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Dec. 21, 2009by: J.A. Hamilton
100%

DRAGON AGE ORIGINS

Developer: BioWare
Publisher: Electronic Arts Inc, EA Games
Systems: PC, PlayStation 3 and XBOX 360

INTRODUCTION:


Welcome to Ferelden, a country on the brink of Civil War and once again threatened by Blight and Darkspawn. I’m a diehard fan of RPGs, with BALDUR’S GATE and SHADOWS OF AMN being two of my all time favorites. With that in mind, this is not BALDUR’S GATE 3…but it IS damn close. BioWare knows how to make a compelling game, and although this one had its share of ups and downs (five years worth), and in my opinion suffered from poor advertising prior to its release, I have to say that I’m more than impressed by the final product. The Grey Wardens are a fascinating group to add to hero lore, and I’m especially fond of their dark side. Not every hero us pure.



On the surface this game may appear to be linear enough as far as the Blight is concerned, and you may get the impression an hour or so in that this feels a little like a LORD OF THE RINGS rip-off. Don’t worry, it isn’t. I can’t talk too much about the details as this game is all about plot twists, character depth and interaction as well as distinct choice making. Forget FABLE’s bullshit promise that “every choice has a consequence”, uh huh, so I did something bad and my character grew horns…yippee. This game is SERIOUS as hell about decisions along your path so do yourself a favor and save often. I liked the FABLE games and all, but DRAGON AGE ORIGINS lives up the promise FABLE couldn’t.

GAMEPLAY:


I sampled this game on XBOX, PS3 and PC, though I finished the game via PC. If you played the BALDUR’S GATE, NEVERWINTER NIGHTS or ICEWIND DALE games you’ll be right at home with the layout and control system (consequently the same can be said if you played the BALDUR’S GATE: DARK ALLIANCE games for PS2). Even on XBOX and PS3 the game handled great, the only real difference being the more distinct overhead view on the PC which I prefer (and some of the puzzles were dummied down for the console versions). Regardless of which console you're on, the control system is very friendly and borrows from enough other games that you won't feel lost.



Another bonus for those seeking a less chaotic fight, are the tactic slots which let you choose from various “cause and effect” actions to be performed by your characters: All players attack the same target, fighter protect your mage, use a healing potion when life is below 30% and so on. I first got a taste of this type of system in FINAL FANTASY XII, and feel they work well. The tactics are nice, but unlike FFXII where the use of these tools were NEEDED to stay alive and kill your foes, the same can not be said here, as I never used them much or found the need to be bothered.

Gameplay: 9/10

GRAPHICS:


The graphics looked a little iffy to me during pre-production (again, I feel the advertising was poorly constructed in the beginning), but those feelings were gone the second I saw trailer featuring a bad ass tune by 30 Seconds To Mars called THIS IS WAR. The game jumps into storytelling which is quite heavy for the first hour, and it’s here I became very impressed by the character designs, how they moved, talked and interacted with one another. It’s not flawless, but it works and even changes your character’s armor and gear details when you do.



The various monsters and NPC’s you encounter are unique and brought to life in gorgeous detail. I’m particularly fond of all the breast attention. And these characters would be nothing without superb voice talent, and my hat’s off to these actors as there are at least ten different directions nearly EVERY conversation can go in. There are even a couple cases where the story branches off depending on whether or not you survive a fight (you get captured if you don't). The likeliness of rescue also depends on choices you've made up that point.

Graphics: 10/10

STORYTELLING:


This is where DRAGON AGE ORIGINS really goes above and beyond as far as expectations are concerned. The legend of the Grey Wardens is a marvelous tale, one that keeps you on your toes the entire game. Your party members are also the stuff of legend, especially Morrigan, who I chose to have a “relationship” with (which can be unlocked as the game progresses) and is brought on by giving gifts to your party members to increase their impression of you (consequently, you can have a relationship with these women even if you choose to play a female lead character, which I didn’t do, but plan on checking out).



Again, this also relies on your dialogue choices, but the sex scene as well as some of the shit you get to say is definitely worth it. Another bonus happens when you finish the game, you’re updated on some of the major decisions you made throughout. I was amazed to see that some of my (seemingly obvious) choices had some serious consequences. This is one of many ways replay value looks inviting, though as you'll no doubt find out, this game takes a long time to play through from the beginning.

Storytelling: 10/10

FINAL VERDICT:


The amount of time and energy put into creating Ferelden and the world around it is nothing short of awe-inspiring. The lore, religion and politics alone are noteworthy here and explained in vivid detail through codex and exploration. The map focuses upon Fereldon, but Ferelden is one of many continents within a fascinating world that I’m assuming will show up via downloadable expansions and sequels (God knows they tease you with more than just a cliffhanger ending). Speaking of downloadable content, there were two quests available (which cost me about twenty bucks worth of points), one of which gives you another playable character (a golem) and the other opens up a former Grey Warden castle that ends up adding two more gear vendors to your list. I played through ALL the quests and ended up logging in about seventy or so hours of game play.

My only reservations are that there didn’t seem to be enough “rare gear” payoffs for killing random bosses you find throughout. I combined pieces of a demon’s body that were scattered around and brought him back to life; if I killed him I got nothing, but if I let him go I got 25 gold (you end up with a pile of gold near the end, but by then you don’t need it) which is still not much to brag about. The talent trees were cool, but instead of going farther with each (there are only four slots per), other characters got the chance to learn the same ones (giving your mage the chance to become a Warrior/Mage), which was nice and all, but I’d have rather seen a deeper collection of spells. My complaints here are trivial as this game delivered more than I’d hoped, with the promise of more to come. At the end of the day, that makes me happy. I just hope I don’t have to wait another five years for a sequel.

Final Verdict: 9.5/10
Extra Tidbit: The next RPG on my radar is FINAL FANTASY XIII, and if you’re into fantasy as much as I am, I suggest you check out Season 2 of LEGEND OF THE SEEKER which is four episodes in right now. If you liked this game’s storyline, you’ll love this show.
Source: JoBlo.com

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2:07PM on 12/21/2009

Great Review

Great review! And it was a great game, the ending to the game can be great for the world of Ferelden, or awful if you've made some wrong choices. Even some choices that were the "noble" option turned out to be the wrong choice.
Great review! And it was a great game, the ending to the game can be great for the world of Ferelden, or awful if you've made some wrong choices. Even some choices that were the "noble" option turned out to be the wrong choice.
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2:16PM on 12/21/2009
Man, I cannot wait to play this! "Baldur's Gate 2" is my all-time favorite RPG, and if this delivers even half the experience that did, I'll be happier than the Arrow at an all-you-can-eat cheerleader slumber party.
Man, I cannot wait to play this! "Baldur's Gate 2" is my all-time favorite RPG, and if this delivers even half the experience that did, I'll be happier than the Arrow at an all-you-can-eat cheerleader slumber party.
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