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[PS3] Dragon Age: Origins - Katie's Review

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Katie

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Kind of a Big Deal
Kind of a Big Deal


Console: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Developed By: Bioware, Edge of Reality (console)
Published By: Electronic Arts

Graphics: 9/10
Storyline: 10/10
Characters: 10/10
Gameplay: 7/10
Sound: 8/10
Overall: 9/10

When I finished watching the final scene and the credits started to roll, all I wanted to do was start a new file. Dragon Age, for all its faults, is one of the best games I have ever played. The storyline and characters were incredible, and I can't wait to go back and see how different choices and a new character can play out.

There are seven different origins stories to choose from: Human Noble (human warrior or rogue class), Magi (human or elven mage), Dalish Elf or City Elf (elven warriors or rogues), and Dwarf Commoner or Dwarf Noble (dwarven warrior or rogue). There are certain endings available to only certain classes, and other characters you encounter will treat you differently based on your race. I was boring and chose ye olde Human Noble. I can't say anything about the other origins stories, but mine was interesting. No matter what Origins story you complete, you will end up joining the Grey Wardens, a group of fighters dedicated to defeating the Darkspawn. I'm looking forward to playing all of the other origins stories, even if I probably won't complete the game again with all of those characters.

Graphics were really good. It's definitely one of the best looking games I've played in a while (but that isn't saying much, because the game I finished before this was FFVII). There were a few problems (certain characters would cross their arms and their fingers would go through their arms, etc.) but nothing that really detracts from the game.

The storyline is where Dragon Age really shines. Throughout the game, you have to make tough choices that will affect the rest of the storyline. In the end, every player will complete the same missions, but how they complete them is where it gets interesting. Sometimes making immoral choices makes the most sense, and the difference between right and wrong is anything but clear. I can't get into too much detail without spoiling anything, but here's an example:
Spoiler:
I was in the castle of Redcliffe. The Arl (leader, so to speak) of the village was dying of poison, and when I go to investigate I discover that the Arl's son is a mage that was possessed by a Fade spirit. To defeat him, I could either kill the child directly, killing the demon in the process, or I could allow the Arl's wife to sacrifice herself in a blood magic ritual. Blood magic is supposedly evil, and the blood mage that would perform the ritual was the person who had poisoned the Arl. He seemed sincere enough, but can you trust him?

The characters are, for me, what really set the game over the top. There are a total of nine recruitable party members (one you have to purchase via DLC), and all of them have strong personalities and agendas. They will lose or gain approval based on your decisions, and if their approval ratings get too low they could leave or betray you. But don’t worry: for the characters you can’t seem to please, giving them gifts is an easy way to increase their approval meters. Even their personalities will change depending on your conversations with each of them. The best example I can give is Alistair, the only other surviving Grey Warden besides you. You can choose to harden Alistair by telling him that everyone is out for themselves and he needs to put his personal feelings above everything else once in a while, or you can support his strong sense of righteousness. I did the latter and watched a few youtube videos of conversations with the hardened Alistair and was shocked by the difference. Some characters, like Alistair, responded well to kindness, while others were only loyal to me if I kicked them around a bit.

The characters outside of your party were fun to talk to as well. You could talk to almost anybody, and each of them would have something different to say. You could even persuade or intimidate certain people if they won’t do what you want. Whenever I walked into a room I always made sure I talked to everyone, because certain characters would teach you class specializations or give you information and new quests.

The gameplay is where everything starts to fall apart. For starters, it’s loaded with glitches. The game will frequently freeze for a split second and start up again while you’re walking around. It’s only a minor annoyance, but aggravating nonetheless. Battles featured a tactics system where you can issue orders to your party members via a tactics screen. If a character gets in a tight situation, you can switch control to that character and try to get them out of it manually. The idea is good, but it doesn’t work very well in practice. For one thing, you can’t get an overhead view, so often you can’t see the whole battlefield. That makes it difficult to form a good strategy. I often had to dumb down the difficulty on hard battles because I couldn’t get past them. There really wasn’t a way to find extra battles to level up your characters, so often changing the difficulty level was my only option. At the end, I just kept the difficulty level on casual, my mentality being “screw the gameplay, I want to get to the storyline.” Apparently, the PC version has none of these problems, so go with the PC version if you can get it.

The music was decent. It didn’t feature too many real tracks, but had background noise to heighten the situation you were in. The battle music was my favorite, as it was a frantic brass-percussion mix that made the battles that much more fun. The entire game was voice acted, and the actors did a spectacular job. They were obviously having a blast voicing their characters. Here are a few examples of party banter:




And if you’re not worried about spoilers, this video almost made me cry. Well, that’s an exaggeration, but it’s still awesome.
Spoiler:

Dragon Age is a great RPG, and even though I’ve beaten the game I’m far from through with it. I can’t wait until the sequel comes out, and if Bioware keeps what worked in the first game and cleans up everything else, they’ll have a masterpiece.


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