RPG Tangents - Dragon Age: Origins

Author: Andrew /

Alright, so, I realize that I could probably play Dragon Age for 150 hours before actually thinking I've played even remotely close to everything so here's my review.

First off, I'm just going to get this out of the way. Dragon Age is awesome. Like, no-holds-barred fantastic. This is, bar none, the best RPG experience I've had in only God knows how long and if you can get your hands on it, do so.

[Some SPOILERS ahead but I'll try to keep them to a minimum]

So, were my hopes realized? Yep, for the most part. The character creation offers enough variety to make characters look different, but it's not so deep that you'll sit there for hours upon hours. That said, it's good. Quite good. The character development is really neat too. Do you craft your own story? Yes and no. You will play one of 3 races, each having 2 backstories possible, depending on class. You play through a unique intro depending on what you choose and then you, by some way or another, end up playing a Grey Warden fighting against the blight.

You'll run into a BUNCH of different characters and creatures, eacg of whom have unique backstories and histories to explore, depending on your relationship to the characters and the choices you make. The moral choices in the game are interesting too. It's quite possible to make a choice that you think is really and truely correct and still a member or two from your party will disagree with your actions. It's at the same time awesome and frustrating because on the one hand, it'd be nice if all your party members liked you and you could really get to know each and every one of them but at the same time, having that uniqueness and individuality makes each playthrough interesting. "Which characters am I going to explore this time?"

The voice acting is stellar. All the actors play their parts well and you really feel the characters. They don't seem like famous actors behind some computer animation, you really feel as if they're a real being, within the bounds of the game. The other sound work is excellent, and it's what you'd expect from a top notch fantasy game.

The thing I'm very impressed with is the actual presentation. They make heavy use of cut-away scenes but not in an annoying way. They utilize in-game graphics to create the scenes that display huge battles, political machinations between nobles and other plot events and the voice acting and shots are so well done that it's just really awesome when one comes one and you get to sit back and go "Oooh cool, what's this?"

So, graphics and audio are great. Story is great, as is character development. How about the game? Exceptional as well (surprise, right?). I'll tell you this much though. Dragon Age will kick your butt. I was in one particular boss fight where a party member had been disarmed earlier in the dungeon. He used a 2 handed sword and all his moves are based around that. So, I gave him two regular swords so he had something to fight with, but it just didn't cut it. I got trounced over and over for a good couple hours, trying strategy after strategy, maximizing health potions, spell use, using the pause-delegation strategy, everything. Later, I finally loaded up a slightly earlier save, grabbed a different character that had the right equipment and it went a lot easier. This is all on normal mode and there are two difficulties higher than that.

Beyond that, I just want to say that my favorite part of the game has got to be the conversations. The role play choices you can make are really cool and sometimes just laugh out loud funny. The story is dark, mature and heavy and what's more, it's long. It's full of monsters, treachery, intrigue, laughs and violence.

This sets the bar quite a few notches higher for fantasy role playing games to come and I think it's ripe with ideas for any D&D game, both plot wise, strategy-wise and character-wise.

Again, if your computer can run it well, I would recommend the PC version. All the reviews I've read say that the console versions don't look quite as good (namely the textures are a bit compressed and muddy) and they don't offer the top-down strategic camera view, like the PC does. Also if you have the PC version, the toolset for creating your own levels complete with a lip-synching tool, cinematic creator, etc, is available.

So, all in all, go get Dragon Age and explore Ferelden. It's great!



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