Review: Dragon Age – Origins

Having some much deserved time off from work over the Christmas break has allowed me to catch up on playing a lot of missed games, and one of those games was Dragon Age – Origins. Bioware, who do not believe in holidays, have been very busy as of late, working on some big-name games including the much anticipated Mass Effect 2, the eagerly awaited massive multi-player online game, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and of course Dragon Age – Origins, which we will be looking at today.

This epic fantasy game almost slipped under my radar, being the holidays I have been out of the games news and in the booze, celebrating the festivities of Christmas and the New Year. But thankfully in my drunken haze, I did manage to stumble across this title and become absolutely enthralled. The story has a bloody and dark theme reminiscent of Diablo, allowing the player to choose his race (or origin as the game name suggests) which then dictates the introductory story for your character. Ultimately the story for all origins will line up, but there are some major points in the game which will decide your final fate – meaning that there will be multiple endings. After completing your introductory story, you will meet a man named Duncan who heads an ancient order known as the Grey Wardens – an order sworn to protect the lands from the Darkspawn. The Darkspawn are your typical bad guys, hell bent on the destruction of the world and to most likely enslave the peaceful inhabitants of this world. So as you have probably guessed, you will be in joining this elusive ancient order to stop the evil Darkspawn.

The journey though will not be as easy as my simple analogy; You will venture across various lands and meet interesting characters, with your final goal being to amass an army worthy of engaging the Darkspawn. The path is definitely not smooth; along the way you will come across many bumps and forks, and how you decide to travel this path will affect your characters relationships with party members, which I will go into more detail later on.
As has come to be expected from Bioware, the story is as detailed as physics. There is plenty of background story and lore to be found, through the books picked up in the game, and a codex in your journal that updates constantly through interactions with the game environment. I believe it has become standard now with Bioware games; you can finish the game with only 10% of the content being explored. Although the story in whole is great, the mid-game can drag along and does require some patience, but this is all part of the suspense building finale which I will not spoil.

In similar fashion to Mass Effect, the game uses a party system and throughout your journeys you will meet characters who’s fate you will decide, choosing for them to side with you or find their own destiny. Each party member will look towards you for decisions, and the way you choose to complete quests will give you a different standing with your party members. The game also allows for highly configurable options on how your party members perform in battle; I would say too much and I cannot see anyone going through configuring each spell that is cast in sequence. In crucial fight sequences I found I was taking control of the healer mainly, as the AI will constantly use up all the healers mana. Pulling targets slowly can also be a pain when you have some party members suddenly making suicide runs and dragging back an army to overwhelm you. Thankfully the game does allow you to pause at anytime to rethink your strategies, and take control of any defiant characters mind set on suicide.

If you have ever played any MMO, you will understand the basics of tanking, healing and damage classes; Dragon Age – Origins follows the same fashion with these basics. Additionally, crowd control plays a large role in order to progress – you will be constantly using freezing spells with your casters to even the odds in fights. The combat physics work well, so well infact that you look forward to engaging in your next battle, but be warned that saving consistently in this game is a must – it does have a touch of old-school style game difficulty. If you grabbed yourself a copy for the PC, then you will be given the option to play the game from an extra top view; this is extremely useful in combat situations. Unfortunately, the console version owners will be left absent of this extra view for reasons unknown.

The graphics are on par with the story of the game, being extremely detailed with no short cuts taken; it is visually outstanding and definitely enhances the gameplay tenfold. Character movement in combat is fluent and fun to watch, and occasionally you may witness some fatality moves performed by your characters – I must admit that I missed most of these animations while watching the beautifully modeled Morrigan character. Spell casting looks amazing with a variety of lighting effects used, thanks to the Eclipse gaming engine. As you explore the different areas in Dragon Age – Origins, you will be tantalised by the scenery; not one texture appears to be the same.

To match the graphics, the audio is delivered to us at a grand scale. There is plenty of vocals for our characters with almost endless dialogue. Voice acting is perfect and helps the player to develop emotional attachments to the characters (namely Morrigan in my case). The cut scenes deliver us with some profound music, but it is a shame that during gameplay some of these tracks are not used. Sword clashing battles sound amazing and the music will automatically transition over to some epic battle sounds, just to get your blood pumping even more.

Dragon Age – Origins will roughly take you a week to finish, but that does not include the endless content available. Not to mention also that there are further quest chains that can be downloaded. The game also provides some replay value; you may want to play the game a second time with a different class, and/or origin – remember there are multiple endings also. Dragon Age is a well refined game as are all Bioware games and you can be guaranteed that it will be quality. I earnestly believe one day that Dragon Age will sit in the RPG hall of fame with the likes of Baulders Gate, and Diablo 2.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆

About the Author

Nightshadow is an avid PC gamer, but occasionally strays off to the Xbox360 for some console action. Frequent writer for Gameolio - he has a strange obsession for uniquely flavored soft drinks such as Cherry Coke, Passion Fruit, and Buzz Monkey. Currently Playing: - Mafia II - Age of Conan - Red Dead Redemption