Dragon Age first expansion named, dated, priced

Dragon Age 'Awakenings' to add party members, spells, abilities, and a brand new area called Amaranthine this March.

Gear up your Grey Wardens, Dragon Age buffs, because Bioware's dubbed and dated its first official expansion pack, Awakenings, shipping worldwide for Xbox 360, PS3, and Windows March 16, 2010. Armchair conquistadors rejoice, because the expansion adds a new area called Amaranthine--a word that means "undying" or "unfading"--and invites you to probe the origins of the original game's diabolic darkspawn.

It won't be cheap, though: You'll shell out US$40 for a copy, whether for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, or Windows PC.

Per usual, you'll encounter new creatures with attribute-educed names like 'Inferno Golems' and 'Spectral Dragons', including what the press release describes as "an evolved, intelligent breed of darkspawn." (Too bad the latter were vacationing during the original story.)

Awakenings also adds five new potential party members, and lets you either continue with an existing character or venture forth with a brand new one (note the events occur post-Origins, so you can't play Awakenings as a prologue to the original story). What's more, you'll be able to re-spec your party members, ascend to higher levels, wield supplemental spells and abilities, specialize in additional disciplines, and hoard new items.

The story picks up at the close of Origins and places you in the boots of a Grey Warden Commander tasked with (warning --spoiler alert!) rebuilding the order of Grey Wardens. Along the way, you'll have to (warning--more spoilers!) deduce how the darkspawn survived after the Archdemon's death. The press release also mentions resolving conflict with a mysterious "Architect," determining the fate of the darkspawn, notes you'll be able to import your Origins character or create a new Orlais-born Grey Warden from scratch.

Bioware recently announced "Return to Ostagar," a US$5 downloadable content pack originally due this week, now delayed indefinitely.

For more info, check out BioWare's new Awakenings sub-site: www.dragonage.com/awakening

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