BioWare’s Return To Classic Form Does Not Disappoint - Dragon Age Origins - PC -
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Dragon Age Origins

BioWare’s Return To Classic Form Does Not Disappoint

Before BioWare amassed a following among console gamers with games like Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, and Mass Effect, the developer already had a significant fanbase. These gamers loved the studio for its work on the PC series Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights – tactical, story-driven RPGs with an emphasis on party mechanics. No developer did that style of game better in those days, and Dragon Age: Origins proves that BioWare isn’t giving up the crown. Dragon Age brilliantly combines the genre’s old-school conventions with a few modern twists to create one of the most addictive and expansive RPGs of its kind.

Attempting to summarize the experience of Dragon Age in a few paragraphs is almost ridiculous given the depth of the game’s content. Six distinct openings depending on your character (each lasting a couple hours), cool specializations for each class, plenty of tactical variety, and a vast array of sidequests keep you immersed in the world as time flies by. The central narrative arc and the characters involved serve the setting well, but don’t deviate far from expectations. On the other hand, the subplots have some great hooks that I won’t spoil here – though I will say that the mages’ tower is awesome. A speed demon could blow through the main story in 40 hours, but thorough players can expect about 70.

While some time is spent exploring and conversing, the biggest thrills in Dragon Age are found in combat. This is no breezy hack ‘n slash affair; the best encounters feel like puzzles, forcing you to use your resources wisely and make calculated decisions on the path to victory. Which enemy poses the largest threat? How do you stem the tide of oncoming skeletons? Can your tank stand in the middle of your mage’s electrical storm long enough to take down the ogre? Your answers to these questions change depending on your party members and their skills, leaving some space for experimentation. Almost every fight can kill you if you aren’t focused, but the satisfaction of standing in the midst of your slaughtered foes after a well-fought battle makes it all worthwhile.

Even with a wealth of tactical options and party combinations, you’ll rarely get bogged down thanks to the excellent ally AI system. Fans of Final Fantasy XII’s gambits will feel right at home with the concept, which allows you to manage and prioritize your party’s actions based on battle conditions. You can micromanage your spellcasters with a pause-and-play approach and leave your fighters on autopilot, which keeps combat flowing smoothly without sacrificing its sharp tactical edge.

In addition to capturing the joy of battle, Dragon Age also provides an engrossing backdrop for the action. Even more than Mass Effect, the nation of Ferelden feels like a fully realized setting with its own history, conflicts, and power groups. This is one of the main reasons the game is so addicting; completing quests isn’t just about grinding experience and amassing loot – it actually feels like you have an impact on the world.

In the middle of reviewing Dragon Age, I had a couple vacation days scheduled. During my long out-of-state weekend, the game was constantly popping into my mind – how I could have won a fight differently, or how I might spend my next few talent points. As soon as my flight landed back in Minneapolis, I didn’t even fight the urge; I drove straight into the office and spent an entire Sunday night in front of the computer fighting darkspawn and saving Ferelden. The number of titles that can foster this level of dedication and obsession are few, and Dragon Age: Origins is among the best of them.

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User Reviews:

  • 9.00
    As most people were just finishing their Mass Effect 1 playthroughs in 2008, they caught wind of another epic game entitled Dragon Age: Origins. First announced at E3 2004 as "Dragon Age", game developer Bioware, famed for games such as Baldur's Gate, Knights of the Old Republic, and Jade...
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  • 9.00
    This game is one of my favorite games I've played. I love games where you are the character and any decision you make can effect the entire outcome of the game.The story was awesome.. something you could get easily sucked into. The characters were also memorable Alistair was perhaps one of the funniest...
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  • 7.50
    This game was good, not great, but good. Pros: Great story, in depth-history, fantastic interaction with NPCs, ability to create your own character, and extremely high replay value. Cons: Horrible battle system, terrible inventory management, WAY to much in the way of codexes causing information overload...
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  • 9.00
    I didn't really know what to expect when I started playing this game. I had seen a few commercials for it on TV so when my brother asked what I wanted for Christmas I just asked for this game. I hadn't played any of the developers other games so I went in with a pretty open mind. Two play throughs...
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  • 7.00
    I really like rpg games and this one had a lot of promise. The way you level your characters and can switch between members of your team while also not having to because there is a great system to make your characters automatically act on their own is perfect. The graphics are really good and the story...
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  • 9.25
    There was a period in my life, too long ago for me to want to think about, that I would get off the bus from school and make a bee line directly to my parent's computer. There was only one thing on my mind, playing Baldur's Gate. The game's fascinating characters, intriguing story, and revolutionary...
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