So recently I have been playing the hell out of Bioware’s lastest epic, Dragon Age Origins and I have to say I am extremely pleased with it. Compared to the other two games I recently got, Torchlight and Borderlands, I have not been able to stop playing or eve in some cases THINKING about DAO. I have only played it for about 11 hours thus far and according to the stats screen I have only played 14% of the game. Think about that. 11 hours…14%. I cannot fathom what else lies in store for me at this point! I figured that I should review this game twice, once after my initial 10 hours which would be now, and then again when I finish. So lets begin.
So lets start with something that is the first thing you are gonna notice. The visuals. I don’t mean just the character design but the whole world. Now some people have mentioned (Gabe from Penny Arcade for example) that they have been underwhelmed with the visuals. I myself have not. I expected a realistic “gritty” fantasy world and that is at least in my eyes what I got. The areas are highly detailed, and while they appear similar, its just because that is the architecture, which I feel is fitting the world. Also the character designs are extremely well done and I can see the various facial expressions each of my party member makes. I would rate graphics a solid 8/10.
Music and Sound:
Ok, now on to the sounds of the game. I am not sure who composed the soundtrack for this game, but so far I have found the music a joy to listen to. When the mood of the game changes so does the music, which helps the tense situations. The voice acting is also very well done. I have yet to feel the need to turn the sound off to avoid the voices as I do sometimes with other games, and after 10 hours of hearing them talk thats saying something. Overall, a 8.5/10
Next up we have the actual gameplay of the game. How the systems work, interact, and play with each other. This game truly is a spiritual successor to Baulders Gate and even the original Neverwinter Nights. The game can be played close up, over the shoulder 3rd person like World of Warcraft, or Isometric a la Baulders Gate/Icewind Dale. I personally play it like WoW, just because I am so used to that style now. The movement controls are even like WoW so its very easy for me personally to move around. You basically right click on things to interact and the loot system is very WoWish as well.
Now, as for customization (which is an RPG staple!) you have 3 basic classes: The warrior, rogue, and wizard. Seems kinda bland right? Thats what I thought at first, right up until I discovered the Specializations. You see, each class has 4 specializations that they can unlock, and you get to choose 2 of them (once at 7 and then at 14th level) with a Specialization point. You can save this point if the specialization you want is still locked (Yes you have to unlock them) They stay unlocked for every playthrough though, so you can unlock all of em the first time around and then play again without having to hunt them down thankfully. For example, when my Warrior hits 14 he will be a Templar/Champion. You basically have talent trees that you work your way up to unlock attacks and abilities (unless you are a mage, then you have Spell Trees). You also have a easy to use crafting system and also skills. Your skill point progression is of course based on your base class (Rogues have the best!)
Overall the gameplay is solid and excellent, and I am finding it harder and harder to stop playing. 9/10. There is some issue with Party AI but like FFX you can actually set the AI using a “Tactics System”. I have yet to touch it as it scares me deeply.
Story and Characters:
On to your party members and the story of the game. I saved this for last because there is so much to go over. Firstly, unlike previous Bioware games there is no alignment meter. None, nada, zip zero zilch. You have to perform your actions without knowing how it will effect the world. Here is a perfect example of a one such dilemma, which is a SPOILER!
You will eventually visit the town of Redcliffe to seek aid from the Arl (think Earl). When you arrive the town is besieged by the walking dead. After assisting the town in surviving an attack, you enter the castle which is where the undead originated. Once there, you discover that the Arl is poisoned and sick, his wife is alive, and their child has magical abilities, and is possessed by a demon. You are left with the following choice: Kill the child, ending the threat immediatly. Use a rogue mage who you might have freed to perform a ritual letting you enter the realm that the demon lives in, but having to sacrifice the mother (willingly) to power the spell, or seek aid from the Circle of Mages a days travel away to do the SAME ritual but without needing to sacrifice the mother. These are your ONLY options as the child ran before you could catch him to incapacitate him. Which would you choose?
I am not going to tell you what I did, although suffice to say I am regretting it now. But choices like that are the standard in this game. There is sometimes no clear right or wrong action, and you can make your party members angry depending on what you do. And it is possible to lose them forever if you anger them enough. I mention this because each character has a distinct personality and likes and dislikes. So far the cast I have uncovered are varied and unique, each a different flavor. Alistar for example is a very sarcastic ex templar and the only other surviving Grey Warden. Morganna is an coldly logical beast, and a bit of a tease. Lilliana is a slightly niave ex assassin turned religious nut. And there are a few more characters I have yet to unlock.
The story thus far is Darkspawn (think orc looking dudes) have once again risen from the depths to threaten the world and its up to you and your team to unite the world and beat them back. The game is open ended and you have various options on where you go and in what order. I love nonlinear gameplay. Overall I would give this a 10/10. Amazing story thus far and I am just getting started!
Overall the game is top notch and I suggest it to anyone who wants a classic RPG. Get it for the PC thought. I cannot imagine playing this on a console.