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Dragon Age Retrospective: Dragon Age Origins

Dragon Age Origins

Dragon Age Origins

Eight years ago, Dragon Age Origins was released; with it I was reintroduced to the traditional Bioware RPG.  Mind you, that standard has changed a bit in the years, but back then it was a pedigree nearly unmatched before or since.

In revisiting this game I found both good and bad qualities.  In my own opinion the good far outweighed the bad. However, before I begin to discuss this game at length for those who have not played it I will give a brief “mini review”.

To understand this game take Lord of the Rings, (a lot of Lord of the Rings actually but I’ll get into that) Game of Thrones, Elric of Melnibone – also known as where the Witcher got ABSOLUTELY everything that made it good- and finally add in Knights of the Old Republic game play only, slightly improved.

Blend that together and you have Dragon Age Origins.

If that sounds like something you would enjoy then by all means close this tab and pick it up: god knows it’s cheap enough these days.

However, for us let’s get into the nitty gritty of everything good and everything bad about this game.

The Bad

The first real negative about this game is despite being called Dragon Age Origins your origin has very little impact on the games save a few lines of dialogue and the tutorial level. That’s it. This was a huge missed opportunity for adding real replay value in wanting to see how each hero’s story plays out. But in reality you will end up picking your favorite starting story and mostly sticking to it.

Now if you never played this game you may be wondering replay aside why is this bad: the answer is because given the amazing amount of lore in this title it really breaks immersion to play as certain characters, the elves in particular as Elves in this world are little more than slaves and yet here you have an elf being treated the exact same as anyone else for sake of story.

Imagine if you will, in the elf campaign you had to sneak your way into cities because as an elf you couldn’t just walk through the front door. Persuasion checks would be far more important adding to the challenge of certain quest but giving an advantage to elven quest just as an example. It’s by no mean game breaking but it does need to be addressed.

The second issue is the lack of a build tutorial. Unless you know the game really well you will have the oblivion issue from over at Bethesda where you will level yourself into a corner and basically have to restart. This results in either having a horrible time trying to play the game or cranking down the difficulty. This problem could have been fixed, and was in future games, with the option to re-spec your character.

The next issue is balance. Magic is amazing over-powered both for you and your enemies. I understand the lore reasons for this but it leads to some of the most massive difficulty spikes I’ve ever seen.  Speaking of spikes there is one particular quest in which you are retrieving a book for an ally and literally out of nowhere the game spawns a dragon fight.

My first run was basically screwed by this quest as I had already saved just before the encounter and so couldn’t do anything to level and even on the lowest setting was still getting destroyed in this boss battle. I’ll admit this is just me being salty to a point but that kinda spike doesn’t add to the fun factor it just pisses you off.

And finally we have the “romance” of the game. Bioware has a weird track record with these. For the most part these “romances” are well done, believable stories of characters connecting with each other and it works wonderfully. However when it comes to completing these romances just as many go full blown awkward and make you wish the game had simply faded to black rather than playing a frankly too long and drawn out sex scene

I may be in the minority on this one I’ll admit but these scenes really didn’t work for me and as such have to be listed as a negative.

The Good

The first positive has to be the cast of characters. No one here feels like a one-note stereotype even the villains for the most part have good and bad qualities. Everything done has motivation behind it and more motivation than just “because plot”.  More than that, each character you meet and interact with feel fully fleshed-out even if you only see them once or twice in the game. That’s rare in games made now, much less games that are nearly a decade old.

Secondly this is a game that actually lets you play your character your way with very little forced upon you. Most quest have multiple ways they can end with some questing being entirely skippable with some horrible consequences.

As an example take the village of Redcliff. You arrive and are told the village is under attack nightly by undead horrors. This is pretty standard rpg questing and so you assume you now have to defend the village. But you don’t. You can hear the story say screw that and just leave and unlike other games where the quest waits for you, here if you leave the attack still happens and the village is destroyed.  When you come back everyone is dead save one npc and you can go on with getting to Redcliff castle having completely avoided a very tough battle. However this has real consequences both within your party and how the world sees you. This happens several times where you have the option to be the champion of good or the scion of evil and very few games pull that off.

Finally we got to talk about the endings. If you decide that this is the only game in the franchise you want to play you still are given a very satisfying ending telling you not only what happens to your party but going in some cases thousands of years into the future explaining how your actions effected the world around you. It makes me think that this was never meant as a franchise but as a stand alone title.

So to sum up it’s an rpg that not only knows how to be an rpg but revels in it, giving you untold amounts of customization in both yourself and the world around you and really sets into motion a huge world in which to play in and explorer.

I highly advise you give it a go yourself and I think most people will find something about it to like. But like all things tastes are subjective and if you’re not a big fantasy junkie this may not be for you.  So keep that in mind.

Thank you very much and until next time.

“When life’s got you down throw it into god mode and keep kicking ass”

Sir Goose

Goose

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