Dragon Age: Origins

Canadian developer BioWare made itself known with high-quality titles such as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and the Mass Effect series, also being responsible for the popular Baldur’s Gate titles. With Dragon Age: Origins, BioWare returns to a fantasy setting for a role-playing game, bringing the title to the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC, and providing an experience that’s pretty much on par with its best titles.

When beginning a new game, the player gets to choose one of a few character classes and an origin story, which provides significant replay value alongside the various choices throughout the game that influence the storyline, which is consequentially one of the strongest aspects of the game despite some occasional grammatical errors in the dialogue that otherwise has a nice medieval flavor.

The player’s party can hold up to four active characters from different classes, with the player controlling and moving around one character while the A.I. controls the other. Fortunately, Origins has a deep A.I. customization system akin to Final Fantasy XII’s Gambits where the player can set a variety of commands to execute depending upon the circumstances.

Levels tend to rise slowly compared to other RPGs, but when they do, the player can increase a character’s stats by a certain amount (with many skills and armor having stat and level requirements), may get the opportunity to invest a point into a variety of skills such as trap-making and herbalism (allowing for the creation of healing items, and very handy), and will most times be able to invest a point into a variety of skills with four levels each consisting of active and passive abilities.

The battle system works well for the most part, although given the toughness of the final boss, it can be intimidating to play on higher difficulties, and unlike most other RPGs, the player can’t simply grind in a place to make things easier, with enemy encounters fixed and seeming not to respawn, a flaw compounded by the points of no return towards the end. Despite these flaws, combat helps the game more than hurts.

Controls are decent, with an easy menu system and always-convenient save-anywhere feature (though the player might wish to keep more than one save file in case of the aforementioned points of no return), alongside a good direction on how to advance, although the game limits the amount of different item types the player can carry at one time, with enemies typically dropping a variety of items. Still, interaction is definitely above average.

The music isn’t much to write home about, although the sound effects and voice acting are very much above average, with the player luckily being able to skip through the latter with the square button if they don’t want to wait for every actor to say every line.

The graphics also look nice, with the rarity of different equipment affecting characters’ appearances, although there are some bland pixilated textures and frequent flickering.

Finally, the game is of average length, taking somewhere from twenty to forty hours to complete depending upon whether the player wants to do sidequests.

Ultimately, Dragon Age: Origins is for the most part a solid start to the BioWare series, with deep, customizable combat, good control, an excellent storyline, great voice acting, and nice visuals. There are, however, some areas that leave room for improvement such as limited inventory, the music, and the technical issues with the graphics, although the first game in the end is a solid fantasy RPG.

The Good:
+Solid action-based game mechanics.
+Great story with variations.
+Good voice acting.
+Nice graphics.
+Excellent replay value.

The Bad:
-Can be intimidating to play on higher difficulty levels.
-Limited inventory space.
-Some points of no return.
-Forgettable soundtrack.
-Some visual flickering.

The Bottom Line:
Another great BioWare game.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation 3
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Controls: 7/10
Story: 9/10
Music/Sound: 7/10
Graphics: 8/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Adjustable
Playing Time: 20-40 Hours

Overall: 7/10

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