Before I begin, other news: Return To Ostagar, today's DLC release, has been delayed. No word when it will appear. Sadpanda.
Onward. After yesterday's scurrilous rumours of a potential Dragon Age expansion called The Awakening this March, the truth has come out. There's a Dragon Age expansion due this March, but it's called Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening. There's no "The". Take that, Eurogamer.cz, with your so-called "news". It's set after the events of the main game, with you playing a Grey Warden Commander aiming to rebuild the Warden's ranks. One thing. It's going to cost $40.
Due March 16th, it's set in a new area called Amaranthine, and apparently will reveal the "secret motivations of the Darkspawn." Which is intriguing, since I thought their motivation was to increase their numbers and then kill more people. Oh, once again, this takes place after the end of the main game, so there's a danger of spoilers below.
But it really does seem to be quite big. For instance:
"Players will face a range of horrific and terrifying creatures including an evolved, intelligent breed of darkspawn and other menacing creatures such as the Inferno Golem and Spectral Dragon. Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening provides exciting new ways for players to customize their heroes and party, including the ability to re-spec their character attributes, allowing even greater customization and replayability. Featuring an increased level cap, new spells, abilities, specializations and items, plus five all-new party members, players can continue their adventures from Dragon Age: Origins, or begin with a brand new character."
That moment at the end. Five new members. That's five new actors, five new people's histories to learn, five new characters to get to know. And again this seems to imply that the "Grey Warden Commander" may well be your previous character. Should your previous character be... available. New specialisations is interesting too - that implies a much more expanded skill tree.
Here's some more spoilerific details from the press release:
"Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening, BioWare’s next thread in the Dragon Age: Origins tapestry, occurs following the events of Dragon Age: Origins and puts players into the role of a Grey Warden Commander entrusted with rebuilding the order of Grey Wardens. In addition to rebuilding the ranks of the Grey Wardens, you will be tasked with uncovering the mystery of how the darkspawn survive after the slaying of the Archdemon. How players choose to rebuild their order, resolve the conflict with the mysterious “Architect,” and determine the fate of the darkspawn are just some of the many intriguing moral choices that will shape each player’s heroic journey. Players will be able to import their character from Dragon Age: Origins or start out as a new Grey Warden from the neighboring land of Orlais."
I'm a bit disappointed that the enemy are the darkspawn. I'd prefer something a bit more politically intriguing, an enemy from within. Perhaps an uprising in the Chantry, or a rebellion amongst the Mages. It seems to somewhat undermine the rather enormous efforts in the main game to then have the darkspawn still be a menace. I realise they are a perpetual problem for the Dwarves, but it would have been nice to think that defeating the Archdemon had a slightly more significant effect on the safety of Ferelden.
However, I think if we're honest the big news here is the price. The dribbling of new small chunks of content have been kept at relatively low numbers (and today's vanished release will eventually be the first that most people didn't get free with the main game anyway.) $40 is the US asking price, and we can assume it'll be ungenerously rounded up to British pounds, and then have a zero put on the end and cubed for mainland Europe. That's the same price for 360 and PS3 as well.
However, there's no indication of the size of the expansion. They describe it as "epic", although yesterday's leak put it at an unconfirmed 15 hours. And sure, we regularly pay $40/£25 for 15 hour-long games. Hell, we pay more than that for games half that length in our tens of millions. But there's something about expansion packs that makes it seem like it could be cheaper - you require the full game to play it, you've already invested, and they sure as heck didn't have the same overheads and development costs to make extra content. Clearly they can charge whatever they want, and no one is entitled to an expansion, but people will be sad if it's unaffordable. It'll be very interesting to see how it's received. Will people pay that much only four months after the original game came out?