Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening Review
Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening is a stand alone expansion to Dragon Age: Origins. "Stand alone" expansion always come with a few caveats and so I'm going to start by letting you know what "stand alone" really means in this case. You don't need the original game to play this expansion and you can just create a new high level character from scratch and jump right in. You'll certainly miss out on all of the references to events in the first game and you won't recognize the characters making cameos in the expansion, but the story here is certainly self-contained enough that you can enjoy it on its own. If you're looking at Awakening as a way to experience Dragon Age: Origins without the need to commit to the lengthy campaign of the original it will fit the bill, but you won't have access to all of the DLC available for the original game.
For those of you who are Dragon Age veterans, you'll be able to import your character into Awakening along with most of his/her loot. If your character's level isn't high enough for Awakening, you'll get an experience boost to bring your character up to the requisite level. You'll also have the option to make a new character, of course. You may be a bit disappointed to learn that none of the NPCs that were a part of your party and who you worked so hard to build relationships with transfer into Awakening, so you'll have to cultivate new friendships and working relationships. The new party NPCs all have distinct personalities and interactions with each other just as in the original game, but which gallery of compatriots you prefer is probably a matter of personal taste. The characters in Awakening are at a disadvantage in that the shorter game means there's less time for the nuances of their personalities to develop, and you may be disappointed by the lack of romantic tensions in this expansion.
Awakening opens with your arrival in Amaranthine to find the land's keep under siege by Darkspawn. The siege is made even more disturbing by the fact that it is led by a Darkspawn with the power of speech. Fight back the siege and you assume the leadership for the land as the head of the Grey Wardens, which leads to your tasks in the expansion. You must end the attacks on Amaranthine by the Darkspawn, investigate the disturbing development of the appearance of a talking Darkspawn, allocate the kingdom's limited resources to defending some areas at the expense of others (ensuring that someone won't be happy with your decisions), and rooting out those within the court looking for an opportunity to put a knife into your back.