Game Review: "Dragon Age: Origins" for the PC

12/09/2009 Posted by Admin

By our guest blogger, David Voyles

Seldom do games immerse you in a world filled with so much grandeur, rich with lore, and that's as enjoyable as "Dragon Age: Origins." BioWare has done it again with an engrossing story, led by excellent narration and believable dialogue. BioWare is known for greatness, so it was no surprise that "Dragon Age" would be anything but. Better known for their critically acclaimed titles such as "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic," "Baulder’s Gate" and most recently "Mass Effect," BioWare took a similar approach here and excels. Ahead lay a finely tuned story, enthralling characters, immersive lore and a lengthy adventure.

The game starts off with an excellent character creation tool, perhaps one of the best to date. Faces and physical attributes can be greatly altered, along with your character’s general tone of voice--although this only has an effect when you are in combat as your character otherwise remains the silent protagonist throughout. Your choice of race and class are typical of most RPG’s--it includes the elf, human and dwarf, along with the warrior, rogue and mage. Each race offers a different starting experience. The origin story for each one varies greatly, and they all cover a variety of controversial and inhumane subjects, from rape to slavery. After the first four hours or so from each starting experience, the story lines converge and are nearly the same from then on out. Where the origin stories will leave its greatest effect on players is later in the story, when you meet new characters who may appear one way to one character, or who may be seen in a different light by another based on how your character has been treated.

If you’ve ever played a BioWare title before then you will fit right in here. The problem is that I’m not sure whether this a good thing or a bad thing. The game play is identical to that of "KOTOR" and "Baulder’s Gate," which over the years is beginning to show its age. Dialogue choices, while more varied than previous incarnations, still generally leaves you with the options of choosing the “good/moral,” “evil/chaotic,” or abnormally immature response. As expected, these responses will commonly lead to different dialogue options, which is nothing new. Where "Dragon Age" does grab you is by the choices you make. As in most RPGs, the choices you make effect your experience, but particularly in this game, I especially felt that way. On a number of occasions, when presented with two options, I sat there for a few moments and considered the outcome of each. Sometimes your choices result in the death of one character over another, while other choices will decide which faction you side with. So, choose wisely.

Your interactions with NPCs often will affect your own party’s disposition towards you as well, but that can be altered back at base camp by interacting with them on an individual basis and exchanging gifts. I found it more interesting to speak to party members to find more back story than to adjust their feelings towards me. Additionally, romantic interests can develop between your character and members of your party, regardless of gender.

The combat system is identical to that of any other BioWare game as well. Clicking on your target or pressing the attack button will attack a target but also offer the opportunity to queue up attacks. Alternatively, pressing the spacebar will pause combat to allow you to set a strategy in place. Once your party has gained access to various attacks, spells and stances, your screen will light up with affects and blood. After each fight, it’s not uncommon to see a character’s armor, face and weapon soaked in blood. Similar to the "Final Fantasy XII" gambit system, players can now choose pre-determined skills and attacks for each character. These can range from instructing an NPC to attack the nearest enemy, assisting the main tank, or healing other characters when their health goes below 25 percent. The problem with this system is that battles usually are over so quickly that you don’t even have time to use half of the attacks or spells in your inventory. Furthermore, magic users are nearly made useless by the fact that all of their combat-oriented spells also can damage their party.  While the battles are entertaining, they will quickly wane over time. As I mentioned before, this is a nearly 10-year-old formula that hasn’t improved much.

In the graphics department, "Dragon Age: Origins" offers nothing new. The world appears in various shades of brown and has a feeling eerily similar to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. They are nothing you haven’t seen before, but the draw distances are impressive, at least in some of the indoor environments such as the Dwarven city.

Where "Dragon Age: Origins" did irk me is the fact that the first bit of DLC’s release coincided with the game’s launch. Furthermore, the way they do it is even more appalling. When gamers first arrive at their base came, they can approach an NPC, who offers engaging dialogue and gets you excited for an adventure, only to say (after you accept, of course) that in order to join him, you must purchase the additional content. Wow, talk about taking me out of the immersive experience. That’s a quick way to ruin a good time.

I’m not knocking "Dragon Age"--it’s an outstanding game.  It's just likely one you’ve played before. Not much has changed since the days of "Baulder’s Gate" or "KOTOR." That’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially because KOTOR was one of my favorite games, but it’s time for something new. I frequently found myself going back and forth with this game, taking breaks for a few days only to come back and be sucked in for the next few. Overall, if you are looking for a rich role-playing experience that diverse character customization, engrossing story, credible dialogue and lengthy game play, then this is certainly a title I can recommend.

Just be prepared to enjoy something you feel as if you’ve played before.

  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Technorati
  • Facebook
  • TwitThis
  • MySpace
  • LinkedIn
  • Live
  • Google
  • Reddit
  • Sphinn
  • Propeller
  • Slashdot
  • Netvibes