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Feb 8, 2010

Review: Dragon Age: Origins

Dragon Age: Origins
EA, Bioware
Available for Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC

If you’ve been an active RPG player over the past 20 years, then you have probably played a Bioware game at some point or another. As the creators of such amazing titles like Baldur’s Gate, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect, Bioware has been the developing team behind the games that dominate a mass portion of your gaming life and now they have another one for us.

Dragon Age: Origins is new Bioware game that has been dominating my life and probably others for the past few months. This dark fantasy game follows a young recruit of the Grey Wardens into the fight of their life against the Dark Spawn menace that is slowing taking over the land of Ferelden.

You start the game with the task of making your character from scratch: choosing their gender, body types, hair style, etc., as well as their race (dwarf, elf or human) and class type (rogue, mage or warrior). Once you have picked all these details, the game will give you 1 or 2 origin stories to choose from which fits your character type. There are 6 in all to play through, so do check them all out for the fun plus the bonus achievements/trophies. You will also have to add some additional points to your attributes and skills like much like a Dungeons and Dragons character.

Dragon Age is basically an open world which means you are given a set of tasks to perform in order to complete the main quest but you can go anywhere you want once the map is open to you. Of course, if you choose to ignore your main orders, then you must deal with the consequences. Once you get into an area, the game is all dungeon crawler which means you kill everything that attacks and strip it bare for loot, or talk to the village folk for information or to sell your new goodies.

While you’ll start off with one character, the game will introduce you to multiple party members who in some cases, you can choose to add to your party or not. Some party members will only stay for a brief time, while others will actually leave you if you fail to impress them over a certain amount of time. Over all, it’s better to recruit everyone you come across for the achievement/trophy and for the character options in battle.

If you ever played a Bioware game, you’ll know that the developers love to give you mass options in their storylines, rather than have you play out just one linear plot. Usually you have a basic good or evil path, but Dragon Age goes beyond that and really branches out into multiple versions. Depending on how you handle each situation you come into, you can affect how each character in your party reacts to you, how a future situation will play out and ultimately how the game will end. I’ve only played the game through once but I heard several different versions of this game’s story from friends which are pretty darn cool when you think about it.

Same game – several different game play experiences. How often you get that from just one game?

I think what was the probably the coolest part of the game for me was how it made me feel when I turned it off. Believe or not, I actually walked away from this game feeling guilty for the choices I made even though I knew it was just a game.

I chose to play a female city elf on my main play-through and had to play through an origin story where I was taken along with several other female elves to be raped on my wedding day. I managed to help us escape after I brutally slaughtered every human male in the castle but I failed to save my cousin from being raped. After playing through this disturbing situation and downing a bucket of ice cream, I found myself actually wondering if I took too long during the mission and that’s why my cousin was raped. As gamers, we always do what comes naturally which in this case was to kill everyone and loot the castle before I finished saving everyone to end the mission, but I actually wonder if the game was setup to punish me for taking too long. I doubt it did but I couldn’t help but think it.

Later on I had another mission where I had to choose between killing a demon-possessed child and saving the child with the help of a mage. Problem was I released the mage in the dungeon that could help me save him and I hadn’t finished a mission that earned me a mage in my party yet, so I was forced to kill him. This unfortunate turn of events earned me a spot in Alistair’s bad book and also guaranteed that I would never be able to romance his character and earn a special ending. I actually felt mad at myself for this. Could I have left the palace and complete the mage mission in order to save the boy? Did I really do all I could do?

This game was so good I was actually walking around feeling guilty about my choices. Sure, I’ve played moral choice games before but honestly I never felt bad when I was beating a hooker in Grand Theft Auto, so why did I care now? I think it’s because Dragon Age is setup to make us pay for our sins. I knew Alistair wouldn’t forgive me for my choices, and the game actually kept reminding me about my cousin and my delay in saving her. Despite my guilty, I loved this take on the moral path game and I think this is how games should be made - with actually consequences throughout the game for the things we do and not just different prizes or two varied endings based on how good or bad we are.

I’ve laughed, cried and felt a little tingle in my special spot because of video games, but never has a game made me walk away feeling regret or guilt. For this, I salute the developers at Bioware.

On a side note, this game seems to have a lot in common with Lord of the Rings and I’m not talking about the elves and dwarves. Homage to the late J.R.R. Tolkien can be seen everywhere in this game from characters to the cities, but honestly that’s not really a bad thing as I have been waiting for a good RPG Lord of the Rings game for a long time and this is probably the best we fans can hope to get.

The music in this game is pretty sweet especially the opening load screen score which is so epic summer blockbuster. I was a little disappointed that my character didn’t talk especially when you get to choose from a selection of voice tracks in the beginning, but those only cover battle mode sounds. I guess there was just too much dialog to record multiple voices for.

The graphics were pretty impressive especially for such an epic size game. Each character was well modeled, especially Alistair (meow!) and there were enough hair styles, face types and clothing options that you didn’t feel like you were talking to the same 10 villagers over and over again. Your party’s clothes changed with every cut-scene to match what you had put them in which is always a big plus with me and the enemies were quite creepy as were the g-strings people appeared in while nude.

Going out to the movies costs the average person $15 after ticket price and concession stand treats, while a videogame costs $60 on average. This makes purchasing a game all the more difficult because you can’t afford to buy a bad game, especially when resale values are at least half or less. I can honestly say without a doubt that Dragon Age: Origins is not only a great game but it worth the sticker price and more. There are so many choices to this game, you could play it 6 times and still never get the story twice over. If that is not worth $60, then I don’t know what kind of game is.

Rating: 10 out of 10
Buy it!

1 comment:

Care-a-Bear said...

Wow, DAO is probably the game that has stolen the most hours of my life (well....FF8 and 10 are close)I played through it like 4 times. =) absolutely awesome