|Dragon Age: Origins|
|Platforms||Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3|
|Genre||Exceptional single player MMO|
|Buy from Amazon|
Since I built my new PC in October, I've been playing games that I had not had a chance to in quite some time. My brother in law had come into ownership of a few games I had really wanted to play, and while in the mess of mediocrity, one game stood out as a gem that ended up sucking my time away. That game was Dragon Age: Origins.
Let me begin this review by saying I am a big fan of Bioware fantasy RPGs. I loved Baldurs Gate, Icewind Dale, and Neverwinter Nights. I love the DND based RPGs. These types of games, these fantasy RPGs with choices are fantastic and end up taking hours away.
However, despite me loving these past titles, I never finished a single one. I always ended up failing to complete the main story line, so when I installed Dragon Age, I was worried I wouldn't finish it.
Dragon Age: Origins was released by Bioware, the makers of Mass Effect, on November 3rd, 2009. It was well received, and it was announced months ago that Dragon Age 2 would be released in March, 2011. It's the first time Bioware has made a fantasy RPG that does not include DND rules. Many people were upset at this, but honestly, the DND elements are still there. You can still intimidate or persuade folks, or randomly kill them in conversation, making for some hilarious conversations.
The basis of this game is that you are recruited as a Grey Warden, a group of warriors whose entire purpose in life is to stop blights. Blights are when Darkspawn, which are sort of like a mix between demons and zombies. They're perfectly intelligent and fight with weapons, so it's much like The Lord of the Rings. The primary difference is the Darkspawn are lead by an Archdemon which is a – dun dun dun – dragon! That's all you really need to know, I'd spoil the rest. So let me tell you whether or not this game is worth it.
What I loved: Dragon Age plays extremely well. Just the control scheme on the PC is perfect for this game. It's a very tactical game, you will be pausing the game often and selecting your teammates' next move. At first it was tedious, but this control makes things much more intense and you really have to think about what you're going to do, especially when you're not perfectly armed and max level.
This may sound strange, but the omitting of good and evil biases is the best choice an RPG has made in a long time. There's no good or evil bar telling you that you're acting like a mean jerk. There's simply choices, and these choices end up weighing in at certain points in the game, which is far better than the game just telling you what or who you are.
In addition, the final battle includes all of the fellows you've recruited, which is absolutely awesome. You play with a part of four, and you have a choice of more than just four characters. Many RPGs just have those characters sit around, and never level and you don't really use them. But in Dragon Age, all of the experience is shared, so you never have to use underleveled characters and in the end battle, they participate so it makes things entertaining. Just make sure to give them your hand me downs and you will end up with a pretty handsome group of second stringers that won't let you down.
What I liked: The characters are awesome. My personal favorite was Alistair, who was incredibly funny and made me laugh throughout the game. Your interactions with these characters are extremely important and the multiple endings of the game make for some interesting gameplay and a pretty decent amount of replayability.
The graphics are okay, nothing to write home about, but the characters' enunciation of words is very well done. I just never looked at this game and said “Wow” like I have with other games, such as The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.
I enjoyed that equipping your characters was not a huge headache. I've played many games that I had a hard time deciphering what was most important for the character I was equipping, and this wasn't prevalent at all.
What I didn't like: While talking to characters is enjoyable, you can unlock a persons entire story in one sitting. I basically cleared everything Alistair had to say in one sitting and he never had anymore conversation points that weren't quest related, besides the occasional personal quest. (All characters have their own mini quests) I'm not crazy, and this didn't make me like the game much less, but it was still a little disappointing since I really wanted to know more about Alistair and Sten, since they both had interesting backstories.
What I hated (yes, hated!): This game's largest flaw, to me, is that it's basically single-played World of Warcraft. Which, how great, you get to play an MMO for free without the hassle of other players or ping. Well, this would be true except one thing: I hate the style of modern MMORPGs. I hate tanking and getting “aggro” or “hostility” to prevent your other characters from getting hurt since they're not wearing plate armor (unless they're arcane warriors.)
This part doesn't happen all the time and after a certain level it isn't as vital (except for the Archdemon) but having it work like a clock feels like work, instead of fun. Now, I know full and well that others may enjoy this part of the game, but I loathe it.
Gameplay: Fun, but slayed by the tedium of having to tank those enemies while your other characters deal the damage. I personally dislike the idea that a warrior with a shield and a sword has to be a tank. But it's almost, in a way, vital for this kind of game. But Baldur's gate felt less like an MMO than this game did.
Also, this game is extremely massive, despite it's somewhat linear gameplay. There are dozens of side quests, if not hundreds. Making the game easily last a couple hundred hours if it's your first play through and you want to be a perfectionist.
Fun Factor: I played 75 hours for the first run through. That should say it all. It was, for the most part, the most fun I've had in a long time. Especially since this was on a PC, my favorite gaming platform. I really wanted something new. Playing the same titles over and over again can stave off the hunger, but never satiate it.
Dragon Age: Origins did more for me than many games have ever, without being completely groundbreaking. It was everything I wanted to bring me back to really being a gamer.
Graphics and Sound: My computer is pretty fast. (Core i7-870, 4GB DDR3, Radeon HD 5870) so I ran this game at maximum settings and it ran like butter. It doesn't look bad, but it's just bland. It feels like this could be anywhere, and I wanted to feel like I was somewhere unique.
The sound is great. The music is fantastic and fits perfectly and the voice acting is phenomenal. I've played games where I muted the sounds so my parents or friends wouldn't hear because it was so embarrassing. (Symphony of the Night, anyone? Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders?) But this was well done, and I never felt like I needed to hide what I was listening to or reading, not too shabby.
Story: While the primary story is not exactly unique, the characters are refreshing and fun. They're very much cliches, but that doesn't matter because their conversations and back stories are very well done. This game made me feel the importance of what I was doing enough to keep me coming back.
This game is very fun, but it's World of Warcraft play style and lackluster world design make this game great where it could be legendary. Overall, it's a good buy and I will be picking up the expansions as soon as I can.