Dragon Age: Origins

An epic story, characters with unique personalities and plenty of bloodshed, what more could you ask for?

By Garrison, Posted 16 Apr 2010

Ferelden is a mysterious place home to many different races from the Dwarves of Orzammar to the Dalish Elves of the Brecilian Forest to the Human nobles from Redcliffe. The story of Dragon Age is epic in scale much like the brilliant Lord of the Rings series. You see Ferelden is under attack by vial creatures known as the Darkspawn which consist of orcs, ogres and the undead. The Darkspawn are under the command of an Archdemon which takes on the form of a very powerful dragon.  When a gathering of Darkspawn so massive occurs the people of Ferelden call it the Blight. While the Blight is in its early stages you take on a character, of your choice, with a unique origin story; hence the name of the game. In Dragon Age you can choose from the three different races (Human, Dwarf and Elf) and three different classes (Warrior, Mage and Rogue). For the first couple hours you’ll play through your origin story. Shortly after you’ll leave your home and meet up with the Grey Wardens. The Grey Wardens are an elite group of soldiers that give up their lives to rid the world of the Darkspawn.

The Grey Wardens under the leadership of a man named Duncan are gathered with a large Ferelden army under the command of King Cailan and legendary general Loghain. Duncan performs a dangerous ritual called the Joining in order to induct you into the Grey Wardens. You are quickly introduced to a fellow Warden named Alistair and the two of you are tasked with a separate mission instead of fighting on the front lines. Things go terribly wrong and the Wardens are completely wiped out except for you and Alistair. As the Darkspawn close in on your position a mage named Flemeth comes to your aid and takes you back to her home to recuperate. As you wake up from a deep sleep you are greeted by Flemeth’s beautiful mage daughter named Morrigan. The three of them speak to Flemeth one last time and at this point your ultimate quest begins; unite the entire land of Ferelden and end this Blight. Luckily, there are many other characters that you can meet up with like the loveable rogue named Leliana and a drunken dwarf named Oghren.

Dragon Age: Origins Review

This is Billy's first day as a Fereldin soldier; sucks to be him right about now.

This story is one of the best stories ever told in a role-playing game and that is partly due to the character development. One thing I really like about the characters is that they each have their own personality.  Some RPGs introduce teammates that are easily persuaded based on your actions which make them sort of like mindless drones. In Dragon Age, your characters will stay true to what they believe in. For example, Sten is a very powerful and noble warrior that’s extremely focused on killing Darkspawn. If he is in your party and you start to pick up some other side quests, whether noble in nature or not, he will call you out on staying focused on the main goal instead of mindlessly following your orders. It’s this kind of character development that truly gives this game some personality. There isn’t a good or bad meter that fluctuates based on your actions. Instead each character has a like/dislike meter that changes based on what you do in Ferelden. If a character dislikes you enough, he or she may leave your party for the rest of the game. Of course the opposite is true in that a friendlier character will open up to you which provides some deep dialog and maybe, if you play your cards right, a romance will develop. There are many lines of dialog to choose from and plenty of ways to handle each situation you encounter in Ferelden. How you decide to handle these circumstances, whether good, bad or neutral, is entirely up to you.

Dragon Age: Origins is a mix of Final Fantasy XII and World of Warcraft in regards to the gameplay.  Your party, at anytime, consists of you and three other heroes. All the action is in real time but you do have the option to pause the game and micromanage if you so desire. If you’re not the micromanaging type you have the option to setup your hero’s tactics. The tactics feature, much like the Gambit system in Final Fantasy XII, is a really nice option where you can setup a list of conditions and actions for the AI to thumb through. For example, you could have your healer use a heal spell when an ally’s health is below 25 percent or have your rogue switch from their ranged weapon to a melee weapon when entering into close combat.

The leveling system works like most other RPGs out there. You gain experience from defeating enemies, reading books and performing other minor actions. When a character levels up you’ll have the chance to add points to their physical attributes, skills and talents/spells. A nice thing about the leveling system is that all your characters share the same experience regardless of whether they die in combat or are left back at camp. Dragon Age offers a huge assortment of helpful skills, talents and spells for you to completely customize your party. All of these proficiencies are grouped together in small trees of four with the weakest ability starting to the left and strongest to the right. In order to obtain the stronger abilities you have to unlock the previous ones in the tree. Later in the game you can find specialized abilities to give your characters that extra fighting edge. These specializations include Spirit Healing, Templar (Warriors that can reduce magic in an area), Shape Shifting and many others.

Dragon Age: Origins Review

This is the beautiful mage Morrigan; she's very helpful unless you get on her bad side.

The control scheme and user interface works really well.  At the bottom of the screen a large set of abilities are shown and easily accessible via the number keys.  Keys “W”, “A”, “S” and “D” are used to rotate the view and move forward and backwards. The mouse can be used for pretty much anything from selecting characters to casting spells to navigating through the menu. The space bar is your best friend in this game; especially in combat. When you hit the space bar the entire game pauses which is very helpful for micromanaging your heroes or grabbing some much needed health potions.

There are two basic views in Dragon Age: Exploration and Strategic. The Exploration view pins the camera over the right shoulder of your controlled character whereas the Strategic view brings the camera out for a top-down perspective. I would say that about 95% of the time you’ll be in the Strategic view because it’s easier to control all your characters and see what’s going on at all times.  Unfortunately, there are some setbacks with this view. Tight areas and some overhanging arches/structures will hinder your view and sometimes force you to violently rotate the camera around to get a better view; not so much fun when you have Darkspawn breathing down your neck.

All throughout Ferelden you’ll encounter some intense battles and challenging bosses. As a whole, this RPG is definitely not an easy one. Even with strong party members your enemies can ambush you or try to flank your squad which can easily throw you off balance. You’re going to have to use various combat strategies just to get by and survive; playing through with one type of strategy probably won’t work for all types of situations. This challenge is a welcomed one especially for veteran RPG players and I highly recommend saving your game often just in case.

Aside from the small annoyances with the camera, Dragon Age is unfortunately burdened with a few bugs and glitches. I really wanted to give this game a higher score but the glitches really start to get to you. Some of the glitches include crashes, animations/graphical layers getting corrupted, music/sound coming in and out and there have been a rare number of times where my AI controlled comrades would ignore the tactics set up for them. Just like I said before, make sure you save often to avoid some of the consequences of these headaches.

Graphically this game is pretty good. The cut scenes and in-game visuals aren’t jaw dropping but they don’t hurt the game either. The facial expressions for the most part work well and accurately depict what your characters are feeling.

The soundtrack is absolutely magnificent and greatly rivals some of the best RPGs out there. There are many unique themes that are handled well by the orchestration giving the story that added inspiration. I especially enjoyed the parts where the lower brass takes over when the Darkspawn is near. The other sound effects also work well in this game. From shield bashes to fireballs, it’s all here and it sounds great.

Dragon Age: Origins is a fantastic RPG with an epic story, exciting combat and immersive character development. There aren’t too many RPGs out there that tell such a grand story like the one in this game. The long game play (about 50 hours) and flexible customization will keep you on the edge of your seat. I would highly recommend this game to all RPG fans. For those who are new to genre, Dragon Age is definitely a game that’ll get you hooked for sure. The land of Ferelden is under attack by the terrifying Darkspawn and it’s up to you to stop it. Now how you go about completing this quest is entirely up to you.

Gary Eisla, Noobfeed

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General Information

Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Publisher(s): Electronic Arts
Developer(s): Bioware
Genres: Role-Playing
Themes: Adventure, Fantasy
Release Date: 2009-11-03

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