Thursday, May 9, 2013

My First Playthrough of Dragon Age: Origins

As you may have guessed from the title, I just completed my first playthrough of Dragon Age: Origins and I must say that after reading through the epilogue I’m relieved at how well everything seemed to have turned out and I’m only a little disappointed about a few decisions and their consequences.

The Main Menu
Despite the age of the game, the gameplay is not terribly complicated. I found it a bit difficult to get the hang of the item ranking system at first, but about halfway through the game it started to click and I had my party outfitted with the finest equipment the game had to offer (well mostly anyway). The game seemed to run quite smoothly even when dealing with large numbers of enemies and given the complexity of the game, the one or two bugs with simply solutions seems perfectly reasonable.

Graphics in the game were quite good for a game of its time and I couldn’t help but notice the rich level of detail put into everything from the broadest landscapes to the minutest portion of your set of armor. In fact, I found myself on a few occasions actually choosing my equipment based on aesthetics rather than stats, especially when the stats were even (or really close). Loading times were reasonable especially given the amount of blood the system constantly has to render and the sustained effects running concurrently (by the end of the game I was maintaining 4 just from my character).

Sound was in most cases quite well done. The SFX could occasionally get a bit repetitive, especially there toward the end when your character is so boss that s/he is one hitting any enemies with its name written in white. Music was of course expertly done, as is a custom for the game designers over at BioWare. Music was well used to set the mood (in more ways than one) and did an excellent job of conveying what was happening and generally what moral alignment each character represented.

The game interface was difficult to master at first (some sort of tutorial mission at the start of the game would have helped a lot) but once a player learns what they’re doing it becomes somewhat more intuitive. Inventory management was probably the biggest pain as it was difficult to know what anything was for and hard to tell at a glance if one piece of equipment was better than another (at first anyway). Despite this, combat was well streamlined and included the power wheel (a BioWare staple) for easy target selection and power management enhanced by the quickbar option for faster, more real-time decision making. Automation for non-selected characters was also quite good employing the “tactics” mechanic allowing you to select a predefined set of tactics for each character based on their role or fine-tune their responses using a number of different stimuli and reaction.

Story (spoilers)
A Chantry Templar
The tale begins shortly after character creation and will vary depending on what race and class you chose. As I played as a dwarf commoner and as such my story experience will be based on that story line. The initial plot is interesting, emphasizing the struggle to crawl up out of depravity and achieve something, doing what’s necessary to survive and thrive while (in my case at least) trying to be as moral as possible. While this last part was sometimes difficult (and at others downright impossible) the overall story line seems to have gone the way I’d hoped (mostly). Regardless of how you start you eventually find your way to Ostigar where the armies of Denerim are massing for a faceoff against the darkspawn hordes. When the battle begins however Logain takes the bulk of the army and retreats leaving the King and the Grey Wardens (including your character) to die. You and Alistair survive only because of a rescue from Flemeth, a crazy witch of the woods who as it turns out has been body snatching daughters for hundreds of years to remain alive. You then set off on a quest to unite the scattered forces of Ferelden against the darkspawn and the archdemon controlling them.

This quest takes you through the tower of magi, the forests where the elves reside, the underground city of the dwarfs, and the disparate kingdoms of the humans and ultimately leads to a final battle fought in Denerim.

My ending left me mostly pleased with the elves happy and at peace, Alistair on the throne with Anora, and the dwarfs moving forward and even retaking some of their lost territory, however there were a few things I wanted to try and rectify before moving on to Dragon Age II, namely I need to harden Alistair so that I can get him to marry Anora and keep Logain, destroy the anvil (like I meant to, but screwed up the dialog and didn’t have a conveniently close save to fix it) and allow Logain to kill the demon so that I can live and secure extra military aid to help the dwarfs fight in the deep roads. I’m hoping that I have a save far enough back to make that possible, but we’ll see.

Dragon Age: Origins is an excellent game well worth your time to play and continue playing as it does go on, but such is the nature of a good RPG. If you like RPG’s, BioWare, and generally having fun with a game that asks you to make some tough choices then definitely pick up a copy of this game for your N3rd C0rn3r.