With Dragon Age: Inquisition just around the corner, it’s a great time to check out where it all started, with Dragon Age: Origins. Very few games have been as ambitious as Origins with character choices that shape the world around him or her. With six completely different origin stories, there is always a reason to replay this massive adventure all over again.
Set in the medieval fantasy kingdom of Fereldon, gamers play as a new recruit of the Grey Wardens, a warrior society specially trained to repel an evil force called, the darkspawn. The darkspawn have appeared in large number above ground in an event known as “The Blight”, and exist solely to lay ruin to the world. It is the player’s mission to unite the kingdom to defeat the darkspawn and end the Blight before the world as they know it is lost.
The interesting hook to Origins is the six different origin stories that can be chosen for your character. Although you can only play as an elf, man, or dwarf, each origin is completely different from one other. Aside from the intro section of the game, the main story will remain basically the same regardless of chosen origin. However, different sections of the game will present brand new context to your journey depending on the chosen origin. Everyone’s favorite will vary, but I made the mistake of choosing the Dalish Elf for my first run. The Dalish Elf’s story just didn’t strike a chord with me. It wasn’t until I played as a Noble Dwarf that my character’s personal journey really took off and held weight. Sure, the betrayal and revenge story is cliché, but the way the class differences of the dwarven elite and poor were portrayed, created an almost realistic depiction of a caste society. Returning to your former home of Orzammar held a much more personal experience than when I went there as a Dalish Elf. It disappointed me because my first impression could have been much better had I played a different origin.
These origin stories would be meaningless without strong world building, and Dragon Age does a fantastic job of fleshing out the lore through dialogue conversations and text scattered around the world. Each race has their own culture and history to distinguish them outside of appearance. It may not be as deep as The Elder Scrolls, but it can definitely compete on the same level.
Lore can be great, but a game is more memorable if it has a tremendous supporting cast of characters. Origins certainly doesn’t fall short with its characters. Getting to know each party member is one of the most enjoyable aspects to the game. Earning everyone’s favor is not easy, because every decision you make will affect their opinion of you, and unsurprisingly, they all don’t share the same views on life. But when you do gain their favor, they will start to open up about their true feelings. Some are more difficult than others. The Qunari, Sten, was one of the more fascinating characters because of his mysterious and difficult personality.
I was hesitant to play this game for a long time because I am not a fan of the point-and-click style similar to traditional MMOs. I still stick to that opinion, but it wasn’t as boring as I anticipated. It’s worthy to note that I played the Playstation 3 version, and I am aware the PC version is the way to go. The PC version made combat more tactical and manageable through the use of a top-down view mode, opening up your field of vision, plus the ability to pause the action through this view. Not having this feature made combat frequently overwhelming – and sometimes near impossible without a mage.
Mages are very powerful in this game. Often times, mainly early in the game, my party would get decimated in seconds without Morrigan to work her magic so to speak. It got to the point where I had to stick with Morrigan or Wynn for the majority of the game, which is a problem because I like to mix and match my party all the time. Especially when the game entices you to switch party members to hear the many conversations they may have with one another in specific areas.
One thing that really stood out for me was how quests were handled. Each quest felt like a real adventure. Many quests in RPGs consist of locating an item, pillaging a dungeon, and obtaining the item at the end of the dungeon. Quests in Origins aren’t just “one-and-done” deals. There’s a quest where you have to find a cure for the ailing Arl of Redcliffe. In order to complete your quest, you’re lead through a series of other quests that guide you to your final destination, and discovering the Arl is dying in the first place stems from another quest in itself. The main objective of these missions is to gain the town’s aide in the first against the darkspawn. I wish more RPGs took this approach to prevent staleness.
A bit dated, but considered high quality upon its original release. Environments are beautifully designed.
Excellent soundtrack, and superb voice acting. I can’t think of a single bad voice acting performance in the game. Such fine work is critical in creating a memorable cast of characters.
There is too much to Dragon Age: Origins for me to possibly list it all. I haven’t even touched on the weight of your decisions affecting the game (and you will face some tough decisions) or the variety of dialogue options. Nobody has to worry if this game is worth the price, especially now at bargain value, because there is at least 80 hours of content, and you will want to replay the game again as another character or two or three. I wasn’t crazy about the combat, but the game does many more things well, allowing me to look passed the negatives. As ambitious as this game may be and as old as it is, more RPG developers (including Bioware) should still take note on creating a game of this quality.
- Highly replayable
- Great characters and voice acting
- Excellent quest design
- Combat isn’t for everyone
- Combat can become overwhelmingly difficult at times
- Could use more interesting armor designs
Style – Single-player, RPG
Publisher – Electronic Arts
Developer – Bioware Edmonton, Edge of Reality (PS3, Xbox 360)
Release – November 2009
3.5 – Gameplay
4.0 – Graphics
5.0 – Sound
4.5 – Entertainment
5.0 – Replay Value
Dragon Age: Origins is massive game with tons of replay value. It may be dated in some areas, but it’s one of the finest RPGs ever created.