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Dragon Age: Origins (Windows)

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Written by  :  Indra is here (19741)
Written on  :  Apr 13, 2010
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  2.71 Stars2.71 Stars2.71 Stars2.71 Stars2.71 Stars

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Summary

[v1.0] Morrigan: A half putrid Dragon Age is not something a woman wants to find in her unmentionables.

The Good

Review Version: v1.0
Review Date: April, 2010
Review Length: 15 page(s)
Game Version:v1.0
Tech Specs Used: Intel Core 2 6300 1.86 Ghz CPU, 3 GB Memory, 512 MB NVIDIA GeForce 8500 GT Video Card
Downloadable Content: None

Game Difficulty Played: Nightmare
Preferred Character: Elven Mage
Preferred Specialization: Spiritual Healer/Arcane Warrior
Preferred Party Members: Alistair (Templar - Melee), Gwynn (Spiritual Healer – Ranged Magic), Leliana (Bard - Archer)
Favorite Party Members: Alistair, Mabari Doggy
Favorite Dialog Pairing Members: Alistair and Morrigan, Doggy with any character
Least Favorite Party Member: Sten
Sexual Preference: Thus far, confused
Finished: Yes. Restarted 3 or more times and not really liking any of them
Points: 950/1600
Achievements: 51/87
Last time played: April, 2010

Well, if you didn’t notice already, I have a somewhat negative opinion of the game. So if you are a Bioware fanboi, I recommend that you ignore the contents of this review, least have nightmares for many a night. :p

Not one of my better reviews, I must admit. Reads more like fanboi whining than an actual review. I do tend to get a bit emotional when irritated. So the reader is warned beforehand and I do apologize for the constant whining, especially for the overuse of the word “annoy” and its variations, but not the argumentation behind the whining.

---

So what is good about Dragon Age? Well, if you’re interested in story driven games, then you probably do not need to look any further (although it seems you’re more likely to get better stories from first person shooters than role playing games *sigh*). The story however, isn’t top of the line however, even by Bioware’s standards. So don’t expect another Knights of the Old Republic going on here (though in fact, don’t expect another Knights of the Old Republic ever going on period, at this rate). However, if you like Neverwinter Nights 2 you would probably enjoy this game.

A. Introduction: For Those Who Have Not Played The Game
Note: This Section May Be Skipped


Dragon Age: Origins is a medieval-fantasy role playing game (RPG), where the player takes on the role of a soon-to-be Grey Warden, an elite class of individuals brought together to fight the Darkspawn and their medieval version of a world war: the Blight. The player controls a party maximum of 4 members (including the main character) selectable from various characters during the course of the game, during which, party members may converse with each other, and offer you dialogs or additional sub-quests.
  • Class and Races
    The game introduces a few different sets of classes and races. A different selection will affect the beginning story (also possibly the end) and some minor dialog situations along the way.

    Available Races: Dwarf, Elf, Human.
    Available Classes: Warrior, Rogue, Mage.

    Note: Classes, depending on race, may be further split into more specific types. For example, a dwarven warrior may either become a dwarven noble or dwarven commoner during character creation.

    Later, at levels 7 and 14, the player may chose to specialize the character by selecting 2 out of 4 available specializations. These specializations however, must first be obtained, either through dialogs, encounters or purchasing books from merchants. The specializations are:

    Warrior: Champion, Templar, Berserker, Reaver
    Rogue: Assassin, Bard, Ranger, Duelist
    Mage: Shapeshifter, Spiritual Healer, Arcane Warrior, Blood Mage

  • Skills, Talents, and Magic
    Skills represent abilities that are universally common among characters, some of which usually represent non-combat abilities, useful during sub-quest or other encounters. The available skills are: Stealing, Trapmaking, Survival, Herbalism (Default Mage), Poison-Making (Default Rogue), Combat Training (Default Warrior), Combat Tactics. Many of the skills however are somewhat useless as only one skill is needed for the whole party, such as stealing, trapmaking, herbalism, and poison-making (unless you want to use it during combat too). Each skill may be upgraded up to four levels.

    Talents and Magic special abilities unique to each class. Talents are reserved for warriors and rogues, while magic is obviously reserved for mages. Each talent or magical ability may be upgraded up to four levels. Unlike skills however, each talent or magic spell is different. Additionally, rogues are the only class that may picklock chests.

    Talents may be activated abilities (needs to be manually activated), sustained abilities (continuously active at the cost of reserved stamina) or passive abilities (always active without cost). Magical spells are only activated spells or sustained spells.

    The player may choose to have character(s) upgrade on a particular set of weapons or magic schools:

    Warrior: Warrior (8 abilities), Dual Weapon (12 abilities), Archery (12 abilities), Sword and Shield (12 abilities)
    Rogue: Rogue (16 abilities), Dual Weapon (12 abilities), Archery (12 abilities)
    Mage: Mage (4 abilities), Primal (Elemental Magic - 16 spells), Creation (Healing and Buffs - 16 spells), Spirit (4 spells), Entropy (Dark Magic - 16 spells).

  • Adventuring
    The player (when available) may travel with up to a maximum of 4 party members (including the player). Adventuring consists of traveling in a specified location (town, etc.) or traveling on the overland map. During travel on the overland map, the party may encounter random plot events.

  • Combat
    Combat may be paused at any time during combat, during which the player may force specific actions for each party member. During combat, there are 2 types of characters: The player-controlled party member and the AI (Artificial Intelligence)-controlled party member. At any time however, the player may directly control any one of the party members.

    The AI-controlled party member’s bases his/her actions on the tactics screen. Here the player may optionally (1) choose a set of commands provided or (2) manually select a particular action which is activated under a particular event. Example: Main Character Attacked: Use Pummel Shield.

    Combat strategies are greatly influenced on available mana (for mages) and stamina (for warriors and rogues). Additionally, a set of ineffective combat tactic commands may prompt the player to continuously pause and take control of each party member, which is immensely tiring sometimes.
B. The Characters
Warning Minor Spoilers!


Characters are of course the essence of Bioware games, an essence that unfortunately to my opinion Bioware has yet to accomplish successfully to the point where the player is feels emotionally attached to each party member.

Each character like many other role-playing games may be equipped with weapons and armor. Additionally, each party member has a “relationship bar” which may increase or decrease depending on your choices during certain events or dialogs. Having a positive relationship will unlock plot abilities; unlock additional sub-quests, while a negative relationship may prompt the party member to leave your team.

The following are some of the party members that if the player chooses so, may become part of the team and other non-player characters (NPCs) worthy of mention:
    Alistair: Male, Human Warrior - Templar
    Best Line: You just gave me a very disturbing mental image right there.

    The first party member you encounter is an (almost) Templar. Alistair is the most fascinating party member you’ll have. Most of his dialogs are refreshingly funny where humor is apparently the primary characteristic. Taking away Alistair from the game would no doubt be like taking away “Dragon” from “Age.” Alistair represents a “neutral good” type character, who prefers moderately good plot choices…except when dealing with Loghain. Believes that Morrigan is evil incarnate and probably isn’t far off either.

    Morrigan: Female, Human Mage – Shapeshifter
    Best Line: A half eaten putrid hare is not what a woman wants to find in her unmentionables.

    The second party member is the daughter of Flemeth, the witch of the wilds. Morrigan is shapely witch made out of stuff that little boys with naughty dreams like myself are made of. I honestly cannot be objective when portraying Morrigan, as the only portrait in my head are specific chest parts. Morrigan represents an atheist “chaotic evil” type character who prefers pragmatic choices primarily in accordance to survival. Or in the words of the developers themselves in the many dialogs: she’s undoubtedly a bitch. Morrigan shines most when she is having conversations with Alistair. Theological conversations with Leliana however, are extremely boring.

    Mabari Doggy: Male, Doggy Warrior
    Best Line: Woof and Whine.

    Depending on which character you choose, the Mabari dog will be either the first or third party member you encounter. Unlike other humanoid characters, the Mabari Dog has few set of skills (8 skills) and fewer weapons and armor (2 items). However, the animal animations and sounds are of pure delight. Although you may not actively use him in combat (due to the lack of skills), having him around for the sake of dialogs with other characters is quite pleasant. Somewhat ironic that his limited barking has more conversational depth than the other characters in the game. Also, the Mabari Dog may be used to search for (limited) items.

    Leliana: Female, Human Rogue - Bard
    Best Line: None.

    A curious female with an even more curious accent. A bard with a past, on a holy mission of faith to join in your fight against the Blight. Leliana represents a “Religious usually Good” type of character, preferring good plot choices especially those related to religion. Despite the noticeable focus of the developers on this character, the dialogs represented by her are alarmingly mediocre. She is however, curiously bisexual.

    Sten: Male, Qunari Warrior – No specialization
    Best Line: They told me there will be cake. There is no cake. The cake was a lie.

    A qunari warrior that joins your group as a form of redemption for past sins. Possibly the odd ball in the group. This giant doesn’t say much for his size and his philosophy portrayed in his dialogs is even more confusing. What ever philosophical paradox the developers tried to enact on this character, it failed. Badly. In fact, to be honest, the whole qunari race in Dragon Age seems to be quite useless. He is however, the only party member with 2-handed weapon skills unlocked. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, he does not start with any specializations and may only have one specialization unlocked.

    Wynne: Female, Human Mage – Healer
    Best Line: None.

    May be recruited when you enter the Circle of Magic plot. An old wizard that often acts as a moral advisor to the group. Wynne acts as a “Neutral very Good” type of character, preferring good plot choices especially those related to compassionate acts. Doesn’t like Morrigan very much either.

    Ter Loghain (NPC): Male, Warrior – Antagonist
    Best Line: None.

    The antagonist of Dragon Age represents the most commanding voice-overs in the game. Despite the resolute and strength of character well heard from the actor’s voice, the role itself is not supported by an obviously poor choice of dialogs selected for him.

    Overall, with the exception of the Mabari Doggy, I could not bond with any of the characters personally on an emotional level. Alistair is just too timid. Morrigan is a bitch. Leliana is just plain odd. Sten is unlikable. Although I must admit that some of the names used in this game are quite fascinating.
C. Character Dialogs

Probably one of the memorable features this game has to offer are the witty dialogs going on between your party members. The most outstanding dialogs written is for your templar party member, Alistair. Although by himself Alistair is fairly pleasant, the best dialogs are when conversing with Morrigan. Additionally, the next best voice-over and dialogs were that of Duncan/storyteller. Unfortunately for us, his part in the overall game was kept to a somewhat minimal.

However good you might think of Alistair, I find it quite odd that I would place my best vote for dialogs on…the Mabari doggy. Either I find myself wanting a pet, or the sounds and animations of that “mangy beast” (as Morrigan puts it) is best in the game.

Last but not least, I also find irony that one of the most memorable NPCs (non-player characters) in the game is your personal lyrium mentally-challenged enchantment dwarven smith (whose name escapes me). Although, he doesn’t say more than 5 words in the whole of the game, the “retarded” yet honestly naïve intonation does pull a few compassion strings in one’s soul. Favorite line: Enchantment? Enchantment!

D. Music

The music fortunately was epic enough. Especially the combat music. Did not notice anything else special so it must've been just background "noise".

The Bad

A. The Annoying Circle of Magic

So what happens when your mages just happens to face four templar? Instant death via Mindblast and not even enough time to say hello. *sniff*

This must be the first medieval-fantasy RPG where I consider magic to be annoying as hell. Personally, this is quite a feat, considering I’m as fanboish as one can get when it comes to the mysteriously over-rated arts. Problems with magic are as the following:
  • Unbalanced Spells
    If you have a mage as a main character, you’ll probably figure out sooner or later that some spells are a “must have”, while other spells are simply optional. Not having these spells will cause serious problems when dealing with opponents, simply because in many instances, not having a mage in the party is pretty much suicidal. The suicidal part refers to encounters with bosses, especially those grab techniques. The clear example is the first boss. Not having one or more of certain important spells, will prompt the player to use the stupid “run away from the ogre while hopefully you team members shoot it and not get killed in the process” stratagem.

    “Must have” spells, which if you do not obtain early in the game will undoubtedly make your gameplay experience a living nightmare are as the following:
    Basic Haves: Winter’s Blast (early must have), Cone of Cold, Fireball, Regeneration, Spellbloom.
    Advanced Haves: Inferno/Blizzard/Chain Lightning, Crushing Prison, any entropy spell dealing with paralyzes.

  • Too Powerful
    I never thought I’d whine about this, but magic in this game is a little too powerful. It gets extremely annoying if per chance you do not have any characters having dispel magic features…which basically makes any rogue or non-templar warriors a tad useless when dealing with mages. Here are some of what I assume to be a tad too powerful spells:
    Cone of Cold (cold damage+long freeze), Fireball (fire damage, large area effect, quick recharge, knock down, minor continuous fire damage), Crushing Prison (spirit damage+extremely long paralyze period).

  • Obstacle Immunity
    Lovely. Many spells (and skills) can go through walls and doors, without paying attention to obstacles in the way. There I was, facing a huge dragon. Oh, look, I can find cover behind those walls and big rocks. Apparently not. Not that anyone cares about the laws of physics.

    This also applies to some skills only in the disposal of enemies. “Buffet” is example of an extremely annoying skill. It’s a skill that pulls you from any location to the location of the caster (or sometimes the other way around, odd). Emphasize “any location”. Doesn’t matter if I happened to be on the other part of the map, stupid dragon just buffeted my arse back to where I was running away from. The spell version of this skill is called “Pull” or “Mass Pull” also enemy unique.

  • Target Selection
    One of the most frustrating things about targeting an area-effect spell is when it overlaps with enemies, prompting the cursor to instantly move itself to the target opponent, when all you want to just target the dang floor. Will you leave my targeting cursor alone please?

  • Inaccurate Area of Effect
    May it be fireballs or more than often the grease spell, targeting area of effect spells provide a shadow of proposed area of effect. More than often after casting the spell, it’s not exactly “on-location”. Can’t tell you how many times my mage slipped on himself after casting that grease spell, despite the targeting area clearly indicating that he would not himself be a target.

    Many areas of affect spells also have annoying visual targeting issues. If the target is literally not flat (e.g. hills) you will have trouble identifying the target area, as ignores any vertical terrain adjustments.

  • Magic Graphical Static
    Now here’s something no one was smart enough to think about apparently. Pausing the game is of course a main part of combat strategy (only because if you don’t, you’re mages will be constantly swarmed by enemy warriors). However, when everything is paused, apparently the graphical effects of magic are also paused and remain on-screen.

    This is extremely annoying when you have just cast a spell, for example a fireball spell, and when you pause the game, all you see are flames, sparks, or anything that hinders your ability to target anything. Often you have to wait a few seconds just for the animations to die down. A few precious seconds when you’re about to be clobbered, mind you.
B. Combat Related Chaos and Poor Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Tactics in this game refers to commands that will be used as a default set of actions during combat. Using a particular set of commands in the tactics sheet will eventually dictate how efficient a character is in battle when you are not directly controlling that person.

However, regardless that idea itself appears to be amusing, practice is far from perfect. I would no doubt suspect that many players have more than often manually taken control of each and every party member during combat, rather than relying on the AI of the party members.

Problems that arise from AI comprise of the following:
  • Not Enough Tactical Slots
    It’s simple common sense really. Take a mage. Each of the four schools of magic consists of 16 spells. That’s a total of 64 spells, not to mention other abilities and items. Well, 64 may be a bit much, but let’s just use one school of magic, around 16 spells. There are not enough tactical slots to identify each unique situation, thus, provoking the player to constantly taking manual control of the character when a unique situation arises not available in the tactics command.

  • Poor Behavioral Choices
    There are several “behaviors” available on how a character should react in combat: Default, Aggressive, Passive, Defensive, Cautious, and Ranged.

    However, none of them supports this feature: Attack anyone who comes dang too close. The closest thing available selection is to fight back when attacked. Unfortunately, when I’m being ganged up surrounded by 3 other opponents; my party members don’t do much unless I manually attack a target.

    Another annoying feature is friendly fire. Nice idea, bad in practice yet again. The friendly fire itself is not annoying. How your party members have a habit not to avoid it is. Although the behavior description does indicate that characters will avoid friendly fire, in practice, one too many times, party members like to walk on my flaming grease fields, ignore inferno and blizzard, thus ending up as an over-cooked frozen pizza. I also wonder, if a trap is detected, why do they still have to step on it anyway?

    Yet another annoying feature in the default stance is how the characters, without your knowing, like to change weapon sets, usually from ranged to melee if enemies get too close.

  • Canceled and Ignored Command Actions
    Often party members do not follow your specific forced commands. The most is noticeable during the few seconds before combat, before party members get their weapons out. It is not possible to command party members to perform individual tasks simultaneously before combat; it just cancels out except the member you are directly controlling. I suspect this happens because the game introduces a new set of code sequences (when entering combat) which cancels out anything prior to it (non-combat).

    Even more annoying during combat (yet again), party members may cancel your specific commands, noticeably when I command them to take healing potions. Sometimes they just ignore the command and attack, ignoring the 10% health they have left. You sometimes have to wait just to make sure they’re taking their medication.
Also, issues regarding combat in general:
  • Stun & Swarm
    Yes, I just coined this term, so there. :p Which is basically what combat in this game is about. Forget tactics and strategy; stun the enemy, swarm him, and go to the next target (or represented by the audio: bonk, bonk, bonk, bleh). There isn’t much any character can do if they find themselves pending 4 enemy stun moves, at the same time. Since most stunning moves and spells also incur a considerable amount of damage, that usually is instant death. Thus, direct-damage moves and spells take a second priority in this game compared to stunning moves and spells.

  • Combat & Animation Lag
    I first noticed this when fighting the first boss: an overgrown troll horned gorilla. So he was chasing me around in circles (which is the only tactic you have if you don’t have the right spells). I paused the game just how far or close he was behind me, unpaused the game then *wham!* I get hit. Huh? How did I get hit? Well, apparently there is a 1-2 second delay in movement when you unpause the game. Nice.

    Another type of lag is obvious when you drink potions. It is almost impossible to heal yourself at 25% and live while waiting for the potion animations to occur. So one wonders what that “drink potion at 10% health” tactic slot is for when you’re surrounded by at least 2 enemies.

    More lag? Sure. Arcane warriors. Lovely specialization, but useless if you’re wielding melee weapons. Why? Well, the animations take longer apparently: You sheathe your weapon (and shield), cast the spell, unsheathe your weapon (and shield). Compared to the mage just wielding a staff: cast spell. Doh. So my arcane warrior(s) didn’t have much use for swords, since enemies have this tendency of moving to the other side of the map while you’re doing your sheathing routine. *sigh*

  • Formations
    What formations you might ask? My answer: Exactly.

    When you’re facing mages, templar, dragons, or anything that has an area damage dealing effect, the last thing you’d want before a battle is having them crowed together. Gawd, I hate the templar. Even if you do manually position them, often this is not possible for combat occurring after dialogs, as the game gathers them together again regardless. A wide party formation would have saved me from a many load game.

    Many combat occurs after various dialogs. The problem with this type of combat is that it occurs roughly two feet away from your character, which in my case is a mage that happens to not wear any armor. *sigh* So much for the fighters in front and mages in the rear formation - standard. Have these people ever played Dungeons and Dragons? Doh.

    Another thing that I am extremely annoying with is something that possibly only magic-oriented characters will notice. So, we have area effect spells. You would like to cast them, but sometimes it’s difficult with everyone running around all over the place. There is no “area of control” that inhibits enemies or allies to move out of a melee deadlock, much less consequence if it does occur.

    I simply hate it when a perfect line formation is disrupted with enemies just pushing their way through, not even intentionally…stupid 3D graphics. Enemies that are knocked down just pass through whatever obstacle in their way. Not to mention allies running right in front of your perfectly aimed spell. Gah. RPG games such as Drakensang and its series however, figured this out decades earlier.

    Another annoying little feature I’ve noticed is that my 2nd and 3rd party members sometimes (more than sometimes actually) like to switch places when just combat starts.
C. Useless Specializations (and Skills)
  • Specializations
    Although depending on personal taste, it does appear that some classes and even more so for skills, are useless in this game. Specializations for example, you would prefer to choose specializations that have a lot of passive bonuses rather than active or sustained ones.
      For Warriors, the Templar is the obvious choice. Berserkers have a bad habit of running out of stamina, fast. Haven’t tried Reaver yet.
      For Rogues, the Duelist is a must have, due to many passive skills. Assassin so-so, only for the Mark of Death skill. Ranger is inadvisable, as summoned creatures do not contribute experience. Bard skills are useless except for the first level incredibly useful skill that increases stamina and mana regeneration. The higher levels are useless.
      For Mages, the Shapeshifter is useless compared to the arsenal of spells in normal form. Blood Mage is the most useless specialization in Dragon Age surprisingly, as it has no passive skills (only activated and sustained) and a mage relying on health as a substitute for mana means a quick and easy death. The arcane warrior is an obvious choice; however armor and melee weapons for combat mages are almost non-existent.
  • Archery Skills
    Archery is surprisingly effective in the game. Unfortunately, you later figure out that it is effective for the enemy than it is for you. Unlike your party, enemy archers are often numerous and are located in far off or difficultly accessed strategic locations. Yours on the other hand usually consists of only 1-2 archers and is located right in the middle of the heavy fighting. In addition to the fact that your archer tends to miss a lot and fires not as often than melee weapons, you start to wonder why you bothered increasing this skill in the first place.

  • Trap Making
    I have yet to find an RPG has successfully made trap making a useful stratagem in gameplay and Dragon Age is no different. Considering that most combat occurs in mere seconds and minutes, also much faster to fireball the enemy, not quite sure who uses traps. Additionally, after recruiting all available team members, I realized that not one of them had trap making skills activated. Hmm.

  • Leader Imbalance
    I painfully realized that some classes act as better leaders than others, specifically in this order: Rogue, Warrior, Mage. How so? Well, the first has to do with the negotiation skill. This is affected by either Cunning or Strength. Cunning is mandatory for Rogues, so that’s fine. Strength is mandatory for Warriors, so that’s fine. Cunning and Strength is not mandatory for Mages, so that’s not fine.

    Furthermore, Rogues also have stealing and lockpicking skills. Often there are areas where your leader travels alone e.g. beginning plot. A lot of chests and a lot of people to steal from. The opportunity to pick chests and steal from people is not given for non-rogues. In the beginning plot, I was quite frustrated at the many chests I had to bypass since the stupid plot wasn’t smart enough to provide me with a lock picking rogue member.
D. Story – Been There, Done That, Seen Lord of the Rings

J.R.R. Tolkien would probably be the richest man on the planet, if he got royalties for every elf, dwarf, and orc (ork) based idea. Too bad he isn’t. Alive, that is. Well, it’s basically the same thing here all over again. Except they replaced the orcs with darkspawn, although they still both look remarkably the same, expect maybe a tad skinnier and surprisingly uglier. Is it really so hard to create more interesting fantasy themes I wonder? Had to imagine they did well in Mass Effect but not here.

The game ending however, is at least the best in Bioware’s repertoire, or at least compared to Mass Effect’s painfully mediocre game endings, although I did not really enjoy the game choices I made represented in the ending.

Moving on, there are some story designs I have personal issues with:
  • Main Plot vs. Sub-Quests
    Do you hate it when the main plot cancels your sub-quests?

    One would think that developers would have known by now that this is simply annoying. One would think that these developers aren’t really gamers to begin with sometimes. :p This has always been a crime of moronic levels in quest-oriented RPGs, where if you continue the main plot they often just cancel some sub-plot they you didn’t finish beforehand. Only game I recall that didn’t follow these obvious stupid footsteps is Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Had to restart this game twice just because of this. A little advice for sub-quest OCD influenced gamers: Finish sub-quests first, advance plot later! Yes, I know its boring, but either that or bashing your head to the wall when it does happen.

  • Main Plot
    Warning: Minor Spoiler!


    Ter Loghain abandons the king to the hordes of the darkspawn…and gets away with it. I don’t know about you, but from beginning to end, don’t you think that this is one of the most possible shallowest political scenes you’ve ever been told? I really had a lot of trouble swallowing this down. It simply isn’t just believable, despite the (laughable) argumentation on how Loghain made it thus far; with not even so much as a whole country is an overwhelming uproar. Just a few “objections” here and there. Ridiculous examples like this make it not a wonder that people don’t take video games seriously. :p

    Then again, I would expect that much when a bunch of liberals are trying to fit their way of thinking into a conservative political system. Doesn’t work either way.

  • Anti-Religious Sentiment
    The Bioware team has this suspiciously negative sentiment against god, religion, and possibly improper use of hallucinogen mushrooms. Personally, I wouldn’t care less if one worships a pink polka-dot Volkswagen with celestial Dunlop tires on top. However, in the words of one of my law professors, “we don’t care about your personal ideas; we do care how you argue them.”

    Although their theological and philosophical arguments were very much interesting in Mass Effect 2, the arguments (hardly argumentative, more like whining) presented in Dragon Age: Origins is similar to that of an uneducated self-justifying atheist bible-basher… which is no different to that of an uneducated self-justifying TV evangelist.

    The overall story on spirituality in this game so horrible, that as a mythology and theology hobbyist, I find it personally insulting. I usually enjoy criticism of organized religion, jokes and all (depending on how it is presented, of course), however even this is simply too much and no doubt the worst presentation I’ve seen in video gaming as of yet. To be honest, this is the type of material you’d like get flamed for in youtube, unless of course the primary motive was to present a ridiculous religious setting in the first place, which is by the way, even a more ridiculous argument.

    Let me give you a summary of what the Bioware team deems as a “believable” background of the Chantry religion presented in this game:

    “The Maker (read=God, at least one of them) is a horny celestial being, who got thrown out of His kingdom and likes to sulk constantly”.

    Now if you think I am being a tad dramatic, surprisingly I’m not. So according to the proposed legend in the game: some mages found their way up to heaven to where the Maker lived (in the Black City), their sins eventually tainted the Black City (which apparently is more powerful than a deity); the Maker curses the mages, turning them into the first Darkspawn, and then abandons humanity.

    Later, a human female called Andreste a somewhat pious women who loves to sing, caught the eye (or ear) of the Maker (who technically should of abandoned humanity in the first place), wants to take Andreste as a wife (horny celestial bastard). Beside the fact that Andreste is already married, with the Maker no doubt forgot (horny sanctimonious celestial bastard), Andreste later then is killed (without much help from the Maker), who later sulks yet again and abandons humanity (unless of course He gets horny again).

    Now seriously, how anyone with at least half a brain who enjoys mythology, folklore, or just plain common fantasy sense can take this background story seriously? Much less, try, in the process of story dialogs, come up with any form of presentable arguments?

    Although in reality, yes, some people in religion are too stupid to know the difference between monkeys, apes, Neanderthals, or much less ever heard of Pithecanthropus Erectus, while debating the theory of evolution, I seriously object taking the same level of intelligence as an equivalent analogy. I simply have something against the promotion of ideas without proper argumentation. In this regard, a bad idea with even worse argumentation.

    At this point, real-life monotheism seems to be brilliant in comparison. Hell, even some Polynesian beliefs that believe the universe is on top of a giant sea turtle sounds more believable. :p

    Seriously Bioware (specifically the writers). Get these anti-religion themes out of your games. It’s getting old. Or at least, give a presentable argument or you’ll make atheists look as stupid the people you presumably loathe. Thus far, you’ve done a brilliant job of proving just that, even more so. Dingbats.

  • Moral Plot Choices
    I have serious moral issues to argue in Dragon Age. Somewhat surprising as I am as immoral and pragmatic as one gets, however I am conscious enough to notice the lack of mature guidance in this game, specifically when if one follows the “evil path”. Evil choices in this game are presented bluntly. Hell, all the choices in this game are presented bluntly: revolving around kill everyone and everything and get money while you’re at it. The “evil sinister ingenious” ploy is none-existent.

    I was quite disturbed in one plot choice where if you choose the evil side, you either kill the boy or let the mother do it. Although my personal inner demons love the idea, the social side of me that portrays a game as a conduit of communication, does not. This in my professional observation is more dangerous than porn games or violent oriented games. In those type of games, you expect the content. Perverts and war-junkie gamers, my type of crowd. But not in this type of game. The player often forced to choices that he/she may be uncomfortable with, but the game does not provide much of an option for them to back out. The “point-of-no-return” of good or evil usually occurs after selecting the first dialog choice and no choice in switching sides once the train has left the station.

  • Dialog Choices
    Now here’s no one apparently thought about. Like many old grumpy gamers, my first experience of dialog-choosing-type games were introduced by games such as Monkey Island. These adventure games had some pretty helpful features that no one remembers. The first is a color variation for dialogs you already have chosen, so you know to pick other dialog choices. The second is a dialog standard where the lowest dialog choice usually signals the dialog to enter a new phase. Many modern games are engrossingly lacking in both these aspects. One of Bioware’s bad habits are different dialog choices which offer the same dialog answer, when you’re technically wanting to hear something different. Another bad habit is that dialogs often end without you wanting it to end. I don’t know about you, but I really want to hear every variation of voice acting there is when conversing with an NPC.

    I do not appreciate it when the dialog ends as I accidentally chose the “closing dialog” without any chance to hear other dialog variations, except by using the “load game” feature. Unless of course you want me to treat this game as a hentai porn game where you just click all the dialogs regardless of choice or thought for that matter. Dwarven porn really isn’t my thing however.
D. Technical Mumbo Jumbo
  • Cut Scene Sound Issues
    Bioware must really hate my tech specs. Ever since from Mass Effect 1 and 2, the cut-scenes and the sounds never seem to match, so I didn’t really enjoy the cut-scenes as the gut-slashing sounds always comes a few seconds later. Never succeeded in getting the dragon-flying company intro to work properly either. They really must want me to buy a new 1 GB VGA card. *shakes fist at video card manufacturer conspiracy* :p

  • Memory Leaks
    The game suffers from considerable memory leaks after long hours of playing. This is most noticeable when loading a game. Load game takes considerably long enough compared to the standard load time we’re used to. It takes several minutes when the memory leaks start flushing in. Thus, the immersion factor of playing non-stop is disrupted abruptly due to having forced to restart the game and clean up memory.

  • Auto-Saves
    Never in my history of auto-save gaming have I ever played an RPG with such horrendous auto-save features (well, second worst at least). Auto-save occurs when the player passes a “save point” thus, prompting the game to save it. Ironically, these save points don’t occur in the most important places:
    - No auto-save when entering a new city;
    - No auto-save when in camp;
    - Auto-save usually occur after you’ve made a really, really bad plot choice :p

    The first instance I noticed this was when I discovered that my last auto-save was 45 minutes ago. The other 3 auto-saves were each 5 minutes apart. Nuff said.

The Bottom Line

I realize the most often used word I used in this review is “annoying”, which basically sums up how I feel about the game and mind you these are the only annoying features I “do” remember. Hehe. If you prefer story above everything else and wouldn’t care less about game mechanics and perfection in gameplay, then by all means, this is the game for you. The game does fair better for fighting-oriented players. I’ve also noticed that it’s more pleasant when you have full focus on one character, rather than every single party member. I’m also beginning to suspect that the Bioware in Dragon Age is a different Bioware than that of Mass Effect, the former being the inferior.

For casual gamers, I would recommend not playing the “Impossible” level, not playing a mage as the main character, ignore the effects of party member relationships, ignore potion making and trapmaking, ignore plot choices, stock-up healing and mana potions, ignore fallen characters, and use a “gang-up” (read=swarm) techniques on enemies.

For hardcore gamers, expect a lot of load game techniques and personal head bashing.

If this were compared to the Mass Effect series, I would no doubt suspect that the first Dragon Age is just the “beta version” of what it should be. True or not, we’ll see in its expansions or Dragon Age 2. This one however, you probably won’t really miss nor remember 10 years from now. Heh.

So let’s give Dragon Age a 10 review score, says professional review sites. Yay!