Dragon Age: Origins

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Stworca
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Dragon Age: Origins

Postby Stworca » Mon Nov 29, 2010 4:32 pm

Part 1 of 2

Warning ! This review is very detailed, and - due to lack of screens that would shorten it - may be boring.

[SIZE="3"]D[/size]ragon Age : Origins, the "spiritual successor to Baldur's Gate series". One of the few games of which i knew alot about long before it was released. Not because of its planned succession of BG, but because it was the first BIG fantasy RPG for quite some time.

World


Let's start from the beginning, shall we? The world is under constant threat of darkspawn invasion (called "blight"), but its neither prepared nor aware that their worst nightmare is about to strike from the depths once again. Except for the dwarven kingdoms, which constantly fight off endless hordes of these creatures.

Here strikes the first difference between Dragon Age and most other fantasy settings. The dwarves ain't what you expect them to be from other worlds. They are ruthless, cold blooded politicians. Divided by their birth in a world where nobles have almost godly status, and those unfortunate enough to be born without a caste are treated as slaves. No, worse. They don't even exist in the eyes of higher cast dwarves.
How fare the other races? Well, the elves for centuries were slaves to the human race, except for a handfull of Dalish clans, which live in the forests. Human race isn't too peacfull either. Ferelden (in which the action takes place) still didn't forget years of suffering from Orlesian hands (their neighbours, and only potential allies in case of darkspawn invasion). Mages live isolated, and under constant control of templars. Blood mages despised and hunted by everyone. The baroniess don't love each other either, everyone cares only about his own lands. On top of everything there is the Grey Wardens order, which stopped blights in the past, and while in Orleis they're honored as heroes that they are.. In Ferelden things ain't so peachy. They still have one right though, they can conscript anyone to the Grey Wardens, regardless of his race or birth, regardless of any laws.

Character


The setup is pretty dark, and thus a very fresh breeze in the RPG world. You can choose one of the three races, followed by choosing backstory from which you can choose one of the three classes (except Dwarven Mage. Dwarves cannot become mages due to their constant contact with pure lyrium. In return they're slightly resistant to its harmful effects). The possible origins are : Human Noble, Dwarf Noble, Dwarf Commoner, Dalish Elf, City elf and Tower mage. Each one of them has its own prologue. Pick wisely as this choice will have huge effect on your upcoming adventures. But.. Not as huge as i expected. Once you return to Orzammar (dwarven fortress, one of the two remaining ones) as a dwarf, you get very scarce changes. One extra mini-quest, two extra dialogue lines.. And that's it! Sure some NPC's treat you differendly than they would a human, but above everything will be your Grey Warden title, which made me quit my dwarf playthrough after i visited the city (note that i've finished the game twice before starting as a dwarf) because quite frankly, everything was almost the same. I'll not share any spoilers ofcourse, and i assure you that if you plan on playing as a dwarf straight off the bat, you'll enjoy it greatly! Aside from this, the origin stories are solid. Some are better, some are worse, but all of them are believable.

The dark setup of the game appears time and again, as a light motif. Rapture, cannibalism.. Childslaying. Sadly, they all have the same origin. Either The darkspawn or the player. With this beign said while there are some very dark elements implemented, when you think about it there were many, much darker RPG's before, and the best part is - they didn't hold a "we're dark" banner pre and post release like Dragon Age does. DA's Broodmother chant still remains one of my favourite gaming moments, but if you realy think about it, and analyse other games, it's the only thing that Bioware came up with, that raises the bar a little. Nonetheless they deserve a kudos for allowing the player to do some realy nasty things. Bargaining a child's soul with a demon, for pleasure, knowledge, wealth or power? Mean. Yes please.

Combat


After some fighting everyone and everything will be covered in blood, let's hope that none of the blood on your armor belongs to you. The kill-cams are well made, especially for the bosses. But after you kill your share of the darkspawn (~chapter 1) you'll notice that they're very repetitive. And here's the kicker - as long as you don't play a melee character, you won't see any boss kill-cams at all. It gets even worse. Regardless of what character you play and what weapon did you use, in one of the cutscenes you will use a two-handed sword to kill one of the bosses. And you'll swing it with more experience than Conan the librarian himself! Did i say boss? You've heard me well! This RPG has quite a few of them, and each one of them has his own skillset. Firebreathing, tail swinging and flying dragons (well, it's DRAGON age after all) ogres that will grab, punch and stomp on you, demons and liches that use magic to harass you further. In a word, there is quite a lot fighting.

This brings us to the system that the game runs on. If you've played any MMORPG from WoW to Aion, you'll feel like home. Each character has action-points (or mana in mages case) which are consumed by abilities, but replenish over time. You can also regain your precious mana (aswell as health) with potions and spells. Abilities don't have limited uses, instead they run on cooldowns. Which means you can use each skill only so often. Naturally most of the abilities have no cooldowns at all, or have very short ones, so don't you worry about running out of tools. You can pause the game at any time and give orders to your party. A great thing about DA is that it made Warriors quite complex and appealing to play. In most other overhead-tactical-RPGs you just right click as the warrior to attack, and forget about him. here it's very differend. Sword and shield? Dual weilding? Maybe archery? Or should i use this mean looking two handed axe? Regardless of what you choose, you'll have quite a few abilities to use(after you unlock them on level up!) toss in class-core ones and four specialisations per class, and your action bar will fill out by the time you hit lvl 14. Level cap? 25, but you'll be finishing the game around 20ish, unless you run ALL the side quests (and there are many, some of which i haven't still discovered)

Still your level does not matter, as the opponents are level scaled to you.. Which sadly means that there is also no real need to do any side quests. You'll always be strong enough to handle what's ahead of you. Especialy when we look a bit deeper into the abilities and the balance.

A very, very big minus of dragon age is balance. If you have previous rpg experience, after short learning time you'll be chopping through the game easily. Crowd Control (further called "CC") abilities are a plenty, and each of your party members packs quite a few of these the second you meet them. Then you can train them to have even more.. And battles will come down to pressing the correct button sequences to totaly annihilate foes. Now the regular CC skills are just tip of the iceberg. Bloodmage specialisation (yes, the despised and banned one) has an aoe, very, very long lasting CC ability, that breaks the game balance in half. Sadly having more than one mage also breaks the game balance (and if you're realy experience, even one is too much!). But so does warrior CC-chains and rogues build around agility, which cannot be hit by anything.
Then there are spells that shouldn't ever come through the beta. Crushing Prison? Mana Clash? Mana Clash after some preperation can one hit one of the optional, end game bosses. (if used by one of the companions, which from a regular mage can be turned into godly mage thanks to her personal quest). The problem is so big that they made bosses in Awakening (expansion) immune to some spells! Not thanks to other spells.. Born-immunity that makes no sense.

AI is.. limited. While the enemies normaly use the best possible abilities, you can easily outsmart every foe. Be it a braindead darkspawn, or a few thousand years old dragon. Enviroment is a huge problem here, because if the AI cannot fit somewhere, you've just won the fight.

NPC's & Quests


But enough about the skillset. I've mentioned NPC's and there are many. Like in all Bioware games that didn't turn to be failures the game offers a huge variety of NPC's, and unlike some of their previous games, you don't have to invite them to the party. You can tell them to go away. They can do it themselves if they disagree with your ways. Finally you can kill most of your companions. Regretfully you can fix every relation with gifts, and there are so many of these damn things, that you realy have to work hard to make someone go away.

The main story is a cookie-cutter. Don't expect to be surprised by the events. Most of the side quests come down to "bring me 5 bear paws" that are also pretty linear, and there are meaningless random map encounters. This is not to say that your actions don't affect the world. They do! You'll have quite a few choices to make, but very few of them will have inpact on the game.
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Postby Stworca » Mon Nov 29, 2010 4:33 pm

Part 2 of 2


Party banter and NPC's rescue the situation. Like in good ol' Bioware games the NPC's not always like each other, even tho they never end up fighting. Two females are romancable, aswell as two males. One of each gender is also interested in homosexual relationship, so they covered up everyone. Still the damn gifts can turn your companions from sworn enemy to daily-bed-partner. Yes, there is actual 'intercourse', but if Dragon Age promos turned you on.. calm down, you've probably already seen the entire animation. Speaking of which, Morrigan weights 20 pounds more and has twice as big cups when she's undressed (hint : not during camp sequence).. I've found it quite funny, aswell as breaking the fourth wall.

Anything Else?


There are ofcourse numerous bugs, one or two cases of poor voice acting (i'd say the dying guard - you'll meet him very early in the game - is the worst actor i've ever listened to) yellow teeth, aswell as a few movie references, which you'll have to find out for yourself.
Everything wrapped up with very fitting music and enviromental sounds.

What pains me the most is that they had many great ideas while making the game, but sadly didn't capitalise on them as much as they should. The first example that comes to my mind (and the only one that i'll share with you, to reduce the amount of spoilers) is, once again, in the dwarven kingdoms. There's a perfect location for a "hold the line!" type of battle, where entire armies of darkspawn are "attacking" a bridge underground.. by standing idle and waiting till you kill them. When i first arrived there i expected a full-scale massacre, with never ending waves of enemies. Maybe avaliable only on nightmare difficulty to not hold the progress of newcommers. If that was the case, the bridge would force me to change my pants everytime i would think about it. As it is, it's a great looking place with enormous, wasted potential that you'll see only once, and only for one minute top (this is how long it takes to cross the bridge)
There is also no way to lose the game other than dying in battle. No fight is impossible to win. No quest impossible to make. If you're solid in combat, you don't have to pay attention to the dialogue. There is no "but do not go further, because you'll face impossible odds" speech. At least none that matters with all those invisible (and visible) walls.


To summ it up Dragon Age is a good game, but not outstanding. Most of Biowares ideas were top notch, but they lacked polishing and testing. The game is pretty long, and every RPG fan should play through it at least once, its worth it. Even with all its flaws its one that you should try out, and one of the best RPG's released in the last few years, but not a candidate for top 10 in any competition.

Note that Bioware released a few DLC's, but they do not influence the final note whatsoever. None of them adds much content to the game, so i advise you to play Dragon Age first, and then you'll know whether or not you want additional (short) adventures.

[SIZE="6"]7[/size]/10.
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[SIZE="1"]Stworca[/size]
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galraen
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Postby galraen » Mon Nov 29, 2010 7:57 pm

I'm afraid the highest I'd go for Dragon Age: Origins is 5/10

The game design is mostly OK at best, but occasionally shockingly bad. Get used to having control taken away from you and you and your party effectively frog-marched into the middle of an encounter, it will happen a lot.

Frankly I found it infuriating to be creeping up on an enemy, hidden in shadows and suddenly forced into a conversation with the enemy I was sneaking up on. With the party I'd left some way behind all around me, and surrounded by enemies. This would be bad enough if it happened once, but it happens a lot throughout the game.

Another example is the Landsmeet farce, where you are encouraged to waste time garnering support only to find out that no matter what the vote was the outcome was identical.

Side quest are pathetically short, and are all of the go kill X or go collect Y type.

The engine is basically the same as the one that drove Never Winter Nights and Knights of the Old Republic, and it shows. The maps are small and the load times when moving from map to map are horrific, a blast from the past I'd much rather do without. Just try going from the Shaperate to Dust Town and back again via the proving grounds if you don't believe me!!!

The character development is rather limited, especially for a mage.

A warrior can wield two-handed weapons, duel wield weapons or be an archer; although if you're going to be an archer better to be a rogue I think.

A Rogue can be an Archer, or a dual wielding backstabber, along with being a lock picker and trap remover. Easily the most versatile class in the game, but that's standard fare for a CRPG.

In terms of dishing out punishment, the one who can dish out the most in one hit is the Rogue-Archer, no contest; slay living with high enough dexterity and other talents thrown in and over 1,000 hit points in one go is achievable. Third on the one hit brigade is the Two-handed Sword wielding warrior; but top of the class in damage per second is the dual-wielding assassin or berserker.

Mages on the other hand I expect always look alike, four ranks of ice spells, three ranks of lightning spells, four ranks of Mana spells (the first two are useless but Spell Might and Mana clash are the bees knees); then build up your blood magic. Some of the standard mage fare is noticeable by its absence. No invisibility or summoning or knock, that's for rogues!

My final verdict is the game is poor, but playable once through if you're looking for something new, but only if you can find it at a knock down price. One thing is for sure, i won't be buying Dragon Age 2 until I can get it for less than £10.
[QUOTE=Darth Gavinius;1096098]Distrbution of games, is becoming a little like Democracy (all about money and control) - in the end choice is an illusion and you have to choose your lesser evil.

And everything is hidden in the fine print.[/QUOTE]

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Sykar
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Postby Sykar » Fri Dec 10, 2010 12:58 pm

Why would mages all look the same? Because of Storm of the Century? Most overrated spell combo ever imho. I got a full primalist mage and did quite well without it. Norrigan is a fully Shapeshifter/ Entropist and Wynne a full Creation/Spirit Healer mage and they play very differently.

I'll get Spell Might now at level 19 but I know I won't need it much.

Character development limited?
Compared to the oh so beloved BG2 it's quite immense especially on the rogue and warrior department and even mages get easily 20 spells and more not counting spell combinations.
1000 damage with Arrow of Slaying? I did see 350 damage once on a normal enemy but otherwise the damage is mostly at 100 and I doubt that even if I'd put all points into Dex on Leilianna I'd rarely see those numbers. On bosses it seems like it only does a slightly higher regular crit.

My good/bad list would look like this:

Good
+ Origin stories are nicely done and even referenced through the game.
+ A lot of specializations and customizations possible for all characters.
+ Cool party members. I like Morrigan, Oghren and Sten a lot.
+ Some cool places like the Deep Roads and the Thaigs.
+ Good atmosphere.
+ Romances are nice even though bit brief and serve mainly as diversion.
+ Approval system is nice albeit a bit simple.
+ Well presented main story line imho.
+ Spell Combos which you need to find out yourself. Good step but would like to see some more.
+ You can be quite mean and while it doesn't affect the outcome of the game in a big way it can lead to drastic results like loosing major approval with companions or them leaving outright.
+ Some great scenes like Broodmother poem or Connor getting killed by his mother.

Neutral
*Generic story. Often heard but if you are honest 99% of all RPGs have such a generic story in one variation or another.

Bad
- Many areas are quite small. (My biggest gripe)
- No transition back via the map to either the starting point of the area or the gamp like they did in KotoR.
- Side Quests too simple and too short mostly. Also putting them in boxes and sacks instead of being properly presented by fleshed out story and NPCs feels a bit cheap.
- Main character is not really voiced like it was done in ME 1 which was made earlier if I remember correctly.
- Some decisions do not yield as much of consequences as I'd like in the game
- No weather or day cycle (minor for me)
- No time going on (minor fir me)
- Not enough space on quickbar for abilities available. (minor for me)

I'd give it a 8/10

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Postby Tricky » Fri Dec 10, 2010 1:23 pm

Sykar wrote:Character development limited?
Compared to the oh so beloved BG2 it's quite immense especially on the rogue and warrior department and even mages get easily 20 spells and more not counting spell combinations.


You're inteprating facts to support your own arguments. Yes we all loved the BG series, but knowing it ran on a vastly simplified version of D&D's 2.0 D20, which was already quite basic compared to 3.0/5.

Character development was quite obviously NOT why the BG series were such a great succes.
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Postby Sykar » Sat Dec 11, 2010 9:57 am

Tricky wrote:You're inteprating facts to support your own arguments. Yes we all loved the BG series, but knowing it ran on a vastly simplified version of D&D's 2.0 D20, which was already quite basic compared to 3.0/5.

Character development was quite obviously NOT why the BG series were such a great succes.


So and now maybe start thinking at least one step further before you state what we all know already Captain Obvious.
Maybe then you might get the answer to your pretty irrelevant post.

And of course I am interpreting facts. What else do you do with them? I dislike people who try to appear smart when in reality they are not.

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Postby Dlightfull » Wed Jan 19, 2011 3:53 am

Sykar wrote:So and now maybe start thinking at least one step further before you state what we all know already Captain Obvious.
Maybe then you might get the answer to your pretty irrelevant post.

And of course I am interpreting facts. What else do you do with them? I dislike people who try to appear smart when in reality they are not.


Mr. Troll, Eve-Online CAOD forums are that way -->

Thanks for your attention.

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Postby childofbhaal » Wed Jan 19, 2011 6:25 am

Stworca wrote:The possible origins are : Human Noble, Dwarf Noble, Dwarf Commoner, Dalish Elf, City elf and Tower mage. Each one of them has its own prologue. Pick wisely as this choice will have huge effect on your upcoming adventures. But.. Not as huge as i expected. Once you return to Orzammar (dwarven fortress, one of the two remaining ones) as a dwarf, you get very scarce changes. One extra mini-quest, two extra dialogue lines.. And that's it! Sure some NPC's treat you differendly than they would a human, but above everything will be your Grey Warden title, which made me quit my dwarf playthrough after i visited the city (note that i've finished the game twice before starting as a dwarf) because quite frankly, everything was almost the same. I'll not share any spoilers ofcourse, and i assure you that if you plan on playing as a dwarf straight off the bat, you'll enjoy it greatly! Aside from this, the origin stories are solid. Some are better, some are worse, but all of them are believable.


I am playing a dwarf noble and almost all the dwarfs called me Exile(not grey warden)....and you get lot more extra dialoge options than 2(I would say somewhere between 15-20,the arena master,the guards,the paragon Branka,1 of the merchants,a few nobles,the old dwarf in the halls of shapers and binders,the 2 king wannabes and their personal servants all recognize you as King Endrins son.

SPOILER:[SPOILER]If you support Bhelen from the beginning(like I did) you can talk a lot with him about your family and what happened before the assembly exiled you into the deep roads.I know that the majority supports Harrowmont but you have no good option because Harrowmont is responsible for the death of your father and Bhelen is responsible for the death of Trian(I didnt kill him).I know that supporting Bhelen is a questionable decision(found nothing about supporting him with google so probably not a popular 1) but I wouldnt kill my brother no matter what he did,he is still my brother.If Bhelen dies the Audecan house(your own family) dies out with him because he is the last Audecan.If you support Bhelen he will invite your son(from Mandy the courtesan) into the royal family and he will get the Audecan name(not the Harrowmont)+Bhelen as a king will restore your name in the family archives and you will get back your place as an Audecan prince(not in the epiloge,right after you finish A paragon of her kind chain) and from this point the Audecan guards(not all) will tell you that your father would be very proud of you and the Audecan servant calles you prince again(guess who will sit on the throne of Orzammar if something happens with Bhelen) and all the other dwarfs will no longer call you exile.


I must admit that I was very disappointed when I first heard that you cant become the king(and didnt play half year long:laugh :) just in the epiloge but in the end I must say that it I got a satisfying result and my ugly dwarf warrior is happy(he is a dwarf prince again(and he has a son in the royal family)not a nobody exile).

edit:you can give the Trian name to your son just if you didnt kill your brother(but you have other 6-7 options like Endrin)
[/SPOILER]

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Postby childofbhaal » Wed Jan 19, 2011 6:41 am

Sykar wrote:
Character development limited?
Compared to the oh so beloved BG2 it's quite immense especially on the rogue and warrior department and even mages get easily 20 spells and more not counting spell combinations.


With just 3 races and 3 classes I would say that its limited(BG 2 had around 8 races 10 different classes and around 25 subclasses(not counting in dual or multi classing).A good ToB mage has around 120 spells(and few very clever 1s like limited wish,time stop,spell sequencers,gate,summon familiar,invisibility etc.,a dragon age mage has nothing at all what can be useful or fun outside a battle).

The warrior and rogue classes are better than the BG2 warrior and rogue we can agree on that(but if you compare f.ex. a BG2 paladin with his limited access to priest spells to a DA:O warrior I bet that the paladin would have lot more abilities he can use).

Oh and as i know in dragon age 2 you can choose what you want to be:human,human,human or human :( ?(this is more than disappointing but I cant wait to play DA2(I am not counting the days left but I am close to it :D )).

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Postby LastDanceSaloon » Mon Jan 09, 2012 6:35 pm

I think one of the best features of Dragon Age: Origins is that it is a very well produced game.

I can find lots of negatives about the game and even go so far as to say that it came very close to being awful, but the huge boost which saved it, completely, is the fact that one can go from the first screen to the last without glitch and without dire need of a walkthrough - something which has much more relevance than trifles such as boring quest options and repetitive battle sequences.

For a game of such magnitude which can take up a good 100 hours of your life I can only offer plaudits to the creators in delivering a complete, fully rounded game. I, for one, have no time for creators who deliver half-baked products and expect us consumers to buy without indignation and sit and wait for unending patches to resolve 'bugs' which should never have got passed the testing phase. In this respect Dragon Age: Origins is one of the best PRGs money can buy.

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Postby Scottg » Tue Jan 10, 2012 7:45 pm

I know there were bugs for some, but not for me. :p

I think this will ultimately be the demise for most gaming on PC - testing over an ever increasing variety of PC's.

I can only hope that quality emulators for PC's will be created for games created solely for consoles (..which don't have anywhere near the testing requirements).

..anyway, a 7/10 for me as well (..if perhaps for slightly different reasons).