Jahanzeb Khan
15 Dec, 2009

Dragon Age: Origins Review

360 Review | Dungeons and Dragons for the new generation.
BioWare has made a name for themselves over the years as the masters of Western RPGs. Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, Mass Effect, Nevewinter Nights and Baldur’s Gate are all works of BioWare and each of those games have now become timeless classics. Dragon Age: Origins is BioWare’s latest RPG venture. Is this another BioWare classic that will go down in history as one of the greatest RPGs ever created?

Dragon Age: Origins takes place in the fictional land called Ferelden, a war torn land inhabited by Elves, Werewolves, Mages, Dwarfs, sinister creatures called the ‘Darkspawn’ and of course humans. The plot revolves around the Blight, which essentially marks the return of the Darkspawn to the surface along with other dangers and travesties. You start by picking your race (Dwarf, Elf or Human) and class (warrior, mage, etc), followed by background (human noble, magi, city elf, etc), which will determine the character’s skills. From there, deep character creation tools that let you design a completely unique character. Depending on your skill with these things, you can actually make some really nice looking characters or like most people you’ll end up creating something that even a mother wouldn’t love.

Regardless of whom you choose to start with you eventually end up joining the Grey Wardens (think of these guys as Jedi Knights) and the embark on an epic journey to recruit and assemble an army large enough to fight the Darkspawn and their powerful leader, the Archdemon. Despite a familiar fantasy plot and setting, the excellent execution of these familiar concepts and ideas is what makes the game so special. The plot also has many layers and sub plots. The in-game world is full of diverse cultures, religions, races, people and kingdoms and has a lot of history and literature. The encyclopedia like Codex will educate you about the world in Dragon Age: Origins and you will be amazed at how much effort has been put in.

Look! a Dragon!

Look! a Dragon!

Dragon Age: Orgins is a throw back to the classic Dungeons and Dragons style of role playing games but polishes it up for the current generation of gaming by being incredibly deep and complex. It features many interesting people and characters, and many of them will join you on your adventures. The people who join your party and your friends and foes are never scripted because it all depends on how you interact with them. You could very well kill a character that could have been the most valuable party member.

The characters of this game are extremely likeable and they have a lot of personality. While you can develop relationships with just about anyone you meet in the game, there is more potential interaction with party members. You can develop a deep relationship with them by conversing, doing things that they approve or disapprove and giving presents. The game features romance and you can play both sides of the field, if you know what we mean. The relationship system is well done and somewhat captures the complexity of real life relationships, how each person needs to be treated and approached differently and how winning the heart of a love interest can be a long and challenging process that rewards the patient.

Seeing that this is the type of game that allows you to make choices and be whoever you want, there is of course an element of morality. Unlike Jade Empire and Fable, Dragon Age: Origins does not have a gauge that measures your morality. Even without it, morality does indeed play an important role as there are consequences for everything that you say and do. Karma’s presence is strong in this one as the enemies you make, the bosses you fight, the treatment you get from civilians and your ultimate fate at the end of the game, are all strongly influenced by everything (and anything) you do.

This game is heavy on blood and gore.

This game is heavy on blood and gore.

The conversation system has become a specialty of BioWare and in Dragon Age: Origins this has been masterfully done. The writing and dialogue delivery is good although some conversations can drag sometimes. Thankfully the game lets you be someone who just doesn’t give two cents, bringing even the most dramatic conversations to an abrupt and awkward end. All in all, Dragon Age: Origins really impressed us with its rich and diverse world and interesting inhabitants. Gamers will surely find themselves sucked in for hours just studying the world and socialising with their party members.

In the past we have seen BioWare create battle systems that are simple on the surface and yet are so deep and complex that it’s staggering. Dragon Age: Origins features the type of battle system found in traditional Western RPGs. It features basic melee strike attacks with special combos and finishers being a dice roll affair. You can experiment with different types of weapons, with each having its own set of attacks and skills and then of course there are magic spells and long range bow attacks.

Each character class can equip certain weapons and use certain skills. Each class also has specialties, e.g. a Rogue can pick locks with ease while a mage can shape shift into animals such as a spider, a swarm and a bear. A player needs to constantly choose between areas to specialise in and skills and talents to master, so as a mage, you decide whether you want to focus more on damage or on healing spells.

Always fight smart.

Always fight smart.

Experience helps build attributes like strength, cunning, magic etc but you need to consider the class of the character. It doesn’t make sense to work on a warrior’s magic attribute since he/she is never going to cast a spell. Instead, it makes more sense to work on strength and will power. Outside of skill assigned to the face buttons as ‘talents’ used in battle, there are skills you need to develop to improve your communication skills, so being able to use the power of verbal persuasion and intimidation.

Players with enough patience and skill can really appreciate the tactical dimensions to what is otherwise a generic hack and slash affair. The tactical pause allows you to line up attacks and plan ahead nicely, going as far as specifying what skills to use in certain situations. Also you can set up traps and use the terrain to your advantage (hide behind objects, get to higher ground, trap enemy in a corridor) and set up formations (putting archers at a distance in high terrain). What is impressive about Dragon Age: Origins is that it literally responds to the player and his/her play style. The quality and type of experience you derive from the game all depends you whether it be a straightforward ‘in your face’ hack and slash affair or a tacticians dream by planning out each step and making formations.

The game is absolutely massive, not only does the main quest take a good deal of time to finish but there are plenty of side quests and other story altering ‘optional’ quests to do. All that with the amount of time you spend building characters, reading the codex, learning and mastering skills and working on relationships, brings the length of this game to around 50 hours. It can take much longer if you choose to really savour each moment. Is the game for everyone though? While RPGs like Fable and Jade Empire have enough appeal for casual gamers to simply blast through, Dragon Age: Origins however is meant for serious RPG players as the game is quite intense, even on the Casual difficulty setting. Dragon Age: Origins is a very dense game that really requires patience and the need to look into things carefully (even the Codex) in order to get the most out of it.

Please be nice to her!

Please be nice to her!

Dragon Age: Origins for the Xbox 360 features some decent visuals. There are a few clipping issues, some glitches, bland colours, occasional choppy animations and some weak texturing and foggy draw distance. That aside the character models and their animations (especially facial) look great. Had this game been built from the ground up for the Xbox 360, it would have looked much better but that said it’s still a decent looking game with nice art direction and brutal blood effects. Sound wise, the game really impresses. It features a dark and beautiful score composed by the talented Inon Zur. It comes off as powerful and nicely done. The game is fully voiced and the voice acting is expertly done by actors who do more than just read their script out loud. All dialogues and lines are delivered with genuine emotion and flair. eat your heart out Japanese RPGs.

Dragon Age: Origins is another fantastic RPG from BioWare. It’s a game that really gives you your money’s worth and not only is there so much to but there is enough incentive to go back again and again just to see how things would turn otherwise or perhaps even just to experiment with a different race/class of character. BioWare has created another classic for us and while the Xbox 360 version may not be the most definitive version of the game, it is still one of the best RPGs you can find on the console. A word of warning though, this game is not for the causal or impatient.
The Score
Dragon Age: Origins is a fantastic and amazingly deep RPG that just keeps on giving. A game that is guaranteed to give you your money’s worth. 9
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Dragon Age: Origins Content

New Dragon Age DLC coming this month
08 May, 2010 From the perspective of evil.
A new character joins the Dragon Age cast
12 Feb, 2010 Move over Morrigan!
New creatures in Dragon Age Origins expansion
07 Feb, 2010 And they are... children!?
4 years ago
PALGN wrote
this game is not for the causal or impatient.
I'm willing to put in the time. It really looks to fill my wrpg void until Mass Effect 2.

Just curious, is the control scheme for consoles frustrating? or strangely functional for this style of game?
4 years ago
Just curious, is the control scheme for consoles frustrating? or strangely functional for this style of game?
Nice and comfy. Everything has been nicely mapped. Menu navigation is alright too.
4 years ago
Thanks. I kinda had faith in Bioware anyway to make them functional. Now it's confirmed ^_^
4 years ago
The controls are fine for consoles especially for a warrior class, and serviceable for mage (haven't played ranger yet).
4 years ago
So far this game's been a casualty of the Xmas rush. Too many other games around. And with all the DLC that's already out or been announced, I can't help but feel I'm better of waiting for a "game of the year edition" or whatever they inevitably release in 6 to 12 months that bundles in all the DLC.
4 years ago
I'm surprised you reviewed this for 360 instead of the PC.

I'm about 25 hours into the PC version now, really enjoying it.
4 years ago
I have the PC version too but it keeps crashing whenever i hit 2 hours in, have tried it in 2 different background stories too - random...
4 years ago
can also vouch for the controls on the 360 version working fine. being able to map two seperate sets of abilities (including being able to map the quick heal command) per weapon set works well, though using the radial wheel to select talents/spells/etc works just as well.
4 years ago
I hear casting AoE spells is difficult on consoles?
4 years ago
Yeah, that what I heard from reviewers but when I ask people about it, no one had trouble with it. I am totally convinced console version is good enough through asking other people who played it in console and got a game from Game Exchange (thanks TheAnswer icon_biggrin.gif)
4 years ago
Island_Wolf wrote
got a game from Game Exchange (thanks TheAnswer icon_biggrin.gif)
You're most welcome icon_biggrin.gif

I was going to play it, but too many other titles to play first, so might as well sell it to someone who'll actually get to play it
4 years ago
stick_theory wrote
I hear casting AoE spells is difficult on consoles?
not that i've noticed- they're selected the same way as everything else and its not hard to aim them.
4 years ago
Awesome game!
looking forward to the next dlc so i can get back to playing it.
Moistflaps wrote
I have the PC version too but it keeps crashing whenever i hit 2 hours in, have tried it in 2 different background stories too - random...
i have the ps3 vesion & have had no problems might just be the pc version?.
4 years ago
Moistflaps wrote
I have the PC version too but it keeps crashing whenever i hit 2 hours in, have tried it in 2 different background stories too - random...
I've had a few crashed on PC, but not common enough to worry about. I think it was due to another program running at the same time (in this case I think it might have been the Apple Software update). But yeah nothing to worrying.

There are a few bugs in the game though, some more annoying then others.

If you have a MS mouse and use the driver that come with it there a few problems with that. The scroll wheel doesn't work correctly.

I've had a few cases where character models do not appear but they are talking; repeated dialogue; quests not finishing or still appearing after finished; not to mention some of the more widely known bugs with the DLC.

I don't think these bugs ruin the game overall, but they are certainly more noticeable in this game then others I have played.
4 years ago
Um, just a quick question. I'm thinking of getting the game on PC, but I'm not sure if my laptop (a Thinkpad X200) can run it, because of the integrated graphics card running on Windows Vista.
I went to the Can You Run It? site and checked my system specs, and the integrated graphics card meets all the requirements, except for the model number. So do you people think that my laptop will be able to run it? I could run the Character Creator Demo fine.

Here's the screenshot of the test:
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  5/11/2009 (Confirmed)
  Electronic Arts
Year Made:

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