The 2010 Expansion Pack to the successful 2009 RPG Dragon Age: Origins and thus part 1.5 of the Dragon Age series. While continuing and expanding the Origins storyline, its plot is mostly independent of the original campaign. Although you can import your OriginsPlayer Character to Awakening, it stars a mostly brand-new supporting cast and is set in a region of Ferelden that was never visited in the original campaign. If you don't import an old save, you start with a brand-new main character—a seasoned Grey Warden from Orlais.The story starts about half a year after the Fifth Blight has been vanquished in Ferelden. As the newly-appointed Warden-Commander of Ferelden, you are tasked with rebuilding The Order of the Grey Wardens in the region, based around the ancient fortress of Vigil's Keep. Something is not right, however: despite the Archdemon's death, the Darkspawn linger on the surface, instead of scattering back to the Deep Roads like they did after the Blights of old. It is almost as if something directs them in the absence of an Archdemon...Some of the expansion's original characters went on to play a crucial role in Dragon Age II, most notably, Anders and Justice. It also picked up a couple of important plot threads from The Calling that were never touched upon in Origins.
The game contains examples of following tropes:
The Ace: According to his Codex entry, Paragon Hirol was this. He thought the dwarven Fantastic Caste System was bunk and set out to prove it by mastering all the skills of Warriors, Smiths, and Nobles. His accomplishments at warfare and smithing were so great that the Assembly named him a Paragon, whereupon he built one of the wealthiest and most prestigious noble houses in the old dwarven empire.
All Your Base Are Belong to Us: The prologue involves retaking Vigil's Keep from a darkspawn horde. As well as a second, much larger assault at the end of the game on both the Vigil and the City of Amaranthine.
And I Must Scream: In the Wending Wood, the Warden can find the Statue of War and the Statue of Peace — two Avvar brothers, petrified by a Tevinter mage and still aware. The Statue of Peace, who is more accepting of his fate, has been able to "sleep" on and off throughout the years, but the Statue of War's anger has kept him awake for countless centuries.
Awful Truth: In Awakening, you learn how the Blight got started.
Bag of Spilling: Characters imported to Awakening lose all Origins DLC items except for those obtained in Return to Ostagar.note Items received after completing the other supplemental DLC, like the "Battledress of the Provocateur" from Leliana's Song, are still present in the inventory.
Because I'm Jonesy: There's a Knowledge Broker calling himself "the Dark Wolf" who has information about a conspiracy against you. Problem is, if you completed Slim Couldry's missions in Origins, you're the Dark Wolf.
Anders: All I want is a pretty girl, a decent meal, and the right to shoot lightning at fools.
Warden-Commander: I think you're aiming too low.
Bullying a Dragon: Played straight by the bandits holding Bensley's daughter for ransom after the Warden introduces him/herself as 'Commander of the Grey'. If you follow that up with an Intimidate option, the savvier ones flee and one goes so far as to jump off the cliff rather than face you.
Dual Boss: The Lost and an Inferno Golem, two Dragon Thralls, and a Skippable Boss fight against the Architect and Utha.
Dude, Where's My Respect?: Your position of Commander of the Grey gives you plenty of respect and influence. However, if you also happen to be queen or prince consort of Ferelden, it changes surprisingly little in the way you are treated.
Enemy Civil War: Awakening centers around one between two surprisingly well-organized bands of darkspawn, both of which are attacking the people and Wardens of Amaranthine.
Fantastic Racism: The Orlesian Warden is often on the receiving end of this, as many nobles don't trust that they're now swearing fealty of their lands to the Grey Warden order... and even worse, to an Orlesian. Remember, Ferelden had overthrown the brutal Orlesian occupation less than 30 years before. Some of the nobles now having to swear fealty to an Orlesian Warden may very well have fought in that war—and given the way native Fereldans were treated during the occupation, they can be forgiven for being less than thrilled.
Forced Sleep: The Architect uses magic to put the Warden and their party to sleep when they first encounter each other in the Silverite Mines.
"Hey, everyone needs daddy issues. Just trying to help."
Foreshadowing: The banter conversations between Anders, Justice and Nathaniel are insane foreshadowing for Dragon Age II. Nathaniel keeps asking Justice if it's possible for him to transfer to a living host and if he could eventually be corrupted into a demon. Meanwhile, Justice tries to convince Anders that he should strike back against the templars oppressing mages. And so, of course, in Dragon Age II, Anders allows Justice to possess him, Justice becomes corrupted into the demon Vengeance, and together they kill a heck of a lot of people in their crusade to set mages free.
Game-Breaking Bug: The infamous "Animated Dead glitch" that occurs in the game's climax. Should you decide to save Amaranthine rather than return to Vigil's Keep, you'll come across a standard group of darkspawn including an Emissary and some shadow Genlocks. It's a pretty easy battle on its own... until the Emissary summons Animated Dead decoys, which draw your party's attention away from the actual darkspawn. The bug occurs when the decoys don't vanish after you kill the Emissary thus keeping your party stuck in combat mode and not allowing you to progress in the mission. The only option now is to reload the game until you can kill the Emissary before he summons the Animated Dead.
Gameplay and Story Segregation: Anders makes his spectacular appearance spewing fire from his hands. He has no fire spells at the time, and won't unless the player chooses to develop them. (Though if you start Awakening higher than level 18 or so, you'll have at least one spell point to spend for him.) Later, Velanna is shown summoning sylvans and generally making the Wending Woods fight for her, but those abilities vanish once she joins the party.
Gargle Blaster: Oghren treats the Joining as this, being actually insulted that the ceremonial cup is too small. And then he just burps rather then pass out like everyone else and claims it was "Not bad".
Golden Ending: The endings to the main game are fairly ambiguous, but Awakening makes it possible to save both Amaranthine and Vigil's Keep provided you put enough effort in the Keep's....upkeep.
The Greatest Story Never Told: There's a codex story about the Casteless dwarves who fought and died defending Kal'Hirol. In that case, however, there is a sidequest allowing the PC to ensure that the story does eventually get told.
Similar to Mass Effect 2, saving both Amaranthine and Vigil's Keep requires a lot of work.
To get Vigilance, you need a Grandmaster Flame Rune, which can't be found in Awakening unless they're crafted or imported. Now, if you have three levels in Crafting, no problem—but if you were more tempted by the skills that give you health and mana (and don't purchase a couple Manuals of Focus from Herren), congratulations! You just locked yourself out of one of the most powerful swords in the game!
Getting everyone you can recruit to become a Grey Warden. If you pick up Sigrun or Velanna last, you won't be able to put them through the Joining due to the game kicking the plot into gear by talking to the character who handles the Joining. The real method is to recruit Justice last, since he's already a Warden.
Happily Married: Apart from a possible union between the Warden and Alistair or Anora, if Nathaniel becomes a Grey Warden, they can all go to Amaranthine so he can find his sister Delilah. He learns that she married a shopkeeper whom she (in her own words) adores, and they're expecting their first child.
Healer Signs On Early: Anders is the first party member you encounter aside from Mhairi. He'll probably be the party's designated healer unless the Warden is a Spirit Healer him/herself.
Improbable Power Discrepancy: A Warden importing his or her level-capped character will quickly face ordinary highwaymen so powerful a handful of them could have defeated the Archdemon and taken over the Tevinter Imperium. (Though even they probably couldn't have taken out Ser Cauthrien without a good strategy.) You'll also find the local militia in Amaranthine could wipe the floor with any group of adversaries in the original game. No wonder Howe's men overcame Highever so easily! That being said, the Warden's own power will soon catapult into the stratosphere, to the point where you could probably beat the Archdemon by spitting on it if one showed up again.
Infinity+1 Sword: Vigilance. It's meant to be so powerful, it will even get mentioned in the epilogue... unfortunately, its actual statistics, while certainly good, are nothing to get too excited about compared to other end-game weapons.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: The Warden sometimes appears to be this to other characters, but justified as s/he is stuck being one making the tough decisions, barely keeping the lands of Amaranthine together, on top of dealing with his/her entire contingent of Wardens at Vigil's Keep being wiped out before s/he even arrived. Not to mention the fact that some of the nobles are plotting to kill him/her. Best exemplified in the utter disbelief if you recruit Nathaniel straight out of prison, who outright refuses and protests he would rather die. You then can point out that he may die anyway during the Joining. Although seeing as Nathaniel took four Grey Wardens to subdue him and sneaked into the Keep in the first place in order to kill you, the Warden clearly recognizes his value if he joins the Order, and is kindly offering him a chance at redemption for the disgrace his father brought on his family in Origins. Nathaniel eventually cottons on to why you did this. (Note that this is not seen if he is released from prison and set free. If that happens, he shows up later and asks to become a Warden.)
Killer Rabbit: The fate of Mr. Wiggums, assuming Anders wasn't just BS-ing you. Apparently, a cat possessed by a rage demon can take out three Templars before being brought down.
While still fairly dark, it significantly tones down the bleak sense of impending doom that Origins had—after all, both the Blight proper and the civil war are over and the Grey Wardens are busy mopping up the remaining darkspawn with full support from the new monarch.
Companions at rock-bottom approval will simply leave, with no option to kill them off (as you often could in Origins). If you fail to convince Justice or Sigrun to help the Architect, however...
Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards: Subverted. At higher ends, mages are only the best if you use the auto-level options and wear whatever equipment comes in the prettiest colors. The most mind-bogglingly powerful builds are all rogues and (even more so) warriors. It is possible to make a spirit warrior archer who does three thousand damage with an arrow of slaying, a rogue who does more than three hundred damage per second backstabbing, or an nigh-invincibly murder machine warrior who has 100% resistance to magic AND normal attacks, clad in armor of invulnerability, regenerating 8 health per second and still dealing a good 150 damage per second. Oghren in particular, when dual-wielding a Tier 7 weapon, berserking, and using Peon's Plight, will regularly deal almost 450 damage to a single target. It only gets more ridiculous as his weapons get more powerful. And Maker help the bad guys if you start screwing with his specializations...
Loophole Abuse: How a Mage Warden becomes Arl of Amaranthine. Legally, Mages are forbidden from holding lands and titles, but technically, the Arling itself is stated to belong to the Wardens, not an individual. The title of Arl/essa falls to whomever is appointed Warden-Commander of Ferelden, which in this case, just happens to be a Mage.
The Silverite Mine. Once the Warden-Commander has completed the area, it is not possible to return to it. You can potentially make up to 5 sidequestsnote Trade Must Flow, Elemental Requirements, Worked to the Bone, Bombs Away!, Last WishesUnwinnable as a result, on top of missing out on any loot you couldn't get from chests or enemies.
The Blackmarsh Undying. Much like the Fade: Lost in Dreams section of the Broken Circle quest from Origins you can miss out on the Essences and fonts that give permanent stat boosts. You can also miss out on assembling the Armor of Invincibility.
Love Hurts: Practically a theme of Awakening, as several sidequests, including two companion quests, center around a love story that ends horribly. Oghren joins the Grey Wardens after having split with Felsi, with whom he had a child, because he was unable to reconcile his Blood Knight nature. In one sidequest, the Warden can track down a young man who hanged himself after failing to provide a dream home for his wife; the Warden must then deliver the horrible news. Another man's attempt at a Wacky Marriage Proposal resulted in his would-be fiancée believing it to be a crude joke and leaving him; he then poisoned himself. In the Silverite Mine, a dying Grey Warden begs the main character to bring his wife his ring, but when the Warden tracks her down, it turns out that she's cheating on him. Finally, a young woman named Aura learns of the death of her husband, a Grey Warden named Kristoff, in the worst possible way: by encountering his animated corpse, which is possessed by a Spirit of Justice.
Mêlée à Trois: The final dungeon is a slog through a dragon graveyard which is the Mother's territory while the Architect's forces are also trying to invade for the same reason. So you have the Grey Wardens trying to plow through two factions of warring darkspawn, and just in case you were getting bored, a High Dragon drops out of the sky in the middle of a fight and begins attacking everything indiscriminately.
Monty Haul: All of Awakening throws more loot at you than you'll ever need. The sticker shock of the building upgrade and dream items in shops fades pretty quickly when you notice how quickly your purse is refilling.
My Species Doth Protest Too Much: Justice, a spirit who was forced by magical mishap into the body of a newly-dead Grey Warden, explains that most benevolent spirits have no interest in the material world, especially since all those who go there never return.
Never Trust a Trailer: The trailers touted the Architect as the Big Bad. In reality, he only appears a couple times throughout the expansion and has very few lines. You don't even have to fight him.
The Nudifier: Awakening can start an imported character save from the previous game in their underwear if they were wearing DLC armor. There is also a prominent glitch that destroys the player character's equipment.
Old Hero, New Pals: Except for Oghren, your entire Origins party cannot join you in the Awakening time frame, with various justifications. Even your dog is absent - a codex entry states that he's being used as a stud to help repopulate the mabari kennels.
You will at least see Wynne, if she wasn't killed in Origins, who shows up to give you a sidequest. If the Warden ended Origins in a romance with either Leliana or Zevran, s/he will receive a letter from his/her absent beloved. Alistair has a brief cameo at the beginning of the game if he is the king.
Old Save Bonus: You can import your Origins endgame save to start the game at a level higher than 18 and with high-level Origins gear.
Order Reborn: The Grey Wardens of Ferelden are all but wiped out near the beginning of Origins, and rebuilding them remains a concern even after the defeat of the Blight. It's Up to You to restore the Order.
Out-of-Clothes Experience: How a player could start off playing the Awakening expansion if they imported a character save from the previous game who's wearing DLC armor that doesn't transfer.
Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: There's an apostate mage with an obsessive Templar out for his blood, a murderous elven hippie mage, a thief whose father is the noble who killed the Human Noble's family, a member of the Dwarven Legion of the Dead, a Fade spirit of Justice trapped in the body of a dead man, and a very nice Grey Warden recruit who dies the second she takes her Joining. Oh, and the drunk dwarf soldier from Origins returns as well. Much like in Origins, the Odd Friendships are so numerous that it might just be you who are the odd one.
Sadistic Choice: The endgame has a very nasty one: You have to choose between saving Amaranthine or saving Vigil's Keep. If you choose the former, the companions you left at the keep may die.This fate can be avertedas long as you do certain steps, you can save both the keep and Amaranthine. The gamewillmake you earn it. In order to save them both, you must first clear out the Vigil's Keep basement, which turns into a fairly large dungeon connecting to the Deep Roads, in order to seal off the tunnels from further darkspawn threats. Next, pay the dwarf stonemason in the courtyard a truly absurd amount of money to hire laborers to repair the walls. Find a granite quarry to supply him with raw materials, and make absolutely sure you assign guards to the laborers to go and fetch it. Finally, find all of the ore deposits in the game and bring them to Wade to forge weapons and armor for your troops. It'll take quite a bit of work to take care of everything, but it'll be worth it when you read the Epilogue about the heroic defense. You'll know you've gotten it right if it's your first time playing it and you get the Enduring Vigil achievement. Despite all your efforts, however, Sigrun (definitely) and Velanna and Justice (supposedly) will die if you leave them at the Keep and save Amaranthine, regardless of whether you got the Enduring Vigil achievement.
Stupidity Is the Only Option: A major plot driver: The opening involves a darkspawn attack on Vigil's Keep using a tunnel network, and a quest chain is dedicated to closing off their access. Absolutely no one thinks the smuggler tunnel leading from outside Amaranthine into the heart of the city poses any further problem than posed by the smugglers themselves. Guess how the darkspawn get in at the end.
Suspiciously Similar Substitute: You can make the Orlesian Warden this to your sacrificed Warden, if you wish. The major locations in Awakening are all this to locations from Origins: Vigil's Keep is Soldier's Peak, Amaranthine is Denerim, the Wending Wood is the Brecilian Forest, Kal'Hirol is the Dead Trenches, the Blackmarsh is the haunted Castle Redcliffe combined with the infamous "Lost in Dreams" sequence from the Circle Tower, and Drake's Fall is the Temple of Andraste (but with darkspawn).
Taken for Granite: The Brothers of Stone, who were turned into statues after they sacrificed a Tevinter magister to the god of the Wending Wood.
Take a Third Option: The Warden is faced with this dilemma during a meeting with the bannorn of Amaranthine. By this point they know there's a plot against them, and possibly have gotten information about it from a woman who turned up dead on the road to Vigil's Keep. The chief suspect is a knight who is very much aware that the Warden has no proof against him and that he can't be punished for that and also for the simple fact that he's noble-born. The Warden can either let him go, leaving him unpunished and free to participate in the attempt on the Warden's life, kill him, which will upset the banns, or declare that he will be kept in the dungeon for the duration of their very long, very thorough investigation. Watching the ensuing Villainous Breakdown is extremely satisfying.
A Tankard of Moose Urine: Dragon Piss, an alcoholic gift for Oghren: "The name is probably figurative, but no one knows for sure."
Too Awesome to Use: Whatever variant of Dworkin the Mad's explosives you receive, you get a maximum of 4. One bomb will do 300+ damage across it's explosion and knockback enemies, so the player must decided if they want to stockpile them for the endgame or not.
Too Dumb to Live: Rylock, the overzealous Templar pursuing Anders, who is determined to bring him in to face justice for the deaths of the Templars who were guarding him during the darkspawn attack on the Vigil. While she claims that Chantry law supersedes the Crown in matters regarding mages, she's conveniently forgotten that part where the Crown merely accepted that they cannot deny a Grey Warden who has invoked the Right of Conscription - and, as seen with Alistair's conscription in the first game, neither can the Chantry. The Chantry certainly does not allow her to foolishly attempt to murder the Warden for refusing to hand Anders over, either. Particularly egregious since if they're imported from Origins, the Warden may actually be the chancellor, the king's mistress, or the sovereign's wedded consort, not to mention beloved by the people as the Hero of Ferelden. What did she expect to happen if she won?
Total Party Kill: If you import to Dragon Age II, ALL party members not present with you to the broodmother will be flagged as dead no matter if you choose to save Vigil's Keep or not.
Twenty Bear Asses: The Chantry wants five samples of wood from ancient wild sylvans, while the Merchant's Guild wants nine pieces of silk stolen by bandits and charcoal rubbings of the inscriptions on eight statues. All these things can be found in the Wending Wood.
Unexplained Recovery: If the Warden dies at the end of Origins, and a save file is imported to Awakening, they'll be kicking around and no one finds it odd or expresses surprise. Draw your own conclusions.
The Unintelligible: Most darkspawn can only communicate in guttural growls and roars. The appearance of darkspawn that CAN talk is treated as incredibly dangerous, and indeed it is: the darkspawn are an exceptionally deadly threat when the Archdemon organizes them into a Blight, but they're generally easy to deal with otherwise. If the darkspawn can suddenly reason enough to lead themselves without an Archdemon, it would mean an unending Blight. Luckily, the Architect is smart enough to realize that the Blights are as devastating to his people as they are to the other races and wants to end them forever.
Unwinnable by Mistake: Both of Sigrun's companion quests can be this. If you did "Last of the Legion" last of the main story quests, you'll never be able to complete "Sigrun's Joining" because your normal dialogue tree with Varel will be replaced by discussion of the impending darkspawn invasion of Amaranthine. (This problem also afflicts "Velanna's Joining" if you do "The Righteous Path" last.)
Making matters worse, a bug will cause the "Sigrun's Roguish Path" quest to never trigger at all if you did either the "Law & Order" or "Smuggler's Run" sidequests in Amaranthine before you recruited her (and those just happen to be two of the first sidequests you'll be given in the game). Even just starting them makes "Sigrun's Roguish Path" fail to trigger. However, there are fixes for this that can be found through the Dragon Age Wiki.
You Kill It, You Bought It: The Warden (now Warden-Commander) is given Arl Howe's title of Arl of Amaranthine. You may also be awarded the Teyrnir of Gwaren, depending on the boon you ask at the end of the main game. If your Warden was the Human Noble, you may have married Alistair or Anora, which means that in total, you can be the Royal Consort of Ferelden, Teyrn/a of Gwaren, Arl/essa of Amaranthine, and heir to the Teyrnir of Highever, since your brother, the new Teyrn, is without issue at this point. When you go for your Calling, there's gonna be significant political upheaval...