Dragon Age: Origins Review
Stepping into the Dragon Age!
Review by Darren Cartledge
Published 24th November 2009
Dragon Age: Origins
- Developer: BioWare
- Publisher: EA Games
- Release Date: 6th November 2009
The roleplaying genre is probably one of the most competitive in gaming, but not only that, RPG fans seem harder to please then most gamers with only a few games reaching legendary status. One company that does seem to find repeated success is Bioware! But can their new project Dragon Age: Origins, said to be the successor to Baldur's Gate II (one of the greatest roleplaying games of all time) find success? Or have they placed too many expectations on this title?
Dragon Age: Origins is a classic RPG in the fantasy setting with all the elements you would expect to find, grand castles, eerie woods, dwarfs, elves and mages. In the game you take up the role of one of the last remaining Grey Wardens, an ancient order of Guardians sworn to protect the land from evil. Set in the world of Ferelden you must battle the evil blight that is consuming the land, prevent civil war and unite the populous in order to save the day, so as you would expect things can get fairly epic.
If you’ve ever played a Bioware game before then Dragon Age: Origins will have a very familiar feel to it as it follows the classic RPG formula the company has become renowned for! Even if your only experience of a Bioware game is the sci-fi themed Mass Effect, certain elements will have a familiar feel. However, PC gamers shouldn’t despair thinking that Dragon Age is nothing more than another console port with a dodgy interface, as it feels very much like a PC RPG.
As with any roleplaying game, the story is all important and once again Bioware have got things spot on, so expect to be gripped to your seat whilst playing. The games story sees you travelling to various locations within the game world and in true RPG mercenary fashion you have to complete a number of quests in order to get NPC’s to do what you want, so there’s always lots to do. Away from the main story there are a vast number of tasks for you to under take in order to level-up faster and keep you busy. Also to give the game some notable replay value during the character creation process you are able to pick a background for your character which changes the games opening chapter, how characters react to you, what questions you can ask and how others answer you. These differences may seem minor but do give the Dragon Age: Origins some worthwhile replay value. Character classes are pretty much standard, as your character and party progresses through the game specialisations become available giving them a boost in certain areas and even new abilities. For instance in the game a mages specialisation can be that of a shape shifter allowing you to transform your character into a giant spider or other animal forms in order to gain a combat boost which is extremely cool. Another reminder that Bioware has stuck to their regular roleplaying recipe with Dragon Age is the fact as you progress through the story new arty members are able to join, four of which can be active at anyone time, and in true RPG fashion managing to get an effective mix becomes important in order to achieve success in your quests! As we’ve come to expect from Bioware games, characters have been created to a very high standard, and character models are on a par with anything that has come before. Animation is brilliant, as is facial detail. However, the area in which the game excels is in some of the glorious armour which adorns the various characters and looks absolutely fantastic. Character design hasn’t only been well thought out in the visual department, voice acting is also well performed and helps to put across each individuals personality.
There are certain aspects of your characters development that would seem to be more at home in a MMORPG and is in fact a welcome addition to Dragon Age: Origins. Characters are able to learn crafting skills and whilst these have been presented in RPG’s before it is a welcome addition that allows you a deeper level of character customisation. Also expect character penalties when your party members suffer injuries in combat, these affect aspects of their personalities, as well as their effectiveness in combat so the game has quite an extensive amount of character conditions for you to manage.
As with a lot of RPG’s Dragon Age is very combat intensive and it seems you can’t turn a corner in some places without getting into a fight, and the amount of gore on show in the title is evidence of this. It’s not uncommon to see your character speckled with blood for long periods of time after a battle and it can be strangely amusing to see him in conversation with blood all over his face and armour. There is a bit more skill however to be garnered from this hack and slash action, thanks to the games custom tactics system. This allows you to determine how each character behaves during fight sequences and several pre-loaded settings can be selected. But Dragon Age: Origins takes things a little further than most games that feature similar system as you are able to create custom tactics to get the most out of your party members.
The game world in Dragon Age: Origins is fairly expansive and as I’ve already touched on you are able to visit various locations, all of which seem to have been created with a level of grandeur similar to that of the lord of the Rings movies and the areas themselves look fairly large! However, despite this the opportunity for exploration is somewhat limited thanks to cleverly placed objects such as logs and rocks and despite the fact many levels feature multiple paths, these often lead to one or two centralised areas within a location. Another annoying feature I found with Dragon Age is when travelling between world locations, which is done with your progress illustrated on a map, is the fact that you can be ambushed again, this is nothing new to the seasoned RPG gamer! But when you are ambushed by a band of bandits that seriously outnumber you and are often of a higher rank, it can result in you being trapped in a location you can’t seem to get away from or don’t need to be in as every time you try you are ambushed and killed and sent back to the same place again. This for me became extremely irritating and resulted in far too many reloads and often spoilt the exploration aspect of the game.
Dragon Age: Origins doesn’t really serve up anything we haven’t seen before in a roleplaying game. What it does, it does well and gameplay in the title is near perfect! However, a few minor annoyances do frustrate throughout but most of its shortcomings are made up for with an excellent and gripping story that will make you want to keep playing all the way to the end.
Review Score: 8/10
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