Dragon Age Origins Review
The traditional role-playing game is not dead but the genre has certainly evolved in the recent years with RPG titles that were not only revolutionary but also amazing enough to be the rare unforgettable classics whether we’re talking Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Fallout 3 or Mass Effect. You can now add one more game to the list of memorable RPG masterpieces with BioWare’s Dragon Age Origins for the Xbox 360.
Choose your own adventure
Like Mass Effect, BioWare brings us an epic storyline with a role-playing game experience that is lengthy and filled with more than its share of battles and numerous choices that keep this game interesting enough to want to play more than once. Also like Mass Effect, you can create your own male or female character (this time adding races such as Human, Elf and Dwarf) but unlike it the different backgrounds that become available to you means a different opening act that eventually leads to the same main quest. You can even pick your class such as Warrior, Mage or Rogue.
Several hundred years ago, in the land of Ferelden, a group of mages defied the Gods and were punished for it. Transformed into the monstrous Darkspawn, these creatures follow the Arch-Demon to destroy the good kingdoms that shun them. Yet the good kingdoms means to fight against the threat and with the powerful Grey Wardens that mean to stop the Darkspawn. No matter what background or race you pick, your character meets a Grey Warden named Duncan who sees you as the perfect candidate to become a Grey Warden.
While you’re not placed directly on the frontlines after Duncan takes you to the main camp, the game follows your first trials as a Grey Warden recruit that eventually leads to you and a handful of characters becoming the only force left to stop the Darkspawn threat (known as The Blight). The journey to face off against the Arch-Demon leads your party on several quests and side quests in different cities within the game’s world map.
No hobbits in this fantasy
There are also several choices to make in the game that determine the outcome of the story’s ending. Once again, you can be a kind soul who means to help those around you or you can become evil and do as much harm for your own gain. Early in the game, you can help an Elf messenger get a fine sword to it’s intended owner or you can bully the messenger to give it to you and keep the sword yourself while the Elf gets punished for losing said sword. The choices also affects the way certain characters respond to you in the romance department. Certain conversational choices could lead to making a love interest fall for you or could lead them to dislike you.
Dragon Age Origins does manage to offer plenty of quests for you to take on including side quests with downloadable quests already available via Xbox Live. Like the choices you make, taking on certain missions not only allows you to earn money but you can also level up your character to increase your attributes but also earn you different skills (such as combat training or trap making as well as different specialization. Specializations can turn your Warrior into Templar or Champion while your Rogue can become an Assassin or even a bard. Mages can even become Arcane Warriors so you can cast spells as well as wield a sword.
Speaking of swords, Dragon Age Origins pushes the combat and does so well enough that you’ll gladly be getting into battles. There’s some emphasis on battle tactics and you can switch between characters to make use of each of their specializations and classes. You can even set the behavior of the computer-controlled members of your party to act on the defensive or have them attack immediately. The radial menu isn’t the most easy to navigate but it does the trick so the PC version certainly had the edge in terms of how smoothly you can bring up the menu as well as how easily you can map the useful items and skills.
Even mages can't walk through
The game has plenty of secrets to discover and many a Codex to read and trust me when I say that you will be completely absorbed by the game’s world and the many things the game has to offer. Sure, there are a few glitches in the game that has the AI-controlled allies being stuck behind walls or other objects and combat can occasionally get a bit on the awkward side thanks to the rare stutter in the framerate. Still, it’s easy to overlook these problems considering the remarkable story and the several hours that this game will cheerfully steal from your life.
As far as the graphics are concerned, Dragon Age Origins is quite a disappointment on the Xbox 360. The muddy textures and flat-looking backgrounds seriously do not do justice to this game. The PC is clearly the better-looking version of the game. At least the character models do look good during cut scenes and during the action. There are times when the backdrops do look stunning and the visual effects can be quite dazzling but it could have been better.
At least the game makes up for the weak visuals with an amazing original score that makes the story feel even more epic. The game also has wonderfully written dialogue that, thanks to a solid voice cast - that also includes actor Tim Curry - makes it work beautifully throughout the game. There are even some detailed sound effects as well.
Leave it to BioWare to bring us yet another impressive role-playing game that not only feels like a true epic but is also pushes the genre to new levels with Dragon Age Origins. While the game doesn’t look as good as it should on the Xbox 360, it’s the content that makes this game truly shine to make it one of the most gratifying RPGs you will want to play more than once.
Review Scoring Details for Dragon Age: Origins
The game offers different classes, gender, races and enough choices to make this a game with plenty of replay value. Then there’s the story that is wonderfully larger-than-life with a great cast of characters. The game also pushes the action envelope and does it well.
Visually, the PC gets the more graphically impressive game and this is not acceptable seeing as the Xbox 360 is capable of doing better than what is seen in this game. At least the character models look decent enough and sometimes the landscape does look good.
There’s a beautiful and cinematic score here that would fit right at home in an epic fantasy movie and the voice acting is actually handled superbly. Even the sound effects are done to near perfection throughout this game.
While there are moments in the game where you will be killed by the more powerful enemies as well as enormous creatures, the game isn’t too difficult. It’s nothing some good armor, weapons and good tactics can’t solve.
Much like Mass Effect, you will want to play again after you’re done thanks to the different character classes and their individual opening stories. There are plenty of conversation and good/bad choices to make and the adventure is an impressive one. The game also has potential for more downloadable missions.
Dragon Age Origins for the Xbox 360 is destined to become an instant classic role-playing game that joins the ranks of some of the best games in the genre. With a great story, likeable characters, plenty of options and plenty of bloody action, this is yet another role-playing game that is Required Playing for anyone who enjoys the genre.