The now legendary company, Bioware, has released their latest heavy-hitter franchise. No, it doesn’t relate to space or even shepards. It’s a fantasy epic built from the ground up by one of the best story-tellers in gaming history. So pause WoW for a minute and pop this game tape in to your deprived disc drive.
Though Dragon Age is not an MMO it certainly carries the feel of one, with such an expansive world and characters full of life and history it is hard to feel as though you are isolated to a single player experience. Despite having been built primarily for the PC, I played through the Xbox 360 version and the graphics are certainly showing of this, with some poor texture problems and backgrounds that seemed a bit too edgy, or jagged.
The setup character selection screen is setup so you could easily jump right into the story if you wanted, or spend hours customizing your characters features right down the to the width and height of their chin. I just took a pre-built face and tweaked the most prominent features to my liking and began my adventure. As the name implies there are six origins based upon the race and class you choose, these include: Human Noble, Human Magi, Dwarf Commoner, Dwarf Noble, City Elf and the Dalish Elf. Each origin story generally lasts roughly an hour and it gives you a good idea of how the controls work, who your character is and where he belongs in the world known as Ferelden. No matter which you choose you will be swept away at the end of the origin story, by an experienced Grey Warden, to join the Wardens in their fight against the Darkspawn.
Being a BioWare game is should be pretty obvious that the story is epic and will encompass many hours of your life, so I won’t go into that in any depth and I will just move right onto the feel of the game. Now, as I mentioned above, this game was crafted with PC experience in mind and it feels very similar to an MMO, with ‘hotkeys’ being the X, Y and B buttons, where you map your skills and abilities. It also has a second set of these which can be accessed by holding the right trigger. All the choices of skills and abilities may feel a bit overwhelming at first, for some, but after a short progression through the game, selecting the appropriate skills to have on your hotkeys will become second nature. Attacking enemies is fairly basic, by simply pressing the A button on a highlighted enemy you begin swinging your sword or shooting your bow, but this can be a bit buggy at times. By that I mean sometimes your character will not properly move toward the enemy selected. Also, your hero will occasionally refuse to attack, especially if another character is already attacking that same enemy in a small space.
You can be as strategic or as plain in your combat style as you wish, but the deeper in to the game you go the more you will be relying on your special skills, abilities and AI tactics to take out the higher ranked baddies.
The majority of time will be spent completing side missions for various groups around Ferelden such as: The Blackstone Irregulars, The Circle of Magi and the religious group, The Chantry. Not only will these missions provide you with unique items and money for your travels, but you can also discover much more about the world and it is certainly worth taking the time to complete as many of these as you can. Though, if you are one of those who just love to speed run through RPGs then the main story alone should last you about 20 hours, or less, and should still provide with you enough substance to enjoy the game. If you are that sort then it doubtful that it will entice you enough for a more thorough, second playthrough.
Aside from the story, the most enjoyable and interesting aspect of Dragon Age is the characters; be it the virtuous Grey Warden, the destructive Blood Mage, the religious rogue or various others that each have a very unique personality. By speaking to each of them often enough they will open up and tell you more about themselves, which brings bonus attribute points and perhaps a love connection as well.
During exploration, party members will have discussions amongst themselves ,which were interesting enough to make me stop once or twice just listen to them and sometimes laugh aloud at the well-written dialogue. They will also react very strongly to certain choices you make, so long as they are in your party, and some of your choices throughout the story may actually cause the character to leave your party permanently. After spending 30 plus hours with your favourite characters you are sure to become attached to them and actually make choices just to keep them ‘happy’.
With fun battles, a great story, amazing characters and few bugs along the way Dragon Age: Origins is sure to draw you in and keep you entertained on your way to save civilization from the Darkspawns’ destructive power.
If you enjoyed Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect, Bulders Gate or even Diablo then you are are sure to enjoy this.