Saturday, November 28, 2009

Dragon Age Origins

I don't actually play that many different games, although I am very interested in most (except sports games). I am just too... dunno... don't have the patience for most games really. For instance I've played like every Final Fantasy game but only finished one (VII of course). It often feels like when I've fully understood the game-mechanics and gameplay there is nothing much more worth playing for, unless the story is amazingly interesting which rarely is the case. So when I say something about a game it's most likely not played by me but by Love, who plays new games all the time. Dragon Age is such a game.

Dragon Age is a very basic rpg-game with the compulsory dragons (duh), elves, warriors, thieves... well you name any fantasy ingredient and it's there. Bioware has basically distilled the old Dungeon & Dragons theme into a great rpg game. There are awesome amounts of lore and gamestory to read through if you're interested (and you can skip it if you're not). It's always fascinating to think about all the man-hours put into something that's supposed to be just flavor to a game (kinda sad somehow). You can read up on any place or monster you encounter, about different events and about people in the world. Actually there is something written about nearly everything you'll see in the game.
You can play as warrior, caster and thief/rogue and for once the caster option isn't the most difficult/annoying one. Many rpgs suffer from having their gameplay balanced after the warrior-class, or any melee, which makes caster-classes usually much more difficult to play due to unfair and unbalanced game-mechanics. Dragon age is not so. The caster is a viable, even great, option for playing through the game. There are only slight changes to the story depending on which class or race you choose of course, people will call you by your class and race and such.
The story is interesting with some twists which is quite unusual in most rpgs who are pretty straight-forward. Or if they try to implement twists you can see them painted red from a mile away. The actors are good too and don't ruin the mood with crazy Tidus-ish rants. Graphics and music work well to add to the immersion although some of the gear make you look like you fell through the Red Cross clothes-container with glue all over your body or like you lost a bet.

Although Dragon Age has way more ups than downs, it still has some downs (and talking about what's bad is always easier). The fight system, which is turn based, leaves something to be wished for. Actually it sometimes turns a little too turn-based and doesn't flow as neatly as one could hope for. It is quite similar to the fighting system of FFXII where your teammates can run around with standard orders to act by and can be given new orders during combat. This means you can have one team mate set on "heal when needed" and he/she will do so fairly accurately until you tell him/her to do something else. And that is where some issues might arise. If you give someone a new order mid combat they will not smoothly engage in this new action but halt entirely, as if their brain needed rebooting, and then start their new action. This is a loss of valuable time, but fortunately only slightly annoying and nothing one will die from repeated times.
As many other games Dragon Age jumps on the choose-between-evil-and-good-fad-train. Unfortunately being evil isn't really set as a real option to good, as it doesn't bring you anything especially useful to make it worth all the drawbacks (people hating you and being uncooperative and not letting you buy from them and so on). This is a problem all games I've seen who try to implement this game style suffer from. Kotor and Fable and others give the option of being good or evil but reward one side (always good) more. Is it then really an option? Most of the times you don't even have the possibility to be really evil, as to say force someone to help you when they refuse because you're so evil. So the evil-side isn't well worked through and that is a shame.

Dragon Age is all in all a great game, offering about 100 hours of solid gameplay and a great story and very few drawbacks, worth playing through for anyone who likes rpgs (and doesn't suffer from acute antsiness like me).

Picture is from Wikipedia.

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