Dragon Age: Origins Review
Dragon Age Origins Review
I’m going to say it out aloud first…Dragon Age (DA) is an exceptionally well done fantasy RPG game. And no I’m not a fanboy of Bioware (though I’ve become one now…lol), I appreciate when a product is so good and polished in every area as DA is. There are very few games that are this ambitious and can pull off that ambition so intensely well in the final product.
Dragon Age is a mature game with a lot of depth. It is not for kids, it requires a lot of thinking in terms of tactics and much of the story and conversations with characters have a lot of mature content. Since DA does fit into the traditional umbrella of a “RPG”, many may expect a typical RPG of yesteryear’s which was always more about fighting and looting than storyline. Yes there’s a lot of fighting and looting also (Tip: Always keep a Rogue in your party with lockpicking skill on full) but this is just half of what the game has to offer.
So if you are looking for a “run of the gun” or rather “a slash of the sword” (to be more appropriate) kind of RPG, stay away from DA as you’ll be sorely disappointed. It is better then to play Torchlight, an excellent RPG (and extremely addictive) just for the simple fighting and looting mechanics.
Character creation in RPG’s is always fun, but Bioware takes this to a different level where each character you create be it a human, elf or dwarf coupled with choices of Warrior, Mage or Rogue all have different beginnings and backstories. This means that if you are a human warrior then you start as a prince in castle called for battle or as an elf mage who starts in the Mage's tower learning to be a better caster. That is the depth of just the character creation choices you have. If you have the time, patience and inclination, do start with different characters to experience all the varied beginnings. And don’t worry any character you choose is great in the game as you’ll have party members that will balance you out later. Bioware has specially taken pains to see to it that no one race/character overpowers another. If you want to survive you will need all party members (four in all) with different skill sets.
No matter which origin story you get based on your choices, you’ll learn that the land is beset by a Blight; a cyclic occurrence where darkspawn creatures gather together to create hell on the surface.
So who fights them? Grey Wardens as they are called; are hardened darkspawn slayer group which stopped the blight ages ago. Now it is your role as a recruited Grey Warden to stop the blight this time round.
The feel of the story and characters is very Tolkeinish but that’s not necessarily bad, just that you will find familiarity in it all if you’ve ardently watched Lord of the Rings.
Love and Characters
You have four active party members with you always, however you can choose from an array of 9 characters (including additional ‘Download Content’ characters). Each character has been wonderfully and beautifully characterized. Each character has a unique and distinct personality, voiced exceptionally well. The characters are so well done, that you’ll always hear interesting banter from them when adventuring the world. And the banter is not repetitive nonsense which most games put you through but actual conversations between themselves and can get quite amusing to listen especially if you get conflicting characters in the mix.
It is important to note that the decisions you make in the game affects your relationship with characters. Morrigan is quite the sarcastic person and a darker character in the game who’ll dislike taking on goody-goody side-quests which she finds an interference. She’ll of course oppose, but you can choose to ignore her bringing down her “likeness” appeal to you. Bring it down too much and she’ll promptly leave the party. Leliana, Alistair and Wynne are optimistic, on the “Light-side” of things, therefore will oppose any untoward action and behaviour. You can never please all but you can always avoid taking on conflicting characters leaving them in the party camp, where they will not react to decisions made when adventuring.
Bioware seems to have really upped the level of Love making in their RPG’s of late, first with Mass Effect 1 (and also Mass Effect 2) and of course DA is no different. There are several romance possibilities with some characters able to swing either of the ways if your persuasion skill is high enough. Not to spoil anything but male players will be get the widest choice of Love partners. So kids…don’t forget to be male! The women in the game are all busty but nothing on the level of Mass Effect maturity.
Combat of Dragon Age is fantastic. It is the most challenging combat ever in a RPG. Just like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, all action is in real time and can (and should) be paused anytime. There is absolute control over every party member you have. You can pause the action and take over another party member and play. When your party advances to the next level, “Combat Tactics” option becomes available where you can literally micro manage “If and then…” commands to each individual party member. So if you see a high ranking enemy, you can tell your mage to cast a specific spell automatically to freeze him, your archer to fire off a “pinning shot” that finds weakness in his armour while your warrior hacks away at the enemy with specially coated poison on his blade. Yes that is the level of micro-management that one can go into, or not if the inclination disallows. That’s the brilliance of this incredible game, you can play it your way without even bothering about the nitty-gritties as the game automates these for you.
While the combat is brilliant, it can also be quite unforgiving at times. DA sometimes throws difficult bosses when you least expect it or outnumbers you with several enemies at the same time. Pausing the action and issuing specific commands always helps, but more often than not, using your wit to use terrain advantages and watching enemy flanks will win you the day.
Before setting off to adventure the dungeon ahead, always see to it that you have a balanced party. That means don’t just pile on several offensive characters and expect to win fights, you might but you will miss out on other things such as looting and individual character combat tactics.
For a good well balanced party: Always keep a Tank (one who fights aggressively and draws most of enemies attention), a Rogue (a classic backstabber, archer and lock picker), a mage (healer, crowd control and deals good damage) and the fourth can be a repetition of any of these, though I would recommend a specific healer mage as the fourth but there are no hard and fast rules. See what suits your play style and balance accordingly.
Specialisations are a big deal in this game. Depending on your character class, you’ll get various specialisations that one can use such as a Rogue can access (later in the game) Assassin or Ranger specialisation. A mage can either be an Arcane Warrior, Shapeshifter, Healer or Blood Mage. Each specialisation has its unique advantages and benefits, so therefore choose carefully. Choosing to balance the party is a much smarter idea than blindly taking on a specialisation because it’s cool.
DA unfortunately doesn’t allow one to re-specialize one’s character if you realize you’ve taken a bad decision later on. Though helpful modders come to the rescue with a complete re-specialisation tool called the “Respec Mod”.
PC the better platform?
At the cost of sounding fanboyish, DA is much better on PC. No not for the fact that yes PC’s can have better graphics…etc, but for the fact that DA allows supremely more freedom when it comes to zooming the camera in or out. Zooming the camera all the way out actually gives an old-school feel to DA, reminiscent of Baldur’s Gate isometric view. While in this mode, you can get a much wider feel of the battle and perhaps even locate better placements of your own party for optimum combat.
It’s better than…
Considering the fact that DA is a really long game, has exceptional combat, great characters, voiced very well, has loads of DLC (downloadable content); it beats the pants of many AAA titles of the past. Some of which I’ve fondly played are Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR), Oblivion, Mass Effect and Fallout 3.
DA certainly has more action, more story, more character development and a bigger world than KOTOR. If you’ve played KOTOR, you’ll feel familiar with DA too with 10 times more depth. DA does not beat Mass Effect 1 in terms of cinematic quality but certainly does it every other department.
Oblivion and Fallout 3 both are Bethesda Softworks RPG, both excellent in its time. Bethesda is known for making really long RPG’s and have had a much longer running with expansions etc. However, where Bioware excels is in excellent character development, you will feel something for the fake polygons on the screen, better acting and hot chicks! (Strangely, Bethesda has the ugliest women characters in RPG gaming history)
Before Signing Off
DA is a really long game; I personally took about 105 hours to finish off almost every quest in the game. So expect it to eat your time quite a bit but at the same time do look outside the window once in while, for the real adventuring is in real life out here!
Cheers and have a great day Hope you enjoyed the review. I would like to thank Erodov for this wonderful opportunity to stretch my writing, reviewing, and gaming skills.