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The story of Dragon Age: Origins sprawls over dozens of hours. After you follow your specific “Origins Story” – which is tied to whatever race and class your character is – you begin your journey to become a Grey Warden. You must become a Grey Warden in order to fight against the Blight, which is the evil that is taking over the land of Ferelden. Once you become a Grey Warden, you set off on an adventure to gather various armies to help in your fight against the Blight, and ultimately, the Arch Demon. Over the course of your adventure, you will travel to many locations in the world of Ferelden. Luckily, almost all of these places look strikingly different, giving you more than just the same town with a different skin for your 50+ hour adventure. That’s only what is above ground though. Once you set off to explore, you will find that Ferelden is filled with dungeons, both small and big, and both above and below ground.
Traveling to these locations is all done through fast traveling. Opposed to other Western RPGs where you must cross barren landscapes to find the next village, you only have to select the village from the map and watch as a trail of blood across the map shows your parties travel. While this may seem linear and boring to someone reading this review, I actually found it quite refreshing. Dragon Age may not be as big and expansive as other Western RPGs, but it prevents you from being bored by running through a forest for 20 minutes, trying to find your next location. However, I wish the developers had taken more time to make the environments look better. With a game that focuses on villages, opposed to traveling to them, I expected more. Most of the villages look quite ugly. Whether it be the dull red-mountains of the village of Red Cliffe, or the bland flat snow that cover Ozzamar, there isn’t anything visually that pops out at you. Not to mention the constant frame-rate slowdown and other numerous graphical problems. The whole time I was playing, I thought that the game could have easily been put on the original Xbox.
Apart from the environments, the character models also aren’t very good. While the faces of the characters are quite well designed and move almost perfectly to the dialogue, the bodies of the characters are pretty bad. All-in-all, the graphics in Dragon Age: Origins are down right ugly and are easily the worst part of the game. Luckily, the rest of the game is great. While you are traveling through the environments with your party, you will have to fight a lot of Darkspawn, assassin’s, mages and thieves. Combat in Dragon Age: Origins takes a very old-school table-top approach.
Your warriors can run up and swing directly at enemies, while your archers and mages stand back and attack from a distant. If you unleash an AoE spell, the gameplay stops and you move a giant counter around the battlefield that marks where the attack will hit. Stopping the game to plan out your tactics is also an essential part of the combat. This is easily pulled off by pressing the Right Trigger of the Xbox 360 controller. This allows you to plan out where spells will be fired, if you want to quick heal a party member, or unleash any other actions. This type of combat will appeal greatly to those who may of spent their younger days playing Dungeons and Dragons.
The controls in Dragon Age Origins are also top-notch. When first playing I found the controls a little rough, but after about 3 hours I was loving them. The basic attacks and spells are all laid out nicely on the buttons, along with with easy access to the rest of your spells and attacks. Walking feels surprisingly good with the analog sticks, and overall very slick and smooth. Although hardcore fans of the genre will likely prefer the mouse and keyboard controls that the PC version supports.
Like any good Western RPG, Dragon Age: Origins allows for a slew of character customization. You can choose your race, class etc. at the beginning of the game, but you can also craft the face of your warrior to whatever you want it to look like. I’m not one for delving deep into character customization, but from what I saw, there was a lot to do. People who love customization could easily spend an hour crafting a character, before they even get to the game. Aside from creating a character, you can also customize with tons of weapons and armor sets. You can choose any type of weapon that is compatible character, whether it be swords, bows, axes, hammer, or staffs, just to name a few. Pair that with the ability to select boots, armour plates, helmets, robes etc. and you have yourself a game chock-full of customization.
While you can customize your own character, you can also customize the various other characters you meet along the way to join your party. While I only had about 8 characters which I could switch in-and-out of my four-man party, there are tons more that you can find. You usually find characters to join from side-quests, or persuading those that you meet along the way on the main quests. While not essential to the game, it is fun to see who you can get to join your party. Also, the harder characters to get are usually stronger. Once you get the characters you want to join your party, you can fully customize their weapons and armour, just like your own character.
Another downfall of Dragon Age: Origins is the audio. While going through dungeons and towns, you don’t hear much background music. If you do hear background music, then it’s the same forgettable music you heard the last time music appeared in the game. Put it this way; if Dragon Age: Origins had a sound track, it would be just one song that played for 12 hours. Aside from the background music, the voice-overs are pretty good. Like most Bioware games, the voice-overs and conversations play a huge part. They are quite well done, and something that the developers should be proud of. The problem is, if you attempt to talk to an NPC who won’t engage you in a full conversation, their snippet of dialogue plays and if you turn or move at all, that dialogue stops. It can be really annoying when you’re running by and a bunch of NPCs all say a couple of words then stop.
Now for the question that everyone wonders; how long is the game? Well, that question can’t be easily answered. For me, it took me just under 20 hours. That was by completing all of the main quests, but only one or two side-quests. If I had taken the time to do all of the side-quests (which I might do later), the game would easily be over 50 hours. As for replay value, the game is full of it. First off, that 50+ hour first play through will keep you busy for a long time. Add on the six different origins stories which are begging for six different play throughs, and this game could last months if you really want it to.
Overall, Dragon Age: Origins is a game for old-school RPG players. If you loved Dungeons and Dragons, or playing Baulder’s Gate, you will love this game. RPG fans who like more modern RPGs will still find lots to like in Dragon Age, but not as much as other Western RPGs. If you have the time to dedicate to it, Dragon Age: Origins is the perfect game for you. With a few short-comings and the huge adventure, those without much time might want to put the game on hold until the summer when gaming releases tend to slow down. However, whether you are an RPG fan or not, Dragon Age: Origins is at the very least, worth a shot.
- Great customization
- Controls work well
- Combat is fun
- Great Story
- Deep engrossing, conversations
- Terribly dated graphics
- Audio from NPCs can be a bit annoying
- Gamers may prefer mouse and keyboard, opposed to controller