Path of the Grey Warden 6: Awakened

So it looks like rambling about my progress through Dragon Age Origins turned into a thing I’m sticking with, surprisingly. Check out the rest of my babble-through series here:

I don’t care if anyone actually reads these, I’m intent on finishing my babble-through series of the Dragon Age Origins Ultimate Edition (plus reviewing it and Dragon Age II), dammit… better get babbling, eh! Next up is the full expansion, Awakening.

The Archdemon was just the beginning…

Awakening could really be considered a standalone game rather than an expansion. It has a whole new place, new story, and new companions, but the ability to import your Grey Warden from the main quest, or you can make an all new Orlesian Warden. It also takes place after the events of Origins so it’s best to play the main game first, I’d say. It took me around 14 hours to complete this expansion thingy, and I took a metric ton of screenshots, but I’ll try to do a quick-ish (well, it’s under 5k words) summary in one post. Here we go!

MAJOR FREAKING SPOILER WARNING!! Don’t read anything else unless you want this glorious game ruined.

The Vigil’s Keep Wakeup Call

Things start off with battling darkspawn, of course.

The story so far: the Archdemon was downed in Ferelden by Grey Warden Ellen (at the cost of her dorky knight man’s life… RIP Alistair… I miss you, always. 😦 ), and now some time has passed. For some unknown reason, hordes of darkspawn are still organizing without the leadership of an Old God. Grey Warden, or should I say Warden-Commander Ellen (never get tired of hearing NPCs call her ‘Commander’ or ‘Hero of Ferelden’), has been summoned to Vigil’s Keep in the arling of Amaranthine. This Keep was once home of Arl Rendon Howe, the ass who murdered Ellen’s family at the beginning of Origins (she killed him last game too… VENGEANCE IS MINE!). Ellen finds the Keep swarming with darkspawn and has to fight her way inside with the help of a recruit named Mhairi. While fighting our way through the Keep, I pick up two more party members:

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A sarcastic runaway apostate mage named Anders. Don’t mind the dead Templars behind him… he swears he didn’t do it. Oh and since I just beat Dragon Age II again recently, obligatory DAMMIT, ANDERS!!
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That sodding dwarf Oghren (or as Anders refers to him as – “Dwarf who smells like a brewery”) is back… and now a Grey Warden recruit. Didn’t see that coming! Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t waste any time flirting with Mhairi.

Continuing through the Keep, Mhairi gets to watch her friend Rowland die. Before he kicks the bucket, he warns us that one of the darkspawn can talk (unheard of), and that the seneschal of the Keep is likely in trouble. Oghren thinks he’s crazy, but alas, we should probably go check that out.

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Yup! The seneschal is definitely in trouble. And yup, the darkspawn can talk now… odd.

So a talking darkspawn dude pushes an innocent guard off the roof of the Keep, while another one holds a sword to the seneschal’s throat. The lead darkspawn babbles about wanting “no more death than necessary” and says “we will soon be changed” (very odd). Blah, blah, blah – we kill all the darkspawn and save the seneschal. My axe talks better. Anyway, Queen Anora FINALLY shows up with reinforcements AFTER I save the Keep (thanks for nothing). The Queen’s Templar friend wants to take Anders back into custody, but I recruit him into the Grey Wardens so she can’t have him (she’s not pleased). I’m promoted to arlessa of the Keep and we have a Joining Ritual (where new recruits get to drink darkpawn blood. If they survive, they become Grey Wardens) for Mhairi, Oghren, and Anders. Sadly, Mhairi dies during it (never get attached to new recruits… sigh). Maker watch over her.

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So the Keep is, like, haunted… And doesn’t he look so much happier without a sword against his throat?

Next up, I get the rundown on how to be Commander of Things. Vigil’s Keep is like the side quest hub for the xpac. Seneschal Varel advises me, Woosley (the treasurer lady) gives me quests to help the Keep’s merchants, and the ruthless Guard Captain Garevel gives me leads on darkspawn activity. Throughout the game, you come back here to deal with the darkspawn lurking in a Deep Roads entrance under the Keep, stem a peasant uprising (I had to kill them), and stop a noble rebellion against your Warden-Commander (I paid a shady individual to root out the traitor before things got bad). You also turn in resources you find out in the world to bolster the Keep’s defenses. To get the best ending, you better make sure you take care of Keep business in between areas. For this babble-through, I’m going to leave out the details on those parts and just talk about the main areas. My next objective is to head off to City of Amaranthine. Before I go, two big things happen:

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“…lightning bolts shooting out of my eyes” Such flattery! But yeah, this is Nathaniel, my next companion. He was a thief captured for prowling around the Keep. After questioning him, I learn he’s the son or the Arl Howe ass who murdered my family. He refuses to believe his father is an ass, and blames me for killing him. We have our differences, but I choose to recruit him instead of execute him. Lucky for him, he survives the Joining Ritual. As the adventure progresses, he accepts his father is indeed a traitor, and then we become BFFs (I could see Ellen rebounding with him after Alistair’s death… if romance was a thing in this xpac).
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D’aww!! Kitty!! This cute little guy turns into a gift for Anders. He loves him and names him Ser-Pounce-a-lot. There are several amusing banter moments with Anders and his adorable kitty throughout the quest.

Smashing Smugglers in the City of Amaranthine

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Seems like a peaceful city… NOT!!

Welcome to the xpac’s big city! First off, outside the city gate I encounter a man named Shady Character (no joke) who extends the offer for me to become his shady business partner. Being the source of brutal justice that I am, I decline and kill him. When I attempt to enter the city gates, a guard stops me and wants to search my bag for smuggled goods. His boss, Constable Aidan, comes over and rings him out for harassing me, the legendary Warden-Commander (I’m so flattered!!). Aidan and I have a nice chat. He apologizes and says they’ve been having huge problems with smugglers. Once I agree to help, he explains how the smugglers are controlling all the goods, making everything stupidly overpriced for the unfortunate people. My goal is to shut them down so the goods can be redistributed to the needy. Smashing smugglers for the good of the people, eh? Count me in! To sum it up, it took me a while (over various visits to the city), but I successfully shut ‘em down, permanently. While exploring the city, I ran into an old friend in front of the city’s Chantry:

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Wynne!! I missed you, wise woman.

She’s heading off to Nevarra for a big conference with the College of Magi. Apparently, some circle mages want to break off from the Chantry, which would be a disaster for the world. So politics and stuff I’m not really into. If I can’t fix it by swinging my axe at it, I’m useless. Anyway, she wants me to find her colleague, Ines, in the Wending Wood area so she can go (a side quest I won’t get to until later). During my time in the city I pick up a lot of job board style fetch quests, find leads on the main quest missions, and other side activities I won’t go into detail about. I also helped Anders track down his Phylactery (a sample of blood the Templars use to track mages who flee the circle). Turns out that was a trap set by the Templar lady who was with Anora after the Keep battle, Rylock. Rylock hates Anders and doesn’t care that the Queen let me recruit him. I can’t resolve things peacefully so I killed her and her men, freeing Anders at last. Oh, and Nathaniel found his sister! She helps him realize their father was a traitorous ass.

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Dammit, Sparkle-fingers!! Entertaining party banter is one of my favourite things about the whole Dragon Age experience.

When all is said and done, I had leads to three different areas. I chose to go to the Blackmarsh next, but you can do them in any order.

Braving the Blackmarsh

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You don’t say?

Why am I in this creepy-freaking marshy area? Well, a Grey Warden named Kristoff is missing, and this happens to be his last known location. I follow a trail of dead darkspawn through the area, noticing some paths are blocked off by things called Veil Tears. I also run into an area where we have to kill weird grub-like creatures that hatch from pod things too… ick! Nathaniel suggests these Resident Evil wannabe monsters could be a new form of darkspawn. Hm. That’s disturbing. Eventually, we discover Kristoff’s dead body near a campsite (also disturbing). As we survey the scene, another talking darkspawn minion shows up. This one is different than the one we killed in Vigil’s Keep. He claims to be ‘the First’ for something called ‘the Mother’. This mother thing doesn’t like Warden-Commander Ellen, thinking I’m working for “him” (whoever he is), and the First unleashes something sinister to stop me. The darkspawn are a confusing bunch, that’s for sure.

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Not gonna lie, this looks bad…

Next thing I know, everyone is sent on a bad trip through the Fade, including the First. I guess this wasn’t part of the plan because the First is super-pissed, saying the Mother has betrayed him (Oghren tries to console him by saying “I could never trust my mother either”). I try to convince him we should work together, but nope, he wants to leave me to ‘the Children‘. See! I’m capable of trying to be diplomatic occasionally. Anyway, now I have to backtrack through the Fade version of the swamp. Oh, and those Veil Tears can be removed in the real world by killing the demons making them in this Fade area. It takes some trekking and lots of smashing demons, but I reach a town square area inhabited by the ghosts of former Blackmarsh residents. Turns out an evil witch called the Baroness trapped their souls in the Fade. A benevolent spirit named Justice is standing up for the oppressed people, and I agree to help.

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Justice for the people! Yeah, the First decided to team up with the Baroness… sigh.

To be blunt, the Baroness is a big bitch, not wanting to let the people move on, so I have to fight through her minions. I defeat them, including the First idiot. The Baroness is very angry at the failure, but the First insists I’m too strong for him (Well, I don’t like to brag). The First begs the Baroness to send him back through the Veil so he can return to the Mother. She agrees to shatter the Veil, at the cost of the First’s life. After I watch him get disposed of, I find myself back at Kristoff’s campsite with everyone waking up… including a very much still dead looking… Kristoff?

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Say hello to my next companion – The dead body of Kristoff, possessed by the Spirit of Justice! Certainly a unique character, that one. My first priority was equipping Justice with a nice helmet that covered his entire face. He is a cool dude though! His major flaw is he is too rigid in his beliefs. He doesn’t understand that good and evil are not always clearly defined, and he can’t accept any grey areas. One of his quests is to try to set things right with Kristoff’s wife (who is understandably horrified). I felt for the guy/spirit thing.
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Back on track, we have to hunt the Baroness in the real version of the swamp… which means backtracking to the town square area, again. After smashing more things, I make it to the Baroness in the real world. She turns into a horrible demon that I kill with little issue.
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I won’t talk about many side quests, but an optional boss fight here is a lightning breathing ghost dragon. Awesome!! 😀

Justice decides to stay for the rest of the ride. Blackmarsh complete! When I leave a cutscene with the Mother in it is shown. She is a horribly twisted version of an already horrifying Broodmother creature. Yikes!

Woes of the Wending Wood

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The Wending Wood is alive! Yep, that’s a lightning enchantment on my Warden’s axe.

The mission was to kill some bandits who were looting caravans in the Wending Wood. Turns out there’s a lot more going on here! After bashing in bandit skulls, I discover they are terrified of an angry elf woman who’s unleashing trees on them. I confront her about it. She thinks humans murdered her clan and kidnapped her sister. But, nope! The shemlen didn’t do it. I discover the darkspawn are smart enough to make it look like the humans killed the elf clan… but why? After she unleashes trees on me (the nerve!), I successfully prove to the elf woman that the darkspawn are behind it. I also agree to help her find her sister (I love it when people try to save their sisters).

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Here’s Velanna, next up to join my crew. She is extremely cranky, antisocial, and only cares about saving her sister, Seranni…. Well Maker, give her pink hair and call her Lightning! I, of course, easily forgave her for unleashing trees on me. She’s so badass! Anyway, I discover later in the game she was exiled by her clan for calling her Keeper a coward for not attacking some evil shemlen who had wronged them.

With Velanna onboard we head off to the mines to check out darkspawn activity. It did not go well, at all.

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It’s a trap! This really creepy thing puts us to sleep.
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Warden-Commander Ellen briefly wakes up on his table… Oh, Maker!! What are they doing to her??
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Then she wakes up in a cell with her friends. Seranni is there, looks kinda blighted, but let’s us out. Important question: Why is my Warden the only one who’s half naked? Everyone else had clothes on… I bet she feels embarrassed. Anyway, Seranni insists she’s fine (“I’m not the one he wants”) but can’t stick around.

We battle our way to freedom! My companions get their stuff back when we kill hapless experiments that borrowed without asking along the way. I must’ve missed something important because my Warden never got her gear back. Alas, life’s not fair. We make are way to the creepy looking thing again. He’s with Seranni and a blighted dwarf woman. He also unleashes two dragons on me. Nice guy, huh?

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The fight was a bit challenging with my Warden’s crappy gear, but the job got done.
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The thing (his name is the Architect) casually walks off with Seranni and the dwarf, sealing the passage behind him.

Velanna agrees to join me full time and become a Grey Warden, so she can pursue her sister into Darkspawn territory. A cutscene plays where the Architect assures the dwarf woman (he calls her Utha) that he will keep his promise to her. Hm. Very intriguing. We’re done here though! I also have to buy Ellen some new equipment before I continue with my quest… sigh.

Knocking on Knotwood Hills

Rumor has it there’s potentially an entrance into the darkspawn filled Deep Roads here, in this rocky cliff area. My mission is to check it out. Jeez, the Grey Warden Commander has to do everything herself… Shortly down the path, I run into a dwarf being overwhelmed by a horde of darkspawn. I help her out and get the lowdown on her situation.

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Introducing my final companion, Sigrun! Unfortunately, I didn’t get to know her very well. I was ushered right into the final battles without even seeing her Joining Ritual (glitch?). Anywho, she’s a member of the Legion of the Dead (dwarves who spend their lives killing darkspawn in the Deep Roads). She’s very sarcastic, tough as nails, and spouts off many amusing dark humor lines. She seems pretty cool!

So Sigrun’s battalion was sent to investigate Kal’Hirol, a thaig area. Since the darkspawn are all smart now, they crushed her group but she managed to escape. Even though it’s incredibly dangerous, she wants to go back, and I agree to help her fight (to her surprise). She also mentions the darkspawn were taking the women away… potential Broodmothers… yikes. In we go though. Maker help us.

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These Children do sound pretty freaking creepy… but not Broodmother level of creepy.

In the Deep Roads, we find a gravely wounded member of Sigrun’s group, Jukka. Before he dies (there’s nothing we can do… sniffs) he warns us the darkspawn are amassing an army and have some Broodmothers pumping out horrible monsters already… lovely. You don’t have to convince me that Broodmothers need to die (preferably with lots of fire), so off we go into darkspawn controlled Kal’Hirol. I use my head instead of my axe, for once, and use the secret entrance to get the jump on my enemies. I still slaughtered everything for shiny loot and XP points though. Inside the area, I see the ghostly images of the former dwarven residents. These scenes tell the tale of a casteless uprising in the city. In a nutshell, 200 brave souls held back the darkspawn so the rest of the population could flee. It takes a long journey, and I free an unfortunate human thief captive along the way, but things eventually go all out Resident Evil when I meet the Children.

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Get it off, get it off!! Maker, help me!
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When the unpleasant walking grub-like creatures are slain, I stumble into a scene that sheds some light on everything. Turns out there are two factions of darkspawn fighting each other – one controlled by the Mother, the other controlled by the Architect.
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After the scene, I have to slay the Mother’s minion and his golem buddy. Piece of cake for my badass crew!
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And… that’s when… I found a pit… full of… Broodmothers… AH! Ahem. I got to squish them with a conveniently placed object hanging above their pit though. Quite satisfying!

Broodmothers squashed (Shale would be so proud if she was in this xpac) and mission complete! Sigrun has nothing left to fight for, so she agrees to break her Legion of the Dead pact and become a Grey Warden. A cutscene plays were the horrible Mother creature is pissed Kal’Hirol is lost, but she says she still has her tricks.

Expansion Endgame

Okay, I’m almost done! Give yourself a pat on the back if you’re still reading this. This last part of the xpac has a lot of important decisions you have to make before the final showdown. Each one is quite difficult to make, and I honestly felt like I was making the wrong ones. SO much pressure!

Big Choice #1: Amaranthine is under attack by a darkspawn army, but what about defending Vigil’s Keep? Oh noes… what do you do?

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Make way for the brave Warden-Commander!

Decision: I chose to go to Amaranthine with Sigrun (she insisted), Anders (kitty loving healer FTW), and Justice (can’t go wrong with a benevolent undead tank). Oghren, Velanna, and Nathaniel stay behind to guard the Keep. I put a lot of time, money, and effort into making my Keep strong during the game so I wasn’t too worried about it.

Big Choice #2: You arrive at Amaranthine, but it’s too late. Gruesome creatures (aka the Children) have overwhelmed the poor city. Aidan pulls you aside and says: “The buildings remain but there will be few survivors…”

Suddenly, an unarmed darkspawn approaches the group. Before the archers unleash hell, he shouts: “Peace! Do not be killing! Only talk! Architect has a message, for Grey Warden!” You hear him out and he warns you that another faction of the Mother’s army is on its way to Vigil’s Keep. This Architect seems to want peace, while the Mother wants to destroy everything.

Aidan suggests you burn down the lost city so that the corruption doesn’t spread, and then go back to defend Vigil’s Keep. Unfortunately, any survivors in the city will die as well. Tough call, huh?

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Real sheroes don’t burn down cities when all hope is lost!

Decision: I choose to fight off the creatures by hand, and NOT incinerate them along with innocent people. If just one person is left alive and untainted in there, it’s worth the massive battle to me. The Architect’s darkspawn agent insists it is the Mother’s plan to distract me with this city battle. I don’t care and ask him to fight with me, which he does. Maybe the Architect isn’t such a creep after all?

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Alright, who gave Ogres armor?

The battle rages on, and I save many guards who were fighting in the city (see there was hope). When all is good and dead, I’m warned there is another wave on the way. I’m given the night to chill in the Chantry before more of Mother’s minions arrive. The next day, I kill all of the grub-like beasts, and take out the final Armored Ogre Alpha boss. The darkspawn retreat and the city is saved. Yay! It turns out there was a lot of survivors, and only a few of them were infected by the taint. Good thing I didn’t burn down the place like you suggested, huh Aidan? I’m asked what I want to do with the darkspawn agent. I decided to let him go since the Architect was nice enough to warn me about things. Now it’s off to the Mother’s lair for the final leg of this trek.

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The Mother’s lair is in the Dragonbone Wastes. I have to kill a dragon boss (unsurprisingly) before I descend into her lair.

Big Choice #3: While fighting deeper into the Mother’s lair, the Architect himself shows up with some information. Do you let him speak or kill him?

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Darkspawn can have free will… intriguing.

Decision: I hear him out. Turns out the Architect is a special darkspawn who is sort of immune to the madness that drives his kind. He can think for himself and warns that the Blight cycle will never end. Mindless darkspawn will always want to awaken an Old God, setting the whole thing off repeatedly. He’s been using the blood of dead Grey Wardens (and some he took from Ellen back in the Wending Woods) in experiments to figure out how to give more darkspawn free will, with the hope that this will stop the root cause of the Blight cycles plaguing Thedas. The Mother is the leader of a faction that rebelled against the Architect, once he gave her free will. Utha, the blighted looking dwarf with him earlier, was the first Grey Warden who willingly gave her blood to him. Whoa! That’s a lot of info. I love treating the root cause of issues though! Killing an Archdemon every Blight is just putting a band-aid on the symptoms, I think. I agree to side with the Architect, and it’s off to squash the Mother. My party isn’t so keen on my plan, but they stay with me.

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Face to face the Mother (the ugliest version of a Broodmother ever) a vision of the Architect has a chat with her. The Mother gives me some juicy gossip about the Architect during the confrontation. Turns out he is responsible for the Fifth Blight since he tried his experiments on an Old God, and failed. I forgive him for lying to me since it seems his heart is in the right place, at least. The final boss battle goes down next. The Mother is tough, but that’s what Anders and health potions are for! After the battle is won, Ellen stabs the creature in the face with a dagger. Expansion done! The game displays a little slide show of events that went down after:

  • Raids on Amaranthine stop and the darkspawn scatter back into the depths of the Deep Roads.
  • The Architect keeps his word and retreats underground with his faction. The other Grey Wardens are pissed he’s still alive but are never able to find him. They fear the Architect may start another Blight… but the Deep Roads are now much quieter than usual.
  • Word of Warden-Commander Ellen’s brave battle to save Amaranthine spreads across the land. Donations pour in and Vigil’s Keep and the city are rebuilt quickly.
  • Since I stopped the smugglers, Constable Aidan and his crew were able to give the goods to poor citizens who survived.
  • The Architect’s agent minion turned into a mysterious stranger who helps distressed travellers, but isolated cases of darkspawn taint are also reported.
  • During the battle, Vigil’s Keep was well protected with dwarven stone walls, and soldiers decked out in awesome gear. The Keep stood for a week before the darkspawn army finally broke in. They few survivors immortalized the Keep in song and legend.
  • Anders stayed with the Grey Wardens to train mages. He is called to the Circle Tower to give a lecture about the Architect, and calls it quits with the Grey Wardens only to return 2 months later. The Grey Wardens are his family now.
  • Velanna just disappears and her body was never found after the Keep battle. Did the Goddess Etro call her to fight a never-ending battle with Caius Ballad in Valhalla, maybe? Will Seranni team up with someone named Noel to save her big sister for once? Find out in Dragon Age Awakening XIII-2! Sorry…
  • Nathaniel survives the Keep battle. He stays with the Grey Wardens and fights to give the Howe name honor again. When he does die, a statue is made in his honor.
  • Justice ran off to right injustices. Eventually, he shows up on Kristoff’s wife’s doorstep and drops dead, giving her a body to mourn at last. Where did the spirit of Justice go?
  • Sigrun grows distant from everyone, and just up and leaves to complete the Calling (the last phase of a Grey Warden’s life where they fight to the death in the Deep Roads).
  • Oghren is considered a hero, entertains everyone with tales of drinkin’ and lovin’, and he apparently has a kid with someone named Felsi.
  • What about Warden-Commander Ellen? Well, the cruelest glitch ever says she ran off with her dorky knight man Alistair… he’s dead, game… and nothing but another playthrough of the main game can bring him back 😦

THE END! Not gonna lie, I had a lot of fun writing all that.

Next, I’ll be covering my trek through Darkspawn Chronicles, if I feel like it. That DLC was only an hour so it will be far less babbling.

Thanks for reading!

7 thoughts on “Path of the Grey Warden 6: Awakened

  1. I’m sorry you never found your gear… it’s a bit of a search to get everyone’s stuff back, I won’t lie. As much as I loved the conclusive ending that Origins gave, I was incredibly impressed with this expansion/DLC and loved how they wove the lore into it, especially with the Architect….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s okay. I mean, it was the cool Dragon Scale armor Wade specially made for me… and my favourite axe with the Lightning enchantment… *sobs* I found a nice armor set upgrade in Kal’Hirol though, so it’s all good.

      I really love the story in this one. The fact that the Architect started the Fifth Blight was such a surprise to learn. I have a feeling he may show up again in Inquisition… I’m more excited to start it on the 27th than I am for Christmas to get here, haha.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, that was all? Not to bad, then…… *rolls eyes* Oh well. Glad you found some replacements. I’m sure Ferelden doesn’t want its Hero running around in her underwear all the time. Think of the children.

        Isn’t it great?!?! AAH I can’t wait to talk to you once I won’t accidentally spoil anything!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the write-up. I played through Awakening myself, but my character was not a good person, so missed out on a lot of that. Also, my experience was marred by quite a bit of bugs. I remember that more than anything else about the game, just having a lot of trouble getting through the glitches. Don’t know if it was the version I played or what.

    Liked by 1 person

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