Like blood? No… I mean, do you REALLY like blood?
If you answered yes, and also have a fancy for dragons, fantasy, compelling story, in depth character evolution, complete voice acting, and a really really long story that I believe Bioware’s Edmonton office has created the perfect game for you.
Dragon Age: Origins developed by Bioware (the same fine folks who brought us Mass Effect) have taken the next evolutionary step in interactive story telling in both intensity, depth, and fantasy. Moving back to their Baulder’s Gate style roots and away from the sci-fi they recently gained fame for, Dragon Age: Origins has you starting out in one of six origin stories (as a noble human, peasant human, wood elf, city elf, noble dwarf, or casteless dwarf) but have you essentially fighting to save all races and creeds against the Archdemon and the Blight. However the story begins, it provides insight and a background to where you came from, how you became a Grey Warden (a group of soldiers whom can sense evil and are tasked with defeating the Blight) and sends you off on your merry adventure where you meet dozens of characters who with a little finesse can become invaluable allies in your battle (letting you control up to four characters at one time) or… with a little fast clicking can have you killing them on the spot (trust me, I’ve killed at least two potential allies so far).
The game is all about choices, much like other Bioware favourites, but for this one, they go deep in morality it goes beyond just deciding if you want to be greedy, evil, good, or psychotic. For example, a simple choice in the game is whether you want to call down a massively strong dragon to fight against you or just sneak by… easy enough. How about choosing a side between two equally capable and equally evil dwarfs to take the throne as dwarf king? How do you know you’re making the right choice, how will the story evolve if you make one decision over another? So far the hardest choice I made in Origins beyond deciding how to level up my characters was to kill a young innocent boy harbouring a demon inside him, or find a way to exorcise the demon and save the boy… unfortunately for the boy, I have been on a tight deadline to write this review… so he died. Speaking of tight deadlines, since getting my grubby little paws on this title I’ve pretty much done nothing but play, and with well over 24 hours under my belt, I still feel like I’m barely scratching the surface of this massive game, which touts over 80 hours of gameplay.
Aside from decision making, gameplay within Origins can be utilized in two different ways. Players have the option of setting a basic set of guidelines their AI companions can follow much like the Gambit system in Final Fantasy 12. As your characters get stronger, more rules can be set for them (such as if an ally has 50% less health, use health potion on them), while the player controls the main character from an over the shoulder view in a more action type manner. Alternatively, players can change the view to a top down approach (like Baulder’s Gate), pause the game at any time and assign actions to all characters, unpause and watch the mayhem. Combinations of spells as well as elements also provide a deeper sense of customization (throw grease on a bad guy, then cast a fire spell and see what happens).
Graphically, Dragon Age: Origins uses a new engine called Eclipse, and while I’m not sure exactly what it does better than other engines, I do know this… it makes Origins pretty. With plenty of characters on the screen at once, all doing god knows what in the form of attacks, spells, and other abilities, I was amazed that the detail and effects that would be shown on screen without a lick of slowdown. As well, I was intrigued by the blood system. There is A LOT of blood in this game, and often after a battle, that blood will be left on you and your party until either your wardog cleans it up, or after a good rest. The character and location designs are all extremely unique from the DarkSpawn, to demons, to the dragons themselves; they’re all just as varied and detailed as the forests, cities, and caverns you visit along the way. The only instance where I felt a little cheated was in the Dwarven city that looked a heck of a lot like the Dwarven city in World of Warcraft.
I think my favourite thing about Dragon Age: Origins has to be the voice acting. With tons of dialogue between characters, and multiple decisions about what to respond with I was amazed with the amount of voice acting to be found in this game. Aside from your main character (most of the time) every peice of dialogue in the game is voice acted. Consider for a moment how long this game is, over 80 hours long, and with very busy cities and many people to talk to, the amount of voice acting is at such a high number that I cannot even wager a guess to how much hours of speech are included in the game. Music, slicing, and grunts are all included and play well within the game, however I find that the musical change right before battle takes away from the surprise element of it.
In terms of lasting appeal, while Origins has no multiplayer, the game itself is ridiculously long, and addictive! In a time where I have Borderlands, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, Assassin’s Creed 2, and Left 4 Dead 2 sitting on my shelf; I find myself playing this title more than all four of those combined. That being said even if you do complete the story and all side quests, Bioware has guaranteed over 2 years of post launch content. They even tout that they will be providing more post-launch content than all other Bioware titles combined.
So overall, do I think Dragon Age: Origins is worth it? You bet I do! Especially now with gaming sales coming every which way, chances are you may be able to find this title for $40 in the very near future.