It took about 16 hours and 30 minutes. I missed a number of side quests, especially the weapon crafting ones offered by Wade. I didn’t spend a much time at all exploring the new rune crafting options.
The game is good, but it is nowhere as groundbreaking as the release of Dragon Age Origins. Although the party banter still does a great job of giving some form of interactivity between the party members, player interaction with party members seem to have taken a hit. Gone is the ability to build up rapport and explore the characters of party members through open chatting and free dialog. Rather, the only opportunity for real conversation is back the party camp, and still, they’re the ones who chooses whether to initiate the conversation or not.
The most well done character has to be Anders. His playfulness, witty repartee, and adoration for kittens allows him to stand out from the rest. The bad-ass mage with a soft spot for cats probably offers the most satisfying party interaction in game.
There’s a lot more choices to be made compared to the original game, with more of them being morally ambiguous. Often, just as in real life, you don’t have the complete picture for you to reach a confidently arrive at the same or “correct” decision. You simply have to infer and make your own conclusions. This perception of truth is described very well in an article over at GreyWardens.com by Freckles. In multiple instances, an event is brought upon you, and you’re forced to make a decision there and then. Shying away or fence-sitting is not an option. However, some of the heavier and more story-altering decisions seemed to have been introduced far too late into game to have any significant impact, such as those that concern fate of The Architect. Given how little my decisions in Origins affected events in Awakening, I have very little faith that the results would be seen in subsequent expansions.
Combat is perhaps one of the strongest aspects of the game. My main character is a dual-wielding warrior with specializations in Berserker, Champion and Spirit Warrior, and the introduction of stamina potions is like a gift from the heavens. I have a plethora of skills, and previously, my use of them was heavily limited due to stamina. Now, I can open up, and not depend on chewing mushrooms. The increase in levels, along with new specialization fields also enable for a more varieties and tactics in fights. Velenna, specializing in Keeper and Battlemage makes for an excellent front line mage. Typically, I have myself and Velenna in the front, Anders in the rear and Sigrun wherever the situation calls for. With the new mage spells, mages can hold their ground alone pretty well. I don’t have to constantly babysit them. The result is that combat is a lot smoother, and although I still pause just as much, I hardly ever saw the ‘game over’ screen. My party was rock solid.
I can’t comment much on crafting. Although I did craft a couple of runes, I feel that the game passes over too quick for me to really explore my crafting options. Runecrafting a nice addition, it isn’t essential and I believe that most players can gloss over it and still complete the game without any difficulty.
My opinions on Awakening are mixed, but if I had to give a verdict, I’ll say that it’s a buy, because more hours of Dragon Age is simply awesome.