SummaryI’m a Grey Warden, And Together We Can Save This World…
The GoodLet’s get something strait. I am a huge fan of Bioware’s games. Ever since Baldur’s Gate. So when I heard that Bioware, was making a game the hearkened back to those good old days, I knew one thing: I had to play it.
A Word Or Two About The Different Versions….
So, I bought an Xbox 360 to help alleviate some of the gaming burden from my PC’s proverbial shoulders. (As well as for some kick-ass exclusives!-MM-) So I got Dragon Age. For Xbox, not knowing how much better it’s PC brethren was.
Not, that there is anything wrong with the console versions of the game per se. It is just better on the PC. And there are a few differences. For starters, the PC version looks better in every way possible. Also you can zoom in and out at will. In the console version, you are stuck with a KOTOR esque 3rd Person viewpoint. I might have to suck it up and also get the PC version.
Once Upon A Time In Feralden….
In Dragon Age: Origins, you pick your background story. I played as the Human Noble. There are several others. From there, you make your avatar. The character creation system is very deep. You can alter your appearance, in just about every way imaginable. Of course you also pick your class, Warrior, Rogue, and Mage.
No matter what Origin you chose the end result is the same. However, your origin, will change some things in certain parts of the game. You are recruited into the Grey Wardens. An ancient order, that protects the world from blights. A blight occurs when one of the ancient Dragon gods awakes.(Great Cthulhu?-MM-) These arch-fiends lead hordes called darkspawn, against the world. Four centuries have passed since the last blight. The Grey Wardens are then betrayed in the first battle, against the darkspawn. From here it is up to you, the fate of Feralden, and all of Thedas, is on you.
Bioware, did an excellent job of making Thedas, and the continent of Feralden seem like a real place. This is were so many RPGS fail. But here, there is a long history for each area in the game. And it feels lived in. In the game you come across a lot of back round info on the world of Thedas. As well as on the Dragon Age website, and in the strategy guide. I was very impressed by the sheer amount of information they provide, it’s almost as good a reading a good fantasy novel.
The way you interact with your companions is also very well done. Unlike in Baldur’s Gate, where it seemed as if you just had a party of strangers with you. That was somewhat remedied in the sequel, but it was still not as well done as it is in Dragon Age.
Each of your allies has there own persona. And you can win their friendship if you talk to them regularly. Some of the characters can also be made harder, more cynical, if you make them. You can also gain the trust of the party by giving gifts. Some gifts are special, and are only for one person. And these will lead to a special scene. For example, Alistair will tell you about a pendant he lost. From his mother, you can find it and return it. For a boost with him. Eventually they will have a task they want your help with. If they like you enough. Completing the task is often the final step to becoming friends or something more.
On the flip side you can piss them off, and they will leave the party forever. And unlike in Baldur’s Gate, they will NOT leave in the middle of a battle. But wait until back at camp. Watch out, because some of your allies are easily pissed off. Morrigan, will often get angry with you if you do not agree with her. And seeing as she falls on the more on the “evil” side of the line, a good hero will have a hard time not disagreeing with her. Some of your party members will like you no matter what. Like your faithful war hound. He is always at 100%.
You can also be romantically linked with several of your party members. With some it’s just about sex. Others will actually fall in love with you.(Don’t worry conservative creeps the scenes are very tame, like PG-13.-MM-)
I, of course tried to romance both Morrigan, and Leliana. It was going well, until they forced me to choose between them. I choose Leliana, but was still able to stay on fairly friendly terms with Morrigan.(Why can’t it be this easy in real life?-MM-) How much your friends like you changes things in the course of the game when you are captured, the two party members that like you the most will come to save you. For me, it was the two hotties.(I’m a chick magnet…just like in real life…or not.-MM-)
You can even have a 3 or 4 some, with this hot bard chick, that flirts with you in a brothel. Or pay for it at the brothel.
All and all, Dragon Age, has a great cast of characters. Among your allies, there is: Shale, a foul-tempered golem, that insists on calling you, “it”.(He kinda reminds me of HK from KOTOR.-MM-) The raven haired, sorceress Morrigan, the drunken dwarf, Oghren, and Leliana, the red-haired rouge, with the sexy accent. And that’s just a sampling of them.
The supporting cast, is interesting as well. Like one of the villain’s Loghain. As well as Rendon Howe, voiced by Tim Curry.
There are also a lot of moral dilemmas to deal with. One part has you decide if werewolves are just mindless killers, or deserve sympathy. Often the fate of a whole group rests with you and your party. Sometimes just a few people. What would be the point of choices without consequence? Sometimes, it will result in a character disliking you. Or it can cause a “crisis” moment. In which the will threaten to leave the party, or try to kill you. Or it will determine your allies at the end of the game, when you battle the darkspawn in a final showdown.
There are also several endings. Four main ones. That change slightly depending on your deeds during the game. Like in Arcanum. I got the, “A Dark Promise” ending. I plan to play through again eventually. And will try for another ending. Or perhaps just load a game and view them? Even though that will take some doing. As I will have to load a much earlier save file. The game itself, will take between 50-100 hours. It took me about 62 or so. If that’s not enough there are several DLC’s for the game. And more on the way.
The combat in Dragon Age, is very tactical. Very much like in Baldur’s Gate. Only more so. If you do not plan your attacks, you will fail, it’s that simple. Some people have compared it to Final Fantasy XII. I find it a little more advanced than that besides, this system is technically older.
You can pause the action, and give orders at any time. Furthermore you can set your allies A.I. and tailor them, to behave as you wish. One winning strategy is to have a “tank” that is a fighter that can take and deal heavy damage, a support fighter, and two mages, one to attack, one to heal. A heavy mage team, is also a good strategy. It takes a little more diligence however, and much more pausing of the action. But if you train a mage as a arcane warrior, its not as hard as you may think. In the end it’s up to you. I usually have my avatar as the tank, Leliana, for unlocking chests, and sniping. A support mage, to heal and cast buffs. And the last member is optional, I either go with another warrior or mage.
Speaking of which, there are several specializations, or sub-classes to learn. A warrior can become a champion. A rouge an assassin. A mage a blood mage. These have to be unlocked first by either being taught, or reading about it in a tome.
There are lots of weapons styles and skills to learn. You can use a sword and shield, one large sword, or dual-wield.(And that just covers warriors.-MM-)
Among these, you can learn many special attacks: shield bash, and dual-sweep among others. There are also buffs, like war cry. These are some of the most useful abilities in the game.
You can also make potions, poisons, and traps. To be used it battle, the traps, and poison can help to turn the tide in a difficult battle.
You are going to need all the help you can get, as there are some very difficult battles in the game. But never unfairly so.(If you are playing on the Normal setting.-MM-)
Sights And Sounds Of Feralden
The graphics are good in the console version, not great. Oddly there are some amazing effects, like the reflection in real-time off your suit of armor, or on a lakes surface. There is also a lot of expression in the faces, of the characters.
Yet, in other areas the game looks dated. It’s quite strange. But at least it excels in the music and sound department.
The music in Dragon Age, is quite nice. Many tracks stick out in my mind, but they are all good. Even the songs with lyrics. There is also a song at the end of the game, by 30 Seconds To Mars.( If you are into that kind of thing-MM-)
The sound effects, are also very good. It all sounds realistic when needs be. And otherworldly when needs be.
The voice acting is excellent. As we have come to expect from Bioware. It is also very well written. There are films, hell, even books that do not have dialogue this good. I particularly enjoyed the banter between PC’s. Zevern talking to Wynne. And Morrigan and Alistair’s back and forth is very funny.
The BadThe difficulty levels, are a bit askew. Easy offers little challenge normal can be to hard, and it is almost impossible on the higher settings.
I wish, that Bioware, would have buckled down and given all versions the same amount of polish. Then again, it’s most likely EA’s doing having the game rushed. Why did that shitty publisher have to buy Bioware?
I would have liked it had you gotten to see more of Thedas, not just Feralden. Oh well, maybe in the sequels?
The load times are a bit long, and occur to often. If you thought that Mass Effect had long load times, just wait till you get a load of these.
The Bottom LineOverall, Dragon Age: Origins, is a game worthy of the Bioware name. And an excellent successor to the Baldur’s Gate linage. If you have the ability get the PC version. Otherwise the console version, is a good substitute.