Dragon Age: Origins
Critic Reviews add missing review
Average score: 89% (based on 78 ratings)
Average score: 4.0 out of 5 (based on 144 ratings with 5 reviews)
Recent BioWare products such as Jade Empire and Mass Effect made some RPG pundits frown. Simplification and streamlining seemed to have infiltrated the camp of the creators of Baldur's Gate. As a minor character from Brothers Karamazov eloquently put it - "Pfeh! A pfeh!". I can relate to those sentiments: even though I enjoyed playing Mass Effect, a big part of me missed wearing Leather Gloves of Arcane Horror +3 with increased damage to half-hobgoblins or whatever.
Dragon Age can be considered a return to the roots to a certain extent. In terms of depth and complexity it is somewhere halfway between the company's first master series and Knights of the Old Republic, and generally comparable with Neverwinter Nights 2 in the way it approaches the genre.
Dragon Age builds upon the real-time-with-pause battle system popularized by its creators' earlier games. The game makes full use of it, and on harder difficulty levels it is a real tactical challenge. Smart enemies force you to plan and experiment. Sending a thief to backstab, putting archers far away, luring enemies one-by-one with your tank, ordering mages to cast delightfully treacherous spells that would render enemies helpless while you hit them with melee weapons - everything is back with a vengeance.
The game introduces its own character-building system, which works very well and provides a nice breath of fresh air after the omnipresent D&D. Lack of variety in initial character customization is compensated by extensive ability trees, which are particularly interesting for spellcasters. Items, equipment, spells, abilities are plentiful, and naturally your companions can be customized the same way as the protagonist.
A new fictional fantasy world was created specifically for this game and its future sequels. This world is believable, and a lot of optional background information makes it truly come to life. It has a developed religion, racial conflicts, political relationships, various cults and factions, etc. The schemes of human nobility, the stubborn secrecy of the elves, the brutal caste system of the dwarves - everything is stored in the Codex, which is a pleasure to read.
The writing, like in most BioWare games, is excellent. Some of the dialogues in this game surpass even the highest achievements of their earlier works. Your sharp-tongued companions provide too much witty banter to mention, but sometimes you'd bump into such thought-provoking conversation that you'll forget about the rest of the game and immerse yourself in a discourse about God and the world.
What would a BioWare RPG be without party members? Actually, we have an answer to that question. Luckily, companions make a triumphant return, having much more important gameplay-related roles than in the company's recent titles. Each and every one of your party members is a fully developed, interesting character, and much attention was paid to their relationships with the protagonist. Romances are for the most part convincing, and you must study your potential partner's psychology thoroughly to have success.
Quests in the game often come with tough moral choices. Does a man whose family was brutally killed still have the right to exact revenge on the culpable nation after generations have passed? Should we keep a powerful invention to protect an entire nation if it requires to turn people into mindless slaves? There are several "to kill or to forgive" situations where I honestly didn't know what to do - the "pro" and "contra" were both too heavy.
The formulaic story is made more appealing by convincingly portrayed characters and interesting sub-stories. The process of getting to know the different races and organizations in the game is more exciting than the schematic fight against the Darkspawn. Dramatic, well-directed cutscenes help to enhance the story as well.
While I was playing the game (and enjoying it), a tiny voice inside me kept saying: "been there, done that". Even though Dragon Age honestly avoids the alarming over-simplification characterizing BioWare's recent work, it is still very careful and doesn't like taking chances. I can't help comparing it to Baldur's Gate II, that went on to expand and enhance; Dragon Age, on the other hand, is comparatively low-key. I'm thankful that it preserves crucial elements of the genre, but in my opinion it could have preserved more and be more generous with them.
Yes, there is exploration and there are choices, but they are done in a somewhat convenient fashion. One thing I didn't like in Baldur's Gate II was the elimination of seamless traveling; Dragon Age follows the same route, but reduces the amount of side quests that would take you to optional areas. The locations themselves tend to be a bit too small and straightforward. I haven't encountered a city I could be lost in for days, running around and hunting for quests.
Dragon Age is also too "hands off" for my taste. There are no physical activities in the game, and you can interact only with those highlighted objects that serve a clear gameplay-related purpose. I don't think this is the right direction of RPG development. In particular, 3D games naturally call for more realistic interaction, serving to immerse the player into the world.
The Bottom Line
Dragon Age is an attractive game, and its sincere desire not to cater to casual players too much is commendable - at least from the point of view of those who want a serious RPG. It recreates much of what we value in the genre, and even when it doesn't do it flawlessly we can feel that its heart is in the right place.
Windows · by Unicorn Lynx (180495) · 2014
One of the best things about the game are the character personalities. The characters in your party chat back and forth every so often with interesting things to say, similar to Planescape's characters. They each have their own personality and the interactions between them really draws you in. Few games really make use of that interaction, but it is one of the most successful ways to make a RPG game great. You can also improve your relationship with each character in your party by making dialog choices they like and giving them gifts. Eventually, you can even get some romantic dialogs with them. That's been seen in a variety of games, but it's still a great addition to the game.
Another nice quality in the game are the NPC characters. They all have really good voiceovers and I haven't yet seen the same face among the named NPCs, which helps to make them all unique. The variety in the voices was really done well and helps to make it feel realistic.
The graphics are very well done and there are many "cutscenes" where the graphics take on an almost movie quality while still using the characters from your party, including what they are currently wearing (minus any helmets). The cutscenes, if you want to call them that, are usually not too long yet they help to fill out the story really well.
The story is perhaps the best part of the game, though so much comes together to make it great that it's hard to really choose one quality. So far, I have only played as one character (a dwarf noble warrior). As that character, I went through a very interesting and somewhat unique introduction storyline that got me out into the world. Each of the characters you choose from have their own unique introduction and I'm looking forward to trying them all even if I may not play through them all once I get past the introduction story. What makes the story so good is how well it is put together. Everything including the side quests seems to fit together seamlessly without gaps and holes that you often see in large worlds like this one. Even when you decide to go to another location before finishing one you're working on, it all still seems to go together nicely.
The game uses a codex system for storing information about the game that you can then look up again later. This helps so you don't have to keep notes or remember everything that you see. It shows information about every creature or enemy you come across, notes and books that fill in story background or quest background, and even information about any special spell combinations that you find in the game.
There is a tactics section for your party that helps you to create a way for each of your party members to react on their own so they do what you want them to without your guidance. It is set up really well and lets you create a limited number of tactics for each character, such as change between ranged or melee weapons based on what weapons are being used against them, automatically healing a character when their health gets so low, or shapeshifting when surrounded by a certain number of enemies. There are a lot of different kinds of tactics you can set up based on your play style or what you're currently fighting against. You get a certain number of tactics slots automatically and gain more by spending skill points and leveling up. I recommend not increasing tactics slots too much on your main character that you always control as you won't generally need them. I made that mistake without realizing what I was doing until later on. It helps to read the manual before playing, I suppose. Heh.
The character classes each offer some useful additions to your party and a nice variety in how you play them. It might be difficult finding the "right" main character to round out your party the way you want, but you also can't really choose a "wrong" character class either. One thing to note when choosing your classes is that the Mage is also your healer and the Rogue can really be useful for locked chests and doors. You will get both a rogue and mage not too far into the game, but won't have them to begin with.
There really isn't anything that I'd consider bad about the game. That said, be careful about leaving the starting areas of the game. I was unable to complete some things within the Wilds because I didn't finish it before the large battle happened and it won't let me return there now. I'm sure the same is true for the other characters you can play. Most other places do let you return later, but the starting areas seem to be locked after you leave them. Whether or not that changes later in the game, I'm not sure.
Some encounters do become very difficult even at Normal difficulty and make you either use "boring" strategies (such as running in circles while the rest of your party uses ranged attacks) or else leave to another area and then come back later after leveling up some more. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it does sometimes get frustrating. Of course, some of those difficult situations are made much easier by taking direct control of all characters in your party and using certain combinations of spells and skills.
One thing to keep in mind about the party AI is that it won't do everything for you unless you really work on the tactics for each character. Default tactics are okay for most easy fights, but for the harder fights, you'll have to either handle each character manually or else take time to set up the tactics really well. It won't just do the best attacks for you like some games. I'm not sure that is really a bad thing about the game, but if you expect it to do it for you, you're going to consider the AI to be bad.
The Bottom Line
Overall, if you like games like Planescape, Baldur's Gate, and Neverwinter Nights while having more control of the camera similar to a game like Morrowind or Oblivion, you will probably really enjoy this game. It is a huge game offering hours and hours of enjoyment even before considering playing as another character. I definitely recommend the game to all RPG fans as a must-have game. I rarely make such a recommendation for games, but this is one of the best as far as I'm concerned. It seems to take the best qualities of the different RPG games out there and include them all into one great game. And beyond the main game, you can also download additional content for the game that adds new areas as well as new items. Keep in mind that some of those downloadable items won't be available in the game until you get further into it. And if you haven't downloaded them yet, you will see it in the conversation dialog when you come across a quest that is for those new areas.
Windows · by Riamus (8448) · 2009
The story is very interesting to follow and you meet many creative characters along the way.The story is full of great moments and plot twists and the sidequests are worth doing as well. Also be sure chat with your party every now and then.
The combat is very tactical and sometimes you need to make decisions very quickly. I loved how opening the menu pauses the game, so you can plan out a strategy without dying at the same time.
Ferelden is a very nice place with much variety. It reminds me a bit of World of Warcraft; you have a lot of different areas, each with it's own theme (elven woods, icy mountains, dwarven mines etc.). It's simple, but functional at least.
I like it how you travel between places by picking a location on your map and then warp there, rather then walking all the way. Normally this would make the world feel small, but they fix that by characters constantly mentioning countries and cities you can't visit. It's hard to explain, but it works.
There is a lot of RPG here and that is just a barrel of fun. You get to decide what armor your party has to wear, you can also upgrade that armor and you can also level up all your party members (you have like a dozen of them) and decide what skills they learn. There is a lot of RPG element in here. For newcomers to the genre this might be a little overwhelming though.
Sometimes the game was way too unpredictable and tiny conversation options could lead to party-members turning on me or losing a ton of friendship with a character.
The game is unreasonably hard and I can imagine a lot of people will be turned off by that.
The game is not really fun to replay because a lot of parts are very repetitive and you have to go through all the conversations with characters again. This is a bit of a problem because the achievements demand that you play this game almost all the way through a minimum of three times.
The Bottom Line
Despite some massive problems I replayed this game a lot. I really like this game, but at the same time I know that this is more for the hardcore-RPG-fan. Newcomers might want to stay far away from this game or store it away for later because this game is amazingly complex.
Xbox 360 · by Asinine (957) · 2011
Let’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 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 Line
Overall, 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.
Xbox 360 · by MasterMegid (723) · 2010
Review Version: v1.0
Review Date: April, 2010
Review Length: 15 page(s)
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
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.<hr />
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).
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 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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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*
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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!
Windows · by Indra was here (20635) · 2010
Contributors to this Entry
Critic reviews added by Caelestis, Cavalary, Alsy, Alaka, Cantillon, Jeanne, Zeppin, Dariusz Sadkowski, Picard, jaXen, Patrick Bregger, PsxMeUP, Renat Shagaliev, Yearman, Sicarius, Crawly, Utritum, Tim Janssen, Scaryfun, CalaisianMindthief, Marid Aduran, Terrence Bosky, Big John WV.