Dragon Age: Origins - Review of an epic tale
This long, detailed, and extravagant game is quite difficult to review, mostly because of it's length, but also because it will only reach a certain audience. Is that audience you? Are you the demographic? Either way, hit the jump and find out just how epic this valiant tale is.
The Good: Choices Galore
To be frank, many games talk about choices (inFamous) and don't really deliver. There are a few games that do (The witcher) and they do so well. Dragon Age isn't leaps and bounds above anything, but there is a very good amount of choices for you to delve into. This is one of the first single player games that I have actually beaten twice all the way through, just to choose different origins and outcomes.
Another fantastic quality is that most of the choices aren't simply between the saint choice, and the devil choice; most of the chioces are simple consequence on consequence basis, and it isn't always obvious what will become of your choices. Most 'choose your own adventure' games tend to be fairly predictable when it comes to knowing how the world will react to your choices. Bioware does an excellent job of making you stop for a moment, to think about how to proceed with your 'life'.
Empathic, Sympathetic, and pathetic.
If you are thinking about playing this type of game, you know full well that chatting with some of the NPC's is half the fun. Well good news, the writing is superb, and the voice acting matches the universe you've found yourself in. I found myself wanting more responses at of my group members, so I would advance the story in order to get more out of them. What's great is there are items that are categorized as gifts, and if you give certain items to a certain character you can trigger quests to find more about their history, and who they are. There are of course just normal gifts that raises their disposition towards you.
I didn't find everyone's special story, but I am sure there are multiple for certain characters, and I can't wait to try new combos in my third playthrough. That being said, the ending is utlimately sad because you cannot keep playing 'after the epic events', as it says in your epiloge save. You can only play DLC episodes with those characters, which is still a nice touch. (New DLC pack called Return to Ostagar coming out soon-ish)
And of course: Pathetic. Maybe it is just me, but seeing two polygons (albeit well rendered) going at each other in their underwear just doesn't hit me the way it's suppose to I think. I'm glad that my character is getting it on, and that bioware is including these 'adult themes' in the game, however I'm not sure the graphics, or the animiation (or the fact that America is still scared to put nudity in games), is ready to emulate intimate relations; take that with a grain of salt like always, but keep in mind there are 4 trophies for 'completing the romance' with four characters. Good hunting.
Those of you who have played an MMO will feel right at home with how the combat feels. It looks better, and the system is of course heavily influenced by table top RPGs. However the console versions feels more like an action adventure game had a single-player baby with an MMO. There are 6 'hot key' abilities that you can map, they are accessed via X, Y, and B, and alternatively hold the right trigger to access the other 3 abilities.
Don't expect anything beautiful since I wouldn't say the actual combat is the selling point. The tactics needed when playing on a higher difficulty are quite strategic. I will admit I used faulty pathfinding to kill a few difficult bosses. I also lowered the difficulty to casual on my second playthrough and had a much more enjoyable time.
I would think that playing tactfully would be easier to don the PC version, as the console versions are not only have less quality graphics, it is very difficult to accurately control all party members during a big fight. It is possible to pause the game (think Mass Effect ability wheel) and que up actions, however I imagine it would immensly easier on the PC.
The cons: Graphics
Unfortunately I'm taking a turn to negative town. The Xbox 360/PS3 versions are subpar to that of the PC running at full spec. I've seen my friend play it on his 22 inch monitor, and I must say I am jealous I already bought it on the console. That being said I love having my games 46 inches large on my HDTV. However it is sad to say that the framerate suffers in the console version, and it just isn't as pretty.
This should not deter you from playing dragon age if you do not have a PC. I still had an awesome experience and do not regret a thing.
Go bioware, another hit. Can't wait for the next.
Graphics vary depending on console vs PC
Ultimately this game does a lot of things: great story, great NPCs, great tactical combat, and an amazing amount of choices. The greatest thing to tie it all together is the amount of content that is offered. I've finished two playthroughs, working on my second, and can't wait to play the next DLC package. I suppose I do have some sort of a problem, but I would blame it on Bioware for making such quality games. I can't wait for their next epic game to hit the market.
To wrap it all up, I would suggest renting if you are still skeptical, and worse comes to worse, you've wasted a few dollars. Make sure you play through more than one origin story before you get too far ahead in the main story. Theres six to choose from, but the Mage is still my favorite.
Dragon Age: origins released Nov 3 for the Xbox 360/PS3/PC. The game was retailing for 60 on consoles and 50 on the PC; however prices at amazon have dropped to 50 for consoles and 40 for the PC I believe. Reviewer spent 33 hours playing first play through on Normal difficulty. Also tried casual difficulty and all 6 origin stories. Highly recommended.