Dragon Age – Origins, Bioware’s Gem Among Gems, the RPG of 2009
Format: Xbox 360, PC
Style: Third person RPG/RTS
Modes: Single player campaign only
Pros: Stunning graphics, epic storyline, engrossing gameplay, top-notch voice acting, good combat, great fun.
Cons: Hair-pulling difficulty at some points.
Baldur’s Gate, Mass Effect, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. A company that puts all of its heart and soul into its games, and the outcome is more than worth it. Dragon Age: Origins is a platinum medal among gold. With an expanse of RPGs in this past decade, it’s difficult to narrow it down to the best. But what most players agree with is that DA:O is one of the top RPGs this decade, if not the top.
The Start Up
Like any RPG, you get the character selection/customization. I first tried making a Dalish Elf, These are the elves that have stayed in the isolated forests, hiding away from the humankind. It started out with a nice intro to the story line and to the Dalish Elves. After the video I immediately was thrown into decisions, whether or not to kill a few humans wandering through our woods. Of course I had to let them go, I know how humans are. They also tipped me off about some ruins that I ventured into with an elvish friend and delved right into an easy, short intro to combat. The easy switch between the zoomed out, over head zoom and the up close “adventure” camera view with the scroll wheel makes the switch between combat and walking very fluid. The first part of the game is very forgiving and eases you into the style which I was not used to. It’s like a cross between RTS and classic Third Person, packed with lore and action and quests. The cut-scenes are absolutely gorgeous, and the voice acting is top-notch. My second character I made was the generic, Human Noble. I generally don’t like melee fighting in RPGs but I decided to push this game to its limits. This proved to be a great choice. Even the very last thing I ever wanted to be was a lot of fun. You start off with the choice of having your dog as a companion, and I don’t know how you could pass up a chance like that. During gameplay, you may only have 4 companions out at a time, so you’re generally fighting in a team. I decided to be a tank (defensive character) to help hold enemies and take the blunt of the damage. The combat and tactics were pretty easy to get used to, but the gameplay is incredibly difficult.
While playing on maxed out graphics with a new GPU from the Radeon 5800 series, it’s an incredibly beautiful game. The faces are the best I’ve seen, the armor and weapons are incredibly detailed, and the environment is gorgeous to look at. Lighting and shading are at a perfect balance, each light has a nice glow and the darkness is greatly contrasted. Even the fire alone is just about the best fire I’ve seen in a game this far. It has this warm, comforting glow, with a strong lick and… well, it’s really nice looking fire. The detail in the game is unbelievable, after fighting, your characters are covered in blood specs, as opposed to the usual clean heroes in most games. People will notice eventually that each place, each forest, each dungeon and cave they go through is detailed and extravagant, along with it’s contents and enemies. The game is top quality for DirectX10 and only DX11 can beat it. It was a smart move using DX10 though, as not everyone has a DX11 GPU (recently released). Basically, the game is absolutely pristine.
This is one of the hardest and most frustrating games I have ever played, except for Street Fighter and Mega Man 9. The difficulty can be summed up as such: On the second quest, I had four characters, full health and was ready to fight. There were just two enemies waiting by a bridge over the swampy waters of the Wild. I figured “hey, easy enough, just tank ’em and spank ’em.” But no, I was mistaken, those two led us through bear traps and a multitude of more enemies. They overtook us time after time after time. It must have taken five tries to get by them finally. Within the first half hour of the game! On normal difficulty! It’s a great challenge. One feature that really took some time to get used to was the tactics. This bundle of menus determines what your character does when a certain event happens, such as if you character’s health is below 20% they will use a special block move. This really comes in handy for big fights where you can’t really keep track of everything every second. Besides the occasional, jaw-gnashing difficult parts, the game is pretty straight forward and simple. Completing quests, continuing the storyline, gaining levels and skills, improving armor and weapons, it’s your no-surprises RPG. But what you don’t always come to see is the fantastic, unique, engrossing storyline. This rich tale sticks out in the RPG world because it’s so original and detailed. The Blight (a bunch of ugly, gray-ish guys) come around and try to kill everyone every couple of hundred years. They were old Magi that tried to take the heavens, but were defeated and cursed. There is an arch-demon that leads the blight and he must be defeated to end it. The Grey Wardens are a group of fighters that work to defeat the Blight with the help of the people, and you become one of these last Grey Wardens. You must work with three other fighters/adventurers (whomever you pick up) to delve further into the world with quests and objectives and fights. And yes, much like Mass Effect, there is a sex scene involved, it probably won’t be in the news quite as much because there’s no aliens involved. But anyways, the gameplay is fantastic, easy to get into, incredibly challenging and fun, and the storyline is great. Each time you start a new character, you’re thrown into a completely different starting are with different choices and quests. As you progress, you choose your path depending on what you decide to do, so you could play through the game twice in two totally different ways. The replayability is staggering, because not many other games give you this much decision. The fact that it is solely one player doesn’t hinder the experience at all, and in my opinion is a better route to go, it would just feel weird playing with other people. Compared to other RPGs, Dragon Age: Origins is a gem; it has taken everything we love about RPGs and perfected it. BioWare knows how to make a great game, and I look forward to any sequels of this fantastic game.
Graphics – 9.5/10
Audio – 10/10
Story – 10/10
Gameplay – 9/10
Replayability – 10/10
Final Score – 9.7/10
Required Specs/Recommended Specs (Vista/7)
Intel Core 2 (or equivalent) running at 1.6Ghz or greater/Intel Core 2 Quad 2.4Ghz Processor or equivalent
1.5 GB or more/4 GB
ATI Radeon X1550 256MB or greater/ATI 3850 512 MB or greater NVIDIA GeForce 7600 GT 256MB or greater/NVIDIA 8800GTS 512 MB or greater
20 GB free or more