Dragon Age: Origins ReviewDustin Hill
After playing through your specific characters Origin tale, you're drafted into the Grey Wardens and inevitably left holding the bomb; its up to you to stop The Blight, a horrific horde of monsters bent on not only killing every living thing in Ferelden, but possibly eating them too. Grab your wizard hat, your kris and your claymore, its time for some Dragon Age.
If youve played any of Biowares other Action based RPGs, like Jade Empire or the Knights of the Old Republic series, youll be on familiar ground. If not, that could be even better. Combat takes place in open environments, you don't teleport to a battle screen. It is mildly turn-based (like a massively multiplayer online game i.e. World of Warcraft) and generally flows quite smoothly. There are a high number of skills, talents and spells to choose from as you level up, options to craft potions, poisons, traps and customize weapons all to give you an edge in combat which you will need. After your initiation into the world of Dragon Age, the battles become significantly more challenging simply on the normal difficulty. You wouldn't want to simply skate through the game easily smiting all who cross your path but I cant say this enough; save often and in multiple slots just in case you muck up something or randomly catch on fire (my hair!). Overall, the interface is helpful for the player and never gets in your way as you play through the game. I will say this however, if you have an older, well-used controller whos thumbsticks are glitch, it will be hard to work with combat since moving cancels your actions (which can be a headache if your controller randomly thrusts you forward).
The graphics are brilliant at their best and quite suspect at worst. Character movements, especially the ones you look at through the whole game, look as real as can be, voice acting is very entertaining, blood spatter looks real, and the small details on the armor are all top notch as should be expected from an EA funded company. Though I'm picky, some of the details in some of the minor characters and certain things in the backdrop of environments look rushed (however this is only if you're eyeballing every rock, leaf and Mabari hound for imperfections). As you play through, your characters will have realistic conversations with each other that are usually hilarious and are all played in front of a soundtrack that sounds quite Lord of the Ring-y (which is to say, it sounds epic, pumps you up for battle and evokes certain emotions). Again, overall the graphics and sound for the game are quite believable and while appearing rushed in spots, is great.
Your quest, should you choose to, is primarily to stop The Blight, an ancient ancestral evil that seeks to pretty much maim anything that walks, crawls, swims or sells swords for too high a coin. You, as a Grey Warden, seek to save a world that thinks they no longer need you. In fact theres even a bounty on the heads of the Grey Wardens. So, through the game you form an army based on the choices to make during Biowares well-crafted plots. You could have an army of werewolves and magi at your helm, or perhaps just Dalish Elves and Dwarves. Your choices do affect the world and how your party members view you, in a positive or negative fashion. Theres history for the races and subsets of those races, history for weapons and armor, nation lore and many other small details that help make the world more believable. Perhaps my favorite part though are the motivations for your character and party members and their outlooks which change your interactions with the world. Dragon Age uses and Origin system, as they call it, to prime you for this as well. You may pick a Human Noble, a Dalish (wood) Elf, a city Elf, a Dwarf noble or commoner and your class (rogue, mage or warrior) or any assortment of other combinations. From here you play through your Origin tale which gives you the player a better idea of where your character comes from, why you might be motivated to kill innocents or not and also how the world reacts to you. Elves are oppressed by Humans, Magi are constantly watched over by the Templars, Dalish Elves have an intricate relationship with werewolves. Overall, the game feels very real.
Why you should care
Thats really what this review is about right? Why would you ever buy this game? If you like first person shooters like Halo 3 or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, pure action games like Ninja Gaiden or games like Bubble Pop; you may not like Dragon Age: Origins because its very much not like those other titles. However, if you like essentially playing a story with the gravity of Lord of the Rings, Star Wars or any of the novels written by Brent Weeks or Terry Brooks; you may want to check this one out. Being the star of a tale and watching as things progressively get from bad to worse to perhaps better near the end, where your choices actually do matter, then rent out Dragon Age at least if you dont have the fifty dollars to throw down immediately.
Though not necessarily a mind blowing title, Dragon Age was so very much better than I thought it would be.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.