Review: Dragon Age: Origins (X360)

Since childhood, I have been a great fan of fantasy.  I have played many fantasy-genre RPGs over the last two decades, and they remain one of my favorite genres of video game.  Needless to say, I was excited about the release of Dragon Age: Origins.

One of my favorite RPGs for a very long time was Neverwinter Nights, released in 2002 by Bioware.  Hearing that Bioware, makers of amazing games such as Neverwinter Nights, the Baldur’s Gate series, the Knights of the Old Republic series, Jade Empire, Mass Effect, and more, had developed another fantasy RPG was news of particular significance to me.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to afford the purchase right when it came out, so I had to wait until funds became available.  They became available around Christmas, and I made a gift of it to myself.  Luckily, I had the week following Christmas off from work, so I was able to complete a good portion of the game then (at least, I was able to play when Lindsey would put down the controller long enough for me to get my hands on it…).

Gameplay Screenshot

Bioware is known for their impressive attention to detail in their writing.  The graphics and gameplay rarely disappoint, but their writing is often the star feature of any game they produce.  Stories are given depth and scope, which engage the player and create a connection between them and the world they are playing in.  This makes the gaming experience far more meaningful.  Dragon Age: Origins is no exception to their rule of great writing, and luckily, neither the graphics nor the gameplay have suffered for it.  The graphics, while not groundbreaking, are excellent, and the gameplay is fairly standard for a fantasy RPG, with one major difference: Dragon Age: Origins is not based on the Dungeons & Dragons ruleset, as Baldur’s Gate was.  This is only noteworthy because Dragon Age: Origins is considered the spiritual successor to Baldur’s Gate.  The ruleset that was created, however, is excellent, and does not detract from the gameplay.  The party system is similar to that of Knights of the Old Republic, where you have a large group of companions, but can only take three additional companions with you into the world.  You are able to switch between these three additional companions during gameplay and take advantage of their varied skill sets at any time.  Graphically, the game is wonderful.  The cut scenes are gorgeous, and the gameplay graphics are very good.  There are times when you can notice small graphics glitches, but they are very minor and very rare.

Gameplay Screenshot

The game increases in difficulty as you advance in character level, regardless of which path you take.  For example, my final treaty mission was to the Dwarves, which was fiendishly difficult and long.  Lindsey completed the Dwarves earlier in her path, and it was not as difficult or long.  I completed the Dalish Elves earlier in my path, and found it easier than Lindsey’s completion of the Dalish Elves, later into her path.  The game provides many different playthrough opportunities, as well.  Six distinct and unique origins are available, depending on what race/class/origin you choose.  You can play as a Dwarven Noble, a Dwarven Commoner, a Human Noble, a Dalish Elf, a City Elf, or a Mage.  Each origin provides a 1-3 hour playing time unique to the origin, but always pulling the character in to the main story.  The different origins provide different interactions throughout the game, different storylines become available, and different benefits and drawbacks affect your character.  The main story references, in places, the other origins and the characters that are important in the other origins.  This makes playing through the other origins very fun, because you recognize certain people, and you gain a deeper understanding of the interconnectedness of the games events.

Gameplay Screenshot

Dragon Age: Origins immerses the player in an incredibly detailed and deep world, with an excellent variety of stories and characters.  The game is long, with a single, 85-95% complete playthrough running well over the 40 hour mark.  With the multiple playthrough options available, completing the game fully, with all possible options explored for each character origin, would be a task that would require hundreds of play hours.  This game is well worth the cost, and easily my favorite game to come out of 2009.

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