Dragon Age: Origins

_Dragon Age: Origins_ is, for any of those interested (and if you’re reading this you probably are), the spiritual successor to _Baldur’s Gate_. However it also draws from other Bioware RPGs with the sheer quantity (and quality) of dialogue running throughout, making it an absolutely fantastic game. I won’t make any doubts present in this review, of all the games that were released this year Dragon Age is my favourite. Its storyline is stunning, its replayability is well above most games and it genuinely makes you feel involved in what’s going on. So, now you can buy it and know that you will get several times your monies worth, or you can read on and find out the nitty gritty details of how it shines (and to a very very small extent, how it doesn’t perform so well).

Firstly, to counterbalance the glowing introduction I think it best to start with the negatives. Firstly graphical problems. It has been in development for a considerable amount of time, and although that shines through in many positive ways, it also has a slightly adverse effect. It’s not the prettiest game ever. Occasionally trees in the distance are blatantly just 2D block images and sometimes the frame rate can drop. Don’t mistake me, the graphics in the game in no way look incomplete, some of the buildings and environments are really quite detailed when you get a closer look at them, just don’t go expecting it to look like _Mass Effect_, because it doesn’t. Really I wouldn’t normally bother to mention slight graphical issues, but there aren’t a great deal of negatives to go around, so forgive me.

The animations in the game are brutally fantastic; you decapitate, shield bash, freeze, magically imprison and pepper enemies with arrows as you take the fight to the darkspawn, and at times you cannot help but wince after performing vicious attacks on enemies, simply because it looks so bloody and painful. People talk rather well too, emotions play across their faces and nothing seems wooden; which is good, as it never ever detracts away from the storyline, which is of course where it shines.

I won’t spoil it. Honest. I really, and rather strangely, am having to fight the desire to tell you what happened when I played through it, which clearly shows how engrossing it is I suppose. Suffice to say it’s a damned good story. And there’s not just the main story; there’s lots of little side quests, some of them humorous and others oddly touching to complete. Your companions also come with a huge array of minor plot details, and as you get to know them better they gradually tell you more about themselves, which just adds to the feeling that they truly are your companions in some grand adventure. There is of course the romantic side to Biowares fantasy epic, as with nearly every Bioware RPG. Figure out who you can hitch up with and watch the ensuing maelstrom of emotions as you two-time (prizes awarded to those who can three or four time) your way to an unhappy campsite.

I suppose, having covered story and other characters rather briefly, I should now cover _Origin’s_ multiple storylines. Except I refuse to, all I’ll say is that they’re good fun to play through, and many characters who you’d assumed where simply just another of a vast array of backups to the main personalities take on new meaning. Which is nifty. It would certainly be nice to see many other games copy this aspect of Dragon Age, as it’s one of the best ways I’ve ever seen to introduce a greater degree of both empathy towards the character who personifies you and an increased amount of replayability. I suspect that I will have eventually completed the game six times, in order to experience it from each origin.
The combat controls are fairly good as well, it’s apparently far more tactical on the PC than on the Xbox or PS, but having played the Xbox 360 version only I can only repeat what I have been told. Regardless, when played on the harder difficulties it is vitally important that you don’t think of your characters as single units, but instead use them as a team. This may sound obvious but it can be quite difficult to implement, whether it be using a freezing spell and then following it up with an automatic critical hit attack from a warrior or laying an ambush, positioning and more is paramount to a successful attack.

In conclusion it’s by far the best game I’ve played this year. It’s awe-inspiring story and worthy combat system make it a spell binding experience that I hope will have a sequel (though I don’t know if they could manage it, there’s a great deal of fluidity in the ending to say the least). In all honesty I would pay double the asking retail price to get it, and it’s hard to get a better recommendation than that.


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