I want you to think hard, and seriously ask yourself this question. How long has it been since you’ve totally lost yourself in a game so much, that you lost all perception of the real world around you? How long has it been since you last played a game with such a rich, deep and enthralling story, that as soon as you put the controller down and the credits rolled up, you crawled to your bed, and cried yourself to sleep because the virginity of your untainted eyes was unfairly stolen from you, by forcing yourself to inevitably witness the end of what was such a beautifully constructed work of art? Well, I have some good, and bad news for you. The good news, is that Dragon Age: Origins is a fairly lengthily game, so you wont have to worry about shedding tears anytime soon. The bad news, is that once the game’s credits roll up – and trust me on this, no matter how much you try to stall them, they eventually will – you better have a closet full of tissues at your disposal…you cry-baby!
Let’s go ahead and clarify something while we’re on the subject of being a cry-baby. Dragon Age: Origins is NOT a game for the squeamish. Those who could barely handle Mass Effect should probably just scratch this off your “games to play” list. However, those serious RPG gamers who have patiently been waiting to get their hands on BioWare’s latest take on the fantasy RPG genre will not be disappointed, as the game is by far one of the most (if not the most), amazing Western RPG you’ll ever play. Yes, the game is that good. Dragon Age: Origins is the epiphany of what “High fantasy role-playing” is, at its finest. The game is so rich and deep, that it will nail you to your seat, and keep you there for hours on end. There is so much to say about this truly aspiring masterpiece, that the only problem with this review, is not knowing where to begin.
I’ll try by stating that, at its very core, Dragon Age: Origins is basically your traditional party-based tactical RPG. Players are given the option to command a party of up to four characters, each with a ranging variety of abilities, upgradable weapons and the like, as they progress through the game. Certain actions and spells can be very easily assigned to individual party members by simply pausing the game during battle and issuing the orders, and while the game does come with a tactical AI editor which allows players to set some basic scenarios, you’ll probably more than likely spend a fairly good portion of time in “pause mode”, manually issuing commands to your entire party. Especially if, like me, you’re one of those players that go to unimaginably great lengths to assure the survival of each and every character in your party.
Like I said, the battle system in Dragon Age offers a variety of combinations in which to tailor the experience to ones own personal liking. For example, a casual gamer can set most of the settings to auto, with the exception of combat, which will allow the player to concentrate on fighting a certain battle without having to worry about party members pointlessly taking hits without fighting back. More advanced players, however, can create a unique AI system for each individual party member, and play in a real-time combat system – or move it more toward a turn-based system if that is what they prefer. However, what I think will truly impress players about Dragon Age, is its living, breathing world. Incredible cut scenes, combined with the VO work, all melded very well together into one amazingly good and detailed interactive animated feature.
The more I immersed myself in the game, the more I felt the Dragon Age universe take on a life of its own. Very quickly, I felt as if the interface was no longer there. Annihilating Darkspawn suddenly felt more like my duty than an ordinary task. Interacting with the locals, thinking hard on what to reply to certain questions, figuring out what choices to make, and trying to win over a few ladies were all things that made me feel more like I was an actual citizen within the community, rather than a player controlling a certain character.
While the console versions of the game do present a few noticeable problems (such as not having the top-down view option, minor color and texture problems on the Xbox 360, and sometimes jumpy frame-rates on the PlayStation 3) it really doesn’t matter what console you play the game on. The experience is almost guaranteed to be a uniquely defined and memorable one. So if you have a PC that can handle this game, that’s the recommended way to play. Otherwise, grab a copy for whichever system you prefer.
Visually, the differences between the console version of the game and its PC counterpart are very limited, to say the least. However, when speaking in terms of control, the differences are worlds apart, with the PC version proving by far to be the superior one. That said, it would be wise to note that Dragon Age doesn’t really look amazing, regardless of the console the game is played at. This doesn’t mean the game isn’t pretty – Dragon Age: Origins still has an attractive aesthetic nonetheless. Switching from an isometric view to the, (Mass Effect over the shoulder style) one, works well, and while environments aren’t quite what you’d expect when viewed up close, they’re still very visually appealing when viewed from above.
There were really only two major problems I had with Dragon Age. The first, lies in its combat. As pleasing as it is to hear the painful screams of both innocents and enemies alike as you launch devastating fireballs at them, you never quite get the feeling of being that “super bad-ass” the game makes you out to be. And while slaughtering hundreds of darkspawns may seem like fun at first, it’ll hardly ever test your skills, making it both very dull and repetetive after a while. The second problem I had with the game, was with the inventory. You will loot A LOT in Dragon Age, and you inventory will become very cramped rather quickly, and it seems the only way to combat this never-ending problem, is to spend seven bucks on the Warden’s Keep DLC, (which is basically nothing more than a storage chest for your excess items) – something that clearly should have been originally included in the game, but is obviously meant to rip off players.
There are really only a handful of games out there that can match the storyline and dialogue presented in Dragon Age: Origins, and an even fewer amount that can take all of these innovating and entertaining elements and execute something of this caliber. Unless you’re a speed demon, you’ll probably spend well over 40 hours on your first play-through alone. However, there so many things to do in Origins, so many different paths to follow, so many different choices to make, and so many different ways to define your experience in the game, that I’m sure that as soon as you see those credits roll up, you’ll be heading back to the title screen to experience the adventure all over again. All-in-all, Dragon Age is a game like no other, and I assure you your time spent in Ferelden will be one to remember for years to come. So do yourself a favor, and go snatch yourself a copy of this wonderful masterpiece if you haven’t already done so.