Dragon Age: Origins

Posted on January 26, 2010

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I haven’t finished my first playthrough yet, but I think 40 hours of gameplay qualifies me for ranting and review. Dragon Age: Origins brings great PC gaming elements to the console, while hitting all the high notes when it comes to storytelling, NPC personalities, character customizations, cool battle moments, and as my girlfriend calls them…pixel boobs.

From my experience, the more I play this game, the more I want to play. I started off by nipping at the story…sheerly because I can be pretty busy at times. So, the gameplay and story were fragmented to me. But,  lately I’ve put solid hours in…and my interests have grown. And with a ridiculous amount of gameplay…being interested is a good thing. This definitely isn’t a game for younger or ADD afflicted gamers. It requires patience, strategy, and manual reading. I know fellow gamers…reading is totally lame. But please…read on!

Combat
The fighting is great when you’re winning. Decapitations. Impaling. Mauling. Life is good. But, when it’s a challenging opponent/s, the combat becomes a blistering, painstaking experience that can leech an hour out of your life faster than Jenna Jameson can leech…um, you know. More often than not I can’t sit and watch the carnage, but I have to constantly pull up the item menu to heal, poultice, and salve my characters to keep them hacking and casting instead. This makes the experience dull. But, when the getting is good, I love choosing my PCs’ special abilities and watching the baddies crumble.

I know that Origins has a Tactics screen, but it doesn’t fully replace AI that should be there. I’ve seen my ally characters stand right next to their friends, watching them get destroyed by a throng of greasy insane hurlocks as he/she sites there non-cleaving everyone. I swear if you look close this unwilling participant is nibbling on popcorn, grinning as my squad mate enters his death throes. Ugh!

Come on!
Playing such a long game, I really could’ve used a lil help from the designers. The autosave function…or lack thereof..really leaves me groaning at times. Only before major battles is there an autosave. But, I’m challenged in many small skirmishes. Some battles begin as ambushes, where you can’t save prior to..and if you lose..back to wherever the heck you were an hour ago! An easy fix: allow players to save before battles begin, OR save for them! Many times I was left fantasizing about Oblivion’s over-zealous autosaving. I’d rather have overkill in saves rather than fighting the same goons over and over. The game is long enough as is!

But, maybe I’m just not as good at Origins as the everyday RPG’er. Admittedly, this is my first experience with a game like this. I’ve cracked out to Oblivion, Fallout 3, Mass Effect, and some other RPG/Action titles, but none had the RPG feel like Origins. Origins, I believe, has more roots in PC gaming…which I have zero experience in (except for a Turok game back in like 1998). So, maybe my tactics are lowsy. Bethesda, I love ya, but autosaving…come on !

Perhaps my last rant is the lack of tools in the official game guide. It’s great for some things…like looting and being a jiggalo (or jiggala for the lady PCs)…but horrible for others. I was hoping for dosiers on enemies. You know: weakness, strengths, bra sizes…whatever tips it takes to keep my PC on top. Alas, I end up spending 45 minutes in one battle scene because I don’t have the right weapons or tactics. But, as much as I would like these extra additions, I read my game guide more than any books on my (dusty) book shelf. It’s a must-have for anyone looking to scratch beneath Origins’ surface.

Last complaint (for real this time): I would like to see enemies’ levels. I know my level, but I don’t know when I’m outmatched. So, I spend an hour ramming my poor PC’s head into an unbeatable opponent…because I believe eventaully I will beat him. Well, her as this case may be…Flemeth you hag!!!

Other than those quibbles, I am addicted to Origins. The attention to building original characters and their personal stories astounds me…and I’m an English lit major. The world is totally original, yet has an old feel. Keep ’em coming Bethesda!

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Posted in: Op-Ed