Dragon Age: Origins
by Gauss


Basic Information:
Developer: Bioware
Publisher: EA
North American Release Date: 11/3/2009
European Release Date: 11/20/2009
Trophies: Yes


Overview
Dragon Age: Origins is Bioware's return to its Baldur's Gate roots. It takes the Knights of the Old Republic combat system and sets it in a medieval world of dragons and dwarfs, magic and swords. It represents a step forward for the typical western RPG by creating a combat system that is both simple yet deep and brings about the depth of story we all know and love from Bioware.

Gameplay
Let me start by saying if you have ever played Knights of the Old Republic, Dragon Age will be familiar territory for you from a combat system perspective. There is one gigantic improvement though. Gone is KoTR's complicated handling of the more complex elements of combat (i.e. Force Powers) and now no stats are "hidden" from the player. Everything you could possibly care about is summed into one of six stats. Whats more is the stats are streamlined so that your specific class will only really care about 2-3 of them.

This makes gearing yourself out easy because everything is straightforward. There is only one complaint I have though, that is the treatment of Strength vs. Dexterity. Typically Dexterity is your accuracy/critical hit capability and Strength is your damage modifier. Here it is weapon dependent, for Slashing or Blunt weapons Strength is everything (Accuracy/Damage/etc), but for Piercing or Ranged, Dexterity is everything (Accuracy/Damage/etc). Its kind of cumbersome and you always have to pay attention to what weapon types you equip.


Your party members can be controlled individually, or you have a Combat Tactic system similar to gambits in FF12. The system is pretty easy to use, and anybody who has played any recent action-RPG should be able to set up their party members how they want in 30 seconds.

My only complaint here is you have to be very careful with alternative weapon sets. The game allows you to set a primary weapon set and a secondary weapon set you can switch to on the fly. If you set them for your party members, the CPU doesn't seem to quite know what to do about it, so you will catch party members switching back and forth at random sometimes (particularly if one set is ranged and another is melee).

All in all these are small complaints in an otherwise brilliant combat system.

Singleplayer
Singleplayer is great. This is where the "Origins" part comes into play, as your character starts from one of 6 different starting points. They don't make a gigantic difference in the overall story, but it is very cool and makes your character feel more like your own. Particularly when you start to discover how the origin stories all effect the outside world.

The story is phenomenal. Many of you may say "typical medieval story," but thematically there is alot going on here to love. On the surface it is about you and another Grey Warden recruiting an army to fight the Archdemon. There is alot more to it than that though as you will find yourself looking at all different types of angles and how your choices effect the final 2 quests.

More than that, the roots of the story go deep. Characters in the story are constantly struggling between what is right and what is easy, and you will often encounter how politics and personal preferences can bring about delusions. It is a very real and well thought-out story, full of interesting and original characters (I also appreciate the subtle jab at Atheism, Kudos Bioware). You will, without a doubt,find yourself connecting with some of them and plot twists will have you actually debating what to do.


Whats more important is that the ending is just epic, and the choice that you are offered at the end is a real one. I personally want to congratulate Bioware on getting the "Good Ending"/"Bad Ending" formula right, giving it some life beyond just black-and-white, good-and-evil.

As we all know too, Bioware's RPGs are full of side-content, and Dragon Age is no exception. There is easily another 30+ hours worth of side quests to do for additional gear, gold, or experience. All of it is fun, and much of it actually connects back to the story.

Technical
This is the only area I have complaints to offer about the game. The graphics aren't that great. The game is by no means ugly, but sometimes I wonder if Bioware should do the close-ups they frequently do during conversation. The way the faces are structured and the texture of the skin is rendered/colored, it breaks immersion because it feels in-organic. This point is not assisted by the dark color palette, which helps for the environment, but not for the NPCs.

I also really do not like how DLC is handled in this game, the system they have in place is just very cumbersome and takes WAY longer than it should. Not to mention having NPCs advertise DLC is just cold.


Other than that though, this game is something to be played. The environment is just huge and beautifully done, and most importantly the way the combat is structured makes it accessible and fun. The complaints I have are small, but on the whole this part of the game is well done. Not a whole lot to say, its up to what you would expect out of Bioware.

Gameplay: 9/10
- The Gameplay is KOTOR's combat system made more accessible. There is nothing NOT to love... except the poor treatment of Ranged weapons.

Singleplayer: 10/10
- The story is just great. There are easily 60+ hours worth of stuff to do, and at the end you will want to do it all again.

Technical: 8/10
- Some blemishes on an otherwise perfect game. The graphics aren't anything to get excited about, but the game operates great.


Overall: 9.25/10 Brilliant