Great games have a way of immersing you in a satisfying goop of game play, graphics and innovation. By time you realize you’ve been drowning in this sugary goodness you’ve probably wasted a few hours or the entire day and have a dozen or so missed phone calls. Bioware’s Dragon Age: Origins does this by the book and then some, easily making it a late year competitor for game of the year on virtually anyone’s list.
The game plays like many classic PC RPGs in the sense that decisions you make alter the progression of the story, which from the outset pushes players to make more than a single play through (something you’ll definitely want to invest in, especially since you have the choice of more than one character). It sounds simple enough but when you actually get down into the nitty gritty, the decisions that you’re forced to make while you’re immersed in this epic story can have a habit of actually being truly difficult. Dialogue and the like in video games generally aren’t anything to write home about, but Dragon Age manages to hold its own.
Dragon Age: Origins gets it title from the fact that whichever one of the outsets you choose, you have to complete an “origin story” before heading out into the game world where you’ll head down the same path regardless. The far reaching grasp of the decision making elements begin here and will definitely remind you later down the road.
Dragon Age is a deep RPG, the bottomless kind of deep that forms cult followings for decades after the game’s been released. The fantasy world that you’ll be playing in is rich enough to merit more exploration than you’ll ever be satisfied with. The different aspects of society including religion, social ladder and even race relations come into play to form an unbelievably engrossing backdrop for your twisting, epic tale. Unlike most games that are altered based on user decisions, you won’t have to worry about your morality when deciding upon a course of action or response, but you do have to worry about how your party will look upon you. The decisions you make are truly the ripples that eventually become waves down the road.
While pretty to look at, the combat isn’t anything out of this world when looked at alongside other PC RPGs. What did stand out during the origin story that was played through was how gruesome things reflected upon your character after you’ve hacked your way through a few rooms. While it’s something that will quickly become normal after you’ve lopped off your umpteenth head, your character will become drenched in blood. The gushing fountains from a decapitation don’t simply disappear; you’re going to look like you were in a fight. Beyond aesthetics there’s the tactics menu that stands out and gives an extra bit of depth. Tweaking your allies’ posture in combat by making them a little more offensive or defensive ultimately becomes more and more rewarding as you traverse the game. Automatically coming to the aid of a dying party member while they fall back on a potion you’ve instructed them to use is nicely done, especially after countless RPGs beforehand made you perform all of these actions by yourself or saw automated commands not work all that well (The Star Ocean series comes to mind). Luckily, if you don’t like how things are progressing the way it’s been set up to, you can pause and redirect the action of your entire party.
The aesthetics on the PC for Dragon Age are great, though already much has been made for the console version (notably the Xbox 360 version being lackluster visually). The talking trees, werewolves and everything else look great, especially while they’re talking. The voiceovers were well done (thankfully) to the point where you probably won’t notice that nothing is wrong, which is certainly a very good thing.
Dragon Age: Origins is a truly epic title that will bury you in its depth, nudge you along its winding road and then simply step back while you come crawling back for another play through. For any RPG fan, Dragon Age is probably the best game you’re going to play all year, maybe even one of the better games you’ve played in the past few years.