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Published on November 12th, 2009 | by zuffdaddy
Dragon Age: Origins Review
Release Date: November 3, 2009
Platform: PC [Reviewed], Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3
Every once in a while, RPG fans are blessed with a masterpiece that takes their hearts and minds away from reality and throws them into a fantasy world full of unique and bizarre characters, sweet loot, and a story that trumps any box-office movie.
Dragon Age is one of those games.
Made by the good folks over at Bioware, who are known for Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect, this RPG is in a league of its own. With hundreds of dialogue options, you can shape and create the world around you with choices and attitude. You can wield the sword and board while fighting foes face-to-face or stand from a distance and casts spells, freezing an enemy in place for your melee party member to bash into pieces. There are countless choices that can be made and every single one of them will have an effect on the environment surrounding you and your party.
What’s special about Dragon Age is where the “Origins” part plays its role. When starting a game, you create a character choosing from three different races, either Human, Elf, or Dwarf. Then you choose a class, either Warrior, Rogue, or Mage. Finally, you choose your Origin, which is what role you begin as in the world of Ferelden.
These roles are vastly different from each other, and affect the way the world and any character you meet treats you. For example, starting as City Elf, you are a guard working as a servant to humans. If you start as a Dalish elf, you are raised sheltered from the outside world, surrounded only by your brethren. These have a huge affect on how you perceive the world, and vice versa.
No matter what origin you pick, eventually all of them meet up at a certain point in the story, and from there on out you partake in the “main quest”. This does not mean that every different origin will have the same story, though, as your race and your upcoming still play and important role in how the other characters you meet will treat you.
The combat and story of Dragon Age is based off of the Dungeons and Dragons “dice-roll” mechanics. The action is real-time but can be paused at any moment to give orders or cast spells for each member of your party. You can also switch the camera’s perspective to any member at any given time to give yourself the best viewpoint on the battle. Where some may be intimidated by this style of dice-roll gameplay, they should fear not. The combat system has been streamlined into a smooth mechanic and with the pause feature, you can take your sweet time planning and executing your attack.
This does not mean that this game is easy or simple in anyway. You cannot run into a fight and just expect the rest of your party to auto-attack their way to victory. There is a good deal of micromanagement that is crucial to succeeding in sticky situations. A quick pause allows you to tell the warriors to draw fire on the front-lines while moving your mages and archers up the nearest hill to rain hell down upon the battle.
While fighting various foes through Ferelden, you’ll notice party members, including yourself, being splattered with blood. It can be quite amusing to have a conversation with an NPC while the whole time blood covers you from head to toe. During combat, sometimes party members will pull off various “finisher” moves which can consist of decapitation, a sword through the heart, or an arrow to the throat. These can lead to great screenshot opportunities since you can pause combat at any time.
While combat plays a great role in what Dragon Age is, it is not the bread and butter of the game. Where the most magical parts of the game lie is in the story and the moral choices you make.
In previous Bioware games, making a good or bad decision modified a slider on your character between “good” and “evil”. In Dragon Age, though, there is no such thing. The choices you make in the game are not made as blatantly clear as a “good” or “evil” choice, therefore you play the game as if you were your character. For example:
You come upon a town who’s been fighting waves and waves of foes every night, struggling to make it to the next morning. They ask for your assistance, and you can choose either to rally the remaining villagers for a final stand or you can just leave the town all-together without a word to anyone.
Now of course leaving the town to their impending doom is an evil thing to do, but it won’t be reflected by a meter or a karma gauge. Instead, your party members may find it offensive that you left a whole village to die, while other, more sadistic, members would find it a good decision to not waste time on such a frivolous task.
This brings up another important factor in Dragon Age, and that is your relationship with your party.
You can have up to four people in a party at once (including yourself). You will meet people along the way in your journey that will join in on your quest. Please note that these potential candidates do not appear as future party members at first, but rather as someone in need. Whether or not you help them can change whether or not they join you in return. I’m sure on my first play-through I missed many side quests and even possible party members, but that’s what gives this game replay value to the max.
Each party member has their own views on the war and different races, so trying to please them all at once can be quite a task. There will be many decisions you have to make that will impact two or more members in different ways. Luckily you can always set-up camp and take a break from the action to banter on with your party, revealing their personal thoughts on the mission at hand. You can gift them items you find along the journey, too, to attempt to increase their attitude towards you.
It’s hard for me to go into some of the most amazing moments of this game without spoiling anything, so I’ll just close up the review with this:
Dragon Age: Origins will pull you in and keep you immersed throughout the epic storyline. You’ll believe the characters are real, and you’ll find yourself thinking about them when not playing the game. Every choice you make in the game will require thought, and when you put yourself in your character’s shoes, you’ll make those choices the way your character would. This game does not go light on the dialogue but this is a blessing in disguise. Lore-lovers will find themselves reading the in-game codex for hours, learning about the backstory. Others will find themselves spending great amounts of time just chatting up the local townsfolk, trying to find any rumors that may help them to their success.
For hardcore RPG’ers and light-hearted action fans, this game is a must. Just be prepared to set aside some time to really cover a lot of ground in the story. This isn’t your typical “beat over the weekend” game, nor is it a game that makes you want to rush just to get to the action.
Bioware’s done it again and I feel the RPG many of us have been waiting for all these years is finally upon us.