by: Finn Orfano
; edited by: M.S. Smith
; updated: 5/2/2012
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Dragon Age Origins is the latest game from Bioware, the team behind such hit games as Baldur's Gate and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. If you like a solid story-driven role playing game, then you are really going to love this one.
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Dragon Age Origins
Dragon Age Origins is the kind of role playing computer game that I have been waiting on for years. I honestly thought this type of gameplay had died in favor of MMORPG’s, but I was wrong. This game is top notch in every aspect, and I hope it turns out to be a success so more games like it are made. I feel like the MMO market was gotten a little stale and it’s time for companies to start putting our more single player RPG’s.
Bioware, the company behind this game, also created many wonderful gaming hits that go back to the early days of Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale for the PC. They also made the stellar Knights of the Old Republic games set in the Star Wars universe, the incredibly fun Jade Empire that was the reason why I bought the first Xbox, and most recently they made Mass Effect. Bioware specializes in making excellent role playing adventure games that involve long-running interactive stories and truly fun gameplay. Basically, they make my favorite type of game, and they do it really well.
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Features and Story
In Dragon Age Origins, you begin by choosing one of three character classes and begin your ‘origin’ type story before getting into the main quest. The classes are warrior, mage, and rogue. You also have different races to choose from, including humans and elves, and drilling down even further you have different race types. The idea is that you can start the game over many times and get a little something different each time. Although this game is not set in the Dungeons & Dragons world, it bears many similarities. In all fairness, D&D borrowed very heavily from J.R.R. Tolkien, and pretty much every fantasy book, game, or movie ever made after that borrowed heavily from him.
Once your origin story is out of the way and you get into the main plot of the game, you will become a Grey Warden. They are like a secret order of knights sworn to protect the land. When a huge invasion leaves the king dead and a villainous power-hungry knight trying to usurp the throne, you find yourself on the losing side of a civil war. It’s up to you and the last remaining Wardens to help restore peace to the land, and you’ll be outnumbered all the way to the end.
Once you've completed the main story, you can buy the expansion back called Dragon Age: Awakening and add many more hours of gameplay.
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Dragon Age Origins combines great storytelling with challenging tactical combat. You will spend a lot of time just walking around talking to people and performing quests, and how you interact with others will determine some of your opportunities. You can be nice or mean, and sometimes you have to play it both ways depending on who you are dealing with. The game uses an interesting approval system to show how you stand with others as well as your own party members.
An interesting aspect of the gameplay is that it utilizes both third person and overhead views, and you can switch between them with the scroll wheel on your mouse. Being able to go back and forth works really well during combat because you can get a player’s eye view of the action as well as wider aerial view for positioning your characters. I did find that the AI got a little confused or seemed sluggish to react while moving some of the characters, and hopefully that will be fixed in a later game patch.
Tactics play a huge part in combat and there’s even custom options for setting up the way you wish your other party members to attack or defend. The combat takes place in real time, so you’ll constantly be hitting the spacebar to pause the game and determine your next move. You simply can’t charge into a fight swinging your sword and expect to live, so be prepared to use a lot of strategic thinking when it comes to casting spells, positioning rogues for backstabs, and drawing away enemy fire with your heavily armored warrior.
The graphics in Dragon Age Origins are amazing, but it takes a hefty system to run them. I have an older computer (AMD Athlon 64 x2 5000+ with 3 GB of RAM) and a newer video card (NVidia GeForce GTS 250) and I have to keep the detail all set at medium levels just to make the game smooth enough to play, and even then it still gets choppy at times. You’re going to need a PC with some serious horsepower to make this game play well, but the payoff is that you’ll be playing one of the best-looking games out for the PC right now.
As mentioned previously, the game lets you play in third person view or in an overhead mode. The game actually runs a lot smoother in overhead mode, but it takes a little more control work when playing that way because it limits your viewing distance. I tend to go into third person mode while moving around, but use overhead mode mainly for combat. Either way, it’s nice to be able to switch back and forth, especially if some of the animations or things like weather conditions make the frame rate drop too low.
Before you get too far into this game, I suggest you take the time to tweak the video settings in order to make this run well on your PC. Don’t be turned off if you have to use lower video quality, because even the ‘low’ quality stuff looks very good. Also be sure to update your video card drivers before playing. I updated mine and it seemed to resolve an issue with cutscenes having interruptions every few seconds.
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Dragon Age Origins Screenshots
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Sound, Music, and Voice Acting
The sound effects in this game are great and range from the clash of sword on armor to the whoosh of flying arrows. Environmental factors also play into the outdoor environment, and add a level of realism to the game even if they do sometimes interfere with the performance. The music is equally well done with its full orchestral movements that befit a fantasy themed game such as this. The score is credited to Israeli composer Inon Zur, who previously did the music for Bioware hits such as Baldur’s Gate II and Icewind Dale II. He also did the music for Fallout 3.
Speaking of movie quality, the voice acting is equally good because this game features actual movie and television stars. Science fiction and fantasy fans will delight at the celebrity voices that appear in this game. The main villain is voiced by actor Tim Curry, who is great in everything that he does. Also lending their voices are actress Kate Mulgrew, who is perhaps best known from her role on Star Trek Voyager, and actress Claudia Black from Stargate SG-1. Steve Valentine of TV’s Crossing Jordan plays your main sidekick during the game.
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I can’t say enough about how much I love Dragon Age Origins. I am thrilled to see such a great story-driven single player game released in a day and age with MMORPG’s are almost all you find when looking up role playing games for the PC. It’s nice to be part of an interactive story in a world that doesn’t require a monthly fee.