games / Reviews

Dragon Age: Origins (Xbox 360) Review

December 19, 2009 | Posted by Adam Larck

Title: Dragon Age: Origins
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: BioWare Edmonton
Genre: Action RPG
Players: One
Rated: M for Mature

BioWare has a strong history of action RPGs. From Baldur’s Gate to Knights of the Old Republic to Mass Effect, they have a lot of quality titles under their belt. So, can Dragon Age: Origins continue BioWare’s success? Read on to find out.

Gameplay:

Before you start to play the game, you first choose from three classes (warrior, rouge and mage) and races (human, elf and dwarf) to choose from, along with making a detailed character. The game does give you quite a bit of customization when it comes to choosing a character, so there’s a fair amount of freedom to be had.

After doing this, you then have one of six introduction stories to choose from. Each one gives your character a different background, and one of the human quests even gives you a dog to start off with as a party member. If you don’t choose this origin, don’t worry. You can get the dog in the first area you go to by doing a quest.

While the origin stories differ, they all converge into the same basic plot. A quick overview of the plot is that you become part of the Gray Wardens to help them defeat the darkspawn and the Blight that has started again. You accomplish this through doing various quests for different groups throughout the game. There is quite a bit more involved in the plot, but I don’t want to give away too many spoilers.

There are a lot of quest in this game to do. Many don’t relate to the main quest, but do give good items and experience for completion. While doing these quests you’ll run into a substantial amount of text to listen to. I’ll talk about this more in the sound section, but the text makes up a lot of the game in Dragon Age.

Anyways, after running the first area, you then go to your party camp with party members you’ve acquired. You can have up to three members in your group at once, and can find members throughout your travels. You can take direct control of these characters by using the bumpers and set tactics for them to use in the menu. Tactics range from healing themselves to using team-helping buffs to attacking enemies with certain skills.

Another thing you can do with the party members is develop relations with them. By doing this, you can unlock skills that enhance their abilities, get character related quests and even have romances with them. The romances can also effect what other members say about you and the person you’re with.

At the party camp, BioWare has devised an interesting way to market its DLC. Characters stand there talking about the quests and ask you to buy it to continue on with it. Two of the three DLC that’s available currently comes with new copies of the game, and gives you a new party member and some armor you can wear. I eventually bought the last DLC to get a new base and chest to store items as well.

To travel to the party camp and different locations you fast travel using a world map. During the fast travel, you can run into random encounters that range from a merchant to quest related places to enemy encounters. It was here that I ran into my first complaint with the game: a fluctuating difficulty.

Many of the bosses I never had a problem with, but one of the random counters in particular drove me insane. A pack of wolves would attack my team, immediately jump on them to trap them and never allow them to get up. No matter what tactics I tried this always seemed to happen. Thankfully, difficulty can be changed at any time so if you’re stuck in an area you can turn it down, pass the area and turn it back up.

Anyways, in the game, the basic attack can be started with A while the other three slots are talents you can map. You can also map three more talents by holding the RT. By holding LT, you can use any talents that the character has learned so far, as well as mapping out tactics for the team to use in the current battle, using potions, poisons or traps and switching out between two weapon sets for a player.

There are three types of talents in the game: passive (always on), sustained (turn on and off. Constantly drains mana/stamina when on) and activated (one time use before it needs to recharge to use again).

There are also eight skills with four levels and four types of specializations for each class that can be learned. Whenever you level, you get a varying level of attribute points to spend, as well as sometimes some skill or talent points as well. You can also earn points by buying and reading Tomes.

In battle, if a party member dies, they will be revived after the battle is over. When they revive, they normally also sustain some kind of injury that needs to be healed using an Injury Kit. Otherwise, their attack or other attribute may be hampered by the injury. The party also automatically regains health outside of battle, so you can conserve health potions to battles only.

Overall, the gameplay seemed really fluid and addicting to play. there were a lot of times I would tell myself one more quest before realizing it was 3 or 4 in the morning. BioWare did a great job with character development and the quest lines, as well as developing and balancing skills.

Graphics:

Dragon Age loves blood and lots of it. No matter what you kill, blood will spray over you and your teammates. The splatter stays after saving and quitting the game and only disappears after going to a new area or going without a battle for a while. However, the blood looks good on the characters and really doesn’t take away from the game. Also, this effect can be turned off for people who don’t like it.

The characters and enemies are nicely detailed. While enemies can get a bit repetitive, the main characters each have their own look that easily allows you to distinguish who’s who, even in combat. Even the weapons the characters have equipped look different on their back. While some of them may look similar, the design on them and their grips give them a unique look.

The environments also look great throughout the game. No matter where I was at, they were always detailed and varied. This was especially true in the Fade. This twisted world had some of the best designs I thought and I never knew what to expect while going through it.

Probably the only complaint I have with the graphics is the walking motions with the characters. Sometimes they came off looking a bit stiff as they were walking around. It was always random when this happened and just looked a bit out of place seeing your character looking like a robot as he walked. Still, this is just a minor problem for the otherwise great graphics.

Sound:

The music in the game is good. The orchestra pieces in the various sections matched the mood. Whether it was in the woods or in a dungeon, the music never took away from the game or overpowered what was going on. It complemented the game and was nice to have it there to listen to.

However, the main part of the sound in the game is the speaking. There is a lot of speaking in the game. And I do mean a lot. Some of these people like to hear themselves speak and put out a huge narrative every time you ask them about something.

This is not a bad thing, though. The speaking parts seemed really well done. I continuously liked to hear about the background on certain parts of the game and always asked questions to hear more about it. It was also fun to hear the characters banter between themselves while walking around. You could often here some pretty sarcastic comments being thrown around, especially if two people didn’t like each other.

Lasting Appeal:

Dragon Age is not a short game. You’ll put at least about 60 hours into it, depending how far out of the way you go to do side quests and increase relationships among teammates. The main quest offers quite a bit by itself, but the side quests with its additional text can keep you playing for a while.

Not only this, but there are various classes and races to make to try their origins out with their own strengths and weaknesses to play. While I primarily used a human warrior throughout my review, I had a lot of fun using the mages or rouges in areas as well. Playing the whole game as one is something I’d like to go back through and experience.

Also, BioWare has a decent amount of DLC already available for the game and some more coming out as well. Each adds a decent amount more to the game with extra armor, characters, or banking space to use as well as a few quests to do.

Overall, this game will keep you busy for quite a while, or until the time that Mass Effect 2 comes out.

Fun Factor:

I’ve always had a great time playing the various RPGs that BioWare has put out, and this one was no exception. Whether it was exploring areas or doing quests, I had a great time playing this game.

I also really liked the ability to build bonds with teammates, and how it actually gave perks depending how much they liked you. The character quests were also really fun to discover and do.

Probably the only thing that even hindered the fun I had was the difficulty level. If it was a bit more balanced, it would have been fine. Still, it didn’t really bother me that much in the long run.

This small annoyance aside, there is a lot of fun to be had here for fans of the genre.

The 411:

Overall, Dragon Age is a great game for action RPG fans. The luster and shine from previous BioWare games can easily be seen. There’s a lot here to explore and find, and a lot of variety when it comes to playing. Definitely worth a purchase to play.

Graphics9.0The environments are varied and characters are extremely detailed. Plus, the game has a lot of blood flying around. Even with the spray, the characters still look good.411 Elite Award
Gameplay8.5There’s a lot to do in the game. You’ll put at least a good 40 hours into it. The battles and menus also offer quite a bit of customization. The main hindrance here is the seemingly fluctuating difficulty. 
Sound9.5The sound in this game is top notch. Whether it’s the music or the speaking, I was always interested in hearing more of it. 
Lasting Appeal9.0BioWare already has quite a bit of content out for this game. Plus, there’s different characters to learn the back-story on and different classes and races to try. Add in missions, and you’ll be busy for a while. 
Fun Factor 9.0I loved reading the background information the game offered and doing all the quests in there. Except for the slight difficulty fluctuations, I had a great time. 
Overall9.0   [  Amazing ]  legend

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Adam Larck

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