Dragon Age: Origins Review

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Dragon Age: Origins Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: BioWare

Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC
Reviewed on PlayStation 3

The Grey Wardens are a tiny, devoted force whose entire existence is dedicated to defeating the Blights that spread across the face of Ferelden every few hundred years. Only the Grey Wardens have the magical link and extensive skills to defeat an Archdemon (an ancient, tainted dragon) that marches at the head of the darkspawn army that emerges each blight.

Under most circumstances, membership in the Grey Wardens would be a great honor, but with a new Blight imminent and a major betrayal decimating the Grey Wardens, not only is membership a burden, the fate of Fereldon depends on the few remaining Grey Wardens.

Kyle Ackerman

Dragon Age: Origins has plenty of flaws, but given that a single play-through of the game actually takes more than 100 hours (as BioWare promises), Dragon Age: Origins presents an incomparable value, especially in a world where single-player campaigns lasting five or six hours are commonplace. Meriting at least a second play-through, Dragon Age: Origins could literally be the only game you buy for as much as a year. So most of the game's flaws can be easily overlooked, thanks to the truly massive supply of entertainment that comes on the game disc.

Delightfully Dark Designs

Dragon Age: Origins is up to BioWare's usual stellar standards, offering a brilliantly written tale set in a fantasy world where religion, racism and politics unwittingly conspire to pave the way for demonic corruption to destroy the world. Robust character development, numerous (meaningful) player choices and intra-party intrigue make for an engrossing game from a storytelling perspective.

Whether you choose to play as a warrior, mage or rogue, and whichever race and background you choose, Dragon Age: Origins alternates between lengthy story sequences in which you further the plot through dialog, plumbing the depths of political intrigue or simply running minor errands, and extensive dungeon crawls in which you and your party wade through encounter after encounter. If I have a single criticism of the game's design, it's simply that the combat and storytelling sequences could have been better intertwined. As someone who enjoys the storytelling, and eagerly awaits each of BioWare's outings for that reason, I personally found the combat sequences too long for my taste.

Compose Your Party Carefully

With a carefully balanced party, few of the combats were difficult, although some of the more powerful enemies require skillful management of your party's tactical skills, which essentially became a rudimentary AI-programming mini-game that dramatically improved one's effectiveness in combat. For that reason, loot (such as weapons and magic items) is entertaining, but I never found loot in Dragon Age: Origins a compelling end in and of itself.

My only objection to Dragon Age: Origins' combat was the final battle against the Archdemon. The battle itself is carefully crafted, but because you have to choose the composition of your party so far in advance of the final confrontation that it's not practical to go back and change your party, anyone who doesn't read a walkthrough in advance is at risk of making that battle a lot harder than it should be. My party composition, while very good for crowd control, wasn't particularly suited to the final fight, necessitating several tries (wishing I could swap out party members).

16 Alphanumeric Characters of Pain

I do have a major objection to Dragon Age: Origins, an objection serious enough to keep the game, despite its value, from achieving the highest score this site offers. That objection requires a little background: Electronic Arts, like other publishers, is seeking to improve its profits, something that used game sales and game rentals threaten. To this end, the most entertaining party member in Dragon Age: Origins and his associated adventures has been pulled from the game and made into premium downloadable content. Since Shale is the HK-47 of Dragon Age: Origins, this content is a must-have for any real fan.

To encourage people to purchase the game new, anyone ordering a new copy of Dragon Age: Origins, gets a code redeemable for this extra content. It's actually quite clever – people who buy the game new get the whole game. People who rent or purchase a used copy of the game have to pay extra to EA, ensuring the publisher still gets income from those sales. The problem is that my code didn't work. I've cooled off a lot thanks to the very long game, but it was a few hours of back and forth with customer service over the course of days before I could actually play the game. My final message on this note to publishers is: If you want to try novel schemes to monetize used games and rentals, make sure it works, and that your customer service is prepared for problems. EA's wasn't.

It used to be that console games ran when purchased. We've all given in and now fully expect a few minutes of patching when we download a new game, but waiting days to play while going back and forth with customer service isn't acceptable.

Fortunately, once the issue was resolved, I began (and ultimately completed) the incredible journey that is Dragon Age: Origins, an absolute must-have title for anyone with even the slightest inclination toward epic, Dungeons & Dragons-style games.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on February 12, 2010 10:10 PM.

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