You can be more powerful in next week's expansion to Dragon Age: Origins.

I got a quick demo of Dragon Age: Awakening, today, just enough to get a basic feel for the first major expansion to BioWare's celebrated 2009 role-playing game. Awakening takes players to a new land where they will be Grey Warden with authority over the city of Amaranthine and the castle Vigil's Keep. Your key problem will be the appearance of Darkspawn who talk, evidence of a new enemy threatening the Dragon Age world. Your key asset will be the game's raised level cap. Dragon Age: Origins capped players at Level 20 characters. Awakening allows players to rise to Level 35.

[UPDATE: Readers indicate below this post that Origins allows players to have more than 20 levels, maybe even 25. Not having cleared the game, I was reliant on what a BioWare rep told me at our meeting. I apologize for the confusion.]

A member of BioWare's quality assurance team offered a couple more numbers regarding Awakening: 62 new talents, about 50 new abilities. But he refrained from offering another number gamers might want to know about: Hours needed to complete this $40 expansion. Player times varied so much with the promised 80-hour Dragon Age: Origins, the BioWare developer said, that it doesn't make sense to offer a figure. Some Origins players blazed through the game in 30 hours, others needed 120.


Whichever kind of player of Origins you were, you'll be able to play Awakening. The expansion requires a copy of the original game but does not require a high-level character. Players can start with a brand-new character or bring over their Origins hero. If their imported character is low-level, they will be raised to level 18 and offered points to spec their character. If they are higher than level 18, they will be play as is. Players who have maxed their character already need not worry about missing any of Awakening's new powers and abilities. Awakening offers in-game items, books, that allow a character to be re-specced.

Players of Origins will see some of their moral choices referenced in Awakening, I was told. We didn't have time to dig into that.

I played too little of Awakening to say anything about its quests. I was told that BioWare recognized that mages seemed overpowered in Origins and have raised the capabilities of other fighter classes in the expansion. Performance of the console versions may be improved, in terms of frame-rate, but again, the BioWare developer wasn't able to get into specifics.


Awakening will be out next week, on disc for PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, also as a download for the PS3.