Dragon Age is what would result if J.R. Tolken could impregnate the original Lord of the Rings series and had a bastard child that he never excepted as his own, left to emulate its father in spirit yet left with emotional developmental scars, never to be as great as his kin. Regardless of such a heavy influence from both of the book and films’, Bioware has crafted a well realized fantasy world FULL of dialogue and text, and I do mean FULL.
Story: Dragon age has multiple story paths, and starting origin stories depending on the class you select at the beginning of the game. It all boils down to you saving the world from ancient evil, named the Darkspawn which is the combination of Orc type creatures and Magical Elemental demons, as well as the Arch-Demon whom is at the center of the chaos. Aside from the main story path, there are numerous side quests and dialog opportunities with party members and NPC’s in the world which can lead to some well realized background story, IF the player has the patience and desire to dig for this information. Along with the hours of spoke dialogue are a ton of text manuscripts you can collect along the journey that provide an even further analysis into the world of Ferelden. The main issue with having so much text is no incentive to read through the material other than further engagement into the world, but for players looking for more action over substance, these Codex’s will be easily ignored. There are alot of specific race difference’s from the more popular interpretations such as Elves are considered second class citizens in Ferelden whereas in most interpretations Elves are nobility amongst the races of the world. I found the Dwarf’s fear of falling up into the sky the most fascinating.
Presentation: This is a textbook case of story and character development over visual design and presentation. That is not to say the game is completely ugly, which is often not the case, but more often than not I found alot of disturbing issues with blurry blocky textures, stiff animation, stifling framerates, odd clipping, placed camera issues, slow loading sequences, freezing reticule calling, it goes on and on. I do admit that Ive played the PC version a bit which removes alot of these issues and is probably the best version of the game itself, but it is obvious not enough time and money was put into porting the game to console’s correctly. With exceptional multiplatform games like Batman on the market, there is no excuse for these sorts of poor ports from PC to Console anymore. Along with poor porting, some design choices don’t it well either on any platform. For example, there is a very cool blood splatter effect that leaves the textures of blood splatter on the characters for a time, on the armor and face etc, but in some sequences when talking to a character and up close, the blood would appear and or disappear from both characters depending on camera angle. Sometimes when going from one area to the next the splatter textures would still be on the characters which would make for some oddly humors dialogue situations which just broke alot of the immersion of the story and acting unfolding. Another issue with the specific blood splatter is it never seems more or less than the same pattern and texture from killing fleshy creatures, your armor is never saturated as one might expect, its just a heavy bespectacle like if they were sprayed by a blotchy fine paint spray. I found myself wondering why the characters didn’t at least wipe their faces off of the Orc blood before discussing Bard’s tales or family history. The framerate seems to take the heaviest hit when in dialogue situations with a NPC or yourself shown at a close up, you could almost see the frame tear at times when a character would “Take Leave” and walk off to one side of the screen. The landscape of world usually is detailed enough, unless you get to close to an object which will washout at times. There really is nothing impressive looking wise about this game on any platform. The games only strong suite in the way of presentation is the voice acting which is usually very solid and well delivered. There is a bit of cheesy dialogue, but it never was bad enough for me to cringe, I was to busy cringing at nearly everything else visual.
Gameplay: Action combat types need look elsewhere for satisfying combat because I am doubtful you will find it here. Not only is the combat very restricted (I do understand it is an RPG), but it generally is fairly boring to engage in. I have played many of Bioware’s releases, and this to date has the most uninspiring combat to date. Understandably the combat is turn based with a four party system that can be paused at any moment to assign commands or access abilities while not being pummeled, this is the Bioware staple, however the characters are usually always slow to action commands, as well as sometimes seem to forget a command was given at times, just standing their like well placed sword fodder. You will often find the camera working against you in corridors or if the characters engage an enemy within a doorway. Typically though, this isn’t much of an issue, as once you select an enemy to attack, you can usually sit back and let them hack at the targeted foe without needing to continue to influence movement. There are unlockable talents and skills, such as the Shield Bash for the warrior, but most enemies are unaffected by the attack and it usually doesn’t help enough to require use. Most of the Mages powers are unremarkable as well, and I would suggest having NPC Mages on your team specialize in healing over offensive magic as using health potions by offensive types requires a command slot to be used and actually perform the animation of taking said potion which can be long enough to render the gesture pretty ineffective when your being ambushed by 5 enemies at once. This game really is all about dialogue tress, which boils down to saying the right thing to the right person to get the needed item or character interaction to continue with the story. Their are multiple branching ways to resolve an issue, typically being good gets you what you need the fastest and with the least amount of consequence. I typically always want to be the evil fuck, but there is little to no reward here for being such and rarely does it pay off, which is points off in my book. Aside for the boring combat, and hours of dialoge, you will find yourself more often than not hording items from slain enemies and chests as any good RPG should. I can say that thankfully there usually is a good amount of useful loot everywhere, and having enough gold for merchants is rarely an issue.
DLC: Oddly enough the release copies of Dragon Age: Origins come with the free add on character Shale whom is a very witty Golem you mustfree from having been frozen in place by its former master. This retails for 15 bucks on PSN and I wouldn’t have paid a dime for it if need be just based on the fact its just a character, whom you do not need for your quest. There is also the Dragon Plate Breastplate which is only useful for characters nearing Level 15 and is quickly overshadowed by better armor. The rest of this sets armor can be purchased from the merchant that resides in the party camp. Needless to say for the five dollars it would ask for without the voucher, its not worth the purchase either.
Special: The game is not great for trophies, and could take you half a decade to try to platinum. The majority of the trophies are bronze as well making the effort even seem less rewarding. Bioware also has created a complete social network for all three versions of the game which tracks your stats and allows you to create a profile of your own (WHICH IS REQUIRED TO USE THE PACKAGED DLC), and is well thought out. I do have to mention that there is a “Sex Scene” which is completely optional and only available to you after courting your specific love interest (There is more than one, and not just female) in the game, but man….if you ever wanted to have a crappy romance novel scene ever animated into a videogame than rejoice you have found your game!
Conclusion: I have shit on the game in this review in more ways than one. Yes it is flawed, and yes it lacks originality, but it is for what it is a lengthy well written experience which will take you nearly 50 hours to complete. This is not a game for action aficionados, but those who seek a slower paced experience and hold story over gameplay in higher regard. You will definitely get your money’s worth in time alone with the game, but it is not for everybody.
Dragon Age: Origins is a *** out of 5
By: Bobby Major