|Version Reviewed: Playstation 3
Bioware’s newest series at the time, something that was meant to reach out to more than just the Mass Effect junkies. Man, did this thing reach! It’s only true disadvantage was the release’s timing (due to the fact that its release date was close to that of Modern Warfare 2, it lost the Game of the Year honor to Modern Warfare 2). However, if it’s any indication of how good this game was, let me give you the great news that Dragon Age: Origins did earn RPG of the Year! This was 2009’s best RPG, and well deserving of the title, I assure you.
I’m going to give you a caveat right now, the PC and console versions each handle differently. Two of my friends play via PC and I go at it via my PS3. Both versions are EXACTLY the same except for the layout (it is said the PC one is a lot more simplistic, but I had no issues on my PS3). The first goal of the game is that you become a member of the legendary Grey Wardens, and order sworn to defend the lands of Thedas from the Blight. What’s very special to this game is not only are you the savior of the lands, you’re the savior who is customized. At the very beginning of the game, you can choose your race (human, dwarf, and elf; each having its own social perks and abilities). You can also choose the class of your character (mage, rogue, or warrior; dwarves cannot be magi as you learn during the course of the game.)
After choosing your race, class, and gender, you get to decide how you look. Your actual body is set for you, but your face, skin, and hair are up to you to make your own. Tattoos, hair, facial hair, nose shape, ear shape, ear length— it’s all given to you to decide. You then give yourself a name, and are thrown into a background story that is chosen by your decisions of race and class. Each of the 6 backgrounds has its own individual (and, as you will see, thankfully short) story to play through before they all converge at one central point. From this point, you will play through a sequence of events to become a Grey Warden, then continue on to the rest of the game. Each of the stories actually intertwines later in the game, but unless you play all 6 backgrounds, you never know ALL of the intricacies of what is going on, already lending this game a fair bit of replay value.
As the game progresses, you pick up party members who help you in your various endeavors. Much like Mass Effect, if you piss them off, they will walk out, or may even attempt to kill you. Likewise, you can impress and woo certain characters into actually loving you (or, as with some cases, the wooed character is so horny that they don’t even have to love you). Be aware that each of your allies has a different agenda of their own as well as their own personality. Examples include: Leliana, the bard of Orlais, who has left for a simpler life, and who has become a very pious but conflicted character; Alistair, the Templar recruit turned Grey Warden, who is very high on morality and doing what is right; and Morrigan, Witch of the Wilds, who looks upon the world as a play thing and life as a challenge in which none can be trusted save only yourself and your desires. Often, you will please a few of your party members only to piss others off.
This heads to morality, doesn’t it? Yes, Dragon Age is VERY big on morality. It’s very possible to make a choice early in the game to have that slight moment of greed, only for it to bite you much later in the game when you realize that person hasn’t forgotten and refuses to help you. Moral choices are extremely big in this game, and you will find yourself frequently tested. It can lead to meta-gaming, but I find that it’s more fun to pick a personality and moral standpoint of your character and stick to it. You actually see it affect your allies later in the game, as well as the alliances that you form. First time play-throughs can results in some unintended circumstances, as several of my friends have learned.
Like any standard RPG, you can also affect the way that you level. Basic attribute points are distributed to you at each level to help increase what you need. You must always be wary of where you put these points, as distributing them the wrong way can make you and your team completely useless (I didn’t beat my first play through due to this issue as well as my poor armor choices and lack of side questing and leveling). What’s more is that you can also specialize a character to do specific things and really mess your enemies up. Leveling also allows you to put points into different types of moves and spells for your character, giving you even more control of how you play a character.
I don’t want to give away too much of the game in one shot, because it’s a lot more fun to go through and play. This is not something you can rent, because it takes a long time to play through. DLC has been released for this game, as well as an expansion pack. The expansion pack unfortunately feels like it was rushed, and prayers are said that Dragon Age II this march wasn’t done in the same manner.
Graphics are good on this game, but don’t use up nearly as much as they could on the consoles. The detail is nonetheless good, and playing in HD makes it very interesting. The soundtrack for the game also grabs your attention and helps gives you a sense of what’s going on. It’s worth picking up if you’re an RPG player looking for something new that makes your decisions matter and doesn’t put you on rails.