So I guess the big thing today will be the gushing/talking/ranting/nitpicking of Dragon Age: Origins, BioWare’s latest RPG experience, and I must meekly fall into line to share my thoughts. I am a number!
Of course, other regions around the world may still be waiting for their copies to arrive, and thus I must say, with all tact and sensitivity, na na na boo boo, I got mine first!
In all seriousness, from my first six hours or so in game, this is shaping up to be a truly memorable title. I’ve loved BioWare ever since Baldur’s Gate 2, which I completely played through at least four times, and it’s great to finally see them revisiting a straight-up fantasy world, albeit with their trademark BioWare twists put on it.
I mean, at a glance, the world of Dragon Age is as cliche and generic as fantasy tales go: you have knights, wizards, dwarves, elves, humans, dragons, the fighter/rogue/mage class selection, and health potions. We’ve been dealing with these sorts of things for so long that it’s hard to remember when any of it felt fresh and exciting. But oddly enough, it does so here. In almost every way, your expectations of the fantasy conventions are due to be reversed. The good guys might really not be that good, the immortal elves are pretty much just street trash, and powerful magic users are prisoners under the watch of Dragon Age’s version of the church.
It’s also a LOT more brutal, more in the vein of George R.R. Martin than R.A. Salvadore. In fact, DAO’s Grey Wardens pretty much are Martin’s Night Watch — a dwindled group of men conscripted from every nation, tasked with preparing against an eventual resurgeance of ancient evil.
What’s really neat are the six origin stories that DAO offers. I had a hard time progressing in the game, because I wanted to experience all six. In the end, I did three: the city elf, human mage, and human noble, the latter of whom I stuck with (as a rogue/ranger class).
Some of the comments I’ve read about the combat suddenly spiking in difficulty is certainly true — I had to endure 11 attempts at the game’s first major boss to beat it, especially since it could insta-kill any member of my party. I’m really hoping I’ll come across a healer-type character, because going through potions (and their scarcity) makes for cautious gameplay.
But the combat itself is pretty glorious — it just feels more fluid and natural than in most MMOs and SPRPGs I’ve played. It’s always fun to pause in the middle of the action and rotate the camera to see bodies in motion and blood hanging in midair.
Still, as always, I play BioWare games for their story and characters, and here I’m not disappointed so far. You can play a mean character, a saint, a sarcastic quipper, a coward, or pretty much anything else you like. I have a hard time being an utter jerk to everyone I meet, so basically I’m nice — but I have a bit of a ruthless side when I feel a NPC is yanking my chain. I met a prisoner at one point who offered to trade me a key to a chest for some food and water, but I couldn’t peacefully procure him a meal. So I took the option to kill him to snag the key instead. Brutal, especially for my guy, but it was either that or walk away from treasure. And I can’t say no to treasure!
And for the record, this game’s made me laugh out loud at least six times, along with a couple situations that had me cringing.
Oh, and your dog can retreive you items, if you ask nicely. Mine dug up a pair of dirty pantaloons, because nothing says “man’s best friend” like “here’s some soiled undergarments!”