Dragon Age: Origins

First Hour Review
Dragon Age Origins Cover

BioWare has been on a roll the last ten years, kicking the decade off with Baldur's Gate II, delivering more Forgotten Realms fun with Neverwinter Nights, revolutionizing console RPGs with Knights of the Old Republic, revolutionizing themselves with Jade Empire, and of course, introducing the world to Mass Effect, one of my favorite games of all time. BioWare decides to close out the decade similar to how they started it, with a fantasy epic: Dragon Age: Origins.

Dragon Age: Origins was released in early November on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. It has seen some pretty great success, and is one of the notable games released this holiday season that does not necessarily compete directly with the behemoth that is Modern Warfare 2. While I've never played Baldur's Gate, I am a big fan of the Mass Effect series and am excited to give BioWare's fantasy genre a spin.

This is by no means the first Dragon Age content we've featured on the First Hour, Grant reviewed the first hour of Dragon Age Journeys, a flash-based web game set in the Dragon Age universe. In October I read Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne, the first novel set in BioWare's world, though it is not a novelization of the game. Dragon Age: The Calling, the second book in the series is out and is on my to-read list. Definitely check these other forms of media out if you're a big fan of Dragon Age. And on that note, here's the first hour of Dragon Age: Origins for the Xbox 360.

Fallout 3

First Hour Review
Fallout 3 Cover

Last year, I played the first hour of the original Fallout, and I will admit, it didn't go so well. I made the comment that one hour just wasn't enough for a game like that, but I wasn't interested enough to keep going. Well, Fallout 3 has been out for some time now and the series has taken a gigantic leap into the modern, pre-apocalyptic age. I guess the game could be considered an action RPG first-person shooter with the option of being third-person, but whatever the genre is, this is not our father's isometric Fallout.

Times have changed though, and with Bethesda taking over the Fallout license, it seemed like the logical step was "Oblivion with guns." Whether you were excited for this prospect or not, it definitely seems to have panned out as the game was honored with many Game of the Year awards in 2008. But I like to form my own opinions, and set out to eventually give the Fallout series another chance. I had the opportunity a few months ago, when my brother-in-law asked me to help him play this game. I wandered around for a few minutes in complete and utter confusion, eventually killed some important story characters (and then the game auto-saved!), and was more or less left with a bitter taste in my mouth.

But I also like to give a game a decent shake, so here is its opportunity: the first hour of Fallout 3 on the Xbox 360.

Dragon Age Journeys

First Hour Review
Dragon Age Journeys Cover

EA and Bioware are pushing Dragon Age as the next big fantasy franchise. Even the name of the core game should give you a hint. They are practically calling the main game "Dragon Age: The First One." In addition to two novels and a tabletop RPG, EA 2D developed the flash title Dragon Age Journeys, and episodic adventure that can unlock items in Dragon Age: Origins. The first chapter is free, but gamers will have to pay for subsequent chapters. I knock out the first hour of the first chapter, "The Deep Roads."

X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse

First Hour Review
X Men Legends 2 Cover

X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse is an action RPG featuring the X-Men and Brotherhood of Mutants teaming up to fight Apocalypse. Developed by Raven Soft and published by Activision, it's (obviously) the sequel to X-Men Legends.

I have never played X-Men Legends. Why, then, am I playing the sequel? In the first game, you play as the X-Men fighting against the Brotherhood. In the second, you play as the X-Men and the Brotherhood, which seemed much more interesting to me.

How will this game capitalize on this unique license? Will an action RPG be fitting for the X-Men (and Brotherhood)? Did I make a huge mistake in playing the sequel before the first?

The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age

First Hour Review
Lord Of The Rings Third Age Cover

And so we've come the the last game in the Lord of the Rings marathon. The good thing about this marathon is that it was much shorter than a Lord of the Rings movie marathon. Actually, beating all three games would probably take less time than watching the extended versions of the movies. Snarkiness aside, it would be a good idea to read the first two before venturing into this one.

After Return of the King was released, there was still enough hype about the Lord of the Rings movies to warrant releasing another game. Since the two previous games had already covered all the battles from the movies (and then some), EA decided to tap into a previously neglected genre: they released an RPG.

The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age is almost a JRPG, except it wasn't developed in Japan. Because of this, it has a little more Western influence on the storytelling and some of the gameplay.

The story was created just for the game and has you controlling new characters, mainly Berethor, a man of Gondor, who is searching for Boromir.

Will Lord of the Rings make a good RPG? Perhaps the bigger question is, will EA make a good RPG? Hmmm....

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

First Hour Review
Super Mario Rpg Cover

Shortly before they began squabbling about cartridges versus compact discs, and long before Square-Enix came crawling back for a suck at the Nintendo DS teat, Nintendo and SquareSoft got around quite nicely. One of the results of this relationship was Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, a Japanese style role-playing game set in the Super Mario Bros. universe. It's one of those games that no one would have ever thought to ask for, but was so successful, it spawned the Paper Mario series that landed on later Nintendo systems (with no help from Square) and the Mario and Luigi RPG series found on their handhelds.

The game itself was quite ambitious, even beyond the cooperation of two major developers. The cartridge had its own onboard CPU, not to be confused with the popular graphics Super FX chip, but simply a co-processor to the main CPU already in the Super Nintendo. The ability to include additional hardware on the actual game cartridge was one of the amazing design decisions that revealed the foresight the hardware team had and kept the console highly competitive through 1996 when Super Mario RPG was released.

Super Mario RPG ended up being one of the last, great Super Nintendo games, being released along with some of my other favorites including Harvest Moon and Kirby Super Star. It's the end of the classic era, in my opinion, but marks the beginning of some bold moves by Nintendo. Here's the first hour of Super Mario RPG for the Super Nintendo.

Final Fantasy VIII

First Hour Review
Final Fantasy 8 Cover

I used to call it one of my favorite games of all-time, I'm honestly not sure where it falls now since I've only played it once, and that game started 10 years ago. Final Fantasy VIII was released on September 9th, 1999, Sony's answer to the Sega Dreamcast North American release on the same day. I plowed through it in epic sessions of high school gaming, finishing it less than a month later after 60+ hours of gaming. While I'm a huge fan of the Dreamcast and will probably dig mine out over the next few days to honor its 10th anniversary also, Final Fantasy VIII just clicked with me. I'm not going to get into Final Fantasy VII versus VIII or anything, save that for some forums, I will, however, get into the first hour of Final Fantasy VIII shortly.

Well, I said I wouldn't get into FF7, but that game had a great first hour! Especially for a Japanese role-playing game that usually spends more time explaining the intricacies of the turn-based battle system than actually being, you know... fun. So it's been a while since I started a new game in Final Fantasy VIII, I remember the great opening video, and that's about it. So here's the setting: it's 1999, the sequel to one of the most popular games ever is now in your hands, and you're about to make the decision to either sign the next month away to it, or try to recover some of your cash at EB Games. So let's play the first hour of Final Fantasy VIII and make our decision.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

First Hour Review
Knights Of The Old Republic Cover

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is an action RPG released for the Xbox and Windows in 2003. Before KotOR, Star Wars games had plenty of success in the action genre, but had never ventured far beyond the standard platformer, space sim, or shooter. BioWare changed all that with Knights, and in the process kicked off their own line of very successful console-first RPGs. Many fans would call this an incredible amalgamation of LucasArts and BioWare, of Star Wars and Western RPGs. I'll save my judgement for after I save (or destroy?) the galaxy.

I played the game a bit during college when it first came out, but never got into the "series" until Jade Empire and then later Mass Effect. Since I'm experienced with their newer games, it will be very interesting to see how they evolved since Star Wars. Let's get into the first hour of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.

Rogue Galaxy

First Hour Review
Rogue Galaxy Cover

Rogue Galaxy is a 2006 Japanese role-playing game for the PlayStation 2. I was given this game about a year and a half ago and never got around to playing it. Well, the time has come to give it a go, so no better way to play it than to just try out the first hour. Role-playing games don't always fare that well on the First Hour, but there have been a few exceptions. I'm hoping that Rogue Galaxy can join that group. It features cel-shaded graphics and action-focused battles, which definitely brings up pleasant memories of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker.

The game was developed by Level-5, most famous for their Dark Cloud series that was also very popular on the PlayStation 2. More recently, they created Professor Layton on the Nintendo DS, worked on the much-anticipated Dragon Quest IX, and developed White Knight Chronicles on the PlayStation 3. These guys have been mighty busy it seems. But for right now, let's focus on the first hour of Rogue Galaxy.

Sacred 2: Fallen Angel

Full Review
Sacred 2 Cover

Sacred 2: Fallen Angel is a hack and slash role playing game for the Xbox 360, Windows, and PlayStation 3. I had never even heard of the Sacred series before playing this game, and if you haven't either, think Diablo. Though it is definitely a brighter game if anything. Sacred 2 features a seamless open world with tons of action. It was released last year on the PC and about a month ago on the consoles.

I haven't played a lot of hack and slashers in my life besides the Diablo game here or there, so let's see if I still enjoyed Sacred 2: Falled Angel. This is my full review of the Xbox 360 version.

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