Game Rant Review 4.5 5

Game Rant reviews Dragon Age: Origins

Do you like swords? Do you like to fight Dragons and Demons?  Do you like to hear people talk throughout the duration of these things? Alright fantasy nerds, strap in, it’s going to be a nice long ride!  Bioware is back to grace us with another fine example of rich storytelling, deep adventure and a good helping of fairly strong gameplay to go along with it.

Continue after the jump to read Game Rant’s review of Dragon Age: Origins.

Let’s start off talking about the graphics in the game – A fairly important subject, even if we are talking about a fantasy role-playing game.  This one is sort of a mixed bag for me.  The graphics while adventuring and fighting are just okay but and don’t exactly meet what you come to expect from an A-list release in today’s day and age.  The strange part for me was that the cutscenes were actually quite nice and looked a lot better than the actual gameplay, even though it appeared to be rendering everything the same way.  The effects are nice, but can easily disrupt your ability to do things as they sometimes envelop the whole screen.  If you like to play the game with its turn-based features, then this can be a hassle.

dragon age origins

The user interface is fairly standard as well and that’s not a bad thing.  It definitely gives off an MMO vibe the way everything is laid out and how you interact with the buttons.  It is a definite change of pace from the Baldur’s Gate 2 look,  which leads me to another topic: the Camera Controls <insert dramatic music here>.  The camera seems like one of those things that can very easily turn a game from being a must-have purchase to a rental on a lazy weekend.  Luckily, Bioware came through for us in this department.  The camera actually works great!  You can play with an over-the-shoulder cam (Knights of the Old Republic) or a top-down perspective (Baldur’s Gate).  Panning around is quite easy and is done by simply holding the right mouse button and flinging your mouse across your pad till you find a satisfactory angle.  I remember a lot of the previous Bioware RPGs to be painful in this regard.  You can hold down both mouse buttons to run as well, which is something I have really become accustomed to recently.   It’s my understanding that the console GUIs aren’t as friendly as the PC one, so buyer beware.

dragon age origins

One thing you won’t have to worry about, regardless of your platform, is character creation.  The game presents you with a 4 tier option to personalize your toon.  First you get the obligatory male vs. female choice.  Then the dwarf vs. elf vs. human question.  Next, you pick your class, which is a choice of three as well: Warrior, Mage, Rogue (these branch later on).  The last choice is by far the most unique and that is the origin story.  You basically get to pick what your character’s back story is before you get your grubby little hands on ‘em.  It’s funny, you can choose a difficulty but what really changes how hard or easy this game is, is what class you choose to play at the start.

There are 6 different origin stories, one of which crosses over between elves and humans.  The rest are unique to their respective races.  I personally found the origin stories to be fun and a great introduction to the game, how to play it, and how many hours I was fixing to waste the next few weeks.  Which is usually in direct relation to how mad my wife is going to be over the course of the same period of time.

There’s two things that really make a Bioware RPG so unique and so anticipated: The story and the gameplay.  The gameplay is what most of the casual gamers clamor for, so we’ll focus on that first.  The game puts you in control of a maximum of four characters at any given time.  You can accumulate more than that, but they have to sit the bench while your starters do the job most of the game.  You’re kind of forced into your standard affair here, 1 tank, 2 damage dealers and a healer.

For a while, you’ll most likely be depending on potions to keep your health afloat.  As far as combat goes it’s going to feel similar to the previous incantations from Bioware as you have the ability to pause the game once again and decide “turn by turn” in a sense.  This gives you a chance to issue orders to your characters while everything is frozen on screen.  The coolest part about this is that it’s not always needed.  You now can give your characters predefined “If-Then” scenarios.  For example, if you want your healer to only heal when a party member is at 50% or lower, then you can do that.  Simply add a tactic line that states If party member <50% health, cast Heal, or whatever.  It takes a little bit of getting used to if you aren’t familiar with any type of scripting I suppose, but it shouldn’t be hard regardless.  It seems like the best way to handle most combat situations though is to “pull” the monsters out of their initial areas into a more favorable one that you have setup with the rest of your party members by telling them to hold and setup an ambush.  Very MMO-ish.

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The game uses a quest-based system to provide you with side opportunities and to keep the plot moving along.  Speaking of side quests, it sure seems like there is a lot of them (in traditional Bioware fashion), and you’ll need to do them to keep the levels flowing.  In some, you get from NPCs throughout the game and others from random Bulletin Boards which usually provide the quicker less rewarding tasks.  I have yet to see anything from a quest as far as items go.  Most of the items you receive are going to be off monsters or hidden in sparkly chests, bookshelves, or curios –  Which of course now has me seeing sparklies everywhere in the game, whether they are there or not… I know Bioware is just messing with my mind!  Unfortunately, you’ll run into inventory situations throughout the game as there is more loot in some of the dungeons than you can hold.

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The loot of course is all about armor and weapons.  You can get a few different types of things though, like reagents to make either poisons, potions, or traps.  Some items can provide temporary resistance bonuses and some can be used during combat as grenades.  The last thing I’ll say about loot is that you can get gift items which are exactly what they sounds like.  The item goes in your inventory and then you choose whom to give it to in your active party so you can increase your relationship with that person.  Get the relationship up high enough and the character gains stat bonuses from it.  There is no alignment per se in the game this time through, but what you say and do will have direct effects on your party relationships.  So in this regard, it’s best to know what your going to do ahead of time in a situation and then bring the people along that will agree with the course of action.

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The story is fascinating and engaging, whether you like it or not.  What I mean by that is, you should prepare yourself to answer questions, lots of them.  Also, be prepared to hear lots of dialogue.  If you have the stomach and patience to wade through all of it then there is some good entertainment to be had here.  Like previous RPGs from Bioware, your choices will have a direct impact on the story, your party members, and now also achievements.  It’s easy to pick and choose your way through most of it if you want to be a good guy or a bad guy.  There is also a lot of humor you will be privy to in this game, mostly coming from your party members as they take jabs at each other while you are out scouring the countryside for the next quest.

The main plotline focuses on you becoming a Grey Warden and trying to defeat the dreaded blight.  The blight is a catchy term in this game for lots of demons.  The main badguy is a dragon that haunts your dreams and also commands the blight army.  No one else believes you though of course and so you are on your own to thwart the evil plans.  So far, the main plot areas/quest hubs have been varied enough to make each area feel unique and add charm or importance to the story in that location.

Dragon Age: Origins is immensely enjoyable and will take a lot of hours from players. BioWare does a smart thing in providing a real desire to want to play the game through multiple times to experience all the plot lines and origin stories.

Dragon Age: Origins releases November 3, 2009 on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.