enjoyment away from the other mostly fantastic aspects of the game.

    Please go back to pinching D&D combat systems for your games Bioware…

  45. Jake says:

    At first I hated Dragon Age and it took a long time to get into it, especially as I decided to play it as myself rather than some noble hero and so quickly found I didn’t have many friends. Eventually though it got to the stage where me and my grumpy band of heroes and a dog could complete missions without too many problems (mainly due to Morrigan being way overpowered).

    And then I started enjoying it. And I came to really love it when I realised it was letting me make a lot of decisions how I wanted to, rather than forcing me to do things I felt were out of character. For example I decided that saving the world had to come first and all other things were just distractions, and I bullied a lot of people into helping me, and often did some things you know are ‘game wrong’, but still were logical – like drinking dragon blood for a power at the risk of upsetting the religious nut. (Unfortunately I didn’t realise it would upset her that much, thank god the dog was still around ‘cos by the end I had hardly any friends left at all).

    When I finished, Alastair hated me, I’d killed all the party members except Sten and Oghren (some by accident) and – much to my annoyance, I still had Morrigan around but only because I couldn’t complete the final boss without her (she did everything). My dog was a legend and maybe my only real friend. The elite dwarfs I bullied to come and the golems won the day, and at the end of it I like to think I died miserable and alone, remembered only by a few veterans as the no-nonsense warden that completed the game in 30 hours with no fucking around.

    So that’s why I loved Dragon Age, even if a lot of the time I hated the mission I was on (like that fucking mage tower place), I thought it was worth it for having the chance to play a pragmatic, determined hero – rather than some boring noble prince or cliched evil git. I have a load of really good stories of things that happened in DA that seemed unique to me, and that’s rare for a game – I didn’t get it from The Witcher or Fallout3 at all for example. To me, that’s role playing and DA was therefore a good RPG, one of the best I have played.

    I didn’t play Awakenings though as I mistakenly tried to play through the first game again and got sick of it so I know this comment isn’t entirely relevant but I just want to try and add to the pro-DA sentiment in case it gets droned out.

  46. thebigJ_A says:

    Oh man. You just reminded me I never finished this. I think I’m at the bit where you first meet that tree-looking guy after that segment completely new to Bioware games: being thrown in jail and running around naked till you find your gear.

    I really ought to go finish it, but I don’t know if I have the time. I still haven’t finished my 1st playthrough of New Vegas (though I’ve put more than 100 hours in, I’m only half way through the main story). I’m in the middle of my 1st ever playthrough of Planescape: Torment, and ditto on AC: Brotherhood. Oh, and that also reminds me I need to finish Vampire: the Masquerade and X3: Terran Conflict (though I don’t think you ever really finish X3). And I recently finally figured out Dwarf Fortress, so I should play some of that. AND there’s the new expansion for Europa Universalis 3 next week….


  47. The Sombrero Kid says:

    The mistake Bioware always makes is that their games are hugely about making friends and with every installment, someone you thought was a life long soul mate buddy pal is mysteriously gone & you have to go about making some new friends which kinda makes you care less about the next lot because you’re worried they’ll break your heart again :(

  48. Corrupt_Tiki says:

    I’m sorry, I have lost all respect for RPS now, that second picture (not including the title pic) has obvious female nudity, I mean that thing has 8 sets of boobs! This is sexist to women everywhere, where is Alec to hold up the moral standards? I demand he censor this now! :P

  49. MrMud says:

    One strange thing about Awakening is how its about a million times easier than DA:O.
    I found DA:O fairly challanging on normal without resorting to cheese, but in awakening i had to crank it up to the hardest setting and it was still a complete cakewalk.

  50. Premium User Badge

    MikeBBetts says:

    Certainly pleased to find this game on this day, the 12th day of Christmas Games. I loved Dragon Age something fierce, and this felt like a real expansion. Love, love!