Dragon’s Den: Dragon Age: Origins
People who know me know I love the fantasy RPG genre. So when Dragon Age: Origins first came out, I knew immediately I had to play it. I remember enjoying the story for the first time quite fondly, but I will be revisiting the title for the Playstation 3 to see if the game is just as good as I remember it. Let’s dive into the realm of Ferelden and see if it’s held up to today’s standards.
Our story begins depending on how you choose to create your character at first. You could either start out as a noble human warrior or rogue, a mage holed up in the Magi Tower, or a commoner/Dalish Elf Warrior, or even a commoner Dwarven character. Each origin has their own separate beginning but it does meld to the main story so I’ll start from there. You are recruited to join a greatly honored group known as the Grey Wardens, whose sole duty is to fight the Darkspawn and destroy the Blight. After finishing the trials to join, The Darkspawn armies are coming and so the Grey Wardens, Logain, and the king of Ferelden, Cailan plan on how to defeat them and hold their ground. Before the battle begins, The leader gives you the orders of staying at the tower to light pyres to signal a further army when to strike the Darkspawn. Some obstacles stand in the way and halts your progress. When you finally light the pyre, Logain (the leading officer of the further army) chooses to ignore the signal, gather his forces, and go home. As Logain not only abandons the Grey Wardens, but also his King whom all have been slaughtered by the Darkspawn army. Almost being nearly killed yourself you’re transported to a small hut with another Grey Warden, Alister, and you both find out what has happened to the Grey Wardens and have now been charged with the task of recruiting all of Fereldan to battle against the massive armies of Darkspawn and to stop the blight.
I’m very fond of a story where you have to find a way to defeat a great evil or else it will destroy everything. But the story just doesn’t end there, as you recruit more allies, their stories are revealed to you as well whenever you speak to them during a mission, or during a break at the campfire. Each character provides something new that not only enriches their selves, but also the lore of the world around them as well. You will learn anything from Alister’s life as a Grey Warden, Morrigan growing up in the woods, Leliana from her life in Orlais, and even more. It was a rare time where I didn’t take time away from the game itself to just go to the campfire to have conversations with the other characters to learn even more about them. Even if you’re doing a mission, you can take a short moment to talk with a party member you’ve taken with you to learn what they think of what’s going on or more lore to their characters. At points though, this aspect can be annoying if you’re trying to roam through doors or examine an object and the game mistakes you for speaking to someone else, but you can exit out of the conversation menu if it happens.
The graphics are pretty dated as you will frequently see textures pop in and anytime the camera decides to zoom-in on any of the trees or plants, you will see the pixels. But as dated as the graphics are, the settings are still great to see as you progress through the woods or in the Dwarven mines. all of the Darkspawn look intimidating almost as much as fighting the Ogres as a combination of the two will make any battle challenging. The music that plays also gives off the feeling of adventure, especially in the main menu. Each battle you’re in plays a great tune to show how great the battle is as you defeat large numbers of Darkspawn. One thing I noticed that annoyed me a lot was that armor you equip barely changes were the varying sets of armor you obtain. Everything you equip will either look exactly as your previous set, or it will look slightly different until you get a later set of armor in the late game. Another thing was that I rarely found any new Mage robes or equipment to the point where right before the final battle, I was forced to find a shop specialized in Mage items just so I could replace the same robes I had been wearing since progressing past the Magi origin story. The helmet items for the Mage look incredibly silly as it’s just a cloth with a feather sticking out of the forefront top.
The gameplay itself is where I began having problems with this title. Your enjoyment will depend entirely on your class and the difficulty you choose to play on. I created a Human Mage whom would do whatever he could to do what’s right as I’m the type of person (with the first playthrough anyways) to create a good-hearted person with magical abilities when I can. I brought up the difficulty aspect as it will spike at many moments to very harsh moments, even on Normal and Casual modes. The earliest spike in difficulty I witnessed was right before I lit the pyre to signal Logain’s armies when an Ogre was waiting at the top, who slaughters your entire party with seconds. I was forced to use hit and run tactics as the mage just so I could wither away at its health before finally defeating it. Looking at what changes as the difficulty increases, it makes it seem that the Mage class is entirely worthless to play as. Anything above Normal difficulty, anything you may have that has an area of effect attached to your abilities (something a majority of a Mage’s spells involve) will also harm your party members. This also applies to any traps you may leave via the trap-making skill. I didn’t like this aspect as it severely limits what you can have in your party and your play style if you ever choose to challenge yourself.
Battles themselves will consist of party and skill management as you will run up to an enemy weapon in hand, and begin attacking, frequently using skills to deal more damage or buff other party members as their relative cooldown timers are finished. The battle mechanics are admittedly boring as you’re doing the same thing every fight with rarely anything new to mix it up. You can actually switch between your allies if you choose to and play as the differing classes if you choose to, and your character will still fight as an NPC. You also have the ability to go in to the menus to influence what your allies will do in a given fight between healing, buffing, what skill to use at what point, who to attack, how to attack, etc. I never used it myself but I’d imagine it would make plenty of the difficulty spikes more tolerable if you set it up properly. As you level up, you not only gain new stat points, you will also gain two different points for skills between being able to create more potions, traps, etc. and skill sets attached to your class between spells, special attacks, and the like. I enjoy having the feeling of growth of power, but I didn’t truly have that feeling until far late in the game when my character had the ability to summon a firestorm, lightning storm, and a blizzard at once whilst also casting other spells into the fray. So I would have three different area of effect spells going on a boss or large group of enemies that would slaughter anything that would dare step into them. At this point I can see why having this type of power would make harder difficulties more of a pain as it would also harm your allies, but at the same time I still don’t like how it limits what you can really do class-wise. After I beat the game I was disappointed that there wasn’t a New Game+ option as that could have another play through more interesting as you play the same character, but with different story options with the same level and abilities. But I was surprised at the amount of different endings there were, which I would argue would make the disappointment increase as that would’ve made New Game+ playthroughs more enjoyable to see each ending.
The trophies themselves also support multiple playthroughs as they all involve playing through (at least the origin stories) with every character race and class. As there is no difficulty trophies, you can easily platinum Dragon Age: Origins on the Casual difficulty as long as you’re willing to put in the time to do. There are story-related trophies involving siding with a group over the other and multiple trophies for seeing the many endings along with reaching level 20 with all of the differing classes. But if you enjoy the story as much as I have, I’d easily recommend going for the platinum trophy as it promotes different story choices and play styles.
Dragon Age: Origins is an excellent story to experience. With the slow battle mechanics, the dated graphics, spikes in difficulty, and lack of a New Game+; that is where my complaints stopped. With the excellent story to go through and bring all the people together to fight the Blight. I found the game pleasurable enough to play through multiple times just so I could experience the different aspects to the stories. I would recommend this title only to those that enjoy the fantasy settings and a great story. If you can tolerate the battle mechanics and enjoy the gameplay aspects, but if you don’t, you will still have a great time enjoying the story on the Casual difficulty as it will still challenge you at points throughout the game.