(http://dragonage.bioware.com/)  For Mature Audience 17 and over.  From the Makers of Mass Effect and Baldur’s Gate, BioWare, this time they bring Dragon Age: Origins. It takes place in the fictional world of Thedas, inside the newly independent country of Ferelden. Ferelden is threatened by Blight, a massive invasion of monsters called the Darkspawns led by an Archdemon. An ancient elite group called the Grey Wardens had always defended the land during such times. But the burden of stopping the Blight eventually falls onto the player, who had become one of the few surviving Grey Warden through a series of circumstances. On a first look, Dragon Age: Origins might appear to be a lackluster save-the-world RPG with similarities to high fantasies like Lord of the Ring, but BioWare’s epic tale weaving and delicate characterization makes it a truly unique title. And that is a gross understatement of its brilliance.

(http://dragonage.bioware.com/)  For Mature Audience 17 and over.  From the Makers of Mass Effect and Baldur’s Gate, BioWare, this time they bring Dragon Age: Origins. It takes place in the fictional world of Thedas, inside the newly independent country of Ferelden. Ferelden is threatened by Blight, a massive invasion of monsters called the Darkspawns led by an Archdemon. An ancient elite group called the Grey Wardens had always defended the land during such times. But the burden of stopping the Blight eventually falls onto the player, who had become one of the few surviving Grey Warden through a series of circumstances. On a first look, Dragon Age: Origins might appear to be a lackluster save-the-world RPG with similarities to high fantasies like Lord of the Ring, but BioWare’s epic tale weaving and delicate characterization makes it a truly unique title. And that is a gross understatement of its brilliance.

**WARNING** The following Video May Contain Content Inappropriate for Children**

 

Presentation:

Upon starting a new game, the player is asked to create an avatar. The character then goes through one of the six unique introduction stories based on the chosen race and class, though the gender also makes a difference in some instances. The game wastes no time in introducing its endless role-playing possibilities through its dialogue choices. It wouldn’t be fair to spoil the story and describe the choices here. But while some of the choices only change the dialogue that immediately follows, many others can have lasting impact upon relationships and the story itself. In a way, the player is given a wide range of freedom to experience the events that lead to the final showdown, and to affect the ending that follows. Given some save, reload, and replay, Dragon Age: Origins definitely gives some food for thought in regards to fate and determinism. That is only one part of the immersive experience Dragon Age brings. No story can be truly considered epic without brilliant and believable characters and the characters in Dragon Age: Origins are no less realistic than the main character role-played by a real person. Each of the controllable characters has their own unique story that brings them to the protagonist, and it’s up to the player to make them feel comfortable to talk about their often surprising history and desires. More often than not, the “surprising” part comes from the darker and adult theme of the game, and it adds to the desperation Ferelden faces.

 

Graphics:

For the PS3 version, graphics isn’t one of Dragon Age: Origins’ strong point, though it appears to be the consensus of the various reviews for both console versions. There are quite a few occasions when the frame rate is less than optimal, most notably if the player enters a conversation or cutscene when there are multiple enhance spells casted upon the party. The buffs and spell effects are beautifully detailed, almost to a fault when the resources may be used elsewhere. One such place that could use improvement is the characters’ faces, although they are appropriately expressive but sometimes they can be downright grotesque in an odd combination of facial texture and lighting. The environments are generally detailed, but the textures are not what one would describe as breathtaking. There is no pre-rendered cutscenes in the entire game. On the plus side, the scenes can be skipped through quickly if one doesn’t have the patience for them, but others might wish to see Leliana and Morrigan more closely resemble their counterparts presented in the trailers.

       

 

Sounds:

The developers leave the voice over of the protagonist to the player as there are too many possibilities. The other voices breathe life onto the characters, whether it is Leliana’s girly infatuation with elaborate shoes or the witty sarcasm behind Alistair’s reluctance to reveal his past. It is the excellent voice work that makes the player keeps their finger off the skip button through the many tales of the characters’ history. The music here is like the music from any other high-fantasy RPG, most of the time is surreal or even subliminal. But when given the extra attention that the music deserves, it shows to have high production value, complexity, and the lack of repetition not found in other high-fantasy RPGs.

 

Gameplay:

Veteran RPG players will have something juicy to sink their teeth into here. The intensive real time combat familiar to fans of Baldur’s Gate requires tactical thinking. During combat, the action of party members not controlled by the player is governed by an adjustable set of rules, like the gambit system of Final Fantasy XII. If needed, the player can immediately switch control to another character, to take control over the governing AI or to input up to 1 command in queue. Selecting actions is also a breeze once the player becomes familiar with the radial menu and battle menu. The game pauses when the neatly organized radial menu is brought up, there the player can easily choose from all the potions, poisons, traps, spells, skills, etc. in 2 to 3 button presses; and the battle menu serves as a shortcut key panel, allowing the player to map up to six commands for quick activation.

 

In case RPG players had forgotten combat is not what defines an RPG, BioWare once again reminds us with its exceptional role-play elements. Virtually every action taken in Dragon Age: Origin contributes to the player’s own unique story. Even though the quest is about overcoming a greater evil, there are no easy choices. There are countless times when the player will have to decide what sacrifice or moral compromise is needed for the greater good. The game itself does not quantify the player’s morality or choices, but these decisions will often affect the opinion of the protagonist’s companions. And some decisions can be so outrageous to some that they would leave the party or even turn against the player. On the friendlier side of decision making, the player may give gifts and talk to party members to raise their approval. Aside unlocking skills for the companion and learning class specialization from them, there will be a few romantic opportunities for the player to explore regardless of the protagonist’s gender should the player understand the character well enough to earn their affection.

 

Innovation:

Each of the 3 classes (warrior, mage, and rogue) has their own skill tree with a total of over 100 skills and spells. Although it’s hardly a foreign concept to the RPG genre, but each of the skill trees includes enough subsets of different skills that it’s rewarding to experiment different combinations. Further enhancing gameplay possibilities, each class comes with 4 unlockable specializations, with extra skills that augment the base class greatly.

       

 

Longevity:

It is obvious that BioWare designed this game with replayability in mind. As mentioned above, there are 6 different introductory “Origins” stories that detail the events leading up to the main quest. However, those first few hours of introduction are not where the influence of the Origins ends. The background of a character stays through the whole adventure whether it is social stigmatism or prestige. While some of these effects are nice touches that bring a more immersive experience, others limit event-altering actions that are available to the player. Therefore, it is well worth the time to experience Dragon Age: Origins through the eyes of different protagonists; in fact, some choices and events feel so personal that they will have a player role-playing without realizing it. If the refreshing replay value isn’t enough, BioWare and Electronic Arts already planned out purchasable download contents to be made available over the next 2 years. Most of these will come in the form of new quests that the player can complete during or after the main quest.

 

Conclusion:

It should be said that Dragon Age: Origins isn’t for everyone. But its strength is above and beyond expectations: captivating but lengthy dialogues bursting with personality, in-depth battle system with difficulty setting, and countless ways to create a unique story. All in all, this title is worth the attention of anyone who appreciates a touching story or solid game mechanics. Art is never perfect in everyone’s eyes, but a masterpiece is still a masterpiece.

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