Dragon Age: Origins – Review

What makes a great role playing game? The great stories? The deep setting? The freedom? The answer lies somewhere in the middle. Lately, more and more games have included role playing elements to their gameplay mechanics. There’s nothing bad about that. But what of the actual role playing games? The ones who created all this.

Bioware know how to make role playing games. After all, Bioware is one of the studios who created the role playing genre as we know it. The CRPG, in particular. With megahits like Neverwinter Nights, Knights of The Old Republic, Baldur’s Gate.. Then they tried to mix and match. The result was Mass Effect, yet another megahit. That’s why it’s no wonder their newest title – Dragon Age had such a large fanbase before the day it was released.

I’m torn apart by writing this. On one side, Dragon Age is a grand return to the roots of role playing. On another, the game is not without it’s flaws. Think i’ll start with those. The real problem with Dragon Age’s story is that it’s clichéd.  And i mean it! Bioware never did invest that much into original storylines, but this one really is. Especially in the beginning of the game. As some of you know, Dragon Age has 6 origins(prologues) depending on your class and race. Thankfully, the story begins taking itself more seriously later on in the game. Still, first impressions are important. The second flaw of Dragon is how cheap some gameplay tricks are. The one i really hate is when your character gets covered in blood. We get it Bioware, your game is gory. But being covered from head to toe in blood after one slash is not realistic. It’s stupid! Other cheap tricks include fanservice and the overuse of all kinds of effects from blood splattering to blur. Not that the plot is not rich with twists and turns. On the contrary – the story is very well told and timed perfectly.

The second biggest problem of Dragon Age is it’s technical side. The voice acting, though professionally done, can be out of place and miss the moment. Thankfully, the background music and effects are flawless and make up for the weakened atmosphere. The graphics are decent, but lack the detail of some of a role playing game of this caliber. Combined with the poor optimization(just look at the requirements) and the out of place effects, Dragon Age can drive you crazy. Technically, at least.

Gameplay wise Dragon Age is flawless. Everything from the combat system and the rich world to the well told story is at Bioware level. Bioware have done their best to make the game appealing both to long time role playing fans and people that haven’t even smelled their previous masterpieces. You can control your party with the keyboard in an action RPG matter, or with the mouse. The crowd control is great. You can set your characters to different combat tactics or make one yourself. The battle system is also a masterpiece. It will amaze you with the amount of detail given, and will make your jaws drop with it’s great battle choreography. Bioware didn’t hesitate to spice up the combat moments with a few traps or strategically placed enemies to make your life hell. The choices you are given also make a great impact on what’s to come. Your actions can unlock certain side quests and close others off. Some choices are also very important can have a great effect later on in the game. This  can result in a role playing experience that’s totally different from the next. In classical Bioware traditions, your decisions will also impact your relationships with the rest of your party members. Speaking of which, some them are really interesting while others can bore you to tears. Your bond level with other party members can unlock different stat bonuses and open up different side quests, as they are more open to you. And of course, you can take that even deeper and have a romantic relationship with another character. The relationship system has it’s downsides – first, the romantic or sex scenes are very out of place and, for the sake of censorship, Bioware were forced to make them as cookie and awkward as possible. You can also buy gifts to improve your characters’ affection towards you, which is a two sided blade. On one side, it will help you improve your bad impressions on another party member much easily, but, on the other side, they stand out of place and makes you feel stupid – buying off their affection. The exploration system is also at decent level, the world is very large and packed with content, but is still detailed and there are no “empty” areas. There are also several ways of leading your battles in game – setting up your party members’ tactics to fight the way you want, pausing the game and thinking your actions through.. The best option is to set the characters to the optimal fighting strategy, but still pausing to consider your actions and your surroundings. Rushing in and taking everything out without thinking it through is only possible if you set the game on the easiest difficulty. Then you can fight any way you like without worrying about anything. On one side, action RPG fans of games like TES will be happy, but hardcore players will feel mad for having to carefully plan everything, while others are just able to storm in and still win. No matter how you fight you will eventually reach a boss creature(dragon, ogre, etc) that will require really careful planning and thinking your strategies through. This also has a few bummers – the AI often acts stupid and, disregarding the tactic you’ve set earlier, act on his own account and ruin everything. Too often, will your party members be caught in traps and you will find yourself crying on the ground. The path finding is also way below the level you want it to be.

As it was promised, Dragon Age includes extreme amounts of violence. Those are entertaining, to say the least. The first few times you watch a head get blown off or a creature get impaled are really fun, but they can old quickly. Still, it fills the atmosphere with the smell of blood nicely. Your characters will also get covered in blood while fighting something and will look completely unrealistic, but cool. But why the hell does everyone get this effect? Why is a mage or archer, designed to fight from a distance, end the battle covered in blood? The clichéd lines are also helped by with a few hilarious comments from your party members.

Overally, Dragon Age is the role playing game of the year. Games as deep and addicting as that are a luxury these days and, even though it has it’s flaws, Dragon Age is exactly what fans were hoping for — a return to the roots of role playing games and an RPG for hardcore players. The amounts of content, freedom, re-playability, customization and story this game gives are outstanding. Dragon Age will suck you in!
[xrr rating=4.5/5]

Article from Gamersyndrome.com

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  1. Not for me. Dragon Age is a return to the roots of RPG gaming and the “RPG of the decade”. Mass Effect 2 will undoubtedly be great, but just doesn’t have the potential to beat Dragon Age.

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