perjantai 1. huhtikuuta 2011

REVIEW - Dragon Age: Origins (2009)

RELEASED: November 2009
DEVELOPER(S): BioWare, Edge of Reality (PS3, X360)
PUBLISHER(S): Electronic Arts

Since I am a console player by heart and above all else, it wasn't so long ago that the term "role-playing game" went hand in hand with Square, as I saw it. When I first started to play role-playing games, the only PC role-playing games I knew by name were Ultima and miscellaneous titles in the incredibly long-standing AD&D line of games, which culminated during the last decade in the release of the highly successful Neverwinter Nights. This particular game was produced by a group of Canadian developers collectively known as BioWare. Their first RPG, Baldur's Gate - also part of the AD&D franchise - was released in 1998 on the PC, and it has since become a sort of standard in role-playing games for home computers. Black Isle Studios, who published the game, had already stunned players with Fallout - so Baldur's Gate was a collaboration between an already established megapower in role-playing and one that was soon to become a megapower in role-playing. BioWare went on to make several huge games for the PC, and later, the Xbox. After taking a turn to science fiction with Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect, BioWare returned to their D&D roots with Dragon Age: Origins - a traditional fantasy role-playing game that has been hailed by many PC players as one of the greatest games of all time. The game was also released on the Xbox 360, and as a pleasant surprise to many of Sony's followers, the game also made its way to the PlayStation 3 and marked the very first BioWare release on the platform. After some consideration back in the day and seeing my friend play Dragon Age: Origins on his Xbox for just a couple of tens of minutes, I found myself obligated to buy the game - it was on sale only two months after its release - and see what the BioWare fuss was about. The fuss was about blowing my previous view of the RPG genre right off the map. After this game came along, Final Fantasy XIII was bound to disappoint even more. Dragon Age: Origins is great, yet it does come with flaws that leave me hoping for just a little bit more.

For the (death or) glory of Ferelden

Steve Valentine : Alistair
Peter Renaday : Duncan
Kate Mulgrew : Flemeth
Tim Curry : Arl Rendon Howe
Corinne Kempa : Leliana
Simon Templeman : Teyrn Loghain Mac Tir
Claudia Black : Morrigan
Steve Blum : Oghren
Mark Hildreth : Sten
Susan Boyd Joyce : Wynne

Every few hundred years, the continent of Thedas gets overrun by darkspawn, vile creatures of the underground, in an event known as the Blight. Although every capable warrior in the country of Ferelden is summoned to fight in the fifth war against the darkspawn, it is said that a group of remarkable soldiers known as the Grey Wardens is the only force that can truly end the Blight. There are not many Grey Wardens left, and there are those people, even ones in power, in Ferelden who don't believe in them and their exclusive advantage over the darkspawn. You play the role of an outcast, the last of the Grey Wardens, and the one with the responsibility to unite the warring races of Ferelden to fight and conquer the darkspawn plague.

First, I've got to say that the instruction manual of this game is great by today's standards. When I bought this game, I was a definite beginner when it came to western RPG's. The manual is well written, it's easy to comprehend even to a casual player, and it looks quite cool all over, when you compare it to most boring manuals that usually come with games. As you might've heard, EA doesn't make manuals at all anymore, since there's a tutorial in most games anyway. Well, Dragon Age really doesn't really shove any tutorials in your face - there's a random tip or trick in each loading screen, though. You more or less need to find a comprehensive tutorial yourself, from the codex files you get throughout the game. I had to rely on the manual several times for the first time in years when I started playing Dragon Age, I was so totally out of it. But I'm skipping ahead a little, here. Let's start from the beg... no, not the beginning. Let's start from 2002.

Character modding has never been as detailed
and immersive in a console RPG.
In 2002, I had three RPG's on my PC, and they were most definitely the first RPG's I've ever played outside of the "Square box". Those games were Westwood's Nox, Volition's Summoner, and the newest game in the bunch, BioWare's Neverwinter Nights. I finished Nox - overlooked game, by the way - played Summoner for an extended while, that wasn't so great, but when it came to the critically acclaimed Neverwinter Nights, I played the game for a short while and then inexplicably quit. I liked it, I really did, but there was something that bothered me. Probably the fact that my friends were overhyping the game, and I liked playing on the PC even less than I like it today. As for the name "BioWare", I forgot it completely. My friends were all telling me about the "BioWare style", BioWare this and BioWare that. Oh, and let's not forget Blizzard Entertainment! The great Blizzard! Final Fantasy XII gave me some hell at first, 'cause I didn't get its more western type of gameplay right away. When my friend saw the game for the first time, he said something like "Final Warcraft!", and I was like "Good joke... but I don't get it." When I tried out World of Warcraft, I got the joke, but I was still no expert of the "more serious" side of role-playing.

As years went by and Final Fantasy arguably degraded, game after game, I became really interested in games all the "real" RPG fans were selling as the grandest daddies of them all. There just weren't good games like that on the PlayStation and my computer wasn't meant for games, nor did I want to play games with it. On New Year's Eve, 2009, I went to a party my best friend and his girlfriend (at the time) had at their place, and while we were suffering the consequences in the morning after, my friend whipped out this "new, amazing BioWare game" he got for Christmas for his 'box. There was no escape for me, I couldn't even lift my head - it weighed a ton. Seriously. I had to watch him play Dragon Age. I don't know why, but the game managed to impress me. It looked confusing, but it felt awesome. When I finally got up - ...the next day... - I stopped by the local GameStop before heading home, and Dragon Age: Origins was on post-Christmas sale for the PS3. It was like a sign. I bought it, headed home, slapped it in, and went all WTF on it. But I enjoyed it, from the very beginning. And finally got all there is to get about BioWare's alleged greatness and the joys of "real" role-playing. Never too late, I guess.

It was the second time around that the splinters in gameplay began to stick out. On the first playthrough, I picked up just some artificial flaws, such as incredibly lengthy loading times. To my experience, they're kind of exclusive to the PS3 version. They're ridiculous, and if the game's online, they're even more ridiculous in length. If your connection fails during the game, the game will constantly, automatically attempt a reconnection. Not only does the loading slow down even more, the whole game slows down. My broadband's very unstable at the moment, so I can't damn near even play the game if I don't switch the wireless connection off from the PS3's network settings. The biggest problem of the whole game, across all playthroughs, is the menu design. Some people dig it, but really, I've beaten the game nearly three times, I've got the Platinum Trophy for it, for the Maker's sake, and I STILL can't use the main menu properly. It's compact and looks easy to manage at first glance, but it's extremely difficult to learn to use properly if you have little or none prior experience of games like this. Subcategories after subcategories. The characters have two weapon sets each - the second one's optional, though recommendable. There are a million codexes including maps, sidequest files, clues to puzzles, miscellaneous parchments and books, numbers and item descriptions everywhere, there are a dozen subcategories for items, a weight limit that is exceeded 20 times per hour and requires you to throw something away once in a while and go into the Junk menu to separately destroy everything you've thrown away, and amidst all this hassle, you need to level up your characters manually and then check what umpteenth sidequest you were on again, and... MAKEEEEERRRR!!! All this, and more, in one single screen. You use certain buttons to switch between categories, another set of buttons to switch between the characters, another set of buttons to switch between subcategories, and yet another set of buttons for some case-sensitive purposes. In other words, you need the whole controller just to navigate the main menu! A new, casual role-player who doesn't have perfect concentration and/or touch on his or her side will spend a little too much time in the main menu alone. Struggling through the menu is a nightmare in the console versions; on the PC, you have a mouse which surely makes navigating the menus a whole lot easier. The shops in the game use a similar interface, too. The menu design in the game is by far the only element of Dragon Age that really makes me miss the simplicity of the modern J-RPG. Otherwise, it's a great, unique, particularly eye-opening experience to a former skeptic like me.

This is exactly where I first started the game.
It's really not the point, but damn true that Dragon Age: Origins isn't much to look at by today's usual standards. The characters look sufficient enough all the way to Morrigan's impressive cleavage, but the game's a bit rough around all other edges. Each time you have a conversation with someone, the game cuts to a simple, mechanical dialogue screen. The person you're talking to just stands there, yapping, and they very rarely do anything else. The camera pans closer to the character's face and to your main character every now and then. Strange as it might seem, I miss some sort of heavier distraction. Listening and watching the characters talk on and on and on is almost hypnotic. On the first playthrough, I just concentrated on the content of the dialogue, since it was all new to me. On the second playthrough, I ended up doing some of the same decisions I made on the first time, and was forced to have some of the very same long conversations. Luckily you can skip everything if you want - sometimes it just takes a long while, 'cause believe me: some of the characters are extremely talkative. Well, it's not as bad as in, say, Fallout 3, in which the whole background freezes whenever you talk to someone, and it has some even more talkative characters. Even skipping dialogue takes a whole eternity in that game - not to mention New Vegas.

The soundtrack's composed by Inon Zur who's scored quite a few RPG's from Baldur's Gate II and Icewind Dale II, to the more recent Fallout installments. Like in most western RPG's, the music fades in and out regularly, and it's usually quite ambient, but literally explodes on your face at key moments, such as boss fights. Although it's of the typical, symphonic fantasy fare, the music's great across the board, although I must ask the developers - or was it EA's idea? - about the credits. What in the holy name of the Maker do 30 Seconds to Mars have to do with a medieval fantasy RPG? That one song does not belong in here.

The voiceover work is great, and there are many familiar names on the list. Some of even those ten actors I listed have many roles, but so many that I decided to leave the lesser roles unmentioned. Tim Curry's really getting into the video game scene, it seems! I bought Brütal Legend just a while before Dragon Age: Origins, in which he was cast as the main villain, Emperor Doviculus. Here he plays the slimy Rendon Howe. The man's a legend in my books, and I'd recognize his voice anywhere just the same way I'd recognize his smile. Speaking of recognizable voices, Simon Templeman's here, as Teyrn Loghain. I must spoil this much: I knew this guy's a villain. How could he not be? It's in Templeman's contract, I believe: "I play none but villains, 'cause that's what I do best". However, Loghain's kind of like Kain from Legacy of Kain, who I personally consider Templeman's most memorable character: he's a real bastard, but for a noble purpose.

Kate Mulgrew (Captain Janeway in Star Trek: Voyager) does a cameo as the old witch, Flemeth. Then we have Claudia Black's very distinct voice on Flemeth's daughter Morrigan, making the character that much more fuckable than she already is, and Steve Valentine provides the game's second-best sarcastic comments as Alistair. The random dialogue between these two is absolutely priceless. As a trivia note, Black and Valentine both starred in Uncharted 2, released just two months before Dragon Age: Origins. They were great in that game, too... but in that game, they had some form of a relationship. Here, they hate each other's guts. And they are very vocal about that. It's awesome! There are a few bad apples, some fake accents are so overdone it hurts. This guy called Desmond Askew does about a million different voiceover roles in the game and damn, do I hate that guy's voice or what? First, I thought it was just his main character, Jowan. Yep, I loathe the character too, but it's the sniveling, apologetic voice and method of speech, that get to me as well. He talks the same way as all his characters. Think Otacon from Metal Gear Solid (Christopher Randolph), bitching about something in a British accent, and you'll get how this guy sounds like all of the time.

Although the game isn't a graphical marvel, the
blood covering the characters' faces and
clothes after a battle is a cool detail.
The story is a lot deeper than it might seem at first, very character-driven and I like it. There are two very strong, controversial themes in Dragon Age: Origins, touched briefly in games like Final Fantasy X. No, I ain't talking about sex. There's plenty of that too, but we'll get into that later. These themes are racism and religion. Every race in Ferelden has a beef with each other. It's man vs. dwarf vs. elf, in a triple threat match that really doesn't do good for the unity of the people - and that unity is ironically the key to win this war. Then, there are some serious issues WITHIN these communities, on the top of that. The darkspawn roam the earth, and no one seems to get along well enough to stand against the swarm. You're the one that's supposed to fix this mess - great! Religion is actually one thing that creates these conflicts between people, just like in our world. You can actually decide whether you want your character to live by the Maker's word and encourage other people to do that too, or be a complete atheist all the way.

I've given it a lot of thought listening to my friends talk about the characters. One dislikes Alistair, one just downright despises Leliana. Everyone I know loves Morrigan and Oghren. I must say there's not one single playable character in Dragon Age: Origins I simply can't stand. Each one has a quality. The members of your party are pretty much optional. You meet these people, you can either recruit them, tell 'em to fuck off, or even kill them. Not all of them, but most. There are ten playable characters in the game, and I've ended up killing or otherwise disposing of six of them at some point of the game - so after the first few quests, it's pretty much up to you to decide who you want to camp, roll and maybe have sex with. The sultry mage Morrigan is most definitely my favourite character in the whole game, and one of my favourite video game characters of all time, at that. Not only does she have cleavage to die for, she has such sharp wit and such a silencing pitch-black joke for every situation, that I sincerely enjoy every word that comes out of her mouth. It hurts to let her go, but if you want to get all of the Trophies or Achievements in the game, it has to be done. At least they gave us a Gold Trophy for that terrible decision.

Let's take it from the start. Your character doesn't speak apart from a few random battle quotes - the voice you can choose for your character simply applies to these quotes. You simply choose his/her answers from a list; pretty thorough ones, so it's not just "yes" or "no" all the way, very rarely actually. To keep up a certain reputation, you really need to think what you answer, so it's well taken care of that you listen, and don't just aimlessly answer whatever. Actually, I must admit that I've done a few embarrassing mistakes in the game - during my final playthrough, at that! - because I didn't listen to what was said to me. Let's just say that I lost a character that I absolutely NEEDED to finish the game. Well, luckily at that point my only purpose was to pick up one final missing Trophy: I had to reach level 20 using a rogue, and I was already on level 19.

So, in addition to choosing a gender, naming your main character and fully customizing their facial features, you are free to assign attributes to 'em however you wish up to a fair limit, and you may also modify their skills to your personal liking. This is all surely familiar to those who have played BioWare's games before. You can choose from three classes: warrior, mage and rogue. Been there, done that... but that's not enough, you also need to choose a race. That's a little more complicated, and a sign of the game's first true gimmick. There are three races, and two types of characters per each. If you choose to take the game on as a human, you can be either a noble of House Cousland or a mage apprentice at the Circle of Magi. Elves are divided into city dwellers, and Dalish elves, that live in forested areas. Finally, you can start off as a casteless dwarf - in other words a street urchin - or one of those noble dwarves. Full of themselves, the whole lot, I tell you.

So what's the first real gimmick here? The name of the game spells it out: Origins. Each of the six specific races in the game has what is called an "origin story". In other words, the prologue for each one is different and can last from 30 to 90 minutes. To see everything in this game, you need to create one character of each race and play through all of their origin stories - not the whole game, of course. It's a clever way to get prejudiced players to try how guys outside of their pleasure zones play out. For example, I've never liked dwarves, except the dancing one in Twin Peaks, and Gimli in Lord of the Rings to some extent. I still don't really like 'em, or the key dwarf characters in the game except for Oghren (love ya, man), but this game kind of forced me to see these little guys from a slightly new perspective in general. I guess I have begun to understand dwarves better thanks to this game. Each origin story ends very differently, but the end result is the same: you are recruited to the Grey Wardens by a very cool veteran Warden called Duncan.

The radial menu is the main difference between
the PC and console versions of the game.
From that point on, it's the same game for everyone, with some very notable changes and very welcome decision-making which truly affects the course of all things. At least two playthroughs are needed to see everything in this game - but you need to play the game through two and well over a half times to get all the Trophies or Achievements, which in my opinion sucks. There ain't THAT much stuff you can do differently on each of those three playthroughs, and even if you make different decisions, you must play the very same chapters, listen to most of the same big conversations, and conquer the very same dungeons. You wouldn't believe it when you first notice the big changes you can make on the second time - for example mercilessly kill a potential party member that meant the world to you during the first playthrough - how boring this game can become if you go after the full list of trinkets.

An example of an ultimately tedious chapter in the main quest is the one at Orzammar. Without a king the dwarves cannot help you, there's no one to lead them into war. It just so happens that there are two guys running for king, one's the king's son and therefore, the rightful heir to the throne. He's also a serious prick, and he most likely killed his own dad to steal his crown. The other one's the king's closest confidant, who's spat on by the whole royal family and is therefore kind of an outcast, but well liked by the people and reportedly, the king's personal choice for the throne. You can work for either faction, or as a double agent for both. It's totally up to you how you want this chapter to go down in a lot of ways, but regardless of who you roll with, you are required to take part in a more or less consuming, LONG fetchquest that involves a lot of backtracking, and the most annoying boss fight in the whole game. That never changes. Oh, and there's one more thing why I absolutely hate this particular chapter in the game. It's a wholly personal thing and strictly involves an add-on which isn't part of the game, so it won't affect the conclusive rating, but I've got to get it out of my system.

Let me think how to break this down without spoiling everything. Well, I got this add-on for the game, called The Stone Prisoner. It's basically a downloadable sidequest, but it has one true, essential purpose: the character of Shale is added into the mix. Shale is an intelligent, witty golem, who is absolutely awesome when it comes to physical strength and defense. A perfect downloadable tank character: not invincible or overpowered in any way, but helpful and amusing enough to be well worth the download. On the first playthrough, I sided with an army of golems against a dwarf who isn't quite right in the head. On the second playthrough, I naturally wanted to take the crazed dwarf's side instead. Well, I failed to notice I had Shale with me, and she didn't take fighting her brethren too well. So yeah, she attacked me. Oh, that's great. I'm totally overpowered by an army of golems and one I have equipped and buffed to the brim myself. The dwarf's sitting in the corner with a force field around her protecting her from the golem attack, and me and my two remaining friends are basically lambs to slaughter. Even if I win, I have to kill Shale, which doesn't fit my plans at all. This can really happen, you know - many times, on many occasions, against many people. This is exactly why I said you should listen to what people say to you, and you should consider your responses carefully - and keep in mind which company you are in. Just a few funny words can turn your own party against you. It's all amazingly detailed, it's definitely cool, but sometimes it's both surprising and disheartening.

To battle! It's bloody, it's hectic, it's fun.
Anyway, you can't change your party when you're inside a building or a dungeon, and when you've reached this point in the quest, you can't get out before finishing it. I had a Trophy on the line... again, and I simply WANTED to do it differently. I was forced to do the very same thing as I did before and take the golems' side. From the very beginning of this God-forsaken quest stretched to eternity, I had absolutely no doubt in my mind about the decisions I was going to make regarding everything that would happen in the next few hours. I knew at least the end of it would be interesting to see, and I would get a couple of Trophies for my troubles of bearing it all again - I didn't like the quest as a whole even on the first time. But, then I made the mistake of bringing Shale along. And couldn't fix it. Third time, I finally nailed it all just right. But it was not an interesting task to execute.

That was all of my personal stupidity, and only a lot later, I figured out that you can actually change the difficulty any time you wish, but I told this little story because it sheds a little light on what an usual chapter in the main quest is like, and how delicately the decision-making works. I won't discuss the main quest further, because it would inevitably become a real spoiling trip sooner or later. After a certain point in the game, you can decide where you want to go first, but make no mistake about it; you need to do all the chapters on each playthrough to reach the level cap, even if you clean the network of add-ons for the game. You see: there are no unscripted battles in the game, and enemies don't respawn. Even the different random encounters happen just once each. It's a no-farming zone, all the way.

Once again: the first playthrough is awesome. The story's great, the game's surprising, it doesn't matter if it's a bit tube-like, it's very challenging, and you enjoy conversing with people. The second playthrough is almost as awesome. You can create a wholly different character, reverse every decision you made in the last game, and it's fun to see how people react to your different take on the world, BUT the main quest itself really doesn't change a whole lot. The third time around's like milking a dead cow if you don't REALLY love the game to bits. There might be a few surprises left, but it's practically nothing you haven't seen on the last two playthroughs. The casual player's just waiting and doing absolutely everything one can to hit level 20 to be done with the game and its system-specific achievements.

Now that I've bashed the (console version of) the game to hell, it's time to return to the positives again. Dragon Age: Origins features the most communication with your party, out of all role-playing games I've ever played, and I think it's amazing. You can talk to them at camp, on the field, anywhere and any time except during battle, to share your thoughts or listen to some of theirs. They might even stop you in the middle of a quest to share their opinions, like "hey, you have a minute?". Sometimes, these opinions aren't very nice ones. For example, Sten can't stand it if you do a lot of stuff that isn't directly related to putting an end to the Blight, and he might actually attack you out of frustration after first truly letting you have it verbally. It depends on how much he likes you as a person. Each character in your party has an Approval/Disapproval meter. Many actions have effects on each member's meter, like simply talking to them. If you do something that is against regulations set by the Chantry (the church), you will end up upsetting at least Leliana and Wynne, who are very religious, but greatly pleasing Morrigan, who is an atheist of the worst degree. You can also give your party members gifts. If the item is something particularly dear to them - for example, Oghren LOVES booze and Leliana's fascinated with everything related to the prophet Andraste - you will see a huge increase in their approval rate.

Well, what do you care if your group approves of your actions or not? Well, there are many things you should consider. Earning their trust will make them confide to you about their personal problems, and this allows you to do character-specific sidequests. Hitting a certain mark of approval will inspire a perk or a skill becoming of the approving character's class. If the party member happens to be of the opposite sex - sometimes it don't matter, though - he or she might fall for your character and you can actually have a romantic relationship with 'em. Yes, yes - you know I've waited to say this. You can BANG 'EM. There. Happy? Oh yeah, and you get a Trophy for each member of your own party you can have sex with; there are four of them, and having sex with everyone results in yet another Trophy of a higher value. What has the world come to? Where's Nintendo of America when you need it? Just kidding, I'm enjoying the hell out of this. I didn't mean to sound kinky, I just think the possibility of romantic relationships adds to the realism and the gamer's freedom of decision, which are already at some of their all-time highs.

Wow, this has been one long rant, and there are still a few things I haven't talked about at all. The battle system was one of the hardest things for me to learn, but unluckily regarding this review, I can't remember why exactly, because it's really quite simple. Perhaps it's the shitload of abilities, skills and perks you can learn, but never remember to use when they would actually be of some use, just because they get lost in the bunch. Anyway, you can choose six of your favourite commands and abilities and assign them to different speed-dial buttons, absolutely any of them. For example, if you're using a warrior, you usually have a couple of special attacks and a health item on the primary speed-dial bundle by default - in other words, you just press Square for Special 1, Triangle for Special 2, and the O button to use a health item. If you need to use something on the secondary bundle of commands, hold down the right trigger and it replaces the first one. If a certain command or ability is not on the speed-dial, open the radial menu with the left trigger and choose it from there, and if you need to use it more often, you should consider assigning it to the speed-dial. Sounds really complicated, and it really isn't, just really hard to explain. Standard physical attacks are automatic after the first strike, and they'll continue up until you give the character a specific command.

All the characters have lists of tactics you can set manually. Alternatively, you can choose a default setting optimized for a certain purpose - for example, you can assign your mages as Healers, which means they primarily use defensive and curative spells they have learned up until that point. The settings update automatically whenever you teach your mage a new related skill. Yes, you _teach_ them skills. You can decide all for yourself in which direction you want all of your characters to develop into, which is a big plus in my opinion. The characters can learn specializations, there are four for each class. My friend seems to like Arcane Warrior for mages, so I'll use that as a first example. After making them Arcane Warriors, you can equip mages with swords and armour, which you can't do in any other case. Rogues that become Rangers, and are taught a certain set of abilities, can summon wild animals to join the party in battle, which I've found a very, very useful trait. Some specializations can be learned during certain quests, but some are taught to party members by other party members sharing the same class, if their approval rate of your Warden character is sufficient.

It's needless to explain that each class has many remarkable advantages in battle. Warriors and mabaris (war dogs) have high strength and defense, they're essential in melee combat. Rogues are great in strategic combat, and go for good vantage points in ranged combat, and backstabs in melee. Mages can do heavy damage regardless of their distance, but they're physically weak. This is all too familiar to you, I'm sure. Rogues are very useful in the field as well, because they have class-specific skills in lockpicking and trapmaking, which among all else means they can easily open many flimsy locks, like those on treasure chests, and spot enemy traps from afar.

Orzammar. Not one of my favourite places to
hang around in the game, but it has some epic
Oh, believe me, there's a lot of loot in this game and the weight limit of the inventory is simply not enough for a bonafide looter like me. Backpacks can be bought from choice merchants to increase the weight limit, but even if you buy them all, you will still find yourself destroying a lot of stuff on regular intervals to get something really important. Even if you don't need something, it hurts to destroy it, because it just might be worth a lot of sovereigns, you're just in the middle of a dungeon and can't really check with a merchant right at that moment. Money is scarce as it is. Once again, the following doesn't concern the retail game... but most of the add-ons come complete with weapons and sets of heavy armour that can be used in the retail. You really don't want to sell that stuff, I'm not even sure if it's worth anything. You sure as hell don't want to destroy it. Not at any cost. Or perhaps you do. If you're a sick puppy. These weapons and armour are great on subsequent playthroughs, since you don't really need to buy or pick up excessive luggage at any point in the game. A bit overpowered on the first round, though.

I've left a lot unsaid, but perhaps at least most of that lot will turn up later, when I sink my teeth into the downloadable content. This review needs to end some time, so let's just say what is to be said about the game's lifespan. It's extremely hard to determine. OK, so first of all, you need to complete it twice to see all there is to see. That takes about 100+ hours, and both playthroughs are definitely rewarding. There are tons of sidequests in the retail version alone. You can help certain factions (assassins, the military, the Chantry etc.) out throughout the game, go on a hunt for extremely sufficient equipment, do favours for your party... there are plenty of different sidequests, all right, and it's not possible to do them all on one single playthrough. A third playthrough is needed to capture all Trophies or Achievements in the game - you don't need to complete the game, especially if you have downloadable sidequests to help you reach the level cap sooner, but you still need to do the lengthiest chapters of the main quest, and you can't really make a decision you haven't made before. It's a bore. I fought hard to get the Platinum Trophy for the game. It's easy to get, but it truly feasts on your time and patience. If there weren't any Trophies or Achievements, I would've probably just beaten the game twice and left it at that. On a more positive note, not many RPG's have this much instant replay value; they aren't easily taken even for a second round right away.

(Almost) the whole gang in the party
selection screen. Starting from the left: Oghren,
Leliana, Morrigan, Sten, the Warden,
his/her dog, Alistair, Wynne, and Zevran.
The Trophies don't really have anything to do with the challenge of the game. There are no rewards for beating it on a certain difficulty level, for example. The possibility to change the difficulty of the game at any time makes it easy, but if you decide to be a good sport about it and play on at least Normal for the duration of the whole game, you're gonna have your hands full with it if you're new to the genre, or this particular style of it. Some of the bosses are extremely hard, especially the infamously annoying Broodmother and the Archdemon himself, who doesn't really need that insanely large horde of darkspawn for his defense.

I might be more than bored with the original retail right now, but I still remember quite well how much I liked the game when I first played it, and how much I enjoyed the second playthrough despite its slumps. A personally rough start, a confusing main menu, some boring tasks that absolutely need to be done on each playthrough, and some other artificial problems and annoying limits that plague the PS3 version aside, Dragon Age: Origins is an immersive and addictive fantasy role-playing experience. I see no reason of returning to the retail, perhaps ever again - I would love to try the PC version if my shitty hardware ran the slightest portion of it - but I'm really itching to get my hands on the expansions which I haven't played at all yet. So hell yeah, it made an impact.

NOTE: I was going to use my own screenshots, with my own character on them, but then I found out taking screenshots for the BioWare Social Network is not possible in the PS3 version. Check one more error for this particular version of the game. All of the screenshots are copyrighted by MobyGames (, and they're from the Xbox 360 version of the game. The user interface in the critically acclaimed PC version of the game is very different from that of the console versions.

SOUND : 8.8


a.k.a. Dragon Age (working title)

GameRankings: 90.50% (PC), 86.28% (PS3), 86.85% (X360)

BioWare has cited George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series of novels as their greatest influence when they made Dragon Age: Origins.

The game has dozens of easter eggs; most relate to BioWare's previous games, all the way from Baldur's Gate to Mass Effect, but there are also subtle references to miscellaneous TV shows, movies and books.

The Stone Prisoner was originally supposed to be a sidequest in the retail game, and Shale a regular member of the party. Due to time constraints, The Stone Prisoner was instead made a "Day One DLC", available for free to all buyers of a new copy of the retail game, and $15 for everyone who buy the game second-hand. It comes complete with a redeem code for a set of Blood Dragon Armor, which can be used in both Dragon Age: Origins and Mass Effect 2.

2 kommenttia:

  1. Whew! That is quite a write up! You managed to hit all the major issues and made some very good points. I will agree that the game starts to fall apart around the third play though. I currently finishing up my third *full* playthrough (that doesn't count the five or six partial playthroughs where I decided I couldn't role-play the character I'd made after all) and some places it does seem to drag. As much as I ove Orzammar, I really hate the Deep Roads. They drag on forever. As a dwarf the Last part of the Deep Roads had a lot of significance, but as a human noble my character was hard pressed to understand why she should care at all. Playing as a dwarf, however, has made it quite interesting. Like you, I generally never have anything to do with Dwarves. There is something about the ones in DA:O though that is quite compelling. As for menus, I personally didn't have issues with them, but then again I'm playing on the PC AND Western RPGs are pretty much old hat to me by this point. If you are use to JRPG menus I can see how DA:O's might frustrate you. I say this simply b/c Final Fantasy's menus drive me up the freakin' wall. I can never figure them out.

    As for companions? As I'm sure you've guessed from my blog, I am 100% on the Alistair bandwagon. Call me a fangirl. It's ok. I won't hurt you for it ... this time. He, like Morrigan, i such a well written character. I used to hate Leliana, but she has really grown on me. I think I was turned off by her faux-French accent which *sounds* like faux-French. Once I got used to that aspect of the game though I've come to like her as well. I also like Sten a good bit, and having him and Shale together in your party can result in some rather interesting banter.

  2. Personally, I don't even know why I like Leliana so much. She speaks in that faux-French you excellently put into words, she rants on and on about Marjolaine (the way she says the name is just ...gggghhhhh...) and she's too religious for my tastes. Everything about her works against her, but still she's a doll, and a regular party member. Come to think of it, I've never had Shale and Sten in the same party. I like Sten, but I didn't have much use for him before the third playthrough, and I skipped The Stone Prisoner altogether that time around.