Reviews: Dragon Age Origins

Not the best, but highly enjoyable

Computer RPGs have a long and storied history, with many old and new entries in the genre, especially those of the fantasy variety. As such, Dragon Age Origins may seem familiar, but while it may not be the best of its kind, it inherits some of the best of the genre's aspects.

The story involves you, a Gray Warden of one of six different backgrounds, fighting in order to stop a horde of Darkspawn from overrunning the kingdom of Ferelden. The story isn't especially original, but it's told well. Your choices are rarely clear-cut, and the player's respective origin story, along with the various choices, have various and often unexpected consequences.

Your companions are an interesting and diverse lot, and none of them are purely noble or ruthless. Their personalities were shaped by their backstories, and understanding them is important to gaining their trust and approval.

Combat is often challenging, pitting you against powerful and intelligent foes that will force you to play strategically to survive. Like with some other RPGs that involve coordinating several characters in real time, you can pause the game to issue orders, which will often prove helpful in keeping things under control.

The character creation system allows for a good amount of customization, even if the choice of specializations could have offered more than a stat boost and a few new talents, but unfortunately, it isn't very well balanced. Mages are significantly more powerful and useful than the other two classes, which not only means you're more likely to put mages into your party, but also are more likely to play the mage origin compared to the other five.

There's a good variety of quests in the game, both story-related and optional, although some of the "job board" quests can be little more than 20 Bear Asses. Said quests often have several solutions, and often involve you talking things out, rather than fighting. That helps keep things interesting, although it does behoove you to invest skill points into the Speech skill.

All in all, DA:O is a nice throwback to older CRPGs, even if it doesn't quite live up to some of the classics in that genre.

I want to like this

I bought Dragon Age on release day, eagerly installed it and dove into one of the backstories.
And I basically haven't played it since.
Don't get me wrong, there's nothing inherently bad about the game, but I do find a certain set of the inevitable issues it does have to ruin the experience for me.
The combat is a slog. Most of the environments have way too much grey. The setting is basically keystone Medieval Europe fantasy, a setting I'm getting increasingly tired with.

I do however, love a lot of the party members. On the whole, they're well-written, interesting and have great voice acting. Also a fair few of the moral choices are at least interesting and have consequences that can catch you off guard.
But I just get really goddamn bored of the combat. And the combat is the main focus of the game.
I want to like this. I really do. But it just doesn't work for me.

I enjoyed playing a genuine RPG

Awkward sex scenes aside, I would have never have guessed that this was a Bioware game. It plays like a pen + paper RPG, with a deep and complex but poorly explained combat system and a large focus on creating a setting and letting you wander around in it and react in natural ways. This is the first post Knights Of The Old Republic game that doesn't really tie everything to a two path good/evil story. Things happens and you respond to them. It almost never feels like the game expects you to go one way to be consistent with what you've done before.

I can't explain enough how much fun I had simply choosing the right ways to act and the right things to say for the character I created. I decided to be a gifted noble, who thought everyone was beneath her because nothing had ever disproven that, but with a strong sense of duty. She'd always choose to sacrifice herself instead of someone else, because she knew she could do it better than them. And the game had the flexibility to allow me to do that. Almost never was there a conversation where I didn't have the option I needed. Contrast that with Mass Effect where Shepard sounds schizophrenic if you try mixing top left and bottom right too often.

It doesn't necessarily allow you to change the world completely (although you can change a fair bit), but it lets you decide who you want to be in it. All the party members, bar two, are completely optional and the character customisation potential is immense. Race, class, and character background all change the experience. The game might not play very differently as a noble instead of a peasant, but when people refer to you by your title and mention connections with your family, it feels like the game is validating your character. The story isn't exceptionally exciting but it's appropriate and well thought out enough to carry the experience.

There are flaws, the companions are interesting but a lot of the banter (particularly with Morrigan and Alistair) is a little forced. Combat is stretching, but can drag. Easy mode improved pacing dramatically but removed all challenge. The game in general is too long, I want to get to the end and explore, yet it's a significant time investment. But ultimately as soon as I finished playing, I immediately wanted to play it again.

Flawed but oh-so-engrossing.

Before I get into it, I have to add a disclaimer: I got my first new computer in seven years less than a year ago and had not upgraded my computer in that time. Since then I've gotten precisely four games. Dragon Age: Origins is one of them. The graphics shock has impressed me with these new games, but I'd like to think that New Toy Syndrome wore of relatively quickly.

This game is so very, very flawed. There are a thousand little niggling things that irritate me about the game. It is far from a masterpiece, and like all armchair [insert profession here]s, I find myself wondering, "Well why didn't they do this?"

And yet I keep coming back to it. I've played four of the six origins from beginning to end, including multiple iterations of two of those origins. I have played the same character through Awakening. Having purchased the base game in September 2010, I seriously considered purchasing the Ultimate Edition just a couple of months later, at full price. The game has probably consumed weeks of my life. The only games that have caused me to lose track of time more than Origins have been Four X games like the Civilization series and Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri.

Even as I muttered how annoying certain elements of gameplay were as they weren't implemented well (inventory), and how the few noticable bugs in a fully-patched version were really basic shit that should have been caught (the chest in the first room in the Dwarf Commoner origin), and how certain story elements were rendered nonsensical due to gameplay limitations (cavalry and defenses), and the "mature" content that was pretty clearly an adolescent's attempt at being Darker And Edgier than other games in the same genre, and that goddamn memory leak...

Maybe it was me imagining what previous Bioware games with less-flexible engines could have done with the gameplay developments, or the endless little things you could do differently in subsequent playthroughs, or the mods that unofficially fixed the bugs Bioware didn't get to. Whatever the reason, I really enjoyed this game. (Weirdly, I have a friend who really doesn't like the game, even as he admits it's not as flawed as even I make it out to be.)

A solid 7.5 out of 10 (Ultimate Edition is 8 out of 10 with the extra content and features).


Shite, it's just shite. The combat system is a fluster cluck of chunky abilities. The tactics all amount to kill everything using as much damage as possible and the story is not worth it for anyone with any experience with fantasy. It's like an MMO writing team tried to make a cohesive story only to fall flat on their asses. The races are pointless granting no differences in play between character, the production quality is shite beta with a despicably limited equipment set, limited number of abilities bordering on a lack of care and the combat itself is stiff and filler like. Honestly glad I borrowed the game instead of paying money for it because if I had I would choke the developers for my money.

Too shallow, annoying characters, annoying limitations, guilty of selling DLC in game that should have come with the game(given its price tag). Brown stain in some white briefs.

An excellent RPG

Dragon Age Origins is one of the best CRP Gs in recent years, not only having excellent gameplay, but also having a well-constructed fantasy world.

The overarching plot is the standard battle against the forces of evil- as a Gray Warden, you must fight the Darkspawn and defeat the Archdemon leading them- but the world in which it takes place has quite a bit of depth. In order to gain an army to stop the Blight, you must go to many places and solve their crises, such as a Dwarven city locked in a political power struggle.

The moral decisions you face are one of the more interesting parts of the game. There are times when itís obvious whatís right and wrong, but in others, the morals may be more gray, or one choice may have unexpected consequences. The absence of a Karma Meter forces you to think about your choices. Is it truly the right thing? Will it help you achieve your goal of fighting the Darkspawn? Will your companions stand for it? These questions require critical thinking, a rare accomplishment for a video game, as charitable decisions can no longer be made for a karma boost, and selfish decisions are more tempting if no one can judge you.

The combat system is well-made and interesting. You have a wide selection of talents and spells to choose from, enabling you to choose from many different ways to fight your enemies, and while there are only three classes, each has the possibility for many different builds. The companions are well-developed and interesting, having diverse backstories, moral codes beyond a simple good and evil alignment, and interests. In order to earn their approval, as well as possibly their love, you must understand them as individuals.

There are some flaws to this game, though. The game sometimes crashes, and has many bugs in the endgame. Many of the side quests, particularly those on the job boards, are not particularly interesting, in contrast to the more exciting plot quests. The skill system is also not as well done as in other Bio Ware games; only Persuade and Survival are of vital necessity throughout the game. Mages are somewhat overpowered, which, in addition to the balance issues, also discourages players from playing through as other origins.

Despite them, Dragon Age is well worth purchasing if you're a fan of RP Gs.

An Outsider's Perspective

Late to the curb as I may be, I figured there was no harm in reviewing. As of this, I've completed one playthrough of the main campaign all the DLC sans Awakening.

I've had little experience with this type of game. The only WRPGs I've ever played are Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance and two MMORPGs when I was much younger. As far as Bioware goes, I've only played the Mass Effect series other than this (though as the saying goes, they don't get points for good writing anymore, so I won't discuss it). Being a console gamer as I am, I certainly wasn't expecting auto-attack, but it works well enough.

I must say, I appreciate the lack of an open world. Nah, this game elects to pad itself through sidequests instead, which is good, as it feels more rewarding, though many feel impersonal. This makes sense when you're doing "Favor for Certain Interested Parties", but otherwise, you may as well be talking to a money maker machine.

Speaking of money, you'll be short most of the game, even with the DLC. Towards the end, I did eventually gain enough to were I had pretty much all I needed, but it would have been nice earlier. But hell, I appreciate a game that makes me work for every bit of power I get, though the fact that I was only playing on Normal difficulty stymies me, especially considering how much harder it would have been without all the DLC gear.

The game offers you quite a number of talent trees, and which are the most useful quickly becomes apparent. Anything that can be used to stun must be, as well as those ever useful anti-mage abilities. As with money, you'll never be leveled enough, so you have to plan out carefully what abilities you want. It's almost as if the game forces you to play like a Munchkin. To be fair, I didn't take much advantage of traps or poisons and my team strategy was never any more thoughtful than "kill the mages, have someone tank the strongest thing left and keep my healbot alive".

Finally, this game has quite a bit of Lost Forever you don't expect. Like selling otherwise useless gems and then finding out the dwarf army needs them. Gah.

Audio and visual quality is standard Bioware fare, though some levels seem a bit bland (the Fade).

Bottom Line: A nice way to waste tens of hours. I had lots of fun, and take no shame in multiple playthroughs. You shouldn't either.

Not Perfect, but still Good

This game is certainly not flawless. Especially when it comes to combat - there's just too much of it, and having to clear your way through crowds of monsters in every location is a very tedious task. If you play on easy mode, it's simply boring, but crank it up to nightmare difficulty, and soon you'll be hating all of your party members and yourself. The combat system is not bad in itself though, with different classes and specialties, and learning to build your charcater properly is certainly a nice part of the experience with this game. Some spells, like Cone of Cold, are ridiculously overpowered and work on almost everything including the Big Bosses, but this was fixed in the sequel.

But the best thing in Dragon age are its plot and its characters. Even those who do not play a major part in the story are quite memorable, like Wade and Herren, and "the queen of Antiva" near the lake Calenhad. The setting has a magical, yet very realistic feel to it, and a dark fantasy atmosphere is a part of the game's charm. There's plenty of small details that make Thedas believable - for example, such expressions as "Andraste's holy knickers!" and so on. The use of different accents is also a very nice touch. Basically, it's very hard not to fall in love with Thedas, it's mythology and its inhabitants. Each of eight (or nine with DLC) recruitable NPC has his own unique personalty, his backstory for you to uncover and a sidequest. Did I also mention that your behavior has consequences? Be nice to someone, and they'll be your friends (or even lovers). Be a jerk, and they'll leave forever, or simply betray you.

This game is full of tropes to the brim, but Tropes Are Not Bad. The developers sure had a field day playing with tropes, and the result is a very entertaining game, with a nice gameplay and high replayability (with six possible orgins and sidequests that are easy to miss during your first playthrough). It's really, really good, memorable, and well worth the money.

Great, but with problems.

I recently picked it up in the Steam Sale and have been playing through since. At first I found the controls a little clunky but that went away with more playing. There are a number of other issues, too, including:

  • Difficulty curve like a rollercoaster. Some rooms will be ridiculously easy and the next room full of mooks will kill you the moment you walk in.
  • Combat system is a bit annoying at times, especially the AI and getting a good view on the action.
  • Each area drags on a bit too long. While I usually don't rag on a game for being too *long* - I think that certain areas could've done with being cut down a bit. They're brilliant, but they start to lose impact after too long.
  • People in your camp selling you DLC is the most immersion breaking, money-grabbing idea ever. I'm not opposed to DLC (Infact, I'm for it so long as it's good value for money and not taking pre-release development time away from the game) but... but... In my camp? Talk about breaking character.

Despite all this, Dragon Age is still fantastic and certainly worth picking up, even at full price. The story is brilliant and keeps you interested throughout, the characters are compelling and the world detailed. Still holding my interest after ~30 hours of play and I can even see some replay value. If you like RP Gs - pick it up. It may be a bit frustrating at times, sure and it could be improved - but still one of the best games I've played.

Only Bioware could make a game this good feel like a disappointment.

Dragon Age is the story of a band of heroes journey to save the land of Ferelden from orcs the Darkspawn, by uniting a country divided by civil war and xenophobia. Mass Effect and Jade Empire much?

Okay, so Dragon Age is quite similar to Bioware's other games, but that doesn't matter? After all, the game is really fun!

Well... mostly.

DA has some wonderful moments—the main story quests are well fleshed out, but even then there are long periods boredom or backtracking involved. Sidequests boil down to Fed-Exing letters or killing "X". Unfortunate, but not surprising.

Combat has problems. On my PC copy of the game, the controlled character sometimes forgets to target the enemy I want him to, instead choosing to stand and stare as he is perforated by arrows or blasted with a fireball. Compounding that, The Computer Is A Cheating Bastard whenever it wants to be (which is often), and enemies level as you do, forcing your warriors to purchase ever more expensive weapons and armors to stay competitive. This only applies to warriors and rogues though—as usual for Bioware, mage users can take advantage of enough exploits so as to make NPC party members afterthoughts.

Speaking of NPC party members, the characters in DA can be somewhat bland. A good-natured warrior grieving for his friends, a darkly beautiful witch, a besotted dwarf, and so on. That's not to say that they're boring—the dwarf is a berserker who drinks in part to block his pain over the loss of his wife, the witch has was raised by a woman out of one of Grimms a fairy tales and so on.

The biggest problem I had with DA was the hype. Before release, we saw wonderful trailers and listings of the games highlights. What those of us looking forward to the game didn't see was the hours of aimless wandering and boredom inducing fights.

Final verdict: Give the game a chance—it's a fine example of what WRP Gs do well, that suffers from the usual WRPG problems. In particular, where DA stumbles is in trying to remake the RPG genre while using the same set-pieces that Bioware used to do it the first time.

Oblivion was better


The Good:

-The Graphics are gorgeous. Then again, what would you expect from a game released in 2009?

-Being able to interact with party members and even pursue a romantic relationship with them was pretty neat.

-The characters are interesting and well written.

The Bad:

-The trailers were misleading, making this game look far more epic and awesome than it actually was.

-It was short. Took me a little over a week to finish. The reason I said Oblivion was better was because you could ignore the main quest completely and just go off exploring. Not so in Dragon Age. You have to follow the main quest, or you won't have anything else to do. There are sidequests, but they're so numerous and pointless, that it feels like they were tacked on as an afterthought. To make matters worse, the main quests are long and tedious, which subtracts a shitload of points from the game's replay value.

-"But it's story driven!" fans tell me in response to the above. Honeys, if I played games for their plot, I'd be reading books instead. And no way in hell would I pick up something as cliche as this.

-Speaking of cliches, why does it seem like heroic fantasy writers don't have a creative bone in their bodies? Why must the story take place in some ersatz European setting? Why must the main religion be a ripoff of Christianity? Sure, Oblivion was like this as well, but because of the numerous other things the game provided, it was tolerable.

-Dear God, the loading screens.What is this, The Sims 2? And why hasn't Bio Ware fixed that memory leak?

The Meh:

-This game is pretty much Neverwinter Nights with fancier graphics. I'm not a fan of party-based games, but it's not enough to turn me off of the game completely.

-They could have been a lot more subtle with that Sequel Hook.
Arl Redcliffe: Say, don't you think my son has been acting strange lately?
Warden: Well, I haven't seen the boy since I finished your quest, so I can't really say. Why do you ask?
Arl Redliffe: Oh nothing. I'm certainly not dropping hints of any plotlines that will be explored in the impending sequel. Nope, not at all.

Witch Hunt - A Must-Play

There are some DLC that I could do without. All those item packs, maybe the Warden's Keep and the Darkspawn Chronicles. But there is now one that you must play after finishing the original game, and that is the Witch Hunt.

The reason for that is quite simple: the original game was incomplete. Not in the sense that it was lacking, mind you. But the original story had one deliberately missing piece that kept bothering me ever since: the fate of Morrigan. Even if I've never considered romancing her, she is a good girl (well, you know what I mean) despite walking strange a path. And I sure wasn't ready to let her go with an "out of sight, out of mind" attitude.

Call me possessive, but I like to know what my party members are going to do when they leave. And with the blank spot that was Morrigan, I at least wanted to know that she is alright, that she'll do fine without me watching her back. And Witch Hunt delivered just that. The DLC consists of five locations, new monsters, items, whatever, but for me, the only part that mattered was that final dialogue with Morrigan that should have taken place long ago.

That one piece of dialogue truly concludes the Origins storyline (Awakening notwithstanding), and only after it is experienced is the game truly complete.

Felt watered down.

I am not going to bemoan the death of RPG's with complex learning curves and advanced skill trees, but compared to the rest of Bioware's RP Gs, such as Baldur's gate, Planescape, and Neverwinter Nights, The mechanics and rules seemed way too simple. There did not appear to be a lot of diversity. Besides that, the plot, feel, and overall richness of the game felt very up to par.

Made of Win

Having not played Oblivion, Jade Empire, or most of the other games others are talking about, I'm just going to have to add what I know about this.

This game rocks.

While people might complain it's a Cliche Storm to beat all storms, the game itself is pretty much an affectionate parody of those cliches, and manages to do a good job deconstructing them as well, a la A Song Of Ice And Fire. The politics are brutal, the characters are very frequently snarky, and the tone is somewhere around Grey And Black Morality. As a troper that really, really liked A So Ia F, this was absolute gold compared to other games that don't spend as much time on character development.

The opening was pretty standard for any high fantasy sort of setting- go beat the orcs, save the kingdom, and put a new king in power. However, as the plot moves on, a lot of time is spent fleshing out the characters and the setting, which really makes up for some of its shortcomings. The script writers were channeling something awesome when writing party dialogue. Compared to most other games I've played, this is another little slice of awesome that Dragon Age has. It's a real credit to the game when you're able to actually like the crazy religious rogue, the bitchy mage, and the emo templar, who would be easy to hate if it weren't for how they were handled in development.

However, the quests can be very, very long. One thing I wish they had spent more time on was adding more sidequests and other non-main plot stuff to help expand the environment more. Tackling the Deep Roads can be awesome, but sometimes there needs to be a bit more variation to keep it interesting.

Beyond awesome

The best fantasy game I've ever played. I know it has the whole traditional Bio Ware "A Jedi/Spectre/Grey Warden is You" set up, but that's not a bad thing. I've found that this is actually a very good framing device for the kind of games Bioware makes, after all it worked very well in Mass Effect, and KTOR, so why not re-use it? It's also the place you go to see High Fantasy tropes deconstructed, every origin story is a deconstruction except the Human Noble origin which is such a Cliche Storm it borders on Affectionate Parody. In short very good. At times it feels like it's actually medieval Europe, at others you feel like you've walked into something else entirely. The massive battle of Ostragar feels like Lord of the Rings, The Dead Trenches feel like Dante's Inferno, even the Urn of Sacred Ashes and Anvil of The Void quests are so very like Indiana Jones it's Amazing. Very fun, very engrossing, very well put together, Bioware at it's best as always.
  • X- 3
  • 29th Dec 09
  • 0

Swooping Is Bad.

This game is simply brilliant.

Cheap thing to say, but I can certainly back it up. Firstly, the introduction, you start off with a choice of six very well-written (if slightly predictable. This means you, Human Noble) origin stories. In these, you will typically be introduced to some rounded, three-dimensional characters, and either get to stick them with the razor-sharp witty comments the Bioware writers came up with or treat them nicely.

You'll also get to participate in a bit of fighting, and the combat system is mostly incredibly well-handled, you can choose between the standard Fighter/Mage/Rogue classes, and as a Rogue/Fighter you get a variety of cool ways to wave your sword/axe/dagger around and kill people (Occasionally, for some bosses and rarely a Mook, you get an amazing death animation when you kill them. Something the mage is sadly deprived of). As a Mage you usually pick up a staff and blast your enemies with your slightly weak spells (This is remedied later on, where depending on your spell choices when you level up, you can literally annihilate your enemies with only two moves. Can be reduced to one if you have sufficient breathing room to cast it). Occasionally the difficulty level is misleading. You can be playing on the easiest level, but don't expect that boss character to not require two attempts after a Total Party Kill.

The main story follows Bioware's usual formula, big event happens at the beginning. You are given a couple of companions and three or so things to do that you may accomplish in any order to advance the plot. Just as it was in Mass Effect and both Kot O Rs.

The companions are what make the game though. You get a total of 9 from all the races in Ferelden, most of them are optional, although I highly recommend getting them all just to hear them chatting with each other. Almost all of the conversations are Crowning Moment Of Funny material. Those that aren't (And there are only about...2?) could be TearJerkers.

The romance subplots are things of beauty. Perhaps the best written one being between a female PC and Alistair. With emotionally moving moments throughout, along with the occasional bit of humour. Rather than spoil, find out for yourself.

Anyway, I have few words left. Damn word count, I bet it'll cut me off mid-sentence. To conclude, th

Return of the Classic Tactics, Loot, & Storyline RPG

As a disclaimer, I should mention that I played all of the Baldurs Gate, Icewind Dale, and Planescape Torment games back in the day. To me, Bioware wasn't lying when they said that Dragon Age: Origins is the spiritual successor to those games, it's a raucous throwback to the Infinity Engine games where you led a party of unusual and powerful characters through an epic tale of amazing battles against interesting villains.

In the case of Dragon Age: Origins, Bioware has built on its tradition of accomidating multiple play styles and player motivations to a degree largely unknown in the gaming industry: the game has six seperate origin stories for a player character (multiple origins being something that Bioware forum-posters have been requesting for at least a decade), and each origin has subtle, but near-perfectly implemented differences in the main game: your best friend from the origin will probably show up again at some point. Also in the same vein, it's possible to play the game with in multiple ways: Magnificent Bastard, Good Is Not Nice, Deadpan Snarker... actually, the game is so Troperiffic that one imagines that the writers frequent this site...

Speaking of the writers, the lead writer, David Gaider, who worked as a hotel manager before being hired by Bioware, has been impressing me with his fantastic dialogue and complex characters since Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn. This game, however, is his epic, and the natural extension of what a skilled writer can do when given the time, resources, and respect necessary to indulge a true love for roleplaying in the video game medium.

The plot, characters, and setting of this game appear, at first glance, to be lifted from any number of popular sources; anyone familiar with the King Arthur myths will immediately note his parallel in the King Calenhad myths of Ferelden, and their Crystal Dragon Jesus equivilent, Andraste, takes inspiration from Joan Of Arc, the New Testement, the struggles of Mohammed, and even Gnostic thought. From there, though, they made the story their own by giving more subversions, aversions, and lampshades than you can shake a starmetal 2-handed sword at.

The game has some flaws, but damned if I have any interest in dwelling on them, 1/3 of the way through my second playthrough.