Say goodbye to your life, epic role-play gaming is here!
I really like Role Play Games. I have played Baldurs Gate 1 and 2,Neverwinter Nights, Icewind Dale and many other, non-Bioware games over the years. When I heard that Bioware were going to be releasing a new RPG, I was very excited. Recently, my gaming habits have taken me from the PC to the consoles, mostly because it is more comfortable in front of a 46″ widescreen than a 19″ on a desk. I have been searching for a game to fulfill my fantasy RPG needs on the console. Oblivion was good, but I had already played it to death on the PC. Two Worlds got me interested, but was ultimately flawed. Fable 2 was great, but lacked the depth that I was looking for. Risen was far better on the PC. Then, along came Dragon Age: Origins. Had I finally found the game that I wanted?
Welcome to the realm of Ferelden, created completely from scratch by the guys at Bioware. The game will begin with you choosing your character and their “Origin”. These “Origins”, of which there are six to choose from (although the choice is mostly decided by the type of character you want to play) give six different ways to start the game, six different back stories and each one will affect your game differently. This means that, even once the game is finished, the desire to play through again, with a different “origin”, is great. Each of these “origins” will take you ultimately to joining the Grey Wardens, but more on them soon. They also provide the games tutorial, which will quickly show you the basics of the game, andÂ provide the inspiration to begin your journey.
The Grey Wardens are an organisation of warriors that, some 400 years earlier, fought back the DarkSpawn and halted the spread of the Blight. More recently, they have fallen out of favour with the people, yet they still hold vigil, watching for signs of the Blights return. And return, it has. Joining the dwindling numbers of the Grey Wardens, your character will have to drink the tainted blood of the Darkspawn in order to develop the powers needed to defeat the DarkSpawn and their Arch-demon controller.
And so begins your journey. Charged with trying to unite the various factions against the growing threat, you will travel the realm performing deeds and accepting side quests in order to grow in strength. This cannot be achieved alone, however. Throughout your journey, you will come across many colourful characters, some of which will join you in your quest and become a member of your party. DA:O allows you to control a party of adventurers, meaning that you can make up for any shortfalls in your skill set by choosing members providing the skills that you lack. You will then be able to control these characters at will and use their skills as you see fit.
Leveling up your character, and those within your party, is relatively painless. As with most RPG’s of this type, the characters abilities and effectiveness are dictated by statistics and skills. As you level up, you receive points to increase your stats and can learn more skills. The skill tree is quite comprehensive and new spells are learnt in the same way, if you are playing as a spell caster. The beginning three classes, warrior, rogue and mage, may seem slightly limiting to begin with. Later in the game, however, there will be the chance to take on a sub-class, which will open new skill trees and allow for further specialisation (for those, like myself, who always play as a ranger…start as a rogue)
On the subject of the supporting characters, they truly make this game. The voice acting and scripting of the different people you meet, and those who join you, is simply great. The games story is deep and involving, and the interactions with the various characters provide the game with many moments of humour and affection. The way you interact with these characters will affect the world around you, and sometimes in unimaginable ways that will only be apparent when you see the effects. An early example was a trader who was being accused of profiteering. By refusing to help him clear away his accusers, the merchant packed his cart and moved on, denying me the chance to trade. Mind you, I can’t help but feel that forcibly removing a priest from the accusing throng would have ended worse for me.
Combat is a frantic, yet easy affair. Simply click your chosen enemy, or use the attack button in the case of the console versions, and away they will go and join the throng. Using special abilities, or spells is simply a matter of clicking a box or pressing the appropriate button. You have the ability to queue up actions, to make life easier, and also the player can pause the action and apply certain behaviors to each character. This works best on the PC, where the interface is more manageable. However the console version also does its best and , although only offering a stripped down version of this tactical option, manages to be effective. Using these methods can take a bit of getting used to, but once they have been mastered, the outcome is spectacular.
The game makes certain allowances in order to ensure that it keeps flowing. The only real disaster is if your main character should die, but even then, the auto save points are well distributed. Should a party member die in combat, they will be resurrected after the skirmish has played out. They will, however, be injured and suffer a penalty, but even this can be fixed with the appropriate treatment. In between combat encounters, your health replenishes quickly, allowing for encounters to occur in quick succession.
I have played both the PC and the Xbox360 version ( I have not tried the PS3 version, so cannot comment, although I have heard it looks better than the Xbox360 version. Make of that what you will)Â and I am sure that everyone will want to know, which is best? I can’t answer that, because there are too many personal factors to think about. Graphically, the PC version looks superior to the Xbox version, but then that would depend on what PC hardware you have. The interface on the PC is something that most PC gamers will easily come to terms with, but console gamers may have trouble with that and feel more comfortable with the Xbox. I have already mentioned that the tactical options are better in the PC version, but not everyone will want to look that deeply into the tactical side of things. Also, playing games on the PC is traditionally less comfortable than sitting in front of the tv with a console. So these are all factors that need to be taken into consideration by the individual player. For my money, the PC version both looks and plays better, but I like sitting on the sofa. I have in fact started playing through again on the Xbox version in the early hours.
Bioware have managed to combine an enthralling story, a wonderful supporting cast and intuitive game mechanics into a game that will simply take over your life. This is the game I have been looking for.