Developer: BioWare / Publisher: Electronic Arts / ESRB: Mature (Blood, Intense Violence, Language, Partial Nudity, Sexual Content) / Played on: Xbox 360 / Price: $59.99
Today we are taking a look at the new epic RPG from BioWare, Dragon Age: Origins. These are the same guys that have created some of the best RPGs to date like KOTOR and Mass Effect. How does the latest game from BioWare standup to its predecessors? Let’s find out.
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The story in Dragon Age is a typical fantasy plot line. There is an evil force called the Blight invading the lands of Ferelden and your character has to unite the races to destroy the evil plaguing the land. In the beginning of the game players get to go through character customization and create who they want to play as. It’s a pretty deep customization and it allows players to make a character that feels like their own. You can be a Human, Elf, or Dwarf with subset categories in each of these races as well, like Mage, Rogue or Warrior. What you choose will ultimately determine how the story starts and is told. It’s impressive that BioWare has made the story, at least in the beginning, customized to each of the character races and classes. It provides a lot of replay value being able to craft traps and potions, or playing as a completely different character on another play through. Once in the game players will have a party of characters that they will be able to play as. As players progress in the game more party members will be available to them. There is quite a cast of characters in this game and there are some extremely memorable ones as well. One of my favorites, Shale the Golem, was found in a piece of downloadable content that was released in tandem with the game. His attitude reminds me of HK-47 from KOTOR. Good stuff. The party management in Dragon Age is as deep or shallow as players want it to be. Players are able to hot-swap between characters while playing the game with the click of a button or just let the computer control the party members you aren’t playing as. You have the ability to auto level up characters or go in and pick all of stats talents and abilities that are available for each of them. On top of that, players also can control how the party member reacts in combat; it’s stunning how deep the customization is in Dragon Age: Origins. But the best part is that you can do as much or as little as you want and still enjoy the game equally. Dragon Age: Origins is an open world game that allows players to decide where they want to go and what quests they want to do AND how to do them. What I mean is, the choices that players make in this game when it comes to quests really affects the game later on. It’s stunning that the game is as deep as it is. Players have complete freedom to tackle the quests as they see fit and BioWare did a great job of providing a lot of options. I never felt limited to what I could or could not do. Dragon Age is a pretty long game too, roughly 60-plus hours to really try out everything, so it’s good to not feel limited. Just know going in that Dragon Age has a LOT of dialogue and dialogue choices so consider yourself warned. Combat in Dragon Age is a little wonky. It works, but sometimes the character animations are a little laggy and it looks strange that my character is slashing or punching someone halfway across the screen. Other party members will get in the way of attacks as well and that affects combat as well. It just takes me out of the experience a bit.
This is one of the things about the game that I have a love-hate relationship with. Environments in the game all look like something torn right out of a Forgotten Realms novel, beautiful stuff. It really helps to let players lose themselves in the game. But unfortunately the character models in the game all look a little off. The character animations also leave something to be desired when moving from place to place or while in combat. Spell effects all look great and so do the enchantments that affect weapons and armor. So like I said, some things I really love and some things that are just not good.
Controls are a huge deal when it comes to a game like Dragon Age Origins. You are controlling four different characters at a time if you want to. Handling all of their spells, attacks, and abilities, healing them, setting traps. Its a lot all at once and if the controls weren’t up to snuff the game would be unplayable. Lucky for us the controls are locked in. BioWare has made it very easy for players to manage everything that’s going on in the game with the use of skill and ability wheels that you can pull up by holding the left trigger and then navigating with the analog sticks. The controls, which I anticipated being a problem for me, are great.
Dragon Age: Origins has a great soundtrack. This game really knows how to play to the fantasy nerd like me. The soundtrack has the ability to really immerse the player in the lands of Ferelden and the events contained within. When combat picks up the music in the game will adjust accordingly. Another thing in the sound department that is stellar is the voice-acting… and it’s a good thing too. This game has a LOT of dialogue so if the voice-acting was sub-par the game overall would have suffered. Luckily, yet again, BioWare did a nice job casting top-notch talent to voice all of the characters in the game.
Bioware is known for making epic RPG’s and in my opinion Dragon Age: Origins is just another notch in the belt for Bioware. The story is well told and compelling, the character’s are all believable and players are able to make a connection with them. Though the game suffers a little in the graphics department, it absolutely makes up for it with an amazing amount of depth and replay value. I will say that if you aren’t into fantasy games then you may want to pass on this one, but if you enjoy slaying Dragons and casting spells then Dragon Age: Origins is a Pay.